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Did Ancient Viruses Spur Human Evolution?

I stumbled on an interesting post titled Did Ancient Viruses Spur Human Evolution? which got into the top Science stories on Digg today.

The story actually talks about a more complete article at the New-Yorker titled Darwin’s Surprise. It’s a very interesting and new twist to the classic evolution theory. After mapping the human genome scientists seem to belive they discovered whole DNA sections that are actually ancient virus (well, endogenous retroviruses) DNA that became part of ours.

Now, the first reason why I found this really cool and interesting is that I feel that with evolution we don’t yet see the full picture. I’m in no way a creationist, I don’t claim that evolution theory is wrong, but I do believe that it’s far from the complete story. Genetics plays a part, traits are passed on and species change through natural selection, but I think there’s an additional extra something there that we simply don’t understand yet. I won’t post my whole theory here since it’s not the point, but suffice to say I’m glad with these rare scientific news items that report some new twists that might begin to explain the uncharted parts of the true origin of species..

BUT – that’s not all – The second reason I find this article cool, is that a science-fiction book, a very popular one actually, I read a few years back actually talks about this thing precisely. This book was published 10 (!) years ago!

Darwin’s Radio by Greg Bear, published in 1999, tells the story of a new form of endogenous retrovirus that has emerged, SHEVA. It controls human evolution by rapidly evolving the next generation while in the womb, leading to speciation.

Let me tell you folks, the book is really good (Nebula Award for Best Novel) and interesting sci-fi, but now, 10 years after, it’s amazingly close to actual science, minus the “fi” :)

So this is a great opportunity for me to recommend you read Darwin’s Radio.

PS: You can find my entire up-to-date book library at LibraryThing.

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