genome evolution....a partisan manifesto

aroger at ac.dal.ca aroger at ac.dal.ca
Sun Jan 30 14:28:51 EST 1994

In article <2i8jif$16p at gap.cco.caltech.edu>, robin at cco.caltech.edu (Robert C. Colgrove) writes:

> I seem to be evolving a role as group zealot alarm.

I would suggest a change to this confession.....
replace "group zealot alarm" with simply "zealous alarmist".

> As I've said about previous citations of Gould, Dawkins, Margulis, Wilson, etc.
> These are interesting, thoughtful and important works but one should not
> confuse them with balanced discussions of the subject.
> Like the others on this list, Cavalier-Smith has long been associated
> with certain firmly held idiosyncratic positions like the clay-theory
> for the origin of Life and the conviction that that selective pressures
> control genome size. These are distinclty minority opinions and not
> convincing to most in the field. 

I'm not sure that a partisan manifesto by people in the field is much
worse than a partisan manifesto ABOUT people in the field!
There are several things wrong about what Robin has said.  Firstly, he 
would know (if he had ever read it)  that the book
 "The Evolution of Genome Size, is a compilation of papers on the subject
by a number of different authors.  Hence, one can hardly escape getting
diverse opinions represented. 
Secondly, nothing that Cavalier-Smith has said about the evolution of
genome size, to my knowledge, has ever been rigourously shown to be
invalid.  A minority opinion may only be so because few people have
been exposed to it.  
At this point, specifics should be introduced into the discussion.
Cavalier-Smith advocates a skeletal DNA theory which has two
central ideas:
1) the volume of the nucleus of proliferating eukaryote
cells is controlled by the mass of the DNA and the degree to which
it is folded and unfolded, and
2) the volume of the nucleus is functionally important and
is evolutionarily adjusted to be a fairly constant fraction of the
cell volume so as to achieve the balance between nuclear and 
cytoplasmic functions that is essential for balanced cell growth.
(these are lifted from his paper in a book called 
"The eukaryotic microbial genome", published in 1993 by
Cambridge University Press edited by Broda).

Perhaps the discussion can now take a turn towards discussing
theories rather than the people who advocate them.  One must
be cautious of minority opinions if there are reasons to think
them invalid NOT because a poll shows them to be unpopular.

Andrew Roger
aroger at ac.dal.ca 

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