Several questions on evolution, and mutation (rate)

Ram Samudrala ram at mbisgi.umd.edu
Mon Sep 9 04:35:00 EST 1996

Doug Yanega (dyanega at denr1.igis.uiuc.edu) wrote:

>That is not the only thing that evolutionary biologists call evolution.
>Natural selection is evolution also, as is drift.

Well, evolutionary biologists are using what I consider a misleading
and confusing definition of evolution.  Natural selection is NOT
evolution (of say, a particular protein).  There's nothing new
happening there (ceterus paribus).

>No, it is the STANDARD DEFINITION. How many times do I have to BEG you to
>open up a textbook on evolutionary biology and READ the definition????

Well, I've been instructed on this a lot, but I just disagree with it.
Telling me to go look up a book for the standard definition doesn't do
much to help your cause.   

>No. Evolution is a property of a population - "functions" do not evolve,

This is what's misleading.  Functions do evolve---evolve here being
synonymous with development.  Forget the evolutionary textbooks---look
up a dictionary. 

>Because that is the *definition* of evolution. Look it up, please.

As I keep saying, that's misleading and wrong, because there's the
protein is NOT evolving when the protein is spreading through the
population.  (Assuming it's a single gene we're concerned about.)

>No, the population. Only populations evolve. Read the definition.

On the other hand, I'm not talking about the population at all.
You're right, there is change in the population but I find that, for
my purposes, useless.  How can you say "only populations evolve"?
You don't have a monopoly on the word "evolve".  I am interested in a
particular protein, how it evolves, and how it spreads through the

>twist it in some manner to suit my purposes. I learned it that way 20
>years ago, and every text on evolutionary biology I've ever read or taught
>from uses essentially that same definition.

Yes, and I've been confused and mislead during this process as well.
But I have decided to change things, and as far as the people I talk
about this (and my work in this area---which is a side project---I
work on protein folding) are concerned, once they get it, they
perfectly understand and have no problems with my use of the words. 

I will try to find the references that uses the sort of terminology I
use (I'm without access to my research location), because I'm quite
positive I didn't make this up all by myself.  But that's a bit
irrelevant, since textbooks and the like could be wrong.  Stating your
argument in terms of textbook or published definitions is not going to
help your position. And once my work on this is solid enough, I'm
confident an open-minded peer-review committee will overlook any
definitional issues, since as I've said, my goal is to find out how a
protein evolves (now how it spreads through the population).  


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