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Did Ancient Viruses Spur Human Evolution?
Posted 1/23/14 , edited 1/23/14

dusky186 wrote:

Also in your theory you cannot use correlations as you are trying to prove causation.

It's important to understand what hypothesis, fact, and theory implies.

dankuuwut wrote:

I stumbled upon some empirical data to support my hypothesis

Hypothesis = Rational
Theory = Empirical

'A fact', like the one I presented (the empirical data), is not enough to make an hypothesis a theory, because in order for it to be a theory it must consist of an exceptional amount of facts. I have not at any point attempted to claim that my hypothesis was a fact, a theory, or anything in between. The only thing that I have said, is that 'a fact' supports my hypothesis. Not an exceptional amount of facts, just one. And you may want to keep this quote in mind, by Stephen Jay Gould "Fact can only mean 'confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.'" And when you say "cannot use correlations," you might also want to keep in mind, that it's exactly what an hypothesis is, and without it, we wouldn't be here today.


There is no effect without cause;
There is cause without effect.
There is no how without why;
There is no why without how.
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Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/24/14

nanuklein wrote:

Syndicaidramon wrote:

How does that make sense? The Black Death raged across Europe for only like, four to seven years.
How would people grow immune to it?

Actually, as far as I know, descendants of the black death survivors have a special mutation in their genes, which makes them "resistant (not immune)" to the plague, and even to some HIV strains. The similarity between the two is, that in both cases the bacteria/virus tricks the immune system by infiltrating the white blood cells. The mutation that blocks the HIV virus or the BP bacteria to enter the white blood cells is called delta 32. This mutation causes cells to have fewer chemokine receptors, or none at all (if the person has two copies of delta 32). In other words, HIV or the Black Plague has no gateway that would allow them to enter the cells. This mutation is mainly found in Europeans of Scandinavian, German, Russian or English descent.
Research showed that this genetic mutation has already existed at least since the Bronze Age (3200-600 BC). So it's not a mutation that was caused by the plague. But the plague caused selective pressure on the Caucasian population.
Basically, only around 10 percent of Europeans would survive the plague were it to break out again. The rest would still die.

Ah, well in that case I understand. Thanks.
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Posted 1/24/14 , edited 1/25/14
To make sure I'm understanding you correctly, you're hypothesizing that the "junk DNA" remnants of endogenous retroviruses may be responsible for the evolution of creative thinking, ability to rationalize, etc. in humans?

Well, it's pretty well established that higher-order cognitive functions such as creativity come from the interplay of a large network of neural components housed in several different parts of the brain. Obviously, it follows that our capacity for these functions links directly to the morphology of our brains (which have associated genes, as we all know).

Now, the thing is, most of the endogenous retroviral remnants we have in our genome are mutated to a point that they are incapable of producing protein, and the few that are functional serve mostly as alternative transcription factors or play a role in the pathology of certain diseases, as far as I'm aware.

Another thing to consider is that many HERVs are found throughout the primate lineage; only a few in one particular subgroup are human-specific, and as far as I can tell from a brief literature search, the first evidence of human creativity manifesting to any appreciable degree is about 40,000 years ago (whereas Homo sapiens emerged roughly 100,000 years ago). That's pretty late in our evolutionary history for a few retroviral artifacts to be a major contributor to the development of such functions when the neural machinery necessary for them was already there for eons beforehand.

So...I dunno. It seems unlikely to me. HERVs have certainly contributed to the evolution of our genome, but I don't think that they're responsible for the evolution of something as major as creative thought.

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Posted 1/26/14 , edited 1/27/14

Syndicaidramon wrote:

firefox39 wrote:

Probably. One reason why we didn't die out from the Black Death is because we became immune to the disease. Our immunity systems eventually catch up with the epidemic of the region, so it is possible.

How does that make sense? The Black Death raged across Europe for only like, four to seven years.
How would people grow immune to it?

It actually lasted longer, but the big portion was during those time periods. It happens all the time whenever a new disease comes out though. People were eventually born with a better immune system than their predecessors.
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Posted 3/25/14 , edited 3/25/14
OP Nuked. Please feel free to recreate.
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