Many evolutionary biologists are fascinated by almost perfect adaptation of organisms to the environment. Apparently, many of them consider natural selection as the Central and most important process of biological evolution, and these two terms (“biological evolution” and “natural selection”) is often treated as synonymous or interchangeable. Natural selection dedicated the vast majority of studies. Nevertheless, Professor at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Institute of molecular evolutionary genetics, Masatoshi Nei, said that the driving force of evolution is mutation and not natural selection.
To convince the public that all living beings on the planet created by God, Darwin and his followers were simultaneously argue that:
- All living organisms change over time
- Adaptability of living beings to the environment can be explained through natural selection
Thus, these concepts were and still are arguments against the supporters of the divine plan. Natural selection, in contrast to the divine creation, is not an intuitive idea. Those who accept him, find a world even more amazing realizing that he was not created by the Creator. In a sense, natural selection replaced divine creation in the minds of many people as the process responsible for the beauty of nature. But what is the difference between natural selection and genetic mutation?
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How to change living organisms?
Evolution is the process by which populations of organisms change over generations. At the heart of these changes are genetic variations that can result from gene mutations or genetic recombination — the process by which genetic material is reconstructed when the cell is preparing to divide. These changes often change the activity of a gene or the function of the protein that can bring the body’s various features. If the symptom is useful and helps you survive and reproduce, genetic variability more likely to be transmitted to the next generation. This process is known as natural selection.
Over time, as generations of animals with this trait continue to proliferate, this feature is becoming more common in the population. Sometimes a population becomes so diverse that it is considered a new species. But not all mutations lead to evolution. Only genetic mutations that occur in eggs or sperm can be passed on to future generations and potentially contribute to the evolution. Some mutations occur throughout life in some cells of the body and are not inherited, so in such cases, natural selection plays no role. In addition, many genetic changes do not affect gene function or protein and are not helpful or harmful. Some of the differences introduced by the mutations that help organisms to survive in one environment but not suitable for another.
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In his book “Mutation: managed evolution” Professor Masatoshi Nei strongly opposes the view on natural selection as on the unique biological force of creation. According to molecular biologist adaptive traits observed in the animal world, initially seemed like a random, spontaneous, purposeless genetic variation that selection would be simply ineffective. Masatoshi says that the biological evolutionary literature, both old and new, paying too much attention to natural selection and ignores the importance of mutations, which in his opinion are the engine of biological evolution. Masatoshi says that in the first place for evolution is the time and place of origin of specific mutations, or lack thereof.
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But if mutations are the engine of evolution, why are some harmful characteristics such as genetic diseases persist in populations? In some cases, carriers of the mutant gene associated with the disease do not show signs and symptoms of the disease. This helps the transmission of adverse genetic changes to future generations. In other cases, the presence of mutant copies of the gene in each cell is an advantage. The most studied example is sickle-cell anemia: the presence of two mutant copies of a particular gene in each cell causes disease, but the presence of only one copy provides resistance to malaria. This resistance to disease helps to explain why mutations that cause sickle cell anemia continues to occur in many populations, particularly in areas where malaria is prevalent. Thus it is clear that our understanding of biological evolution, today should not be explained solely by natural selection.