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What Does a “Normal” Human Genome Look Like? | Science
So, what have our first glimpses of variation in the genomes of generally healthy people taught us? First, balancing selection, the evolutionary process that favors genetic diversification rather than the fixation of a single “best” variant, appears to play a minor role outside the immune system. Local adaptation, which accounts for variation in traits such as pigmentation, dietary specialization, and susceptibility to particular pathogens is also a second-tier player. What is on the top tier? Increasingly, the answer appears to be mutations that are “deleterious” by biochemical or standard evolutionary criteria. These mutations, as has long been appreciated, overwhelmingly make up the most abundant form of nonneutral variation in all genomes. A model for human genetic individuality is emerging in which there actually is a “wild-type” human genome—one in which most genes exist in an evolutionarily optimized form. There just are no “wild-type” humans: We each fall short of this Platonic ideal in our own distinctive ways.
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23 hours ago by nhaliday
Bouncing Off the Bottom | West Hunter
Actually going extinct would seem to be a bad thing, but a close call can, in principle, be a good thing.

Pathogens can be a heavy burden on a species, worse than a 50-lb sack of cement. Lifting that burden can have a big effect: we know that many species flourish madly once they escape their typical parasites. That’s often the case with invasive species. It’s also a major strategy in agriculture: crops often do best in a country far away from their place of origin – where the climate is familiar, but most parasites have been left behind. For example, rubber trees originated in South America, but they’re a lot easier to grow in Liberia or Malaysia.

Consider a situation with a really burdensome pathogen – one that specializes in and depends on a single host species. That pathogen has to find new host individuals every so often in order to survive, and in order for that to happen, the host population has to exceed a certain number, usually called the critical community size. That size depends on the parasite’s persistence and mode of propagation: it can vary over a huge range. CCS is something like a quarter of a million for measles, ~300 for chickenpox, surely smaller than that for Epstein-Barr.

A brush with extinction- say from an asteroid strike – might well take a species below the CCS for a number of its pathogens. If those pathogens were limited to that species, they’d go extinct: no more burden. That alone might be enough to generate a rapid recovery from the population bottleneck. Or a single, highly virulent pathogen might cause a population crash that resulted in the extinction of several of that species’s major pathogens – quite possibly including the virulent pathogen itself. It’s a bottleneck in time, rather than one in space as you often see in colonization.

Such positive effects could last a long time – things need not go back to the old normal. The flea-unbitten species might be able to survive and prosper in ecological niches that it couldn’t before. You might see a range expansion. New evolutionary paths could open up. That brush with extinction could be the making of them.

When you add it all up, you begin to wonder if a population crash isn’t just what the doctor ordered. Sure, it wouldn’t be fun to be one of the billions of casualties, but just think how much better off the billions living after the bottleneck will be. Don’t be selfish.
west-hunter  scitariat  ideas  speculation  discussion  parasites-microbiome  spreading  disease  scale  population  density  bio  nature  long-short-run  nihil  equilibrium  death  unintended-consequences  red-queen 
2 days ago by nhaliday
How Martin Luther Changed the World

If the Ninety-five Theses sprouted a myth, that is no surprise. Luther was one of those figures who touched off something much larger than himself; namely, the Reformation—the sundering of the Church and a fundamental revision of its theology. Once he had divided the Church, it could not be healed. His reforms survived to breed other reforms, many of which he disapproved of. His church splintered and splintered. To tote up the Protestant denominations discussed in Alec Ryrie’s new book, “Protestants” (Viking), is almost comical, there are so many of them. That means a lot of people, though. An eighth of the human race is now Protestant.

Indeed, the horrific Thirty Years’ War, in which, basically, Europe’s Roman Catholics killed all the Protestants they could, and vice versa, can in some measure be laid at Luther’s door. Although it did not begin until decades after his death, it arose in part because he had created no institutional structure to replace the one he walked away from.

The Reformation wasn’t led, exactly; it just spread, metastasized.

Why had God given his only begotten son? And why had the son died on the cross? Because that’s how much God loved the world. And that alone, Luther now reasoned, was sufficient for a person to be found “justified,” or worthy. From this thought, the Ninety-five Theses were born. Most of them were challenges to the sale of indulgences. And out of them came what would be the two guiding principles of Luther’s theology: sola fide and sola scriptura.

Luther’s collected writings come to a hundred and twenty volumes. In the first half of the sixteenth century, a third of all books published in German were written by him.

Luther very consciously sought a fresh, vigorous idiom. For his Bible’s vocabulary, he said, “we must ask the mother in the home, the children on the street,” and, like other writers with such aims—William Blake, for example—he ended up with something songlike. He loved alliteration—“Der Herr ist mein Hirte” (“The Lord is my shepherd”); “Dein Stecken und Stab” (“thy rod and thy staff”)—and he loved repetition and forceful rhythms. This made his texts easy and pleasing to read aloud, at home, to the children.

His goal was not to usher in modernity but simply to make religion religious again. Heinz Schilling writes, “Just when the lustre of religion threatened to be outdone by the atheistic and political brilliance of the secularized Renaissance papacy, the Wittenberg monk defined humankind’s relationship to God anew and gave back to religion its existential plausibility.” Lyndal Roper thinks much the same. She quotes Luther saying that the Church’s sacraments “are not fulfilled when they are taking place but when they are being believed.” All he asked for was sincerity, but this made a great difference.
book  bio  reform  leader  religion  history  europe  medieval  story  printing 
14 days ago by aries1988
Darwinian medicine - Randolph Nesse
The Dawn of Darwinian Medicine:
TABLE 1 Examples of the use of the theory of natural selection to predict the existence of phenomena otherwise unsuspected
TABLE 2 A classification of phenomena associated with infectious disease
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14 days ago by nhaliday

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