“Plants utilize transposons. Suppose there is a drought; plants can’t move to wetter pastures like animals can. Plant ‘stress’ such as drought induces transpositions in particular cells, where the plant metaphorically shuffles its DNA deck, hoping to generate some novel savior of a protein.
“Mammals have fewer transposons than plants. The immune system is one transposon hot spot, in the enormous stretches of DNA coding for antibodies. A novel virus invades; shuffling the DNA increases the odds of coming up with an antibody that will target the invader.
“The main point here is that transposons occur in the brain…Remarkably, tranpositional events occur in neurons that form memories in fruit flies. Even flies evolved such that their neurons are freed from the strict genetic marching orders they inherit.”Robert M. Sapolsky, Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (232)
In my estimation, this is pretty amazing commentary by Robert Sapolsky in his 2017 book Behave. Transposon was an unfamiliar term to me before I read this passage. Transposons are the genetic sequences able to “shuffle the deck” to create a new code, if survival depends on it.
Regarding that last section about fruit flies: they probably had to use transposons at some point in their evolutionary history in order to survive. That’s evolution in a nutshell–survival of the fittest. Or, adapt or die.
A quick note about the history of evolution…in my personal education, not on the grand scale. I went to a Christian school through eighth grade, and was taught that evolution is completely contradictory to “the creation account of Genesis.” Then, I went to public high school and was actually taught about evolution. Probably of little surprise, a lot of it made sense to me!
Similar to how Jordan Peterson describes his own thinking on evolution over time in his 12 Rules for Life: once I started to understand Darwinian Evolution, my traditional ideas about faith and creation shifted. I had to reconcile what I had always been told, and very much believed myself, with new information that made a lot of sense too.
So, I decided, I would believe in the concept of microevolution, but not macroevoution. After all, the stronger or more desirable organisms lived on and reproduced. Seemed like common sense. But I still held onto the literal six-day creationist account that I had been taught since before I could decide for myself.
Then, I read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, and was refreshed by the man’s willingness to concede things he couldn’t know. Sure, he claimed that all of time could be determined post-Big Bang, based on the effects that we see in the universe (a pretty huge claim!). But he also said that there could be a God; anything pre-Big Bang is a toss-up because time had not started yet.
The Big Bang sounded more and more to me like a creative event. Everything exploded and set the universe in motion, basically. Recently, I’ve been surprised by how similar predestination theories in Christianity and determinist theories in the scientific community sound…
But anyway, I followed up Hawking’s book with Darwin’s big one itself: On the Origin of Species. And I was surprised again by the holes left in Darwin’s findings–he does not dispel completely the possibility of intelligent design in nature, but rather presents his findings and lets the readers decide.
And finally, somewhere around this time I went back to Genesis and looked at the word days. I found that the original Arabic for days could be translated as a literal 24-hour day, or an era or epoch. That was a game-changer for me.
Truth is Truth–when identified, the Truths must be reconciled. Otherwise, there are massive amounts of cognitive dissonance, running rampant. Even if we can’t understand fully how things can be reconciled (and we understand precious little of reality!), we often know they must be. Even postmodern sentiments of “everyone has their own truth” must bow before cold, hard realities.
With that said, I’m very much still searching and do not claim to know the answers at all definitively. I’m no expert on any of these topics. But here are my loosely-held beliefs, thus far, at this point in my journey:
Evolution is continuous creation. Transposons show the creativity of the genetic code here and now. Creativity is a controlled version of evolution, mostly used by beings evolved to the point of bearing the Image of God. If God created it all, he set up the rules, right? And those most like him would most closely imitate him.
Any thoughts? I leave this here for the sake of respectful, mutually-beneficial conversation on such topics.