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Friday, December 30, 2005

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Evolution of Sex

I have been reading about this topic, including WD Hamilton's ideas about sex evolving to provide genetic recombination to make it more difficult for parasites to attack. I have also been reading about RL Trivers' ideas on conflict within the genome. Putting some of these thoughts together, I wonder if sex might have evolved to rid cells of worthless ("parasitic") genetic material.

Imagine a primitive cell with some good chromosomes and some ineffective chromosomes (that is, genetic material that is not advantageous to the cell but is merely "along for the ride"). How are the other chromosomes to solve this "free rider" problem? Suppose the effective chromosomes act together to override the ineffective chromosomes by forcing a process of recombination. If a new generation of cells end up with nothing but effective chromosomes, they will tend to proliferate more effectively than the older generation. Cells which contain mostly good chromosomes with one or two parasitic genetic elements or chromosomes and end up recombining with a new small set of undesirable chromosomes are no worse off and will proliferate as quickly as before. But new generation cells that are the result of recombination events that result in a concentration of undesirable genetic elements or chromosomes may proliferate poorly or even die. The net effect: a "cleansing" of undesirable genetic elements, resulting from what is effectively a "warfare" between chromosomes.

This is not a "group selection" proposal. It merely requires "good" chromosomes to act in concert to override a smaller number of parasitic chromosomes to force recombination, which will be (at worst) neutral in its effects on their survival, but which could result in the effective expunging of the parasitic, non-contributing genetic material.

That is, sex may have evolved as a mechanism resulting from intragenomal conflict.

This suggestion in some ways resembles that of Kondrashov, except that it places the emphasis not on competition between individuals but on competition between chromosomes or genetic material: that is, on intragenomic conflict. Also, maybe my idea might apply to the initial evolution of sex: other functions (such as that suggested by Hamilton in relation to resistance to parasites) might have helped maintain it once it had evolved in the first place.

Addendum and calculation:

It is possible to calculate how advantageous it would be to a functional chromosome to have the cell in which it resides (along with a parasitic non-functional chromosome) recombine with another similar cell. If one assumes - for the sake of calculation - that both cells contain three functional chromosomes and one parasitic chromosome, the following are the results to be expected from sexual recombination of the chromosomes - with two new cells resulting from the random mutual exchange of half of their chromosomes (that is two from each cell):

For a functional chromosome, following recombination, there are 6/16 chances of an improvement in its situation (that is ending up in a cell with fewer parasitic chromosomes). There are 9/16 chances of no change (ending up in a cell with the same number of parasitic chromosomes). And there are 3/16 chances of ending up in a new cell with more parasitic chromosomes. In short, recombination provides a greater chance of ending up in a healthier cell than in a less healthy cell - that is, in a cell with less parasitic, useless genetic material (parasitic chromosomes).

For a parasitic chromosome, recombination will never improve its situation. There is a 8/16 chance of no change and a 8/16 chance of actually ending up in a new cell with more parasitic material. Such a cell is likely to be less viable and may even die, destroying the original parasitic chromosome with it.

In conclusion, it will be to the advantage of a normal, functioning chromosome to code for and promote sexual recombination with other cells.

Julian

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

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Some of the truth behind the Australian riots

" Three lifesavers objected to Lebanese Muslims bullying a group of women because of their bathing costumes. These Muslim thugs attacked the greatly outnumbered lifesavers and badly beat them, rendering one of them unconscious. "

Full article here.

Another sample:

" So how is Premier Morris Iemma dealing with the situation? He is telling law abiding Australians to stay away from their own beaches. But what can we expect from a pusillanimous creep who smeared his fellow Australians by falsely stating that the riots were “the ugly face of racism ... and also the attitudes and the physical assaults that took place the weekend before”. "

Here is some more amazing stuff. Miranda Devine writes about real crimes:

" Identified by police as being of the proverbial Middle-Eastern appearance - code for Lebanese Muslim, despite the fact many are second-generation Australians - they also stabbed a man, smashed a woman's head with a bat, attacked another woman in a pizza shop and a man who was putting out his rubbish. "

In the same newspaper, we read of complaints of racism by Lebanese Muslims:

" "Some of the examples which people have given us on the phone are quite concerning." In one instance, a woman was told she could not rent a holiday house because she was Lebanese, Mr Kerkyasharian said. In another, a man was told to leave a restaurant because he was wearing a baseball cap. After volunteering to remove his cap, the restaurant owner told him to leave because he was Lebanese. "

What Lebanese Muslims did to other Australians: "stabbed a man", "smashed a woman's head with a bat".

What other Australians did to Lebanese Muslims: "told she could not rent a holiday house", "told to leave a restaurant".


Julian

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

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Evolution and Religion

Richard Dawkins is an English evolutionary theorist, perhaps most famous for his anti-Christian rantings in the role of Global Village Atheist. It might therefore be salutary to recall that one of the best modern English students of early evolution, Simon Conway Morris, is a Christian, an Anglican to be precise.

Julian

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Liberal politician taunts thought police

" At the behest of Muslim bigots and multiculturalist fanatics the Bracks Government suspended free speech in Victoria by imposing a blasphemy law dressed up as an anti-vilification law. This has given Islamo-fascists a freehand to attack critics of Islam. "

The writer, Gerard Jackson, dares the authorities to prosecute him under Victoria's "religious vilification" laws, which have been used to attack Christian ministers.

More here. And here.

Julian

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Friday, December 16, 2005

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Ancient heroes and their Y chromosomes

Steve Sailer writes about some Irish and Scots mediaeval patriarchs and the remarkable number of their descendants. (He also mentions the case of Genghis Khan, who apparently had a huge number of descendants sharing his Y chromosome.) The implication is that these mediaeval patriarchs, one of whom gave his name to the Irish O'Neill family, were extraordinarily fecund.

I wonder if another way of looking at the success of these lineages is to consider that they may have been not so much unusually fecund, but geographically mobile. Genghis Khan certainly got around, ranging widely across Asia. Suppose he left sons all over this area, and they settled widely, attracting women to be with them. They could become locally dominant simply because they were settling relatively empty areas. That is, we might be dealing with a kind of "founder effect".

The Scots and Irish cases are somewhat similar, in that the locally dominant surnames and Y chromosomes are associated with out-of-the-way areas that might have been settled relatively late - Northwestern Ireland in one case and the Western Islands and Highlands of Scotland in the other.

Have a man settle a large new territory; breed several sons; let them take wives from outside on their travels and settle back in the large new territory. You would have plenty of space to live and breed, some initial outbreeding to avoid inbreeding, and the makings of a very prevalent Y chromosome. That is, the original man with the Y chromosome would not have had to be particularly fecund, provided his sons and grandsons were colonising a large new area.

Julian

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Saturday, December 10, 2005

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What a joke

A marvellous quote:

" "To call out a team of lawyers to insist that people say 'Merry Christmas' — what could be less in the Christmas spirit?" asked Jeremy Gunn, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief. "Don't they have anything better to do?" he asked. "

A man from the American Civil Liberties Union asks "Don't they have anything better to do?" This from a paid busybody from an organisation of busybodies who have nothing better to do than call out lawyers to harass people. What rich irony.

Julian

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My message to the St George Bank

This is the query I have just e-mailed to the St George Bank:

" As a longtime St George customer, I would like to know why your ATM message greets me with "Happy Holidays", not "Happy Christmas". "


Julian

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Today's newspapers: How "The Age" and "The Canberra Times" depict men

The (Melbourne) Age, true to type, had a feature article today with a headline gloating about the "extinction" of men. (The same male-bashing we've endured for decades.) Meanwhile, the front page of The Canberra Times was taken up with a story on Professor Chris Parish, a man, and his new cure for cancer.

Julian

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Angela Shanahan on local disgrace, Jon Stanhope

Here.

In the words of Henry Higgins, "how delightful!".

Julian

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Friday, December 09, 2005

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Vatican II fortieth anniversary

The fortieth anniversary of Vatican II looms large in Catholic minds. I am old enough to just remember pre-conciliar life in the Church here in Australia. I also remember that we were all pretty excited when Vatican II came along, and we had no doubts that it was the way to go. I faithfully attended the English Mass for about thirty-five years. Then, about five years ago, I rediscovered the Latin Mass, and now I generally avoid the English Mass, which I find rather dispiriting.

I am very disappointed with the quality of bishops we have today and horrified by the continuing revelations of clerical sexual sin (I heard yesterday that another American prelate is in trouble over allegations of sexual approaches to young seminarians). I am irritated by the last few popes conniving at the abandonment of more and more solid traditional practices, their pandering to fashionable social movements, and their unwillingness to discipline even the worst bishops. I am increasingly worried about the efficacy of sacraments delivered by modernist priests, whose faith seems shallow and polluted. I am mortified by foolish pandering on the ecumenical front, creeping indifferentism, and shattered morale.

Maybe there is something salvageable from Vatican II - a few good points here and there. But the nett effect has been disastrous.

In the long run, the council will be remembered as a byword for failure.

Julian

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

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The Death Penalty

I used to be against the death penalty. That was one reason that I used to be a member of Amnesty International. I'm not any more. They began a clear slide to the Left some time after I joined them, despite their charter to be independent, and I lost patience with them. It was a classic case of the Left hijacking an organisation and running down its capital of good will.

Now, here is a report on a study that claims that the death penalty saves lives. I would not necessarily want the death penalty to be applied frequently, but I would be more than happy to see a man who had, for example, raped and murdered a ten-year-old girl put to death. Quite happy.

The late pope was very much against the death penalty, and had the Catechism of the Catholic Church edited to reflect his opinion. And it was only an opinion. Catholic Tradition has no problem with the death penalty. John Paul II all too often seemed to think that "L'Eglise, C'est Moi", to adapt the remark of Louis XIV.

Julian

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

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Christopher Ferrara ...

is quite funny about Vatican II.

I think we have got to the laughing stage and, as my father used to say, "if you didn't laugh, you'd cry".

Julian

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"Happy Holidays" drivel creeping into Australia?

One of the nice things about Christmas in Australia is that nobody is nervous about saying "Merry Christmas", the Post Office produces Christmas stamps and we have Christmas trees and cribs (creches, if you like) in public places such as malls. No ACLU ratbags in Australia, thank God.

One bank is determined to play Scrooge, though. When my wife went to a St George Bank ATM tonight, the screen flashed up the greeting, "Happy Holidays". PC drivel.

The always-interesting Steve Sailer has more on The War Against Christmas.

Julian

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Our Chief Minister dumped as featured speaker

The Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, who has made sure that unborn children here have no protection at all, has been dumped from his proposed role as speaker at a Catholic social ethics conference in Melbourne. Good riddance.

He was going to speak on human rights. Ho, ho.

Julian

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

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Real men prefer the Latin Mass

... so says the New Oxford Review.

" The hum-drum leveling of the new Mass, its touchie-feelie "sharing," its "reaching out," its condescension, its attempts at something called inclusiveness, its sing-song ditties that supplanted the great music of the past, its brightly smiling altar girls -- some seem on the verge of saying "hi" when they serve the priest -- I find disconcerting and grating. All this contributes more to a sense of alienation than belonging. Lots of men may well feel the same way. "

Julian

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Friday, December 02, 2005

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Pope's problematic statement

Here is a report of Pope Benedict's recent remarks on salvation. I have interspersed some comments in bold.

Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).-

Whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith, says Benedict XVI.

My comment: I hope this is not an accurate translation of the Pope's words, because it seems awfully close to "Hey, peace man, keep searching and don't worry about all that Bible stuff".

The Pope made this affirmation today at the general audience, commenting on a meditation written by St. Augustine (354-430).

On a rainy morning in Rome, the Holy Father's meditation, addressed to more than 23,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, concentrated on the suffering of the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile, expressed dramatically in Psalm 136(137).

The Pontiff referred to Augustine's commentary on this composition of the Jewish people, noting that this "Father of the Church introduces a surprising element of great timeliness."

Augustine "knows that also among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire," Benedict XVI stated.

My comment: But surely this refers to a time before Christ. What applied then does not necessarily apply now.

"They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption," explained the Pope, quoting Augustine.

"And he says that among the persecutors, among the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live," the Holy Father continued.

"With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ," he clarified. Continuing with his quotes from Augustine, the Pope added that "God will not allow them to perish with Babylon, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, on the condition, however, that, living in Babylon, they do not seek pride, outdated pomp and arrogance."

My comment: It is one thing to say that some people who live surrounded by error may nonetheless be saved, but it is quite another to imply that people's circumstances are unrelated to their chances of salvation. It is not charitable to leave people sunk in error, in the hope that they may nonetheless somehow wangle their way to Heaven. The point of the "biblical faith" that the pontiff unfortunately tends to deprecate is that it tells a person how to live so as to please God best and have the greatest chance of salvation.

I think I was lucky to get some of my religious education before Vatican II had really hit. It seems to have inoculated me against a lot of the theological fluff that has come out of Rome, as well as lesser pulpits, in recent years. So much of it flies in the face of Catholic Tradition - and common sense. I am afraid that Benedict, while excellent in many ways, seems to have the same weakness for issuing half-baked statements as his predecessor.

From the Mass for the feast of St Francis Xavier, December the 3rd, in the traditional missal:

" ... Jesus said to His disciples: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not, shall be condemned. "

Julian

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Social Scientists Run Amuck

Steve Sailer has had a big win lately in his David and Goliath battle with prominent American economist Steven Levitt over the vexed question of whether the legalisation of abortion in America really did - as Levitt claimed - reduce crime levels. It seems intuitively likely, but intuition is not an infallible guide. Read all about it at Steve Sailer's blog, which is also in my blogroll. One of the most interesting remarks he makes is as follows:

"Legal abortion [in America] is a major cause of what it was supposed to solve -- unwanted pregnancies. Levitt himself notes that following Roe, "Conceptions rose by nearly 30 percent, but births actually fell by 6 percent …" So for every six fetuses aborted in the 1970s, five would never have been conceived except for Roe!"

Sailer is an interesting fellow, who is more productive and interesting, and I suspect smarter, than most vaunted intellectuals. He has had a string of cerebral policy "hits" in recent years, as detailed here. See the list of "prominent articles".

Julian

PS The Economist covers the controversy. Sailer is not mentioned in this article, but he did a lot of the initial spade work. By the way, The Economist mentions that Ceausescu, the Romanian communist dictator, banned abortion. True; but he also banned contraception. And this article states that abortion is still very common in Romania, despite the legalisation of contraception. The issues are complex.

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