Category Archives: Evolution

The significance of fitness tradeoffs and compensatory mutations in the evolution of infectious disease

The last couple of decades have seen medical science infused with evolutionary reasoning. This has affected such disparate fields as vaccine design and medical genomics­­[1]. In this post, I will focus on the significance of compensatory mutations and fitness tradeoffs to understanding the evolution of infectious disease.

The imperfection of organisms is often cited as evidence for evolution. This imperfection is obvious from our genomes, which are littered with history – a “genetic book of the dead,” as Richard Dawkins put it[2]. However, even taking the historical explanations of those well-known features into account, organisms are still not ‘perfect,’ and they cannot be. This is because species must compromise, so to speak, when it comes to what traits they will excel in. On the fitness landscape, it is impractical for them to “climb every mountain”[3]. As a result, natural selection leads to specialization as tradeoffs are made between traits. These are known as “fitness tradeoffs.”

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Scientific approach

This is primarily a repost of a guest column I wrote for the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback. It was published back in April following Richard Dawkins’ visit to the campus as a guest of the UMD Society of Inquiry.

Here’s a little background:  Continue reading

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Filed under Accommodationism, Christianity, Evolution, Religion, Science

Vestigial Cetacean olfactory receptors

Like most consensus scientific theories, common descent is supported by patterns of evidence rather than by a few disconnected observations. As Stephen Jay Gould said, “We know that the sun is hub of our little corner of the universe, and that ties of genealogy connect all living things on our planet, because these theories assemble and explain so much otherwise disparate and unrelated information—not because Galileo trained his telescope on the moons of Jupiter or because Darwin took a ride on a Galápagos tortoise.”

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Filed under Biology, Evolution