Thursday, January 24, 2008

More than the Sum of Our Parts

So I've looked back on my blog and I've realized its become the nutritional textual equivalent of the Sweet Factory at the mall -

I've had a number of things on my mind that I've discussed with whatever obliging person around me I've found (even some nice strangers at the car wash) but I've yet to make a blog type presence about any of it.

I'm coming from a number of places with this particular subject and I'll try to do them justice and not go off and off and off at the same time but I'm not promising anything.

Ok - Place #1

I openly flash my membership card to Geekdom and frequently it would seem. Sometimes it comes out in Harry Potter debates at the Border's checkout counter and sometimes I get lit about Nova. This is a case of the latter.

Just the other night Mom and I tuned into this particular Nova that I found interesting and slightly disturbing, but not because of the people they were studying.

In rural Turkey there is a family of 21. 19 children born of two first cousins who married. 5 of these children haven't learned how to walk on two legs, they need their hands too. The other 14 are perfectly fine. Forgetting the fact that two cousins have married and multiplied *shudder* this family has drawn international attention from the Scientific Community thinking that these siblings (now adults from 19-24 years old) have DNA that could be evidential of an evolutionary ancestor that was quadrupedal.

There are three main things (scientifically speaking) that differentiate humans from the rest of the animal kingdom; bipedal locomotion, language, and brain size. There have been modern cases where defective genes have been isolated and identified with diseases pertaining to cases of language deficiency and abnormally small brain size, but none have ever surfaced regarding quadrupedal locomotion so the scientist types are all over this one.

There are a number of reasons they think this is a genetic thing. One of the many being the reason we can walk on two legs and not four is because of our fantastic sense of balance. This is because of our unusually large cerebellum. Brain scans of all of the siblings have revealed a very small one.

And they went on and on and on about all of these phenotypes that would paint a picture of a quadrupedal ancestor and they also presented a lot of evidence that in the case of the siblings that something else; bone structures etc. They had neurologists and psychologists come in and test these siblings and lets just say they aren't playing with a full deck. See, a typical strand of DNA has defective genes all over the place. The plus with how the system is set up is that we get 2 pairs of genes (one from mom and dad) and the best of the two are what is phenotypically manifested. Since two cousins married they would have similar copies of faulty DNA and therefore their kids would manifest the "mutated" genes more easily. Yadda yadda yadda -

Have I lost you yet? There is a point to all of this - I swear.

That should be on the channel 7 news - of course these siblings aren't playing with a full deck! Their gene pool is about as deep as left over bath water.

Out of all of the scientists they interviewed there was one (1!!) that made the suggestion that it was a matter of environment and not genetic disposition that had to do with this particular case. Hes an Anthropologist, not a geneticist mind you. He was the seemingly stuffy, white haired, Cambridge scholar that actually WENT to Turkey and met these siblings. He suggested, and I agree with him, that because this mother had these children so quickly (7 in 5 years) there wasn't time to help them progress from a baby bear crawl (which is very common) and the close siblings followed suit. Them living in the rural isolated place they do, it simply escalated with time.

He insisted that the environmental factors must carry just as much weight as genetic dispositions and never to underestimate the human spirit portion of Modern Humans. Genes are the scaffolding but they are not the building. I found his commentary so comforting and completely in line with my own, unschooled, theories. He said that if this case had happened in an area less rural these children would have been singled out and given therapy if they weren't walking by age 4 and by 5 or 6 they would have been perfectly bipedal.

Putting away the genetic pokers and pipettes, he and an empathetic Turkish psychologist, installed a few simple things at the house to help them strengthen their muscles and practice walking on two legs, even in their maturity (walkers, parallel bars etc) and they went back a year later and all of them were vastly improved.

These siblings aren't victims of their DNA, their parent's imprudence perhaps, but not their genome. I find it SOO frustrating how people are so apt to give in and give up who they are to a set of amino acids and looks for solutions in a syringe or a pill. Whats more is that the scientific community lets them. And since Society gives Science carte blanche for credibility more times than not, this mentality evolves into "fact" and sad prejudice.

This carte blanche is another thing - I read this other article that just amazed me but this post is mighty long so I guess I'll divvy this particular set of thoughts up I think.

Till next time then

2 comments:

Rachel said...

I saw a report on these siblings about a year ago and was amazed. But also thought the same thing, that it was more environmental then genetic. I'm happy to hear that someone gave them a chance.

Nicole Bullock said...

Reading a blog like this makes me miss you more...I would have liked to hear it in person. Pretty crazy shiz!