Friday, September 02, 2005

The Self-Destruct Gene

Nature Cover
This week the prestigious science journal, Nature, published the full sequence of the chimpanzee genome. As it happens the international team of scientists who performed the study was led by a group at my former institution, the University of Washington in Seattle. But I digress. The difference betweeen the ape and human genetic blueprint is quite small although so far the researchers have found no sign of a chimp equivalent of the human self-destruct gene. What's that I hear you ask? Well it's the gene that is found in homo sapiens and appears to be upregulated in times of stress. Its influence has been very much in evidence in the aftermath of the dreadful Hurricane Katrina. For example, when large numbers of individuals are threatened with starvation, exposure and disease what do they do to survive? Why they loot stores not for food and medical supplies but for televisions, beer and guns. There are even stories of aid helicopters being fired on. WTF is that about?

Sometimes I despair of the human condition and think we are doomed...

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