Possibly the most important part of the mental model humans construct is their mental model of themselves. This is what we call our identity. It takes all the beliefs we have about ourselves and attempts to put them together into an internally coherent whole. Some of our most cherished political, religious, racial, and gender thoughts about ourselves tells us who we are and how we ought to interact with the world.
Poststructuralism is a theory of semiotics (language and signs) that, broadly speaking, says that meaning is an effect of language, rather than a cause. In other words, what things mean to us is formed by language as opposed to our language having a 1-to-1 correspondence with reality. This theory, of course, takes the blank slate theory axiomatically. But what if we combine it with evolutionary psychology?
Nature reported that Russian molecular biologist Denis Rebrikov is planning to perform CRISPR experiments on human embryos. He’s running the experiments on the same CCR5 gene as Chinese scientist He Jiankui in 2018. This is once again raising questions on the ethics of human genetic experimentation.
In part two, I will give a brief overview of the evidence for the theory of evolution. This is not an exhaustive compendium of all the evidence in support of the theory of evolution. It is already a long post, so I keep all my descriptions brief. If you are interested in learning more, I provide plenty of links to websites and peer reviewed papers all throughout.
If you’re interested in how evolution relates to religion and whether it gives us any reason not to believe in God, check out this post. The current discussion will not touch on the subject, sticking strictly to the science.
Part 1: How Natural Selection Works
What follows are more conceptual aspects of evolution that build on the ideas discussed in the part 1. It’s not absolutely necessary, but I would recommend checking out part 2 first as well. In this conclusion to my three-part primer on evolution, I will discuss things like reproductive isolation, the different ways that evolution occurs, sexual selection, ecology, chaos theory, and evolutionary equilibrium. That evolution by natural selection has occurred and is occurring is not controversial in biology, which means most biologists are not actively searching for evidence that evolution by natural selection is a true phenomenon – the evidence that it is occurring is in. This post, therefore, introduces you to some of the areas of active research in evolutionary theory.
Part 1: How Natural Selection Works
Some people have anywhere from a slight misunderstanding to a complete lack of knowledge on how evolution by natural selection operates. I’m going to do a series on the subject to educate anyone who is confused by or interested in the theory of evolution.
I haven’t often talked about myself on this blog. That is, when I bother to post anything at all. Maybe this is strange, since that is what personal blogs are meant for, aren’t they? I’m just not one to talk about myself. That’s probably why I don’t post often and why I have an even harder time “marketing” myself – my blog, my novel, etc. I just never found myself to be all that interesting of a topic, unless I could talk about myself in some conceptual or theoretical sense – like when I got really into personality theory a little over a decade ago (I’m an INTP by the way, for people who care about such things.
Well, perhaps because I’m in a strange mood, having had my city completely shutdown due to this polar vortex bringing subzero temperatures and epic piles of snow, I thought I would maybe talk (confess?) about myself a little.
I enjoy writing (or, at least, the idea of writing) about a veritable plethora of topics: philosophy, religion, politics, economics, society. However, my education is actually in the sciences – I am a published biochemist. This has made me strive for scientific accuracy, or at least scientific plausibility, in my fiction writing. For science fiction, the CRISPR/Cas9 system of gene editing leads to all sorts of possibilities, some of which I explore in my Incarnate novel series (shameless plug – book 2 coming soon!). In my novel, people use CRISPR/Cas9 to modify their somatic cells in order to give themselves practical biochemical upgrades (ie having one’s fingerprint pattern shift slowly over time so that the person cannot be tracked) to more aesthetic ones (ie giving oneself a series of subdermal bioluminescent vessels that can be lit up at will).
But if one wants to know how to better understand the possibilities and limitations to CRISPR/Cas9 (at least in its current state in August of 2018 – my novel series takes place in the future where some of the practical limitations will hopefully be overcome), it is necessary to understand how it actually works. Here, I am going to lay out in hopefully simple terms (although this may be somewhat technical at times) what CRISPR/Cas9 is, how it works, and what people are currently using it for (or debating whether they ought to use it for these things, anyway). This will not be an exhaustive review of everything CRISPR/Cas9 related, but it will hopefully make it understandable enough for the interested laity to know what it is and for fellow sci-fi writers to use it more effectively in their writing.