Your Inner Fish

Posted on February 25, 2008  Comments (2)

photo of Neil Shubin

Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin. A great piece from the University of Chicago, Fish out of Water, provides a good preview to the book:

What are the leading causes of death in humans? Four of the top ten causes—heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and stroke – have some sort of genetic basis and, likely, a historical one. Much of the difficulty is almost certainly due to our having a body built for an active animal but the lifestyle of a spud.

The problem is that the brain stem originally controlled breathing in fish; it has been jerry-rigged to work in mammals… This works well in fish, but it is a lousy arrangement for mammals.

The example from microbes is not unique. Judging by the Nobel Prizes awarded in medicine and physiology in the past 13 years, I should have called this book Your Inner Fly, Your Inner Worm, or Your Inner Yeast. Pioneering research on flies won the 1995 Nobel Prize in medicine for uncovering a set of genes that builds bodies in humans and other animals. Nobels in medicine in 2002 and 2006 went to people who made significant advances in human genetics and health by studying an insignificant-looking little worm (C. elegans). Similarly, in 2001, elegant analyses of yeast (including baker’s yeast) and sea urchins won the Nobel in medicine for increasing our understanding of some of the basic biology of all cells. These are not esoteric discoveries made on obscure and unimportant creatures. These discoveries on yeast, flies, worms, and, yes, fish tell us about how our own bodies work, the causes of many of the diseases we suffer, and ways we can develop tools to make our lives longer and healthier.

Two of my more controversial posts have been: Evolution is Fundamental to Science and Understanding the Evolution of Human Beings by Country. Evolution is not controversial scientifically. Just as gravity is not. Obviously this understanding is far from universal however.

But it is just a matter of time: similar to Galileo Galilei and heliocentric cosmology. See: Galileo’s Battle for the HeavensCopernican SystemGalileo). We now sit maybe 100 years after Galileo’s death (based on the evidence available in support of each scientific theory). At some point the evidence is accepted and life continues. Though I must admit it, I find it a bit disappointing how long it is taking for some people to accept the evidence of evolution. But I probably need to learn to be more patient – I have been told that more than once. All I can do is try to help present some small amount of the great work so many scientists have done to advance our knowledge. And here I am talking about evolution – for the 28% of those in the USA that couldn’t provide the answer that earth revolves around the sun, in 1998, well, they need much more help than I can provide.

2 Responses to “Your Inner Fish”

  1. Harry
    February 26th, 2008 @ 8:00 pm

    Hi. I’m not scientifically minded at all, but I read about ‘Your Inner Fish’ with fascination in a daily free newspaper we get here in London. It kind of throws up a lot in the air in regards to how we think/thought we evolved. I dare say that some people might find the fish suggestion insulting. Other people on the other hand might believe it to such a degree that they stop eating fish altogether as it might make them feel like cannibalists!

    In any case, I find this suggestion fascinating and plan to read more about it.

  2. Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog » Whales Evolved in the Blink of an Eye, Only 5 Million Years
    June 10th, 2010 @ 10:36 am

    […] Your Inner Fish – What Dogs Reveal About Evolution – Simple Webcasts on Evolution and Genes – […]

Leave a Reply