Dna Replication Errors

In his 1959 Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin methodically introduced the world to the notion of biological evolution. The response from the religious community was one of zealous reactionary fervor and 150 years later still is. But Darwin only described the results of biological evolution never finding clue as to its causative factors.

It’s surprising the religious community did not take similar exception with the German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s 1925 Uncertainty Principle, considering Uncertainty questioned the very doctrine of divine predestination in the universe. It took Albert Einstein to put this bit of scientific brilliance into religious perspective with his famous, “God does not play dice with the universe,” response to Heisenberg.

Perhaps the quantum reality and within it Heisenberg’s principle, remains the most elusive in terms of general human contemplation and understanding, but it was the 1952 discovery of DNA’s double helix structure by James Watson and Francis Crick which ripped the lid off a proverbial Pandora’s box of universal random implications. Finally, as the approximate  25,000 active genes (those coding for proteins) of the human genome were successfully sequenced in 2000, and knowledge of DNA and RNA’s processes was filling volumes in research labs around the world, among molecular biologists the random component of genetic mutations became understood as the single driving force behind biological evolution.

It seems only reasonable to state, self replicating DNA and RNA molecules, rather than the result of any perfect divine design are instead the result of a chemical process fraught with error. Each time the DNA molecule is replicated by DNA polymerase, errors referred to as polymorphism and characterized as single and multiple frame shift as well as nucleoside substitutions are injected into the DNA molecule. On top of these, there are a host of other anomalous chemical inconsistencies such as methylization which can effect genomic nucleotide registration and stability. Moreover, it can also be posited, these DNA replication errors are the clue to biological evolution in living organisms and constitute the long sought after life force common to all living things.

DNA replication errors are not a rarity, they occur with incredible frequency every time a cell divides. The more complex the genome of an organism, the more susceptible its DNA molecules will be to polymorphism; it’s a simple matter of statistical random permutations. Whether the replication error will occur in an active gene or in the rest of what molecular biologists and geneticists refer to as “junk DNA,” is equally subject to random occurrence. In the case of humans, only 1% of whose DNA codes for active proteins, the chance of each mutation effecting cellular function to one degree or another is one in a hundred. More recent research, however, suggest some of what was previously considered junk DNA may have functional importance as chemical switches which turn genes in close proximity on or off. This new evidence has also given credence to the emergence of a theory of rapid evolution.

Until about twenty years ago, the “Gradualism” theory, which maintains that evolution occurs slowly on a generational basis, was the predominant perspective in genetics. As more evidence of rapid evolution has been found, it would appear that evolution itself is a living entity, albeit intangible as any separate instance in physical form. In essence, living beings experience a continuous sense of rebirth in genetic terms. Every time mitosis (cell division) occurs, neither of the resultant daughter cells are exact replicas in terms of DNA configuration of the progenitor, and it may be this fact which more than any thing else, insures the longevity of the being or brings about its personal extinction. For instance, every time your body is invaded with a virus, any cell infected by it will die. Some cells, however, will have a particular protein on their outer membrane which resists and prevents intrusion of the virus into the cell. These cells are spared and by replicating themselves replace the beings cell inventory with ones not susceptible to the virus.

In other cases, a virus or bacteria invading a cell may have its own DNA rearranged and replicated by the host cell. In some instances this may have a mutually beneficial effect to both host cell and invading body, as is believed to have been the case, occurring billions of years ago, with respect to mitochondrial DNA, now found in all prokaryotic cells and essential to cell metabolism. In other cases, perhaps most, the introduction of foreign bacterial or viral  DNA or simply chemical mutagens into a cell may destroy it altogether, and in still other scenarios radically transform it into a cancer cell. Irregardless of the method of introduction and specific agent, the certain result is DNA replication errors.

Charles Darwin never used the word “evolution” in his book, instead he referred to the process as variation. Call it evolution or variation, today we know and can prove that the causative factor underlying the manifestation is random polymorphism during DNA replication. Furthermore, we know now that this evolutionary process occurs both in terms of gradualism as well as more rapid forms of evolution. Today, at least those knowledgeable of the chemistry involved, know why Darwin’s hypothesis  was right. We know too, that DNA replication  errors are the driving and fundamental life force. As many pro-theist scientists will agree, if life was created through divine ordination, then evolution is the self evident process a divine creator must have used to accomplish his creation, and random DNA replication errors the proof of it.