More Science News

Men, remember this name. Boule. That is the name of the single gene that is responsible for sperm production. Apparently, it is the same gene that all animals carry, all the way back to the most simple of organisms such as sea anemones, snails, flies and fish. This means that going back about 600 million years, sperm production has been the necessary means of species continuation for all life, and remember, life only originated on this planet about 1 billion years ago. So the process of gamete-seeks-immobile-egg had stabilized as the primary means of sexual reproduction after about 400 million years of life.

I’m not a scientist, so if someone with a better understanding feels I’m in error, please let me know, but it seems that this is further illustration of the common ancestry of all species. Not only do we share genetic lineage with so-called monkeys (primates, like us) but also with all other species, back to the most simple of organisms.

(A good book for those interested in more, is Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale, which takes a backward journey through life to show us where various ancestors diverged in the tree, or bush, of life. It’s a big book, but written lucidly for the layman.)

The discovery of Boule (not sure why they had to name it thusly) holds promise of technologies in human contraception and disease reduction.

“A sperm-specific gene like Boule is an ideal target for a male contraceptive drug,” Xu noted.

Boule also has the potential to reduce diseases caused by mosquitoes and parasites such as worms.

“We now have one strong candidate to target for controlling their breeding,” Xu said. “Our work suggests that disrupting the function of Boule in animals most likely will disrupt their breeding and put the threatening parasites or germs under control. This could represent a new direction in our future development of pesticides or medicine against infectious parasites or carriers of germs.”

OK, those of you lower primates so inclined, feel free to now insert your sperm jokes here.

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22 thoughts on “More Science News

  1. interesting information, although one worrying thing does come to my mind… how permanent would be effect be to a human male if exposed to the pesticide?

  2. “I’m not a scientist, so if someone with a better understanding feels I’m in error, please let me know”

    Gladly. Don’t you realize that this is simply further proof that God has used the same tools to create all life in its current form? Sheesh.

    • Don’t you realise that this is a science blog, therefore your ‘insight’ is most unwelcome? I can suggest multiple website for people of your disposition, if you’d prefer, though I’m curious as how exactly you got out of your kind’s side of the gene pool and waddled yourself over to this end, but damn it, get back in your end. This is the intelligent side, where we talk about things that do not include your imaginary sky man, so ‘please junior, let the adults talk, and get back in your playpen until you can face the real world.’

      • However, I think you may actually be an undercover atheist, after checking out your blog, to which I’d like you to take this satirically, and as a comment to any creationists that may find their way here.

        • Ha, glad you came to your senses. I was going to say “somebody doesn’t realize sarcasm when they see it.” I am hardly undercover though:

          My comment here can be taken as a test. Humbly, my friend, you have failed. Your response would not sway a creationist OR a neutral party undecided between the 2 positions. Instead, you would have shot yourself in the foot by making the creationist position seem more reasonable and clever than it actually is.

          • What test would that be? Poe’s law is clearly in effect, as your ‘satire’ is rational when coming from a theistic mindset. Compared to FSTDT, that was perfectly logical!

            • In Misa’s defense, I’ll have to admit that when I first read Justin’s comment, I had her immediate reaction, but then I looked at who wrote it, and realized the disconnect. If you don’t know Justin from past experience, (and no one should be expected to read all the posts on my blog before commenting) you might think it’s legit.

              Poe’s Law strikes again!

          • I’m actually quite new to the blog-world, especially this part of it. I’m only here because a friend linked me to it, and I was feeling, well, quite annoyed that evening. My apologies on this.

  3. “I’m not a scientist, so if someone with a better understanding feels I’m in error, please let me know”

    You have most of it quite right, but I noticed a couple things that were off a bit. The first being how long life has existed on Earth. It is actually quite a bit longer then 1 billion years. This was the number used for the longest time until older rocks were able to be found that contained micro-fossils showing life to have emerged shortly after or during the end of the late bombardment period of Earth, around 3.8 billion years ago. The 1 billion year mark is the period when multicellular life seems to have emerged. Around the beginning of the Ediacaran, around 640 million Years ago, you have the period where we believe sexual diversification first occurred, with one direction going towards plants and the other animals. At around 600, still in the Ediacaran, the first animals emerge and when Boule probably arises with the animalian gamete differentiation that we are familiar with (compared to the more ‘primitive’ gamete differentiation that went down the branch of the plants, and back to the line that led to animals animals, where the fungi branched off as well as possibly certain protozoans such as the Choanoflagellate [which may have a sexual stage though we aren’t entirely sure, but since they seem to be so closely related to certain cells found in poriferans, it would be interesting to see if they have a variation of the Boule gene and then use that to discern their actual phylogenetic place and possibly how Boule formed into the function it has in all aminals])

    I hope that helped a bit, if not, please let me know and I shall try to clarify. It was quite a good read otherwise, I have enjoyed reading your blog for quite a while now though I think this may be my first time commenting, so thank you.

  4. Cyc

    Thanks. That was very helpful. I’m always a bit reluctant to expound on science, because I know enough about it to be interested (and dangerous) but not enough to be always correct.


    I think you’ve sussed it out, but Justin was being provocatively sarcastic.

    • David

      You’re welcome. Thanks for dropping by.

      OK. I’ll add a sperm joke.

      Why do only about a hundred sperm, out of millions, make it to the egg?

      Because they’re male, and don’t stop and ask for directions. {Bada-bing}

  5. @Catinthewall and others

    Re: Poe’s Law. Fair enough, I thought the “Sheesh” at the end was sufficiently overly dramatic. But the test is simply that if Misa really thought I was a creationist, (s)he would be better served offering up a sound counter-argument, instead of outrage/ personal attacks. This is a pet peeve of mine with atheists and secularists, as it makes them seem, to a neutral party, more emotional and irrational than the other side. Now isn’t that ironic.

    This thread aside, being an “atheist” is not enough if one’s atheism is just routed in emotion/ outrage, instead of sound thinking. Ultimately, what is the real difference between blind irrational faith in atheism and blind irrational faith in religion?

    Quite frankly, as an intellectual, I am much more impressed with a religious person who can make a reasonable argument than with an atheist who has the argumentative skills of a chimpanzee. The one I know is at least open to some discussion, the other, I must have my doubts. I have little use for argumentative chimps, be they religious or secular.

    • Justin, you come across all high and mighty when all you were doing is baiting. Your remark, when looked at from someone without any knowledge about your ‘tests’ looks like that of any other god botherer out to complain when their invisible sky daddy isn’t invoked in the explanation.

      The idea that “sheesh” is even remotely similar to dramatic, instead of something many people use in casual speech when they they feel they are ‘stating the obvious’, shows that you are prone to gross exaggeration. I have never seen “sheesh” used by anyone other then contemptuous fools who believe they are in the right or used as a silly gesture.

      You talk about a dichotomy between irrational atheism and theism where none existed in this context. The comment was from someone who has a certain disdain for human stupidity and rather likes playing with her ‘prey’. In this context she was taunting you in the same way that P.Z. Myers, Hitchens and others have done. It has been shown that ridicule really does work in certain areas of debate, especially when trying to sway the ‘audience’, there have been a few papers showing just this recently.

      Not all statements should be met with calm, correcting rebuttals. Especially when such statements have an air of superiority in them. There is a time and a place to discuss theological relevancy and to any casual observer, this was not one of them. In fact I am quite sure you are one of those individuals who gets a thrill of ‘calling people out’ when they ‘attack’ your for your remarks. As then you can come in, floating on your own bloated ego, telling these poor ‘peons’ that they are all idiots and that you will not lower yourself to reply to their ‘attacks’. Yet the irony of the whole thing is you wind up doing the exact same thing you criticize, or is it suddenly all right for you to call someone who mocked your reply as having the intelligence of Pan troglodytes?

      I have encountered your kind many a time, and I can saftly say that your existance is as useless as the ‘lessons’ you are trying to teach. Parasites such as yourself, who must trap others and feed off of them to bloat their egos are beyond pathetic. You imagine that you are doing some good when in reality you are just irritating the actual intellectuals in the room with your ‘traps’ and ‘lessons’. The fact that you spend the time to even create them shows that somewhere along the path of life you not only took a tumble but fell face first into the gutter while everyone else passes you by.

      If you are so pathetic, why did I feel the need to waste my time writing this response you might ask? Partly because you insulted people that have earned my respect and partly because I am tired of such pseudo-intellectual trolls going about ruining perfectly good discussions. All because your self worth is based on if you are superior to someone else on the internet.

      Do not bother trying to goad me further as I will not waste any more time on someone who’s grand mark on the world shall be relegated to a few lines on the internet.

  6. It has been shown that ridicule really does work in certain areas of debate, especially when trying to sway the ‘audience’, there have been a few papers showing just this recently.

    Do you have any cites? I’m not being contentious, I really would like some cites. I have a future post I’ve been ruminating over, and something to back me up would be helpful.

  7. I have tried looking for it but cannot find it at the moment, I remember seeing it through Pharyngula about a study of the effectiveness of debate tactics on the audience. I cannot remember when it was, so it will take a while to sift through things. I’ll try and find it if I can.

  8. The closest I have been able to find is this referencing studies showing ridicule, when used along side counter arguments and mnemonic links becomes effective at convincing an audiance. I’m sure there is more out there but at the moment, a few days sleep deprivation has made me a bit drowsy. Hope it helps, and sorry for not citing when I mentioned it.

  9. Well after that diatribe I have only one word: Sheesh!

    What I love about this whole thing is that it all really stems from a misunderstanding. BTW, there’s a big difference between effective ridicule in the context of a debate (a la Hithens) and calling people names. One is effective, the other is not. One is helping atheism and agnosticism become a legitimate option for people today, and the other is turning people off.

    I’ll put my record as an amateur intellectual and a debater up against anybody’s. Anyone who’s interested can click my name to peruse my blog, or check out my writings on Hub Pages, where I use the pseudonym “secularist10”:

    One recent article I wrote there about secular morality has generated a particularly high amount of debate, and anyone interested can see just how I debate fundamentalist and creationist types (and particularly erratic ones at that).

    I was initially just trying to throw in some hilarity while reminding everyone what the typical creationist would argue in response to the news. Oh well, my bad. My apologies for starting this, Inquisitor.

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