So they're only fruit flies, but they are flies with a message …
This empirical work is worth noting on two counts. First, we are here considering a mechanism that is central to Darwinian evolution. Positive natural selection of hereditable variation is the key (we are informed) to understanding how descent with modification occurs. However, the first set of empirical data relating to a sexually reproducing species does not confirm that modification works this way. This is why Long's comment is worth repeating: "This research really upends the dominant paradigm about how species evolve". Many scientists have long suspected that the Darwinian mechanisms are inadequate to account for large-scale transformation – these research findings provide empirical support for such doubts.
The other reason for taking an interest in this research is that the Darwinian paradigm has been widely used in the development of drugs for medical use. Whereas the classical view is that genes have specific functions, the new research supports the growing body of evidence that the norm is for genes to have pleiotropic effects. A novel SNP can then be expected to have not one, but many, effects. This has been underplayed by researchers of a darwinian persuasion. "Based on that flawed paradigm, Rose noted, drugs have been developed to treat diabetes, heart disease and other maladies, some with serious side effects. He said those side effects probably occur because researchers were targeting single genes, rather than the hundreds of possible gene groups like those Burke found in the flies. Most people don't think of flies as close relatives, but the UCI team said previous research had established that humans and other mammals share 70 percent of the same genes as the tiny, banana-eating insect known as Drosophila melanogaster."
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Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.