The latest discovery in genetics, the existence of DUF1220, seems to be the discovery of a form of “junk DNA”. “DUF” stands for a protein of unknown function, but DUF1220 is hardly junk. In fact, it might be what distinguishes us as human and provides us with higher brain functionality.
The term “unknown function” might be another way of way of saying “junk DNA”, or DNA that is disregarded because it isn’t currently accounted for. But if it’s the distinguishing difference between humans and other primate species, it certainly isn’t junk.
Take the comparison between the human and its closest genetic relative, the chimpanzee. Humans possess more than twice the amount of replications, or copies, as the result of instructions of our genome than chimps, suggesting that DUF1220 is clearly related to the growth of certain parts of the brain and, presumably, to sophisticated neural networks.
The DUF1220 copy number (or number of replications) in humans is roughly 270, with some small variations depending on the individual person. In comparison, the DUF1220 copy number in chimpanzees is 125, 92 in orangutans, and 35 in your traditional old-world monkey. That seems to suggest that the presence of DUF1220 is quite significant.
- Where did DUF1220 come from?
Before trying to figure out what exactly this “junk DNA” is, it’s fascinating to think about where it came from. How did this code of copy “double up” during our evolution? Is this a chance occurrence, a natural byproduct of an evolving environment, or a simple mutation? It’s clear that this code has meaning – it’s a main reason why we are able to write reports such as this one.
- There are several schools of thought on how and why DUF1220 expanded in humans:
•Modern science suggests that this is a natural result of natural selection and evolution. But do occurrences like this just happen naturally and organically? If our genetic code acts like software, as has been said, do software programs such as Photoshop and Microsoft Office become what they are naturally? Obviously that is not the case.
Software programs do not become functional, or improve their functionality, just by chance. There is a design, or a process, that guides these programs to function at a certain level. Using this train of thought, it’s hard to justify the expansion of “junk DNA” as simply a product of chance.
•Another theory is alien intervention. This might seem out of left field, but that theory suggests that something or someone from the outside manipulated our genetic coding, expanding our intelligence in a drastic way to separate us from the apes.
This might seem plausible on some levels, but there is no direct evidence of such a thing. And where did these aliens come from and how did they evolve to the point where they could change the dynamics of human intelligence? There’s no real answer, so this theory hits a dead end.
•We can also analyze the role of consciousness in human intelligence. To do this, you have to flip the role of the brain to where it’s a receiver of consciousness in a world that is intelligent in multiple aspects. That discovery, as Eckhart Tolle writes about, would be a blow to our collective ego, but the concept of our brain as a receiver of outside intelligence explains why humans, as a species, have evolved over the centuries. That also could explain why humans have expanded the amount of replications of DUF1220 while other species have seen those replications either stagnate or expand less rapidly.
- Where to go from here?
Assuming that the brain’s role as a receptor of outside intelligence is correct, it begs the question – what do we do from here? Do we accept the receiver role and stop trying to overtly grow, evolve, or gain intelligence and let it happen through the natural course of life and history?
The answers to this are varied and complex. But instead of trying to master our surroundings and figure out everything, we might want to pay more attention to our relationships to species around us — such as birds, bees, mammals, reptiles, and plants – and expand our consciousness to encompass everything. Seeing our minds, and the human experience, as a “work in progress” allows us to continually question, tweak, and mold ourselves to improve the world around us and gain even more intelligence.
This is a hard concept for many to comprehend, which is why we look to “worship” instead of “understand” in many situations. But by studying what “knowing” actually means, perhaps we can do as T.S. Eliot said and return to the present to get to know it for the very first time.
Source: Collective Evolution
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