Virus-driven evolution of the human mind?

By: James V. Kohl | Published on: November 13, 2013

How Our Minds Went Viral
by Carl Zimmer
Excerpt: “…sometimes viruses can merge into our genomes. Some viruses, for example, hijack our cells by inserting its genes into our own DNA. If they happen to slip into the genome of an egg, they can potentially get a new lease on life. If the egg is fertilized and grows into an embryo, the new cells will also contain the virus’s DNA. And when that embryo becomes an adult, the virus has a chance to move into the next generation.”
My comment: Virus-driven evolution is the plot in two of Greg Bear’s novels: Darwin’s Radio (1999) and Darwin’s Children (2003). The virus moved into the next generation of humans and they communicated with pheromones. See Greg Bear’s comments here:
1) Of particular relevance to my two novels is Lateral DNA Transfer by Frederic Bushman, 2002, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press, is an important synopsis of what is currently known about DNA transfer through viruses, transposons, plasmids, etc. I think it is one of the most significant biology books published in the last decade.
2) James V. Kohl’s The Scent of Eros (1995; reprinted in a revised edition, 2002, Continuum) is a rich source of information on pheromones, human communication through smell, and the influence of scent on sexuality.
3) In particular, I was influenced by Villarreal’s The Viruses That Make Us: A Role For Endogenous Retrovirus In The Evolution Of Placental Species
4) Acknowledgments:
Special thanks to Mark Minie, Ph.D., and Rose James, Ph.D.; Deirdre V. Lovecky, Ph.D.; Dr. Joseph Miller; Dominic Esposito of the National Cancer Institute; Dr. Elizabeth Kutter; Cleone Hawkinson; Alison Stenger, Ph.D.; David and Diane Clark; Howard Bloom and the International Paleopsychology Project; Cynthia Robbins-Roth, Ph.D., James V. Kohl, Oliver Morton, Karen Anderson, Lynn Caporale, and Roger Brent, Ph.D.
Note: Greg Bear gives credit to those whose ideas and published works helped him to develop his story line.  If this were true of science journalists, Zimmer’s stories could be fact-checked to determine whether he is accurately portraying information he has somehow acquired in the past, or if he is accurately portraying current concepts based on that information and new information. Instead, Zimmer can claim whatever he likes, and block comments from anyone who disagrees with his fictional representations of what has since moved from Greg Bear’s science fiction to become scientifically supported fact. Clearly, it is nutrient-dependent pheromone-controlled adaptations to our sensory environment that makes us human.
“But sometimes mutations can transform viral DNA into something useful.” — Carl Zimmer
My comment: Is there a model for that?” If not, it’s fiction. But it is not science fiction unless there is experimental evidence that supports Zimmer’s claims of mutation-driven evolution.

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