Friday, June 21, 2002

Another quote from the goat-spider transgenic article:

Four hundred million years ago, he begins excitedly, spiders were doing just fine as ground hunters until one day bugs started flying. ''The spider's evolution comes out of a kind of arms race between spiders and bugs. The bugs start flying to get away from the spiders, so the spiders have to come up with a new weapon.'' Most spider species died out, but a few developed a new talent, namely, spinning webs. The silk had to both be invisible to a bug's vision and virtually indestructible. Only spiders capable of making superfine, powerful silk survived -- a perfect example of evolutionary pressure.

Now, I'm no scientist, and I really would like to be corrected or enlightened if my thinking is muddled or uninformed here, but this seems to be a preposterous idea. Spider species were dying out because recently evolved flying bugs were dominating so, "a few (spiders) developed a new talent, namely, spinning webs...(o)nly spiders capable of making superfine, powerful silk survived -- a perfect example of evolutionary pressure."

Just how did these spiders develop this new talent for spinning webs? Were there spider scientists who developed transgenic methods of their own? Pretty amazing, considering that 21st century human scientists developing a goat silk product called BioSteel still haven't been able to reproduce the complexity of arachnid silk.

Or maybe the spiders "developed this new talent" by just trying really, really hard. Kind of like Wilbur in Charlotte's Web when he tries to spin a web like his newfound spider friend. Maybe if we grunt and squeeze real hard we can develop new talents on the order of a complex biological web spinning apparatus. If those goats that these scientists are working with to produce goat silk were just motivated by some advanced flying goats, maybe they, too, would develop a new talent like spinning webs.

We're not talking about the fastest animals surviving because they're the fittest, we're talking about creatures intentionally and radically altering their own biological make-up, just because they "needed" to develop a new talent to compete with flying bugs. Hogwash!!

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