Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Natural history specimen salvage

Natural history specimen salvage

From: Ralph Molnar <b.molnar>
Date: Wednesday, February 24, 1993
>Check out the sidebar article on P. 30 of the March 1993 issue of
>Scientific American.  It describes an article by physicist and science
>fiction writer Gregory Benford, who, in last November's Proceedings of
>the National Academy of Sciences, is advocating the flash-freezing of
>samples of biota from endangered habitats.

What a strange idea! Actually, yes, I have heard of it, I saw that
issue, too. Benford is professor of physics at Univ. of California at
Irvine, does research in astrophysics and writes science fiction
(novels) some of which are quite good. However, I think that I have
rather a different kind of objection to this policy than yours, although
I don't have your message on hand. My objection is to the preservation
of DNA as well -- I do not think that preserving DNA preserves the
species. Therefore I feel there is much danger that species will be
considered to have been preserved, because their DNA has been preserved.
I have several reasons for thinking this:

    1.  DNA does not reproduce itself, it requires the RNA, proteins
    (etc.) of the cell (egg) to do so;

    2.  not all information necessary for a species to survive on its own
    (i.e., in the wild) is carried by the genes, e.g., animals bred in
    captivity and released into the wild need to be taught how to
    survive in the wild, by someone who knows that;

    3. DNA is often taken to mean only nuclear DNA, but other DNA (in
    mitochondria or chloroplasts) is also necessary (although this, like
    number 1, is not an argument against Benford's programme).

I believe that there is further information about this kind of thing in:
Oyama, S., 1985. The Ontogeny of Information. Cambridge University
Press. 206 pp. However, be warned -- in my opinion this is a book-length
magazine article. In other words it is a lot longer than it needs to be.
I am intending to discuss, hopefully succinctly, this issue in a book
that I am doing with a few others here. So I am interested to read any
ideas that you may have. Especially if you see anything about the
proposed role of (cell) membranes in heredity.

Cheers, Ralph

                  Conservation DistList Instance 6:47
                 Distributed: Sunday, February 28, 1993
                        Message Id: cdl-6-47-005
Received on Wednesday, 24 February, 1993

[Search all CoOL documents]