Friday, January 18, 2013

Jerry Coyne and fruit fly sex

Fruit flies in action!

God of Israel who is the only real God there is has created the fruit fly.  Although flies appear in a negative context in the Bible - Lord of the Flies is Beelzebub in Aramaic -  a reader of the open Book of Nature who has been given the gift of faith in God cannot but join the scientists in admiring the genius apparent in this little animal.

Professor Jerry A. Coyne
American professor of Biology Jerry A. Coyne (b.1949) has specialized in the study of evolution and has in this context focused on the precise genetic study of fruit flies. These insects have traditionally been of great interest to biologists because of their short life cycle that allows scientists to study their communities and mutations in laboratory conditions within reasonable time frames.

Professor Coyne is also an active atheist and prolific writer criticizing the Intelligent Design school of thinking (which btw I also oppose). The popular book (and associated Web site) Why evolution is true (2009) has a title that suggests that it is aimed at people who actually deny that there is any evolution in natural life.

In this short text  I briefly 1) describe one of Coyne's articles written with his colleagues on fruit flies and 2) comment as a Christian what Coyne as 1) a scientist and 2) an atheist has written about this magnificent little insect.

Llopart, A., S. Elwyn and J.A. Coyne. 2002. Pigmentation and mate choice in Drosophila melanogaster. Nature 419: 360

1. Brief description of the article

Drosophila melanogaster

Drosophila melanogaster is interesting for genetics and evolutionary research because
  • Some males and females have different colors (dimorfic): the posterior of males is black while that of females is striped. Accordingly, the sex of the insect is visually in a way that we may assume is noted during mating and helps to avoid waist of time with futile same-sex courting. 
  • Some males and females are similarly colored (monomorfic): both have striped posterior part and sex is not visible in the pigmentation. 
Coyne and his colleagues criticize the theory presented by professor Artyom Kopp on the basis of experimental research in Kopp laboratory. According to Kopp, the stripes are caused by the bric-à-brac (bab) gene which inhibits in females the black male pigmentation. During mating time males notice better striped females and avoid trying to mate other males causing natural selection in favor of striped females. This, in turn, should by time cause an evolutionary change by natural selection in the fruit fly population as seen in the increase of the relative number of females with striped posteriors.

Jerry Coyne and his colleagues suggest in their article on the application of Darwin's idea of natural selection on fruit fly colors. They suggest that the method of observation used by Kopp is such that it influences the results and thus distorts the real situation. They say that in free nature the fruit fly stripes are not relevant in the mating choices and that the behavior pattern reported by Artyom Kopp is result of the faulty research method.

2. Christian Theologian comments the work of an Atheist Biologist
The biologists writing in the article at hand are ask does the specific methodology of their distinguished colleague provide reliable results concerning the relationship between the pigmentation and mating choices of Drosophila melanogaster males and females.

As a Theologian I have no formal competence in Evolutionary Biology or Genetics. Nevertheless, I dare to make the following claim:

in scientific evaluation of Kopp's methodology it is irrelevant does Professor Jerry Coyne believe in God or not or what is the nationality or religions affinity of Professor Artyom Kopp.

Do you agree with that?

The same generic note - irrelevance of Coyne's personal religious and philosophical views - applies also to the scientific discussions in these articles he has written with his colleagues on fruit flies:
  • Coyne, J. A., A. P. Crittenden, and K. Mah. 1994. Genetics of a pheromonal difference contributing to reproductive isolation in Drosophila. Science 265:1461-1464
  • Price, C.S.C., K. A. Dyer, and J. A. Coyne. 1999. Sperm competition between Drosophila males involves both displacement and incapacitation. Nature 400:449-452.
  • Greenberg, A.J., J.R. Moran, J.A. Coyne and C-I. Wu. 2003. Ecological adaptation during incipient speciation revealed by precise gene replacement. Science 302: 1754-1757.
You can find more scientific texts on fruit flies and other subjects by Jerry A. Coyne in the University of Chicago Faculty of Ecology and Evolution page.

About faith and lack of it 
It is a matter of faith that I personally accept the unbearably comprehensive claim made in the Holy Bible that God of Israel has created and sustains all life, including fruit flies.

It is a matter of lack of faith that Jerry Coyne personally rejects the unbearably comprehensive claim made in the Holy Bible that God of Israel has created and sustains all life, including fruit flies.

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