Sacrosanct genome:
A study (Regan et al. Curr. Biol. 21, 1373(2011) was reviewed.  (GR Keeping the Genome Safe SCIENCE vol. 333 no. 6048 September 9, 2011 page 1360) It turns out that a mutation of a fruit fly gene “histone methyl transferase dSETDB1” has an impact on the mechanism that promotes stability of the genome, specifically during germ cell differentiation. 

I don’t know whether people have that gene, but I suppose we do.  It seems pretty basic.  Still, mutations in it cannot be very common.

The point of interest is that the review begins with the clause, “The germ line of an organism must necessarily be sacrosanct; …” 

Nice word.  It means “something sacred made sacred.”  Sacred is interesting.  It can mean “blessed” or “cursed.”  The English language is blessed with words that mean the opposite of what they say.  “Duck” means, “Do not act like a duck and put your head down and your bottom up right where the head was, but rather take cover and lower your head with the rest of you shielded as well.”  You can see the economy.  Much of this meaning reversal may be due to an English fondness for irony, but this time they are innocent.  The dual meaning goes right back to the Latin, a language not much given to irony.  “Irony” comes from the Greek.  At all events “sacred” means, “Don’t touch.”  Sacrosanct means more or less, “Don’t even think about it.” 

So the genome is to be fiercely guarded and evolution has put in place mechanisms to accomplish as much.  As it turns out, the gene pool also must be guarded, and this is true of all animals, not just humans. 

Yet the sentiment remains, “Churning up the gene pool is a good thing.  You can only make it better.”  And that sentiment remains wrong.  How can it be intuitively obvious that the genome is sacrosanct and at the same time persuasive that the gene pool is only of negative interest?  The mind boggles.

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