Friday, 23 March 2012 05:30

Gregor Mendel: Men of ideas

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Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) was a German, Augustinian priest who experimented with the inheritability of the traits of peas (and later of plants, crops, and by generalization, the inheritability of human traits).  He is called the father of genetic studies. His name, Mendel, is synonymous with genetic studies.

Mendel cultivated pea plants and tried to mix different varieties of the pea plants to produce hybrids of them. In the process he identified key concepts in the study of genes, such as, dominant genes, recessive genes, and alleles.

Clearly, plants can be hybridized. Many of the common fruits we now consume, such as apples, tomatoes, oranges, corn etc are hybrids (mix of different varieties of their kind in nature). Many animals that we today consume are hybrids (such as cattle).

And if animals can be hybridized, it follows that human beings can also be hybridized. (The mix of black folk, white folk and Asian folk is hybridization; human hybrids contain the best and sometimes the worst of their components.)

Mendel progressed with his work, from experimenting on peas (plant) to experimenting with honeybees (animals). He produced a vicious strain of bees (just as our scientists are producing dangerous strains of bacterial and viral germs in their germ war fare).

Mendel’s work was too advanced for his time; thus, he was rejected. Other modes were employed in explaining inheritance, including pangenesis.

Mendel died unrecognized. But in the twentieth century his work was recovered and formed the basis of today’s genetic studies.  We have made tremendous strides in our understanding of genes (DNA, RNA, how 23 Chromosomes from each parent combine into 46 chromosomes and become divided and recombine to form human cells; how the information in genes, coded in four alphabets, essentially control what the body does; the genes the individual inherited programs what his body is and does etc).

There is no doubt that what Mendel started would eventually help us understand diseases and heal them with appropriate medications and or genetic engineering.

All said Mendel was a pioneer in a field that very few understood and was ignored. Over time, when the time was right for his work, his work was rediscovered and improved on. We are still studying the nature of our genes and probably would do so for many years to come.

How is the information in the genes written and what forces wrote it? Is it accidental or was it deliberately written?

Science would say that accidental changes in the environment wrote the information in the human genes and did so to enable human beings adapt to changes in their environment. This is a tall tale and difficult to accept for it amounts to saying that a wind sweeping through a landscape could assemble all the parts necessary in assembling a Boeing 749 airplane, better still, write a blueprint and place it in a soft ware for producing other Boeing airplanes. To believe this hypothesis is like believing the story that God created the world in six days.

We do not need to replace one incredible story of creation with another. We can do ourselves a favor by simply acknowledging that we do not understand how we came about and continue doing research to understand it.

REFERENCE

J. G. Mendel.  Experiments in Plant Hybridization. (1866)

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Ozodi Osuji Ph.D

Ozodi Thomas Osuji is from Imo State, Nigeria. He obtained his PhD from UCLA. He taught at a couple of Universities and decided to go back to school and study psychology. Thereafter, he worked in the mental health field and was the Executive Director of two mental health agencies. He subsequently left the mental health environment with the goal of being less influenced by others perspectives, so as to be able to think for himself and synthesize Western, Asian and African perspectives on phenomena. Dr Osuji’s goal is to provide us with a unique perspective, one that is not strictly Western or African but a synthesis of both. Dr Osuji teaches, writes and consults on leadership, management, politics, psychology and religions. Dr Osuji is married and has three children; he lives at Anchorage, Alaska, USA.

He can be reached at: ozodiosuji@gmail.com (907) 310-8176