Riding the Evolution Paradigm Shift With Eugene Koonin


Eugene Koonin is director of the Evolutionary Genomics Group at the National Center for Biotechnology Information in Bethesda, Maryland, as well as its senior investigator. He is also senior investigator at the National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health.

Koonin specializes in comparative genetics. Among his research interests are the origin and evolution of viruses, horizontal gene transfer, and the general principles of evolution.

He is the author of The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution (FT Press); and author or co-author of 600 scientific papers.

Highlights of our recent conversation about evolution paradigm shift and his above interests follow.

Suzan Mazur: What are the dangers to human health and life on the planet if the power structure continues to refuse to recognize that an evolution paradigm shift has been happening or has happened?

Eugene Koonin:

I would speak more about regrettably missed opportunities and investments in not so fruitful directions rather than danger… [S]erious medicine, mainstream medicine these days indeed, I think, over-appreciates the directness of the link between the genome and phenotypes and under-appreciates the emergent properties of the phenotype.

[T]he entire ideology of personalized medicine should be taken with many grains of salt. It’s not useless, it’s useful to sequence thousands of genomes. It’s useful to sequence everyone’s genome. It’s useful and desirable — yet, it’s wrong and to some degree dangerous to think that, by peering into the sequence of the A, G, T, and Cs in your genome, your family doctor is going to tell you how to treat all your conditions and what conditions you are going to develop, and which ones you are not going to develop, and so on.

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