The Richard Dawkins Human Evolution Revolution
 
 
It is 1.82 million years ago and a global population of 100 million hominids is on the move. They are gradually evolving to acquire the few traits that will make them "human" - and they have now reached a critical point.

Our pre-human forebears have almost completed their gene for philosophy (PHCX1R). Soon it will be in place. Imagine the thrill of the moment when one of our remote ancestors first began to consider ontology, while its starving kin were left to grub for roots. Or perhaps this individual began to explore epistemology as its less adapted competitors were devoured by ravenous predators. Such speculation is, alas, pointless since we will probably never know which branch of philosophy appeared first. What is important is that most scientists agree that mutation leads to a gene that is partially functional at first, and then additional mutations improve on it until it becomes fully functional. Therefore we can be almost certain that philosophy appeared in gradual stages. In this simulation you will be responsible for guiding our primate predecessors to the point where the first glimmerings of philosophy emerge.

But our proto-humans have an even bigger problem. They are not sufficently advanced on the gene for musical expression (MZ7X3)- one of the very few things that most scientists believe is an essential part of being human. Fortunately, Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University is going to step in and lend a hand. His evolutionary prowess is legendary, but is he up to this task? Indeed, can he accomplish a gene for musical expression before you complete the gene for philosophy? Here are the rules of the game:

 
YOU: Our ancestral hominids have got the philosophy gene right except for one codon. Currently this codon is CAT, which codes for the amino acid Histidine. You need to change it to ATG which codes for Methionine. You will do it using point mutations at the natural mutation rate - exactly the same mechanism that allowed humans to evolve from apes and made you what you are today!
 
PROFESSOR DAWKINS: Is facing one of the most difficult challenges of his career. He has to put in place a string of 23 amino acids in the musical expression gene. He will be using the special evolutionary techniques he first described in his book The Blind Watchmaker. Even so, the odds are heavily against Dawkins - his task is over 20 times more difficult than yours (actually a lot more). But don't count him out just yet - he may well surprise you!
 
THE OBJECTIVE: If you can complete the philosophy gene before Professor Dawkins finishes the gene for musical expression, then you win. May the fittest survive!
 
 
The ancestral hominid population consists of 100,000,000 individuals. Each generation takes 10 years and in that time each individual leaves exactly one descendent. We assume no loss of mutations in any lineage due to the effects of meiosis etc. Individuals are selected for mutation at random in each generation. All amino acids that your mutations generate are presumed to be neutral - that is they do no harm to the apes as they are substituted into the protein that the philosophy gene makes.
 
JUST RELEASED - The Richard Dawkins Mutation Challenge. Go another round with Professor Dawkins in a single lineage mutation battle. This time you will be navigating mutation space as you attempt to put in place changes to just two codons. Professor Dawkins will be relying on his algorithm to produce the famous phrase that proves evolution: METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL. Youthinks you can take Dawkins? Bring it on! Click here to begin this exciting simulation.

 

 

 

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