We are the Model Organism

April 3, 2015 By arne hendriks 0

The Incredible Shrinking Man is interested in the scientific culture of model organisms. A model organism is an animal species that is studied to understand particular biological phenomena, with the expectation that discoveries made in the organism model will provide insight into human biology. This research strategy is made possible by the common descent of all living organisms, and the conservation of metabolic and developmental pathways and genetic material over the course of evolution. Most of our knowledge is based on the reduction of complex issues to something simpler yet understandable. We subsequently explain our complex reality from this simplified point of view. We evolve from complexity to simplicity and back again. Without speaking out for or against this very specific method we can safely say that, especially western, knowledge has its fundament in reduction. We are the model organism.

Most model organism’s DNA is at least 90% identical to human DNA. Looking at a small model organism is much like looking into a genetic funhouse mirror in which much of what we see is distorted yet recognisable. Looking at a zebrafish reminds us of the fish in ourselves. Most often model organisms are literally very small animals and therefor a physical representation on The Incredible Shrinking Man’s desire for a smaller size. Perhaps ‘hanging out’ with model organisms makes us more susceptible to the desire to shrink. We are social creatures after all and when we realise these animals are like us we may want to be more like them.