Werner Arber on Evolution-Controversy
  Werner Arber     Biography    
Recorded: 08 May 2012

Well, as I could understand, and my colleagues, evolution is, in fact, a fact. And, as we mentioned before, it is very slow. Therefore, if you just look at it, you don’t think that this would bring new forms, and so on. But in the long term, of course, it does so. And we started to call evolution as a permanent mutation. You know, that living beings, which are among us today, from bacteria through all the plants, and all the animals, ourselves, have not been originally created as such. But from something, some origin kind of self-replicating entity. We have no idea how that came together. So, the origin of life on our planet is still a mystery. Scientifically we haven’t succeeded to reproduce that, but we know how evolution occurs today, after a long period of time. And I think the evolutionary fitness, I call that evolutionary fitness, depends on the presence in the genome of appropriate genes as variation generators, and as modulators of the rates of genetic variation. To keep the genetic change at very low rates. That ensures genetic stability and allows our life, but on a species level we are opportunistic—we are optimistic and can foresee that in future times lost diversity will be enriched again. Not by the same species which were lost, but by novel species, as long as the sun gives us our lights and that’s, the astronomers tell us, something like five billion years or so.

Werner Arber, (born June 3, 1929, Gränichen, Switz.), Swiss microbiologist, corecipient with Daniel Nathans and Hamilton Othanel Smith of the United States of the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for 1978. All three were cited for their work in molecular genetics, specifically the discovery and application of enzymes that break the giant molecules of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) into manageable pieces, small enough to be separated for individual study but large enough to retain bits of the genetic information inherent in the sequence of units that make up the original substance. Arber studied at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, the University of Geneva, and the University of Southern California. He served on the faculty at Geneva from 1960 to 1970, when he became professor of microbiology at the University of Basel. During the late 1950s and early ’60s Arber and several others extended the work of an earlier Nobel laureate, Salvador Luria, who had observed that bacteriophages (viruses that infect bacteria) not only induce hereditary mutations in their bacterial hosts but at the same time undergo hereditary mutations themselves. Arber’s research was concentrated on the action of protective enzymes present in the bacteria, which modify the DNA of the infecting virus—e.g., the restriction enzyme, so-called for its ability to restrict the growth of the bacteriophage by cutting the molecule of its DNA to pieces.