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Memo To Palin: Fruit Fly Research Has Led To Advances In Understanding Autism

Ohanian Comment:
Although Cable news folk like Olbermann are
chortling over what they see as Palin's fruit
fly gaffe, wherein her handlers failed to
recognize that the fruit fly is used in autism
research, it may not have been a gaffe but
something far more ominous.

The ordinary fruit fly fused Darwin with
genetics and created history.

Fruit flies, like footballers, produce immense
quantities of saliva. The chromosomes inside
the fruit fly's salivary glands are huge - a
thousand times thicker than normal. Each
chromosome is like a packet of spaghetti, made
up of many parallel strands of DNA that have
failed to separate. Chemical staining of these
super-sized chromosomes reveals dark horizontal
bands along their length, distinct landmarks
corresponding to the positions of specific
genes. When these chromosomes were first
discovered in the 1930s, it was as
revolutionary as the discovery of genetic
fingerprints fifty years later. These super-
sized chromosomes were like biological barcodes
that gave biologists the first direct glimpse
of genetic differences between individuals and
--The Guardian, March 29, 2001

In short, fruit fly genetics made evolution
and Darwin's origin of species more credible to
a once skeptical scientific community.

NOTE: The New York Times didn't even see
fit to mention Palin's disparagement of fruit
fly research. The Washington Post
referred to it in a blog but failed to note the
significance of fruit flies to autism research
or to evolution study.

by Ben Armbruster

This morning, Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) gave her
first policy speech urging the federal
government to fully fund the Individuals with
Education Act (IDEA), a law ensuring services
to children with disabilities throughout the
nation. In the speech, Palin cited the need to
do more for children with disabilities such as

For many parents of children with disabilities,
the most valuable thing of all is information.
Early identification of a cognitive or other
disorder, especially autism, can make a life-
changing difference.

Palin claimed that the amount that Congress
spends on earmarks "is more than the shortfall
to fully fund IDEA." She then ridiculed some of
the projects-- such as "fruit fly research"--
saying they have little or no value:

Where does a lot of that earmark money end up
anyway?. . . You've heard about some of these
pet projects they really don't make a whole lot
of sense and sometimes these dollars go to
projects that have little or nothing to do with
the public good. Things like fruit fly research
in Paris, France. I kid you not.

— Ben Armbruster
Think Progress





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