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Agent of Selection

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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You, friend, are a force to reckon with.
The power you wield is unfathomable.
You can effect change at the flick of the wrist.
You hold the future of many at your mighty whim.
What you do now, at this moment, will set a course.
Many will suffer, but some may come out stronger.
Some will learn, thrive and multiply.
You, friend, are an agent of selection.

There are seven billion selective agents like you.
Untold trillions more existing at this moment.
Not like you.
This very moment.
In the span of your breath.
The time you took to blink.
You made it happen.

Like James Bond, you actions are impulsive, yet calculating.
Ready to shift direction and re-adapt.
An agent of selection.
You’re so good you do not even know you are an agent.
Is that your cover?
Ignorance of the magnitude of your actions?

We are all agents of selection.
Whether we want to be or not.
A single cell – a speck in an ocean of time and space.
Its fate interrupted.
A splash of hot cooking oil leaping from the pan.
Landing without a sound on a cold countertop.
Engulfing a single cell on its journey into two.
Encasing it and preserving it in its moment.

A whisper in the wind of time.
A lineage lost, barely noticed.
A set of blueprints scorched from the oil.
An unfortunate set of circumstances.
For one cell anyways.

You, friend, are an agent of selection.
Hands on the reigns.
Plow in the fields.
St. Peter at the gates of reproduction.
Who shall enter the genetic garden of Eden?
Who shall forego this timeless ritual?
You decide, whether you wish it or not.

The mere mention of your existence.
Can change allele frequencies.
Can change trophic structure.
Can change community interactions.
Can change the course of change.
You decide, with or without deciding.

One spill, from the frying pan.
Could change the balance of power.
In a world so tiny we can’t imagine.
A micro-armageddon.
That, friend, is an agent of selection.

Kevin Zelnio About the Author: Kevin has a M.Sc. degree in biology from Penn State, a B.Sc. in Evolution and Ecology from University of California, Davis, and has worked at as a researcher at several major marine science institutions. His broad academic research interests have encompassed population genetics, biodiversity, community ecology, food webs and systematics of invertebrates at deep-sea chemosynthetic environments and elsewhere. Kevin has described several new species of anemones and shrimp. He is now a freelance writer, independent scientist and science communications consultant living near the Baltic coast of Sweden in a small, idyllic village.

Kevin is also the assistant editor and webmaster for Deep Sea News, where he contributes articles on marine science. His award-winning writing has been appeared in Seed Magazine, The Open Lab: Best Writing on Science Blogs (2007, 2009, 2010), Discovery Channel, ScienceBlogs, and Environmental Law Review among others. He spends most of his time enjoying the company of his wife and two kids, hiking, supporting local breweries, raising awareness for open access, playing guitar and songwriting. You can read up more about Kevin and listen to his music at his homepage, where you can also view his CV and Résumé, and follow him twitter and Google +.

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The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.



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  1. 1. dashzip 1:57 pm 03/27/2014

    Mr. Zelnio – isn’t it great that God created all these amazing processes for life and evolution? Thanks for using the creativity he gifted you with to combine your scientific knowledge with poetic expression. You are one of His wonderful creations. Perhaps someday you’ll use the free will He gave you to appreciate His amazing love.

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