Friday, April 17, 2009

Frog Cloning

Hmm... how did all those frogs overwhelm Egypt? Via cloning, obviously:
The plague of frogs commences with the following, “Aharon stretched out his hand over the waters of Egypt and the frog צפרדע infestation ascended and covered the land of Egypt (Shemos8:2). In this verse the word “frog” is in the singular and Rashi cites a Midrash contending that one frog initially emerged from the Nile River. When the Egyptians struck the frog, it fragmented into many frogs. On the surface, this appears to describe cloning, through which differentiated adult cells become embryonic or totipotent to develop into copies of the original organism. Interestingly, prior to cloning the lamb Dolly, the initial successful cloning experiments, developed in the 1950s by Robert Briggs and Thomas King, were with frogs (Rana pipens)14. With this in mind, and probably pushing a scientific explanation to its extreme, striking the initial frog may have caused shedding of its differentiated epidermal somatic cells, which became totipotent or zygote like cells, undergoing mitotic divisions to generate multicellular frogs
This gem of Parshanut wingnuttery comes courtesy of [name on request; also posted on the new, new GH] and appears in an article by Dr. Harvey Babish a biology teacher at YU/Stern. The claim is bizarre for at least two reasons. First, there are other stories of how the frogs spread. Why the love affair with this particular midrash about the magical, multiplier? Rashi cites it, but he also seems to favor another reading. Second, if you wish to wholeheartedly accept the midrash Rashi half-heartedly cites, that's fine, but why muck up the supernatural grandeur with pseudo science? If the frogs multiplied every time they were struck, that's a miracle. Not cloning.

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