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Paul M. Bingham

Paul Montgomery Bingham (born February 25 1951) is an American molecular biologist, evolutionary biologist and a biochemistry professor at Stony Brook University. He made important contributions as a molecular biologist early in his career, including the discovery, as part of a collaborative team, of the parasitic DNA sequence element, the P element transposon. This discovery was a crucial step in allowing biologists to probe how genes build animals by enabling a widely used strategy still used today for retrieving genes from animals. It also shed fundamental new light on how evolution shapes the (self-interested) individual genes that collaborate to build organisms. His work has been published in well-known journals, including Cell.

More recently, Bingham developed a new theory of human evolution, which builds on W.D. Hamilton’s theory of kin selection (Benefit x Relatedness > Cost) and posits that the Homo genus evolved when an ancestral organism developed the ability to effectively manage non-kin conflicts of interests by lowering the cost of coercion between non-kin individuals (Benefit > Cost of Coercion + Cost of Cooperation).

The theory, using precedents established in biological theory, explains many aspects of human social and sexual behavior. It accounts for the evolution of the human species from the advent of its philogenetic branching from other hominids through physiological and behavioral adaptations until we arrive at our current civilization. As such, this theory serves as a possible new pathway to the unification of the natural and social sciences as well as to bringing new insight into contemporary human behavior – from sexuality and childrearing to political, economic and religious behaviors, among others. This theory is significant because it integrates a number of anthropological, archeological, biolgical and psychological changes in the history of human origin into a synthesized explanation of human evolutionary change as behavioral adaptations using contemporary scientific understanding.

Bingham completed his PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1980 (thesis advisor, Matthew Meselson) after completing an MS in Microbiology at the University of Illinois (with John Drake). He spent two years at the NIEHS before joining the faculty of the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology and the School of Medicine at Stony Brook University in 1982.


Molecular Biology

Bingham’s early contributions to molecular biology include the demonstration that transposon insertion mutations were responsible for most of the alleles used in the development of classical genetics. This work was in collaboration with his wife and long-time co-investigator, Zuzana Zachar (Zachar and Bingham, 1982). He also collaborated with Carl Wu and Sally Elgin (then at Harvard) to discover fundamental properties of metazoan chromatin structure (Wu, et al., 1979).

Bingham (in collaboration with Margaret Kidwell, then at Brown University, and Gerry Rubin, then at the Carnegie Institution) carried out the molecular cloning of the P element transposon in Drosophila (Bingham, et al., 1982). This work revolutionized the retrieval of genes in Drosophila and subsequently contributed to progress in metazoan molecular and developmental genetics.

Bingham and his collaborators were the first to propose the use of P element "transposon tagging" to clone the first metazoan RNA polymerase subunit (Searles et al., 1982).

The discovery of the P element by Bingham and collaborators also helped solidify a fundamentally new way of looking at the genome. Specifically, this work demonstrated that the P element is a recently invading parasite of the Drosophila genome and gene pool. Thus, P became the first clearly defined metazoan example of this long-suspected phenomenon.

Subsequently, Bingham went on to make a number of important discoveries (in collaboration with members of his research group). These included insights into the nature of metazoan gene regulation (Zachar and Bingham, 1985) and the elucidation of the first case of autoregulation of gene expression at the level of pre-mRNA splicing (Chou, et al., 1987; Zachar, et al., 1987; Bingham, et al., 1988; Spikes et al., 1994) and of critical features of the nuclear organization of pre-mRNA processing and transport (Li and Bingham, 1991; Zachar, et al., 1994). This latter work first clearly established the now-widely accepted model of channeled diffusion for the movement of most pre-mRNAs through the nuclear compartment (reviewed in Kramer, et al, 1994).

New Theory of Human Evolution

In the mid-1990’s, Bingham completed a long-standing theoretical project to develop a coherent theory of human uniqueness that proposes a novel explanation of why humans have evolved to be ecologically dominant. The theory has been vetted by two peer-reviewed journals: The Quarterly Review of Biology and Evolutionary Anthropology. (Bingham, 1999 and 2000).

Bingham's theory of human uniqueness answers the fundamental scientific challenge posted by Charles Darwin, to explain the descent of man: how did the 'incremental' process of evolution by natural selection suddenly produce an utterly unprecedented kind of animal, humans?

Bingham's theory of human uniqueness provides not only an explanation of human origins, but also of human properties (from speech to political/economic/religious behavior).

The problem was answered when the cost of coercing a cheating individual in a cooperative effort, otherwise known as the free-rider problem, was lowered. This happened when a species developed a way to threaten adult con-specifics from a distance, specifically by evolving the ability to throw, thus exploiting the diffusion of risk intrinsic of actors utilizing Lanchester's Square Law. He proposes that we evolved the ability to repel predators and scavenge their kills in the African savannah. It was later adapted as threat projection towards free-riding con-specifics in non kin cooperative groups.

Moreover, the theory further generalizes to a theory of history, accounting for all the salient events of the 2 million year course of the human lineage – from the evolution of the Homo genus to the inception of behavioral modernity to the neolithic revolution to the rise of the nation-state (Bingham, 1999 and 2000).

In addition, Bingham has presented his theory at The Stony Brook Human Evolution Symposium and Workshop, convened by Richard Leakey [1]. Most recently, Bingham joined Noam Chomsky, Mark Hauser, Ray Jackendoff, Philip Lieberman, Ian Tattersall and others to debate the issues surrounding the evolution of human speech at the Morris Symposium on language evolution [2].

Contemporary Work

In collaboration with Stony Brook colleague, Joanne Souza, Bingham has developed a course [3] on the logic and implications of this new theory [4].

Bingham also serves as the Faculty Director of the Freshmen College of Human Development at Stony Brook [5].


Souza, J., Bingham, P.M. (2005/2006). Integration of available and new technologies to raise student understanding and engagement. Journal of Educational Technology Systems 34 (2): 189-198.

Bingham, P. M. (2000). "Human evolution and human history: A complete theory." Evolutionary Anthropology 9(6): 248-257.

Bingham, P. M. (1999). "Human uniqueness: A general theory." Quarterly Review of Biology 74(2): 133-169.

Bingham, P. M. (1997). "Cosuppression comes to the animals." Cell 90(3): 385-387.

Spikes, D. A., J. Kramer, et al. (1994). "Swap Pre-Messenger-RNA Splicing Regulators Are a Novel, Ancient Protein Family Sharing a Highly Conserved Sequence Motif with the Prp21 Family of Constitutive Splicing Proteins." Nucleic Acids Research 22(21): 4510-4519.

Kramer, J., Zachar, Z. and Bingham, P.M. 1994. Nuclear pre-mRNA metabolism: channels and tracks. Trends Cell Biology. 4:35-37.

Zachar, Z., J. Kramer, et al. (1993). "Evidence for Channeled Diffusion of Pre-messenger RNAs During Nuclear-RNA Transport in Metazoans." Journal of Cell Biology 121(4): 729-742.

Li, H. and P. M. Bingham (1991). "Arginine Serine-Rich Domains of the Su(Wa) and Tra Rna Processing Regulators Target Proteins to a Subnuclear Compartment Implicated in Splicing." Cell 67(2): 335-342.

Zachar, Z. and P. M. Bingham (1989). "Suppressible Insertion-Induced Mutations in Drosophila." Progress in Nucleic Acid Research and Molecular Biology 36: 87-98.

Bingham, P. M., T. B. Chou, et al. (1988). "On Off Regulation of Gene-Expression at the Level of Splicing." Trends in Genetics 4(5): 134-138.

Chou, T. B., Z. Z. Zachar, et al. (1987). "Developmental Expression of a Regulatory Gene Is Programmed at the Level of Splicing." Embo Journal 6(13): 4095-4104.

Zachar, Z. Z., T. B. Chou, et al. (1987). "Evidence That a Regulatory Gene Autoregulates Splicing of Its Transcript." Embo Journal 6(13): 4105-4111.

Bingham, P. M. and Z. Zachar (1985). "Evidence That 2 Mutations, W(Dzl) and Z(1), Affecting Synapsis-Dependent Genetic Behavior of White Are Transcriptional Regulatory Mutations." Cell 40(4): 819-825.

Searles, L. L., R. S. Jokerst, et al. (1982). "Molecular-Cloning of Sequences from a Drosophila Rna Polymerase-Ii Locus by P-Element Transposon Tagging." Cell 31(3): 585-592.

Zachar, Z. and P. M. Bingham (1982). "Regulation of White Locus Expression - the Structure of Mutant Alleles at the White Locus of Drosophila-Melanogaster." Cell 30(2): 529-541.

Bingham, P. M., M. G. Kidwell, et al. (1982). "The Molecular-Basis of P-M Hybrid Dysgenesis - the Role of the P-Element, a P-Strain-Specific Transposon Family." Cell 29(3): 995-1004.

Wu, C., P. M. Bingham, et al. (1979). "Chromatin Structure of Specific Genes .1. Evidence for Higher-Order Domains of Defined DNA-Sequence." Cell 16(4): 797-806.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Paul_M._Bingham". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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