On BioScience and Life and Such

Archive for May, 2010|Monthly archive page

More crap from the junkies

In Uncategorized on May 22, 2010 at 12:09 am

post to news.thinkgene.com

My three favourite junkies (junk-DNA supporters) out there are Professors Dr. Moran, Dr. Gregory and post doc. fellow Dr. White. This week they received a strong argument for their junk-DNA cause, which was this paper on how there appears to have been a lot of noise in some of the larger RNA-studies over recent years. This was covered elegantly in this Sandwalk post by professor Moran.

Now if only the Adaptive Complexity blog written by White would have just jumped on the same solid bandwagon all would have been fine, but no. Instead he attacks a lead author behind some of the above mentioned RNA-papers. Again, this would have been fine had it not been for the argument he uses, an argument which has the quality of third grade primary school science:

Second, John Mattick is clueless, and he should not be quoted. So junk DNA holds the secret to human complexity? Then I supposed it also holds the secret to the incredible complexity of an onion, which has five times more non-coding DNA than humans.

He goes on to give us professor Ryans definition of “The onion test”

The onion test is a simple reality check for anyone who thinks they have come up with a universal function for non-coding DNA1. Whatever your proposed function, ask yourself this question: Can I explain why an onion needs about five times more non-coding DNA for this function than a human?

This “test” I hope everyone sees is utter crap. If you don’t I’ll explain: the assumption is “more DNA = more biological complexity/functions” – which of course is wrong since organisms who apparently have very few functions can have more coding genetic material than more complex organisms (try google the number og genes corals have vs. humans). The assumption is wrong also because the onion may need to meet it’s changing environment with an entirely different genetic arsenal than primates, – the comparison is just way off unless you specify more.

I think the first comment to this Adaptive complexity post is brilliant:

Just out of curiosity tho, what’s the standard explanation for junk DNA? Is it just structural or something? – kerr jac

That question emphasizes what has been my main point all along: Dismissing something as junk is contrary to my idea of science being driven out of curiosity and the need to explore. If you label this DNA as “junk”, how do you answer this question with any confidence ?