Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Gene Expression’s Razib used a catchy little title for the article in which he referenced DNA Unraveled by Colin Nickerson for the Boston Globe. How overarching the role of RNA will be for the regulation of gene expression throughout the genome is still up for grabs, but one can’t deny that there’s fascinating and uncharted territory to be explored.

Predictably, the folks at the Discovery Institute leapt all over Nickerson’s article as further implication that complexity = Intelligent Design, and the old “scientists don’t know everything therefore the theory of evolution is not true” canard.

Here’s the DI assessment. No big surprises are contained within Will Darwinists Make the Same Mistake with RNA that They Made in Ignoring So-Called “Junk” DNA? As always, the twisting (so characteristic of the DI folks) of the understanding and continued development of the theory of evolution is revealed.

From the Discovery Institute article, quoting Jonathan Wells:

According to an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe, biologists have discovered that the small percentage of our DNA that codes for proteins is not as important as they once thought. Many cellular processes are due to non-coding stretches of DNA – or of RNA, or of something else entirely.

Uh, well, yeah, that’s right. Exons are a small percentage of the whole DNA package. A small percentage of non-coding DNA (2-3%, I believe) is comprised of regulatory elements. Various flavors of RNA appear to be acting as regulators, too. Scientists have not “ignored” “junk” DNA, but only recently have acquired data and tools to really start looking at it in depth. The same applies to RNA. Rather than call the theory of evolution into question, the new discoveries only add to it.

Again, I highly recommended Sean B. Carroll’s books, Endless Forms Most Beautiful and The Making of the Fittest for the interested layman or non-geneticist/cell biologist type of scientist. Carroll’s books provide an excellent backdrop as to how non-coding DNA plays into development of those endless beautiful forms. Also recommended (again) is The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma by Marc Kirschner & John Gerhart which provides a great discussion as to how novel and complex morphology arises in evolution.

Back to Razib’s catchy title: “One RNA to Bind Them All?”

Well, thanks to an unhealthy and unseemly interest in Tolkienism activated by a shrill and silly screed I wrote earlier this year, I couldn’t expunge that phrase out of my head until I came up with this:

siRNA for the pathway of RNAi
ncRNA without any code.
miRNA for methylation far and nigh
RNA for the junk DNA in the genome
In the depths of the chromatin where the genes lie.
One RNA to rule them all, One RNA to find them
One RNA to regulate them all and on the promoters bind them.
In the depths of the chromatin where the genes lie.

This nerdsome outburst also might be inspired by the fact that I’ll spend happy hour tonight in Cambridge MA with friends and former colleagues who now work at Alnylam Pharmaceuticals.

Comments

  1. #1 Warren
    September 28, 2007

    So then … Sauron represents what, mutation? Natural selection?

    That doesn’t bode well for Gandalf’s position, let alone the deathless, eternal, unchanging elves.

  2. #2 sailor
    September 28, 2007

    “According to an article in yesterdays Boston Globe, biologists have discovered that the small percentage of our DNA that codes for proteins is not as important as they once thought.”
    Mr Wells might think differently if one of his genes mutates and fails to produce one of his needed proteins.

    As for Mr Crowther:
    “As it turns out, the more we learn, the more we realize how much more there is to learn.”
    So true, now pray what has Discover Institute managed to contribute to our understanding to date?

  3. #3 Doc Bushwell
    September 29, 2007

    So true, now pray what has Discover Institute managed to contribute to our understanding to date?

    What? You expect the Discovery Institute to come up with a testable, falsifiable theory? Oh, p’shaw, sailor! Get with the times, man!

    Sauron represents what, mutation? Natural selection?

    Natural selection, of course, because it represents such an evil, reprehensible concept.

  4. #4 hoary puccoon
    September 30, 2007

    That breathless tone newspapers feel they must use when writing about science is, I suppose, worthwhile for getting more readers interested. But, really, why is the Disco Institute crew reading the Boston Globe for its science news? Because it’s easy to quote-mine? Or because they can’t understand the scholarly journals?

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