Why are cell biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, microbiology never covered in the media? I’ve spoken to so many science journalists – most of whom have no science training. I’ve come to the conclusion that the barrier is too high – as a result when it comes time to write about these topics, most science journalists end up writing about “genomes” and “junk DNA”. These are easy subjects – sometimes they’re discussed within the framework of evolution, but never within the context of “how a cell or an organism operates”.
Really Alex? Junk DNA is an easy subject? Let’s see how Greg Laden covers junk DNA:
The “Junk DNA” story is largely a myth, as you probably already know. DNA does not have to code for one of the few tens of thousands of proteins or enzymes known for any given animal, for example, to have a function. We know that. But we actually don’t know a lot more than that, or more exactly, there is not a widely accepted dogma for the role of “non-coding DNA.” It does really seem that scientists assumed for too long that there was no function in the DNA.
Ouch! Now, Greg is no geneticist. Thankfully, T. Ryan Gregory puts Greg in his place. All that hype about newly discovered functions for non-coding DNA? It’s just that: hype. Don’t believe it. We know that some non-protein-coding DNA has function. Despite that, the majority of the human genome is non-functional. It’s junk. It’s a graveyard of self-replicating crap that accumulates and doesn’t get eliminated because the fitness cost isn’t deleterious enough.
As for science writers, they don’t understand junk DNA either. Alex, most science writers can cover the topic of junk DNA about as well as they can cover signal sequences that promote nuclear export of mRNA.