Pharyngula

ORFans!

Paul Nelson has been twittering about ORFans for some time now—he seems to precede his talks by threatening to make us evolutionists tremble in our boots by bringing them up, but he never seems to follow through. Ian Musgrave got tired of waiting for him to give us a coherent creationist argument about them, and has gone ahead and cut him off at the knees by explaining the place of ORFans in evolution.

In case you’re baffled by the jargon, “ORF” is an Open Reading Frame, or a stretch of DNA bracketed by a start and stop codon; it’s a kind of bare minimum criterion for recognizing an actual gene within a DNA sequence. An ORFan is an orphan ORF sequence, or one that doesn’t have a known function or affinity to other known genes. It is not surprising that genes exist that do not have an easily recognized homology with other genes—novel genes have to arise sometime, and we do not have a complete understanding of all sequences of all organisms.

The short answer is that Nelson is deluded, and ORFans do not conflict with evolution at all…but read Ian’s post for all the details.