Molecular Biology

Pharyngula

Category archives for Molecular Biology

The saga of Junk DNA

So you’re tantalized by this strange obsession creationists have with junk DNA. It offends them mightily, I think because they find comfort in the idea that everything in the universe must have a purpose, because if it doesn’t, maybe that means they are nothing more than spots of dandruff on a dead rock hurtling blindly…

I’ve been giving talks at scientific meetings on educational outreach — I’ve been telling the attendees that they ought to start blogs or in other ways make more of an effort to educate the public. I mentioned one successful result the other day, but we need more. I give multiple reasons for scientists to do…

How to afford a big sloppy genome

My direct experience with prokaryotes is sadly limited — while our entire lives and environment are profoundly shaped by the activity of bacteria, we rarely actually see the little guys. The closest I’ve come was some years ago, when I was doing work on grasshopper embryos, and sterile technique was a pressing concern. The work…

When last we left this subject, I had pointed out that the phenomenon of embryonic similarity within a phylum was real, and that the creationists were in a state of dishonest denial, arguing with archaic interpretations while trying to pretend the observations were false. I also explained that constraints on morphology during development were complex,…

Blaschko’s Lines

One of the subjects developmental biologists are interested in is the development of pattern. There are the obvious externally visible patterns — the stripes of a zebra, leopard spots, the ordered ranks of your teeth, etc., etc., etc. — and in fact, just about everything about most multicellular organisms is about pattern. Without it, you’d…

Excellent interview with Craig Venter

Spiegel has a wonderful interview with Venter. The more I hear from Venter, the more I like him; he’s very much a no-BS sort of fellow. He’s the guy who really drove the human genome project to completion, and he’s entirely open about explaining that its medical significance was grossly overstated. SPIEGEL: So the significance…

Most of you don’t understand evolution. I mean this in the most charitable way; there’s a common conceptual model of how evolution occurs that I find everywhere, and that I particularly find common among bright young students who are just getting enthusiastic about biology. Let me give you the Standard Story, the one that I…

Sometimes, I really hate fossils. I hate them with the passion of a spurned lover, one who is consumed with desire but knows that he will never, ever be satisfied. They drive me mad. Right now we’re at a point in our technology where we can take a small sample from a living organism and…

Bleh. MSNBC is running a terrible article that claims they have “proof” that chickens came before eggs. It’s just an awful mess, and one of the scientists is at least partly responsible. The scientists found that a protein found only in a chicken’s ovaries is necessary for the formation of the egg, according to the…

Nicholas Wade of the NY Times has written one of those stories that make biologists cringe — it just gets so much wrong. It’s a look back at the human genome project, and I was turned off at the first paragraph. The HGP was badly marketed from the very beginning in the sense that there…