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Onion Expos�: Carl Zimmer on Why "Junk DNA" Had Better Be Real

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Mixed_onions.jpg

In the New York Times Magazine, our old friend Carl Zimmer asks, at considerable length, "Is Most of Our DNA Garbage?" You don’t need to read the article to know how he’ll answer, though you’re welcome to do so. Regarding genomes and the research of T. Ryan Gregory (University of Guelph), Carl reports:

At its most fundamental level, [life is] a mess. [Dr. Gregory’s] favorite way to demonstrate this is through what he calls the "onion test," which involves comparing the size of an onion’s genome to that of a human.

For another take on the cherished onion, see the relevant section in Jonathan Wells’s book, The Myth of Junk DNA, and Jonathan M.’s article at ENV, "Why the ‘Onion Test’ Fails as an Argument for ‘Junk DNA.’" Casey Luskin took Carl’s measure here, "Already Outdated: Will Carl Zimmer Update His New Evolution Textbook on Junk DNA?"

What’s so striking about Zimmer’s current piece is his explicit worry that — should "junk" DNA turn out to be functional — the "creationists" (as he calls the baddies) would be vindicated. At least twice in this long article, Zimmer raises the alarm that genomes had BETTER be junky, OR…the bad guys will win. It’s the same anxiety driving Dan Graur and Lawrence Moran into their fits of rage about ENCODE.

Hence in a not-so-subtle way, project ENCODE researchers are put on notice that, should they continue looking for function in non-coding DNA, they will be traitors to evolution and science.

The junk must remain. Or else.

Image � User:Colin / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons.

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Evolution News & Science Today (EN) provides original reporting and analysis about evolution, neuroscience, bioethics, intelligent design and other science-related issues, including breaking news about scientific research. It also covers the impact of science on culture and conflicts over free speech and academic freedom in science. Finally, it fact-checks and critiques media coverage of scientific issues.

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