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Here’s Another Defense of Junk DNA

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Photo credit: Hannes Grobe/Hannes Grobe, CC BY 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

The article, “Non-Darwinian Molecular Biology,” is in Frontiers in Genetics (open access). Co-author Alex Palazzo is an associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Toronto, and a leading proponent of the inescapable reality of “junk” DNA. In the article (written with his PhD student Nevraj Keijou), Palazzo goes after what he calls the “ultra-Darwinian mindset,” which “perpetuates the notion that the genome, and life itself, is like a Swiss watch — ornate, and complicated, with every part hand crafted for a specific purpose.” Uninformed nonsense, says Palazzo (p. 10):

However, this view is based on ignorance of developments in molecular evolution. It also ignores principles of biochemistry, that predict suboptimal reactions and widespread promiscuity. A more modern view of the eukaryotic cell, shaped by drift-dominated evolution, is a messy junk-filled entity, full of Rube-Goldberg contraptions that were hobbled together by non-adaptive forces. [Emphasis added.]

Curious, we did a frequency search in this article for the adjective “messy” — 8 occurrences — and the noun “messiness” — 9 occurrences. That’s a lot of repetition in a 10-page article. Is Palazzo simply seeing the cobbled-together, raggedy, just-lucky-to-be-functional genome he believes must be there, much as the “ultra-Darwinian” he criticizes sees a finely crafted precision system that he, for his part, believes must be there? Proponents of intelligent design, you’ll notice, don’t rise to the dignity of being refuted or even mentioned.

Anyway, it’s worth a download, to keep abreast of the best lines of argument / evidence in support of ubiquitous junk DNA. 

Also, the article could have used a bit more editing. From the abstract: “…a central tenant of the modern synthesis…” It lives on the 9th floor, we’ve heard. 😉 Last door on the hallway.

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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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Alex Palazzoeditingeukaryotic cellevolutionFrontiers in Geneticsintelligent designJunk DNAmessinessRube GoldbergSwiss watchUniversity of Toronto