Does Darrel Falk’s Junk DNA Argument for Common Descent Commit “One of the Biggest Mistakes in the History of Molecular Biology”?

Recently I was e-mailed by an individual who had read the book Coming to Peace with Science, by Darrel Falk, president of the BioLogos Foundation. This person was interested in a response to the arguments for human/ape common ancestry in Dr. Falk’s book. Not having read Dr. Falk’s book before, I wrote back that I hadn’t yet read the book but had a strong suspicion that it would argue that shared non-functional (aka “junk”) DNA between humans, apes, and other species is evidence of their common ancestry. This is an extremely common argument from theistic evolutionists–Francis Collins made it in The Language of God (and Collins wrote the foreword to Dr. Falk’s book). Of course in 2010, we’re seeing more Read More ›

Beginning to Decipher the SINE Signal

Remember the analogy of the two moons I used yesterday to discuss the distribution of SINEs in the mouse and rat genomes? Well, I am going to use it again today, but only for a moment. Moon Mysteries and the Lunarlogos Foundation Suppose you are keenly interested in the topography of one of the moons, named Y6-9. Suppose also that the books you first select to read on the topic are popular works, written by “experts” who are “living legends.” As you read through the works, you find paragraphs here and there about how utterly decrepit Y6-9 is, and how this space body exemplifies eons of random events. The authors argue that we already knew all there was to know Read More ›

Discovering Signs in the Genome by Thinking Outside the BioLogos Box

Yesterday I promised that I would show you a mysterious genomic signal, and today I shall fulfill that promise. The previous blog was devoted to describing the linear distribution of LINEs and SINEs along mammalian chromosomal DNA. We saw that L1 retrotransposons tend to be densest in the regions where Alus and Alu-like elements are the least common and vice versa. I included the following figure from an article co-authored by Francis Collins1 that showed this compartmentalization of LINEs and SINEs along over a hundred million genetic letters of rat chromosome 10: The blue line indicates the distribution of SINEs along a 110-million base pair interval of rat chromosome 10. (From Fig. 9d of Ref. 1.) Taxon-Specific Elements: The SINEs Read More ›

Asking Darrel Falk to Pick a Number, Any Number

I have long questioned the assumption that most genomic DNA sequences are “nonsensical” or “junk.” And given the data that have emerged over the past seven or so years, a functionalist view of genome has robust empirical support. It is for this reason that I think many of the arguments presented by the Biologos Foundation are “wrong on many counts,” to borrow a phrase from Darrel Falk. Here is an example. While reading the “critique” of Steve Meyer’s book, Signature in the Cell, by Francisco Ayala, a number struck me that I know to be incorrect. The integer that I am referring to is “25,000” and it is claimed to be the known tally of genes in our chromosomes: The Read More ›

Thank Goodness the NCSE Is Wrong: Fitness Costs Are Important to Evolutionary Microbiology

The evolution of antibiotic resistance is typically the result of small changes allowing for survival in a microbe or other organism under special circumstances where the organism faces extremely strong selection pressure due to the presence of some antibiotic drug. In other cases, it is the result of the transfer of pre-existing antibiotic resistance genes from one microbe to another, and the selection of such microbes in an environment containing antibiotics. Even in the first example, evolution does not produce a truly new function. In fact the change produced often makes the microbe less fit when the antibiotic is removed–it reproduces slower than it did before it was changed. This effect is widely recognized, and is called the fitness cost Read More ›