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 ›

Proliferation of Academic Freedom Bills Is Darwin Lobby’s Worst Nightmare

The recent front page New York Times article on academic freedom legislation offers a stark reminder that the intelligentsia is very worried about the prospect of teachers gaining academic freedom, as a bill presently in the Kentucky legislature would allow, “to help students understand, analyze, critique, and review scientific theories in an objective manner, including but not limited to the study of evolution, the origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.” From 2008-2009, 12 academic freedom bills were submitted into state legislatures, including Florida, Alabama (2), South Carolina (2), Missouri (2), Michigan, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Iowa, and New Mexico. Now in 2010, there are 3 bills already, including bills in Kentucky, Missouri, and Mississippi. The Kentucky bill contains an excellent Read More ›

Did Dallas Morning News Endorsement Backfire and Sink Pro-Darwin Candidate?

In the Texas Republican Party primary this week, voters in one part of the state narrowly rejected pro-teach-the-controversy State Board of Education member Don McLeroy. At the same time, voters in another part of the state (Dallas) dumped anti-teach-the-controversy Board member Geraldine Miller in favor of a candidate who has expressed support for teaching the strengths and weaknesses of evolution. The most interesting thing about incumbent Geraldine Miller’s remarkable defeat by newcomer George Clayton is the unintentional role the pro-Darwin Dallas Morning News may have played in her downfall.