The Human Genome Project Ten Years Later

Scientific American recently reported on what has transpired since the completion of the Human Genome Project ten years ago. When the HGP was first announced in 2000, many scientists said that it would be the key to understanding disease and for developing cures. Ten years later, however, this has not been the case. The human genome project has aided in developing better research and technology, particularly in our abilities to sequence genes. It has also shown us that much of what we once considered junk DNA isn’t really junk at all. (See here, here, here, and here for past ENV discussions on junk DNA). However, scientists are coming to a sobering conclusion that perhaps their models and assumptions on the Read More ›

Francis Collins, Evolution and “Darwin of the Gaps”

Francis Collins is one of the world’s most prominent theistic evolutionists, and now a prominent piece of President Obama’s government. In this clip, God and Evolution contributors and other scholars respond to Francis Collins’ defense of theistic evolution in his book The Language of God. In his book The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (2006) and other writings and interviews, Collins has described the paths that led him from atheism to religious belief and from an impatience with “messy” biology and a preference for the pristine realms of physics and chemistry to a fascination with DNA, RNA, and “gene-hunting.” Much of Collins’s case for Darwinian evolution is based on so-called “junk DNA.” This is the part Read More ›

Yet More “Junk DNA” Not-so-Junk After All

Proponents of intelligent design (ID) have long predicted that many of the features of living systems which are said to exhibit “sub-optimal” design will, in time, turn out to have a rationally engineered purpose. This is one of several areas where ID actively encourages a fruitful research agenda, in a manner in which neo-Darwinian evolution does not. One such area, and a field for which I have long held an inquisitive fascination for, is the subject of so-called “junk DNA,” and the non-coding stetches of RNA which are transcribed from them. Skepticism of the “junk DNA” paradigm is not a phenomenon which is limited to proponents of ID. This popular view of the genome — while still resonating as the Read More ›

MicroRNAs–“Once Dismissed as Junk”–Confirmed To Have Important Gene Regulatory Function

A new paper in Nature magazine again shows that what was “once dismissed as junk” turns out to be another astounding example of complex and specified information in the genome and a crucial part of gene regulation. In 2008 Scientific American noted that microRNAs were “once dismissed as junk” and said the following: Tiny snippets of the genome known as microRNA were long thought to be genomic refuse because they were transcribed from so-called “junk DNA,” sections of the genome that do not carry information for making proteins responsible for various cellular functions. Evidence has been building since 1993, however, that microRNA is anything but genetic bric-a-brac. Quite the contrary, scientists say that it actually plays a crucial role in Read More ›

Zombie Genes?

On August 19, Gina Kolata reported in The New York Times that geneticists “have seen a dead gene come back to life and cause a disease.” According to Kolata, the human genome “is riddled with dead genes, fossils of a sort, dating back hundreds of thousands of years–the genome’s equivalent of an attic full of broken and useless junk,” though some of those genes “can rise from the dead like zombies.” Now a supposed “zombie gene” is implicated in a type of muscular dystrophy abbreviated FSHD–a hereditary disease that affects about 1 in every 20,000 people. Kolata cites a recent Science article that begins by reviewing work dating back to the 1990s that establishes a link between FSHD and a Read More ›