Thursday, October 21, 2004

Maybe it Really is Junk

Here's part of an interesting news brief from Nature:

But transposable elements are only a small part of the non-coding regions. And now Edward Rubin's team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California has shown that deleting large sections of non-coding DNA from mice appears not to affect their development, longevity or reproduction.

The team created mice with more than a million base pairs of non-coding DNA missing - equivalent to about 1% of their genome. The animals' organs looked perfectly normal. And of more than 100 tests done on the mice tissues to assess gene activity, only two showed changes. The results are reported in this week's Nature2.

The group has now created mice missing three million base pairs. “We can see no effect in them,” Rubin says.

You should follow the link both to read the rest of the brief, and to see a picture of the cutest little mouse you've ever seen in your life.

As is pointed out elsewhere in the article, it is quite possible that there was some effect on the mice, but that the effect was too small to be noticeable. Still, the result is interesting since some incautious ID folks have suggested that it is a prediction of ID that the so-called “junk DNA” has some function.

It's also interesting since people like William Dembski have written thinkgs like this:

But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term "junk DNA." Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function.

Since the brief makes it clear that the scientists who carried out this research take an evolutionary perspective, I wonder if Dembski would like to revise his statement.


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