What I find so interesting is the willingness of Wells and Sternberg to believe whatever they find in the scientific literature. (Yeah, right.) In this case, they've found a few papers claiming that the vast majority of human genes exhibit alternative splicing. They claim this refutes the idea that introns are mostly junk.1
Do they really believe everything that's published in the scientific literature? I don't think so. They are very selective in what they believe. They only believe the papers that criticize evolution or support their belief in intelligent design. That's why they have no credibility. That's why they deserve ridicule. That's why reasoning with an Intelligent Design Creationist is a waste of time.
Don't believe me? Try reading Icons of Evolution by Jonathan Wells. It's the example we use in my course to illustrate how NOT to do science.
Here's Wells standing up for his friend ...
So why are Matheson and Moran so sure that huge portions of introns don’t have functions? According to Matheson, it’s because “Larry Moran and I clearly know a whole lot more about molecular genetics” than Sternberg.Here's what undergraduates learn when they read what I wrote in my textbook. Maybe I should send copies to Wells and Sternberg?
A more naked appeal to authority would be hard to find. It sounds like an undergraduate trying to score points in a late-night bull session (“I know all about that; I took a course in it…”), not a college professor engaged in a scientific debate.
But Matheson didn’t stop there. He demeaned Sternberg by calling him “poor Richard.” He also claimed that Sternberg is “disastrously clueless” because he doesn’t understand “the important and very basic distinction between a transcript and an intron.” Since every undergraduate biology student learns that an intron is a segment of DNA, while a transcript is a segment of RNA encoded by DNA, this last jibe is on a par with Moran’s insult that Sternberg can’t do elementary arithmetic. And it is equally unjustified.
Internal sequences that are removed from the primary RNA transcript are called introns. Sequences that are present in the primary transcript and in the mature RNA molecule are called exons. The words intron and exon also refer to the regions of the gene (DNA) that encode corresponding RNA introns and exons. Since DNA introns are transcribed, they are considered part of the gene.
1. I'm ignoring the fact that Sternberg's calculation assumed that every intron in a gene must be alternatively spliced. That assumption is/was not based on anything in the scientific literature but it's unlikely that Sternberg will admit his error.