Friday, January 04, 2013

Scientific American Chooses ENCODE Project as One of the Top Ten Science Stories in 2012

It's pretty hard to ignore the ENCODE papers if you're selecting the top ten science stories of 2012. This doesn't mean it's a "breakthrough" as Science magazine claims [Science Magazine Chooses ENCODE Results as One of the Top Ten Breakthroughs in 2012]. And it doesn't mean that the results overthrow Darwinian evolutionary theory as implied by the Intelligent Design Creationists [Intelligent Design Creationists Choose ENCODE Results as the #1 Evolution Story of 2013].

The Scientific American article was written by Bora Zivkovic, a long-time blogger who knows the difference between hype and reality. He apparently knows which scientists to believe and which ones to ignore [The Top 10 Science Stories of 2012: Publication of the ENCODE Encyclopedia: A Milestone in Genome Research].
Unfortunately, much of the discussion surrounding the publication of ENCODE failed to focus on the usefulness of the catalogue and the techniques that built it. Instead, much of the debate centered on the failure to understand that transcription does not necessarily imply meaningful biological function. Cells are messy biological entities, with lots of gunk and goo floating around, so mistakes happen all the time. Many DNA sequences get translated into RNA, only to have the cell degrade that RNA. Much, perhaps most, of the DNA in our genomes—despite being occasionally transcribed, and thus recorded in ENCODE—is still functionless “junk DNA.” That is actually not surprising; it is in fact expected from evolutionary theory. Thanks to ENCODE, though, we should eventually learn which sequences are the junk and which are the gems of cell activity.
This is a very different take on the subject than that published by the editors of Science and the Intelligent Design Creationists.

I wonder why?


  1. In reading Bora's very apt description, it occurred to me that cells, rather than the gorgeously engineered artifacts so beloved of the ID crowd, are actually "kludges" of the type so familiar to computer engineers. Indeed, I think that the words "cell" and "kludge" are almost interchangeable, and for very compelling evolutionary reasons. Just as evolution itself is often referred to as "tinkering" rather than "designing", the product of such tinkering is almost always a "kludge":

    "'An ill-assorted collection of poorly-matching parts, forming a distressing whole' (Granholm); esp. in Computing, a machine, system, or program that has been improvised or 'bodged' together; a hastily improvised and poorly thought-out solution to a fault or 'bug'" - Wikipedia

    Only cells are even moreso: not "poorly thought out" but "not thought out at all". Cells generally operate according to the JIT paradigm: stuff happens in cells "Just In Time" and without any forethought for the future. The only reason cells generally work is that there are so many "microkludges" working in massive parallel systems that most of the time they work. And when they don't, those cells are replaced, at least in multicellular organisms.

  2. It seems hard to believe that 80% of the human genome has a function when more than 20% of it is transposons. I'm no transposon expert, but estimates I've seen suggest that 35-45% of our genome is self-replicating sequences that presumably exist only for their own "gain"-- and most of them are long defunct anyway.

  3. Well, cheers for Bora Zivkovic. Maybe I should check out his blog.

  4. "Gunk and Goo"! now why didn't creationists think of this definition!
    'Which scientists to believe and which to ignore"
    Creationists have been doing and teaching people to do this for a long time.
    Monkey see, monkey do.!

    Origin subjects are not open to much scientific investigation and conclusions are done by committees.
    This issue just shows how careless is conclusions drawn in origin subjects.
    Therefore putting the light on these issues will either destroy them or enforce them.
    You know what I think.

    1. Monkey see, monkey do.!

      Is that really how you wish to summarise Creation science? Slightly more offensive than 'cargo cult science', but conveying much the same message...