The issue of junk DNA is a case in point. We've been trying to explain the facts to people like Casey Luskin. I know he's listening because he comments on Sandwalk from time to time. Surely it can't be that hard? All they have to do is acknowledge that "Darwinians" are opposed to junk DNA because they think that natural selection is very powerful and would have selected against junk DNA. All we're asking is that they refer to "evolutionary biologists" when they talk about junk DNA proponents.
We've also pointed out, ad nauseam, that no knowledgeable scientist ever said that all noncoding DNA was junk. We just want the IDiots to admit that there were some smart scientists who knew about functional noncoding DNA—like the genes for ribosomal RNAs, origins of replication, and centromeres.
Somebody told Casey Luskin about the recent paper where some lincRNA genes were knocked out in mice and the mutant strains showed developmental defects [see On the function of lincRNAs]. This is powerful evidence that some of these lincRNAs are functional. They join a host of other genes that are known to produce functional RNAs.
Note that even if every single lincRNA gene was functional it would only account for less than 0.1% of the genome. This doesn't have anything to do with the debate about junk DNA.
But that didn't stop Casey Luskin from gloating on the IDiot blog Evolution News & Views (sic): Knockout Mice Study: Long Noncoding RNAs "Play Central Roles in Mammalian Development and Physiology".
Let's look at what he says in order to see if he's learned anything in the past few years.
A few years ago I wrote about challenges to the claim that "junk DNA" wasn't necessary for development. In experiments with mice, researchers had supposedly "knocked out" non-coding DNA, yet the mice themselves as they grew turned out to be healthy. Now a new study in eLife, "Multiple knockout mouse models reveal lincRNAs are required for life and brain development," shows that in fact noncoding DNA, in the form of long non-coding RNAs (lincRNAs), is vital for normal development in mice -- and researchers are suggesting that even when such "knockouts" don't produce nonviable mice, we should be very hesitant in claiming the noncoding DNA is unimportant.It doesn't look like he's learned very much. He's still confused about the difference between noncoding DNA and important genes for RNAs that aren't translated. The study doesn't really have anything to do with the big picture view of junk DNA.
Maybe it gets better. He continues ...
These results are relevant to debates over the ENCODE project. Some have claimed that even where DNA is transcribed into RNA, that RNA might still be "junk." But this article suggests that human noncoding RNA may have important functions:Nope, it doesn't get better. No knowledgeable scientist ever thought that all noncoding RNA genes were junk. And no knowledgeable scientist in the 21st century doubts that a substantial number of lincRNA genes are functional.
The Sauvageau et al. (2013) paper has nothing to do with ENCODE publicity hype and the idea that much of pervasive transcription is spurious. LincRNAs are genuine candidates for functional RNAs but they only make up a miniscule portion of the genome.
Casey Luskin concludes ....
After ENCODE's finding that the vast majority of our DNA is transcribed into RNA, many Darwinian biologists have comforted themselves with the belief that most of that RNA is still useless, and our cells are full of "junk RNA." But a few independent-minded folks sought out evidence of function for that RNA. And they've consistently found it. As Mattick says: "For many years, it was assumed that untranslated RNA molecules served no useful purpose but, starting in the mid-1990s, a small body of researchers, including the present author (Mattick, 1994), have been arguing that these RNAs transmit regulatory information, possibly associated with the emergence of multicellular organisms." Hurray for Dr. Mattick and others who have had the courage to challenge unfruitful Darwinian assumptions.Given that Casey Luskin has been reading these blogs for years, I am forced to conclude that he actually knows the truth but chooses to lie when he posts articles written for IDiots, OR that he is too stupid to understand the science behind the junk DNA debate.
I'm leaning heavily towards lying 'cause nobody could be that stupid.
Sauvageau, M., Goff, L.A., Lodato, S., Bonev, B., Groff, A.F., Gerhardinger, C., Sanchez-Gomez, D.B., Hacisuleyman, E., Li, E. and Spence, M. (2013) Multiple knockout mouse models reveal lincRNAs are required for life and brain development. eLife 2. [doi: 10.7554/eLife.01749]