Saturday, June 28, 2014

Ann Gauger's old facts

Some of you are probably watching Saturday morning cartoons but for those of you looking for other forms of entertainment I offer a list of six "old facts" that Ann Gauger says have been proven to be wrong [Why Does Biology Still Have the Ability to Surprise Us?].

Since I'm at least as old as Ann Gauger, I offer my own interpretation under each one. If you want to see how she interprets them you'll have to go to the IDiot website.

1. Old fact: DNA is stable and genes don't hop around.
I suppose there was a time when scientists might have thought that "DNA was stable." I was taught about "jumping genes" in my second year genetics class in 1965. I think that's before many of you were born so it's a pretty old fact.
2. New "old" fact: Mobile genetic elements are selfish DNA that replicate themselves without benefit to the organism, thus cluttering the genome with garbage.
That's still pretty much true today.
3. Old fact: A gene is an uninterrupted stretch of DNA that encodes a single protein. Genes are arranged like beads on a string.
I learned in 1965 that some genes produced tRNA and ribosomal RNA. I learned in 1975 that some protein-encoding genes had introns. (That one was a surprise.) I still think that genes are lined up one-after-another on their chromosomes although there are some minor exceptions. I learned about overlapping genes, for example, when the φX174 genome was sequenced in 1978. That's how old her facts are.
4. Old fact: There are only 3 forms of RNA: messenger RNA, transfer RNA, and ribosomal RNA.
Scientists have known about RNA viruses for at least 70 years. That's long before the discovery of messenger RNA and tRNA. It wasn't until the early 1970s that molecular biologists became aware of regulatory RNAs, RNA primers on Okazaki fragments, and antisense RNAs. This was followed quickly by the discovery of many other types of RNAs. Ann Gauger says these are "new" discoveries. I guess that depends on whether something that's been known for forty years (or seventy years) counts as "new."
5. Old fact: Pseudogenes are useless broken remnants of former genes.
Still true today. The fact that some of the sequence of one-in-a-million pseudogenes may have secondarily acquired another function doesn't change the fact that it is a pseudogene.
6. Old fact: The genome is full of junk, the remnants of wasteful evolutionary processes and selfish DNA (see #1, #2 and #5 above).
Still a fact in the 21st century.


  1. Let's give the gal some credit. It used to be that when IDers wowed their church audiences with "cuttin' edge science", it referred exclusively to Bible readin', and science stuff published before I was born. But most of Gaugers' "cuttin' edge science" is stuff discovered after I was born.

    They're catching up!

    Hell, the Discovery Institute's church audiences think a 3-D graphic of a DNA molecule pasted in a PowerPoint presentation proves you know all about "cuttin' edge science." [A phrase I always hear, within my mind, uttered in the excited voice of George W. Bush; or better, Jon Stewart's impression of George W. Bush. Followed by "Heh heh heh heh."]

    1. Hell, the Discovery Institute's church audiences think a 3-D graphic of a DNA molecule pasted in a PowerPoint presentation proves you know all about "cuttin' edge science."

      No, that might still be layperson science. Now, if presented as a gif where the double helix is slowly rotating....that there would be "cuttin' edge science".

    2. Naaaah... Cuttin' edge science is a hijacked pop-sci video showing enzymes as smart little robots rolling smoothly one after another along a molecular assembly line, welding an amino acid to a peptide chain here, and tightening a screw in a chemical bond over there. Behold proof of design!

    3. all i can imagine is an audience of IDiots in dimmed lights wooing at that silly animation from 2004, "the inner life of a cell". i get that the stochastic, chemical movements of enzymes aren't as sexy as tiny molecular (deterministic) robots but you know what they say about good intentions and the road to hell...

    4. An animation they stole-- stolen both in Dembski's paid PowerPoint presentations and also in early version of the "Expelled" documentary-- later replaced with a shot-by-shot remake-- in open defiance of copyright laws.

      In the posts from Uncommon Descent in 2008 when "Expelled"'s theft came to light, Dembski and most of the UDites were tickled pink that the creationists had stolen someone else's registered, and copyrighted, intellectually property. Almost all of them (particularly William Dembski) acted as if their intellectual superiority had finally been proven by their ability to steal other people's property, and get away with it. Because they were (as Dembski pointed out) lawyered up, they can take whatever they want. See here for Dembski celebrating theft as intellectual superiority.

      Some UDites insisted that if you opposed IDiots stealing other people's stuff, then you were a fascist trying to suppress free speech. What you make, what you own belongs to them, and if you disagree, you're a fascist.

      Later the Discovery Institute filed an illegal DMCA complaint against a youtube video of Luskin appearing on Fox News, even though the DI didn't own the copyright to the video-- Fox News did-- so the DI complaint was illegal. They claimed it was because the DI logo briefly appeared on screen, which meant they owned the video, and no one could steal their "property" or do to them what they did to others.

      Another time, when a blogger used a tiny photo of Casey Luskin taken by Luskin, the #AttackGerbil insinuated he would sue because he owned the (unregistered) copyright to the tiny graphic.

      Later when Luskin copied the "Research" logo onto the DI's "Evolution News & Views" website without permission, and got caught stealing, "Research" demanded he remove it. Naturally Luskin tried to minimize his theft, on the grounds that the registered, trademarked graphic he'd stolen was small-- about as small as the photo of himself he had complained about before. That thread was particularly hilarious, as Luskin shrieks about "free speech" while repeatedly demanding that all comments on the thread criticizing him be censored.

      These same people fanatically defend the right of corporations to exploit public resources and poison the air, land, and water, all in the name of inviolate "property rights."

      Ah, the righteousness of the defenders of true morality!

  2. Old fact: There are only 3 forms of RNA: messenger RNA, transfer RNA, and ribosomal RNA.

    A quick terminological question that occured to me (as a non-molecular biologist) here: What would the proper term be for the extraneous RNA transcripts observed in the ENCODE results (i.e. those that appear not to be used as messenger or regulatory RNA)? Is there something in RNA terminology that expresses the same functional non-committal that 'open reading frame' does relative to 'gene'?

    1. I don't think there is any universaly accepted term for that, but since those are supposed to be transcripts produced by transcriptional noise one could simply call them non-functional RNA transcripts.

  3. I guess some of these 'new discoveries' will be new to her target audience which as a whole won't know very much about biology.

    I imagine the goal is to remind people not to accept what the scientists say, as new discoveries are always around the corner. I doubt she would apply this same rigor to her belief that the fingerprints of god run through nucleotide sequences of DNA.

    1. Heh, I thought the same thing when reading this
      ... we are only human, like everyone else, and our accepted "facts" are often deeply entrenched in our thinking. In truth, though, only one rock solid "fact" exists -- that some time in the not too distant future a strongly held "fact" will be proven mistaken.

      I never fail to be amazed at how little self-awareness these people have.

  4. Why do we hear the loudest yelps for "the unreliability of the scientific method" from posers in lab coats who claim science has proved life is Intelligently Designed?

    Gauger's post is self-refuting bullshit:

    1. I am a scientist!

    2. Don't trust what scientists say! They're always wrong.

    3. Trust me on 1 and 2, because I'm a scientist!

    1. Its trivial to note but still remarkable that theology, that discipline and body of information born from a direct conduit to the designer and creator of the universe, has contributed exactly nothing to our understanding of the universe.
      The findings accrued through the scientific method are necessarily appropriated but only in a cynical atmosphere of denial and distrust of rational empirical investigation.
      It all comes down to the target audience and "double D": indoctrinated and dumb.
      (Maybe that should be ID rather than double D).

  5. I find it interesting that Gauger said "Like Darwinian evolution, perhaps?". Gauger apparently thinks that "Darwinian" evolution is all there is to evolutionary theory. Like other IDiot-creationists, she obviously thinks that if anything that Darwin proposed can be modified or refuted it will automatically make her religious beliefs scientifically correct. Another thing that she's not up to date on is the fact that some of what Darwin proposed has already been modified or refuted yet evolutionary theory continues to provide answers and productive avenues of research. If ID is a correct and productive 'inference' or 'theory' then why aren't the IDiots cranking out new discovery after new discovery after new discovery? All they ever do is bash the discoveries that others make and they wouldn't do that if others were to add three words to their papers, books, lectures, etc., and those three words are 'God-did-it'.

    Liberally sprinkling those three words (or others like them) into scientific papers, books, lectures, etc., is what the IDiot-creationists want, and to them it would make a HUGE, positive difference in the validity of the science, even though in reality it would make no positive difference at all. Giving credit to an imaginary 'God' doesn't validate scientific facts or provide productive avenues of research.

  6. I learned about overlapping genes, for example, when the φX174 genome was sequenced in 1978

    That some genes overlap in φX174 was known before that, from restriction mapping.

    And publications before that.

  7. Sorry Larry, you look at least 10 years older than Ann Gauger. Maybe dye your hair and dump the mustache. ;)