His latest book consists of 70 idiosyncratic "breakthroughs" that have changed the way we think about biology. Each one is introduced with a short paragraph outlining "The Standard Paradigm" followed by another paragraph on "The Conceptual Revolution." There are 70 chapters, one for each "breakthrough," and all of them are two pages in length.
Chapter 42 is entitled: "1970 The Flow of Information."
Here's the "standard paradigm" according to John Avise.
In biochemical genetics, the molecular direction of information flow is invariably from DNA → RNA → protein. In other words, DNA is first transcribed into RNA, which then may be translated into polypeptides that make up proteins. This view was so ensconced in the field that it had become known as the "central dogma" (Crick, 1970) of molecular biology.It's true that the Watson version of the Central Dogma was "ensconced" by 1970 and it's true that the incorrect Watson version is still "ensconced" in the textbooks.
It is NOT TRUE that this is the version that Crick described in 1970 or in his 1958 paper [see Basic Concepts: The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology]. Here's how Crick actually described the Central Dogma.
... once (sequential) information has passed into protein it cannot get out again (F.H.C. Crick, 1958)The version that John Avise refers to is the incorrect version promoted by Jim Watson.
The central dogma of molecular biology deals with the detailed residue-by-residue transfer of sequential information. It states that such information cannot be transferred from protein to either protein or nucleic acid. (F.H.C. Crick, 1970)
I understand that many biologists have been taught an incorrect version of the Central Dogma but if you are going to write about it you are wise to read the original papers. In this case, Avise quotes the correct paper but he clearly has not read it.
Now let's look at the "conceptual revolution" according to John Avise.
Researchers showed that biochemical information could also flow from RNA → DNA. The key discovery came when Howard Temin and David Baltimore, working independently and on different viral systems, identified an enzyme (reverse transcriptase) that catalyzes the conversion of RNA into DNA, thus enabling the passage of genetic information in a direction contrary to the central dogma.How do I know that John Avise has not read Crick's 1970 paper? Because here's what Crick says in that paper ...
Crick tells us that the discovery of reverse transcriptase did NOT conflict with the central dogma. Thus, John Avise's conceptual revolution never happened. What happened instead, at least for some biologists, is that the discovery of reverse transcriptase taught them that their view of the central dogma was wrong. Most biologists still haven't experienced that particular conceptual revolution."The central dogma, enunciated by Crick in 1958 and the keystone of molecular biology ever since, is likely to prove a considerable over-simplification."This quotation is taken from the beginning of an unsigned article headed "Central dogma reversed", recounting the very important work of Dr Howard Temin and others showing that an RNA tumor virus can use viral RNA as a template for DNA synthesis. This is not the first time that the idea of the central dogma has been misunderstood, in one way or another. In this article I explain why the term was originally introduced, its true meaning, and state why I think that, properly understood, it is still an idea of fundamental importance.
Crick, F.H.C. (1958) On protein synthesis. Symp. Soc. Exp. Biol. XII:138-163.
Crick, F. (1970) Central Dogma of Molecular Biology. Nature 227, 561-563. [PDF file]