The history of junk DNA explored

1 minute read

T. Ryan Gregory (Genomicron) has been writing a long series of posts looking into the history of junk DNA. He's focusing on what research articles were saying about repetitive and noncoding elements like Alu, LINES, SINES, minisatellites and the rest -- both at the time they were discovered and since then.

The series arises from Gregory's irritation about the oft-heard claim that biologists are "discarding the long-held hypothesis that non-coding DNA has no function. For an example, here is the conclusion of a post about functional analysis of non-coding DNA in the 80's:

In other words, there was no real period in which noncoding DNA was dismissed by the scientific community, though there was a much-needed shift away from strictly adaptive interpretations in the 1980s. Some individual researchers ignored noncoding regions, but there is no gap in the literature other than limits on what could be done in a methodological capacity. The "new" view of noncoding DNA as potentially important has been proclaimed regularly for at least as long as the claimed period of neglect between 1980 and 1994.
One wonders just how long we will be told that we have long been neglecting noncoding DNA.

The contrary-to-evolutionists'-claims-junk-DNA-has-function idea is also a staple of intelligent design creationists. As Gregory points out in one of his comments, biologists seem to be "getting their information from textbooks rather from the primary literature." As long as they remain ignorant of the history, they will be susceptible to junk claims.

Too many scientists fail to realize that good literature review is just as important as good research design.

The series is called "Quotes of Interest." I really like the idea -- many posts, grouped together, presenting a shotgun view of the literature on a single question. I have a couple of topics that would benefit from this kind of treatment -- and it's a very bloggy way to write!