29 June 2010

Introns. Let's think about this, people. Part II.

Before we explore what introns are and how they work, let me correct the misuse of my words by one of the ID attack kittens. Months ago, referring to Steve Meyer's claim that introns "are now known to play many important functional roles in the cell," I sought to put intron "function" into context as follows:
The human genome contains at least 190,000 introns (though it's been recently estimated to contain almost 210,000). Together those introns comprise almost 1/4 of the human genome. One fourth. That's 768 million base pairs. And biologists have identified "important functional roles" for a handful of them. How many? Oh, probably a dozen, but let's be really generous. Let's say that a hundred introns in the human genome are known to have "important functional roles." Oh fine, let's make it a thousand. Well, guys, that leaves at least 189,000 introns without function, and gosh, they're snipped out of the transcripts and discarded before the darn things even leave the nucleus.
One critic has interpreted me as claiming that I know that 189,000 introns have no function. That's not my point, and I think most people know that.

24 June 2010

Introns. Let's think about this, people. Part I.

It's time to talk about introns and function, so at least the ID people and I can agree on what we're disagreeing about. First, though, a little housecleaning.

When confronting the avalanche of misinformation on so-called "junk DNA" from intelligent design creationists, it can be hard to know where to start. In a previous series, I addressed many of the falsehoods that are employed by these folks, but the basic outline of the problem is easy to lose in the fog of confusion that ID advocates and other creationists purposefully generate around the issue. You can learn all you need to know by reading the previous series, and by reading the extensive work of Ryan Gregory. But here's a brief re-introduction.

23 June 2010

It's okay, Bono. I'm on it.

U2 can't make it to Michigan this year, due to Bono's back injury. (Me: "Ouch. He'll be fine." My girlfriend Susan: "What do you expect? He's old. He should pack it in.") So here are my attempts to fill the void.

08 June 2010

I love that dirty water...

...oh, Boston you're my home.

Well, it was for five years, if Woburn counts as "Boston." And the lab was at least half my life, so sure, Boston was my home. But anyway, Wednesday through Saturday I'll be at Gordon College, on the North Shore, about 40 minutes from where we used to live, at this Biologos conference. And the point of all this? Well, if you're in the neighborhood, and especially if you're bored on Saturday afternoon, contact me and I'll let you buy me a geographically-appropriate libation. If you're a friend of the Discovery Institute, I'll buy.