Past, present and future Everything you ever wanted to know about the non-coding stretches of DNA. The author is Frederick Gruber who appears to be a science writer drawing on information supplied by various researchers.
You know the article is going to be misleading as soon as you read the opening paragraph.
When the first draft of the human genome finally became available, there were many surprises, one of them being the ridiculously large amount of DNA that did not code for proteins – or anything at all. It seemed like the genome was just a huge chaotic mess sprinkled with tiny nuggets!The reason this is misleading is because it totally misrepresents the history of the human genome. It's been four decades since we first became aware of the fact that only 1-2% of the human genome encoded proteins. This was hardly a surprise—in fact it was one of the principle arguments against sequencing the human genome. (What was the point of wasting all that money on DNA sequences that were mostly junk?)
One of the unfortunate characteristics of the junk DNA deniers is that they are completely unaware of the historical arguments in favor of junk DNA (e.g. False History and the Number of Genes, Genetic Load, Neutral Theory, and Junk DNA). Everyone who understood the problem was quite happy to find verification when the first draft of the human genome was published. It's exactly what the knowledgeable experts predicted.
The article raises the standard question that seems to have only recently occurred to some researchers; namely, what is all that DNA doing? It's mostly junk—at least that's the conclusion reached by many scientists back in the 1970s and most of what we've discovered since then has supported that view.
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