Gene Tales

MRNA structure

It’s not an overly interesting “tale” today: Jeffrey Tomkins writes Long Complex Gene Tails Defy Evolution. His topic is a new paper announcing the discovery that mice and humans can both have longer and more numerous 3′ UTRs (messenger RNA untranslated regions in the 3′ direction relative to the coding sequence – i.e. the magenta section of the above image) than previously thought. The new sequences that have been “conservatively” determined to be of this nature total 6.6 million bases in mice and 5.1 million in humans, which is quite a lot – something along the lines of 0.2% of the size of the entire human genome, though I’m not certain that they can be directly compared. Individually,

they identified 2035 mouse and 1847 human genes that have 3′ UTR tails ranging from 500 to 25,000 bases long. In some cases, they were even longer than the protein-coding areas of the genes themselves.

Tomkins points to the “hundreds to thousands of built in regulatory switches per gene RNA copy.” As you can tell from the title alone he is making a “that’s complex, so it’s out of reach of evolution” argument, which we’ve looked at ad nauseam. Given this, there are only two things that are worth clarifying: first, while the individual tails had lengths up to 25,000 bases long the vast majority were much shorter and the average was only a few thousand; second, while Tomkins claims that “[t]hese incredibly long gene tails literally contain hundreds to thousands of genetic switches within each single mRNA,” (emphasis added) the paper only says that “these extensions collectively contain thousands of conserved miRNA binding sites [Tomkins’ “switches”]” (emphasis added). The results are therefore not quite as impressive as they might be, and as Tomkins is selling them.


Today’s DpSU, by Brian Thomas, is called Newly Found Biochemical Is Essential for Life. With a title like that you could be forgiven for concluding that the élan vital had been discovered. However, the implications of the headline seems to oversell the real discovery more than a little. The angle that Mr Thomas is actually going for is, oddly enough, a variation on the most typical anti-Junk DNA argument. Continue reading

Something Happened

To research for his October Acts & Facts article, Evolution: It Just Happened, about all Frank Sherwin seems to have done is run a search of the academic literature for the phrase “something happened.” He has compiled a small collection: his first is from the “prestigious secular journal Nature.“*

A recent issue of the secular science journal Nature includes research by molecular palaeobiologist Kevin Peterson in which he questions the traditional evolutionary tree of mammals, stating it is all wrong. The data Peterson uses are based on a molecule called microRNA (miRNA). This is just one of several kinds of ribonucleic acids that control the expression of genes. Peterson’s miRNA interpretation breaks away from the traditional Darwinian view that people are more closely related to cows, dogs, and elephants than to rodents.

Peterson’s conclusions are interesting, I have to say, but not overly compelling. Continue reading