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New controls found for gene expression – an epigenetic “gold rush”?

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From Cassandra Willyard at Nature:

At the time, biologists were getting excited about the epigenome — the broad array of chemical marks that decorate DNA and its protein scaffold. These marks act like a chemical notation, telling the cell which genes to express and which to keep silent. As such, the epigenome helps to explain how cells with identical DNA can develop into the multitude of specialized types that make up different tissues. The marks help cells in the heart, for example, maintain their identity and not turn into neurons or fat cells. Misplaced epigenetic marks are often found in cancerous cells.

Why didn’t it happen sooner?:

The governing rule of molecular biology – the central dogma – holds that information flows from DNA to messenger RNA to protein. Many scientists therefore viewed mRNA as little more than a courier, carrying the genetic information encoded in a cell’s nucleus to the protein factories in the cytoplasm. That’s one reason why few researchers paid much attention to the modifications made to mRNA.

They were Darwinists. Simlicity was their Central Dogma, remember?

Oh, by the way, this is what the story sounds like now:

Over the past few years, researchers have identified some of the machinery involved in regulating these marks. Each requires a writer to place it, an eraser to remove it and a reader to interpret it (see ‘Reading, writing and regulation’). As the identities of these proteins emerged, scientists have come to understand that m6A affects not only RNA splicing, but also translation and RNA stability. More.

It all sounds like something that just sort of happened, right?

See also: Central Dogma: Missing, and presumed dead


Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!

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3 Replies to “New controls found for gene expression – an epigenetic “gold rush”?

  1. 1
    Dionisio says:

    It all sounds like something that just sort of happened, right?

    Yeah, right. Not even in their wildest daydreaming after many sleepless nights.

  2. 2
    critical rationalist says:

    First, It’s unclear how we can interpret any observations without first putting them in some kind of theory. How would that work, in detail? In the absence of such an explanation, it’s unclear how evolutionary biologists could have done anything else and why this doesn’t represent an unreasonable expectation.

    Second, in the theory used, mRNA served a purpose. It’s unclear how assuming it was “designed” should have led researchers to conclude it had multiple purposes, instead of one, or a thousand purposes, etc. Or that designed things couldn’t accidentally serve additional purposes they were not designed for. Especially since serving a purpose without being designed to do so is core to the theory of evolution. Furthermore, not all Human designed things serve a purpose or just their intended purpose. For example, some are ornamental. Others are unavoidable byproducts or the result of unintentional consequences. So, if human designers are the basis for intelligent design, then it’s unclear why it should be assumed that everything must serve any purpose, let alone multiple.

    Third, there was a theory of evolution before we even knew about DNA, RNA, etc. And, it changed with new criticisms and observations. if it was actually “dogma” in the sense your implying, mRNA couldn’t be part is the theory today. Nor should this paper or post exist, etc. Yet, here they are.

    Fourth, what we do is start out with a problem, conjecture a solution to that problem, then criticize it. IOW, we make educated, hard to vary guesses about how the world works, including the role of mRNA, and then criticize those guesses via empirical tests. Nothing in your post, or the referenced article, conflicts with this. Dogma doesn’t assume it has started out as a guess, but that it was correct from the start and therefore need not be criticized. However, that doesn’t describe evolutionary theory. We tentatively accept it because it has withstood an overwhelming about of criticism. IOW we propose things do something concrete and specific for the purpose of being found in error. If you assume something does absolutely anything and everything, then how can it be taken seriously as part of a hard to vary chain of explanations conjectured for the purpose of being found wrong?

    For example one feature of the laws of physics that makes evolution possible is that it allows highly accurate copies of information to be made. However, if every part of the copy process was perfect, evolution would not occur. And if every part of the process was completely inaccurate, evolution would not occur either. So, the question is, what parts are accurate and which are not, and to what degree? Again, to make progress, we conjecture theories of what parts are accurate, which are not, then test that theory for errors using empirical observations. The includes the concrete idea that mRNA made reasonably accurate copies of information with deviations representing occasional errors, for the purpose of criticism. This is in contrast to assuming deviations mediated the expression of features. The former was found in error, which is why this paper was published.

    Apparently, News cannot tell when an article actually represents a good criticism of evolution. What we get instead is the equivalent of exclaiming … “Look, an evolutionist in an article said ‘dogma’!”

    Honestly, I’m disappointed. Every time I return to UD, I’m hopeful to find quality arguments for ID and good criticisms of evolutionary theory. However, if this is the sort of “quality” arguments presented by ID proponents, no wonder why Dembski left UD and moved on from ID in general

  3. 3
    es58 says:

    Cr@2 the obvious default position was always design until Darwin said it was only an illusion ; the burden is on you to explain how this came to be. You are just trying to shift the burden

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