Graur’s latest claim that 75% of the human genome is non-functional has attracted a lot of digital ink. Pop science loves that sort of thing.
From Kerry Grens at the Scientist:
Up to 25 percent of the human genome is critical, while the rest has no function, according to a study published July 11 in Genome Biology and Evolution. The estimate, generated by looking at fertility rates and the expected frequency of deleterious mutations, contradicts a 2012 claim from a large international group called ENCODE, which estimated that 80 percent of the genome is functional.
“For 80% of the human genome to be functional, each couple in the world would have to beget on average 15 children and all but two would have to die or fail to reproduce,” writes Dan Graur, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Houston, in his study.
Graur’s model is built on the idea that fertility rates reflect how much of the human genome is vulnerable to deleterious mutations, and therefore functional. If most of the genome is functional, then people would have to have a lot of babies to maintain the human population and make up for the decreased chances of survival that accompany a greater possibility for harmful mutations. … More.
From Michael Le Page at New Scientist:
After 20 years of biologists arguing that most of the human genome must have some kind of function, the study calculated that in fact the vast majority of our DNA has to be useless. It came to this conclusion by calculating that, because of the way evolution works, we’d each have to have a million children, and almost all of them would need to die, if most of our DNA had a purpose.
But we each have just a few children on average, and our genetic health is mostly fine. The study therefore concludes that most of our DNA really must be junk – a suggestion that contradicts controversial claims to the contrary from a group of prominent genomics researchers in 2012. More.
This all sounds too clever by half.
See also: The dangers of bad paradigms and the need for evolutionary teleonomy (Johnny Bartlett):
This paper represents one of the worst instances of how the Modern Synthesis (colloquially known as neo-Darwinism) can blind someone to thinking, and why the concept of Evolutionary Teleonomy is desperately needed in evolutionary biology.
Graur’s Campaign against ENCODE
Graur has been a long-time critic of encode. In fact, Graur has been on record as saying that, essentially, if ENCODE is right, evolution is wrong (his earlier paper criticizing ENCODE for being an “evolution-free gospel” can be found here). At his personal website (very bottom), Graur shows a picture of his baby granddaughter, where Graur’s own caption for the photo is “My granddaughter, Lilla Keshet Graur, gives ENCODE the finger”. More.