According to a recent paper:
Viruses and immunity are hot topics these days, and a new article in the Journal of Virology, “Switching Sides: How Endogenous Retroviruses Protect Us from Viral Infections,” has the potential to be a paradigm-shifter on the standard view that endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) are junk DNA. Consider this first line from the abstract. Though the authors are certainly not supportive of intelligent design, (ID), it’s another example of a line from a paper that sounds like it could have been written by a proponent of ID:
“Long disregarded as junk DNA or genomic dark matter, endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) have turned out to represent important components of the antiviral immune response. – Smitha Srinivasachar Badarinarayan and Daniel Sauter, “Switching Sides: How Endogenous Retroviruses Protect Us from Viral Infections,” Journal of Virology, 95(12): E02299-20 (June, 2021)
ERVs have long been a go-to argument against ID from those who believe that our genomes are full of undesigned junk. An outgrowth of this view is that ERVs have no functional importance, and that shared similar ERV sequences in similar genomic locations across different species (e.g., humans and apes) indicate their common ancestry. After, goes this way of thinking, ERVs were clearly not put there for any purpose.
If this paper is correct, however, then ERVs frequently have important immune functions and they should not be presumed to be “junk DNA.” This defeats both the “junk ERV” argument against the design of the genome (human and otherwise). It also challenges those who want to use the supposed junk-status of ERVs as an argument for common ancestry. After all, if ERVs have functions, then shared ERV sequences in similar locations across genomes of different species may reflect functional requirements rather than mere common ancestry.Casey Luskin, “ Junk No Longer: ERVs Are “Integral” and “Important Components” of Immune Responses” at Evolution News and Science Today
The paper is open access.
Memories, memories: Wasn’t there a Darwinian blogger whose handle, sort of, was ERV? Wonder where she is now …