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Matheson's Intron Fairy Tale

At Evolution News & Views, Richard Sternberg responds to Steve Matheson's continued attacks on Signature in the Cell.

The failure to recognize the importance of introns "may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology." --John Mattick, Molecular biologist, University of Queensland, quoted in Scientific American
On Friday, May 14, I watched as Steve Meyer faced his critics--two of them anyway, Art Hunt and Steve Matheson--at Biola University in Los Angeles. Matheson had previously claimed that Meyer misrepresented introns in his book, Signature in the Cell. (Introns are non-protein-coding sequences of DNA that occur within protein-coding regions.) In a blog post dated February 14, Matheson had accused Meyer of "some combination of ignorance, sloth, and duplicity" for stating in his book that although introns do not encode proteins they nevertheless "play many important functional roles in the cell."

Calling Meyer's statement "ludicrous," Matheson wrote on his blog that biologists have identified functional roles for only "a handful" of the 190,000 or so introns in the human genome:

How many? Oh, probably a dozen, but let's be really generous. Let's say that a hundred introns in the human genome are known to have "important functional roles." Oh fine, let's make it a thousand. Well, guys, that leaves at least 189,000 introns without function.

Matheson added that "there are more layers of duplicity in the 'junk DNA' fairy tale than Meyer has included in his book," which (Matheson concluded) uses science to advance an agenda in which "rigorous scientific truth-telling is secondary."

Naturally, I expected Matheson to bring up this devastating criticism at the Biola event on May 14. But he said nothing about Meyer's "ludicrous" notions of intron functions that evening, and he was mum about all the other layers of duplicity that he claims to be privy to. This was probably wise, because Matheson is wrong about intron functionality.

Keep reading here.


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