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The Salzburg sixty discuss a new paradigm in genetic variation

Sixty evolutionary biologists are going to meet next July in Salzburg (Austria)to discuss "a new paradigmatic understanding of Genetic novelty" [Evolution – Genetic Novelty/Genomic Variations by RNA Networks and Viruses]. You probably didn't know that a new paradigm is necessary. That's because you didn't know that the old paradigm of random mutations can't explain genetic diversity. (Not!) Here's how the symposium organizers explain it on their website ...

For more than half a century it has been accepted that new genetic information is mostly derived from random‚ error-based’ events. Now it is recognized that errors cannot explain genetic novelty and complexity.

Empirical evidence establishes the crucial role of non-random genetic content editors such as viruses and RNA-networks to create genetic novelty, complex regulatory control, inheritance vectors, genetic identity, immunity, new sequence space, evolution of complex organisms and evolutionary transitions....

This new empirically based perspective on the evolution of genetic novelty will have more explanatory power in the future than the "error-replication" narrative of the last century.
Wow! Who knew?

The lead organizer is Günther Witzany, a philosopher of science and a prominent member of The Third Way [The Third Way: Günther Witzany]. We've encountered him before on Sandwalk: Here's why you can ignore Günther Witzany. Just about anyone can misunderstand molecular biology but it takes a philosopher of science to really screw it up. Witzany says ...
The older concepts we have now for a half century cannot sufficiently explain the complex tendency of the genetic code. They can't explain the functions of mobile genetic elements and the endogenous retroviruses and non-coding RNAs. Also, the central dogma of molecular biology has been falsified -- that is, the way is always from DNA to RNA to proteins to anything else, or the other "dogmas," e.g., replication errors drive evolutionary genetic variation, that one gene codes for one protein and that non-coding DNA is junk. All these concepts that dominated science for half a century are falsified now. ...
Here's a summary of where my views differ ...
  1. The fundamental concepts in evolution and molecular biology were worked out in the middle of the last century and thery have been steadily improved and modified since then. They are fully capable of explaining mobile genetic elements, endogenous retroviruses, and non-coding RNAs. Read any textbook.
  2. The Central Dogma of Molecular Biology says that once information is transferred to protein it can't go back to nucleic acids [Central Dogma of Molecular Biology]. It's blatantly obvious that Günther Witzany doesn't understand the Central Dogma. It's obvious that he hasn't read Crick's papers.
  3. The idea that replication errors create genetic variation has not been falsified. It is by far the most important source of mutation.
  4. The idea that one gene codes for one protein is a false strawman version of our current understanding of a gene [What Is a Gene?]. No knowledgeable scientist ever thought that all genes produced proteins and no knowledgeable scientist since 1980 was unaware of genes encoding multiple proteins. Read a textbook.
  5. No knowledgeable scientist ever said that all non-coding DNA is junk. They do, however, say that most of the DNA in the human genome is junk. That's a concept that was formed in the middle of the last century and has become more and more true as evidence accumulates in the 21st century. It has not been falsified as Günther Witzany claims. He has not been keeping up with the scientific literature.
  6. Nobody is questioning the fact that transposons and viruses can cause mutations and genomic rearrangements. The only serious debate is over the frequency of such events. By looking at the amount of variation in individual humans, scientists have determined that 99.9% of all variation is in the form of single nucleotide changes (SNPs) or small (1-10 bp) insertions/deletions. Larger differences due to transposons and viral insertions/deletions account for only 0.1% of the total [Genetic variation in human populations]. All sorts of mutations will contribute to evolution in the long run but it's absurd to think there's any "paradigm shift" in the making. Instead, this is a classic example of a paradigm shaft (a term coined by Diogenes on an earlier Sandwalk post).

This post first appeared on Sandwalk, please read the originial post: here

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The Salzburg sixty discuss a new paradigm in genetic variation


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