Birney dodges but Sparc nails it.

Ewan Birney has a new post up on his blog about reaction to the ENCODE publications and the associated media extravaganza last week. Unfortunately, it adds very little of substance to the discussion and most of the main criticisms are dodged again. But, the one redeeming feature of the post is the following comment left by “Sparc”, which nails the problem exactly:

IMHO the issue is not the precission of ENCODE’s definition of “function” but rather about the fact that ENCODE ignored the well established and defined concept of Junk DNA. It’s as if some geographer would define hills with height over base > 100m as mountains. This would transform the majority of the world’s surface into mountains. It is obvious that this wouldn’t make sense even if the given definition is very precise.

2 comments to Birney dodges but Sparc nails it.

  • Natasha

    This whole hoo ha about ‘junk DNA’ is becoming a bit of a joke. And Birney is just as much to blame as everyone else. He points the finger at ENCODE for ignoring the subject yet he’s been doing just that. In his interview with Alok Jha from the Guardian  he laughed at the question of ‘junk DNA’ and then proceeded to avoid it at all costs when he could have easily cleared up the misunderstanding at least with that publication, instead of Jha coming away from that interview none the wiser and publishing the following, by now common, gem.

    “For years, the vast stretches of DNA between our 20,000 or so protein-coding genes – more than 98% of the genetic sequence inside each of our cells – was written off as “junk” DNA. Already falling out of favour in recent years, this concept will now, with Encode’s work, be consigned to the history books.” 

    At first, I blamed Alok Jha. For a physicist and a science correspondent, whose latest article is about the decline of science due to fraud and misconduct, this is a rather good example of “fabrication, falsification and massaging of the results”. Now though, I can see it mainly comes from ignorance but one Birney refused to set straight when given a chance. 

    The podcast interview (which is actually quite good apart from that one little snag) is on the UK Guardian Science page.  


  • Somehow confusing and this thing doesn’t make any sense to me!


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