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No. 8: Fall 1979

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The Importance Of Nonsense

One of the greatest surprises of modern molecular biology has been the discovery of "split genes" in higher forms of life. In the chromosomes of lowly bacteria, genes march along one behind the other, but in more complex organisms the genes are separated by segments of genetic material that apparently have nothing to do with the manufacture of protein. Because there seems no need for these inserted jumbles of genetic information, they are characterized as "nonsense." But evolutionists insist that this nonsense must have some survival value or it wouldn't be there!

Present speculation is that the nonsense segments separate mini-genes that contain the blueprints for assembling well-defined parts of proteins that possess specific functions. To illustrate, the main part of the immunoglobulin molecule has four functional parts (one for interacting with cell membranes, another that functions as a hinge, and so on). Lo and behold, the immunoglobulin gene consists of four mini-genes separated by three segments of nonsense. The suspicion is that the evolution of higher life forms has been accelerated by keeping these prefabricated, functionally oriented mini-genes apart and shuffling them as integral units. The shuffling of entire functional elements rather than smaller bits and pieces of genetic information might speed up organic evolution.

(Lewin, Roger; "Why Split Genes?" New Scientist, 82:452, 1979.)

From Science Frontiers #8, Fall 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss