Transposon Behavior Negates 'Selfish Gene' Theory | The Institute for Creation Research
Transposon Behavior Negates 'Selfish Gene' Theory

In 1976, evolutionist Richard Dawkins eloquently described how he thought life on earth was characterized by selfish genes competing for propagation within the genomes of countless creatures.1 Since then, science has described unique segments of DNA called transposons that are able to insert copies of themselves into plant and animal DNA. Are transposons trying to take over their host genomes, thus demonstrating the selfish behavior described by Dawkins?

The answer is no. These mobile genetic elements—also called "jumping genes" for their ability to move from place to place—don't just randomly invade a genome. Instead, they are now well-known for inserting copies of themselves into very specific places on chromosomes. Most animals' genomes are loaded either with recently acquired and active transposons, or with remnants of transposons acquired long ago.

Perhaps the best-studied transposons are the "P elements" found in fruit flies. One still-active P element transposon appears to have been introduced into populations of the common fruit fly by another fruit fly species about 80 years ago. A recent study of P elements published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences appears to have discovered the source of the "highly nonrandom selectivity of P element insertion"2

A Carnegie Institution for Science news release reported:

What many P insertion sites share in common is an ability to function as starting sites or "origins" for DNA duplication. This association between P elements and the machinery of genome duplication suggested that they can coordinate their movement with DNA replication.3

Somehow, these transposons "know" exactly where to insert themselves. And although they "remain highly 'infective' today,"3 they eventually stop "jumping" into new places in the fruit fly genome through inherited mechanisms of protein truncation and "piwi-interacting RNA" complexes.2 In other words, they eventually stop because of well-designed components in the host cell that interact very precisely with the transposons.

Since their discovery, evolutionists have been trying to work transposons into an overall evolutionary scheme of genetic development. The study authors asked, "Does a selfish drive to increase copy number by replication timing influence the evolution of genome organization?"2 They briefly discussed why this might be true, without addressing the glaring reasons why it could not possibly be true.

First, transposons target specific sites. If they were truly "selfish," they should show no preference for location, but would invade the genome anywhere they could to increase their own numbers. But if they were created by design to serve a particular purpose, transposons might be inserting themselves into these specific sites for a biologically significant reason, such as gene regulation or DNA stabilization. But this possibility was not even mentioned in the PNAS study.

Also, the transposons' copy numbers are controlled and eventually stopped by inherited cellular mechanisms that seem to "understand" exactly what the transposon is doing. If the transposon is selfishly competing with the genome in order to survive and reproduce, as Dawkins described, then why does the transposon interact with its host genome in a cooperative manner that fits like a hand in a glove?

Genes do not behave "selfishly"—in fact, most genes on earth are plant genes that serve largely selfless roles.4 And even "jumping genes" do not exhibit signs of selfishness. Genes do not struggle against one another, but at almost every level have been found to mesh with coordinated, well-planned precision to perform tasks that serve their larger organisms. And that behavior could only have resulted from deliberate engineering by a superior Designer.

References

  1. Dawkins, R. 1976. The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  2. Spradling, A. C., H. J. Bellen and R. A. Hoskins. Drosophila P elements preferentially transpose to
    replication origins. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Published online before print September 6, 2011.
  3. A "Jumping Gene's" preferred targets may influence genome evolution. Carnegie Institution for Science news release, September 6, 2011.
  4. Demick, D.. 2000. The Unselfish Green Gene. Acts & Facts. 29 (7).

* Mr. Thomas is Science Writer at the Institute for Creation Research.

Article posted on September 19, 2011.

The Latest
NEWS
Brainy Paper Wasps
Wasps (Family Vespidae) have a bad rap, but their benefits actually outweigh their painful sting—although many would disagree! What is the function...

CREATION PODCAST
The Secrets of the Cell | The Creation Podcast: Episode 29
Cells are the basic units of life, and in some forms they are actually organisms. What is a cell? What goes on inside of a cell? Did all life come from...

NEWS
Fossil Footprints Fit Flood Ice-Age Model
Anthropologists Thomas Urban (Cornell University) and Daron Duke (Far Western Anthropological Research Group) recently found preserved human footprints...

NEWS
Deep-Sea Lobster Microbiome
Research continues regarding complex and amazing microbiomes found on or within a variety of creatures.1 The microbiome is a microbial community...

NEWS
"Massively Exciting" Fossil Find
Now this is exciting: “Geologists have found the fossil of the earliest known animal predator. The 560-million-year-old specimen is the first of...

NEWS
Copulation Didn't Kill the Frogs, the Flood Did
Evolutionary scientists recently studied 168 frog fossils from central Germany, concluding that the frogs all drowned while aggressively mating. They claim...

CREATION PODCAST
What Can We Learn From Fossils? | The Creation Podcast: Episode...
Is evolution seen in the fossil record? Why are fossilized terrestrial animals found buried with marine creatures? What conditions were needed to form...

NEWS
Be Not Deceived: Spiritually Train to Overcome Secular Science...
Thorough instruction and discipline are the hallmark qualities of a strong military training program. Well-trained soldiers can think on their feet, adapt...

CREATION.LIVE PODCAST
Jurassic World: Dominion - Fun Movie, Bad Science | Creation.Live...
Covered in feathers, running faster than cars, and living in cold climates...these are just a few of the ideas introduced in Jurassic World: Dominion....

NEWS
CET Model in Plants Is Clearly Seen
Plant scientists have known for decades that plants aren’t just static entities. The half-million or more species of plants in the world display...