What's in Your Genome?: 90% of Your Genome Is Junk
Published: May 2023© 2023
Imprint: Aevo UTP
Page Count: 392 Pages
Illustrations: 29 b&w illustrations
Dimensions: 6.40 x 9.30
392 Pages, 6.40 x 9.30 x 1.40 in, 29 b&w illustrations
What’s in Your Genome? describes the functional regions of the human genome, the evidence that 90% of it is junk DNA, and the reasons this evidence has not been widely accepted by the popular press and much of the scientific community.
The human genome contains about 25,000 protein-coding and noncoding genes and many other functional elements, such as origins of replication, regulatory elements, and centromeres. Functional elements occupy only about 10 percent of the more than three billion base pairs in the human genome. Much of the rest is composed of ancient fragments of broken genes, transposons, and viruses. Almost all of this is thought to be junk DNA, based on evidence that dates back fifty years.
This conclusion is controversial. What’s in Your Genome? describes the arguments on both sides of the debate and attempts to explain the reasoning behind those different points of view. The book corrects a number of false narratives that have arisen in recent years and examines how they have affected the debate over junk DNA. In addition, Laurence A. Moran focuses on scientific misconceptions and misinformation and on how the junk DNA controversy has been incorrectly portrayed in both the scientific literature and the popular press. Tracing the earliest indications of junk DNA back to the 1960s, the book explains the success of nearly neutral theory and the importance of random genetic drift, which gave rise to the view that evolution produces sloppy genomes full of junk DNA. What’s in Your Genome? aims to offer the most accurate and current account of the human genome.
The Junk DNA War
1. Introducing Genomes
2. The Evolution of Sloppy Genomes
3. Repetitive DNA and Mobile Genetic Elements
4. Why Don’t Mutations Kill Us?
5. The Big Picture
6. How Many Genes? How Many Proteins?
7. Gene Families and the Birth and Death of Genes
8. Noncoding Genes and Junk RNA
9. The ENCODE Publicity Campaign
10. Turning Genes On and Off
11. Zen and the Art of Coping with a Poorly Designed Genome
"What's in Your Genome? is a thought-provoking and pugnacious book that will make you wonder afresh at the molecular intricacies of life. When it comes to our genomes, we humans are nothing special – Moran makes a convincing argument that the vast majority of our sloppy human genome is not mysterious genetic treasures but boring old junk."Kat Arney, science writer, broadcaster, and author of Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life’s Oldest Betrayal
"What’s in Your Genome? is an enormously useful book and a powerful and necessary defense of the concept of junk DNA. Moran presents a clear summary of how the public can be misled by even the most experienced of science writers. We need more outspoken scientists like him."W. Ford Doolittle, Professor Emeritus, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Dalhousie University
"Recently most molecular biologists and genomicists have been convinced that most of the sequence in our genomes is intricately functional, that the idea of junk DNA was a mistake that can now be mostly discarded. But almost all researchers in molecular evolution have disagreed with this. Laurence A. Moran's clear and incisive book explains why many biologists are so thoroughly mistaken – why our genomes are ‘messy,’ and full of junk DNA."Joe Felsenstein, Professor Emeritus, Departments of Genome Sciences and of Biology, University of Washington, Seattle
"The writing is so crisp and exquisite that it's almost as if a magical code is being revealed whereby the reader is being invited to step inside a furious scientific debate."Lee McIntyre, Research Fellow, Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston University
"A serious warning to scientists and science writers who, to seduce their public, privilege the too-fast announcement of novelties and revolutions instead of doing a cautious examination of the results. Laurence A. Moran has written a deeply honest and extremely well-documented book on one of the hottest recent controversies in science. A master class on what science is and what it must continue to be."Michel Morange, Professor Emeritus of Biology, Institute of the History and Philosophy of Sciences and Techniques , Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
"Laurence A. Moran lucidly explains the science behind an ugly yet thrilling truth – the DNA sequences that specify our body’s proteins and RNAs are indeed finely honed by natural selection (like a Swiss watch), but they are only tiny islands of information embedded in a swamp of evolved gibberish."Rosemary J. Redfield, Professor Emerita of Zoology, University of British Columbia
"Rarely does a science writer respect their audience enough to bring them into the weeds of confusion the way that Dr. Moran does, but the rewards are there to be reaped. A thorough reader will never look at the genome of any living organism or the concept of junk DNA the same way after reading this and will be left wondering how so many baseless claims have made headlines in recent years. In the capable hands of Dr. Moran, we can all learn to untangle facts from unsupported assertions and come away understanding why our genome is structured in precisely the way that it is."Ethan Siegel, Theoretical Astrophysicist and founder of Starts With A Bang
"Junk DNA is a concept that’s not well understood, even by most biologists, yet arguments about its existence are commonplace. In What’s in Your Genome?, Moran brings together evolution, genomics, and decades of scientific history to make the case for it. Even if you don’t agree with all of his conclusions, you’d benefit from the clarity he brings to the topic."John R. Timmer, Science Editor, Ars Technica
"This book is a clear and fascinating guide to the exotic menagerie of elements that exists in our DNA and a no-holds-barred defense of an important but often ignored fact about the human genome: most of it has no function. But Moran shows that, even without function, junk DNA is incredibly interesting."Michael White, Associate Professor of Genetics, Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine