Field of Science

"fundamentally, the involvement of silent mutations in disease undermines the neutral theory of molecular evolution"

The claim, quoted above, comes from a recent article in SEED magazine, entitled The Sound of Silence by Lindsay Borthwick. I had forgotten about the article after initially seething over it a few weeks ago. However, I was reminded of it by noticing that Larry Moran has performed a proper debunking of the article over on his blog, Sandwalk.

Just because some synonymous (aka "silent") substitutions have some selective value (and they do: we have known this for many years!), this does not mean that all such substitutions do. "Fundamental" impacts should be just that and not just some hot air to get attention and a good title. The new study that demonstrates translational slow-down caused by synonymous differences is really interesting, but I'd bet more than a few beers that these kind of effects are the exception, rather than the rule. In evolution, we are interested in both exceptions and rules. But often the former illuminate the latter, rather than cause us to throw out the baby with the bathwater. SEED should do better than this if its going to have any future on my coffee table.

(image from the SEED webpage)

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