Now here's genetic research made for great headlines! A new research paper is being distilled into news articles along the lines of "scientists now believe the definitive difference between humans and other primates comes down to a single gene." Do they? Does it? If it does, what might that mean, if anything, for faith in Jesus Christ as redeemer of humanity?
He has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from the beginning to the end (Eccl. 3:11). This verse came to mind as I worked my way through the original research article, which is first rate work. Genetics has come so far, so fast. Most of the key discoveries that led to this work were themselves unforeseen until recently. How much more don't we know?
Biological life on Earth manages its daily affairs and reproduces using the molecules DNA and RNA. These are the information hardware and software of life, commonly called genes. Generally, the permanent versions of genes are written in DNA; temporary RNA copies are made for use as instructions to make the gene's product. You hopefully remember this foundation from somewhere. Each discovery since has added complexities. One is that genes often have their RNA cut and edited before the product is made. The cut out RNA pieces are called introns. Introns turn out to be not just throwaways, but sometimes essential genetic machinery.
Hai Yang Hu and his associates are studying microRNA (miRNA). These are very tiny strands of RNA that function as regulatory gene products, mostly to turn other genes off. Their existence as an essential part of genetics was only understood in the last 10 years. Thousands of miRNA have now been found. Some seem universal, and these ...