There is a painful assumption of progress in many interpretations of evolution — and sometimes it’s by people who ought to know better. T. Ryan Gregory finds a ghastly example of a figure that, by cherry-picking the data and doing a little suggestive ordering of the presentation, makes it look like there’s a correlation between the amount of non-coding DNA and organismal complexity. Fortunately, he counters it with a much more useful chart (that I’m definitely stealing for the next time I teach genetics) with no such bias.
And then Larry Moran tops Gregory with an even worse figure. I don’t quite understand it; maybe this distortion of the evidence to support progress, increasing molecular complexity, and the superiority of humans has roots in misunderstandings before my time, because my genetics and cell biology instructors in the 1970s sure didn’t promote this nonsense then. We were told even in those ancient days that the C-value paradox wasn’t a problem if you didn’t try to shoehorn mammals into a position at the pinnacle of evolution.
Maybe I just had really good professors. Thanks, Arthur Whiteley and Larry Sandler!