Remember when the genome map was supposed to prove we were just apes?

Or sea slugs?

Like, humans had 100, 000 genes, which proved we were a big-brained ape, then 30, 000, a bit more than a worm. Oh but wait, the fern has 250,000 genes and someone who has never kept a fern can be confident that they’re mostly junk.

Now, ten years on, here's the kind of thing we hear:

Since the human genome was sequenced, we know more about our own history, and the lines between us and other species have blurred, Cole-Turner said. A comparison with the Neanderthal genome revealed that Neanderthals likely mated with our ancestors, since between 1 percent and 4 percent of some modern humans' DNA came from Neanderthals. Even the genome from the first amphibian to be sequenced, the African clawed frog, showed surprising similarities to the human genome.

[ … ]

"Now that we have the sequence for the whole genome, including the 98 percent (considered junk), we find that at least half of it is functional. It is even difficult nowadays to say what a gene is," said Robert Plomin, a research professor at the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London.

[ … ]

"It's not chaos. It is tractable. We can understand all the nuts and bolts of a living system; there are just so many moving parts it's just hard to describe," he said. – Wynn Parry, MSNBC News, 2/3/2011

I wonder what the next just-a-“spin” will be? Any guesses?

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

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