A Silent Gene Theory of Evolution
A remarkable one-off scientific theory well ahead of its time.
In 2000, twenty-five years after leaving his biology course, Collins put forward a revolutionary paper called A Silent Gene Theory of Evolution, which he has now developed into a full-length book. It offers a powerful rival to the theory that evolution is driven by natural selection.
He knew that if he pursued this interest at university he would find himself in conflict with the more orthodox Darwinian views of his admired tutor, the great evolutionary theorist Professor John Maynard Smith.
Remarkably, his description of “silent” genes was found to correspond precisely with the so-called “junk” genes, which comprise approximately 98.5% of the genome, and whose function until then had proved mysterious. In addition, Collins’ theory predicted a number of features of the silent or junk genes which have since been increasingly verified by recent research — for example, that they could become “active” and begin to code, and that they influenced other genes. It is now widely accepted that, just as Collins predicted, the vast majority of significant mutation in the genome arises from the silent genes.
As Professor Donald Braben writes in his illuminating foreword:
“Collins is proposing a general evolutionary theory which — if it continues to be supported by the data — may in due course come to rival Darwin’s theory that evolution is driven by natural selection.”
Professor Freeman Dyson, one of the world’s leading theoretical physicists, wrote:
“I like your theory, and think it has a good chance of being right.” He added, “Darwin would have liked your theory.”