First, let’s see what Darwinian evolutionists say about junk DNA, before we look at what the experiments show.
Here’s biologist John Timmer to explain the orthodox Darwinian view of DNA from 2007:
Personally, I fall into the “it’s all junk” end of the spectrum. If almost all of these sequences are not conserved by evolution, and we haven’t found a function for any of them yet, it’s hard to see how the “none of it’s junk” view can be maintained. There’s also an absence of support for the intervening view, again because of a lack of evidence for actual utility. The genomes of closely related species have revealed very few genes added from non-coding DNA, and all of the structural RNA we’ve found has very specific sequence requirements. The all-junk view, in contrast, is consistent with current data.
Got that? According to Darwinists, DNA is almost entirely junk – this is what is consistent with the view that creatures have evolved through a process of random mutation and selection. The estimates that I’ve seen from evolutionary biologists range from 95% to 99% junk. Now let’s compare the religion with the lab experiments and separate myth from fact.
Now let’s compare that with intelligent design theorist William Dembski’s view of “junk” DNA, from 1998:
Even if we have a reliable criterion for detecting design, and even if that criterion tells us that biological systems are designed, it seems that determining a biological system to be designed is akin to shrugging our shoulders and saying God did it. The fear is that admitting design as an explanation will stifle scientific inquiry, that scientists will stop investigating difficult problems because they have a sufficient explanation already.
But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term “junk DNA.” Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function. And indeed, the most recent findings suggest that designating DNA as “junk” merely cloaks our current lack of knowledge about function… Design encourages scientists to look for function where evolution discourages it.
Now let’s look at the experimental evidence and see whose prediction was right.
Evolution News reports on a new peer-reviewed paper published in Nature, the top peer-reviewed science journal. (H/T ECM)
A groundbreaking paper in Nature reports the results of the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project, which has detected evidence of function for the “vast majority” of the human genome. Titled “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” the paper finds an “unprecedented number of functional elements,” where “a surprisingly large amount of the human genome” appears functional. Based upon current knowledge, the paper concludes that at least 80% of the human genome is now known to be functional:
The Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project has systematically mapped regions of transcription, transcription factor association, chromatin structure and histone modification. These data enabled us to assign biochemical functions for 80% of the genome, in particular outside of the well-studied protein-coding regions. Many discovered candidate regulatory elements are physically associated with one another and with expressed genes, providing new insights into the mechanisms of gene regulation.
(The ENCODE Project Consortium, “An integrated encyclopedia of DNA elements in the human genome,” Nature, Vol. 489:57-74 (September 6, 2012) (emphasis added))
The $123-million effort involved more than 400 scientists and more than 1,600 experiments during five years of work. If presented graphically, the data generated so far would cover a poster 30 kilometers wide and 16 meters high, Birney has estimated.
This is still just a start — akin to “grainy images beamed back to Earth by the first satellite,” said Dr. Eric Green, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, which funded ENCODE. But already, it’s throwing up surprises.
Strikingly, the data overturn old ideas that the bulk of DNA in our cells is useless — albeit inoffensive — junk just carried along for the evolutionary ride. Back in 2003 when the human genome was published, scientists estimated that less than 2% of it carries instructions for making proteins, and many of them thought the rest didn’t do very much.
But the new analysis shows that more than 80% of the human genome is active in at least one biological process that the ENCODE team measured. Nearly every part of it could end up being active when the data are more complete.
Here’s the ultra-left-wing New York Times, confirming the statement I made earlier about the dogma of the Darwinians:
The discoveries were published on Wednesday in six papers in the journal Nature and in 24 papers in Genome Research and Genome Biology. In addition, The Journal of Biological Chemistry is publishing six review articles, and Science is publishing yet another article.
[…]The thought before the start of the project, said Thomas Gingeras, an Encode researcher from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was that only 5 to 10 percent of the DNA in a human being was actually being used.
The big surprise was not only that almost all of the DNA is used but also that a large proportion of it is gene switches. Before Encode, said Dr. John Stamatoyannopoulos, a University of Washington scientist who was part of the project, “if you had said half of the genome and probably more has instructions for turning genes on and off, I don’t think people would have believed you.”
It’s just another prediction of Darwinian orthodoxy falsified by experimental evidence published in the top scientific peer-reviewed journal. Will this cause Darwinians to revise their theory to fit the evidence? Not likely. Their motivations for clinging to naturalism, the religion that undergirds Darwinism, are entirely beyond correction by evidence.
I wonder what people like P.Z. Myers and Larry Moran do when their religion comes into conflict with scientific evidence from lab experiments? Do they bitterly cling to their mythology from the 19th century? Or do they adjust their worldview to be in line with the progress of science?
Let Richard Dawkins explain evolution and the role of evidence:
“My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right it means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be justified in preferring it over all rival theories.” — p. 287, Blind Watchmaker” (1986)
Or Richard Lewontin:
“Our willingness to accept [naturalistic] scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our own a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, not matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a divine foot in the door.” (Richard Lewontin in New York Review of Books, January 9, 1997, p. 28)
Junk DNA isn’t the only battle in the long war between atheism and scientific evidence. Naturalists fought the Big Bang tooth and nail, trying to save their eternal universe from the progress of science. Naturalists invented the now discredited oscillating model of the universe in order to “explain” the evidence for a cosmic beginning. Naturalists invented the unobservable, untestable multiverse to “explain” the cosmic fine-tuning. Aliens are posited in order to “explain” the origin of life. Precursor fossils are invented without evidence in order to “explain” the Cambrian era explosion in complexity. And so on.
Evidence doesn’t matter to people who are motivated by naturalistic faith. Like belief in a flat-Earth, the delusion of naturalism is not accountable to scientific evidence. They believe what they want to believe. It’s not up for debate. For some people like Richard Dawkins, a prior lifestyle commitment makes theism (and the moral law!) an impossibility a priori. But rational people know that believing something just so that your actions are “justified” doesn’t make what you believe true.
For the intelligent design take on junk DNA, check out this article. To see who was right about predicting whether “vestigial organs” like the appendix have function, check out this post. You can find more predictions that follow from intelligent design right here.