Junk & Jonathan: Part I—Getting the History Correct
Junk & Jonathan: Part 2— What Did Biologists Really Say About Junk DNA?
Jonathan, Moonies, and Junk DNA
The discovery in the 1970s that only a tiny percentage of our DNA codes for proteins prompted some prominent biologists at the time to suggest that most of our DNA is functionless junk. Although other biologists predicted that non-protein-coding DNA would turn out to be functional, the idea that most of our DNA is junk became the dominant view among biologists.
- It's true that in the 1970s the experts in the study of genomes proposed that most of our genome is junk.
- It's not true that they thought non-coding DNA had no function. Functions of non-coding DNA were well-established by 1970.
- The idea that most of our genome is junk was never the "dominant" view among biologists even though it's correct.
That view has turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Since 1990--and especially after completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003--many hundreds of articles have appeared in the scientific literature documenting the various functions of non-protein coding DNA, and more are being published every week.
- It's not true that the idea of a large amount of junk DNA has turned out to be "spectacularly wrong."
- It's true that there have been lots of examples of of novel functions for small pieces of the genome that were previously lumped into the junk DNA category. These dozens of functional parts of the genome may amount to as much as 1-2% of the genome (probably less).
Ironically, even after evidence for the functionality of non-protein coding DNA began flooding into the scientific literature, some leading apologists for Darwinian evolution ratcheted up claims that "junk DNA" provides evidence for their theory and evidence against intelligent design. Since 2004, biologists Richard Dawkins, Douglas Futuyma, Kenneth Miller, Jerry Coyne and John Avise have published books using this argument. So have philosopher of science Philip Kitcher and historian of science Michael Shermer. So has Francis Collins, former head of the Human Genome Project and present director of the National Institutes of Health, despite the fact that he co-authored some of the scientific articles providing evidence against "junk DNA."
- It's true that well-established bits of junk DNA—like known pseudogenes—have been effectively used to challenge the idea that our genome appears designed. Those examples remain powerful, and true, examples of evolution that cannot be explained by Intelligent Design Creationism. They have not been refuted and they have not been explained by the IDiots.
These authors claim to speak for "science," but they have actually been promoting an anti-scientific myth that ignores the evidence and relies on theological speculations instead. For the sake of science, it's time to expose the myth for what it is.
- The truth is that those authors still speak for science and truth and their evidence is sound.
- Wells, on the other hand, speaks for the other side.
& Junk DNA
Far from consisting mainly of junk that provides evidence against intelligent design, our genome is increasingly revealing itself to be a multidimensional, integrated system in which non-protein-coding DNA performs a wide variety of functions. If anything, it provides evidence for intelligent design. Even apart from possible implications for intelligent design, however, the demise of the myth of junk DNA promises to stimulate more research into the mysteries of the genome. These are exciting times for scientists willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads.
- It's certainly true that non-coding DNA performs a wide variety of functions. Some of them are listed in various postings under Genomes & Junk DNA
- It's certainly not true that the organization of our genome—the majority of which is junk—provides evidence of intelligent design.
- It's certainly not true that the idea of junk DNA is a myth.
- It's true that these are exciting times and that smart people must follow the evidence wherever it leads even if it refutes cherished religious beliefs.