Jul 24

The Myth of Junk DNA, by Jonathan Wells ?????

The issue of Junk DNA has arisen from the claims that theistic evolutionists make arguing that the presence of “junk” DNA is proof that the genome was formed to a large extent from random events. Junk DNA refers to DNA in the genome that does not seem to encode any sort of protein. It is well known that the preponderance of our genome consists of “junk” DNA, and for the most part, its function is not well described. Oddly, the amount of “junk” DNA seems to vary among species, and particular attention is made to the presence of unusually high quantities of “junk” DNA in the onion genome. Wells effectively counters the limpid arguments of such scholars as Francis Collins in noting many discoveries that have shown “junk” DNA to play a role in the genome. First, he shows that much non-protein-coding DNA is still transcribed, and plays vital roles in gene regulatory events, oftentimes during embryologic development. Secondly, he shows how introns (also identified as “junk” DNA) play a significant role in post-transcriptional regulatory events. So-called pseudogenes (genes which are active in some species but “defective” in others) oftentimes also are transcribed and involved in regulatory events. Further chapters detail how other aspects of non-protein-coding DNA are useful in sundry aspects of cell division and growth, such as the necessity of this “junk” DNA to permit centromere function. Wells makes no claim to fully understand the functions of the entirety of the genome, but insists that it is arrogant to ascribe an absence of utility for biological entities whose usefulness is not yet understood. He more than capably destroys the idea that junk DNA is an argument for theistic evolution and against intelligent design.

I took a class in graduate school in 1986 that was in the department of molecular biology and whose subject was pre- and post-transcriptional genomic regulation. Already, much evidence was known that seemed to be dismantling a strict Watson-Crick schema of protein production. Though much of the class was a little over my head in terms of research details, the basic concept of a much greater complex schema of cell regulatory events was already clear. Proteins, chromatin, large and small RNA elements all seemed to play a confusing role in turning genes on and off, in determining what would be translated, and what would be stable versus transitory mRNA elements. This book shows that our knowledge of gene regulatory events has creeped forward a touch. We are still left with an enormous vacuum of understanding as to how the cell truly regulates itself throughout its lifetime. Evolutionists, regardless of whether they are of the theistic vs. atheistic variety, glibly fill in the missing facts with the assumption that science will ultimately answer everything. In reality, they are creating a belief system which I call science-of-the-gaps, which is far more perverse than the God-of-the-gaps accusation directed toward creationists or intelligent design adherents. Creationists of all stripes will admit that science may offer some explanations of the large voids in our knowledge, and that doesn’t do violence to the creationist stance. Evolutionists would never concede that much of their gaps will always remain gaps, since their theory cannot offer a comprehensive explanation of the world as we see it. Their arguments are not won by the force of reason but by the force of arrogant proclamation. I commend Wells for offering solid reason to admit that there is much to yet learn about the genomic structure. Being head of the NIH does not confer Collins the role of science-Pope who can speak ex cathedra for God in matters of evolution, and this book skillfully demonstrates a lacuna in Collins’ thinking.



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One Response to “The Myth of Junk DNA”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    As only a lowly engineer and not a geneticist, it has always seemed strange to me that just because the function of some stretches of DNA are unknown that they must not have a function – seems illogical to me.

    I once talked with Jon Wells (at an airport!) and he seems to be a guy interested in applying what he knows of the life sciences (and he is competent) to unravel darwinism. He is part of Phil Johnson’s Wedge effort, he is tall, a closet Moonie, and a quite likable fellow, though he has been cleverly evasive with me about whether he is a member of the Unification Church or not.

    As for Collins, he has been an ASA poster-boy in recent years, but I question his consistency as a Christian, given his entanglement with the ruling psychotics. J. Craig Venter’s private entrepreneurial accomplishment of what Collin’s group at NIH has been plodding along (in expensive government fashion) to accomplish for years does not speak well for the NIH effort. Collins would perhaps do better to go back to his African missionary work, and keep practicing on using his guitar and motorcycle.

    And Venter’s book, A Life Decoded, might be worth a review too. I have a copy but have not read it. But Ken, if you do – a life scientist and not an engineer – then I can read your review instead! Maybe I should even send my copy to you.

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