Discovery Institute: There’s No Junk DNA

It didn’t take very long to find a use for our new logo. The logo-deployment opportunity comes from the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

The Discoveroids have a new posting at their creationist blog: Is the Human Genome Garbage? Biologist Jonathan Wells Says No in New Book, “The Myth of Junk DNA”. It’s about a new book by Jonathan Wells, upon whom the Discoveroids have bestowed the title of “Senior Fellow” (i.e., full-blown creationist). His book was published by the venerable Discovery Institute Press, so you know it’s good science.

We’ve written about Wells a few times before. For background on this Moonie-creationist, see Discovery Institute: The Genius of Jonathan Wells. Here are some excerpts from the Discoveroid blog article, with bold font added by us:

Forty years ago scientists discovered that more than 95% of our DNA does not encode proteins. Since then the non-protein-coding portion was labeled “junk” and attributed to molecular accidents that have accumulated in the course of evolution.

Yes, and we’ve written a few times before about the Discoveroids’ weird claim that there can’t be such thing as junk DNA, because the existence of debris in the genome offends their concept of an all-wise Designer — blessed be he! See: Casey’s Crusade Against Junk DNA.

Whenever some tiny segment of previously unexplored DNA turns out to have some function (and evolutionary biologists never hesitate to publish their research to that effect) the Discoveroids are quick to claim that they’ve found still more evidence for the handiwork of the intelligent designer. It’s an example what we’ve previously described as the Creationists’ Scientific Method:

1. Select a conclusion which you hope is true.
2. Find one piece of evidence that possibly might fit.
3. Ignore all other evidence.
4. That’s it.

Let us continue with the Discoveroids’ description of Wells’ cutting-edge creation science:

Now, biologist Jonathan Wells exposes The Myth of Junk DNA (Discovery Institute Press 2011) and shows that contrary to being just evolutionary flotsam and jetsam, much of our non-protein-coding DNA performs essential biological functions.

Well, some small segments of it do have a function. We’ve omitted the link to where you can purchase Wells’ book. We’ll also ignore the rest of the article, which purports to quote some apparently favorable reviews. You can click over there if you’re interested.

We haven’t read Wells’ book but from what we’ve just seen we’re confident that Wells doesn’t show — he can’t! — that every little bit of junk DNA is useful. Most of it continues to be junk. And as long as any scrap of junk remains in our genome (we safely predict that such is certainly the case) the magic designer is left with a lot of explaining to do.

Perhaps the best example of how the genome is jammed full of junk — to the embarrassment of the Discoveroids — is something we’ve written about before: A Japanese Plant Has the World’s Biggest Genome. That plant’s genome is 50 times longer than the genome of a human being. Explain that to us, Mr. Wells.

But maybe the designer really knows what he’s doing. Or maybe the Discoveroids don’t know what they’re talking about. It can’t be both, can it?

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Discovery Institute: There’s No Junk DNA

  1. I remember reading an argument about a designer that said if we find a campsite in the woods, that implies a camper. Perhaps the Discovery Institute ought to claim that the “junk” DNA is the leftover material from the designer’s labors. It’s a jobsite, see? It’ll be cleaned up after the Rapture.

  2. Greg Camp says:

    Perhaps the Discovery Institute ought to claim that the “junk” DNA is the leftover material from the designer’s labors. It’s a jobsite, see?

    No, no. The genome was created to be perfect. It’s all junked up these days it’s because of sin. Blame Adam & Eve.

  3. I agree with Greg. A designer could be sloppy in creating DNA and had junk from the start, he could have been efficient in creating DNA but it may have since mutated forming stretches of junk, or he might have created it efficiently with no junk remaining even today. There is absolutely no way to know the mind of he designer or the process he used, so ID cannot predict either the presence or absence of junk DNA.

    Likewise, natural events can form junk DNA through duplication errors and mutations, but there is no reason why such strands of DNA cannot continue to function in different and perhaps subtle ways. Discovering functionality in these parts of the DNA molecule does not disprove the fact that the parts were formed by evolution. It is certainly more likely that junk DNA will exist as a result of evolutionary processes, but the theory does not depend on it.

    Have I missed something here?

  4. Gabriel Hanna

    If intelligent design really entails that all junk dna has a function, then it’s not sufficient to find a function for some of it. Rather, they have to provel that it is impossible for none of it to have a function.

    Irreducible complexity was an exercise like that–it was originally intended to be something that one could prove could not possibly evolve–and furthermore it was Charles Darwin’s idea (“If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.”)

    But since this was beyond the capabilities or intentions of anyone at Discovery Institute, irreducible complexity degenerated into personal incredulity–looking at something complex and demanding to know how it could have evolved, which is worthless as evidence for design.

    The junk DNA is similar.

  5. Ed says:

    A designer could be sloppy in creating DNA and had junk from the start, he could have been efficient in creating DNA but it may have since mutated forming stretches of junk

    All that is true, but … The key claim of the Discoveroids is that they can spot the designer’s work because it gives the appearance of design, and the things that they (and only they) discover in this way couldn’t possibly have evolved (so they claim). If you take away the appearance of design, then there’s no evidence for and no reason to hypothesize about a designer. If, however, you don’t care about evidence, and you start with the assumption of design, then yes — the designer could have designed DNA any old way.

  6. SC: The DI needs to come up with a means of distinguishing actual design from the appearance of design. The theory of evolutionary identifies and explains processes which together form organisms which appear to be designed. Fundamentally, as Gabe said, the argument from design is an argument from incredulity.

    I would like to add a second pillar to the Creationist Scientific Method, which you elucidated above. That is:

    1. Survey the scientific literature for new findings related to evolution.
    2. Claim the findings support ID.
    3. That’s it.

  7. I need to improve my proof-reading skills. They are definitely not evidence of design.

  8. Tallgrass05

    I saw a talk by Dr. Georgia Purdom about “Genetics, Evolution and Creation: The Most-Asked Questions” earlier this month. She’s an Answers in Genesis molecular geneticist. I could only sit through an hour of her talk, but she addressed junk DNA. It’s not junk because God created it.

  9. It’s like the Discoveroids are walking through a junkyard and see a hubcap and exclaim, “How can you call this junk? This is a perfectly functional Frisbee!”

  10. Tomato Addict

    Greg Camp: “I remember reading an argument about a designer that said if we find a campsite in the woods, that implies a camper.”

    Ooh … this could be fun!
    If we find a campsite in the woods, that implies a bicycle.
    If we find a campsite in the woods, that implies a telephone.
    If we find a campsite in the woods, that implies a watermellon.
    It’s all good —> Conclusion, therefore premise!