That picture hasn’t been seen around here since Hey Casey! (Number 9). That was a year ago, and it’s time we used it again.
Since the earliest days of this humble blog, the Discovery Institute has been claiming that there’s no such thing as junk DNA. They insist that the genome is perfectly designed, without flaws, and every little scrap of it is designed to be functional.
The concept junk DNA offends their belief in an all-wise supernatural Designer — blessed be he! — who wouldn’t put any non-functional debris in the genome. The Discoveroids’ creationist cousins, the young-earth creationists, can openly resort to religion to blame such things on degeneration caused by Original Sin. But the Discoveroids’ litigation strategy requires them to pretend that their motives are purely scientific; thus they’re stuck with their mantra that the genome is intelligently designed by an unknown, but — cough, cough — not necessarily divine designer.
The first time we wrote about this was Discovery Institute: Astounding Stupidity. It was a bold declaration by Casey Luskin — our favorite creationist — who said:
[I]ntelligent agents design objects for a purpose, and therefore intelligent design predicts that biological structures will have function.
Then we wrote Casey’s Crusade Against Junk DNA about a post by Casey that discusses some research (not done by creationists) showing that some regions of what had been considered junk DNA may play a role in gene regulation. We pointed out that it never occurs to Casey to wonder, if junk DNA is potentially so detrimental to “Darwinists,” why do they keep looking to find functions for it? And if they find some function, why do they publish their findings?
But the bigger question is why do the Discoveroids spend so much time on this silly prediction of theirs? The answer is that it’s their only pretense of being scientific. They’ve made a prediction based on their “theory,” so it must be true — notwithstanding the vast abundance of evidence to the contrary.
As you may recall, they went bonkers over the ENCODE project. Casey posted Our Top 10 Evolution-Related Stories: #1, ENCODE Project Buries “Junk DNA”. We wrote about that here: The Discoveroids’ Top Story for 2012.
And only a few days ago they posted Each Time Genomic “Junk” Turns Out to Be Functional, the Case for Intelligent Design Gets Stronger. It was their usual nonsense, so we didn’t bother to write about it.
But today we’ve got something. Look what we found at PhysOrg: 8.2 percent of our DNA is ‘functional’. Only 8.2 percent. BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Here are a few excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Only 8.2% of human DNA is likely to be doing something important – is ‘functional’ – say Oxford University researchers. This figure is very different from one given in 2012, when some scientists involved in the ENCODE (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) project stated that 80% of our genome has some biochemical function.
That claim has been controversial, with many in the field arguing that the biochemical definition of ‘function’ was too broad – that just because an activity on DNA occurs, it does not necessarily have a consequence; for functionality you need to demonstrate that an activity matters.
That’s a detail the Discoveroids seem to have overlooked. Moving on:
To reach their figure, the Oxford University group took advantage of the ability of evolution to discern which activities matter and which do not. They identified how much of our genome has avoided accumulating changes over 100 million years of mammalian evolution – a clear indication that this DNA matters, it has some important function that needs to be retained.
That sounds like a reasonable approach. They quote joint senior author Professor Chris Pointing of the MRC Functional Genomics Unit at Oxford University:
But this isn’t just an academic argument about the nebulous word “function”. These definitions matter. When sequencing the genomes of patients, if our DNA was largely functional, we’d need to pay attention to every mutation. In contrast, with only 8% being functional, we have to work out the 8% of the mutations detected that might be important. From a medical point of view, this is essential to interpreting the role of human genetic variation in disease.
Let’s read on:
The scientists’ idea was to look at where insertions and deletions of chunks of DNA appeared in the mammals’ genomes. These could be expected to fall approximately randomly in the sequence – except where natural selection was acting to preserve functional DNA, where insertions and deletions would then lie further apart.
‘We found that 8.2% of our human genome is functional,’ says Dr Lunter. … The rest of our genome is leftover evolutionary material, parts of the genome that have undergone losses or gains in the DNA code – often called ‘junk’ DNA.
The Discoveroids are squirming. Wait — it’s even better. Get this:
Not all of the 8.2% is equally important, the researchers explain. A little over 1% of human DNA accounts for the proteins that carry out almost all of the critical biological processes in the body. The other 7% is thought to be involved in the switching on and off of genes that encode proteins – at different times, in response to various factors, and in different parts of the body. These are the control and regulation elements, and there are various different types.
Well, it’s still 8% functional. There’s much more to the article, but we have to stop somewhere, so this is a good place. Now let’s sit back and watch for the Discoveroids’ inevitable reaction. The reputation of their designer is at stake here, without whom they have nothing except their hatred of science, so they can’t ignore this.
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