Hey Casey! Junk DNA Is Still Junk


Some background information is obviously necessary to explain the reason for that picture. Okay, here you go:

Our favorite creationist is Casey Luskin, the only non-fellow among 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).

Back in early 2009 Casey was speaking at some creationist revival meeting or something. During a heated exchange with Abbie Smith, which she later described here: Casey Luskin, Abbie flipped a bird at Casey.

Upon experiencing this “Darwinist” atrocity, Casey did the cyber equivalent of bursting into tears and collapsing on the fainting couch. He produced an amazing narrative which appeared on the Discoveroid blog: Civility of Darwinists Lacking at Academic Freedom on Evolution Event in Oklahoma. The picture which adorns this post is our subtle commemoration of that event. (The picture isn’t Abbie, who is lovely; it’s one of your Curmudgeon’s cousins.)

But this post has a greater purpose than reminding you of Casey’s delicate temperament. Most of you are aware of Casey’s Crusade Against Junk DNA. Before posting that, in Discovery Institute: Astounding Stupidity we wrote about Casey’s bold declaration that there’s no such thing as junk DNA because, he says:

[I]ntelligent agents design objects for a purpose, and therefore intelligent design predicts that biological structures will have function.

As we pointed out in our last post on this topic, the Discoveroids have even claimed that the case for Darwinian evolution is literally based on junk DNA. They even invented a new strawman they called “the argument from junk DNA,” a non-existent argument that depends on the non-existent premise that no function will ever be found for any of it. They refer to this fictitious argument as “Darwin of the gaps.”

We’ve also 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?

Okay, that’s the background for today’s post. Now we present some excerpts from If junk DNA is useful, why is it not shared out more equally?, which appears at the website of the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna. The bold font was added by us:

DNA was originally thought to have a single function: to help cells make the proteins they need. Any DNA that is not immediately required to produce proteins was written off as “junk” and deemed unworthy of study. Recently, however, it has become clear that junk DNA performs a wide range of important tasks. As a result, attention is shifting to asking why some organisms have so much of it and other organisms so little.

That’s a good question. It might help Casey explain why A Japanese Plant Has the World’s Biggest Genome. That plant has a genetic code 50 times longer than that of a human being. The Discoveroids’ mysterious, magical Designer — blessed be He — has a lot of explaining to do. Let’s read on:

A particular puzzle is posed by so-called “introns”, stretches of DNA that interrupt the sequence of genes. Ashley Farlow, Eshwar Meduri and Christian Schlötterer of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna now propose a mechanism to account for the range of intron numbers observed between different species. Their theory is published in the current issue of the journal Trends in Genetics.

Here’s a link to their paper: DNA double-strand break repair and the evolution of intron density . We continue:

It seems likely that new introns are added to DNA when double-stranded DNA breaks – which may arise from a variety of mechanisms – are not repaired “correctly” but the newly created ends are instead joined to other fragments of DNA. Farlow and colleagues at the Institute of Population Genetics of the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna reasoned that introns may be lost by a similar mechanism. An examination of areas of DNA where introns are known to have been lost in organisms such as worms and flies provides support for their idea.

So introns are added or lost due to various repairs of breaks in DNA? But why didn’t the researchers mention Casey’s “purposeful tinkering by the Intelligent Designer” theory? Shoddy research, that’s what this is!

There’s no need for us to excerpt much more, or to even try to summarize this material. We’ll give you one more excerpt and then leave it to you to read the entire article, and then the published paper:

The theory represents a fundamental change in the way we think about the evolution of DNA. Evolution has seen periods of large scale intron loss alternating with periods of intron gain and this has been interpreted as the result of changing selection pressure. However, the rates at which single species have gained and lost introns throughout evolution have been found to vary in parallel, consistent with Farlow’s notion that the two processes are related. The new theory provides an alternative interpretation: changes in the activities of the “homologous” and “non-homologous” pathways for repairing DNA breaks could cause introns to be lost faster than they are gained, or vice versa.

We don’t see any way this new theory can compete with Casey’s — but what does your Curmudgeon know? Now that this has been published, we’ll see what the experts have to say. Meanwhile, vast stretches of our genome remain in the category of junk, and may well remain there. Sorry, Casey.

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

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7 responses to “Hey Casey! Junk DNA Is Still Junk

  1. Hey Casey! Junk DNA Is Still Junk

    Ah, but prove it.

    It’s the perfect propagandist tool. By their “standards,” we have to prove exhaustively that every last bit of “junk DNA” is junk in order to shore up “Darwinism,” despite the fact that evolutionary theory really doesn’t predict much junk DNA at all, other than (by now) certain gene duplications–although it adequately explains the considerable junk that likely does exist in the genome.

    Each and every time that a tenth of a percent of “junk DNA” is explained, they get to claim “we knew it” (never mind that they never bothered to do any of the work, or to predict anything precisely) and proclaim that Darwinism is dying.

    It’s a war to them, and they believe that anything is fair in war, especially against evilutionists. Hence, the selective use of evidence of a bit of function here or there needn’t be put into the context of a whole lot of apparently useless tandem repeats (not all of them useless, most of them likely are), it’ll sell to the believers as proof that evolution is not only evil, but wrong.

    They’ll push that bit of disingenuous propaganda for years, probably decades.

  2. Polychaos dubium may have the largest genome known for any organism, consisting of 670 billion base pairs of DNA

    My favourite poo flung at the dumb and numb at the old, old, site which cannot be named, the Amoeba dubia(old name, now called the Polychaos dubium ) which has the largest genome of any organism.

  3. Forgot to reference that quote. It’s from here.

  4. b_sharp, making a rare appearance, says: “… the largest genome of any organism.”

    Yes, but according to Casey, none of it is junk.

  5. Well, then, let’s hear Casey’s response to T. Ryan Gregory’s Onion Test:

    The onion test is a simple reality check for anyone who thinks they have come up with a universal function for non-coding DNA1. Whatever your proposed function, ask yourself this question: Can I explain why an onion needs about five times more non-coding DNA for this function than a human?

  6. All fixed up, Richard. Sorry about the lack of a preview function.