ICR Goes Ape Over the ENCODE Research

The only time we mentioned the creationist nonsense being spewed over the ENCODE project was The Intelligent Designer’s Latest Triumph. Although other bloggers are having fun with the subject, we regard it as far too much work to deal with here — and besides, no one comes to our humble blog for a technical discussion of DNA.

Not only that, but although the creationists are claiming that the latest ENCODE research is some kind of victory for their side, the truth is that the percentage of our genome that is literally functional is irrelevant to The Controversy between evolution and creationism. So it’s a non-issue.

Nevertheless, we can’t resist mentioning what we found today at the website of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR) — the granddaddy of all creationist outfits, the fountainhead of young-earth creationist wisdom. ICR’s article is ENCODE Reveals Incredible Genome Complexity and Function. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Both the evolutionist and creationist communities are abuzz with the latest results from 30 simultaneously published high-profile research papers, proclaiming that the human genome is irreducibly complex and intelligently designed.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! How’s that for a start? We’re accustomed to reading nonsense and foolishness at creationist websites, but that’s one of the most blatantly and outrageously false and sentences we’ve ever seen from any of them. They follow it up with more of the same, but you can quit now if you like, because nothing can compare to their lead sentence. Anyway, here’s some more:

From an evolutionary perspective, this is yet another massive blow to the myth of “Junk DNA.” This evolutionary idea was exposed as a fraud from a scientific perspective in Jonathan Well’s recent book The Myth of Junk DNA.

If you don’t know who he is, see Discovery Institute: The Genius of Jonathan Wells. As for the “evolutionary idea” of junk DNA, there’s really no such thing. As you know, when DNA was first being explored, much of it appeared to have no function. That was a blow to the creationists, who (despite our numerous defects and deficiencies) insist on the perfection of our design. The presence of vast amounts of apparent “junk” didn’t trouble biologists because evolution is a sloppy process that could apparently tolerate the accumulation of useless debris in the genome.

The recent discovery that some of that “junk” — or maybe most of it — appears to be functional (to some degree) isn’t a problem for biologists. Evolution never required the existence of junk DNA, and the theory is still supported by all the evidence ever discovered. Creationism, on the other hand, is supported by nothing — regardless of the percentage of the genome that has some function.

Then ICR discusses the ENCODE research. We won’t bother with that, as there are, shall we say, more reliable summaries available. Instead, we’ll jump right to ICR’s final paragraph:

While these startling comments about the newly discovered wonders of the human genome did not come from the mouths of creationists, they clearly demonstrate we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” by our Creator God who made us “in His image.”

That’s their conclusion. DNA proves the bible is true, and it also proves creationism. Isn’t creation science wonderful?

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18 responses to “ICR Goes Ape Over the ENCODE Research

  1. You have to give them chutzpah points for trying to claim that the results of increasing our understanding of complex systems only re-enforces the idea of the impossibility of understanding complex systems. The spin doctors may have been in too much of a rush this time around. I was expecting the junk DNA issue to be used as an attack on the data indicating our DNA is very similar to that of other mammals though, maybe I just haven’t come across it yet.

  2. Charles Deetz ;)

    The problem with a Theory with a capital ‘t’ is that it takes more than one revision of the supporting facts to make it wrong. They are scientists at the ICR, aren’t they? That last sentence SC quoted sounded like a scientist 😉

  3. So if they are moved to declare that scientists support their belief that the “Creator God” made us “in His image”, based on a new study of the genome, does that mean they believe that “He” has DNA also, and “His” DNA ain’t no junk?

    That’s an interesting perspective. Maybe He has wisdom teeth too, and nipples.

  4. Will they go ape enough to challenge the DI that it proves a young earth? My guess is that they won’t, because they know it doesn’t.

  5. I’ve been following the technical details of this controversy, and I plan to blog on it.

    For now, I want to demolish three myths in the hopes that those of us who are less familiar with genetics never get caught perpetuating these scurrilous myths.

    Myth 1. Scientists assumed most of the genome was junk only because they didn’t know its function.

    Myth 2. Scientists believed non-coding DNA was non-functional.

    Myth 3. Most of your genome is NOT junk.

    These are all patently false, we should have no tolerance for them.

    (1) Scientists advanced POSITIVE arguments for Junk DNA. There are about a dozen such arguments; e.g. every baby has 50-150 more mutations than its parents, and 100-300 more than its grandparents, etc.; if they’re not neutral mutations, then most of them will be deleterious, so babies would die and the humans would go extinct. There are about a dozen other arguments like that.

    (Further reading: For a history of what scientists really wrote about junk DNA, see Ryan Gregory’s excellent list of quotations.)

    (2) Scientists never equated junk DNA = non-coding DNA. This is universally asserted by all creationists and many major newspapers. It is a scurrilous lie, nobody since the 1960’s would believe that. Non-functional DNA is a subset of non-coding DNA. Non-coding DNA was NEVER believed to be a subset of non-functional DNA. To back up this lie, the Discoveroids like Luskin and Wells list quotes from scientists saying non-functional DNA is a subset of non-coding DNA. No, that is not the same as saying non-coding DNA is a subset of non-functional DNA.

    (For further reading: I called Casey Luskin a liar on this topic at ENV; I was kicking his tail, so they got in the last words and closed comments here: Diogenes vs. Luskin.)

    (3) Most of your genome is definitely still Junk. Ewan Birney redefined the word “function” so that it meant anything that came out of their assays. This new definition of function is irrelevant to the junk DNA hypothesis. Most of the ENCODE scientists admit, when challenged, that most of your genome is still junk, by the traditional definition.

    There are a lot of semi-technical resources; of course the first is Larry Moran’s blog which has the most complete coverage of the Junk DNA controversy.

    Cryptogenomicon wrote a debunking of the ENCODE hype that was so good, even ENCODE scientists cited it approvingly, at the REDDIT interview with ENCODE.

    John Timmer wrote a strongly worded denunciation of the ENCODE hype at Ars Technica.

    Michael White wrote a good blog post at the Huffington Post. He has also written excellent posts at his blog The Finch and the Pea.

    Faye Flam has written some great debunking articles at the Philadelphia Inquirer. Some more Faye Flam.

    Athena Andreadis wrote a decent skeptical article, but with some inaccuracies, at Scientific American.

    Bradly Fikes wrote a good, layman article at North County Times.

    Many other resources, but the wife is sighing at me.

  6. Evolution never required the existence of junk DNA

    Indeed. I may be wrong but I think the discovery of junk DNA was rather a problem for the adaptionist branch of evolutionary biologists that dominated the field in the 1970s.

  7. Diogenes wrote:

    I called Casey Luskin a liar on this topic at ENV; I was kicking his tail, so they got in the last words and closed comment

    Splendid stuff — but I had no idea ENV was ever open for comments! Is this something new, or have I not bothered with them for even longer than I realised?

    Your posts therein are splendid, by the way, and well worth the effort, though for Luskin himself you were doubtlessly casting pearls &c.

  8. Megalonyx: “…but I had no idea ENV was ever open for comments!”

    Several DI sites allow comments, but are highly moderated, and, as Diogenes noted, will close comments when they know better than respond to a challenge. I left some comments in ENV a few months ago, and Luskin even replied. Though, as typical for pseudoscience peddlers, he ignored my main points and put words in my mouth. When I corrected him, he just looked for others who were better at taking the bait.

    That’s why I strongly advise that, whenever you get an opportunity to challenge an evolution-denier, resist the urge to refute their anti-evolution claims that have been refuted 1000s of times, and instead ask them simple questions about their elusive alternate “theory.” An ideal place to start is whether they agree with (Discoveroid) Michael Behe on the ~4 billion years of common descent.

    Here’s my challenge to “Darwinists:” Get in the habit of doing that, and in a few years no anti-evolution site will allow any comments. But you can still have fun with them on pro-science sites like Talk.Origins, whether or not they show up.

  9. Ceteris Paribus

    There’s something weirdly close to teenage lust, or maybe angst, in those old guys at the ICR who are running around proclaiming that human genomes are the biggest, bestest, complexest genomes in the entire universe. And which proves that god not only exists, but christian creationists have dominion over the earth.

    As of 2011, so this info may already be out of date, the largest animal genome was that of a tiny water flea, Daphnia pulex. Its genome consists of 31,000 genes, against the 23,000 genes for humans.

    And it turns out that plants, which hybridize easily and also can work with their genes in diploid and tetraploid arrangements have even larger and more complex genomes than animals.

    So as of 2010 the largest genome known was that of a rather modest wildflower, Paris japonica. Its genome has 150 billion base pairs, 50 times more than that of mere humans.

    If there is a creator god in heaven, he may be an artichoke.

  10. Ceteris Paribus speculates:

    If there is a creator god in heaven, he may be an artichoke.

    What do you mean by if and may, o thou vile and blaspheming infidel!

    Tremble ye in awe and reverence before the Astral Artichoke, the mighty engineer of bacterial flagella!

    By His Mighty Heart was summoned forth the whole of Irreducible Perplexity!

    And yea, He shall choke the unbelieving heathen with his cosmic thrusting thistles!

    But no, Ed — to pre-empt your inevitable question — He hath a stem, not nipples…

  11. Ceteris Paribus


    Very good repast reposte.

    Maybe a psalm on the scriptural significance of a dish of clarified butter on the side, and it’s ready for the scribes.

    Does this mean we are all Vegetarians now?
    Well, if someone can show me some irrefutable evidence as to the existence of the astral artichoke, then I will agree to at least spell artichoke with a capital “A”.

    Bold font and italics may be useful to the sacred scriptures of multiple sects, but i will limit their use to the secular.

  12. Faith unbridled yields,
    uh, Pakistan.

  13. Ceteris Paribus notes:

    Well, if someone can show me some irrefutable evidence as to the existence of the astral artichoke, then I will agree to at least spell artichoke with a capital “A”.

    I’m working on it. Give me 40 days in the desert subsisting on nothing but artichoke leaves, and I should come back with sufficient visions and prophesies to establish a full-on Church of the Sacred Artichoke Heart.

    As for your heathenish resistance to showing a little typographic respect for the Intelligent Astral Artichoke, I’ll give you a pass — for now, and provided that you correctly observe the convention of capitalising the genus, thus:

    Cynara cardunculus

    I will also pray for some supernatural guidance about “clarified butter”, as it may be that only vinegrette is a permissible vegetarian condiment in the sacrament of Holy Artichokurist.

    I’ll get back to you on that…

  14. The recipe I found over at Artichokes In Genesis suggests cooking them directly over fire & brimstone for best results.

  15. I saw this on Patheos. Its worth sending to you guys.
    “Not all sins are stupid and not all stupidity is sinful, but young-earth creationism is both” The argument of the article as Curm has pointed out,
    is that YEC is willful deceit often.

  16. >”Artichokes In Genesis”

    All Hail the Mighty Artichoke! 🙂

  17. Scottsdale (my home town) Community College home of the Fighting Artichokes featuring Artie!

    Go Chokes!

  18. @ Doc Bill: Many thanks indeed for the link about Scottsdale’s Fighting Artichokes! Every new religion needs its shock troops, and that we should find some ready-made is surely a sign that the Astral Artichoke Itself has blessed and sanctions our holy, proselytising, and merciless bloodlust of conquest!

    With mascot Artie in the vanguard, we will soon be on the march to capture Castroville CA, The Artichoke Center of the World, clearly our spiritual (and soon, also our temporal) home.

    Every devout Seventh Day Horticulturist will, henceforth, be obliged to undertake at least one pilgrimmage to Castroville in the course of his or her life in order ultimately to gain admittance to the Celestial Artichoke Gardens.

    But we anticipate we may, in the course of such pilgrimmages, lose a few of those of lesser faith, who may falter en route and fall into the idolatrous worship of the Cosmic Clam of Pismo Beach, the Galactic Garlic of Gilroy, or even — I shudder to name this vile and false god — the Providential Prune of Yuba City.