Discovery Institute and Junk DNA, Again

We’ve had a lot of fun tracking the Discovery Institute’s obsession with junk DNA. They insist that the genome is perfectly designed, without flaws, and every little scrap of it is designed to be functional. That’s because their transcendental designer — blessed be he! — wouldn’t do it any other way.

The Discoveroids went bonkers over the ENCODE project. Casey posted Our Top 10 Evolution-Related Stories: #1, ENCODE Project Buries “Junk DNA”. We wrote about it here: The Discoveroids’ Top Story for 2012. Since then there have been studies that continue to confirm the fact that most of our genome is junk — see Hey Casey! Our Genome Is 93% Junk.

Then there was the time when researchers deleted nearly half the genes of a microbe, creating a stripped-down version that still functions. That must have been devastating news. The Discoveroids tried to flip it around by claiming that it actually demonstrates intelligent design. Their effort was hilarious, and it inspired us to write Removing Junk DNA “Proves” Intelligent Design.

The subject is back in the news. PhysOrg ran this story ten days ago: The mysterious 98%: Scientists look to shine light on the ‘dark genome’. A few excerpts should be sufficient:

After the 2003 completion of the Human Genome Project – which sequenced all 3 billion “letters,” or base pairs, in the human genome – many thought that our DNA would become an open book. But a perplexing problem quickly emerged: although scientists could transcribe the book, they could only interpret a small percentage of it. The mysterious majority – as much as 98 percent – of our DNA do not code for proteins. Much of this “dark matter genome” is thought to be nonfunctional evolutionary leftovers that are just along for the ride.

A wee bit more:

However, hidden among this noncoding DNA are many crucial regulatory elements that control the activity of thousands of genes. What is more, these elements play a major role in diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and autism, and they could hold the key to possible cures. As part of a major ongoing effort to fully map and annotate the functional sequences of the human genome, including this silent majority, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on Feb. 2, 2017, announced new grant funding for a nationwide project to set up five “characterization centers,” including two at UC San Francisco, to study how these regulatory elements influence gene expression and, consequently, cell behavior.

Curious, isn’t it, that it’s not the Discoveroids who are probing the “mysterious 98%” of the genome to prove that their intelligent designer isn’t the biggest slob in the universe. Somehow it’s those wretched evolutionists who are conducting the probe.

Anyway, the Discoveroids are all excited. They just posted With Fresh Funding, ENCODE Team Continues Demolition of “Junk DNA” Myth at their creationist blog. It has no author’s by-line. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Is there treasure in the DNA’s so-called “junk” pile? Well, as the first half of a popular saying goes, money talks. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) just funded five centers to explore what the “dark matter genome” (the non-protein-coding part) is doing.

Yes, we know. Then they say:

But why use costly resources to transcribe junk for no purpose? In the intervening years, more and more functions have come to light. … We anticipate future spectacular discoveries will continue to come from ENCODE.

Skipping a lot, they tell us:

Meanwhile, labs all over are finding treasure in the formerly dismissed junk. It has become something of a scientific sport these days to get the function ball downfield ahead of other labs.

We keep wondering — If the designer’s reputation for intelligent design is at stake, then why aren’t the Discoveroids in the forefront of this research? That’s never discussed. Their last paragraph is juicy enough that we’ll break it into a few segments:

The research strategy of looking for function continues to prove fruitful. It’s an attitude that says, If it’s there, it’s probably doing something important.

No, the attitude could simply be: Let’s find out if any of this stuff is doing anything. Moving along:

True, just because some things are designed doesn’t imply that everything is designed. [Huh?] But science was hindered for decades by the junk-DNA myth and the vestigial-organs myth, which we now know are being discarded.

Yeah, myths. This is the end of it:

Science is playing catch-up after years of lazy thinking that reasoned, If it’s not doing something I understand right now, it must be junk. It’s time now to assume function, until the case is shown to be otherwise. [Hee hee!] As Paul Nelson says, “If something works, it’s not happening by accident.”

The Discoveroids could save everyone a lot of time and money. They should just run some DNA through their magic design filter — the one they’re always telling us about. Then we’ll know whether our DNA is perfectly designed, or if it’s really over 90% junk.

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Discovery Institute and Junk DNA, Again

  1. The “vestigial-organs myth”?

    Oh, that’s right. Creationists insist that any structure in the human body must be doing something essential and that this proves “intelligent design.” Let’s just tiptoe past the question of why the appendix and wisdom teeth can be removed without harm, if they’re “essential.”

  2. Scientists, with recently developed tools and recently acquired knowledge, are pursuing research to discover more.

    Somehow, this is only after “years of lazy thinking?” Really? Lazy thinking is assuming you know the answer without doing any research at all, like the, ah, Discoveroids.

  3. The DI thinks this is systematically combing through gold nuggets looking for bits of gravel – and not the other way around?

  4. Are we to think that the lazy thinking scientists, and the journal editors who automatically reject new ideas, suddenly change their ways and present novel results which overthrow evolution?
    Or is it that there is no sudden change of their ways in that these results are not seen to overthrow evolution? Only the creationists are clever enough to see the consequences?
    What are we being asked to believe about the behavior of scientists?

  5. Discoveroid logic: DNA with known biological function used to be 10%. Now it’s 15%. At this rate, all of it will one day have known biological function!

    Also, I’m richer today than I was yesterday. At this rate, I will one day own all the money in the world.

    But science was hindered for decades by the junk-DNA myth and the vestigial-organs myth, which we now know are being discarded.

    Hah! Those Discoveroids certainly don’t believe any myths! Ancient miracles and divine design are just alternative historical events.

  6. You doubters just wait. The Dishonesty Institute is gearing up to start their own investigations into this DNA question, putting all their resources into one directed effort in their green screen lab! They will demonstrate once and for all that “… just because some things are designed doesn’t imply that everything is designed”, or something else they’ll make up.

  7. For some reason this brings to mind the old story about a bunch of guys in a remote mining camp who have heard all of each other’s jokes over and over and end up just assigning them numbers to save time, and… well I won’t spoil the story, but the upshot is that the DI could save a lot of time by just posting a number, and we could save time by responding in kind.

  8. This is a listing of a great many of the creationist arguments with brief rejoinders:

    Mark Isaac
    Counter-Creationism Handbook

    Btw, there are two variations on the old joke that you refer to. Depending on the situation preceding the punch line, whether the audience is silent, or one person in the audience laughs.

  9. “Then there was the time when researchers deleted nearly half the genes of a microbe, creating a stripped-down version that still functions.”
    This is true, but it has absolutely nothing to do with junk DNA. The eliminated genes had useful functions, although not absolutely necessary for survival. An analogy: if my testicles were removed, I would (probably) survive. Are they therefore junk tissue with no function?

  10. michaelfugate

    use ’em or lose ’em!