You’re familiar with the Discovery Institute’s argument against 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.
We found something at PhysOrg that is certain to infuriate the Discoveroids. The title is New limits to functional portion of human genome reported.
Gasp! How could there be limits to the portion that is functional? Surely the intelligent designer would make it all functional — wouldn’t he? We’re always delighted when there’s news that will upset creationists, so let’s see what this PhysOrg article is all about. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
An evolutionary biologist at the University of Houston has published new calculations that indicate no more than 25 percent of the human genome is functional. That is in stark contrast to suggestions by scientists with the ENCODE project that as much as 80 percent of the genome is functional.
So at least 75 % is junk? The Discoveroids can’t ignore this. PhysOrg says:
In work published online inGenome Biology and Evolution, Dan Graur reports the functional portion of the human genome probably falls between 10 percent and 15 percent, with an upper limit of 25 percent. The rest is so-called junk DNA, or useless but harmless DNA.
Here’s the published paper: An upper limit on the functional fraction of the human genome, but you can’t read it without a subscription. Back to PhysOrg:
Graur, John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Biology and Biochemistry at UH [University of Houston], took a deceptively simple approach to determining how much of the genome is functional, using the deleterious mutation rate – that is, the rate at which harmful mutations occur – and the replacement fertility rate.
Both genome size and the rate of deleterious mutations in functional parts of the genome have previously been determined, and historical data documents human population levels. With that information, Graur developed a model to calculate the decrease in reproductive success induced by harmful mutations, known as the “mutational load,” in relation to the portion of the genome that is functional.
Interesting! PhysOrg tells us:
The functional portion of the genome is described as that which has a selected-effect function, that is, a function that arose through and is maintained by natural selection. … In his model, only functional portions of the genome can be damaged by deleterious mutations; mutations in nonfunctional portions are neutral since functionless parts can be neither damaged nor improved.
Okay. Let’s read on:
Because of deleterious mutations, each couple in each generation must produce slightly more children than two to maintain a constant population size. … If 80 percent of the genome were functional, unrealistically high birth rates would be required to sustain the population even if the deleterious mutation rate were at the low end of estimates, Graur found.
This is good! One last excerpt:
For 80 percent of the human genome to be functional, each couple in the world would have to beget on average 15 children and all but two would have to die or fail to reproduce,” he wrote. “If we use the upper bound for the deleterious mutation rate (2 × 10?8 mutations per nucleotide per generation), then … the number of children that each couple would have to have to maintain a constant population size would exceed the number of stars in the visible universe by ten orders of magnitude.”
The Discoveroids are going to have a problem with this, and they already had a problem with our DNA. While claiming that it’s a glorious code created by their wondrous designer, they can’t explain why any of it isn’t functional. Now, it appears that if it were all functional, our species couldn’t survive the inevitable mutations that the designer somehow allows to occur.
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