Some ‘Junk DNA’ May Be Useful

Brace yourselves for a flood of biblical proportions which is about to gush from various creationist websites — especially the Discoveroids. As you know, they’ve been obsessed with junk DNA. Its existence is an affront to the cosmic genius of their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who flawlessly designed your DNA. They insist that it contains no junk — none whatsoever.

Whenever research indicates that a bit of it is functional, the Discoveroids rejoice — although they themselves never conduct such research. We’ve written about this several times. Some examples are: Discovery Institute Says Junk DNA Is Vital, and also Casey: 50% Junk DNA Is Proof of Design.

We found an article today at PhysOrg that is certain to thrill the Discoveroids: Scientists discover a role for ‘junk’ DNA. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Researchers at the University of Michigan Life Sciences Institute and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have determined how satellite DNA, considered to be “junk DNA,” plays a crucial role in holding the genome together. Their findings, published recently in the journal eLife [A conserved function for pericentromeric satellite DNA, subscription required], indicate that this genetic “junk” performs the vital function of ensuring that chromosomes bundle correctly inside the cell’s nucleus, which is necessary for cell survival. And this function appears to be conserved across many species.

There’s cheering in the dingy Discoveroid offices. Then PhysOrg says:

This pericentromeric satellite DNA consists of a very simple, highly repetitive sequence of genetic code. Although it accounts for a substantial portion of our genome, satellite DNA does not contain instructions for making any specific proteins. What’s more, its repetitive nature is thought to make the genome less stable and more susceptible to damage or disease. Until fairly recently, scientists believed this so-called “junk” or “selfish” DNA did not serve any real purpose.

Wikipedia has an article on Satellite DNA, but they don’t say what percentage of our genome it is. Okay, back to PhysOrg. They tell us:

“But we were not quite convinced by the idea that this is just genomic junk,” said Yukiko Yamashita, research professor at the LSI and lead author on the study. “If we don’t actively need it, and if not having it would give us an advantage, then evolution probably would have gotten rid of it. But that hasn’t happened.”

We’ll let you read PhysOrg’s description of what the researchers did. This is the end of the article:

The similar findings from both fruit fly and mouse cells lead Yamashita and her colleagues to believe that satellite DNA is essential for cellular survival, not just in model organisms, but across species that embed DNA into the nucleus — including humans.

Despite the inevitable reaction from creationists, we’re not certain how significant this actually is to the junk DNA issue. It would seem that any junk DNA is inconsistent with the creationist claim that our DNA is perfectly designed. Even if there were no junk DNA, which seems unlikely, it wouldn’t point to the existence of a designer. Aside from that, this new research contrasts with some other research we reported nine months ago — see Hey Discoveroids: Our DNA Is At Least 75% Junk.. We’ll let the researchers battle it out, while we await the inevitable reaction from creationists.

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18 responses to “Some ‘Junk DNA’ May Be Useful

  1. It does not really matter what biology researchers discover. Creationists will always claim one of two general outcomes:
    1. It will be distorted to where it appears to fully support creationist idiotic views.
    2. If #1 is not directly achievable then it will be claimed to be false.

    Note that contrary to critical thinking, #1 and #2 are often both happening simultaneously within the various creationists camps. i.e. Both are considered true by many moronic believers because they cannot detect even *obvious* fallacies in their own thinking.

  2. Our dear SC displays some unjustified condescence regarding IDiots:

    “although they themselves never conduct such research”
    Do you have any idea how much research the IDiots from Seattle invest in combing scientific news for snippets they can quote mine?!

    @KarlG: obviously that pie chart and every piece of it is designed, so LarryM has excellently confirmed IDiocy (in the IDiot’s mind, who doesn\t care about coherence and consistency).

  3. Wikipedia: ” Nuclear genome sizes are well known to vary enormously among eukaryotic species. In animals they range more than 3,300-fold, and in land plants they differ by a factor of about 1,000.[8][9] Protist genomes have been reported to vary more than 300,000-fold in size, but the high end of this range (Amoeba) has been called into question.”

    See also Gregory’s onion test.

  4. Good morning, Possessive Police! Did you just use “it’s existence”, sir? Do you have a license for that?

  5. Draken asks:

    Did you just use “it’s existence”, sir?

    So it seems. It’s been fixed, but even the temporary presence of a “junk apostrophe” is proof that there’s no intelligent designer around here.

  6. Michael Fugate

    And in other news the intelligent designer was busy designing viruses to infect everything under the sun.

  7. On which day were viruses designed?

  8. Be fair, Michael. It’s the Caleb foundation in Northern Ireland that reject the standard geology of the causeway. The US DI are Old Earth creationists, and accept geology, though to learn how they avoid accepting the embodied palaeontology, you may have to read Darwin’s Doubt [disclosure; I haven’t]. The Glasgow Centre for Intelligent Design is run, if it still is run, by a YEC, who evades questions about the age of the earth, and is convinced [private correspondence] that I reject ID because I don’t understand it. I expect he thinks the Causeway was caused by the outpourings of lava that helped open the gates of the deep to provide the water for Noah’s Flood.

  9. Michael Fugate

    They are becoming more “young earth” every day (not to mention that Paul Nelson has always been part of the big tent). Their teaming up with Westminster and the other conservative theologians in their anti-TE book shows the gradual slide – the literal Adam and Eve just is another move toward Genesis as history.

  10. Mark Germano

    TomS: What about pinnepeds or the platypus?

    Where does one even go to get information to understand ID? It is not the Discovery Institute. That people reject ID because they don’t understand it is the Discovery Institute’s doing. This way, they can blame rejection of ID on bias or laziness. Thus, that information specifically about intelligent design (if it even exists) is lacking is a feature of ID, not a bug.

  11. Michael Fugate

    Wasn’t it Dembski who basically said that we don’t need explanations; we have God?

  12. Charles Deetz ;)

    Isn’t the modern human behavior of recycling trash reflective of the creator recycling the junk in DNA? We are in his image, no?

  13. Michael Fugate

    I think this is what the designer is thinking or maybe it how the DI imagines the designer is thinking in regards to junk DNA:

  14. @Mark Germano asks about the day assigned to pinnipeds or the platypus.
    I wonder about which came first, caterpillars (day 5) or butterflies (day5),
    pollywogs (day 5) or frogs (day6 or maybe day 5). I think that metamorphosis was commonly thought of creation of a new animal, equivocal generation, someting like spontaneous geeration.

    @Michael Fugate points to:
    we don’t need explanations; we have God
    That seems to me to be one of the rare consistent anti-evolution stands. But ISTM that lots of people can’t resist the temptation to make God an explanation.

  15. MarkG is puzzled and so am I, but for another reason: “Where does one even go to get information to understand ID?”
    This very blog of our dear SC of course.

  16. The Director of Glasgow’s C4ID (see above) wrote a leaflet about this. My critique, from which you may be able to reconstruct the original as you might reconstruct a dinosaur from its footpring, is at Introduction to Intelligent Design, Alastair Noble (review)

    [My apologies to the dinosaurs for any implied comparison]