November 16th, 2012
New Findings about "Junk" DNA
Dr. John Morris from the Institute for Creation Research likes to say, “It’s a great time to be a creationist.” Why? Because there are so many “new” discoveries happening all the time that challenge traditional evolutionary thinking and support the Biblical model of creation. Case in point: the recently-released results of the ENCODE project.
ENCODE (“Encyclopedia of DNA Elements”) is a multi-national consortium research project whose aim is “...to catalogue the ‘functional’ DNA sequences that lurk in the regions previously called “junk,” learn when and in which cells they are active and trace their effects on how the genome is packaged, regulated and read.”(1)
When the DNA molecule was first sequenced in the Human Genome Project, reports came out that only a tiny portion of the human genome codes for proteins. The other 97% was commonly called “junk” and was thought to be left over from evolution and without function today. Creationists (and some evolutionists) have long challenged these conclusions, urging more research and claiming that the supposed “junk” had
functions as yet unknown. The latest research confirms this prediction! According to Ines Barroso, "The vast majority of the human genome does not code for proteins and, until now, did not seem to contain defined gene-regulatory elements. Why evolution would maintain large amounts of ‘useless’ DNA had remained a mystery, and seemed wasteful. It turns out, however, that there are good reasons to keep this DNA.”(2)
Good reasons indeed! The Nature/ENCODE website says, “One of the more remarkable findings described in the consortium’s ‘entrée’ paper is that 80% of the genome contains elements linked to biochemical functions, dispatching the widely held view that the human genome is mostly ‘junk DNA’.(2) According to the ENCODE’s lead analysis coordinator, Ewan Birney, “It’s likely that 80% will go to 100 percent. …We don’t really have any large chunks of redundant DNA. This metaphor of junk isn’t that useful.”(3) Although the critics are asking just how functional it is and what is the definition of function, it appears that not only is there a function, but we should not minimize its importance.
Indeed, DNA is a remarkably complex biochemical language which researchers are barely beginning to understand. This specified complexity boggles the imagination and challenges evolutionary assumptions of development by chance, and natural processes. Recent research bears this out and points to intelligent design. Like Dr. Morris says, “It’s a great time to be a creationist!”
References:3Encode: The Rough Guide To The Human Genome
By Dave Nutting
Originally published in the November/December 2012 Think and Believe newsletter.
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