Junk DNA and Darwinian blind spots

by Dick Peterson
Posted 8/16/14, 09:00 am

Why do the Darwinists rage? More to the point, why do they “[light] up the blogosphere with their denunciations,” as Discovery Institute’s Jonathan Wells puts it, when five years of ENCODE Project (Encyclopedia of DNA Elements) research concludes that at least 80 percent of our DNA is functional?

ENCODE, established after the Genome Project to make sense of our newly sequenced DNA, published in 2012 the results from more than 1,000 experiments, conducted in dozens of laboratories by hundreds of scientists on three continents—hardly a body of evidence to be ignored.

But evolutionists try, hard.

The latest Darwinist salvo comes from a July article in Science Daily reporting the claim of Oxford University researchers that only 8.2 percent of our DNA appears functional. Toss the rest in the junk pile, they say. It’s useless.

The controversy turns largely on what “function” is. To ENCODE researchers, the definition of function is biochemical: A DNA segment is functional if it “participates in at least one biochemical RNA- and/or chromatin-associated event in at least one cell type.” The Darwinist definition subjects a DNA segment’s “function” to natural selection. Taking the evolutionary approach, the Oxford researchers concluded that DNA with substantial differences among the species they studied had not undergone purifying selection and therefore had no function. It’s “junk DNA.”

But that conclusion is based on an evolutionary framework, not the evidence provided by biochemical experimentation, which is why ENCODE poses a problem for Darwinists.

“If the human genome is indeed devoid of junk DNA as implied by the ENCODE Project, then a long, undirected evolutionary process cannot explain the human genome,” said ENCODE opponent Dan Graur at the 2013 meeting of the Society of Molecular Biology and Evolution in Chicago. “If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, then all DNA, or as much as possible, is expected to exhibit function. If ENCODE is right, then evolution is wrong.”

And since evolutionists are convinced they’re right, ENCODE must be wrong. “Adherence to Darwinism has a way of blinding people to the assumptions they make,” Wells said.

Dick Peterson

Dick lives in Summerville, S.C., is a former newspaper reporter and editor, and is now a freelance writer and caregiver for his wife with multiple sclerosis.

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