The End of “Junk DNA”?
Ever hear that only 2-5% of the human genome is functional? that the all the rest is “junk DNA”? remnants of our long evolutionary heritage? Ever wonder how we can really be 99% the same as an ape? 98% the same as a mouse? and 50% the same as a banana? Well, it turns out that mainstream scientists are finally discovering what creationists have long claimed – that protein-coding genes are not the only functional elements in our genome. Those vast regions of non-coding DNA actually do something. In fact, it is being discovered that the protein-coding genes are arguably the most simple aspect of our genome, the basic bricks and mortar so to speak, while the information that directs how very similar bricks and mortar can be used to build anything from a banana to a mouse to you and me is where the really important information resides.
The science journal Nature just published a very interesting news feature along these lines (ENCODE: The human encyclopaedia, Sept 5, 2012). This article reports on the ongoing human genome project called the “Encyclopedia of DNA Elements” or ENCODE project where the evolutionary concept of junk DNA has been finally laid to rest. So far, research into what used to be called junk DNA has shown that at least 80% of our genome is functional to one degree or another. This is an absolutely amazing revelation from the mainstream perspective – but no big surprise for creationists of course. And, things are only getting started. Science has only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to understanding the functionality of the genome.
The consortium has assigned some sort of function to roughly 80% of the genome, including more than 70,000 ‘promoter’ regions — the sites, just upstream of genes, where proteins bind to control gene expression — and nearly 400,000 ‘enhancer’ regions that regulate expression of distant genes. But the job is far from done, says Birney, a computational biologist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory’s European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, UK, who coordinated the data analysis for ENCODE. He says that some of the mapping efforts are about halfway to completion, and that deeper characterization of everything the genome is doing is probably only 10% finished…
The vast desert regions have now been populated with hundreds of thousands of features that contribute to gene regulation. And every cell type uses different combinations and permutations of these features to generate its unique biology. This richness helps to explain how relatively few protein-coding genes can provide the biological complexity necessary to grow and run a human being…
With thousands of cell types to test and a growing set of tools with which to test them, the project could unfold endlessly. “We’re far from finished,” says geneticist Rick Myers of the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. “You might argue that this could go on forever.”
A genome where the significant majority of sequences within the genome are functional has important implications for evolutionary theories. These implications are, frankly, rather devastating to the Neo-Darwinian perspective. Not the least of the problems this discovery highlights is the fact that the detrimental mutation rate suffered by all slowly reproducing gene pools (like all mammals for instance) is a great deal higher than anyone within mainstream science has ever imagined before – far far higher than any known naturalistic mechanism can deal with when it comes to avoiding the inevitable deterioration of our entire gene pool over time… toward eventual genetic meltdown and extinction. This only confirms what those like geneticist John Sanford have been saying for a some time now – that we’re not evolving, but devolving (Link). It also highlights the fact that the functional differences between us and other animals, like apes, are found, not so much in the protein-coding genes, but in the non-coding regions of our genomes (Link).
Now, there are two fundamental problems for Neo-Darwinism. There is precious little junk DNA left in the human genome and the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations combined with natural selection is untenable as a creative force beyond very low levels of functional complexity (Link). The very best that any naturalistic evolutionary mechanism can achieve is a moderate slow down in the inevitable deterioration of the quality of information within our gene pool and the gene pools of all other slowly reproducing species. It certainly cannot generate novel genetic information beyond very low levels of functional complexity and it can’t even get rid of detrimental mutations that enter the gene pool fast enough to stay functionally neutral – regardless of the degree of selection pressure applied. I’m afraid, it’s turtles all the way down… and it always has been since the very beginning of life on this planet.
It’s a real shame, then, that some of our own schools, like La Sierra University in particular, continue to hire and/or maintain science professors who actively promote the Darwinian perspective in front of our young people to the active suppression of any evidence in support of the Biblical perspective on origins, or even of basic intelligent design for that matter (like Dr. Lee Grismer for instance). I know our church is facing a lot of importance issues of late, issues that threaten to split the church, but this particular issue is, it seems to me, of prime importance to the very future of Seventh-day Adventists as it strikes at our very name.