Major Evolutionary Blunders: Evolutionists Strike Out with Imaginary Junk DNA, Part 2


“Casey at the Bat” is one of America’s best-known poems. Surprisingly, even operas have dramatized the story of Mudville Nine’s baseball slugger. In Ernest Thayer’s 1888 poem, a smugly overconfident Casey was ready to wallop a game-winning home run, only to dash the hopes of Mudville by totally whiffing the ball with a massive—and embarrassing—swing-and-a-miss.

Last month’s article outlined a similar situation for evolutionists.1 For three decades, they overconfidently declared that the messiness of “junk DNA” confirms how nature exercises creative agency over organisms through evolutionary tinkering. These supposedly useless non-coding bits of genetic sequence were flaunted as leftovers of the evolutionary process. Now we’ll see how the true facts about DNA are like a fastball blowing by evolutionists and exposing their overblown claim as a blundering swing-and-a-miss.

Junk DNA Claims Are Stunningly Wrong

Akin to how evolutionists visualized evolutionary characteristics to validate Piltdown Man and vestigial appendixes—characteristics that research has shown only existed in their minds2—creationists maintain that hastily labeling any DNA as “junk” is another misguided flight of imagination. In 2006, Human Genome Project Director Francis Collins offered a coy taunt against that view:

Of course, some might argue that these [“junk DNA” sequences] are actually functional elements placed there by a Creator for a good reason, and our discounting them as “junk DNA” just betrays our current level of ignorance.3

His statement proved ironically predictive. By 2015, Collins admitted that a level of ignorance had indeed betrayed the consensus of evolutionists. Numerous discoveries showed functions for DNA once discounted as junk. One science reporter noted:

In January [2015], Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, made a comment that revealed just how far the consensus has moved. At a health care conference in San Francisco, an audience member asked him about junk DNA. “We don’t use that term anymore,” Collins replied. “It was pretty much a case of hubris to imagine that we could dispense with any part of the genome—as if we knew enough to say it wasn’t functional.” Most of the DNA that scientists once thought was just taking up space in the genome, Collins said, “turns out to be doing stuff.”4

Reviewing online reports from 1994 until today reveals how espousing notions of junk DNA is simply ill-informed. These carry titles such as “Hidden Treasures in Junk DNA”; “‘Junk RNA’ molecule found to play key role in cellular response to stress”; “Not ‘junk’ anymore: Obscure DNA has key role in stroke damage”; “‘Junk’ All That Separates Humans From Chimps”; “The Unseen Genome: Gems among the Junk”; “Live Chat: New Treasures in the Genome”; “Far From ‘Junk,’ DNA Dark Matter Proves Crucial to Health”; “Breakthrough study overturns theory of ‘junk DNA’ in genome.”

Thus, for scientists motivated to cure disease, searching DNA for jewels among the “junk” is valuable. Recently, “researchers have shown that when parts of a genome known as enhancers are missing, the heart works abnormally, a finding that bolsters the importance of DNA segments once considered ‘junk’ because they do not code for specific proteins.”5 And an MIT report noted that “several years ago, biologists discovered a new type of genetic material known as long noncoding RNA…[in] sections of the genome once believed to be ‘junk DNA.’ Now, in a related study, biologists have discovered how an enigmatic type of RNA helps to control cell fate.”6

Once again, research has uncovered newly demonstrated function for biological objects that evolutionists simply declared to be nonfunctional—as if a lack of knowledge of functionality somehow equated to basic evidence that established non-functionality.

Are Tandem Repeats and Pseudogenes Really Junk?

Several reports by ICR geneticist Jeffrey Tomkins cataloged functions for DNA that was considered junk. In regard to repetitive DNA called tandem repeats (TRs), Tomkins explained:

Because human reasoning essentially views the repetition of words in spoken languages as errors, these DNA sequences were first written off as meaningless junk….Now it appears nothing could be further from the truth since these repetitive words are linked with pervasive biochemical function.7

Tomkins reported on one group of researchers that approached TRs supposing they actually had a purpose. They concluded, “Our results suggest that there are potentially thousands of TR variants in the human genome that exert functional effects via alterations of local gene expression or epigenetics.”8

Evolutionists have touted pseudogenes—supposedly non-functional vestiges of currently functional genes—as junk. Tomkins wrote:

Pseudogenes were once thought to be genomic fossils—the broken remnants of genes that mutated long ago. However, research is progressively showing that many pseudogenes are highly functional and critical to life. Now, a newly characterized pseudogene has been shown to produce a functional protein, but only in cells where it is required—leading researchers to coin a new term pseudo-pseudogene.9

Tomkins described how the concept of pseudogenes “was based on an over-simplistic view and a lack of advanced information about the complexity of protein production” and “how looking at the genome as a product of evolution hinders scientific discovery.”9

One massive research project, dubbed ENCODE, examined non-coding DNA for function. Discoveries published in 2012 identified biochemical functions for about 80% of the genome. Tomkins summed up:

Results from 30 simultaneously published high-profile research papers [proclaim] that the human genome is irreducibly complex and intelligently designed. From an evolutionary perspective, this is yet another massive blow to the myth of “Junk DNA.” This evolutionary idea was exposed as a fraud from a scientific perspective in Jonathan Well’s recent book The Myth of Junk DNA.10

Further, Tomkins noted, “And what about the remaining 20 percent of the genome—is it functional too?” It’s probably not worthless either. Tomkins added that the lead analysis coordinator commented, “It’s likely that 80 percent will go to 100 percent….We don’t really have any large chunks of redundant DNA. This metaphor of junk isn’t that useful.”11

Rage and Bullying for a Hopeless Cause

Science reporter Carl Zimmer described one scientist’s professional reaction to the idea that junk DNA is an invalid concept:

When the N.I.H.’s [National Institutes of Health] official Twitter account relayed Collins’s claim about not using the term “junk DNA” anymore, Michael Eisen, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, tweeted back with a profanity.12

The rising tide of public denunciations of the concept of junk DNA by scientists evoked some high-profile anger from a few evolutionary biologists, notably Dan Graur of the University of Houston in Texas, T. Ryan Gregory from the University of Guelph in Ontario, Larry Moran at the University of Toronto, and some others. Zimmer added, “To these biologists, a fully efficient genome would be inconsistent with the arbitrariness of our genesis….Where some look at all those billions of bases and see a finely tuned machine, others, like Gregory, see a disorganized, glorious mess.”12

Biology declared to be a “glorious mess”—and not neatly designed—is cherished evidence for those who embrace deadly struggles as the fuel for biological change.

Graur understood the negative implications for evolutionary theory if people learned that the idea of junk DNA was an evolutionary swing-and-a-miss. So, he published harsh public attacks against ENCODE research teams in peer-reviewed evolutionary literature. In one paper meant to shame ENCODE researchers into recanting the conclusion that most of the genome had function, he declared:

This absurd conclusion was reached through various means, chiefly by employing the seldom used “causal role” definition of biological function…by committing a logical fallacy…[and] by failing to appreciate the crucial difference between “junk DNA” and “garbage DNA.”13

Some interpreted his attacks as nitpicking over the definition of “function” and quibbling about his arbitrary DNA “junkiness” scale.

“In the social-media age, scientific disagreements can quickly become public—and vitriolic,” the science journal Nature reported regarding ENCODE’s new “framework for quantifying the functional parts of the human genome,” which clarified their finding “that 80% of the genome is biochemically functional”…and they narrated Graur’s abruptly hostile reaction.14 He “weighed in on this latest report,” saying:

ENCODE’s “stupid claims” from 2012 have finally come to back to [sic] “bite them in the proverbial junk”….Through it all, he admittedly showed very little tact. “I believe science is a search for the truth, not a lesson in manners,” he says. “I don’t do politeness.”14

By nature, thugs “don’t do politeness” by either slashing tires or trashing reputations when enforcing their notion of conformity. Graur-like Darwinists know that research teams often need years to discover the function of one segment of “junk DNA.” Since enormous amounts still need careful study, they can use the rest of their lives to coercively defend junk DNA by browbeating others to withdraw conclusions. However, the trend in discovering new functions is decidedly against junk DNA, so they are strong-arming others for a lost cause.

Defend Junk DNA or Risk Supporting Creationists

Zimmer disclosed why Graur and Gregory unleash attacks:

It’s no coincidence, researchers like Gregory argue, that bona fide creationists have used recent changes in the thinking about junk DNA to try to turn back the clock to the days before Darwin…whose 1859 book, “On the Origin of Species,” set the course for our understanding natural selection as a natural “designer.”15

Revealing a metaphysical bias, peer-reviewed evolutionary science journals sounded alarms. One published book review savaged the works of two other evolutionists who criticized junk DNA. It warned that “they will also certainly provide ammunition for intelligent design proponents and other creationists. The debunking of junk DNA and the quest to find function for the whole of the human genome have constituted major focus points for such groups in their crusade against evolution.”16

Graur takes another swipe at ENCODE by reminding Darwinists to respect their theory’s highest purpose:

We urge biologists not be afraid of junk DNA. The only people that should be afraid are those claiming that natural processes are insufficient to explain life and that evolutionary theory should be supplemented or supplanted by an intelligent designer….ENCODE’s take-home message that everything has a function implies purpose, and purpose is the only thing that evolution cannot provide.17

Scientific thuggery aims to intimidate colleagues into silence or bully others into shading their conclusions to not supply “ammunition” against evolution.

Christ’s Creative Agency Confirmed

The fact is, evolutionists’ definitive declarations that certain enigmatic DNA sequence was junk were spectacularly wrong. Speaking in Scientific American, Australian geneticist John Mattick concurred:

I think this will come to be a classic story of orthodoxy derailing objective analysis of the facts, in this case for a quarter of a century….The failure to recognize the full implications of this [important parallel information derived from non-coding DNA] may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology.18

Junk DNA has been exposed as another evolutionary whiff—an embarrassing, science-obstructing swing-and-a-miss.

Notwithstanding reality, Graur-like evolutionists remain hopeful about smashing a home run for Darwin by swinging away in their labs straining to find a junky genome…but that target just gets harder to hit. Scientific American forecasts these efforts as vain: “No one knows yet just what the big picture of genetics will look like once this hidden layer of information is made visible. ‘Indeed, what was damned as junk because it was not understood may, in fact, turn out to be the very basis of human complexity,’ Mattick suggests.”18

Junk DNA amounts to one inning in a bigger contest between two irreconcilable beliefs. One holds that the Lord Jesus Christ exercised creative agency over creatures whose intricate craftsmanship reveals His infinite wisdom and power. The second is a glory-robbing notion that nature exercises agency over organisms through evolutionary tinkering.

Indeed, the known treasures of DNA—and those yet to be discovered—all showcase the Lord Jesus’ endless engineering greatness, as implied by ENCODE’s continuing search for genetic functions:

Yet 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.”19

For those with open hearts, the thrill of endless scientific discovery arouses justifiable awe of the Lord’s profound mind. “O LORD, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep. A senseless man does not know, nor does a fool understand this” (Psalm 92:5-6).

Click here to read “Evolutionists Strike Out with Imaginary Junk DNA, Part 1.”

References

  1. Guliuzza, R. 2017. Major Evolutionary Blunders: Evolutionists Strike Out with Imaginary Junk DNA, Part 1. Acts & Facts. 46 (4): 16-19.
  2. Guliuzza, R. 2015. Major Evolutionary Blunders: The Imaginary Piltdown Man. Acts & Facts. 44 (12): 12-14; Guliuzza, R. 2016. Major Evolutionary Blunders: Our Useful Appendix—Evidence of Design, Not Evolution. Acts & Facts. 45 (2): 12-14.
  3. Collins, F. S. 2006. The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. New York: Free Press, 137.
  4. Zimmer, C. Is Most of Our DNA Garbage? New York Times. Posted on nytimes.com March 5, 2015, accessed January 20, 2017.
  5. DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. For normal heart function, look beyond the genes. ScienceDaily. Posted on sciencedaily.com October 5, 2016, accessed January 31, 2017.
  6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Linking RNA structure and function. ScienceDaily. Posted on sciencedaily.com September 8, 2016, accessed January 31, 2017.
  7. Tomkins, J. P. Junk DNA…Trashed Again. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org May 26, 2016, accessed February 13, 2017.
  8. Quilez, J. et al. 2016. Polymorphic tandem repeats within gene promoters act as modifiers of gene expression and DNA methylation in humans. Nucleic Acids Research. 44 (8): 3750-3762.
  9. Tomkins, J. P. Pseudo-Pseudogenes Shake Up Evolutionary Paradigm. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org November 14, 2016, accessed February 20, 2017. See also Tomkins, J. P. 2013. Pseudogenes Are Functional, Not Genomic Fossils. Acts & Facts. 42 (7): 9.
  10. Tomkins, J. P. ENCODE Reveals Incredible Genome Complexity and Function. Creation Science Update. Posted on icr.org September 24, 2012, accessed February 20, 2017. Wells, J. 2011. The Myth of Junk DNA. Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute Press.
  11. Yong, E. ENCODE: the rough guide to the human genome. Discover Magazine. Posted on discovermagazine.com September 5, 2012.
  12. Zimmer, Is Most of Our DNA Garbage?
  13. Graur, D. et al. 2013. On the Immortality of Television Sets: “Function” in the Human Genome According to the Evolution-Free Gospel of ENCODE. Genome Biology and Evolution. 5 (3): 578-590.
  14. Anonymous. 2014. ENCODE debate revived online. Nature. 509 (7499): 137.
  15. Zimmer, Is Most of Our DNA Garbage?
  16. Marinov, G. K. 2015. A deeper confusion. Evolution: Education and Outreach. 8: 22.
  17. Graur, On the Immortality of Television Sets.
  18. Gibbs, W. W. 2003. The Unseen Genome, Gems among the Junk. Scientific American. 289 (5): 26-33.
  19. Maher, B. 2012. ENCODE: The human encyclopaedia. Nature. 489 (7414): 46-48. Emphasis added.

* Dr. Guliuzza is ICR’s National Representative. He earned his M.D. from the University of Minnesota, his Master of Public Health from Harvard University, and served in the U.S. Air Force as 28th Bomb Wing Flight Surgeon and Chief of Aerospace Medicine. Dr. Guliuzza is also a registered Professional Engineer.

Cite this article: Randy J. Guliuzza, P.E., M.D. 2017. Major Evolutionary Blunders: Evolutionists Strike Out with Imaginary Junk DNA, Part 2. Acts & Facts. 46 (5).