One Man's Junk...

For Darwin, any organ or structure that had little or no apparent use was consigned to an evolutionary junk heap. In our case, that pile included the stub of a tail, pesky wisdom teeth, and other “vestiges” of our alleged tree-swinging, big-jawed ancestors (see R&R, 9/94). If Darwin had written his treatise on evolution in the genetic age, no doubt he would have tossed “junk DNA” in the same direction. But we have found, time and time again, that when people described a body part as “vestigial,” they really meant “We don’t know what this does.” Recent research has borne this out for supposedly “useless” sequences of genetic material.

At one time, geneticists were far more interested in those DNA sequences that actually encoded proteins and RNA (which itself is involved in the protein-making process). The rest of the DNA–the noncoding portions–were ignored. In a familiar refrain, evolutionists suggested that this superfluous DNA was left over from previous evolutionary stages. Further, many organisms share similar sequences of noncoding DNA. For evolutionists, this was evidence of common ancestry (e.g., Creation/Evolution, 1986, 19:34-46). After all, so their argument ran, would it not seem incredible for an all-knowing God to put the same “useless” code in so many different creatures?

The big stumbling block here is the claim, made purely from ignorance, that such DNA really has no purpose. Over the last few years, studies have shown that this is just not true. The following is a partial list of those new-found treasures:

  • Mammals have genes in which the noncoding sections are used to make special, small strands of RNA crucial to the cell’s protein production lines (Nature, 2/1/96, pp. 464-466).
  • Geneticists used to think that the final pieces of genes, which encoded for proteins, were junk because they ended up as “useless” RNA. They now know, however, that this RNA plays a role in regulating gene activity (Science, 2/4/94, p. 609).
  • Some repetitive DNA sequences may result from mistakes in the copying process. This discovery is helping geneticists investigate cancers and other diseases such as Huntington’s and fragile X syndrome (Discover, 11/95, p. 40). Still other repetitive sections seem to serve a structural role in protecting and repairing the tips of chromosomes (Scientific American, 8/91, pp. 48-55).
  • The Human Genome Project, and other genome sequencing efforts, are showing that organisms may have more genes than once thought (Scientific American, 1/93, pp. 16-17,20).

If predictive power means anything in science, then it would seem that creation succeeds consistently in asserting the prevalence of purpose in our world. We would argue, further, that similarities in the noncoding sequences is evidence of common design, not common ancestry.

[A version of this news summary appeared originally in the “Resources” insert of Reason & Revelation, c. August 1996.]

© 1996 – 2012, Trevor Major. All rights reserved.

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