At Axios: Why it matters: The bulk of the human genome is noncoding regions, some of which play an important role in how genes are expressed. New tools are allowing scientists to test exactly how these elements — once called “junk DNA” — work, which could lead to new drug targets.
William Dembski: The big question, then, is whether CRISPR gene editing will allow for huge improvements of human and other animal forms via genetic enhancements. My prediction is that it won’t. Specifically, I predict that attempted enhancements of the human germ line using CRISPR gene editing will (1) quickly hit an “enhancement boundary” beyond which enhancements are no longer feasible and (2) prove self-canceling in the sense that intended benefits will be undone by unintended deficits.
Researchers: “Long disregarded as junk DNA or genomic dark matter, endogenous retroviruses (ERVs) have turned out to represent important components of the antiviral immune response. “
At Nature: “A new study in Nature underscores just how important noncoding DNA can be for human development. The authors show that deletions in a noncoding region of DNA on chromosome 2 cause severe congenital limb abnormalities. This is the first time a human disease has been definitively linked to mutations in noncoding DNA, says lead author Stefan Mundlos, head of the development and disease research group at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Genetics in Berlin, Germany.”
He thinks there must be something “seriously wrong” with science if people keep looking for new functions for junk DNA. What’s “wrong,” so far as the rest of us can see, is that researchers keep finding new functions that formerly-junk DNA performs, so they keep looking. For the same reasons as fisherfolk return to the well-stocked lake.
Also: “The work revealed that the last surviving kākāpō population, isolated on an island off New Zealand for the last 10,000 years, has somehow purged deleterious mutations, despite the species’ low genetic diversity.” Hmm.
Sheldon: If I recall correctly, the original definition of “functional” was whether that piece of DNA was turned into a protein, which depended on finding a “start” and a “stop” codon. The Human Genome Project reported that some 90% of the human genome didn’t have these “start/stop” features, and hence was “non-functional”. [“Non-functional” underwent considerable revision later.]
If he wants to pick a fight with ENCODE, grab a seat.
At Nature: “Likewise, the number of publications about such elements also grew in the period covered by our data set. For example, there are thousands of papers on non-coding RNAs, which regulate gene expression.” We also learn the possible origin of the term “junk DNA.”
But wasn’t a vast pile of junk DNA supposed to be one of the Great Proofs of Darwinism in the DNA? Funny, no one suggests that the constant diminution of the pile is evidence against the theory that its presence was supposed to be evidence for. Now why do you think that might be?
At The Conversation on junk DNA: Bewilderingly, scientists found that the non-coding genome was actually responsible for the majority of information that impacted disease development in humans. Such findings have made it clear that the non-coding genome is actually far more important than previously thought.
Researchers: Formerly thought to be “junk DNA,” miRNAs are now known to affect gene expression by preventing messenger RNA from making proteins.
Behe: The authors imply that since no reason is known why, say, DNA should be synthesized discontinuously on the lagging strand, then no good reason in fact exists. Yet not long ago the same sort of fallacious argument from ignorance was made concerning “junk DNA.”
They said it. We didn’t. “Blowing the dogma out of the water”
Helder: The ENCODE III teams did not retreat in the face of pressure from doctrinaire evolutionists. They continued to make their observations and to let the evidence speak for itself.