Worries Carl Zimmer, a “No junk DNA” scenario could help creationists:
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.
Zimmer is responding to the recent realization that there is very little junk DNA, and is apparently refurbishing and remarketing the concept, invoking of course the Sacred Name of Darwin:
The human genome contains around 20,000 genes, that is, the stretches of DNA that encode proteins. But these genes account for only about 1.2 percent of the total genome. The other 98.8 percent is known as noncoding DNA. Gregory believes that while some noncoding DNA is essential, most probably does nothing for us at all, and until recently, most biologists agreed with him. Surveying the genome with the best tools at their disposal, they believed that only a small portion of noncoding DNA showed any evidence of having any function.
But in the past few years, the tide has shifted within the field.
In January, 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.”
For Gregory and a group of like-minded biologists, this idea is not just preposterous but also perilous, something that could yield bad science. More.
Well bad Darwinism, anyway.
Bad creationists. Bad, bad. BAD!!
To see what Zimmer is up against, see also: Is “dark genome” becoming the new name for junk DNA?
Old concepts die hard, especially when they are value-laden as “junk DNA” has been—it has been a key argument for Darwinism. So even though “dark genome” makes more sense given all the functions now being identified, expect “junk DNA” to be defended in practice.
For an odd example of that, see “Nothing makes sense in evolution except in the light of junk DNA?”: “If ENCODE [a project that identifies functions] is right, then Evolution is wrong.”
And more recently, Furore over no junk DNA?
For background, see Jonathan Wells on the junk DNA myth
Pod: Richard Sternberg on “junk DNA”
More later. Meanwhile, why did Darwin’s faithful box themselves into this corner anyway? It would have been possible to construct a naturalistic theory of life in which there was no junk DNA. Readers?
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