'Junk DNA' News

Junk DNA: Just because information is never used, doesn’t mean it is junk

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Cornell 2010/ Laszlo Bencze

From O’Leary for News: Further to Cornelius Hunter’s “Evolutionist: We do not promote any ‘spiritual ideologies,’” (in which he recounts that recent findings about RNA structure conservation suggest that even more of the mammalian genome is functional than supposed, hence there is less “junk DNA”:

I’ve never clearly understood Darwin’s fans attachment to junk DNA. It makes a good “anti-God” statement, as long as you are certain that the stuff is not and never could be any use. But that is precisely what is now widely contested. And it was a trap they need not have fallen into.

But a simple illustration will show that even if most of the information in DNA were never used, it would still be valuable. Let us say I have a directory of members of a club I belong to. I never use most of the phone numbers. Many numbers may never be used by anyone.

Does lack of use make that proportion of the directory junk? Of course not, because the function, hence the value, of a directory is that it links the names of members with phone numbers. Its value to the club does not reside in constant, total use but in usefulness if needed. In other words, in its comprehensiveness.

A directory that showed me only the numbers I was likely to use would function no better than the address book in my purse, and might betray me precisely when the directory in my purse can’t help me either (= the phone number of that person whose name I forget through whom I can book the club gazebo for free). That’s why the members’ directory is considered a benefit.

What if junk DNA is in fact a similar list of possibilities? That is, a life form can possibly do or be what is in it but not what isn’t in it. That would accord much better with recent findings about the limits of evolution. In that case, there is no such thing as junk DNA.

One could largely predict evolution, once one could read the library. Evolution would at last become a science, not just Darwin’s followers’ creed.

See also: He said it: Darwin’s junk DNA zealots “have forfeited any claim to be speaking for science”

9 Replies to “Junk DNA: Just because information is never used, doesn’t mean it is junk

  1. 1
    Mung says:

    If it isn’t used, it’s not informing anything.

    If it’s not informing anything, it isn’t information.

    QED

  2. 2
  3. 3
    News says:

    No, Mung, you are mistaken. Many information systems have value precisely because they are comprehensive. No one can know for sure whether they will use any given number in the club directory but the value of an up-to-date directory is that it is current and comprehensive. All (and only) the phone numbers of members are listed. So you know who is a member and how to get in touch with them. The value lies in the potential use. = Given a reason to do so, you can phone any member. Without the directory, you don’t know for sure who are members, let alone how to get in touch with them.

  4. 4
    sagebrush gardener says:

    If it isn’t used, it’s not informing anything.

    If it’s not informing anything, it isn’t information.

    If I am understanding you correctly, Mung, that seems like a very odd assertion. In a drawer in my kitchen are a couple of phone books. Every year, their publishers dutifully deposit an updated copy on my doorstep. However (much to the publishers’ disappointment, I am sure) I rarely, if ever, open either of these. Just because I do not consult these books (let alone use every entry in them) does not make them any less information. Likewise, I have book shelves full of unread books, drawers full of unused CDs and DVDs, and a computer full of unused data. Information is information, whether or not anyone ever makes use of it.

  5. 5
    Mung says:

    sg, unused information is as useless [by definition] as unknown information.

    Unused information and unknown information are both an oxymoron.

    news,

    I would dispute that their value is in their comprehensiveness.

    Their value lies in their utility.

    Utility: The quality or condition of being useful

    Unused information is, by definition, useless, and has no utility. Unused information is an oxymoron.

  6. 6
    nightlight says:

    @Mung – you are playing semantic game by conflating “not used in some circumstances” with “never usable in any circumstance”.

    Instead of phone book used as illustration, better analogies would have been handbook of mathematical formulas or a utility library of functions in a computer program. You and your friends may never use 95% of the table of integrals, yet the unused formulas are still a “useful information,” at least for those who solved them originally and those who may encounter similar problems later.

  7. 7
    News says:

    Some of us would contend that in either case the value lies in specific comprehensiveness. All and only that type of known “pieces of information” are present. It’s the combination of specificity and completeness that makes any of these compendia valuable.

  8. 8
    Axel says:

    Esteemed Mung, before the language of hieroglyphics was understood, those papyrus sheets still bore information.

  9. 9
    Mung says:

    Elsewhere News informs us:

    Information is, among other things, a ruling out of possibilities. If we haven’t ruled out possibilities, we haven’t created information.

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