Junk DNA Isn’t Necessarily Junk

by Max Andrews

The argument from junk DNA suggests that a designer would be maximally efficient in his use of information.  There appears to be some information that does not execute or have any meaningful coding.  Darwinism takes this issue and uses it as the result of the prediction that there would be left over information not being used due to natural selection and random mutation.  However, it doesn’t appear that all junk DNA is actually junk.

The classical model of the genome was developed to support the Darwinian New Synthesis and was based on these assumptions:

  • Genetic determinants are discrete physical units
  • Only the collection of genes (genotype) is real; organismal development and traits (the phenotype) are epiphenomenal
  • The structure of gene can be explained solely in terms of population genetics (mutation and selection/genetic drift)

The presuppositions of the model

  • Genomes are the only carriers of phenotypic determinants; no laws of form exist à phenotypes mirror genotypes
  • Genomes are aggregates of simple entities that are constantly changing entails that phenotypes are always transforming
  • Genomes can be recombined and mutated in an unlimited way à morphological evolution is “open-minded”
  • Any two sets of genomes are connected by a finite number of mutations à morphological gaps are illusory

Then the molecular organization of DNA was discovered.  This enabled a radically materialist picture of the genome to be proposed.. The “Central Dogma.”

  • DNA –> RNA –> Protein


  • DNA –> product

The Central Dogma conflates a polymer (DNA) with information; the latter is nothing but the former.  So by definition, any mutation in DNA entails a change in information.

  • In theory, one could take DNA and replace it with different DNA and create a new species.

Mutations also generate a lot of “junk” or DNA gibberish according to the model, with selection keeping the useful genetic codes in tact.

  • Althoughdfdfaop*^mqdHHDtheveil,kkkqthaxxxxxxfromddf9kkzzhme%%heraaaaaaaa aaaheadu7umbarredlok0jjduirctvdescended,dfffAAAArqqhfll;;iisdffqc

That first line seems to be a bunch of uses Shannon information.  Take another look.

  • Althoughdfdfaop*^mqdHHDtheveil,kkkqthaxxxxxxfromddf9kkzzhme%%heraaaaaaaa aaaheadu7umbarredlok0jjduirctvdescended,dfffAAAArqqhfll;;iisdffqc

The influence of this idea of the genome is profound…

  • It serves as the framework for the arguments of Dawkins and many other “scientific atheists.”
  • It is used as an argument to justify animal-human hybrids/chimeras and the granting of human rights to great apes (Spain). After all, what supposedly separates us from chips (and any other species) is a series of mutations—mostly junk.
  • It is the centerpiece of the case for “theistic” Darwinian evolution in Francis Collins’s The Language of God and Ken Miller’s work.

The question is:  What evidence do we have that this model is correct? (not junk)

  • During the 1990’s it became apparent that every locus is a non-randomly arranged set of coding modules.
  • Data also emerged post-2001 revealing that protein-coding genes are mainly clustered, overlapping, and interleaved along chromosomes—yet they compromise but a few percent of the total DNA.

As a consequence of these results, a physical description of the gene is currently lacking.  The existence alone of overlapping protein-coding frames is “virtually impossible by chance.”

Second clue

  • Other key pieces of evidence also began to accumulate.  For example, it was found that most genes encode many different transcripts (over 38,000) in some cases.
  • The splicing of RNA’s generates yet more gene products
  • Intronic regions (introns)
  • In addition, it was soon realized that he “junk” sections of RNA’s are processed into a host of functional sequences.
  • And now it is known that cellular pathways literally rewrite genetic scripts to make ne transcripts and proteins, a widespread phenomenon called “RNA editing.”
  • Clearly, the “gene” provides the substrate for many types of information that are layered on by the cell.  In fact..
  • Many RNA’s, because of being rearranged do not mirror and DNA sequence

Third clue

  • So-called junk DNA elements in sequence is specific to a particular species
  • Most of our DNA is species specific
  • When “98%” of being another species in similarity is of the 1.5% of protein coding
  • Finding positions of junk DNA elements is where the percentage of similarity comes from
  • Co-expressed loci are clustered together along in the nucleus, sometimes to “create” genes
  • Beyond genes:  DNA sequences as context-dependent, data-storage regions

Genome organization is patterned to be maximally informative.  The overlapping codes observed are known to be evolutionarily costly, because random mutations will likely have a deteriorating effect, not an instructing role So the complex specified information entailed by any genomic region is orders of magnitude higher than previously suspected by, say, Dembski.  Any seemingly random aspect of chromosome sequence arrangement is not. A case in point involves endogenous retroviruses (ERV’s).  This implies that the taxonomically-specific formatting, indexing, punctuation, etc., of genomes were precisely written.  Morphogenetic information is not reducible to the genotype—though it is strongly dependent upon it.  Therefore, changes in DNA do not equal changes in the information that structures the body plan.


One Comment to “Junk DNA Isn’t Necessarily Junk”

  1. “….what supposedly separates us from chips (and any other species) is a series of mutations—mostly junk…”

    That and the fact that chips are delicious!

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