More Evidence that the “Junk” DNA Argument is Junk
“Vestigial” organs are parts of the human body that, in many cases, were once thought by many evolutionists to be virtually useless leftovers from previous species in the human evolutionary ancestry that have yet to be eliminated from the body.1 In 1895, German anatomist Robert Wiedersheim made a list of 86 organs that he considered “wholly” or at least “in part functionless,”2 which have subsequently been shown to be useful as more study has been conducted on those organs over the decades. The Theory of Evolution predicts that such vestigial organs should exist, and yet not one organ has been found on the human body that does not have a legitimate function, effectively falsifying evolution. Vestigial organs are still listed among the alleged evidences for evolution in most textbooks, even though the examples given (e.g., wisdom teeth, the tonsils, the coccyx, the appendix, the parathyroid, hair, and the male nipple) have, long ago, been shown to be useful components of the human body.
Some have, thankfully, given up on the vestigial organ argument but, unfortunately, have “updated” it with a more “modern” version: the vestigial gene argument. As evolutionary geneticist of the University of Chicago Jerry Coyne explained,
[W]hen a trait is no longer used, or becomes reduced, the genes that make it don’t instantly disappear from the genome: Evolution stops their action by inactivating them, not snipping them out of the DNA. From this we can make a prediction. We expect to find, in the genomes of many species, silenced, or “dead,” genes: genes that once were useful but are no longer intact or expressed. In other words, there should be vestigial genes.3
He, and many others, believe that is exactly what we see in the human genome: vestigial genes, “pseudogenes,” or “Junk DNA.” Creationists argue that all DNA serves a purpose (even if we do not yet fully understand it), having been created by God. The only exceptions would, perhaps, be in those rare cases where genetic entropy or mutations have, over the centuries, harmed the original DNA as God designed it, affecting its function.4
Don’t miss an important point in Coyne’s statement: according to Coyne, evolution would “predict” that junk DNA exists. In a scientific context, a “prediction” is a technical term. When a scientific theory is developed, if it is a legitimate scientific theory, it should have the ability to make predictions that can be verified or falsified upon further study (i.e., “If theory X is true, then we will find Y.”). If the predictions are verified, it does not necessarily “prove” the theory. Instead, it gathers support for the theory and shows it to have greater “explanatory power”—the ability to explain more evidence. While verified predictions do not necessarily prove a theory, if the predictions are found to be false upon examination of the evidence, the theory is falsified (at least, that version of the theory).5 Unfortunately for evolutionists, as with vestigial organs, as scientists further examine the human genome, they are discovering that evolutionists, once again, have been too rash in claiming they have found evidence for evolution. A growing arsenal of evidence is overwhelmingly falsifying an evolutionary prediction.
Jonathan Wells is a molecular and cell biologist of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. In his 2011 book, The Myth of Junk DNA, he cites several prominent evolutionists who use the “Junk DNA” argument. He responded:
The arguments by Dawkins, Miller, Shermer, Collins, Kitcher, Coyne and Avise rest on the premise that most non-protein-coding DNA is junk, without any significant biological function. Yet a virtual flood of recent evidence shows that they are mistaken: Much of the DNA they claim to be “junk” actually performs important functions in living cells. The following chapters cite hundreds of scientific articles…that testify to those functions—and those articles are only a small sample of a large and growing body of literature on the subject.6
The evidence against the Junk DNA argument was already growing by leaps and bounds years ago and has continued over the decade since.7
As a case in point, consider an article released by New Scientist in July of last year.8 The writer, Michael Marshall, explains that the “new, more complete version of the human genome” that was released in May of 2021 “has uncovered enormous amounts of genetic variation between people that we couldn’t detect before…. Other studies have suggested that the new genome will finally reveal the functions of seemingly useless, repetitive sequences of ‘Junk DNA.’” Marshall explains that previous technology that was used to sequence the human genome made scientists “blind” to the fact that such sequences are, in fact, useful. After studying sections of the sequence that have DNA that repeat “over and over without interruption,” geneticist of the University of Connecticut Rachel O’Neill said, “Most surprising is the number of repeats and the types of complex repeats…. They’re not just random repeated sequences, they have structure, and that structure can impact the organization of our genome.” Marshallexplains, “Many geneticists have long argued that much of this repetitive DNA has no function and is ‘junk.’ However, some parts do seem to play roles—for instance, in regulating the activity of genes.”
As scientists study the evidence, the Junk DNA argument has been steadily dismantled, falsifying an evolutionary prediction and verifying creationist predictions. As is always the case, the more we learn about the Universe, the more we are struck by the fact that even its most microscopic, seemingly pointless characteristics have been intricately designed with specific purposes in mind.
1 Other vestigial organs are thought to have a diminished or changed, rather than non-existent, function. If they have a function at all, however, regardless of how important those functions may seem to scientists today, they are not evidence of poor design or pointless, evolutionary leftovers. The existence of organs that are apparently not as important/essential in function today compared to other organs does not prove that those organs were once more functional than they are now. They may have always had the same functionality they do today. For example, while a “pinkie” finger may not be as “useful” or essential as a heart, that does not mean that the pinkie is unimportant or proof of diminished function. Does the fact that carpet in the floorboard of a car is not as useful/important as a car motor mean that floorboard carpet has a diminished function compared to an alleged evolutionary ancestor? Or, rather, is floorboard carpet evidence that engineers include non-essential components in their designs that are still useful for other purposes (e.g., aesthetics, comfort, convenience, etc.)? See also Endnote 4.
2 Robert Wiedersheim (1895), The Structure of Man: An Index To His Past History (London: Macmillan), pp. 200-203.
3 Jerry A. Coyne (2009), Why Evolution is True (New York: Viking), pp. 66-67.
4 Note that genetic degeneration of the human body has not caused humans to be non-humans or non-humans to be humans. Such evolutionary examples are examples of “microevolutionary” rather than “macroevolutionary”/Darwinian change. Note also that such examples would be examples of de-evolution, rather than the progressive evolution espoused by Darwinists. Also, besides a consideration of the effect that genetic entropy would have had on the human body over the millennia, it is also possible that the pre-Flood world was so different from the post-Flood world that some features of the human body or genome do not function in the way they were originally designed to function due to an environment change. In other words, some aspects of the human body may be corrupted remnants of original humans, not evolutionary ancestors.
5 As a simple (silly) example, if a theory was presented that stated that humans are bi-pedal, a prediction of that theory would be that normal humans will have two legs everywhere they are examined. While each verification of that prediction does not prove the theory (but only adds support for it), the discovery of an unmutated tri-pedal human would directly falsify the bi-pedal theory.
6 Jonathan Wells (2011), The Myth of Junk DNA (Seattle, WA: Discovery Institute in Seattle), Kindle file, Chapter 2.
7 E.g., Yusuf Tutar (2012), “Pseudogenes,” Comparative and Functional Genomics, 2012:424526; S.W. Cheetham, G.J. Faulkner, and M.E. Dinger (2020), “Overcoming Challenges and Dogmas to Understand the Functions of Pseudogenes,” Nature Reviews Genetics, 21:191-201; R.K. Singh, D. Singh, A. Yadava, et al. (2020), “Molecular Fossils ‘Pseudogenes’ as Functional Signature in Biological System,” Genes & Genomics, 42:619-630; Evgeniy S. Balakiriv and Francisco J. Ayala (2003), “Pseudogenes: Are They ‘Junk’ or Functional DNA?” Annual Review of Genetics, 37:123-151.
8 Michael Marshall (2021), “Full Human Genome Put to Work,” New Scientist, 251:12, emp. added.
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