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ENCODE's 'junk DNA' findings renew debate about creation, evolution

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 10:59 p.m. MDT

But, notes NC Times writer Bradley J. Fikes: "Using only one number also caused confusion in the popular press, which incorrectly interpreted the 80 percent number as the amount of proven-necessary DNA in the human genome."

Still debating

Over time, some scientists have accepted a theory of "junk DNA" that says some, even perhaps most human DNA has no function. Pro-evolution writers like Richard Dawkins, author of "The Greatest Show on Earth," scoff at the idea that a creator would do that. "It stretches even their creative ingenuity to make a convincing reason why an intelligent designer should have created a pseudogene — a gene that does absolutely nothing and gives every appearance of being a superannuated version of a gene that used to do something — unless he was deliberately setting out to fool us."

Creationists insisted functions would eventually be found for so-called junk sequences. Last week, many of them claimed vindication.

"As for me, I'm not sure I follow the reasoning here and that's what bothers me," said Wood. "First, why should I think that every aspect of design has to have a 'function'? ... What use is a Statue of Liberty or a painting of soup cans? It seems to me that insisting that designs must be functional is sort of like a person who goes to an art museum and constantly complains, 'What's that for?' "

Wood also noted that, like a creationist, an evolutionary biologist would predict more functionality in DNA, since wasting energy to perpetuate a mostly useless genome goes against Darwinian principles of selection. The arguments volley back and forth between sides.

"Given my inability to make a coherent argument out of all this, it seems to me that a lot of this boils down to semantics. Some people like to say that 'junk DNA' precludes 'design,' which prompts others to insist that DNA must be 'functional' and therefore 'designed,' " Wood said, adding his understanding of design doesn't demand a specific degree of functional design. The questions leave him wondering "if ENCODE is really a victory for anyone," he said.

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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