BYU researchers help toss theory that most DNA is 'junk' through ENCODE Project work

Published: Thursday, Oct. 4 2012 5:35 p.m. MDT

Meanwhile, earlier this week the National Genome Research Institute in the National Institute of Health awarded another round of grants to expand ENCODE. "We have already made tremendous progress, but much work remains to complete the catalog of functional elements," said Elise A. Feingold, program director for the project in the institute's Division of Extramural Research. "These grants, awarded over a four-year period, will allow us to build on those results and take the next significant steps in deepening our understanding of the entire human genome."

A bit of controversy

While the latest findings have kicked off great scientific excitement, it has also sparked some heat in the evolution/intelligent design debate about origins.

Those who believe in intelligent design — a world created by God — are heralding the findings as a major blow to evolutionary theory. For example, Christian Apologetics called it "a significant defeat for Darwinism because the evidence supporting evolution by random mutation and natural selection has been so sparse. Before the latest results, Darwinists could plausibly claim that junk DNA was their evidence. It 'encoded' the history of random mutations. No longer."

Jonathan Wells, a senior fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, has documented the decade-long debate in a book, "The Myth of Junk DNA."

Critics of intelligent design have called the findings "hyped." One of the most widely quoted critics, Larry Moran, a scientist at the University of Toronto, wrote on his blog, "The creationists are going to love this. This is going to make my life very complicated."

EMAIL: lois@desnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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