Featured as a back-of-page article in the CSABC Quarterly Letter of September 2012
by Richard Peachey
Creationist thinking historically fueled the Scientific Revolution and helped science to progress, as has been shown in detail by historian Peter Harrison (The Bible, Protestantism, and the rise of natural science, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 1998).
Evolutionist thinking, on the other hand, has in many ways retarded, delayed, and impeded the progress of science. Here I'll touch on just one example: the case of so-called "junk" DNA.
In 1980, Nobel prize-winning molecular biologist Francis Crick and "origin of life" chemist Leslie Orgel published an article in the leading British scientific periodical Nature, titled "Selfish DNA: the ultimate parasite" (Vol. 284, pp. 604-607, April 17, 1980). They wrote, ". . . we shall use the term selfish DNA in a wider sense, so that it can refer not only to obviously repetitive DNA but also to certain other DNA sequences which appear to have little or no function, such as much of the DNA in the introns of genes and parts of the DNA sequences between genes" (p. 604).
Pointing out that a salamander may have 20 times the amount of DNA in a human genome, they stated, "The conviction has been growing that much of this extra DNA is 'junk', in other words, that it has little specificity and conveys little or no selective advantage to the organism" (p. 604).
Further, Crick and Orgel commented:
"Although the evidence is still very preliminary, it certainly suggests that much of the base sequence in the interior of some introns may be junk, in that these sequences drift rapidly in evolution, both in detail and in size. . . . a tenable hypothesis is that much of this interspersed DNA has little specific function.
"In summary, then, there is a large amount of evidence which suggests, but does not prove, that much DNA in higher organisms is little better than junk. We shall assume, for the rest of this article, that this hypothesis is true. . . .
"What we would stress is that not all selfish DNA is likely to become useful. Much of it may have no specific function at all. It would be folly in such cases to hunt obsessively for one." (pp. 604-606)
That classic article by two prominent evolution-minded scientists referred repeatedly to "junk DNA," "selfish DNA," "useless DNA," "evolution," and "natural selection." They spoke not only of their own ideas but of a "conviction . . . growing" within the scientific community of which they were members.
With that background in mind, let's ponder a few recent statements from modern genome scientists themselves:
"Most researchers have assumed that repetitive DNA elements do not have any function: They are simply useless, selfish DNA sequences that proliferate in our genome, making as many copies as possible. The late Sozumu Ohno coined the term 'junk DNA' to describe these repetitive elements. . . .
"Although catchy, the term 'junk DNA' for many years repelled mainstream researchers from studying noncoding DNA." — Wojciech Makalowski, "Not Junk After All." Science, Vol. 300 (May 23, 2003), p. 1246. (The author is at the Institute of Molecular Evolutionary Genetics and Department of Biology, Pennsylvania State University.)
"[Introns were] undoubtedly the biggest surprise [and their] misinterpretation possibly the biggest mistake, in the history of molecular biology. Although introns are transcribed, since they did not encode proteins and it was inconceivable that so much non-coding RNA could be functional, especially in an unexpected way, it was immediately and almost universally assumed that introns are non-functional and that the intronic RNA is degraded (rather than further processed) after splicing. The presence of introns in eukaryotic genomes was then rationalized as the residue of the early assembly of genes that had not yet been removed and that had utility in the evolution of proteins by facilitating domain shuffling and alternative splicing. . . .
". . . it may well be that most of the human genome is functional . . ., including many sequences such as introns and other mobile element-derived sequences that have been long considered as parasitic evolutionary debris. . . ." — John S. Mattick, "A new paradigm for developmental biology." The Journal of Experimental Biology, Vol. 210 No.9 (May 2007), pp. 1529, 1540. (The author is director of the Institute for Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia.)
"Researchers slowly realized . . . that [protein-coding] genes occupy only about 1.5 percent of the genome. The other 98.5 percent, dubbed 'junk DNA,' was regarded as useless scraps left over from billions of years of random genetic mutations. As geneticists' knowledge progressed, this basic picture remained largely unquestioned. 'At one time, people said, "Why even bother to sequence the whole genome? Why not just sequence the [protein-coding part]?" ' says Anindya Dutta, a geneticist at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville." — Patrick Barry, "Genome 2.0." Science News, Vol. 172 No. 10 (Sep 8, 2007), p. 154.
(Bold print in the above quotations indicates emphasis added. Find more statements like these in our quote collection "Not Junk!")
For further reading:
Gordon Howard, "Can All Those Scientists Be Wrong?" Creation, Vol. 36 No. 1 (Jan 2014), pp. 20-22 <http://creation.com/scientists-wrong>