"If Meyers taught us to read DNA, Wells teaches us to sing it."
The Myth of Junk DNA, is a well-written book that manages to accomplish two separate tasks: to silence the Darwinists who had claimed that recent genomic discoveries supported their dystopic version of The Signature in the Cell; and to bring all of us up-to-date on the breath-taking mysteries being decoded from this most ancient script.
He begins by picking up where Stephen Meyer left off, telling us that within each cell is this memory chip, this software program that directs everything we are and ever meant to be. When Watson and Crick decoded the DNA, there was great expectation that soon we would find the gene to every talent and attribute we had ever wished we had been born with. Sci-fi was filled with stories about a DNA pill that would turn you into a concert pianist, a ballerina, or a nuclear physicist, because the genes for all these talents could manually remedy what evolution had denied you. Soon a billion-dollar government program was begun to decode the human genome, after which, it was widely touted, we would find the cure to cancer and the common cold. The three billion base pairs of the human genome, it was thought, would hold genes stacked up cheek-to-jowl, together encoding some 100,000 different proteins. We knew how to count genes because we had already decoded the way the cell made protein, first by making RNA copies of the DNA, and then sending the RNA to the ribosome factory, which could identify the unique "start" and "stop" codes among the 64 different 3-letter "words" of the RNA software that marked the beginning and end of each gene.
After a decade of work and to everyone's great surprise, the human genome project found only 10,000 such start-stop pairs, suggesting that you and I are made out of fewer proteins than an amoeba! Furthermore, over 90% of the missing genes were DNA that apparently did nothing. Much of this "dark matter" was in long "stutter repeats" that couldn't even make a useful protein if you inserted the start and stop codons yourself. All that work, and nothing to show for it! Neither cancer nor the common cold was cured, and instead an even greater mystery was uncovered.
Wells carefully documents (with an extensive scientific bibliography) how a two-fold approach was taken to soften the blow. Scientifically, other genomes were transcribed and compared to ours, to see what were the essential parts common to all. Sophisticated techniques to "knock-out" chunks of DNA were also used (on animals) to see what happened when this non-protein-encoding DNA was taken out of commission. Simultaneously, the Darwinian "answer machine" was cranked up to explain why we should all have expected that 90% of our genome did nothing. (This, after earlier explaining how evolution made DNA the most efficient software ever discovered.) "Evolution is blind", we were told, and "junk DNA" is what you expect when random chance throws you together from odds and ends and doesn't know how to tell the difference between gold and dross. Furthermore, it looked as if some of the junk DNA was defunct viruses that had managed to multiply "infect" the DNA before being shut down by having their start-stop codons removed. And all this junk and scarred DNA, we were told, is evidence that no intelligence much less design had ever graced our genome.
Once again, Wells shows how the continued scientific efforts did not support "the myth of junk DNA." For if it really was useless, it should mutate rapidly and unrelated organisms should show almost no similarities in their junk. Instead, it was discovered that many sections of even stuttering repeats were conserved better than protein-encoding sections, suggesting it was doing something important. Furthermore, removing this DNA often caused death or deformity in the animals. More recently it was found that far from being junk, most of this 90% junk DNA was being transcribed into RNA, which is now found to be doing a myriad of jobs around the cell.
Wells goes on to list many of the jobs that "junk RNA" is doing, including turning on and off the ribosome, turning on or off the recycling of RNA, editing the RNA to produce up to 1000 different proteins from one "gene" of DNA, responding to external stimuli, defending the cell against attack, and generally providing an entire layer of control circuitry between DNA and proteins. More or less what you would expect from commissioned officers in a well-functioning army.
But this doesn't exhaust the utility of junk DNA. Wells goes on to suggest that DNA has mechanical properties needed when the cell divides and two identical copies of the DNA have to be separated into the respective daughter cells. The fibrils that pull the DNA have to attach somewhere, and one function of junk DNA is to provide a mechanical attachment. Further, two genes often have to be transcribed together, and their compact storage mechanism that has them all wound up like hose on a reel would prevent them from being close to each other. But by arranging the spacing by inserting junk DNA between them, the two genes can twist themselves to be immediately adjacent. However the most unbelievable use for junk DNA is found in the eyes of nocturnal mammals. Normally cells put their junk DNA (heterochromatin) out at the periphery of the nucleus, and the useful DNA (euchromatin) in the center, but in the retinal cells of these mammals, the denser junk DNA is clumped in the middle of the cell, so as to form a convex lens that pulls the light rays toward the center, and so focus even more light on the rods below. Junk DNA is acting as a night-vision goggle!
All these discoveries destroy the myth that evolution makes junk, and leaves us dumbfounded by the many overlapping and varied uses of this simple computer code. It would be as if you could make a telescope out of computer printouts, or fry an egg on your laptop. I'm sure the Darwin answer machine will eventually find a just-so story for this surprise, but in the meantime, Wells has me chortling at their speechless, gape-mouthed expression.
Yet even more spine-tingling is the sense that we are seeing truly dense information storage, something far more elegant than a Donald Knuth computer code. We expected to find something resembling our FORTRAN or machine-code assembly language, but instead we found something far more baroque, far more detailed, far more advanced than even Microsoft Windows. For in 3 Gigabytes, Microsoft barely gets Windows up and running for an expected lifetime of 5 years and it still must be patched monthly for the latest viruses, but in 3 Gigacodons, an entire baby is constructed with a full set of repairs for the assaults of countless viruses and the insults of an 80-year lifetime. If Meyers has shown the cell to have a software signature, then Wells has shown it to be written as poetry in an unknown tongue, replete with rhymes and stanzas and refrains and harmonies we can barely hear. If Meyers taught us to read DNA, Wells teaches us to sing it.
I am trying to patiently and slowly open the Darwinist mind to the concept that the cell is designed and that DNA is designed and that it is extreme foolishness to believe otherwise. Engineers of all kinds are copying creation to improve motors, flight, tactility...in fact what field of study has not benefited from copying a system from organisms? Organisms had motors before we did, could fly, used echolocation, used complex algorithms to navigate and in fact to this day we are continuing to learn from God's design templates. Despite the fact that this world is running downhill and organisms are collecting mutations and losing functions the cell is still astounding for its complexity and efficiency.
Thanks to the (linked above) Procrustean blog. Other worthwhile references:
kairosfocusThe above challenge has been thrown down, in rather intemperate language accompanied by more outing misbehaviour.
It is revelatory on the depth of ignorance cultivated by the imposed dominance of evolutionary materialism via its cat’s paw, so-called methodological naturalism, in science education.
First, as was pointed out in the post on Plato’s warning on the amorality and ruthless factionism of evolutionary materialism day before yesterday, Plato is one of the first to record the rise of evolutionary materialism as a worldview of origins and the nature of reality. In so doing, he plainly showed that the roots of such a view are philosophical rather than scientific, and in fact“evo mat” is thus shown to have the functionally equivalent status of a religion.
And yes, that means that the de facto establishment of evolutionary materialism in the public square and key institutions is tantamount to an undeclared establishment of the functional equivalent of a religion.
An issue that is already plainly of grave import.
We also need to understand that – Lewontin, Coyne, the US NAS and NSTA among many others notwithstanding — evolutionary materialism is not to be properly equated with “science,” it is but one of many possible worldviews for thoughtful people. And so, it must be able to stand on its own two legs in the teeth of comparative difficulties analysis. Including, on the challenge of grounding ethics by resolving the IS-OUGHT gap.
This is vital, as we all recognise that we have objective rights, which entail that we have duties to one another. As Arthur Holmes summarised:
That alone is sufficient to disqualify evolutionary materialism as a worldview for a great many thoughtful people. It also sets the context in which we can see that some of these same people then can find good warrant for grounding their view of life in — at baseline level — a generic “Architect of the Cosmos” theism, that they may then build on in light of some tradition or another. (Cf. here.)
Including many scientists, starting with the likes of a Newton, or a Copernicus, or a Faraday or a Kelvin or a Pasteur and continuing down to today, including a significant number of Nobel Prize holders and other eminent scientists.
So, the atheistical assumption, boast and taunt — tracing to Dawkins – that those who reject evolutionary materialism thereby prove themselves to be ignorant and/or stupid, and/or insane and/or wicked, is unwarranted, and even bigoted. Similarly, Dawkins’ outrageous assertion that those who raise their children in a theistic tradition are guilty of child abuse is outrageous.
Such should be dropped at once, and apologised for.
As for “outing” and “expelling behaviour” . . . [Well, reread the Plato's warning post]
However, that is not our main focus this morning.
Ath. . . . when one thing changes another, and that another, of such will there be any primary changing element? How can a thing which is moved by another ever be the beginning of change? Impossible. But when the self-moved changes other, and that again other, and thus thousands upon tens of thousands of bodies are set in motion, must not the beginning of all this motion be the change of the self-moving principle? . . . . self-motion being the origin of all motions, and the first which arises among things at rest as well as among things in motion, is the eldest and mightiest principle of change, and that which is changed by another and yet moves other is second.
Cle. You mean to ask whether we should call such a self-moving power life?
Ath. I do.
Cle. You mean to say that the essence which is defined as the self-moved is the same with that which has the name soul?
Ath. Yes; and if this is true, do we still maintain that there is anything wanting in the proof that the soul is the first origin and moving power of all that is, or has become, or will be, and their contraries, when she has been clearly shown to be the source of change and motion in all things?
Cle. Certainly not; the soul as being the source of motion, has been most satisfactorily shown to be the oldest of all things.
Ath. And is not that motion which is produced in another, by reason of another, but never has any self-moving power at all, being in truth the change of an inanimate body, to be reckoned second, or by any lower number which you may prefer?
Ath. If, my friend, we say that the whole path and movement of heaven, and of all that is therein, is by nature akin to the movement and revolution and calculation of mind, and proceeds by kindred laws, then, as is plain, we must say that the best soul takes care of the world and guides it along the good path. [[Plato here explicitly sets up an inference to design (by a good soul) from the intelligible order of the cosmos.]
In doing so, he raises a very interesting turnabout: could it not instead be said that the real “nature” that goes on by itself is the good soul and architect of the cosmos, and that the rest, from the heavens to the earth and all that dwell in it, are the product of art?
Remember, we are not here discussing holy writ by a claimed prophet; we are looking at one of the first rank thinkers of all time, deeply reflecting on the implications of what he finds are key facts: blind succession of cause are not where we can find the first cause in the chain.
The self-moved, initiating cause that is usually termed “life” when we see it, especially intelligent, en-souled life.
The intelligible organisation of the cosmos calls for an explanation on such cause, in what we may term — Platonists, Thomists and others thinking about Plato’s Craftsman [Demiurge], forgive me, we are not able to go on to walking (much less running) yet, we must help those who have long needed to learn the rudiments of creeping first – a “Cosmic Architect. ”
Now, we may disagree with Plato, and with those who think in related ways that may be distinct in important ways, e.g. Plato, at least nominally, was a pagan [nb, his subtle disclaimers at the head of this discussion make that "nominally" a potentially key word]. But, we must learn some basic respect: such a manner of thinking is not to be dismissed, or derided and caricatured in ugly ways.
To further underscore my point, here is Newton in his — again, suspiciously neglected — General Scholium to Principia:
With that history of ideas in mind, and with the sobering considerations already on the table, it is plainly time for a serious re-think on how these sorts of themes are being treated in our civilisation today. And, particularly, we should reflect on the role being played by ruthless factions that have set out to shout down and intimidate any and all who would dare think out side of their preferred evolutionary materialist box.
Then, we should have the courage to think for ourselves, and to take a bold stance, exposing those who would impose worldviews censorship on science, science education and science-related public policy.