3% of our DNA codes for proteins. For many years nobody knew what the other 97% was for.
Since the 1970′s, that other 97% that wasn’t understood has been called “Junk DNA.”
(If I only had a dollar for every guy who has sent me an email that said, “OK Perry, then if DNA is designed how come 97% of my DNA is junk? Huh? Answer me that!!!”)
Today’s hypothesis is very simple:
There is no such thing as “Junk DNA.”
Suppose you took your new car to the mechanic and he said to you, “I found a big cluster of hoses in your engine that are absolutely useless, do you want me to take them out?”
The most reasonable response would be “I’m pretty sure that if Toyota put those hoses in there they must be there for a reason, so no sir you cannot take those hoses out. I will pick up my car tonight and find another mechanic.”
Presuming that a functional machine is loaded with “junk” is just as damaging to the study of living things as it is to your car. The term “Junk DNA” is a piece of anti-intellectual, anti-scientific slander that has obstructed scientific progress for three decades now.
It demonstrates blatant disrespect for the object of study, which is always dangerous. It’s derisive and insulting. The time has come to discard this term and the theory that goes with it.
The term “Junk DNA” would have made perfect sense for those who had believed the “random mutation” hypothesis of evolution. I certainly understand, it made perfect sense for people who had thought evolution was driven by random copying errors. Then a whole bunch of garbage would surely accumulate somewhere.
Yes, at one time that might have made sense.
But today I am stating the exact opposite. NONE of it is junk.
In the previous installment I hypothesized that the “random mutation” theory is false and is in the process of being overturned even as we speak.
So if evolution is driven by natural genetic engineering…. if DNA is like a Swiss Army Knife with all kinds of extra evolutionary blades tucked away… then the least you could possibly say about ANY section of DNA is that it’s merely switched off.
NOT that it’s “junk”!
If you own a Honda Civic DX, you see dashboard has openings for buttons and gauges that aren’t used. In the more expensive LX model, those spaces are punched out and the dash has more bells and whistles.
DNA is the same way.
I propose to you that the best way – and in fact the ONLY way to discover the wonders of DNA is this:
When you find something you don’t understand, you always want to ask: “There is a reason for this. What is it?”
You NEVER say, “I don’t understand what this is for. Therefore it must be garbage.”
It’s always best to presume it is there for a good REASON. If you don’t ask the question, you may never find out.
The existence of REASON is the only assumption that consistently leads us to maximum scientific discovery.
Anything less is anti-scientific.
I submit to you that allowing anyone who truly believes in “Junk DNA” to teach biology or perform scientific research is like appointing a German Shepherd to guard a brown paper bag full of ham sandwiches.
Don’t be surprised if the brown paper bag is ripped to shreds and there’s nothing left but a few scraps of lettuce on the ground. Because frankly, that’s the effect that the “Junk DNA” hypothesis has had on scientific research for the last 30 years. It’s preposterous.
Prediction: Research will provide growing evidence that ALL elements in DNA have a vital function.
Just as the term “Junk DNA” in the past has been touted as evidence of purposeless, naturalistic processes, the opposite indicates deliberate design.
Prediction: Non-coding DNA will prove to be just as important as Coding DNA. (The term “Junk DNA” is already beginning to fall out of favor. The preferred term now is “Noncoding DNA.”)
Prediction: Coding DNA just specifies the raw materials. The other 97% of DNA describes how and where to assemble them.
Prediction: As time goes on, the amount of DNA that is known to have a purpose (as chronicled in the literature) will slowly approach 100%. Currently only 3-5% of DNA is understood.
Prediction: By the time we reach the 50% mark, landmark discoveries will have been made which can be directly applied to communication systems (since DNA is a communication system), databases (since DNA is a database) and programming languages (since DNA is a programming language).
Prediction: The very notion of “junk DNA” will be discarded as anti-intellectual, anti-discovery, anti-scientific relic of 20th century materialism.
Because science only moves forward under a presumption of underlying order, the most productive hypothesis about the genetic code will be that it is intelligently and optimally designed to achieve a pre-determined goal.
All the same things can be said about so-called “Vestigial Organs”, a concept similar to “Junk DNA” and built on the same assumptions. 100 years ago, many science books claimed that the human body had nearly 100 useless organs. Leftovers of the evolutionary process.
Would you like to have all 100 of your “Vestigial Organs” removed?
Which ones would you like to have taken out first?
The “vestigial organ” theory has fared very poorly during the last 50 years and the number of “vestigial organs” we humans supposedly have is now approaching zero.
Prediction: Future discoveries will confirm that, like DNA, every organ in your body has some function, even if it’s evolutionary.
We human beings should always stand humbly before the wonders of nature. We should never assume that anything we don’t currently understand is junk.
In Wired Magazine 2/2007, page 113, Steve Olson wrote:
What is the purpose of noncoding DNA?
“A typical human cell contains more than 6 feet of tightly cornrowed DNA. But only about an inch of that carries the codes needed to make proteins, the day laborers of biology. What’s the other 71 inches?
“It’s junk, Nobelist Sydney Brenner said after it was discovered back in the 1970s. The name stuck, but biologists have known for a while that the junk DNA must contain treasures. If noncoding DNA were just along for the ride, it would rapidly incorporate mutations. But long stretches of noncoding DNA have remained basically the same for many millions of years – they must be doing something.
“Now scientists are starting to speculate that proteins, and the regular DNA that creates them, are just the nuts and bolts of the system. ‘They’re like the parts for a 757 jet sitting on the floor of a factory,’ says University of Queensland geneticist John Mattick. The noncoding DNA is likely “the assembly plans and control systems.” Unfortunately, he concludes, because we’ve spent 30 years thinking of it as junk, we’re just now learning how to read it.”
Stay tuned for more in the Testable Hypothesis series – and let us always remain humble in the face of nature.
For further reading: BBC News: ‘Junk’ throws up precious secret