Perhaps you will remember several years ago a lot of talk about “junk DNA.” At that time it was common to hear that a large part of human DNA was simply worthless genetic material which had been accumulated over a long evolutionary process.
When scientists first analyzed DNA, they discovered it was composed of both protein coding sequences (genes) and non-protein coding sequences (introns). The long non-protein coding information sequences called introns exist both between genes and within genes.
As far as scientists knew, only the genes were of any value. Since genes make up about only 2% of our DNA, what this meant for human DNA was that 98% of our DNA was considered to be junk.
Because introns did not produce proteins, they “‘were immediately assumed to be evolutionary junk.’ That assumption was too hasty. ‘Increasingly we are realizing that there is a large collection of “genes” that are clearly functional even though they do not code any protein’ but produce only RNA.”/1
In the words of an article in November’s issue of Scientific American, “‘What was damned as junk because it was not understood may, in fact, turn out to be the very basis of human complexity.’ … there is good reason to suspect that is true.”/2 The article also admits, “The failure to recognize the importance of introns ‘may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology.'”/3
Why have scientists overlooked the non-protein coding information sequences? “For decades, pseudogenes have been written off as molecular fossils, the remains of genes that were broken by mutation and abandoned by evolution.”/4 The article goes on to point out that in mice one of these pseudogenes “controls the expression of the ‘real’ gene … even though the two lie on different chromosomes. There is nothing pseudo about that.”/5
For those of us who know that life is the creative handiwork of God, this recent discovery is not surprising. It is exactly what we would expect to be true.
1/W. Wayt Gibbs, “The Unseen Genome,” Scientific American (November 2003): 49.
2/Ibid. p. 53.
3/Ibid. p. 50
4/Ibid. p. 50
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