Junk Science

The argument for design in nature is said to suffer from a serious ethical defect, in that it discourages scientific inquiry because the invocation of God as supernatural cause closes off further investigation. Of course, this assumes that the investigator considers the idea of God as creator to have no important philosophical implications, but to be merely an intellectual dead-end; and that is a result of the typical agnostic tendency to refuse to extrapolate the logical consequences of sufficiently inconvenient questions.

Rather, the agnostic presumes that unknown factors in nature, despite being labeled accidental, automatically carry social and scientific value simply because they are not comprehensively understood. However, this idealistic conception of scientific methods and social priorities is contradicted by various pitfalls in the history of science, such as theories of interplanetary ether, “billiard-ball” atoms, and differential evolutionary rates in humans.

At the staunchly accidentalist Scientific American site, we read the following:

Interestingly, all animals have a large excess of DNA that does not code for the proteins used to build bodies and catalyze chemical reactions within cells. In humans, for example, only about 2 percent of DNA actually codes for proteins. For decades, scientists were puzzled by this phenomenon. With no obvious function, the noncoding portion of a genome was declared useless or sometimes called “selfish DNA,” existing only for itself without contributing to an organism’s fitness.

Such a proposition would be really stupid from a design standpoint. But it makes perfect sense in a world where probability clouds encompassing innumerable possible outcomes for billions of organisms over billions of years converge on the wasteful propagation of one particular ecologically dangerous species suited mainly for speculating idly about its origins.

In 1972 the late geneticist Susumu Ohno coined the term “junk DNA” to describe all noncoding sections of a genome, most of which consist of repeated segments scattered randomly throughout the genome. . . . Although very catchy, the term “junk DNA” repelled mainstream researchers from studying noncoding genetic material for many years. After all, who would like to dig through genomic garbage?

Who, indeed? Only a useless bum:

Thankfully, though, there are some clochards who, at the risk of being ridiculed, explore unpopular territories. And it is because of them that in the early 1990s, the view of junk DNA, especially repetitive elements, began to change. In fact, more and more biologists now regard repetitive elements as genomic treasures. It appears that these transposable elements are not useless DNA. Instead, they interact with the surrounding genomic environment and increase the ability of the organism to evolve by serving as hot spots for genetic recombination and by providing new and important signals for regulating gene expression.

Imagine that. Some elements of an organism are not useless and they interact with their surroundings to enhance the survivability of the organism. Who would have thought of that? Not a “scientist,” certainly.

The late evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould and paleontologist Elisabeth Vrba, now at Yale University, employed the term “exaptation” to explain how different genomic entities may take on new roles regardless of their original function—even if they originally served no purpose at all.

Excuse me? Speculative evolution stipulates that nothing serves any teleological “purpose” at all. Everything evolved from prior conditions according to natural ordering principles that . . . ah . . . arose accidentally from . . . ah . . . well, they were just always there, or something.

However, organisms having certain features that perform useful functions are said to be naturally selected due to enhanced survivability and reproducibility. One such feature may have been the ability to generate and store non-functional DNA so that future generations could access it if needed. You see, since the ability to pass on “junk DNA” enhances the survivability of an organism’s descendants. . . ah. . . “natural” selection retains it just in case. Sure it does.

These and countless other examples demonstrate that repetitive elements are hardly “junk” but rather are important, integral components of eukaryotic genomes. Risking the personification of biological processes, we can say that evolution is too wise to waste this valuable information.

Way to follow the “naturalistic” path of reductionistic, non-anthropomorphic, scientific positivism, dude! At least you’re not making the mistake of those religious fruitcakes who just attribute everything they don’t understand to the “wisdom” of some imaginary personification of their own wishful thinking.


One thought on “Junk Science

  1. For ample background on “junk” DNA (formally abandoned in PostGenetics), see http://www.junkdna.com

    For an algorithmic approach with quantitative predictions that were supported by experimentation and published in peer-reviewed science journal see




    For a field “Genomics beyond Genes” see http://www.postgenetics.org


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