Thursday, June 24, 2004

Colson, Again It seems I can always count on Charles Colson to supply me with blog fodder:

Does any of the scientific evidence support the view that God had to be involved? To answer this question, let’s delve deeper into the issue of creation and design. At the core of life is the DNA molecule. Geneticists tell us the structure of DNA is identical to a language. It acts like a code, a molecular communication system within the cell. . . .

The average DNA molecule contains as much information as a city library! Think about that. . . .

Some of the newer discoveries about DNA offer even more powerful evidence for God’s role in creation. Since the 1960s, scientists have known that the DNA molecule is like a written message containing instructions for every living structure, from fish to flowers. But in higher organisms, the DNA code is broken up by sections of what looks like sheer nonsense—long DNA sequences that don’t seem to mean anything. Scientists have dubbed these sequences “junk” DNA.

Apparently the mere fact that an organism's genome can be said to contain large quantities of information is evidence all by itself of divine action.

I'm not sure what it means to say, “...the structure of DNA is identical to a language”.

And junk DNA is not composed of “...sections of what looks like sheer nonsense-long DNA sequences that don't seem to mean anything.” The term `junk DNA' simply refers to stretches of DNA that do not code for proteins. Roughly 98% of the human genome consists of such junk DNA. But “noncoding” is not synonymous with “meaningless” (leaving aside for the moment the question of what it means for a bit of DNA to have or not have meaning). Much of the junk is composed of disabled duplicates of live genes. Most scienitsts argue that patterns observed in the junk DNA provide compelling evidence for common descent. Before explaining that point, let's get Colson's view of the matter:

Kenneth Miller, a biologist at Brown University, uses junk DNA to criticize the idea of divine creation. How can we believe God directly created us, Miller argues, if the human genome is littered with genetic trash? An intelligent Creator wouldn’t write nonsense into our genes.

But one researcher’s junk can be another’s jewels. Other scientists have discovered that junk DNA does important work after all. It functions to correct errors and regulate genes, turning them on and off at appropriate times. In short, what once appeared to be nonsense DNA actually makes very good sense.

It seems that the foes of the creation view spoke too soon—and put their feet squarely in their mouths. DNA actually provides remarkable evidence for creation, giving a new twist to the classic design argument presented nearly two hundred years ago by the English clergyman William Paley. He talked in terms of finding a watch on a beach. Anyone finding such a complex gadget would assume that an intelligent being designed it.

It would have been nice for Colson to provide some citations so we could read Miller's argument for ourselves, or verify what, exactly, scientists are saying about the functionality of junk DNA. There has been recent work that has discovered a function for tiny percentages of the junk DNA found in animal genomes. But most of this DNA is believed to perform no essential function whatsoever. To learn more about junk DNA and its relevance to evolution, click here or here.

If you believe that God personally crafted each of the major groups of animals, then you might find it troubling that so much of an organism's genome is given over to nonfunctional DNA. But this is not the main way that junk DNA provides strong evidence for evolution. Since junk DNA does not code for proteins, mutations can accumulate within it without natural selection weeding them out. As a result, when the junk DNA of two different species show massive similarities, the only plausible explanation is common descent. When similarities in the junk DNA of organisms are used to craft a phylogenetic tree, the result is the same as the trees obtained by other methods. It is in this way that junk DNA provides strong evidence for common descent.

Also interesting is Colson's implication that if junk DNA were genuinely non-functional, that would constitute evidence against divine creation. More generally, Colson seems to be saying that genuine instances of poor design do indeed mitigate against creationism. This is a point ID proponents usually deny. This denial usually comes with a lecture about the inscrutibility of God's motives. They argue in this way because they know that whatever else animals are, they are also machines that must make a living in often rugged environments. And viewed in this way, there seem to be many instances of poor design indeed.

The remainder of Colson's piece is just the usual creationist chest-pounding about those dastardly public schools teaching impressionable youths about evolution.


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At 10:05 PM, Blogger Dr. Andras J. Pellionisz said...

For "Junk DNA" see the hub: and its news

For an algorithmic approach, see

For PostGenetics, see

Dr. Andras J. Pellionisz

At 5:09 PM, Anonymous jt said...

I predict that "junk" dna will be found to be a kind of genetic wardrobe for organisms -- the source of viable mutations that occur in response to needs of the environment. This is why Darwin's billions of imperfect forms have never been found -- they simply never existed.

Evolutionists such as Derek Hough now admit that Darwin's ideas were infantile but they cannot find an alternative.

Rupert Sheldrake, likewise, admits that atoms and molecules alone cannot explain "nature", how, for example, cells "know" to form organ structures and shapes, such as an arm or nose.

Admit it, evolutinists, you just don't know what you are talking about -- but just as corrupt priests in the middle ages could con the illiterate peasants about what the Bible says, so evolutionists try to blind the layman with scientific speculation, assumption and sheer error.

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