Junkyard science

Interesting item I read recently concerning the latest discoveries about "junk DNA'; IBM has added to the body of evidence which indicates that it isn't so 'junky' after all.

IBM Discovery Could Shed New Light on Workings of the Human Genome 

From the article:

IBM today announced its researchers have discovered numerous DNA patterns shared by areas of the human genome that were thought to have little or no influence on its function and those areas that do.

As reported today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), regions of the human genome that were assumed to largely contain evolutionary leftovers (called "junk DNA") may actually hold significant clues that can add to scientists' understanding of cellular processes. IBM researchers have discovered that these regions contain numerous, short DNA "motifs," or repeating sequence fragments, which also are present in the parts of the genome that give rise to proteins.

If verified experimentally, the discovery suggests a potential connection between these coding and non-coding parts of the human genome that could have a profound impact on genomic research and provide important insights on the workings of cells.

The existence of non-coding (junk) DNA has for sometime now been an arguement for the evolution of the genome – or more properly as evidence against the design of the genome; after all, if the genetic code was designed by an intelligent designer, why would the design include so much that is useless or inefficient? This contention borders on a prediction, which evolutionary theory is generally loathe to make. Recent research though has trended to weigh against this contention; and IBM's research only continues this trend. In short, the evolutionary prediction is being proved wrong.

One question comes to mind though, is why did the initial assessors of what appeared to non-coding regions of the genome rush to see it as 'junk'? I am inclined to think this has much to do with the evolutionary bias within the biological sciences community. The assumption there is always that all organisms are the product of chance and circumstance; there was no directive force in their development, and thus there is no reason to look at the structure of organisms in a way that appreciates the complexity and the inter-dependence of of the make-up of the organism.

The IBM researchers aren't necessarily burdened with the same predilections. Being familiar with coded operations through their previous work with other designed systems which operate from codes, they are free to appreciate the genome for what it is – a highly complex coded information system – and study it accordingly. As a result, they are finding things the biologists and geneticists apparently couldn't see.

It may be this is an inevitable trend. As we become more aware of the the make-up of living organisms, and as information engineers study the codes and bioengineers seek to imitate the machinery of life , it becomes more apparent that the design of life surpasses our most advanced capabilities – and the predisposition of biological scientists to ignore this fact is becoming embarrasingly obvious.


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