More Confirmation of a Creationist Prediction

The centromere is the point at which a chromosome and its duplicate attach during cellular reproduction. (click for credit)

The centromere is the point at which a chromosome and its duplicate attach during cellular reproduction.
(click for credit)

Uninformed people often say that creationism cannot make testable predictions. Since testable predictions are a necessary part of any scientific theory, these people claim that the creationist view isn’t scientific. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth! Creation scientists regularly make testable predictions, many of which have already been verified by further scientific research (see here, here, here, here, here, and here).

One of the more stunning examples of a confirmed creationist prediction is given by the nature of DNA. Since the 1970s, evolutionists have taught (as an indisputable fact) that the majority of the human genome is made up of useless stretches of nonsensical sequences which have been collectively referred to as “junk DNA.” However, in a Herculean study of human DNA, the ENCODE team demonstrated that a minimum of 80% is used by the cell and therefore should not be referred to as “junk.” One of the scientists on the team (Dr. John A. Stamatoyannopolous) stated:

I don’t think anyone would have anticipated even close to the amount of sequence that ENCODE has uncovered that looks like it has functional importance…

Actually, there were several scientists predicting this very result! Creationists have been doing so for years.*

Well, now that we know the vast majority of the human genome is functional, some scientists have removed the evolutionary blinders from their eyes (at least when it comes to the nature of DNA) and have begun to look at regions of the DNA that scientists have been assuring us could not possibly have any function whatsoever. When they study such regions, they (not surprisingly) find that those regions do have a function, and it is often a very important one.

The latest example of this kind of study has been published in the online journal Genome Research. The scientists involved in the study analyzed regions of the human genome that contain what is known as “repetitive DNA.” This kind of DNA is composed of a sequence that is repeated over and over again. Specifically, the researchers looked at repetitive DNA that can be found around the centromeres of chromosomes.

If you have taken a high school biology course, you have probably seen drawings of chromosomes, such as the one that appears at the top of this post. The “X” shape that is familiar to many biology students actually represents two chromosomes (an original and its duplicate) which are attached to one another. This shape only appears during a few stages of cellular reproduction, after the DNA has been duplicated but before the cell has divided into two distinct emtities. During this time, the chromosome and its duplicate are attached to one another at the centromere, forming the shape of an “X.”

It was thought that the repetitive DNA found at the centromere occurred only once on each chromosome, and that sequence determined where the centromere would be found. However, the same research group involved in this study showed that’s not correct. In fact, many human chromosomes contain more than one sequence of the same repetitive DNA at different places on the chromosome. The centromere can form at any site that contains that repetitive sequence.

In this current study, the researchers focused on just one human chromosome (#17). They found that about 30% of the people they studied had variations in the repetitive DNA at the site where the centromere usually forms. For most of those people, the centromere forms at the alternative site. In other words, even though the sequence of DNA where the centromere forms is repetitive, it is important. Too many variations in that repetitive DNA, and the centromere has to go to an alternative site.

There are two important things to pull from this research. First, it is clear that for this chromosome (and presumably others), there is a “backup site” for the centromere. When you see something with a backup built right into it, what does that tell you? It tells you that design is involved. The hallmark of any well-designed system is a series of backups that allow the system to continue to work even when its primary processes fail. The very fact that at least some chromosomes have backup sites for their centromeres should tell you that the architecture of the chromosome is the result of design.

Second (and more important), you can see that this is a stunning confirmation that the DNA evolutionists have dismissed as “junk” is actually of vital importance. Think about it. When it comes to DNA, what could be more “useless” than a sequence that simply repeats over and over again? The information stored in DNA is based on variations in its sequences. A repeating sequence clearly contains very little information, right? Obviously not. If a variation in that sequence results in the centromere being built somewhere else, the sequence is obviously of vital importance.

Unfortunately, because of the blinders installed by evolution, repetitive DNA sequences such as the ones analyzed by this research team have been ignored for far too long. As the lead scientist on the team said in a press release:

What we found in this study is probably the tip of the iceberg…There could be all sorts of functional consequences to having variation within the complex, repetitive portion of the genome that we don’t know about yet.

Hopefully, this team’s research will induce others to take off the blinders of evolution when it comes to the nonsensical idea of junk DNA. For right now, however, we can say that this group’s research is continuing to confirm the predictions of creationists when it comes to the nature of DNA.

NOTE: Intelligent design advocates (who are usually quite different from creationists) have also been saying the same thing, so their view also gets credit for this confirmed prediction.
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13 Comments

  1. Radagast says:

    Dear Dr. Wile,
    I am glad it is confirmed that Junk DNA is not useless. However, a real prediction is not like saying after you have the evidence: ‘Oh, that was exactly what my model predicts.’ Can you give a reference to a creationist who predicited that Junk DNA was useful before we knew that?

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Sure. Here is one from an intelligent design advocate:

      In a 1998 paper, William Dembski wrote:

      But design is not a science stopper. Indeed, design can foster inquiry where traditional evolutionary approaches obstruct it. Consider the term “junk DNA.” Implicit in this term is the view that because the genome of an organism has been cobbled together through a long, undirected evolutionary process, the genome is a patchwork of which only limited portions are essential to the organism. Thus on an evolutionary view we expect a lot of useless DNA. If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function.

      Here are two from creationists:

      In The Modern Creation Triology (Master Books 1996) Henry Morris says:

      It is probable that future research will reveal that many of these so-called pseudogenes – just like the vestigial organs once thought to prove evolution – have real functional purpose. (p. 255)

      In a 2001 paper, Jerry Bergman wrote:

      Recent research also supports the view that, though over-designed (viz., possessing more information than is necessary for survival) the entire genome is or once was functional and exists for a biological purpose — a conclusion that supports the intelligent design hypothesis.

  2. Jake says:

    “Evolutionary blinders.” That is indeed what it is.

  3. Aaron says:

    Being a software engineer, my hypothesis for the repeating sequences is that of a data integrity check. If the section of DNA that is supposed to repeat contains variation then it is likely that proximal DNA also contains variation. This detected variation is what influences the centromere site.

    This hypothesis would also compliment the fact that multiple codons signal for the same peptide.

    My research into the centromere is limited so this is little more than a guess.

    Thoughts?

    1. Jay Wile says:

      I am not sure how variation in one part of DNA can indicate variation nearby. If DNA mutations happen in one region, does that mean they are more likely to happen nearby?

      1. Aaron says:

        My thought was that if a mutation occurs it was most likely caused by something external and therefore should be localized to the point of contact. However if this is not the case then my hypothesis is completely unfounded.

        It is just my intuition that repeated code is either bad design or is for data integrity purposes. I think that you and I would both agree that the former is very unlikely considering the designer.

        1. Jay Wile says:

          That’s not the way mutations seem to work. Some occur randomly throughout the genome, and some are concentrated at “hotspots.” There doesn’t seem to be any indication that a mutation in one location makes it more likely for a nearby mutation to occur.

          I agree that repeating sequences aren’t bad design, but I don’t see how they indicate nearby mutations.

  4. Victor Ferreira says:

    Dr. Jay, do you belive that there are genetic factors that can influence in sexual orientation, particular taste, (example, I like orange, however dislike papaya) addictions, etc? And another good article!

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Genes can certainly influence our tastes. There are specific genes that code for specific taste receptors. Variations in those genes can influence how strong certain flavors are, which can then influence whether or not we like certain foods. However, they don’t dictate our tastes. They influence our tastes.

      In the same way, genes can influence addictive behavior. For example, there are genes that are significantly more likely to appear in alcoholics than non-alcoholics. There are some alcoholics who do not have those genes, and there are many non-alcoholics who have those genes. However, if you are an alcoholic, you are significantly more likely to have those genes than to not have them. Most likely, those genes affect the strength of the “high” one gets from alcohol and other physiological factors that affect how a person reacts to alcohol. That reaction can, in turn, make a person more likely to get addicted to alcohol. Nevertheless, those genes don’t force you to be an alcoholic, because there are many people with those genes who are not alcoholic. Current research indicates that roughly half of a person’s risk for alcoholism comes from his or her genes.

      When it comes to sexual orientation, there are two things to consider. First, scientists have been looking hard for genes that are more prevalent in homosexuals, but so far, no reproducible study has found any. In addition, twin studies seem to disagree. Some find that identical twins are slightly more likely to both be homosexual than fraternal twins, which indicates at least a small genetic component, while others find no indication of a genetic factor. To me, these results indicate that genes are a much less significant factor in homosexuality than they are in alcoholism.

      The second consideration is that of population. While homosexuals do sometimes reproduce, they reproduce less often than non-homosexuals. If homosexuality is significantly affected by a group of genes, the percentage of people with those genes should decrease every generation, since those genes are less likely to be reproduced. Thus, if homosexuality has a significant genetic influence, it should decrease in frequency with each generation. That doesn’t seem to be what we are seeing right now. That’s another strike against the idea that homosexuality is significantly affected by genetic factors.

  5. It’s probably a bit of an overstatement to say that ENCODE demonstrated decisively that at least 80% of our genome is functional. What ENCODE did is provide some evidence that this is the case: namely, that 80% of our DNA is transcribed, which indicates it must be playing some purpose. Critics, however, have offered alternative explanations for the large transcription ratio, and ENCODE only found specific functions for 8-10% of the DNA.

    BTW, I’m a young-earther, and I think almost all of our genome is functional, and that ENCODE provides evidence for that. But we should be careful to be precise so that a critic doesn’t take advantage of any imprecision.

    1. Jay Wile says:

      Thanks for your comment, Thomas. If you read much of my work, you will see that I never say that science has demonstrated anything decisively. However, I would say that the ENCODE team provided much more than “some evidence.” As you indicate, it demonstrated that more than 80% of the human genome is transcribed. As we all know, transcription takes quite a bit of energy, and it is very hard to defend the position that the cell would waste all that energy on transcription if it wasn’t actually using the result. We know how quickly unused genes get downregulated, and this is specifically because the cell doesn’t waste energy on tasks that produce no results. Thus, the fact that more than 80% of the genome is transcribed is very strong evidence that more than 80% of the genome is functional.

      I appreciated your desire for precision, and I agree. That’s why it’s important to tell people that ENCODE provided very strong evidence that more than 80% of the human genome is functional, confirming the creationist prediction.

      1. Thanks for the info, Dr. Wile. That’s helpful. Are there any further resources you’d recommend on this subject in particular?

        1. Jay Wile says:

          I am glad that I could help. Here is an article I wrote about how useless genes quickly get downregulated to save the cell energy. It references a more detailed scientific paper if you want those details. Here’s a good article that analyzes the criticisms of ENCODE.