This week, 440 scientists from 32 labs published years of collaborative research, going far deeper into the human genome than ever before. The ENCODE project is publishing their encyclopedia of DNA. Conclusion Numero Uno was:
“Junk DNA” is an obsolete term.
For decades, up to 98% of our DNA was said to be useless leftovers from eons of random mutations. But now the New York Times reports quite the opposite:
“The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave.”
The article describes brand new implications for fighting diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. Because of this, a more fitting term for the mysterious regions of DNA that don’t code for proteins is “dark matter,” a term borrowed from astronomy. In astronomy, dark matter is the target of intense investigation.
Extreme Darwinists have taken extreme offense at this. Larry Moran, a biologist at the University of Toronto, complains: “I’m up to my ears trying to convince sane people that the ENCODE papers are wrong….junk DNA is alive and well. In fact almost 90% of our genome is junk.”
Now… in my humble opinion, every scientist’s job is to find out why living things have certain features. And determine what they do. I don’t see how Larry or anyone else can do their jobs properly when they start out by assuming that 90% of anything in our bodies is “junk.”
But let’s set that aside for a minute. Let’s give Larry Moran the benefit of the doubt. Let’s say 90% of our DNA really is junk.
Since human DNA contains 750 megabytes of data (same as a CD), and if 90% is junk, then the remaining 10%, the only part that actually does anything, is 75 megabytes.
Did you catch the olympics and the incredible athletes? DNA contains most (though not all) of the instructions for building those amazing bodies. Gymnasts, dancers, sprinters, weightlifters, human machines in top condition, living works of art.
This means all of the plans for building their eyes, ears, legs, brains, hearts, muscles, circulatory and nervous systems – all the instructions for 200 different kinds of tissue, fit in a 75 megabyte file.
WOW. A Youtube video of the British women cyclists breaking a world speed record takes more hard drive space than that.
Windows 8 occupies 16,000 megabytes – 20X more than the human genome. Mac OS needs 5,000 megabytes, that’s 7X more space than the human genome. I don’t know anybody thinks Windows 8 is more impressive than an Olympic athlete. Macs are great, but they’re not as durable or versatile as the guys who built them.
Holy mackerel Batman, those scant 75 megabytes that actually do something must employ the World’s. Most. Amazing. Data Compression Scheme. Ever.
When I foolishly assumed the Human Genome was 1/20th the size of Windows 8, I was impressed. But now that I’ve learned from Larry Moran that it’s actually 1/200th the size of Windows 8, I’m friggin’ astonished.
Thank you Mr. Moran. Your faith in miracles has certainly strengthened mine.