The Human Genome: Useful and Beautiful

The Human Genome: Useful and Beautiful

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris

The blogosphere is replete with advice for taming clutter and getting organized—helpful reading for any upcoming spring cleaning. While I’m not exactly a Martha Stewart of organization, I do have my husband’s junk-filled man cave/household office slated for a good purging. Unless they have a useful purpose (or sentimental value), all those unread textbooks, random cables, and various odds-and-ends have to go. Without function or beauty, the objects in an office (or any room) end up as clutter.

Until recently, scientists believed the human genome is full of genetic clutter—DNA fragments that may have possessed function in the past but possess it no longer. This so-called “junk” DNA seems to support evolutionary theory. After all, why would a Creator include so much useless material in the genome? Junk DNA makes more sense if it’s the product of random, undirected decay processes—or does it?

More and more research is revealing that, far from a candidate for an episode of Hoarders, the human genome actually looks more like an elegant, Martha Stewart Living home, where everything has a place and purpose. In other words, junk DNA is not without function.

Just this week, RTB biochemist Fuz Rana reported on unitary pseudogenes. It turns out these rare pseudogenes play a role in regulating gene expression—thus they have function! Even the fact that humans and great apes share some pseudogenes can be argued as a case for creation. As Fuz puts it,

This important new insight means that shared pseudogenes in the genomes of humans and the great apes does not demand an evolutionary interpretation (shared ancestry)…pseudogenes shared among the genomes of humans and the great apes reflect common design.

Shared features in organisms—particularly organisms that seem to be related—are often assumed to be evidence for evolution. However, is it not possible that a divine Creator might reuse and enhance previous designs, as would a human designer, artist, or engineer? Common design can serve multiple purposes. For example, rodents with DNA similar to humans’ can serve as our stand-ins for lab experiments and medical research.

The psalmist writes, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Our DNA can definitely be included in this description.

— Maureen

RTB provides plenty of articles and podcasts addressing the issue of junk DNA and supposed “bad” designs in nature.

  • RTB 101: Junk DNA
  • “Are Pseudogenes Junk?”
  • “Pseudogene Decoy Reveals Hidden Evidence for Design”
  • “Functional Pseudogenes Are Everywhere!”
  • ‘Junk’ DNA: An Outdated Concept,” a 6-part article series by former RTB visiting scholar Dr. Patricia Fanning

Resources: In RTB’s latest booklet, 10 Breakthroughs of 2012, Fuz explores the ENCODE Project, a huge research effort that revealed, “a staggering 80 percent of the human genome consists of functional elements.”