For several decades, biochemists thought a vast proportion of most organisms’ genomes consisted of junk—DNA sequences that once had value but decayed into nonfunctional elements as a result of undirected biochemical processes and random chemical and physical events. Accordingly, junk DNA was thought to accumulate in genomes over time.
Evolutionary biologists have considered the existence of junk DNA as one of the most potent evidences for biological evolution. Skeptics ask, “Why would a Creator purposely introduce nonfunctional DNA at the same location in the genomes of different, though seemingly related, organisms?”
Studies over the past decade provide a response to this question—one that evolutionists did not expect: junk DNA possesses function.1 The ENCODE (the Encyclopedia Of DNA Elements) Project has affirmed this revolutionary insight.
Initial results of the ENCODE Project (reported in 20072) involved a detailed search for every functional element contained in a one-percent sample segment of the human genome. This cursory glimpse into the human genome indicated that a significant proportion of so-called junk DNA actually plays a key role in regulating gene expression.
The success of ENCODE’s pilot phase justified the second stage of the project. This phase cost around $130 million and involved some 450 researchers from around the world. The team performed over 1,650 experiments that examined the gene expression in nearly 150 different types of human cells.
Based on the second stage of the work, the ENCODE Project Consortium reports that a staggering 80 percent of the human genome consists of functional elements.3 And with the third phase of the project now underway, that number may well increase.
The ENCODE Project has radically altered scientists’ view of the human genome. It can no longer be considered a vast waste pile of junk, but rather an elegant system that displays sophistication in its architecture and operation, far beyond what most evolutionary biologists ever imagined.
1. For example see Fazale Rana, The Cell’s Design (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009), 255–61.
2. The ENCODE Project Consortium, “Identification and Analysis of Functional Elements in 1% of the Human Genome by the ENCODE Pilot Project,” Nature 447 (June 14, 2007): 799–816.
3. The ENCODE Project Consortium, “An Integrated Encyclopedia of DNA Elements in the Human Genome,” Nature 489 (September 6, 2012): 57–74.