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The Myth of Junk DNA

Jonathan Wells

Softback, 173 pp., 2011

Item# B150
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A number of leading proponents of Darwinian evolution claim that “junk DNA”—the non-protein-coding DNA that makes up more than 95% of our genome—provides decisive evidence for Darwin’s theory and against intelligent design, since an intelligent designer would not have littered our genome with so much garbage. In The Myth of Junk DNA, biologist Jonathan Wells exposes their claim as an anti-scientific myth that ignores the evidence, relies on illegitimate theological speculations, and impedes biomedical research. Far from consisting mainly of junk, the genome is increasingly revealing itself to be a multidimensional, integrated system in which non-protein-coding DNA performs a wide variety of essential biological functions. If anything, the genome actually provides evidence for intelligent design, not against it. After reading this book, your view of the genome—and of the people who claim to represent science while they misrepresent the evidence—will never be the same again.

The book is written for a broad non-technical audience and includes illustrations and a glossary of cellular terminology to help the non-biologists grasp the implication of the data.  A more technical audience will also find the book of value as Wells cites hundreds of research articles as he describes the expanding story of non-coding DNA.

About the Author:

Dr. Jonathan Wells is a research biologist and Senior Fellow with the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute in Seattle. He holds two Ph.D.s, one in molecular and cell biology from the University of California at Berkeley, and one in religious studies from Yale University. He has worked as a postdoctoral research biologist at the University of California at Berkeley and the supervisor of a medical laboratory in Fairfield, California, and he has taught biology at California State University in Hayward.

Dr. Wells has published articles in Development, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, BioSystems, The Scientist and The American Biology Teacher. His previous books include Icons of Evolution (2000), The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (2006), and The Design of Life (2008, co-authored with William Dembski).

Table of Contents:

Preface

  1. The Controversy Over Darwinian Evolution
  2. Junk DNA: The Last Icon of Evolution?
  3. Most DNA is Transcribed into RNA
  4. Introns and the Splicing Code
  5. Pseudogenes—Not So Pseudo After All
  6. Jumping Genes and Repetitive DNA
  7. Functions Independent of Exact Sequence
  8. Some Recent Defenders of Junk DNA
  9. Summary of the Case for Functionality in Junk DNA
  10. From Junk DNA to a New Understanding of the Genome

Appendix: The Vitamin C Pseudogene
Notes
Glossary
Index

Reviews:
In The Myth of Junk DNA, Jonathan Wells draws together published evidence over the past decade which clearly pulls the rug from under the concept that the majority of the human genome is ‘junk DNA’ (functionless DNA). Breathtaking discoveries since the publication of the Human Genome Project in 2001 have demonstrated that most, if not all nuclear DNA is transcribed.

The proponents of Darwin’s theory claim that junk DNA provides evidence for Darwinian evolution as it represents molecular accidents which are the indelible signatures of evolutionary histories. This argument now has been turned on its head.

I strongly recommend The Myth of Junk DNA, a lucid account of the evidence that junk DNA has many diverse biological functions. It is an important reference source with an excellent bibliography and notes. The Myth of Junk DNA clearly demonstrates that the concept of junk DNA is now dead.
Norman C. Nevin, OBE, MD
Professor Emeritus in Medical Genetics
Queen’s University, Belfast

“Jonathan Wells has clearly done his homework. In The Myth of Junk DNA, he cites hundreds of research articles as he describes the expanding story of non-coding DNA—the supposed ‘junk DNA.’ It is quite possibly the most thorough review of the subject available. Dr. Wells makes it clear that our early understanding of DNA was incomplete, and genomics research is now revealing levels of control and complexity inside our cells that were undreamed of in the 1980s. Far from providing evidence for Darwinism, the story of non-coding DNA rather serves to increase our appreciation for the design of life.”
Ralph Seelke, Ph.D.
Professor of Microbial Genetics and Cell Biology
University of Wisconsin-Superior

“Citing hundreds of peer-reviewed articles which show that more and more of the genome is functional, Jonathan Wells delivers a powerful and carefully researched broadside against the ‘junk DNA hypothesis.’ Even biologists who firmly reject the notion of intelligent design must surely acknowledge on the evidence presented in this timely book that appealing to ‘junk DNA’ to defend the Darwinian framework no longer makes any sense.”
Michael Denton, Ph.D.
Medical Geneticist and Author of Nature’s Destiny

“This is an excellent and in-depth discussion of several key points of the subject of ‘junk-DNA.’ The author shows for many prime examples still advanced by leading neo-Darwinians that the ‘Darwin-of-the-gaps’ approach doesn’t function or is at least doubtful.”
Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist, Department of Molecular Plant Genetics
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (retired)

“There is a box in the biological sciences into which all evidence must be placed. That box is called Darwinian evolution. In The Myth of Junk DNA Jonathan Wells tells the intriguing story of ‘junk’ DNA—the idea that non-protein coding DNA, which accounts for the majority of the DNA in the genome, is non-functional and without purpose; the result of the unguided purposeless process of random mutation and natural selection that produced it. In recent years, however, numerous researchers—not necessarily opponents of Darwinian evolution or advocates of intelligent design—have discovered many functions for non-protein coding DNA, which are thoroughly reviewed by Wells in this book. Unfortunately, in their effort to keep the ‘junk’ label attached to non-protein coding DNA so that it remains in the box of Darwinian evolution, a number of prominent Darwinists continue to insist, in spite of the recent results to the contrary, that it is largely left-over waste from the evolutionary process. As Wells clearly demonstrates in his book, this dogmatic commitment inhibits the scientific process. Science needs to be guided by objective evaluation of the evidence, and scientists should not allow their thinking to be arbitrarily restricted by dogmatic ideas. We need scientists who think outside the Darwinian box. Wells’s book not only informs its readers of very recent research results, but also encourages them to think objectively and clearly about a key discovery in biology and to approach biological research with more creativity. It is a great read.”
Russell W. Carlson, Ph.D.
Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
University of Georgia

“For years, Darwinists have claimed that most DNA is left-over detritus from failed evolutionary experiments. This ‘junk DNA’ has been offered as evidence for Darwinism and evidence against intelligent design. The only problem with the claim, as Jonathan Wells shows in this fascinating book, is that it’s not true. Careful scientists have known for some time that the non-coding regions of DNA have all manner of function, so it is surprising to see prominent Darwinian scientists and their spokesmen continue to push the party line. Now that the evidence against the junk DNA story is indisputable, its defenders will want to beat a hasty retreat. The Myth of Junk DNA will make it hard for them to cover their tracks.”
Jay Richards, Ph.D.
Co-Author, The Privileged Planet, and Editor, God and Evolution


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