DNA Junk or God’s Design?

  It wasn't the sort of talk that makes biologists comfortable. "We are learning the language in which God created life," said President Clinton two weeks ago as he announced completion of the map of the human genome -- the 3.1 billion units of genetic information stored in our chromosomes. The President's words were right on, but to scientists they had a surprising ring. As polls of scientists indicate, the majority of biologists these days think natural selection -- not God -- created the information in the human genome, over billions of years of evolution. But as Phillip Johnson argues in his new book, The Wedge of Truth, biologists need to approach the origin of genetic information with new eyes. Because, behind the news about completion of the genome map are many other mysteries. For example, are the undirected forces of natural selection (acting on random variation) really able to explain how strange and irregular genetic information arises? And how could a blind evolutionary process write the vast encyclopedia of biological data that we carry around in our cells? What gives Johnson's questions such urgency is the genome map itself. Although biologists have finished sequencing the genes, determining the order of the individual letters in the genetic text, they don't understand most of it. "It's written in a foreign language," says geneticist Gerald Rubin, adding, "It's a very complicated problem."   Why? Think of it this way. Suppose you found a stone slab covered with strange marks. Some seem to be words in an unknown language, while others are simply random scratchings or gibberish. Well, this is how modern evolutionary biologists view the information in our genome. In their view, the "gibberish" is simply "junk DNA" -- functionless, meaningless scraps and left-overs, which we have inherited from our animal ancestors. And as they see it, only two forces could explain the origin of our genome: natural laws and blind chance, which come together in the process of natural selection. So if there's gibberish, you just dismiss it. After all, the author was a blind natural process whose only goal was survival. But this is a cop-out. What if natural law and chance are incapable of creating such complex information? Even the most ardent Darwinian biologists agree that our genome, despite its vast poorly understood regions, contains tens of thousands of fantastically intricate meaningful sequences. As Johnson argues, "meaningful information-bearing sequences require some third force that works against both repetitive order on the one hand and chaotic chance on the other." And that, he says, would be a designing mind: The mind of God. And if God, not a blind natural process, designed the human DNA, then don't we have good reasons to think that the so-called "junk DNA," so puzzling to biologists, may have important functions as well -- like leading to medical breakthroughs? In fact, the view that our genome is not just junk, but an intricate language we have yet to understand, holds vast promise -- something Darwinian evolution can never offer.


Chuck Colson



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