Q. What's significant about the ENCODE project and its findings?
A. The recent findings from ENCODE and related projects are significant for several reasons. First, the results from over a thousand experiments -- involving dozens of laboratories and hundreds of scientists on three continents, published simultaneously in dozens of articles in five different journals -- are remarkably consistent. Second, by providing abundant evidence that 80% or more of our DNA is functional, the results have greatly expanded our biological knowledge and may shed valuable light on some diseases. Third, the results demolish the argument used by Richard Dawkins and some other Darwinists that most of our DNA is "junk," proving we could not have originated by design. As the journal Science put it, "Encode Project Writes Eulogy for Junk DNA."
Q. How did the Darwinist argument about "junk DNA" originate? Who coined the term, and why?
A. Francis Crick (who with James Watson unraveled the molecular structure of DNA in 1953) thought the significance of DNA lay in its ability to code for proteins. After biologists discovered that only about 2% of our DNA actually encodes proteins, Susumu Ohno and David Comings independently coined the term "junk DNA" in 1972 to refer to most of the remaining 98%. Some biologists (such as Thomas Cavalier-Smith and Gabriel Dover) thought we might eventually discover functions for non-protein-coding DNA, but others (including Kenneth R. Miller and Richard Dawkins) seized on the notion of junk DNA as evidence for Darwinian evolution and against intelligent design -- since a designer would presumably not have filled our DNA with so much junk, but centuries of mutations might have.
Q. How did we learn that the idea of "junk DNA" is wrong?
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