Junk DNA, Natural Selection, and Intelligence

As I write this, there has recently been a series of news articles in the popular media reporting a large study called ENCODE, which was a $288 million-dollar study of DNA. The news articles have, in general, reported that although scientists had previously thought much DNA was ‘junk DNA’ that had no purpose, the new study is said to show that much of this DNA does in fact have a useful purpose. The response from those people in the public square has fallen along predictable lines. For a pro-evolution response see here, and a creationist view see here.  A couple of things strike me as interesting in this whole thing.

First, we have people who are presumably extremely intelligent researchers in a highly technical field spending a huge amount of time trying to unpack and understand DNA, which, according to one pro-evolutionist, contains “an Encyclopedia Brittanica’s [sic] worth of information in every cell of our body” that “contains a record of the past which we are just now learning to read.” (see here). That DNA is phenomenally large and complex is a given, but is reinforced by the fact that it is taking our sharpest minds all this energy to understand it. To get the understanding gained so far has taken the accumulated understanding of generations of researchers, and teams of intelligent scientists still do not have consensus about what is the current state of DNA, let alone how it got to be the way it currently is.

Yet in the article linked above we are told “Harvard biologist Shamil Sunyaev points out that it doesn’t matter what percentage of our DNA turns out to be employed in some job — it still looks exactly like what you’d expect from natural selection acting on random changes, with no help from a designer.” So even if 100% of the DNA is employed in some job (which we do not yet know) we can still conclude that it still looks like natural selection acting on random changes.

This 1) has all the appearances of an a priori conclusion, made without consideration of the information we do not yet know, and 2) it seems increasingly difficult to believe that such massive complexity arose through purely random processes, yet our best minds still do not know what it is doing now, let along how it got to be the way it is.  Forgive me if I am a bit skeptical.

Second, none of this explains what Thomas Aquinas pointed out over seven centuries ago, namely:

Those things that happen by chance, happen only rarely; we know from experience, however, that harmony and usefulness are found in nature either at all times or at least for the most part. This cannot be the result of mere chance; it must be because an end is intended. What lacks intellect or knowledge, however, cannot tend directly toward an end. It can do this only if someone else’s knowledge has established an end for it, and directs it to that end. (On Truth, Q5, A2)

Thomas is saying here that “what lacks intellect cannot tend directly toward an end” yet most everything we see in nature tends toward an end. It would seem that if evolution were true, then at first, raw chemical elements would ultimately have to strive toward an end, for according to the atheist biologists, the universe is ultimately fully explained by pure physics and chemistry. But physics and chemistry do not strive toward an end, nor do they contain any information, let alone an Encyclopedia Britannica.

To be a full theory, an evolutionary theory based in pure naturalism will have to explain all striving toward an end, the existence of information, and what caused the whole thing to begin moving in the first place. It would seem much more believable that an intelligence is mixed in there somewhere.


About humblesmith

Christian Apologist & Philosopher
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Evolution, Philosophy. Bookmark the permalink.

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