The Osama/”Junk DNA” Connection

David Klinghoffer

President Obama is said to have known the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden since September but chose to wait until May to authorize action against him. Why the delay? Could it perhaps have been to provide a super-timely news hook for the rollout of Jonathan Wells’ new book, The Myth of Junk DNA? If so, an additional note of congratulation is owed to Mr. Obama.
How do you think OBL’s body was identified? By a comparison with his sister’s DNA, evidently those non-coding regions singled out by Darwin defenders, among the pantheon of other mythological evolutionary icons, as functionless “junk.” Indeed, the myth has featured in news coverage of Osama’s death. Reports the website of business magazine Fast Company:

Because your parents give you some of their DNA, they also give your siblings some of the same genetic code — which is why sibling DNA tests work. They sometimes concentrate on areas of the genome called “junk DNA” which serves no biological function but still gets passed along to offspring. By testing for repeat strands of DNA code in these areas, it’s possible to work out if two individuals are related as siblings.

The Toronto Star strikes a similar note:

When testing against a relative’s DNA, scientists often look to parts of the genome described as junk DNA which are passed on to all offspring.

Readers of this space and of Dr. Wells’ book, published this month, will know how thoroughly the myth has already been debunked in peer-reviewed scientific literature. Unfortunately, the news hasn’t yet reached the general interest media, and it continues as what Richard Dawkins might call a powerful “meme” in the public’s thinking about evolution. In fact, in Daniel Dennett’s book Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, junk DNA is given as one of the scientific predictions made for Darwinian evolution by Dawkins himself.
If Darwin is right, there ought to be huge swaths of ancestral garbage cluttering the genome, serving no purpose other than to identify otherwise unidentified forensic remains. So if those huge swaths turn out after all to be vitally important to the functioning organism, what does that say about Darwin’s theory? Ah, that’s exactly the question addressed in Jonathan Wells’ book.
Let’s see how many Darwin lobbyists have the guts and honesty to acknowledge that another icon has fallen. They have not, on the whole, left themselves a lot of room for deniability on this.