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On Junk DNA Claim, Francis Collins Walks It Back, Admitting “Hubris”


Count on Marvin Olasky at World Magazine not to miss something like this. In The Language of God, theistic evolutionary icon Francis Collins used so-called Junk DNA as homerun evidence against intelligent design. He has since backed down on that, honorably, admitting “hubris” in the process. Olasky:

Collins claimed on page 136 that huge chunks of our genome are “littered” with ancient repetitive elements (AREs), so that “roughly 45 percent of the human genome [is] made up of such genetic flotsam and jetsam.” In his talk he claimed the existence of “junk DNA” was proof that man and mice had a common ancestor, because God would not have created man with useless genes.

Last year, though, speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Collins threw in the towel: “In terms of junk DNA, we don’t use that term anymore because I think it was pretty much a case of hubris to imagine that we could dispense with any part of the genome, as if we knew enough to say it wasn’t functional. … Most of the genome that we used to think was there for spacer turns out to be doing stuff.”

Good for Collins — and maybe he’ll go on to deal with other times scientists feel sorry for God as they look at His purportedly poor design. For example, evolutionists use the retina of the eye as evidence against creation, because nerve endings are at the front rather than at the back, which at first glance seems better placement. Yet, as Lee Spetner explains in The Evolution Revolution (Judaica Press, 2014), physicists now see front placement as the best one for “ingeniously designed light collectors.”

The list of needed retractions should include what you probably learned in high school about apparently purposeless human vestigial organs. Robert Wiedersheim’s 1895 list of 86 has shrunk, as almost all of them have proved to have functions. For example, the most famous vestigial organ — the vermiform appendix — is a crucial storage place for benign bacteria that repopulate the gut when diarrhea strikes. The appendix can be a life-saver.

By “hubris” perhaps he means the overweening tendency to assume that scientific opinion as constituted at the moment has got everything all figured out. The repeated need to retract and walk back previous certainties should be a lesson to all, a warning that we can’t simply hand over our intellects to “science.”

In briefest form, that’s the message of Doug Axe’s book Undeniable. When it comes to big-ticket science questions like evolution, not only do you get to think for yourself. You have a positive obligation to do so.

I’m on Twitter. Follow me @d_klinghoffer.

Photo credit: Bill Branson, NIH [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



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