Let’s Let Charles Darwin Sort-Out A Modern Debate In Biology

An immense federal project that involved 440 scientists from 32 laboratories from around the world, a project known as ENCODE, concluded that 80% of the library of human genes (known as the human genome) is biologically functional.  The results of ENCODE were reported in September of 2012 and strong criticism of its “extremely loose definition of ‘biologically functional’ soon followed.”  [Proceedings National Academy Sciences April 2, 2013; Time Magazine Sept 6, 2012]

ENCODE stunned the world of human genetics at that time as it was believed that only a small fraction (~3%) of genes actually produce proteins.

Yet in another a scientific reversal, just 22-months later scientists at Oxford University report only 8.2% of our DNA is biologically active.  Oxford researchers say the rest of the genome is leftover evolutionary material that has undergone mutational losses or gains in the DNA code.  [Science Daily July 24, 2014; PLoS Genetics July 24, 2014]

Moreover, these researchers claim only a little more than 1% of human DNA accounts for the proteins that carry out most biological processes in the body.

Seemingly good news

This is seemingly good news.  The human genome is comprised of about 21,000 genes, meaning only a couple hundred genes need to be influenced to produce a beneficial effect.  Researchers have found only 295 genes are robustly associated with human aging.  [Aging Cell Oct 2011]  There are natural or synthetic molecules known to activate or deactivate hundreds of genes at a time. [Current Drug Targets Dec 2011]  This suggests an anti-aging pill is within reach.

Gene mutations and junk DNA


Nonfunctional or “junk DNA” develops from DNA mutations.  Over time mutations arise in DNA.  Mutations occur on the DNA ladder.  The steps of the DNA ladder called nucleotides (adenine, guanine, cytosine, thymine) may be substituted or be out of sequence, producing a mutation.  [Genetics Generation]

Various studies estimate humans sustain 2.1-10.0 deleterious mutations per generation.  This suggests, over time, that 90% of the human genome has mutated and is non-functional, as the Oxford University scientists claim. [PLoS Genetics May 2014]

Oxford University researchers say these mutations have rendered most of the human library of genes, a copy which is stored in the nucleus of every living cell in the human body, as nonfunctional.

But let’s not overlook a convincing experiment where a segment of so-called junk DNA was deleted from laboratory mice.  These animals experienced increased weight gain and mortality on a high-fat diet.  [Clinical Chemistry July 16, 2010; Nature March 18, 2010]

Genetic versus epigenetic

Inherited gene mutations represent only about 2% of all human disease.  [Knowledge of Health April 25, 2014]  Inherited diseases involve changes in the steps (nucleotides) of the DNA ladder.  Gene mutations involves DNA structure.

However, genes are not static.  Genes can make proteins, a process called gene expression (gene is switched “on”) or gene silencing (gene is switched “off”). Modifications in protein-making of genes that occur without changes in DNA sequence is called epigenetics.  Most chronic disease is now believed to be epigenetic, that is, derived from gene protein making. [The Journals Of Gerontology: Series A: Biological Sciences & Medical Sciences June 2014]

Genome purification by natural selection

In between the lines of print readers find the scientific community is attempting to make the science fit an evolutionary model that makes little or no sense.

The Oxford University scientists write that most of the human genome has been “purified” by a theoretical biological mechanism called natural selection.  The unfit genes become mutated and the fit genes remain intact.  The largest part of the genome “can be deleted without impacting fitness” of the species, they say.

Genetic purification questioned

The proposed idea of genetic purification by natural selection is on very shaky ground.  As researchers at the University of Washington note, mutations rarely turn out to be beneficial.  [PLoS Genetics May 8, 2014]  Yet mutations are considered the driving force of progressive evolution.

Another long unexplained phenomenon is that the genome size of the most advanced species, Homo sapiens, is 40 times smaller than a lungfish.  An onion has a genome that is 5 times larger than a human.  [Genomicron April 25, 2007]  One would think greater complexity would require more genes, not less.  [PLoS Genetics May 8, 2014]

Nature versus nurture

The behind-the-scenes battle going on is whether evolutionary forces are at work (genetic mutations over a long time) or whether relatively rapid epigenetic changes control the functionality of genes.  Can biological function be explained without the dogma of random natural selection? [Genome Biology & Evolution 2013]

The debate here is nature versus nurture, inherited biological destiny versus environmentally/molecularly alterable biology.  The evolutionists cannot tolerate a departure from the evolutionary model.  Oxford University researchers say the 440 scientists who authored the $123 million ENCODE project are dead wrong!  It just can’t be.

Yet we know that most human disease is not inherited and involves aging which can be slowed or even reversed via epigenetics.

The epigenome is not only “imprinted” in early human development but can be altered molecularly later in life.  [Seminars Nephrology July 2013]

Let Charles Darwin sort it out

With arguments for mutational/random natural selection/ evolutionary biology on the one hand and epigenetic/ environmental/alterable epigenetics on the other, it may be time to let the words of Charles Darwin sort out this argument.

David Marsh of the McCarrison Society For Nutrition & Health in London, England notes that Darwin spent a great deal of his time on his two 6-month trips to the Galapagos Islands searching for possible mechanisms which communicate information from the environment to the human body.

Darwin’s eloquent drawings showing changes in bird beaks over a short period of time (not millions of years as evolutionists claim) strongly points to environmental factors rather than inborn inherited factors that drive biological adaptation.

Marsh notes that “in each of his (Darwin’s) six editions of the ‘Origin Of Species’ he stated there were two forces in evolution – “natural selection” and “conditions of existence,” or “struggle for existence” which is the title of the third chapter of Darwin’s book. Darwin claimed the latter is more powerful, says Marsh.

Marsh points out that natural selection has weak predictive power because of its dependence upon random events.  Marsh says recent changes in human height and shape over the past century strongly point to Darwin’s “conditions of existence.”  [Nutrition & Health Jan 2012]  The same goes for the modern epidemic of diabesity.

Discover Magazine said it in 2006: “DNA is not our biological destiny.” [Discover Nov 22, 2006] In 2010 Time Magazine’s headline cover story said: “Why DNA Isn’t Your Destiny.”  [Time Magazine Jan 6, 2010]

Does epigenetics explain instinct?

In chapter seven of Charles Darwin’s book Origin Of Species he wrote about generational or inherited animal instincts, which he described as habitual action.  For example, Darwin noted the organized instincts of bees in the hive.

Randy Jirtle, director of the Laboratory of Epigenetics and Imprinting at Duke University, says it is possible that at critical times during early development the brain is epigenetically programmed by environmental conditions and adulthood behavior, such as salmon swimming upstream in a specific river to spawn, which might be an example of epigenetic memory (imprinting).  [NOVA August 2, 2007]

Transgenerational epigenetics is believed to be real. [Episona Jan 21, 2014]  The good news about epigenetics is that undesirable inherited marks in genes can be reversed in adulthood. [International Journal Life Science & Pharma Journal Jan-March 2012] Your genes can be reprogrammed. [Cell Jan 2012]  This has already been demonstrated in humans. [Molecular Medicine Ophthalmic Care Dec 2009; Investigative Ophthalmology 2012]

Epigenetics explains more about our biological destiny than evolution.   Humans don’t need to be resigned to thinking the diseases that plagued their forefathers will inevitably affect them.  Even existing diseases can be reversed mid-course.  There is a lot researchers in biology aren’t telling you about epigenetics.  [LewRockwell.com April 25, 2014]