Pseudogenes and pseuodscience

In the May 9, 2008 post entitled “Another Intelligent Design Prediction Fulfilled: Function for a Pseudogene”, Casey Luskin writes that new findings relating to “junk” DNA not really being junk is evidence against evolution. He argues that a designer makes everything for a purpose, including junk DNA. So finding functions for this “junk” DNA somehow gives credence to intelligent design and evidence against evolution.

It doesn’t.  Evolutionary theory would predict that very little DNA would be “junk.” Extra DNA for no reason goes against one of the main tenets of evolution: If you don’t use it, you lose it.  Also, Luskin fails to mention that there have been predictions of the functionality of “junk” DNA by biologists. These include spacing and regulatory RNAs, among others that do not contradict evolution.  His argument is a strawman and illustrates how IDers either do not understand or are willfully ignorant of evolutionary theory.

The worst part of this post his how blatantly Luskin misquotes the article.  Here is what he wrote:

Like other types of “junk” DNA, Darwinists have almost universally considered pseudogenes to be evolutionary garbage–once-functional genes that were rendered functionless by random mutations. But a recent article in Nature concludes the following:

“Our findings indicate a function for pseudogenes in regulating gene expression by means of the RNA interference pathway.”

The full sentence from the abstract of the article changes its meaning and shows how the authors felt this new data actually helped in the understanding of evolution:

Our findings indicate a function for pseudogenes in regulating gene expression by means of the RNA interference pathway and may, in part, explain the evolutionary pressure to conserve argonaute-mediated catalysis in mammals.

Casey ignores this part of the text in typical the IDer way.  He is arguing with the strawman argument that evolutionary theory says that “junk” DNA would have not function, but does not bring up the point that the authors actually make in their paper. Which is that this new data supports evolution.

Finally, little progress in the fight for reality.  Casey admits that loss-of-function (like cavefish losing eyesight) can be explained by natural causes, but “ID is far more interested in explaining GAIN of function?”

Great, we are halfway there, but it is hard to imagine loss without gain (or vice versa). When animals such as Tiktaliik started to lose fins and gain limbs, is that a gain or a loss?