When first discovered, scientists believed that DNA was a somewhat simple genetic code filled with what they termed “junk DNA,” useless bits assumed to be evolutionary remnants from our supposed ancestors. But now they have found the code to be astoundingly complex, multilayered and even bidirectional.
On Sept. 5, 2012, The New York Times reported: “The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave …
“The thought before the start of the [DNA] project, said Thomas Gingeras, an Encode researcher from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, was that only 5 to 10 percent of the DNA in a human being was actually being used. The big surprise was not only that almost all of the DNA is used but also that a large proportion of it is gene switches.
“Before Encode, said Dr. John Stamatoyanno-poulos, a University of Washington scientist who was part of the project, 'if you had said half of the genome and probably more has instructions for turning genes on and off, I don't think people would have believed you'” (“Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From 'Junk,' Play Crucial Role,” Sept. 5, 2012, online edition).
The astounding complexity of the DNA code was the main reason Sir Antony Flew, the late world-famous philosopher who had been the leading atheist in England, renounced his atheism a few years back and accepted the existence of a divine intelligence behind it all.
He wrote: “What I think the DNA material has done is that it has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved in getting these extraordinarily diverse elements to work together” ( There Is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, 2007, p. 75).
Let's see some of the examples of the incredible complexity of the DNA code.
Spy codes—as in Washington's day
Back in the days of the American Revolution, George Washington and his officers sent each other letters with double meanings. A letter intercepted by the enemy would simply have sounded like a typical message describing incidents on a farm. But to those with the deciphering key, the same message may have described troop numbers and locations. Yet without the key, the secret message would be safely hidden.
Similarly, scientists have come to realize that certain areas of the genetic code have secondary messages that can be deciphered by a cell's translating devices.
Comparing DNA to a spy code, science historian Stephen Meyer explains: “In the same way, the cell has protein machinery and RNA codes that jointly function as a cipher enabling it to access and read the secondary imbedded messages within the primary message of the genome … The presence of these genes imbedded within genes (messages within messages) further enhances the information-storage density of the genome” ( Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, 2009, pp. 463-464).
Imagine how difficult it would be to write a message and inscribe within it other messages! Mindless evolution could never produce genetic information of any kind, much less in overlapping levels of this nature!
DNA's bidirectional code
Scientists also have found the genome to be bidirectional—relaying different messages when read from opposite directions—providing efficiency of space.
Dr. Meyer explains: “In the same way that words are ordered into sentences and sentences into paragraphs, nucleotide bases [within the DNA molecular chain] are ordered into genes and genes are ordered into specifically arranged gene clusters.
“Or think of these individual genes as computer data files and groupings of genes as folders containing several files. The groupings of DNA 'files' that we observe serve several roles. These groupings allow the cell to make longer transcripts that are combinations of different gene messages. In other words, the coding modules of the gene files in a 'folder' can be combined in numerous ways—and in both directions—to greatly increase the number of encoded transcripts and protein products from the same genomic region or resources” (pp. 467-468).
Again, imagine how difficult it would be to design something like this! If you read forward, you find one message. If you read backwards, you find another message. Again, how could evolution possibly account for this? It is further clear evidence of a brilliant Mind at work!
From “junk DNA” to a complex computer operating system
Computer users are familiar with a computer's operating system, such as Microsoft Windows, which sets and controls the environment in which software programs run. Scientists are now startled to discover that many regions of the genome, previously thought to be useless, in fact provide key functions similar to a computer's operating system.
Dr. Meyer explains: “Portions of the genome that many biologists previously regarded as 'junk DNA' are now known to perform many important functions, including the regulation and expression of the information for building proteins … the nonprotein coding regions of the genome function much like an operating system in a software program, directing and regulating how other information in the system is processed” (p. 367).
Discarding the “junk DNA” myth
To believe that all this incredible, efficient complexity simply evolved through mutation and natural selection is to deny the overwhelming facts.
As molecular biologist Jonathan Wells concludes: “Scientists make progress by testing hypotheses against the evidence. But when scientists ignore the evidence and cling to a hypothesis for philosophical or theological reasons, the hypothesis becomes a myth. Junk DNA is such a myth …
“As recent discoveries have demonstrated, we are just beginning to unravel the mysteries of the genome. Indeed, the same can be said of living organisms in general. But assuming that any feature of an organism has no function discourages further investigation. In this respect, the myth of junk DNA has been a science-stopper. Not anymore. For scientists willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads, these are exciting times” ( The Myth of Junk DNA , 2011, p. 107).