"Junk DNA" is a very popular subject among anti-evolution commentators. At the Discovery Institute (DI) and Reasons To Believe (RTB), as well as other creationist outlets, you can find ample discussion of "junk DNA" and why it matters to Christians who don't like evolution.
I've mentioned this topic several times myself, because I believe that the misuse of science by creationists is seldom more in evidence than when opponents of evolution confront genetics and genomics.
The opening move by evolutionists is to equate any and all skeptics as creationists.
As I've noted before, common descent provides a superior explanation for the extraordinary facts gleaned through comparative genomics
In the evolution genre, phrases like “common descent provides a superior explanation” are code for “the evidence falsifies creation.” The reasoning is always contrastive as Elliott Sober points out. Evolution and common descent are problematic, but there is no alternative. Of course that is a religious claim. But wait …
and there is no competing scientific explanation.
Not only is common descent the superior explanation, it is the only scientific explanation. This is a standard argument in the genre: make up your own definition of science which just so happens to exclude empirical approaches.
As I see it, a knowledgeable Christian person considering these data has exactly two rational alternatives: 1) acknowledge the explanatory power of common ancestry and accept its reality; or 2) acknowledge the appearance of common ancestry but deny its reality.
Well at least non Christians are allowed to follow the data. This is the usual “it’s either common descent or a cosmic conspiracy” false dichotomy. Appearance of common ancestry? That's strange, beyond speculation there is no explanation of how it would work. Matheson states that his writings are about scientific explanation. So far we have the usual evolutionary metaphysics and dogma.
Any other choice is indicative of ignorance or of some form of intellectual dishonesty.
It is the height of hypocrisy for evolutionists to be lecturing skeptics about their supposed intellectual dishonesty. Evolutionary thought is based on and motivated by non scientific, religious and philosophical, concerns which they mask as “just science.” It is rationalism masquerading as empiricism. And they then castigate skeptics as dishonest.
I have advocated the use of the concept of folk science to account for the tendency of some apologists (e.g., the "scholars" at Reasons To Believe) to misrepresent science
The ad hominem is another standard evolutionary attack. Credentials don’t matter. One can be a genuine scholar only if one accepts evolution.
in defense of their preconceived interpretive framework.
More hypocrisy as the evolutionists, who openly mandate naturalism, divine a preconceived framework in the work of those who (i) express none and (ii) find scientific problems with evolution.
Creationists insist that "junk DNA" is functional and therefore that evolutionary claims regarding its origin are mistaken.
This is not universally true, but it is a strong tendency that is worth pointing out. The “nature must be functional, and even perfect” view goes back to Paley and eighteenth century English natural theology, and was/is an important foil for Darwin and today’s evolutionists. However, history is on the natural theologian’s side as we continue to discover function for what evolutionists thought were useless structures.
Creationists of various stripes commonly claim that because evolutionary biologists automatically assumed that non-coding DNA lacked function, little or no research on the subject occurred for decades. That claim is doubly false: biologists have always adopted various stances on the functional roles of non-coding DNA, and consequently research into its function has proceeded apace.
Matheson freely generalizes about creationists but resists generalizations about evolutionists. It is true that various stances were adopted vis-à-vis “junk” DNA, but the view that it is non functional has been prevalent and used as an evolutionary apologetic.
Enormous numbers of DNA elements that make up the bulk of the human genome -- and most of its non-coding "junk" segments -- have been identified and are being actively investigated by molecular biologists. These elements are anything but mysterious: they are so-called mobile genetic elements of various kinds, with well-known properties. Their properties, and their use in scores of analyses of evolutionary relationships, are systematically omitted from creationist writings on the subject.
Good point. More needs to be written on these successful predictions of evolution. For instance, it needs to be pointed out that evolutionists turn these successes into compelling evidence by applying Darwin’s Principle.
The proteins that enable animals to smell are called olfactory receptors (ORs). The human genome contains about 800 OR genes, but more than half of them have been inactivated by mutation, yielding what are called pseudogenes. These "fossil genes" are found in precisely the same locations within the genome as are the fully-functional versions in other mammals (i.e., mice). Analysis of these genes and their properties has led to the construction of a highly coherent explanatory framework that accounts for the existence of these pseudogenes and the evolution of smell in vertebrates. Looking for a creationist approach to these data? The word 'olfactory' appears nowhere on RTB's website; at the DI, you'll find it in lots of articles...about stem cells.
Well I’ve written on pseudogenes, but that appears nowhere on Matheson’s website. Indeed, Matheson seems to avoid those pseudogenes that contradict the evolutionary expectations. Nor does he seem to consider non evolutionary explanations.
It certainly is true that there are plenty of evidences in biology that fit the evolutionary expectations. But there are plenty of evidences that do not, and many of them are staggering—far more so than the positive evidences (which are mainly circumstantial) are supportive.
The preponderance of empirical evidence does not bode well for evolution. Of course we can argue about how to weigh this evidence and that, and just where the theory stands. But the theory is unquestionably not a fact. This is different than saying it is not true.
When we say evolution is not a fact we are pointing out the state of our knowledge. We cannot conclude with any level of confidence that evolution is true or compelling. We certainly are in no position to equate it with the fact of gravity (something we sense every waking moment).
But this is precisely what evolutionists claim. They say evolution is every bit as much a fact as is gravity. They argue we know this from the scientific evidence. But this is unquestionably false.
The problem is not that evolutionists are hypothesizing a scientifically questionable theory—it is that they are mandating a scientifically questionable theory. This is what is so telling about evolution.
Sure evolution might be true. It does not seem likely from the science, but perhaps somehow, some way, it occurred.
Nonetheless evolutionists are certain they are right, and of course theirs is a metaphysical certainty. Religion drives science, and it matters.