How Much of DNA is Functional?

These came up in another thread, and I mentioned that Jeanson may agree with Tour here.

So I went back to look at the debate with Venema.

He refers to how much of DNA has likely been studied for function 4 times that I found. He actually says he thinks it may be less than 1%
Around 2:31:00, 3:14:00, 3:42:43, and 3:44:00

He also talked about psuedogenes and ENCODE from 42-47 minutes, and some more from 3:44:00 - 3:51:00

Have fun discussing and maybe I’ll learn something since obviously this is all beyond me :slight_smile:

I’m not going to watch another long video for you, but the slide that shows up before you click on it shows how silly the claims of a nested hierarchy for designed objects is. Note that those things don’t actually nest: engine-powered vehicles are not within unpowered vehicles, land-based vehicles and vehicles with four wheels are not within engine-powered vehicles. Well, at least all sedans have four wheels; that’s something. But this is an excruciatingly bad example of groups within groups.

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I’m not going to watch the video, but assuming you’ve accurately described what he said, that’s obviously wrong and reflects very poorly on Jeanson.

Also note that “we’ve studied only 1% of the genome” and “we’ve only studied the function of 1% of the genome” is not the same thing.

I gave you the timestamps so you can watch it without watching the whole thing. Do you want to ignore people’s scientific hypotheses?

Yes, I get that. I stated it incorrectly. Lol, it’s been almost 20 years since I’ve taken biology in college and I have no background. Give me a little grace. But I find this all very interesting. Science is actually fun when there’s problems to solve :slight_smile:

yeah, he explained in the debate. I recognized right away when I was watching that he shouldn’t have put “unpowered” there - it was sort of misleading. Instead it should have just been “vehicles.” But engine-powered, land-based vehicles with four wheels, are within engine-powered, land-based vehicles, and that’s within engine-powered vehicles. That was his point.

Okay, just to humor you, I watched the bit around 2:31:00, and he says that we’ve not applied the “gold standard” measure of function to 99% of the genome. By this he means knock-out experiments.

I don’t know whether this claim is true or not, but it is not particularly germane to the question of how much of the genome has been studied for function. Knockouts are, of course, not the only (nor necessarily most appropriate) way to study function, and we have certainly applied other methods to much larger portions of the genome.

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Yeah. I actually think the most important part to watch and what you’ll understand and I don’t because it gets into a lot of detail on new discoveries in genetics is the Q&A section from 3:42:00-3:50:00 and see if you agree with his argument.

Exactly right, there have been plenty of studies showing functional redundancy exists in the genome (including some of my own work), for example deleting validated enhancers with no effect on phenotype because the other existing enhancers are sufficient. We can’t conclude from this that the deleted enhancers are non-functional, because they clearly are functional.


Can you see why this picture of a jet propelled school bus completely destroys his point?


I will spell it out. Nature adapts from what it has to work with. So adaptations which are the result of millions of years down an evolutionary branch just cannot be pasted onto a distantly related branch. Even if filling similar niches, say flight, the adaptations modify existing traits - that is why convergent evolution results in very different wings for birds and bats. That is why nature can be analyzed in terms of nested hierarchies - there is actual descent. It is not just about features that exist, it is about the limitations of adaptation.

Technology is not so limited, so creating a nested hierarchy of transportation is, well, I will say misleading, although it is so insanely misleading that I have to restrain myself from a far more inflammatory choice of words. There is nothing stopping culling from completely unrelated technologies and grafting into another, and in fact, that is done constantly. So chimera’s like a jet fighter powered school bus are only limited by imagination, spare time, and a bit of moola. This is unthinkable in biology, unless you believe that the Babylonians actually saw real winged lions. How is it that the exact same complex microprocessors pop up in unrelated aircraft, submarines, and cars at the same time? New composite materials? Nothing at all happens like that in nature. The idea that hierarchies in nature just reveal design in the same way as transportation is bunk. Utter bunk. Bunk times utter raised a googolplex. Ok, I got carried away, bunk will do.

Furthermore, because biological hierarchies are the result of actual descent, the same analysis applies just as well to what is broken. Phylogenetic analyses works fine for pseudogenes, nonfunctional segments of DNA that resemble functional genes. Why would a designer apply broken genes from one creature to another? Here is one such paper dealing with primates, including humans. There are plenty more examples. Did Jeanson talk about that?


i gave here in the past evidence for correlation between junk percentage and creature complexity:

another possible function for the “junk” part can be to prevent harmful mutations. if the majority of the genome is junk there is less chance to get harmful mutations in the functional part.

Hi @thoughtful, you wrote this:

after you wrote this:



This may be mentioned in the video in the sections I highlighted.

Yes. This section:

I don’t have a degree in science, and I took the minimum in high school and college. Kicking myself for not taking physics now.

It’s scientists’ job to consider other people’s hypotheses.

But yes, after all that defensiveness, point taken :slight_smile: :blush:

Didn’t we just discuss this happening in this thread? Some Microorganisms Can Bend Rules of Evolution - Peaceful Science

What scientific hypotheses? What makes you imagine that Jeanson has anything to do with science?

Then it’s a bad point. If you have to recap all previous levels when you define the next level, that isn’t a nested hierarchy at all. In real nested hierarchies, the order in which you state the characters shouldn’t matter; it should derive from the data themselves. For “engine-powered vehicles” and “four-wheeled vehicles”, neither set is nested within the other. I’m not even going to bother looking for whatever point he was trying to make, as long as it isn’t “this is a bad slide that has nothing to do with nested hierarchy”. Was that his point?


Yes he does off-handedly offer his sort of catch-all dismissal of pseudogenes there by conjecturing one way a pseudogene might still be functional is to serve as a source for RNA-inferference mediated regulation of canonical genes.

And that sure does sound interesting and convincing to someone who doesn’t know the first thing about molecular biology or gene expression, which of course most people in Jeanson’s intended audience are not. There are numerous problems with this suggestion.

Not the fact itself, that a pseudogene can constitute the source of RNA transcripts that take part in regulating a canonical gene. That’s a real thing. What his fantasy doesn’t explain is why there’s… a whole pseudogene in the first place, rather than simply the requisite interfering RNA fragment that would be required to block or initiate transcription. We’re talking basically the entire gene with introns, exons, and then accumulated point mutations in various parts. Much less does it explain the phylogenetic relationships one would obtain from inferring a phylogeny using the pseudogene locus from every species that shares a variant of it. Even less (that is to say, in no way) does it explain the frequency distribution of mutations being consistent with biochemistry across different species with mutated variants of the same pseudogene. Another factor to consider is the fact that some pseudogenes have no functional homologues, and hence whatever putative noisy transcripts they might produce have no other relevant genomic binding site than the pseudogene itself, and hence they’d be “regulating” their own dead genomic locus.

Now consider how much work it would take to get you to really understand everything I just said, so you could competently criticize it if you wanted to. And that only when and if you really did understand it, would you also be able to tell whether Jeanson’s argument was good one in the first place. And yet you seem to just blindly trust him. What has he done to earn your trust where thousands of other competent molecular biologists have not, short of merely express agreement with your religious beliefs?


All that’s necessary in reply is to say “dog’s-ass plot”.

That would be true if the mechanism of mutation were to sprinkle a fixed number randomly through the genome. Unfortunately for you, that’s not how it works.

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There are more hypotheses than hours in the day. There must be some kind of filter to separate the ones worth considering from those not worth considering. I applied that filter.


I anticipated this, but the prior post was already long enough. Yes, at the microbiological level, you can have horizontal gene transfer, such as discussed in the below book.

That does not at all weaken the case of what I said concerning gross features which characterize species. In fact, horizonal gene transfer has opposite effect in that viral introns are also subject to phylogenetic analyses, which again has no correlation with technology or a creator’s reuse of designs. That demonstrates nested hierarchy is due to actual descent, and not just a catalog of features, and is additional phylogenetic evidence for evolution. So there is no refuge in HGT.