The article ENCODE finds the human genome to be an active place, by John Timmer, is provacative. The issue it highlights serves as a useful focal point around which to contrast the predictive utility of a teleological approach with that of standard evolutionary thinking. This is particularly so since more data relevant to the junk DNA question soon will be forthcoming. From the article:
The big surprise in this work is that the genome is pervasively made into RNA.
The new study finds that essentially every base in the genome shows up in RNA at one point or another. This is despite the fact that most of these bases aren't doing anything: 95 percent of the genome isn't under selective pressure, and most of that 95 percent doesn't appear functional in an evolutionary sense.
My thinking is more in line with that of a commenter who pointed out that large stretches of DNA are under selective pressure. They are energetically costly and could perform some yet undiscovered function that enhances reproductive fitness. More from the article:
Personally, I fall into the "it's all junk" end of the spectrum. The all-junk view, in contrast, is consistent with current data.
"Current" is the operative word. The author's view is an inevitable by product of the lense through which he views evolution. If the process is devoid of teleology then junk appears inevitable. I have an opposite view and predict that most RNA transcription confers functional benefits to affected organisms.
It looks like they're choosing to define functional as "made into RNA," even though they recognize that much of the DNA that is made into RNAs clearly has no influence on survival or fitness. They're then using that skewed definition to claim the data shows that most of the genome is functional. Since most of the popular press produces accounts based on the press release, the public is going to be receiving a very distorted view of this work.
Maybe not. That depends on the ultimate resolution of the issue. It is wiser to state that we do not now know the relationship between RNAs and fitness. In any case why the rush to a conclusion? Mainstream evolutionists are endlessly patient with OOL research; cautioning us not to rush to judgement. But the rush here is dictated by the overarching paradigm. If evolution is a non-teleological process then it makes no sense to anticipate an absence of junk. But if junk eventually proves to be minimal, look for the scramble to adjust theory to data. All because science is self-correcting of course. Nothing to do with imperfect human perceptions.