Home » Intelligent Design » Earth to Darwin fans: Building things up is way more trouble than destroying them

Earth to Darwin fans: Building things up is way more trouble than destroying them

In “When Fossil Genes Become Fossilized Rhetoric”11 05 08) Robert Deyes recounts the trouble an evolutionary biologist named Sean Carroll went to in order to demonstrate that evolution occurs without design or purpose – largely demonstrating the opposite:

There are no grounds for assuming that the processes through which genes might degrade are the same processes through which they could be built up (Ref 1). In simple terms, genes are long stretches of DNA that carry the information necessary to code for the production of functional proteins. Intelligent design theorists claim that a piece-meal assembly of information-rich genes using the basic building blocks of DNA exceeds the capacities of Darwinian selection and is better explained by appealing to the activity of an intelligent agent (Refs 3,4). If anything, this very principle should have been Carroll’s first point of contention if he was to say anything against ID. From a philosophical perspective the possibility remains that a designer may have supplied an organism with more genetic information than may have been needed for life- what one may call an “all the options, all the bells and whistles” approach. Such a designer could have been interested in placing non-functional genes in the genome for a future role in his or her design. We all install software into our computers that may not be operational until some later date when we finally choose to use it. Computers can now be accurately scheduled to start a process at a specified instant in the future, similarly to the programming of a recording on a video-recorder.

Deyes follows up with a discussion of the “living fossil”fish, the coelacanth, noting:

The finding of the first coelacanth in 1938 was hailed as a breakthrough in the evolutionary saga for it appeared that here paleontologists had a ‘living fossil’ upon which to closely study the internal, soft anatomy of a supposed rhipidistian relative (Ref 7). Named after its discoverer Marjorie Courney-Latimer, the story of the coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) was from the beginning one that was filled with suspense and political intrigue (Ref 7-8). Its internal biology proved to be no less fascinating for it showed no clear cut evidence of having been intermediate for a terrestrial environment and thus was far from what would be expected for a terrestrial ancestor (Ref 7). While its fins were admittedly ‘limb like’, it had no backbone. Instead it displayed a notochord- a hollow tube filled with oil that ran from the brain to the tail (Ref 7). Some organs were similar to those of sharks and rays while other parts of the soft anatomy, such as vena cava which brings blood back to the heart, resembled those of land animals (Ref 7). The heart itself was extremely fish-like, lacking the right and left division that is characteristic of all land animals. Curiously the coelacanth revealed a number of specialized organs such as a gel-filled cavity in the nose thought to be responsible for detecting electrical impulses from potential prey. The overall picture was not, as many had hoped, unarguably indicative of a terrestrial precursor Indeed, if the internal biology of the rhipidistians had in any way resembled that of the coelacanth then they too would have been far removed from the sea-to-land transition (Ref 7).

Nevertheless, the picture of the coelacanth as a window into life’s aquatic origins was heavily publicized (Ref 7). Darwinists supplied a simple exit from the inconsistencies in the data. They claimed that while its outward appearance had changed little over its 400 million year existence, its internal anatomy must have evolved such that its intermediary status between fish and tetrapods was no longer recognizable. Thus the uncertain nature of the coelacanth’s soft anatomy was precisely what we would expect to see from a long period of internal evolution (Ref 7). Needless to say, such a proposition was unsupported by any evidence and was merely designed to fit into the pre-conceived model of vertebrate evolution. Indeed paleontologist Niles Eldredge admits that living fossils, such as the coelacanth are today, “something of an embarrassment” for the evolutionary picture (Ref 9, p.108).

The only really uninteresting fossil is the Darwinian rhetoric, the endless attempts to shore up a failing theory. Oh and, by the way, the “fossil fish” is a live bearer.

I remember when live bearing was a sign of more advanced, modern life forms …

See also: Goodbye GATTACA, again … do I have to change my phone number or what … ?

  • Delicious
  • Facebook
  • Reddit
  • StumbleUpon
  • Twitter
  • RSS Feed

7 Responses to Earth to Darwin fans: Building things up is way more trouble than destroying them

  1. “From a philosophical perspective the possibility remains that a designer may have supplied an organism with more genetic information than may have been needed for life- what one may call an “all the options, all the bells and whistles” approach. Such a designer could have been interested in placing non-functional genes in the genome for a future role in his or her design. We all install software into our computers that may not be operational until some later date when we finally choose to use it.”

    This is not viable for two reasons:

    1. If, for example, the genes for blood clotting were “installed” in some cell long ago before it had function, the genes would have mutated beyond repair by now.

    2. We should expect to find genes that would never have had any use in a species past. For example, finding vestiges of blood clotting genes in plants.

  2. Switch89: IDists are often accused of putting limits on the powers of time and chance to produce the complexity seen in life today. “God of the gaps” they say. So now you are putting limits on what a designer can do. It is far easier to imagine a world where the complexity was at a maximum to begin with, and we are witnessing the end-game after the programme has been played out. From this perspective you are placing imaginary limits on the power of design.

    1. If, for example, the genes for blood clotting were “installed” in some cell long ago before it had function, the genes would have mutated beyond repair by now.

    2. We should expect to find genes that would never have had any use in a species past. For example, finding vestiges of blood clotting genes in plants.

    You are perhaps fogetting that we already know that cells contain powerful error-correction abilities. Even in so-called “junk” DNA, undergoing no known natural selection against mutation, there are long stretches which appear to be “ultra-preserved” to an extent far beyond what might be expected if mutation were everywhere functioning to the same degree. Who is to say that more powerful algorithms have not previously existed, or are currently unexpressed, or that the algorithms still operating were insufficient in the past to preserve what was necessary up to this time?

    As for #2, the giveaway is your statement “we should expect”. Why should we? Were I to write a front-loaded universe, I would programme my progeny to jettison those parts no long necessary to the continuation each of the various lineages. Sort of like a multi-stage rocket. Over and over again, and noted even among the last few posts, scientists are “amazed” and “surprised” at what they discover. If experience is any guide, “we should expect” should be expunged from your vocabulary when you approach the marvels of the cell.

    A front-loaded scenario just has to pick and choose from the original ingredients. Compared to building up the whole thing from simple chemicals, that’s pretty simple, and the “roadblocks” you’ve put up are pretty trivial compared to, say, creating a single average-length protein by chance.

  3. If we don’t put limits on what the designer can do, then that means ID is essentially unfalsifiable and not science.

    When I said “we should expect” I meant that there are tons of things that would make lots of sense of the “front loading” scenario but would not make sense from evolutionary theory. Think Blood clotting genes in a tomato.

    Also, you are correct that there are sections of noncoding DNA which are highly conserved. But it is not quite correct to call noncoding DNA “junk”. Nothing in biology should be considered useless until positive evidence is presented that it is useless. So the highly conserved sections of DNA probably serve a purpose.

    I know you will think that I am being inconsistent, and you will probably point to other “darwinists” that do call noncoding DNA “junk”. But as Dr. Douglas Theobald has explained, vestigial does not mean useless. Here is my explanation:

    Vestigial organs are not totally useless (this is not even what the word means). A vestigial organ is a remnant of something which is specified for another function. An example is the ostrich’s wing: Wings are specified for flying, but the ostrich simply uses its wings for a lesser function (balance). A vestigial organ is sort of like using an old van as a clubhouse: It works, but the car definitely was not originally built for that purpose, just as the manatees’ hipsocket was not originally evolved for the functions (if any) it may have now.

  4. If we don’t put limits on what the designer can do, then that means ID is essentially unfalsifiable and not science.

    This quote from Behe should answer that:

    Intelligent design is a good explanation for a number of biochemical systems, but I should insert a word of caution. Intelligent design theory has to be seen in context: it does not try to explain everything. We live in a complex world where lots of different things can happen. When deciding how various rocks came to be shaped the way they are a geologist might consider a whole range of factors: rain, wind, the movement of glaciers, the activity of moss and lichens, volcanic action, nuclear explosions, asteroid impact, or the hand of a sculptor. The shape of one rock might have been determined primarily by one mechanism, the shape of another rock by another mechanism.

    Similarly, evolutionary biologists have recognized that a number of factors might have affected the development of life: common descent, natural selection, migration, population size, founder effects (effects that may be due to the limited number of organisms that begin a new species), genetic drift (spread of “neutral,” nonselective mutations), gene flow (the incorporation of genes into a population from a separate population), linkage (occurrence of two genes on the same chromosome), and much more. The fact that some biochemical systems were designed by an intelligent agent does not mean that any of the other factors are not operative, common, or important.

    In sum, Darwinian mechanisms do function to a certain extent so they would affect ID hypotheses.

    When I said “we should expect” I meant that there are tons of things that would make lots of sense of the “front loading” scenario but would not make sense from evolutionary theory. Think Blood clotting genes in a tomato.

    How about the sea urchin which has, in-expressed, the genes for the eyes and for antibodies (genes that are well known and fully active in later species)? Or the platypus whose genome is a patchwork of mammal, reptile, and bird? I’ve seen people insist “we can make sense of this from a Darwinian perspective” and then proceed to produce an extremely complicated hypothetical scenario, despite the fact that an ID hypothesis already predicted we would find such things. Heck, I personally was predicting that the platypus would be as such before the results were released and I’m pretty much a nobody in the ID community. I’m sure there were others saying the same.

    Are you aware of the study on DNA that was released last summer? Its results were published in the U.K. journal Nature and the U.S. journal Genome Research.

    From COSMOS Magazine (14 June 2007):

    Warehouse of genes

    But the ENCODE consortium were surprised to find that the genome appears to be stuffed with functional elements that offer no identifiable benefits in terms of survival or reproduction.

    The researchers speculate that there is a point behind this survival of the evolutionary cull. Humans could share with other animals a large pool of functional elements – a “warehouse” stuffed with a variety of tools on which each species can draw, enabling it to adapt according to its environmental niche.

    But you say “would not make sense from evolutionary theory”. The problem is that ANYTHING will be packaged and shoved into a Darwinian storytelling session. It’s funny but not only did I predict the existence of foresighted mechanisms but at the same time I predicted what the reaction from Darwinists would be, even though they were not expecting to find such a thing. I predicted that Darwinists might argue that such mechanisms would be selected for without intelligence being involved since being foresighted would allow proactive responses to a changing environment and thus increase survivability. It’s kind of like how they create a story for modularity of the code.

  5. Switch89:

    Just a couple of comments.

    First of all, front loading is only one possible mechanism invoked by some in ID, and has nothing to do with the main body of ID itself.

    Even if I am not, personally, a fan of front loading, I would say that:

    1) Regarding your first point, as SCheesman has correctly pointed out, it is perfectly possible that error correcting functions have preserved important parts of the genome. In a design scenario, immediate functionality could not be the only motivation for preserving information.

    2) Regarding your second point, we must remember that the surplus information would have to be present in the precursors, and not necessarily now.

    But I agree with you, if front-loading wants to posit itself as a scientific theory, it needs empirical backup. But it is also true that we are just at the beginning of genome sequencing and analysis, and many papers, in the last few months, have argued about the presence of unexpected genes in organisms which were considered extremely simple. You easily explain that out saying that “It is simply that we have co-opted those same genes, not that the urchin has a lot of useless genes for making eyeballs.” OK, that’s one possibility, but, like the front-loading hypothesis, it needs empirical backup to be considered a scientific possibility. Cooption is quickly becoming a comfortable “solve it all” for darwinists.

    Finally, if you are suggesting that non coding DNA is purely, or mainly, vestigial, I think you will have many surprises in the near future.

  6. Gcuppio,

    You said:

    First of all, front loading is only one possible mechanism invoked by some in ID, and has nothing to do with the main body of ID itself.

    This interested me. What other ideas are floating around from other ID theorists?

  7. Domoman:

    ID assumes that CSI is present in biological information, and that therefore it must have been implemented by a designer.

    The debate about the modalities of that implementation is open.

    Front loading assumes, in various form, that information has been pre-loaded at some time in the genomes, and that after it expresses itself in the course of natural history according to a specific plan.

    That is certainly not the only, and IMO not even the main, possible modality of design implementation.

    As we see CSI increase in the course of natural history, with the appearance of new phyla and down to species, it is perfectly natural to think that each time that CSI appears, it was implemented by design. That’s also my personal point of view.

    If that is true, two problems remain: was the implementation of CSI gradual, or relatively discontinuous? and, through which mechanism was CSI implemented?

    Both questions, IMO, cannot at present be answered. We can build models, but we don’t have enough facts and/or knowledge and understanding to validate them scientifically. That’s why these problem are at present beyond the core of ID. They are, IMO, problems for the future. But we can speculate just the same.

    Regarding the first, I was once in favour of the gradualistic approach. The result of continuous, gradualistic design would be very similar to the scenario imagined by traditional darwinism: genomes change gradually, through minimal steps, but the causal mechanism is design, and not RV+NS: in that way, the impossibilities inherent in the unguided causal mechanism are overcome.

    But many other problems remain: the anomalies in the fossil record, which have puzzled Gould and similar, the sudden appearance of new phyla in the “explosions”, and above all the almost complete absence of molecular “links”, or intermediate. Moreover, it is absolutely obvious that, at least once, the implementation if design was absolutely sudden: I mean at the OOL. Indeed, I am absolutely sure that any theory about OOL is complete rubbish, starting from the primordial soup to the to the RNA world. There was no gradual OOL, because there is no empirical evidence to siggets it. Life started in its simplest form as bacteria and/or archea, and no simpler form of life exists or ever existed.

    Therefore, if the first “step” of biological design was rather “sudden” (I don’t know if it happened in 1 minute or 1 million years, but it was “sudden”), implementing living beings whose level of complexity is already extremely high, it would be perfectly natural to assume that something like that happened also in the following natural history of the planet.

    So, I am personally in favor os a somewhat discontinuous implementation of design, something like the successive upgrades of an operating system. That would have two different purposes: the most important would be to express different and growing varieties of design and functions, and the second would be to adapt life to changing environmental conditions and opportunities. It is obviously possible that some of the adaptation takes place through front-loaded adaptation mechanisms.

    Regarding the second problem, I am convinced that the question of how design is implemented in biological systems must be approached probably at deep levels of a theory of reality, especially of physics. The quantum level seems at present the most likely interface between consciousness and matter, and so it could be at that level that design is imparted to biological beings. I suggest two possible intermediate mechanisms: targeted, or at least guided, variation, and intelligent selection.

    The only empirical model we know of implementation of design in that way (realized through a front-loaded mechanism) is antibody maturation, where a protein molecule (the specific primary antibody) is intelligently “modeled” by the immune system, according to a specific information received from the outer world (the antigen). In that case, the “modeling” takes place through a process very similar to modern protein engineering: the primary antibody becomes the target of a “guided hypermutation” (an intelligently guided application of random variation); while the intermediate results are tested for their increased or decreased affinity to the stored antigen (intelligent selection). The process is evidently front-loaded in the genome, and its results are not hereditary, but it is an interesting model just the same.

    Another problem remains: whatever the mechanism, does information implementation happens on a new “hardware” each time? That would be something like a model of “specific creation” in each case.

    But it is perfectly possible, and at present more in accord with what we know, that the implementation of the new information takes place on what already exists: in other words, an existing species is “transformed” by design in a new one, more or less gradually. That would obviously imply common descent, for which we have some convincing evidence at present.

    Finally, I want to state again that all these arguments are highly hypothetical, and will certainly be modified as new biological knowledge accrues.

    The demonstration of design, instead, is already scientifically strong and satisfying.

Leave a Reply