This Week in Intelligent Design – 27/07/10

Intelligent design news from the 20th of July to the 27th of July, 2010.

Another week of slow news from the world of intelligent design, with much cross-posting from the Discovery Institute amongst its many blogs, probably to make it seem like they had more things to talk about than they did. A useful tactic, I’m sure. Perhaps we skeptics should try it some time? Let’s all just re-blog the same post for a few days and see if anyone notices. I bet they won’t.

So, this week I’ll be laying into a few meaty blog posts like usual, but I’ll also add on at the end some quick links to less important posts that don’t require quite so much attention. It’ll make the experience more… comprehensive and fulfilling. Probably.

First up, Casey Luskin wrote on Evolution News & Views about a recently-published peer-reviewed paper that seems to explicitly support intelligent design, from the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics. The author is a professor of thermodynamics, Andy McIntosh (not a great start), and it’s clear that he really doesn’t know all that much about the processes of evolutionary change:

McIntosh addresses the objection that, thermodynamically speaking, highly organized low entropy structures can be formed at the expense of an increase in entropy elsewhere in the universe. However, he notes that this argument fails when applied to the origin of biological information:

whilst this argument works for structures such as snowflakes that are formed by natural forces, it does not work for genetic information because the information system is composed of machinery which requires precise and non-spontaneous raised free energy levels – and crystals like snowflakes have zero free energy as the phase transition occurs.

McIntosh then tackles the predominant reductionist view of biological information which “regards the coding and language of DNA as essentially a phenomenon of the physics and chemistry of the nucleotides themselves.” He argues that this classical view is wrong, for “biological structures contain coded instructions which … are not defined by the matter and energy of the molecules carrying this information.”

Excuse me while I do something stereotypically violent to myself that I wouldn’t do unless I was trying to dull the mental pain of reading something so stupid and misguided that it forces me to abandon normal behavior. Or, something like that.

Read the rest of Casey’s article for yourself, it’s just embarrassing. Does McIntosh know nothing of the ability for evolutionary processes to construct systems through selection, gene interaction, co-option of function, scaffolding and neutral mutations? Because it really seems like he doesn’t.

File this paper in the tray marked “Peer-Reviewed Papers that Support ID through the Misunderstanding of Evolutionary Biology”.

———

Jonathan McLatchie, on Evolution News & Views (are Jonathan and Casey the only ones who post there anymore?), blogged about, surprise surprise, a new paper that shows that a certain retrotransposon sequence in humans has been co-opted to function as a regulatory sequence! Wow, that means that all retrotransposons have a function! What amazing research!

The researchers, Pi et al. generated transgenic mice carrying an entire 100-kilobase human globin gene locus with or without the ERV-9 LTR, a class of retrotransposons found in human and chimpanzee globin gene loci, which possess enhancer and promoter activities in embryonic and hematopoetic progenitor cells. Deletion of the ERV-9 LTR resulted in suppression of the transcription of the β-globin gene and reactivated transcription of the γ-globin gene in adult erythroid cells in two of the lines of transgenic mice. The researchers concluded that “Locus-wide analysis of transcription factor occupancies, transcriptome status, and in vivo chromatin conformation provided unique experimental evidence that an intergenic retrotransposon serves a long-range beneficial host function.” The paper’s authors close their article by saying,

The ERV-9 LTR through its high-affinity binding of NF-Y may coordinate the transcriptional networks of these cis-linked genes during hematopoiesis. Thus, at least some of the 4,000 copies of the ERV-9 LTR retrotransposons distributed across the human chromosomes may serve a beneficial host function and may not be junk DNAs.

Congratulations, Jonathan, you’ve blogged about an evolutionary phenomenon known as exaptation! Some retrotransposon sequences have been altered through mutation and now serve a function in the cell apart from their old job of jumping around the genome and getting in the way. This isn’t evidence that all non-coding sequences in the genome have a function, just that some of them have been co-opted into working with the cell, not against it.

Better luck next time.

———

DonaldM, on Uncommon Descent, decided to write about Craig Venter’s synthetic bacteria – specifically bioethicist Gregory Kaebnick’s take on whether or not Venter’s “creations” are actually life:

Kaebnick raises an interesting point: is this synthetic cell life? If we grant that it is, what are the implications for either evolution or ID, if any? My initial thought is that what Venter et.al created is not life. In that respect, I think David Baltimore got it right in the above quote.

Still, its worth considering, is this life? If so, why? And, what are the implications for ID and/or evolution. Its hard to see how this helps evolution in that design is everywhere in the experiment. Indeed, if this cell does qualify as life, then it is clearly purposely, intelligently designed life.

What are the implications for ID and evolutionary theory? There are none! Venter’s achievement says nothing about how the original bacterial species that he used came into existence. Was the new bacteria intelligently designed? In a way, but all that proves is that humans will be able to create life in the future. Wow. That must mean that… humans created all life on Earth?

Bah, the intelligent design movement is grasping at straws now (were they ever not?), trying to find anything that is somehow linked to their pet unscientific notion. Well, Donald, this ain’t one of those things.

———

To finish up the major items, Cornelius Hunter, on Darwin’s God, got confused and incoherent over a biology textbook’s explanation of evolution:

It is important not to miss the key point of the result you see illustrated in figure 17.3: evolution is an observation, not a conclusion. Because the dating of the samples is independent of what the samples are like, successive change through time is a data statement. While the statement that evolution is the result of natural selection is a theory advanced by Darwin, the statement that macroevolution has occurred is a factual observation.

A sequence of fossils is an observation of macroevolution? It would be difficult to imagine a greater lie than this. And it is not as though this was an unintended mistake that just happened to elude the 100+ reviewers. Johnson and Lobos went out of their way to make and elaborate this lie and the army of evolutionist reviewers all nodded their heads.

Holy crap, “It would be difficult to imagine a greater lie than this”? What have you been smoking, Cornelius?

A commenter on the post, oleg, summed up the whole thing perfectly:

This is called jumping the shark.

———

Rapid fire ID news!

6 thoughts on “This Week in Intelligent Design – 27/07/10

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jack Scanlan, Tom Reinard. Tom Reinard said: RT @naontiotami This Week in Intelligent Design http://is.gd/dMV6d #casey #luskin #cornelius #hunter #craig #venter [...]

  2. I haven't read the McIntosh paper but from the short description it sounds like a whole lot of Special Pleading: highly organized low entropy structures can be formed at the expense of an increase in entropy EXCEPT when it comes to biochemistry because life is magical and doesn't follow the same laws of thermodynamics as everything else in the universe, because I said so. How did that pass peer-review?

    • I have absolutely no idea. His thesis just makes no sense – why are biomolecules different to other molecules? They contain "information"? Well
      "information" in this sense is just patterning that leads to higher-order functioning ';and more complex interactions than what we normally see in chemistry, but these patterns aren't all that special – they can easily be formed through the application of evolutionary processes. This is a fact, it's been demonstrated many times.

      Making arguments from thermodynamics without knowing about the bigger picture really annoys me. It's the epitome of lazy scholarship.

    • Oh, and I don't think anyone's about to pay $30 to download McIntosh's paper just to see what kind of arguments he's really using – http://journals.witpress.com/pages/paperinfo.asp?…

      Looks like he's safe from criticism in that regard.

  3. The article reminds me of a book titled

    Who is this Alien? This Higher Power in the Universe…This Supreme Intelligence
    Intelligent Design is based on scientific discoveries. Hence, it is science and logic blending together forever…..to support the existence of a supreme intelligent being, a Creator….

    Yes, there is Intelligent life beyond our galaxy…Many scientists and individuals are searching the heavens for extra-terrestial beings, believing by faith that something is out there in the heavens. They will be surprised when its reveal to them…

    check out the new book titled "Who is this Alien? its all about this Intelligent being…………It has a name, a title beyond all titles
    Check it out on Amazon, Barnes or http://www.kingdomcomeforever.ecrater.com…………..L...

  4. Superb article, I would thank to author coz’ i’ve found a lot good info. I’ve added this blog to my RSS reader :). Best regards

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