Science, Just Science

6 April 2007

ID 101: Argument From Abstract

Filed under: Creationism & Intelligent Design,Science,SJS Comment — Kyuuketsuki @ 11:27 am

*** Originally posted by Chris Hyland of SJS ***

You often hear the claim that evidence for intelligent design has been published in the scientific literature. Most journals put articles through a process of ‘peer review’ where the article is sent to a number of scientists for comment. The journal then decides based on the reviewer’s comments whether to publish the article or send it back for revision. Therefore if an intelligent design friendly paper went through this process it could be seen as a validation of the scientific status of ID. This is why ID proponents often point to papers they claim are evidence for design, whether or not they are written by ID sympathetic authors. As I mentioned previously they will tend to focus on specific words that they believe have teleological connotations.

Take this recent example

The extraordinary properties of natural proteins demonstrate that life-like protein engineering is both achievable and valuable. Rapid progress and impressive results have been made towards this goal using rational design and random techniques or a combination of both. However, we still do not have a general theory on how to specify a structure that is suited to a target function nor can we specify a sequence that folds to a target structure. There is also overreliance on the Darwinian blind search to obtain practical results. In the long run, random methods cannot replace insight in constructing life-like proteins. For the near future, however, in enzyme development, we need to rely on a combination of both.

Since evolution is expected to take thousands or millions of years to shape efficient proteins, it’s hard to see what’s controversial about this. Not only that, no one is saying that evolutionary processes are ‘better’ than intelligent processes given the same amount of time, just that there is currently no empirical evidence intelligent processes have operated in the development of life. Further more if you actually read the paper, you get quotes like:

It is often said that random genetic methods to improve enzyme properties “rely on simple but powerful Darwinian principles of mutation and selection” (Johannes and Zhao 2006). We agree. It is also said that “every protein has become adapted by step-by-step improvement and refinement of its function over millions of years” (McLachlan 1987). The present theories, however, only partly explain the protein diversity, although a recent study (Poelwijk et al. 2007) shows that even the key-lock dilemma can be resolved by the Darwinian approach when the operation field for random search is within the same protein family, and the new key-lock pair closely resembles the original (ancestral).

Gene duplication and subsequent divergence as mechanisms to create natural variety and novel structures are now decade’s old theories (Ohno 1970). Basically, directed evolution approach is an application of the gene duplication concept. Gene duplication is seen as a way to avoid random sequences in evolution, because random sequences most often are not functional. Mutations in the duplicated genes explore the local sequence space and expand the number of members in a gene family.

Here’s another great example from newCreationism.org (bolding theirs):

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have discovered how cells fine-tune their oxygen use to make do with whatever amount is available at the moment. Too little oxygen threatens life by compromising mitochondria that power it, so when oxygen is scarce, cells appear to adjust by replacing one protein with an energy-efficient substitute that “is specialized to keep the motor running smoothly even as it begins to run out of gas,” says Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of pediatrics and director of the vascular biology program in the Institute for Cell Engineering at Hopkins. “This is one way that cells maintain energy production under less than ideal conditions…”

“Cells require a constant supply of oxygen,” Semenza says, “so it’s vital for them to quickly react to slight changes in oxygen levels.” The protein-swap is how they do it.

“In the mitochondria, the tiny powerhouses found in every cell, energy is produced by passing electrons through a series of relay stations called cytochromes until they eventually join with oxygen to form water. This final step is directed by the protein cytochrome-c oxidase, or COX for short. If electrons react with oxygen before reaching COX, they generate “free radicals” that can damage or destroy cells. The mitochondria are designed to produce energy without excess free radical production at normal oxygen levels.

You see many blog posts by creationists of this nature but what you do not see is an explanation of how this is a scientific argument for ID.

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