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Evolution By Intelligent Design is Intelligent Design

A short news article in Molecular Systems Biology is another example of scientists discussing the controversy that doesn’t exist over irreducible complexity. In an article discussing how some molecular biologists increased the selectivity of certain enzymes for their substrates by inducing mutations, they conclude:

“Finally, they assumed that the mutations were additive–that the effect on selectivity of combining two mutations could be predicted by adding the effect of each mutation done singly. With this assumption, it was straightforward to predict combinations of single mutations identified as controlling selectivity without decreasing the total productivity. The striking result of this design is that the simple additivity assumption was validated–the authors obtained several triple to quintuple mutants with nearly perfect selectivities for the product they targeted. Apparently, intelligent design does not need irreducible complexity after all.” (The intelligent design of evolution, Molecular Systems Biology)

But of course, there’s no need to refute irreducible complexity because there’s no controversy over it. What is more, all this study found is that using intelligently guided labwork, they could “evolve” enzymes with higher activity rates. That’s like kind of saying “by improving the timing on your engine we can make your car go faster”…but of course it doesn’t address the question of how the engine came to its specified and complex functional state to begin with. I’d much rather learn about how enzyme specificity is first acquired than learn that we can improve pre-existing specificity through successive mutations (that are intelligently designed). Thus when the article says:

“So, scientists everywhere may soon begin their own intelligent designs… and so far, it looks like the best designs are the simplest. At the protein level, at least, it looks like irreducible complexity is out and a rather reducible simplicity is in. Intelligent design, however, may be here to stay.”

…they fail to recognize the irreducible core of how an enzyme acquires any specificity whatsoever to begin with. That is the same question that the Thornton article failed to address. Discovering stepwise advantages post-achieving-a-functional-irreducible-core does not refute irreducible complexity. This type of “lab evolution” shows intelligent design in action!

Casey Luskin

Associate Director, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.