It’s been just over a year since the Kitzmiller ruling, and over a series of 3 posts, I’d like to briefly highlight some scientific discoveries reported since that time:
- In November, 2006, a Nature article entitled, “It’s the junk that makes us human” reported that much non-coding (“junk”)-DNA may control gene expression, and be responsible for many phenotypic differences between species. A subsequent Nature article highlighted the work of Simon Shepherd at the University of Bradford in the United Kingdom, explaining that there are layers of meaning in the genetic code which go beyond the three-nucleotide codon language:
[R]esearchers now know that there are numerous other layers of biological information in DNA, interspersed between, or superimposed on, the passages written in the triplet code. Human DNA contains tissue-specific information that instructs brain or muscle cells to produce the suite of proteins that make them brain or muscle cells. Other signals in the sequence help decide at what points DNA should coil around its scaffolds of structural proteins. These are the codes that computer buffs such as Shepherd want to crack with raw processing power … [M]any stretches of DNA in humans and other organisms manage to multi task: a sequence can code for a protein and still manage to guide the position of a nucleosome.
(Helen Pearson, “Genetic information Codes and enigmas,” Nature, 444:259 (Nov. 16, 2006).)
The article reported that statistical patterns within DNA indicate that there is hidden function: “It also found that this correlation existed predominantly in DNA that did not code for protein, leading Stanley to propose that DNA previously written off as junk actually carries biological information.” There is much evidence that the “junk-DNA” assumption is collapsing.
- In 2006, Øyvind Albert Voie, a Norwegian biologist with the Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, published an article in the scientific journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, which argued that “chance and necessity cannot explain sign systems, meaning, purpose, and goals” in the DNA system. Voie concludes that since “mind possesses other properties that do not have these limitations,” it is “therefore very natural that many scientists believe that life is rather a subsystem of some Mind greater than humans.” By invoking mind over matter to explain the origin of life, Voie clearly is explicitly supporting ID.
- Pro-ID scientists continue to explore intelligent design, as exciting scientific laboratory research funded by Discovery Institute was highlighted in a recent December, 2006 article in New Scientist. How does the ACLU respond? They deny it exists. ACLU attorney Witold Walczak made a snide comment on December 12, 2006: “Why don’t these guys go back to their ‘labs,’ and do something meaningful?’ Walczak asked. ‘Oh, wait. They don’t have labs. Silly me.'” That is silly because the New Scientist article explained that Discovery Institute has been supporting the Biologic Institute, which is conducting research in protein science, cell biology, and evolutionary computation. Biologic scientist Doug Axe has done much work assessing the probability of constructing functional proteins, which New Scientist reports was published in the Journal of Molecular Biology. The New Scientist article explains that ID proponents use the research to argue that “[b]ecause such mutations destroy ‘the possibility of any functioning’ in the enzyme, it could not have arisen via ‘Darwinian pathways’.” (More on this to come in post 3.)
- Research from other labs is showing that evolving functional complexes of proteins may be difficult. A recent Nature paper finds that the intolerance of proteins to random mutations is heightened when that protein is part of a suite of interacting proteins: “the combined deleterious effects of mutations were, on average, larger than expected from the multiplication of their individual effects.”
Random mutation and blind selection may have trouble on the horizon. This will become especially clear in the second post of this series which will discuss the difficulty Neo-Darwinism is having constructing robust phylogenetic trees.