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Richard Gallagher Frames Intelligent Design Proponents While Rewriting the History of Junk-DNA (Part 2)

Casey Luskin

JunkDNA.jpgIn part 1, I explained that The Scientist‘s editor Richard Ghallager wrote a politically charged article to avoid acknowledging that ID proponents have long-predicted the death of junk-DNA. But have ID proponents made these predictions? In a previous post, I gave about 4 or 5 examples of predictions from pro-ID or ID-sympathetic scientists from 1994 to the near-present who were predicting the end of the junk-DNA mindset. But does ID logically predict that we should find more and more function for “junk”-DNA? In a post that Telic Thoughts called, “A Dubious “Opportunity” for IDers,” it was recounted that one evolutionary biologist challenged ID proponents to “Specify the basis” for predicting function for junk DNA. I’ve done this multiple times here, as I previously explained why ID would lead us to expect that junk-DNA has function: “Intelligent agents typically create functional things, and thus Jonathan Wells has suggested, ‘From an ID perspective, however, it is extremely unlikely that an organism would expend its resources on preserving and transmitting so much junk.'”

Some may complain that this appears too simple, but ID’s prediction regarding junk-DNA is straightforward and is based upon the scientific method (i.e. observation, hypothesis, and experimentation).

Intelligent design begins by studying the types of complexity produced by intelligent agents. We observe that intelligent agents produce things for a purpose, that is, to fulfill some function. This leads ID proponents to an expectation–yes, a prediction–that DNA will not tend to contain meaningless junk but will contain structures that have (or once had) a function for the organism. ID does not lead us to the expectation that our cells’ DNA will be largely non-functional garbate. The hypothesis–that “junk”-DNA will have function–is obviously experimentally testable. In fact, I know pro-ID biologists studying the function of junk-DNA who were inspired to do such research due to intelligent design. One biologist in particular is not yet tenured, and so I will not disclose his/her name. Suffice it to say, for this biologist, finding function for non-coding DNA was directly inspired by intelligent design.

Twisting Intelligent Design
As I noted in part 1 Richard Gallagher cites Panda’s Thumb claiming it gives “[a] withering critique” of ID that is “educational” on “junk”-DNA. Yet Gallagher’s source states: “ID is based on the observation or at least argument that a particular feature cannot (yet) be explained by science. … The reason ID fails is simple, it lacks any predictive power beyond ‘X cannot be explained by Y’.” This is a blatant misrepresentation of ID.

As noted, ID is based upon our observation-based understanding of the types of complexity produced by intelligent agents. ID then seeks to find objects in nature containing the types of complexity that, in our experience, come from intelligence. This is Dembski 101 — experience teaches that specified complexity is a type of information which is derived only from intelligence sources. Stephen Meyer explains this:

Our experience-based knowledge of information-flow confirms that systems with large amounts of specified complexity (especially codes and languages) invariably originate from an intelligent source from a mind or personal agent.”

(Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Vol. 117(2):213-239 (2004).)

Thus, ID says that we would expect to find function for junk-DNA because, in our experience, designers make things for a purpose. This leads to a POSITIVE expectation that junk-DNA will have function. Neo-Darwinism can do whatever it wants; ID has long-predicted that junk-DNA has function, and ID was right.

“Substantive objections are bypassed. Irrelevancies are stressed. Tables are turned. Misrepresentations abound.”

Finally, the question must be asked, why should Panda’s Thumb resort to such a blatantly false caricature of ID by claiming it’s merely a negative argument against evolution? It’s much easier to invent a false caricature than to actually engage the arguments of your opponents. Darwinists like those at Panda’s Thumb are famous for promoting false caricatures of ID. William Dembski explains that novices to this debate often expect ID-critics to actively engage ID arguments, but Dembski’s experience with this debate would teach us to not be fooled by seemingly reasonable statements by ID-critics:

Our critics have, in effect, adopted a zero-concession policy toward intelligent design. According to this policy, absolutely nothing is to be conceded to intelligent design and its proponents. It is therefore futile to hope for concessions from critics. This is especially difficult for novices to accept. A bright young novice to this debate comes along, makes an otherwise persuasive argument, and finds it immediately shot down. Substantive objections are bypassed. Irrelevancies are stressed. Tables are turned. Misrepresentations abound.

(William A. Dembski, “Dealing with the Backlash Against Intelligent Design“)

One last point: Panda’s Thumb also tries to claim that ID’s predictions about junk-DNA are really derived from creationist arguments. The post then cites to an Answers in Genesis article. Logically speaking, this makes the correlation equals causation fallacy. One might as well claim that the rare Darwinian biologist that claimed junk-DNA had function was inspired by creationists.


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.



Junk DNA