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Craig Venter’s Typo Shows Poor Design is Still Design

Casey Luskin

Forbes.com is reporting that Craig Venter’s “synthetic” bacterial chromosome contains a “genetic typo.”

Molecular biology has ascribed a letter to each amino acid. Venter and his team imported DNA sequences into the chromosome–called watermarks–that coded for amino acids which ‘spelled out’ sentences in the chromosome. But they got one sentence wrong. As the article reports:

The synthetic DNA also included a quote from physicist Richard Feynman, “What I cannot build, I cannot understand.”

That prompted a note from Caltech, the school where Feyman taught for decades. They sent Venter a photo of the blackboard on which Feynman composed the quote -and it showed that he actually wrote, “What I cannot create, I do not understand.”

“We agreed what was on the Internet was wrong,” said Venter. “So we’re going back to change the genetic code to correct it.”

Obviously this typo is a mistake on the part of Venter’s team, and according to some ID critics, mistakes preclude us from inferring design. Such critics would claim that poor design refutes design.

But obviously these watermarks in the synthetic chromosome were intelligently designed, despite their mistakes. (As we’ve discussed here, here, and here, the rest of the chromosome consists of DNA code that was copied from pre-existing bacteria.) Venter has provided another nice demonstration that what some consider ‘poor’ design, is still design.

 

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.

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J. Craig Venter