The Intelligent Designer’s Latest Triumph

We’re experiencing a bit of a lull here in the fabled CITADEL — the Curmudgeonly Institute for Tactics, Advocacy, and Defense of the Enlightenment Legacy — the secret global nerve center for monitoring events throughout the Creosphere, where your Curmudgeon is headquartered in his luxurious underground control room.

This rarely happens. Due to the Spontaneous Stupidity factor upon which we depend for our daily fare, we are accustomed to at least one really crazy news story each day illustrating the madness of creationism — but lately the world hasn’t obliged us. It’s nothing to worry about; we’ve been becalmed before. During one such period we speculated that the Intelligent Designer Was on Holiday.

But the appearance of inactivity can mask something of importance, so we assembled our analytical team to dig more deeply. All they’ve come up with is some strange behavior by the neo-Luddite, neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

It seems that the Discoveroids are wildly celebrating. They’ve posted at least a dozen articles at their blog declaring the demise of “junk DNA,” and they’re treating it as if it were the long-awaited incarnate manifestation of their intelligent designer. What’s it all about?

It began a few years ago in a trivial campaign we called Casey’s Crusade Against Junk DNA. He had been claiming that the designer — blessed be he! — wouldn’t clutter our DNA up with the accumulated debris of the natural process of evolution. According to Discoveroid dogma, our DNA was not only an artificial creation, it was pure and pristine, fresh from the workshop of their magical designer, so every little atom therein had an intelligently-designed purpose. That may sound crazy, but that was their claim. Our link quotes Casey’s precise words:

[I]ntelligent agents design objects for a purpose, and therefore intelligent design predicts that biological structures will have function.

Based on that hopeful assertion, the Discoveroids carried things even further. They invented a straw-man doctrine they called “the argument from junk DNA,” a non-existent “Darwinist” argument that depends on the non-existent premise that no function will ever be found for any of what was initially regarded as non-coding (or “junk”) DNA. They even said of this fictitious doctrine:

It is a faith based on gaps in scientific knowledge. Hence, “Darwin of the gaps.”

You need to pause, dear reader, to grasp the idiocy of what we’ve just described. The Discoveroids invented a non-existent doctrine and declared it to be a foundational pillar of the theory of evolution. But reality is very much otherwise. Indeed, when DNA was first discovered, it wasn’t known what it contained, but when large areas at first appeared to be non-functional, it was assumed to be accumulated junk. That assumption was supported by lab demonstrations, for example, those involving knockout mice.

But as DNA was explored and functions were sometimes found for what had been previously unexplored regions of the genome, scientists happily described their findings in the professional journals. In other words, there was no sacred, untouchable, inviolable “junk DNA pillar of evolution.” Yet every time such research was published, the Discoveroids — who never discover anything — would declare that the latest research was yet another fatal blow to the “Darwinists.”

You know all that, and as you probably also know, recently announced research has shown that a great deal more of the human genome (but certainly not all of it) seems to have some active function — see Wikipedia’s article on the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) and also the Nature ENCODE website. The Discoveroids’ reaction has been amazing.

From the frenzy of their self-congratulatory postings, one would think that the Discoveroids themselves had conducted the research. But the only thing they ever actually conduct is creationist propaganda campaigns and legislative crusades. Nevertheless, from the intensity of their celebrations one might conclude that Darwin’s theory has been decisively overthrown. Nothing even remotely like that has occurred. So what are they celebrating?

Let’s keep in mind that their creationist “theory” about an intelligent designer makes no testable predictions. Instead, it accepts anything and everything as “proof” (or at least evidence) of the magical activities of their designer. The more thoughtful among them (a tiny number) are aware of and embarrassed by their failure to produce a testable hypothesis — so they conjured up their prediction about junk DNA — that over time, more of it would be shown to be functional. That seems a safe bet, and in terms of evolution theory it’s a totally meaningless one, but that’s the play they made. That woeful prediction is their only pretense of having a scientific theory.

Evolutionary biologists could not have known in advance how much ancient debris could accumulate in our genome before the deleterious effects thereof interfered with survival. That had to be researched, and the research is ongoing. In contrast, the Seattle creationists don’t need to do research — they have their faith to guide them. An entity such as their designer, with all of his presumed power and wisdom, allows for only one prediction — there is no junk in the genome. That’s what their “theory” predicts and they’re sticking with it.

From time to time, the research done by others gives them the opportunity to claim that their hypothesis has once again been tested and found to be true. But it’s about as silly as a palm-reader predicting that you will meet a stranger, or an astrologer predicting that new stars will be found. Such predictions will certainly prove true, but so what? The palm-reader is still a charlatan and the astrologer is one too — in addition to being an idiot.

So the Discoveroids are celebrating. Okay, let ‘em celebrate. When they put away the empty bottles and clean up the confetti, we’ll hand them their next task — explaining why the amoeba’s genome is ten times larger than that of a human. Perhaps the designer made all of their DNA functional too. If not, we await the explanation from Seattle.

See also: ICR Goes Ape Over the ENCODE Research.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “The Intelligent Designer’s Latest Triumph

  1. Ceteris Paribus

    Well you just can’t make an ID proponent happy. It wasn’t all that many years back that they were casting aspersions on biologists for speculating on the probability of life forms existing on exoplanets. The simple reason, according to the DI, was that nobody had ever found even a single exoplanet. This fact proved that the Designer created life just for us, in our special place in our fine-tuned solar system. (Besides, exoplanets aren’t even mentioned in the creationist reading of their scriptures, unless you include the Mormon bible .)

    So now the ID people are all agog with the news that some previously undervalued piece of real estate in the DNA code has now been discovered to be as valuable as the Walmart parking lot where the creationists park their RVs when making a trip to visit Ken Ham’s Creation Museum.

    But by the time the biologists get a little deeper into looking at all these previously under explored bits of human DNA, it’s a fair bet that some amounts of it will turn out to be remnants and pieces of stuff that in an earlier day belonged to an amoeba, or virus, or other things that crawlethed upon the earth, prior to being incorporated into humans by the process of evolution.

  2. The science community blowback has been well-publicized, arguably extensive. They contend that the ENCODE did a terrible job in their analysis of the data that ENCODE collected. There’s even considerable question where the ENCODE data collection is really worth all the hype.

  3. rubble says: “There’s even considerable question where the ENCODE data collection is really worth all the hype.”

    I don’t know, but for my purposes here it doesn’t matter. Even if the research is perfect and deserving of the hype, it still doesn’t do anything for the Discoveroids.

  4. By analogy (I know, I know, so sue me.) ENCODE determined it’s “80% possibly functional like this.

    They took wood glue that sticks to wood and spread it on all sorts of things: walls, the couch, plates in the cupboard, the cat, wooden spoons in the kitchen, scrap lumber in the garage and your dog. (Never try to put glue on a cat – just take my word for it.)

    The glue stuck to some things but not other things, for example, the dog licked off the glue. They they announced that “80% of the stuff they put wood glue on might possibly be wood.

    The DI in their Infinite Wisdom ™ then headlined: ID Correctly Predicts Couch is Wood.

    Go over to Larry Moran’s site for lovely detail, and fewer bad analogies.

  5. I thought this was the best take http://arstechnica.com/staff/2012/09/most-of-what-you-read-was-wrong-how-press-releases-rewrote-scientific-history/2/ …. which was also linked by Larry Moran and others.

    In all of the voluminous debate within the scientific community about these papers, there is almost zero mention of ID. The only ID mention is by the few bloggers who regularly monitor the shenanigans of the DI, and that mention is mostly to correct and/or ridicule their predictably wild assertions. No one that I have read so far, or heard mention of, on either side of the debate over interpretation of the ENCODE results within in the scientific community believes that the results – however they are interpreted – discredit evolution.

    Doc, I like your analogy. That’s the impression I got from the results – if a molecule of any sort stuck to the DNA strand anywhere, no matter what it does or doesn’t do, the ENCODE team classified that as a biological function.

  6. The entire celebratory event is a symptom of the inability of failed scientists
    and non scientists like the Discoveroids, to work and think logically. If they could, they wouldn’t be Discoveroids. It does seem very bizarre and creepy.
    Plus, there must be 20 or 30 creationists out there who are even knowledgeable enough about biology to follow their ludicrous failed argument. Starting with the conclusion that God did it, opens the door to magic. Magic makes anything possible, no matter how illogical. They don’t realize how screwed up they are, because they are so screwed up. Kind of like a witch burning, the frenzy feeds itself. Its a sad commentary that humanity can lead itself to such illogical behavior, however it seems to be serving their survival needs.
    All ecologic systems need a few bottom feeders and scavengers. If you can’t swim with the predators, hide under a rock and ambush the unwary.
    The unwary become more bottom sediment.
    Maybe we could manufacture a little Discoveroid dangling light they could suspend from their foreheads to elucidate their means of survival. Just thinking here. It could be called an Abyssalplaindiscotube or something.
    Hey, there could be a market.

  7. Ed says: “In all of the voluminous debate within the scientific community about these papers, there is almost zero mention of ID.”

    They’re focused on the science, which is fine. I’m focused on the Discoveroids, because they’re the ones with a legislative agenda.

  8. I had a supervisor once who would have made a great creationist. He would invariably say after a meeting, “I knew it was going to come out that way.” Only he never, ever predicted an outcome going into a meeting. He was always right 100% of the time after the fact. We used to mock him and he never figured it out. Like I said, potentially a great creationist.

  9. So a 40 year old theory which has been out of favor for 30 years is continuingly out of favor, and the Disciveroid take credit for it? Next thing you know they will be saying that sliced bread was all their idea too.

    DocBill: “Never try to put glue on a cat – just take my word for it.”

    ***SNORK***

  10. Doc Bill said:

    Never try to put glue on a cat – just take my word for it.

    When I bought my first house, I got two cats (an older stray and a young kitten from a friend’s litter). The older one was rather quiet. The young one was rambunctious. Shortly after I got married, the wife and I were woken up in the middle of the night by a weird, growling sound. The young one had decided to start playing amongst all of the wrapping paper from our various wedding presents. Along with the wrapping paper was several long strips of the large packing tape. A piece stuck to his back. I’m guessing that when it first happened, he thought something was trying to attack him. So he rolled on his back to protect himself. In the process, he managed to completely wrap himself in the tape. After that, he began running around crazy because this tape was stuck to him and it was obviously freaking him out. I managed to get him out from under the bed, then took my paramedic scissors and slowly cut the top off. After I was done, he looked like he’d fought the lawnmower and lost.
    So, yeah, don’t try to put glue (in any form) on a cat.

  11. @Gary: Really doesn’t sound like the way a newlywed would want to spend one of his (or her) first nights of wedded bliss.

    Gary, if you have some more stories like this, you could write a book!

  12. @RSG: This was after the honeymoon. Besides, if they don’t run screaming out the door after something like this, you probably have a winner. She didn’t, and I do.

  13. “Confessions of a Cat Barber”

    I’d buy that book.

  14. If you want to see an example of how mindlessness spreads, check this out at the Christian Post: The Latest Refutation of the Idea that DNA is Full of Evolutionary Junk. They mention the latest research and say:

    It has confirmed intelligent design theory even though the authors may remain Darwinists.

  15. Formation and maintenance of DNA takes energy and resources. As a strong proponent of natural selection, Unintelligent Design, I have thought it unlikely that organisms would have a lot of non functional DNA. Unintelligent Design theory is supported one more time.

  16. @jim thomerson

    You are correct that it takes energy to transcribe dna and make proteins. That said it is much more of an issue for a bacterium than for a mammal how much dna one has to transcribe and maintain. I think the jury will remain out for some time as to how much of the genome is “junk” vs how much is really needed. We do know that deletion of at least some of the noncoding sequences in mice does not affect the organism. Conversely antibiotic resistant bacteria do not reproduce as well as nonresistant counterparts in the absence of antibiotic pressure probably bc the nonresistant ones do not have to reproduce and maintain as much dna.

  17. Either way even if every sequence proves to have a function it would not prove intelligent design or special creation.