We sometimes write about interesting scientific research that we think the creationists can misinterpret and claim to be evidence of creationism. Our predictions are almost always correct.
But today the tables have turned. It’s the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page — who are posting about a new discovery (of sorts) and who are predicting that scientists will try to deny its creationist implications. Their article is In the Planetary Science Journal Icarus, the “Wow” Signal of Intelligent Design. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
Here’s a new paper that can be added to the growing stack of intelligent-design papers in peer-reviewed journals.
The “growing stack”? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Until today, all their so-called peer-reviewed articles have been published in their own captive “peer reviewed” journal (BIO-Complexity), based on “research” from their own creation science lab (Biologic Institute), and then promoted by their own “peer reviewed” vanity press operation (Discovery Institute Press). Their imitation of the accouterments of science makes them look like a cargo cult.
But that’s not true of Icarus; it’s the real thing. This is the paper they’re talking about: The “Wow! signal” of the terrestrial genetic code. You can’t read it without a subscription, but here’s the abstract, which we’ll break into a few paragraphs for easier reading:
It has been repeatedly proposed to expand the scope for SETI, and one of the suggested alternatives to radio is the biological media. Genomic DNA is already used on Earth to store non-biological information. Though smaller in capacity, but stronger in noise immunity is the genetic code. The code is a flexible mapping between codons and amino acids, and this flexibility allows modifying the code artificially. But once fixed, the code might stay unchanged over cosmological timescales; in fact, it is the most durable construct known. Therefore it represents an exceptionally reliable storage for an intelligent signature, if that conforms to biological and thermodynamic requirements.
As the actual scenario for the origin of terrestrial life is far from being settled, the proposal that it might have been seeded intentionally cannot be ruled out. A statistically strong intelligent-like “signal” in the genetic code is then a testable consequence of such scenario. Here we show that the terrestrial code displays a thorough precision-type orderliness matching the criteria to be considered an informational signal.
Simple arrangements of the code reveal an ensemble of arithmetical and ideographical patterns of the same symbolic language. Accurate and systematic, these underlying patterns appear as a product of precision logic and nontrivial computing rather than of stochastic processes (the null hypothesis that they are due to chance coupled with presumable evolutionary pathways is rejected with P-value < 10–13).
The patterns display readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality, among which are the symbol of zero, the privileged decimal syntax and semantical symmetries. Besides, extraction of the signal involves logically straightforward but abstract operations, making the patterns essentially irreducible to natural origin. Plausible ways of embedding the signal into the code and possible interpretation of its content are discussed. Overall, while the code is nearly optimized biologically, its limited capacity is used extremely efficiently to pass non-biological information.
Who did this research? It’s in a genuine science journal, so obviously it wasn’t the Discoveroids. Here are the paper’s authors: Vladimir I. shCherbak, who received his Master degree in Physics from Al-Farabi Kazakh National University (in Kazakhstan) in 1970. Since 1980 he is a senior researcher in the Laboratory of computer science in biology at the Department of Mathematics, where he received his PhD and became the chief of the Laboratory in 1995. The other author is Maxim A. Makukov, who received his Master degree in Physics from Lomonosov Moscow State University in 2004. If he has a PhD, it’s not mentioned. Okay, back to the Discoveroids:
Even though the authors do not use the phrase “intelligent design,” their reasoning centers on the detection of an intelligent signal embedded in the genetic code — a mathematical and semantic message that cannot be accounted for natural cause, “be it Darwinian, Lamarckian,” chemical affinities or energetics, or any others.
It absolutely can’t be accounted for by a natural cause? We don’t see that, but we’ll let it go. It appears that the Discoveroids have accepted the paper’s speculations as fact, and they’re already defensive about it. They say:
How will evolutionists respond to this paper? It’s hard to see how they could dismiss it. Maybe they will try to mock it as old Arabian numerology, or religiously inspired (since Kazakhstan, which funded the study, is 70% Muslim). Those would be unfair criticisms.
That would be an unfair response if the research stands up to scrutiny, but that has yet to be determined. The Discoveroids continue:
No, it appears the only way out for Darwinists would be the “Dawkins Dodge.” You may remember that one from the documentary Expelled, where Dawkins admits the possibility of panspermia for Earth, so long as the designers themselves evolved by a Darwinian process.
It seems a bit early to be looking for “the only way out.” Here’s more:
What’s most notable about this paper is the similarity in design reasoning between the authors and the more familiar advocates of intelligent design theory. No appeals to religion or religious texts; no identifying the designer; just logical reasoning from effect to sufficient cause. The authors even applied the “design filter” by considering chance and natural law, including natural selection, before inferring design.
Yes, that is notable. But although creationists will claim they’re being persecuted, it’s far the only reason why the paper should be given careful study by those qualified to evaluate it. Big league science isn’t dodge ball. Here’s how the Discoveroids wrap it up:
If Darwinists want to go on equating intelligent design with creationism, they will now have to take on the very secular journal Icarus.
Well! What’s our initial reaction? We’re sorry to disappoint the Discoveroids, but we don’t have any dogma to defend, so our reaction isn’t even close to what they predict. But we are skeptical. The paper’s authors claim they found “precision-type orderliness matching the criteria to be considered an informational signal,” yet they found no actual messages. They say: “The patterns display readily recognizable hallmarks of artificiality,” but then, that’s true of many things in nature — the periodic table of the elements, for example. And let’s not forget that the original Wow! signal turned out to be a false alarm.
Nevertheless, we don’t dismiss the paper. Rather, now that it’s been published, we think the paper’s findings should be reviewed and evaluated by those with expertise in such matters. If the authors’ conclusions are verified, that’s fine with us. In that case, we welcome further research to test their hypothesis. Science is all about evidence, not our preconceptions.
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