The Seattle silliness continues. Yesterday we posted Discoveroids: Salmon Can Navigate, Therefore …. Now there’s another mind-numbing essay at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog.
This one is Detecting an Intelligently Designed Mutation in Horses. It’s even dumber than the one we wrote about yesterday. Because it’s our burden to expose creationist foolishness, and to heap upon it the ridicule it deserves, we’ll play with it and give you some excerpts.
But first, let’s begin with something we previously said in What Did Darwin Do? Although he knew nothing about genetics, Darwin wrote in Chapter 1 of Origin of Species — note the ambiguous use of the word “race” which was common at the time, and which is the sole source of creationists’ frequent accusation of Darwin’s “racism”:
Let us now briefly consider the steps by which domestic races have been produced, either from one or from several allied species. Some little effect may, perhaps, be attributed to the direct action of the external conditions of life, and some little to habit; but he would be a bold man who would account by such agencies for the differences of a dray and race horse, a greyhound and bloodhound, a carrier and tumbler pigeon. One of the most remarkable features in our domesticated races is that we see in them adaptation, not indeed to the animal’s or plant’s own good, but to man’s use or fancy. … We cannot suppose that all the breeds were suddenly produced as perfect and as useful as we now see them; indeed, in several cases, we know that this has not been their history. The key is man’s power of accumulative selection: nature gives successive variations; man adds them up in certain directions useful to him. In this sense he may be said to make for himself useful breeds.
And in Chapter 2 he wrote, with a hint of theory thrown in:
Again, we have many slight differences which may be called individual differences, such as are known frequently to appear in the offspring from the same parents, or which may be presumed to have thus arisen, from being frequently observed in the individuals of the same species inhabiting the same confined locality. No one supposes that all the individuals of the same species are cast in the very same mould. These individual differences are highly important for us, as they afford materials for natural selection to accumulate, in the same manner as man can accumulate in any given direction individual differences in his domesticated productions.
In the final chapter of Origins, Chapter 14, Darwin said:
Man does not actually produce variability; he only unintentionally exposes organic beings to new conditions of life, and then nature acts on the organisation, and causes variability. But man can and does select the variations given to him by nature, and thus accumulate them in any desired manner. … It is certain that he can largely influence the character of a breed by selecting, in each successive generation, individual differences so slight as to be quite inappreciable by an uneducated eye. This process of selection has been the great agency in the production of the most distinct and useful domestic breeds.
With that, which was common knowledge not only in Darwin’s day, but for millennia before him, let’s get to what the Discoveroids have for us. They say, with some bold font added by us for emphasis:
If early humans spread a mutation without knowing what a mutation is, is that a case of intelligent design?
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Well, is it? You might think the question is ridiculous, but the Discoveroids have the amazing ability — aided by their cutting-edge “theory” of intelligent design — to discern facts which the rest of us are too thick-headed to grasp. They spend their entire essay trying to enlighten us. Pay attention:
Here is a case involving horses. Horses typically have three natural gaits (patterns of leg placement in motion): the walk, the trot, and the gallop. Horseback riders know that the natural trot is bouncy, and with some horses, a natural gallop is, too. Yet horses with extra gaits can be found worldwide that prance with a minimum of bounce or gallop smooth as an arrow. What happened?
Wowie — a mystery! Then they give a bunch of quotes (which we haven’t verified) from a paper recently published in Animal Genetics: Worldwide frequency distribution of the ‘Gait keeper’ mutation in the DMRT3 gene. You can read it online without a subscription. The summary says: “A recent study discovered that a nonsense mutation in DMRT3 has a major impact on gaitedness in horses and is present at a high frequency in gaited breeds and in horses bred for harness racing.” That term doesn’t mean “nonsensical,” it has a specific meaning — see nonsense mutation. Skipping a bunch of quotes from the published paper, the Discoveroids tell us:
So that’s the data. A specific single point mutation appears to be associated with the ability to perform gaits that are beneficial to humans. If you were a geneticist unfamiliar with that association, would you know the mutation was spread by humans? Probably not. Here is an interesting test for the Design Filter.
Oooooooh — Dembski’s Design Filter! We’ve seen that before — see Crop Circles & Intelligent Design, and also Rock Mounds Are Designed, Therefore …. It’s what we call Creationism’s Fallacy of Retrospective Astonishment. This is thrilling; they’re going to apply their magic filter! Let’s read on:
The mutation could have been caused by chance. By all appearances in a genetics lab, it is a nonsense mutation — an accident of little or no consequence. No natural law would have caused the mutation.
Do we need to continue, or are you already satisfied that the quantity of Complex and Specified Balderdash (CSB) in the Discoveroids’ post is totally off the dial? Okay, we’ll give you a bit more:
It’s the worldwide distribution of this mutation and its strong association with traits desirable to humans that drops this mutation beyond chance and natural law and into the design category.
It’s beyond natural law! Ohhhhhhhh — this is so exciting! Here’s more:
This is not so different from any intelligent design case.
That’s certainly true. Moving along:
Designers do not always exhaustively know the particulars. When early humans painted artwork on cave walls, they didn’t need to know how the molecular structure of the paint caused it to adhere to rock. The discoverers of the Rosetta Stone did not have to be able to read hieroglyphs to infer that the markings contained a message.
One powerful argument after another! Here’s the conclusion:
One little mutation in one little gene: it slipped through the Design Filter and became an inference to intelligent design.
That filter is a helluva useful tool. We gotta get one. Who knows what wonders we might discover?
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