Creationists React to Venter’s Breakthrough, Part 2

THIS is a follow-up to Part 1, about creationist reactions to Craig Venter‘s announcement that his lab has created a bacterial cell with a synthetic genome.

As they promised, Answers in Genesis (AIG), one of the major sources of young-earth creationism, has posted a more detailed response than their very preliminary “no big deal” reaction that we first wrote about. Today it’s the lead item in AIG’s News to Note, May 22, 2010 (“A weekly feature examining news from the biblical viewpoint”). Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Don’t let a headline like “It’s Alive” fool you. Despite some misleading news reports, life has not been made from scratch in a laboratory.

Scientists have assembled a bacterial chromosome (using intelligence and a multi-million dollar lab) patterned after an existing bacterial chromosome. But all the components already existed. They were not created from scratch; instead, a bacterium was simply rebuilt.

This repeats their “no big deal” line from yesterday. Let’s read on:

Regardless of some hyped press reports, this research (brilliantly executed as it was) has nothing to do with evolution in the molecules-to-man sense. Dr. Georgia Purdom, a molecular geneticist on our Answers in Genesis (AiG) staff, notes that there has merely been an alteration within a kind (at the family, genus, or species level). Even the researchers have acknowledged that this first synthetic cell is more a re-creation of existing life — changing one simple type of bacterium into another.

Oh, this is a mere “re-creation of existing life.” That’s nothing! It’s only micro-evolution, folks. Not macro. Just diddling around within a biblical “kind.” Nobody transformed a toad into a dog. We continue:

Ultimately, declares Dr. Purdom, this kind of genetic engineering is “like taking the hard drive of computer #1 and putting it into computer #2 that has had its own hard drive removed. So effectively computer #2 becomes computer #1.”

Cute analogy. But to make it relevant to the claims of creationists, don’t forget that for centuries, they’ve insisted that only the gods can do such things. Here’s more:

Dr. David Menton (PhD, biology), another researcher with AiG, echoed Dr. Purdom’s conclusions, adding that the research was a form of “genetic plagiarism.” Just as a student might copy someone else’s work, in a sense, so too have these researchers, declares Dr. Menton: they have taken God’s created handiwork and refashioned it.

Maybe so. But if mere humans can do such things, maybe there’s nothing supernatural about the whole business. Oh, wait. They’ve got that covered in their next paragraph — in a way:

The components assembled in making this synthetic life were created instantaneously 6,000 years ago by the Creator God (Genesis 1). The work of brilliant scientists using millions of dollars of resources still have not produced anything near a new life form from scratch. Human intelligence and high-power computers can’t produce it; moreover, the mindless process of evolution — even given billions of years — would not be any more efficacious.

In other words, Venter hasn’t yet created an entire universe. He can get back to AIG when he does, and maybe then they’ll acknowledge his efforts. But because he hasn’t yet accomplished the whole Oogity Boogity show, he hasn’t impressed them. AIG is a tough crowd to please.

One last excerpt:

For technically inclined readers, here is Dr. Purdom’s summary of what the research group did:

No thanks. We appreciate the creationists’ efforts to explain it all to us, but if the folks at AIG don’t mind, we’ll just carry on as we always have — without their help.

Update: See Creationists React to Venter’s Breakthrough, Part 3.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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8 responses to “Creationists React to Venter’s Breakthrough, Part 2

  1. Human intelligence and high-power computers can’t produce it

    Which is evidence that it is intelligently designed, right?

  2. I think Dr. Purdom needs to take a remedial C.S. 99 class.

    And then one on critical analysis focusing on the ‘Analogy as Argument’ chapter.

  3. Of course you can’t make comments on the AIG site. That would spoil the dogma, don’t you see!

    (Which got me to thinking about my church days as a child. I never recall the minister asking at the end of a sermon or service, “Any questions or comments?”)

    But, let’s put things in perspective. In 10 years Craig Venter (through his own work, insight and direction with support from a cast of thousands) developed methods to sequence genomes and perform the reverse, that is, generate polynucleotides from essentially a deck of punched cards, he has sequenced thousands of organisms and successfully reanimated a dead organism to reproduce as ANOTHER organism.

    (To use Purdom’s pathetic analogy, that would be like taking the hard drive out of a cat, putting it into a dead dog, which would come back to life and start producing cats; in the best of worlds that would be a PC dog producing Macintosh cats.)

    That’s just Venter and his labs.

    In the same 10 years, ALL of the creationists in the entire world COLLECTIVELY have produced exactly nothing.

    Not. A. Thing.

    No research. No research programs. No PhD’s in ID. No papers. No products. No advancement in knowledge. No theory. No medical discoveries. Nothing. Not in any field.


    And if you think I’d let Purdom get anywhere near my computer, you got another think coming!

  4. Nice point Doc Bill–“I never recall the minister asking at the end of a sermon or service, “Any questions or comments?” ”

    Same thing with Sunday “school”, questions or comments were met with the dictum that the Bible says so, thus ending discussion.

  5. Well, for one thing, the experiment demonstrates that there is no such thing as the “breath of life.” Unless now we, humble humans, can provide such breath.

    Frankenstein was that kind of a story, right? provide electricity to the reconstructed body, and there, it’s alive. No gods required to blow in your nostrils. Only it was fiction.

    like taking the hard drive of computer #1 and putting it into computer #2 that has had its own hard drive removed. So effectively computer #2 becomes computer #1.

    With the little tiny minimal detail that no, not taking the hard drive from another computer, but rather, studying such hard drive, redesigning it, constructing such redesigned drive yourself (this is why it is called “artificial,” it was not taken from anther bacterium), and finally inserting the redesigned hard drive into the hard drive-missing one. Expecting it to “boot” despite not knowing really exactly how the hard drive, and the embedded software works. Voilà. It’s alive!

    This is a truer Frankenstein than Frankenstein. In Frankenstein there were no redesigned body parts built. The central stuff was not synthesized in a lab. Here on the other hand …


  6. What the creobots and Christocrats deny is that this experiment totally screws their theology.

    It’s done. Toast.

    It used to be that if the heart stopped then life was over, until the heart-lung machine came along.

    Then it was so long as the brain was alive life was good, until cases of hypothermic death and resuscitation blew that out of the water.

    Then it was, well, artificial viruses didn’t count because viruses weren’t life (by who’s definition?)

    How small can the corner be?

  7. It was over when Wöhler synthesized urea.

  8. Can’t help but think that this doesn’t help ID much either. Oh, at first glance this took labs, computers, and brilliant minds (and it did, make no mistake), but it wasn’t exactly the provence of a hyper intelligent and super powered (yet unspecified) being. This experiment seems to show, that yet again, you put the right materials in the approximately right places and, unsurprisingly, you get the same result. Something scientists rely on and cretards just can’t seem to grasp.