Yesterday we saw this article at PhysOrg: Totally rad: Scientists create rewritable digital data storage in DNA, announcing that:
Scientists from Stanford’s Department of Bioengineering have devised a method for repeatedly encoding, storing and erasing digital data within the DNA of living cells.
Here’s a link to the paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: Rewritable digital data storage in live cells via engineered control of recombination directionality. The PhysOrg article says:
The team calls its device a “recombinase addressable data” module, or RAD for short. They used RAD to modify a particular section of DNA within microbes that determines how the one-celled organisms will fluoresce under ultraviolet light. The microbes glow red or green depending upon the orientation of the section of DNA. Using RAD, the engineers can flip the section back and forth at will.
The researchers found it was fairly easy to flip a section of DNA in either direction. “But we discovered time and again that most of our designs failed when the two proteins were used together within the same cell,” said Endy. “Ergo: Three years and 750 tries to get the balance of protein levels right.”
[Lead author Jerome] Bonnet has now tested RAD modules in single microbes that have doubled more than 100 times and the switch has held. He has likewise switched the latch and watched a cell double 90 times, and set it back. The latch will even store information when the enzymes are not present. In short, RAD works. It is reliable and it is rewritable.
We immediately thought about writing a post that would taunt the 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).
What we had in mind was asking: “If mere humans can literally write code in DNA, and if your magical designer has allegedly done the same, then why don’t we see any evidence of the invisible magician’s work?” But then we decided that we shouldn’t get ahead of things. The creationists would soon get around to this, and it would be more entertaining to wait and post about that. It didn’t take very long.
At the Discoveroids’ blog they’ve just posted this: If Humans Write Genetic Code, Is It Intelligent Design? The “deep” question presented by their silly title is easily answered: No! What humans do is human design. What the magic designer does is supernatural design — and by definition that’s something humans cannot do.
Anyway, let’s see what the Discoveroids have to say. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
[T]he original paper in PNAS speaks of genetic material as a “natural data storage medium”.
Ooooooh! There’s a phase that’s ripe for quote-mining! The Discoveroid paragraph continues:
Their new system works in conjunction with the natural genetic code and can survive 100 cell divisions; in other words, it is an artificial code working alongside a natural code.
They keep using that word “code” in two different contexts and pretending that it’s all the same. But in the expression natural code, the word “code” refers only to the arrangement of the genetic material, not its intentional placement. A slight difference there.
Hey, now that we’ve been alerted to watch for context switching, check out the Discoveroids’ next paragraph. It’s the last one in their little article:
This leads to a totally rad question: If a researcher without foreknowledge of this technology examined a microbe employing it, would he or she be justified in inferring that an intelligent cause played a role in its origin? If so, what’s the difference with inferring an intelligent case for the origin of the “natural” genetic code, since it also involves the encoding and storage of functional information?
No normally-functioning mind could possibly think that way. This is a transparently obvious attempt to create confusion. But it won’t work. Sorry, Discoveroids. What humans do is human design. We know it when we see it. What your magical designer does is … well, he doesn’t do anything, which is entirely appropriate to his non-existence. But if you guys want to worship him, go right ahead.
But wait! We can’t end without showing that two can play this little game, so — in the style of the Discoveroids — here’s a “totally rad” question of our own: If a savage from 100,000 years ago blundered into a time warp and popped out in our time at Mt. Rushmore, would he be justified in assuming that its sculptured heads were the work of the gods? And even if a savage would make that assumption — does that mean his “gods made Mt. Rushmore” theory has any value at all?
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