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.