When we saw this at PhysOrg: Microbe with stripped-down DNA may hint at secrets of life, we wondered what — if anything — creationists could do with it, but we didn’t see anything. Briefly, here’s the news, with a bit of bold font added for emphasis:
Scientists have deleted nearly half the genes of a microbe, creating a stripped-down version that still functions, an achievement that might reveal secrets of how life works. It may also help researchers create new bacteria tailored for making medicines and other valuable substances.
The newly created bacterium has a smaller genetic code than does any natural free-living counterpart, with 531,000 DNA building blocks containing 473 genes. (Humans have more than 3 billion building blocks and more than 20,000 genes).
The work began with a manmade version of a microbe that normally lives in sheep, called M. mycoides (my-KOY’-deez). It has about 900 genes. The scientists identified 428 nonessential genes, built their new genome without them, and showed that it was complete enough to let a bacterium survive.
That’s impressive work indeed. The reason we didn’t think it had any potential for creationists is because it shows that the original microbe had a load of unnecessary junk in its genome, strongly suggesting — at best — incredibly clumsy design.
That’s why we were surprised to see a post about it at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog. It was written by Ann Gauger (a/k/a “Annie Green Screen”), Casey’s replacement in the blogging department. Annie was previously toiling in obscurity at the Discoveroids’ clandestine creationist research facility, Biologic Institute, but her revolutionary output was apparently deemed less important than pumping out propaganda. The title is An Engineered “Minimal” Microbe Is Irreducibly Complex, Thus Evidence of Intelligent Design
Annie’s title is hysterical. If the “engineered” microbe is irreducibly complex, what does that say about the original organism? Anyway, here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us. She begins by mentioning the published paper in Science where the research appeared: Design and synthesis of a minimal bacterial genome, and then says:
The paper represents twenty years of work by many scientists, including celebrated biochemist J. Craig Venter. They managed to reduce the genome by almost half, from over 900 genes to 473, a little bit at a time.
They removed the designer’s trash. Annie babbles a bit, and then she starts to get entertaining:
But where did the cell come from in the first place? It’s a chicken-and-egg problem. Given the number of things the cell has to do to be a functioning organism, where does one begin?
She babbles some more, and then quotes Discoveroid Michael Behe. The material in brackets is in Annie’s post:
The minimal cell, he writes, is a system “composed of several [many in this case] well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Venter and his group somehow managed to remove half the microbe’s genes, yet it’s still functional. What does Annie do with Behe’s words of creationist wisdom? Here’s the eloquent conclusion of her post:
Irreducible systems are evidence of intelligent design, because only a mind has the capacity to design and implement such an information-rich, interdependent network as a minimal cell.
Think about the design of a basic car. You need an engine, a transmission, a drive shaft, a steering wheel, axles and wheels, plus a chassis to hold it all together. Then there’s gas, and a way to start the whole thing going. (I have undoubtedly left out something, but you get my point.) Having one or two of these things won’t make a functioning car. All the parts are necessary before it can drive, and it takes a designer to envision what is needed, how to fit it together, and then to build it.
Whether you’re talking about a car or a minimal cell, it won’t happen without a designer.
As we raise our head from the desk, we’re wondering what that was all about. In this case, the stripped-down microbe may indeed be considered to be designed by the researchers — but we know who they are and how they did their work. What we don’t see is any evidence that there was a mystical designer of the original microbe. All that we see is evidence that the original microbe wasn’t very intelligently designed.
Why did Annie write her article? We can’t figure it out. It certainly doesn’t advance the Discoveroids’ argument — rather, it seems to demolish it. Or are we missing something here?
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