Removing Junk DNA “Proves” Intelligent Design

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?

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “Removing Junk DNA “Proves” Intelligent Design

  1. How does ‘green screen annie’ explain this:
    More ancient viruses lurk in our DNA than we thought
    or this
    Ancient viral invaders in our DNA help fight today’s infections

  2. Have the Discoveroids ever said whether they think pathogenic viruses are intelligently designed?

  3. Why is it always analogies with the IDers? Why is Annie talking about a car? Why do we never, ever get an actual, for-realz example of ID? Could it be… *(looks around covertly)*… that such things don’t exist?

  4. Derek Freyberg

    But wait, wasn’t it irreducibly complex before those heathen scientists started messing with the Designer’s work?

  5. “creating a stripped-down version that still functions”
    Aha! Reducible complexity! Which means that there is also irreducible complexity! Checkmate, evilutionists!

    And I wrote this before I read about Annie Green Screen. OK, now let me tackle the rest of SC’s comments in good old creacrap …. eehhhh IDiot way.

    “what does that say about the original organism?”
    Perfect Design: evidence for an Intelligent Designer.
    Imperfect Design: evidence for an Intelligent Designer.

    “What we don’t see is any evidence that there was a mystical designer of the original microbe.”
    Oh, come on. That’s because you wear materialistic blinkers, dear SC. Take them off and you will see more clearly. The designers in the lab did not design the minimal cell. They reduced an actual cell to that minimal cell. And as Klinkleclapper already profoundly remarked: “an intelligence might have other ends in view as well”
    Of course I dare to go where Annie Green Screen, Klinkleclapper and other IDiots halt, so I am totally willing to postulate what those other ends in view will be.
    Eternity lasts very long for Intelligent Designers as well. In between creating eeehhhh designing all kind of stuff our Intelligent Designer has his/her/its immaterial hands free. So what’s an Intelligent Designer to do with that spare time? Fooling around a bit with his/her/its favourite creation of course. As this Intelligent Designer also gave humanity the scientific method (yeah, who else grounds it?) scientists are his/her/its favourite subset of that favourite creation. And of course it would spoil the fun if he/she/it revealed all the scientific wisdom at once, so our Intelligent Designer, to intellectually challenge his favourites a bit, for instance by adding some junk DNA before getting at the core – the perfect Design, which is Irreducibly Complex.
    Now what kind of designer does this undeniable evidence point at?

    Why, The Flying Spaghetti Monster of course!

  6. DavidK thinks he asks a clever question:

    “How does ‘green screen annie’ explain this:”
    It is well known that The Flying Spaghetti Monster likes his beer.

  7. Creationists are actually amazingly consistent in their abject failure to recognize the inconsistency of their arguments. So microbes are still intelligently designed despite the fact that their “design” includes 50% junk DNA. The lack of irony recognition is also another creationist consistency. Their designer, just like them, always seems to be marvelously incompetent.

  8. Our Curmudgeon notes

    Venter and his group somehow managed to remove half the microbe’s genes, yet it’s still functional.

    But don’t they realise that by so doing, they have doubtless invalidated the Manufacturer’s Warrenty?

    I wonder that Green Screen Annie isn’t screaming that modification on microbial DNA must only be undertaken by Intelligent Designer™ Authorised Service Centre Personnel…

  9. Eric B. Lipps says:

    I can’t get into this site; I keep getting an “unsafe connection blocked” message. I never had a problem before; is there something wrong with the site?

    Nothing has changed, so I can’t imagine what’s “unsafe” about this site. You may have some kind of problem with your browser. Also, it doesn’t help to solve your problem, so would you like me to remove your personal info from your comment?

  10. I haven’t seen the original Science article, but the PhysOrg write up mentions that the “stripped down” version isn’t even the most minimal cell: they put some genes in that enable it to grow rapidly enough to be “useful” in the laboratory. I assume that means useful to the scientists, not to the Intelligent Designer, blessed be his/her/its name.

  11. Has Eric’s account been hacked? I would recommend removing the personal info ASAP

  12. Megalonyx says: “Has Eric’s account been hacked? I would recommend removing the personal info ASAP”

    Good idea. I deleted Eric’s comment containing his personal info. It can be restored, but it’s best not to post stuff like that where the world can see it.

  13. Surely the scientists who did this aren’t claiming that the eliminated genes are junk? The organism can survive without them in favourable laboratory conditions, but my guess is that they are useful when it has to compete successfully in the harsh real world. I’m not denying that junk DNA exists, there’s lots of it around, but these non-essential genes aren’t it.

  14. Derek Freyberg

    I heard a little bit of a conversation about this on NPR’s “Science Friday” this morning. As I recall the bit I heard:
    (1) they studied the genome of the original organism – 900 or so genes – and worked out what they thought was a minimal set (around 300 genes) needed for life;
    (2) they made an organism with this minimal genome – JCVI-Syn 1.0, the speaker referred to it just as “Syn 1.0”; but the organism was not viable;
    (3) they took Syn 1.0 and added back in genes until they achieved a viable organism Syn 2.0, which had around 100 more genes;
    (4) they’ve now, it seems, added more genes to get significant growth.
    The speaker thought there might still be unnecessary genes, but that the function of all of the genes wasn’t 100% understood.
    To me, it’s a molecular biology tour de force; and I wouldn’t be surprised if they kept slicing-and-dicing away and adding back if necessary to achieve a smaller genome again.

  15. Shadow knight

    “Surely the scientists who did this aren’t claiming that the eliminated genes are junk”
    seems to be what there saying

    “The organism can survive without them in favorable laboratory conditions, but my guess is that they are useful when it has to compete successfully in the harsh real world”
    and this guess is based on ?

    I’m not denying that junk DNA exists, there’s lots of it around, but these non-essential genes aren’t it.
    again based on what?

  16. Shadow knight

    “molecular biology tour de force;”
    one for who science or ID

  17. Once again, the Discovery Institute can only comment on experiments someone else does.

    If one day evidence for the Intelligent Designer were to actually be found, the Discovery Institute will have little, if anything, to do with that breakthrough.

  18. What the experimenters have shown here is that one can make a much more efficient organism by applying a little intelligent design to the problem.

    Or, if ID is true, perhaps the experimenters are just smarter than the original designer(s). At least they cleaned up his mess.

  19. If you still have 473 of something, doesn’t that make it the literal opposite of irreducibly complex? It may not be the thing you started out with, but it’s still reducible. A pyramid or castle may be made of 473 stones, but I can still reduce that to 1 stone or rearrange those 473 stones into a bridge – which is very different from a pyramid or a castle. And I can reduce that 1 stone down to elements, molecules, atoms, and sub-atomic particles…I just don’t get this argument.