Yesterday we posted Nobel Prize for ‘Directed Evolution’, in which we said:
You know that a certain creationist outfit in Seattle is going to grab that phrase “directed evolution” to claim this is evidence for you-know-what … . Okay, now lets sit back and wait for the creationists to claim that this proves they were right all along.
We knew we’d be hearing from the Discoveroids because they’ve made bizarre reactions before to some Nobel Prize awards — see Discovery Institute — At Last We Understand, in which they claimed that the 2015 chemistry award was given “to three biologists who made a design inference about genetic information. … [T]he 2015 Nobel Prize for Chemistry reflects the validity and fruitfulness of the design inference for top-flight scientific research.”
This popped up last night at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute: Nobel Prize in Chemistry for Intelligent Design?, by Douglas Axe. The last time we wrote about him was Klinghoffer: More Scientists Praise Axe’s Book. Here are some excerpts from Axe’s new post, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:
Reports the New York Times, “Nobel Prize in Chemistry Is Awarded to 3 Scientists for Using Evolution in Design of Molecules.” It’s not every day that you see the words “evolution” and “design” in the same headline. Nor, in my experience, does a Nobel Prize go to two people you know, on a typical day.
We already know about the Prize, and Axe says he knows two of the winners — Frances Arnold and and Greg Winter. That’s nice. After some irrelevant reminiscence he says:
She [Frances Arnold] and the graduate students working with her soon found that it was much harder to anticipate the effects of designed changes than they had thought. That’s when she made the shift to what is known as directed evolution. [Ooooooooooooh!] The idea here is that by applying carefully designed [Hee hee!] biological selection to huge collections of variant genes that came from a suitably designed starting point, we should be able to find the one-in-a-billion variant that does what we want. If we do, then we can make a billion variants of that one and repeat the process.
You know what’s coming, don’t you? Axe tells us:
Both scientists pushed their respective technologies to the limits, and highly significant accomplishments came from both of their research groups. Both did Nobel Prize-worthy work, so it’s fitting that they have been chosen for this highest of scientific honors.
That was very gracious. Okay, here it comes:
It’s also fitting that words like “design” and “directed” be attached to their work. [Hee hee!] The truth is that by much hard work and careful thought, they accomplished what accidental processes would never accomplish on their own.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Nothing good ever comes from “accidental processes.” Intelligent intervention is required. Then he tells us what the Prize-winners haven’t accomplished:
Equally true is that even these stellar scientists have not found a way to invent from scratch proteins that rival the ones we see by the thousands in living cells. As Frances Arnold once said with admirable candor:
[Unverified quote:] “[E]fforts to date to generate novel catalysts have primarily demonstrated that we are getting good at making bad enzymes. Making good enzymes will require a whole new level of insight, or new methodologies altogether.”
Yeah — those Darwinists haven’t yet made life in the lab, so what’s the big deal? Only the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — can do that. We’ll break Axe’s final paragraph into two parts. It starts with this:
The problem these efforts face in the lab is exactly the problem faced by Darwin’s evolutionary mechanism in the wild: Nothing can be selected until it already exists.
That’s true. But it’s not a “problem” of evolution, it’s the mechanism. Everyone knows that natural selection works on mutations that naturally appear with every act of reproduction. In each generation, those individuals that are better able to obtain food, evade predators, resist disease, and successfully reproduce will be the progenitors of the next generation, which will inherit their favorable mutations. If the environment changes and the required traits to deal with it don’t exist, the species goes extinct — as most of them do.
Okay, here’s the end of Axe’s post:
The fact that some clever thing would be enormously beneficial if it existed has no power to make that thing exist.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! What did he say? Apparently, he’s suggesting that only the great, cosmic designer can produce the right mutations. But why does it take the designer so long? As anyone familiar with the genome will tell you, every individual born has several mutations, most of which are of no consequence whatsoever. Some are harmful, and a very few are beneficial. Natural selection filters the species’ genetic inventory in every generation. But the process of producing a successful new feature can take an enormous number of generations — far too long if you’re looking for the cure to some medical problem. As we said in yesterday’s post on this year’s Prize:
Arnold carried out pioneering work in the 1990s on ‘directed evolution’ of enzymes. She devised a method for inducing mutations in enzyme-producing bacteria and then screening and selecting the bacteria to speed up and direct enzyme evolution. … “Biology has this one process that’s responsible for all this glorious complexity we see in nature,” she told Nature shortly after the prize announcement on 3 October. But although nature operates blindly, scientists know what chemical properties they want to get from an enzyme, and her techniques accelerate natural selection towards those goals. “It’s like breeding a racehorse.”
Anyway, that’s the Discoveroids’ reaction. It wasn’t much, but perhaps they’ll have more to say on the subject. We’ll be watching.
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