This post is respectfully dedicated to Richardthughes
Awhile back I noticed something interesting about the intelligent design movement and their use of junk DNA. For the longest time intelligent design advocates insisted that there was no such thing as Junk DNA.
Rather, ID predicts function because the basis for ID’s predictions is observations of how intelligent agents design things, and intelligent agents tend to design objects that perform some kind of function. As William Dembski wrote in 1998, “If, on the other hand, organisms are designed, we expect DNA, as much as possible, to exhibit function.” It seems that the expectations of ID are turning out to be right.
So far, so good. ID does not predict junk DNA. Yet, when the need arises, that is. About a month earlier Casey found himself in a bit of a pickle. Two new fossils had just been discovered and these fossils said something important about the evolution of flatfish – orbital migration in particular. So, does Casey explain this? If you said by invoking junk DNA you would be 100% correct. Here is Casey:
No. Assuming these fossils are related to flatfish, for all we know, perhaps the “eyes on top” condition is the primitive basal condition for flatfish, and the “eyes on side” condition was evolved simply through LOSS of genes causing eye migration during early development. In other words, perhaps these newly discovered fossil fish species lost the genes for eye migration so the eyes got “stuck” on the sides of the head after the bones ossified. Genetically speaking, that seems like the easiest way to account for these fish. But in such a scenario, these fish would be descended from “eyes on top” flat-fish, and are not their evolutionary descendants, not precursors. At best, these fossils document a new morphological state that at best shows fairly trivial evolutionary change or loss of function–not “major morphological transitions” (as the paper’s author claimed).
Clearly, then ID’s predictions on junk DNA are entirely dependent on the need for making a negative argument about evolution. Consider, also, the notion of genetic entropy gaining currency in the ID movement. More than anything else, genetic entropy seems to be a mechanism that creates large quantities of junk DNA (ditto for Dembskis “law of conservation of energy”). That being the case, is anyone really surprised when Luskin contradicts himself?
Filed under: Insanity