Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A New Book Released on Intelligent Design

A new book is now released dealing with Intelligent Design. It looks to focus on the importance of 'Information' that is contained in the DNA of each cell. Here is an excerpt of Chapter 1 of this book:




STEPHEN C. MEYER - Discovery Institute | Seattle, WA | (206) 292-0401 x128 | www.signatureinthecell.com;



Here is an Excerpt of Chapter 1

DNA, Darwin , and the appearance of Design.

When James Watson and Francis Crick elucidated the structure of DNA in 1953, they solved one mystery, but created another.

For almost a hundred years after the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859, the science of biology rested secure in the knowledge that it had explained one of humankind's most enduring enigmas. From ancient times, observers of living organisms had noted that living things display organized structures that give the appearance of having been deliberately arranged or designed for a purpose, for example, the elegant form and protective covering of the coiled nautilus, the interdependent parts of the eye, the interlocking bones, muscles, and feathers of a bird wing. For the most part, observers took these appearances of design as genuine. …

But with the advent of Darwin, modern science seemed able to explain this appearance of design as the product of a purely undirected process. In the Origin, Darwin argued that the striking appearance of design in living organisms—in particular, the way they are so well adapted to their environments—could be explained by natural selection working on random variations, a purely undirected process that nevertheless mimicked the powers of a designing intelligence. Since then the appearance of design in living things has been understood by most biologists to be an illusion—a powerfully suggestive illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. As Crick himself put it thirty-five years after he and Watson discerned the structure of DNA, biologists must "constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved."

But due in large measure to Watson and Crick's own discovery of the information-bearing properties of DNA, scientists have become increasingly and, in some quarters, acutely aware that there is at least one appearance of design in biology that may not yet have been adequately explained by natural selection or any other purely natural mechanism. Indeed, when Watson and Crick discovered the structure of DNA, they also discovered that DNA stores information using a four character chemical alphabet.

Strings of precisely sequenced chemicals called nucleotide bases store and transmit the assembly instructions— the information—for building the crucial protein molecules and machines the cell needs to survive.

Crick later developed this idea in his famous "sequence hypothesis," according to which the chemical parts of DNA (the nucleotide bases) function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. Just as letters in an English sentence or digital characters in a computer program may convey information depending on their arrangement, so too do certain sequences of chemical bases along the spine of the DNA molecule convey precise instructions for building proteins. Like the precisely arranged zeros and ones in a computer program, the chemical bases in DNA convey information in virtue of their "specificity." As Richard Dawkins notes, "The machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like."3 Software developer Bill Gates goes further: "DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created."

But if this is true, how did the information in DNA arise? Is this striking appearance of design the product of actual design or of a natural process that can mimic the powers of a designing intelligence? As it turns out, this question is related to a long-standing mystery in biology—the question of the origin of the first life. Indeed, since Watson and Crick's discovery, scientists have increasingly come to understand the centrality of information to even the simplest living systems. DNA stores the assembly instructions for building the many crucial proteins and protein machines that service and maintain even the most primitive one-celled organisms. It follows that building a living cell in the first place requires assembly instructions stored in DNA or some equivalent molecule. As origin-of-life researcher Bernd-Olaf K├╝ppers explains, "The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent to the problem of the origin of biological information."

Much has been discovered in molecular and cell biology since Watson and Crick's revolutionary discovery more than fifty years ago, but these discoveries have deepened rather than mitigated the enigma of DNA. Indeed, the problem of the origin of life (and the origin of the information needed to produce it) remains so vexing that Harvard University recently announced a $100 million research program to address it. When Watson and Crick discovered the structure and information bearing properties of DNA, they did indeed solve one mystery, namely, the secret of how the cell stores and transmits hereditary information. But they uncovered another mystery that remains with us to this day. This is the DNA enigma—the mystery of the origin of the information needed to build the first living organism.


Edward Oleander said...

Please tell me there is more to this book than the sad and tattered arguement that since we don't know the answer yet, God must have done it.

I'll say it yet again: Lack of information on theory A is in no way evidence in favour of theory B.

And besides, why are creationists having an "aha-gasm" when someone points out the similarity between DNA and a computer? Parallels between natural systems and man-made systems exist all over the place, but all it really means is that humans thought process has similarities to the natural selection process found in evolution. Since HUMAN system designs are guided by our intelligence, and Nature's are not, it takes millions of years to come up with DNA, where it took only a couple centuries for us to move from abacus to slide rule to computer.

Wake me up when the next book comes out; maybe it will have something interesting to say...


tom wolff said...

Ed wrote – please tell me that there is more to this book than the sad and tattered argument that since we don't know the answer yet, God must have done it.

Ed, let me respond with a story. Let us imagine that you are in an airplane crash, and you are the sole survivor. You wash up on a beach, on a beautiful tropical island. You know of no one else on the island. You are alone except for the wildlife that inhabits the island with you.
1). Let’s assume you came across 12 football sized stones on the beach. And the stones were arranged close together forming a crescent; and,

2). The next day you search the jungle and spot a banana tree. You wanted to see if there were more bananas, and when you checked deeper into the jungle, you discovered 6 more banana trees. But these 6 trees are arranged in two rows of three, and equally spaced out; and,

3). A little farther in the jungle, you come across a grove of mango trees. You find 35 mango trees altogether in the grove. And these trees are arranged in 5 neat rows of 7 trees each.

My question to you is this: what is your best estimate – are you really alone on the island?

Thanks for playing along with me. Let me also know how you reached your conclusion. /s/Tom

Edward Oleander said...

Trees in the jungle:

you mention no other finds, so I'm assuming that all you have described is all I can find. No other clues relevant to this situation exist.

My conclusion: I am alone on this island at this time.

Nature abhors straight lines. At least, there are very few examples of straight lines in nature.

The rocks and banana trees I could pass off as coincidences, but the mango trees are numerous to imply that they were planted by something that:
A) Eats mango
B) Understands basic agriculture
C) Understands the idea of delayed gratification

So, humans must have planted the trees, and probably arranged the rocks as well.

but they must have then left the island, because there are no signs of current habitation, such as a clearing to allow for maximum tree growth, or cleared and/or often-used paths.

My guess is that someone else was once stranded here, planted the trees, and wrote out the word "help" on the beach in football sized stones, only a few of which are still visible.

Edward Oleander said...

Weird... it just spontaneously published that last comment with no help from me... so my email isn't tracking it... sigh... at least I was done with the body of it...


Edward Oleander said...

I'm still waiting for you to fall into the logic trap I set for you while seeming to fall into yours...

tom wolff said...

Hi Ed,

I'm sorry for the delay in my response. You recognize that the grove of 35 mango trees was planted by humans. That's all I was trying to establish because you are now an advocate of 'Intelligent Design'. You recognize when intelligence is an agency of something in front of you. Your analysis is competent on the issues I presented you.

OK, so let's try your analysis a little further. Suppose there is an instruction book to create something with 100 billion separate posts (we'll call them neurons for fun.) And the neurons have one quadrillion connections (or synapses) between them. This instruction book also has instructions for the self repairing and replacing of these neurons and synapses. My question to you is this - what is more likely: that the grove of 35 mango trees was created by some kind of intelligence, or that the instructions to make, repair and replace 100 billion neurons and 100 quadrillions synapses was made by some kind of intelligence?

Edward Oleander said...

"My question to you is this - what is more likely: that the grove of 35 mango trees was created by some kind of intelligence, or that the instructions to make, repair and replace 100 billion neurons and 100 quadrillions synapses was made by some kind of intelligence?"

Hands down, absolutely, no doubt, with all certainty, the answer is the mango grove!

I know that the placement of new mango trees can only occur by one of three methods:
1) The fruit can drop, and the seeds can take root from fallen fruit.
2) Seeds can be spread in the feces of birds (and perhaps other animals) that have consumed the fruit.
3) They can planted by humans.

In the case of the placement of 35 living trees, seen in precise rows, the odds of methods 1 or 2 are so vanishingly small as to be discountable.

In the case of the brain, we have mutation and natural selection, as well as vast amounts of time to work with. Clearly, the Theory of Evolution accounts for the complexity of the brain. Under Ockham's Razor, ANY natural possible solution is simpler than any supernatural solution. Under the Scientific Method, the validity of which has been demonstrated time and time again, a solution with ample and growing evidence will always trump a solution based purely on wishful thinking, backed by "evidence" which barely qualifies as anecdotal, let alone scientifically reliable.

You DO realize that your mango example is exactly the sort of "logic" I have been arguing against all along? When, oh when will you abandon the idea that anything so complicated that we haven't figured it out yet must surely be the work of God? You are like the Roman Emperor who declared that there was nothing possibly left to be invented.


Edward Oleander said...

"You recognize that the grove of 35 mango trees was planted by humans. That's all I was trying to establish because you are now an advocate of 'Intelligent Design'."


Equivocation is a Fallacy of Ambiguity. This is seen in the above by assigning an alternate meaning to "Intelligent Design" in order to convince me that I'm already halfway in your corner. By broadening the definition of "intelligent Design" to include ANY instance where intelligence is applied to a process, you have actually stripped the term of any relevance to the larger discussion. Under your new definition, only plants and brain-dead humans on life-support are NOT followers of Intelligent Design. Tsk, tsk, tsk...

Eschew Obfuscation!

Clucking my tongue in admonition,

Edward Oleander said...

There is another reason that your story of the trees cannot be in any way useful to the advancement of any ID "theory"...

With the trees, as with the older comparisons to computers and 747's, there are clear and demonstrable steps, all existing within the known Laws of Physics, that lead to the final results. With Intelligent Design, there is nothing comparable. The whole of ID is one single step: God waving his magic wand.

/soapbox/ = on

Science offers explanations as to why a computer works, why a plane flies, and why planting trees in certain arrangements is most beneficial to the planters. Knowing the underlying science helps us make better computers, planes and farms.

What does ID offer us? What actual questions does it answer? What tenets does it offer that will help us advance technology, medicine, agriculture, or really anything science related?

Science encourages curiosity, and the drive to invent and improve. ID seeks only to suppress curiosity and progress, while enslaving creative research and stifling critical thinking.

Until ID can provide credible evidence of not only the involvement of deity(ies) in the process of Creation, but the actual identities of WHICH deity(ies) were involved, it has nothing positive to add to the discussion.

ID also needs to address the issue of Purpose. The involvement of Intelligence in Creation implies that there is a Purpose for that Creation. Christianity ruthlessly suppresses investigation into that Purpose, but ID, if it is to claim itself to be a science, is obligated to pursue that issue and provide evidence for it's existence.

So far I have seen none of this. So far, all ID has ever done is try to instill doubts about Evolution into the minds of the public jury. This might work well for acquitting a murder suspect, but it is hardly Science.

It's time for ID to quit sniping uselessly from the sidelines and either present it's credentials or slink quietly back to the Comparative Theology Department and leave the rest of us alone.

/soapbox/ = off