Directed evolution: evidence for teleology?

From: Chris Barden <>
Date: Fri Oct 14 2005 - 10:56:49 EDT

Hi everyone,

I have been thinking a lot lately about the philosophical issue that
drives ID backlash to TE, specifically Johnson's equation of TE with
naturalism and practical atheism. This position, as I see it, is a
refusal to accept secondary causes as sufficient for God's activity
and is often portrayed as "God of the Gaps", though it need not be so
formulated. To quote from "Darwinism Defeated?":

"Is the evolutionary creationism of Denis Lamoureux different from
what I have just described as theistic naturalism? It might seem so,
because he endorses teleological evolution ... On closer examination,
however, it appears that the 'teleology' part is entirely subjective
and has no more scientific content than the 'theism' in theistic
evolution. What exactly did God do (beyond establishing the laws at
the beginning of time) and how do we know that he actually did it?"

Temporarily granting this concern as being something other than (as I
see it) misplaced, how would we go about finding "exact" evidence of
God's episodic or otherwise primary activity in creation? Behe has at
least made a potentially falsifiable stab at this question by looking
for systems he deems "irreducibly complex". I thought of another one
that could potentially be useful: directed evolution. My area of
expertise, computational chemistry, is only very peripherally related
to this new and diverse field so I felt I should ask for some ASA
expert opinion on it. I have two questions, one scientific and the
other philosophical/political:

1. Are there any distinctive watermarks left behind in the process(es)
of directed evolution that could potentially allow one to discern an
enzyme so optimized from one that was already "designed" by
evolutionary processes over time?

2. If the answer to 1 is yes then ID would have a new ball game. But
if, as I suspect, the answer is no, wouldn't that be powerful evidence
in favor of the efficiency of secondary causes? TE advocates could
use this to argue, contra ID, that God need not leave detectible
traces of His guidance. Teleology would not be detectible but it
would be at least as plausible as dysteleology from the evidence.

(And a final question 3: Has anybody attempted this kind of argument
before? If so, references would be appreciated.)


Christopher J. Barden, Ph.D.
Department of Chemistry
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Received on Fri Oct 14 10:57:47 2005

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