[asa] Re: "junk" DNA

From: Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu>
Date: Thu Jun 14 2007 - 14:36:09 EDT

My responses inserted below.


>>> PvM <pvm.pandas@gmail.com> 6/14/2007 12:50 PM >>>
On 6/14/07, Ted Davis <TDavis@messiah.edu> wrote:
> Not so fast, Pim, not so fast.
> ID adherents have for some time been saying precisely this: that "junk
> isn't junk, that it probably does have a function as yet unknown. This
> follows from their overall view of biology, and it's fair for them to
> trumpet this. It is not fair for you to deny them their point.

It's fair to say that IDist, unless they base their views on their God
not being wasteful, have no way to predict the existence or absence of
junk DNA. Their main objection to junk DNA was not founded on a
scientific principle.

TED comments: Pim, for the point I am making, about the fairness of the ID
view of "junk DNA," it just doesn't matter whether or not their main
objection is "founded on a scientific principle." It just doesn't matter.
Darwin's objection to special creationism wasn't founded on a scientific
principle, either; rather it was founded on meta-views about what science is
and how it ought to work. Those are part of science, but not strictly
scientific. IDs want to renegotiate certain things at that very level. I
don't think they will succeed in convincing enough scientists to take the ID
road, but that's a different matter. Einstein's objection to the expansion
of the universe wasn't "founded on a scientific principle," and neither was
Boyle's objection to Linus' ideas about the nature of the "stuff" (if there
was a "stuff") above the meniscus in a mercury barometer.

Whether or not the ID objection to junk DNA is "founded on a scientific
principle," the point is that IDs have said that they expect much (most?)
junk DNA to have a function, once all is said and done. They base this on
their view that biological organisms are *designed,* coupled with the
reasonable additional premise that a designer would be likely to use similar
DNA to produce similar structures in various "designed" organisms. I agree
that those principles aren't "scientific," but (again) neither was Darwin
being "scientific" when he also made numerous assumptions about what a
creator God would or would not have done--such as his assumption that it
made more sense for God to have created a single species of a given organism
in a given place, and then used the process of natural selection to produce
diverging further species from that single one. Darwin can't prove that God
didn't create individual species separately; he simply argued that it made
more sense to think of God doing it otherwise.

Within the ID perspective, it makes more sense if most "junk" DNA isn't
really junk. Perhaps it also makes sense within a Darwinian perspective--I
am less sure about that. So, if it turns out (and I don't see that this is
at all clear yet) that most "junk" DNA has a present function, then the IDs
can reasonably say, "we told you so." This hardly "proves" ID, but it ought
to count somewhat in its favor, IMO. I think some other things do not count
in its favor.

In addition, IDists have never really understood the concept of Junk
DNA nor how science viewed Junk DNA.

That IDists can claim a minor victory has no impact on the simple fact
that ID remains scientifically vacuous.

TED comments: I'm not sure that ID is "scientifically vacuous," any more
than the Aristotelian/Galenic view that "nature does nothing in vain" is
scientifically vacuous. Belief in the reality of design in an Aristotelian
sense, for example, led William Harvey to discover the circulation of the
blood, after observing the valves in the veins. They wouldn't be there, he
reasoned, unless they had a function--so he sought the larger picture within
which they fit perfectly. Kepler's discovery of the "3 laws" of planetary
motion likewise followed from his convictions about cosmic design and the
divine mathematician. Are the metaphysical convictions of Einstein, Harvey,
Kepler, Maxwell, and many other scientists "scientifically vacuous," even
when they lead those scientists to make specific claims about nature that
turn out to be either true or false (it's turned out both ways)? Again, not
so fast, Pim.

Or explain how ID can 'predict' function for some/all? DNA based upon
first principles. Remember that ID is based on ignorance and a
negative argument. While Science rightly considered absence of
detectable function to be a reason to hold to the null hypothesis,
IDists concluded design.
If this were really such a foundational principle of ID, how come that
it was not IDists but actual scientists who detected the latest
exciting data.
No, their is little reason for IDists to celibrate here, at least
scientifically speaking. From a PR perspective I am sure that
creationists (and function for junk dna IS a creationist prediction)
will be having a field day.

TED comments: Yes, function for junk DNA is a "creationist" prediction. It
hardly confirms the full truth of creationism, any more than Kepler's
discoveries confirmed the full truth of his view that the heliocentric
universe is a physical model of the trinity (and that was the belief, most
likely, that led Kepler to go into astronomy with such fervor in the first
place). But at the same time, if it is true, then it is true, whether or
not "creationists" predicted it. The universe *is* a divine creation, IMO
(and also in yours I assume, Pim, or else I have serious questions about
your claims to be a Christian). If there are some aspects of it that
reflect this, I would not be too surprised. At the same time, one must
always be prepared to be wrong about specific claims concerning how God
created the world, and about which parts/aspects of it show forth his
handiwork in special ways. This goes both ways, in the ID debate: The
politics obliterate the truth of this point, as a general rule. Truth is
often the loser.

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Received on Thu Jun 14 14:36:47 2007

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