Friday, November 11, 2011

U-Turn on Junk DNA at Uncommon Descent?

An interesting turn of events at Uncommon Descent

In this post on “Sandwalk” Larry Moran provides a link to a comment thread on Uncommon Descent where he has been discussing Junk DNA. The anti-evolutionist Intelligent Design community represented by UD by and large believe their version of ID predicts that Junk DNA does not exist. They arrive at this prediction, I think, because they cannot conceive why an intelligent designer would be so untidy (or incompetent) as to leave redundant genetic code lying about in the genome. But then again perhaps an intelligent designer has some very intelligent (or perhaps even dumb) motives that we don’t understand for leaving this code in his genetic program.

As I said in my series on Intelligent Design predictions I do not think that ID provides a firm basis for hard predictions, primarily because it is in the nature of intelligence, especially alien intelligence, to possess personality traits and foibles that give a large measure of inscrutability to its behavior: Viz: How can we be so sure of the motives, methods and purposes of an alien genetic engineer as to know whether or not he/she/it might want redundant genetic code lying around? There are all sorts of reasons that the imagination can invent which could account for junk DNA within an ID framework. Well, what do you know, Larry tells us about someone he has met on the UD thread who can think of some reasons why ID might be consistent with junk DNA. Here’s how Larry tells it:

The new version [of ID] goes like this .....
1. You can have junk DNA because physical constraints and design compromises prevented a perfect design.
2. Due to genetic entropy the originally designed genomes might have degenerated.
3. Junk DNA could have been put in the genome by the intelligent designer as preparation for future creations.
4. Some of the junk DNA is redundant functional DNA that's present in case a gene breaks down.
This new version of intelligent design is not in conflict with the presence of large amounts of junk in our genome.

Here we see a consequence of the fact that an alien intelligence is an entity with so many degrees of freedom regarding its purposes and methods that prediction is all but impossible; with sufficient imagination a very broad spectrum of explanation can be retrospectively fitted to any accepted data. ID has more the character of a post-facto sense making paradigm than it is hard science.

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