Monday, October 4, 2010

Darwinism Refuted: Not Everything in the Genome is Useless

Casey Luskin has an article up on the Evolution News & Views site titled "MicroRNAs--"Once Dismissed as Junk"--Confirmed To Have Important Gene Regulatory Function."  It's a variation on one of the standard ID arguments: "evolutionists were wrong about something, therefore, the diversity and complexity of life were magicked into existence by an intelligent Designer," with a side order of another standard argument, "it's really complicated, therefore, intelligently designed."  The article references a paper in Nature on the functions of mammalian "micro-RNA's" during development.   Luskin's article ends with a provocative question: "What was "once dismissed as junk" turns out to be another astounding example of complex and specified information in the genome and a crucial part of gene regulation. Which paradigm would have predicted this finding: unguided neo-Darwinian evolution, or intelligent design?"

It's not clear what "finding" Luskin is referring to.  The specific functions of micro-RNA?  I don't think anyone predicted that, exactly, although I'd bet heavily that the scientists who discovered it have no problems with "Darwinism" and do not see their discovery as a refutation of it.

That geneticists were definitely mistaken to suppose that these micro-RNAs had no function?  That would indeed seem to be a more likely to be a conclusion of ID proponents, who, while they insist that we are entitled to no assumptions about the Designer's likely design philosophy or methods, still tend to write about "junk" in the genome as though every aspect of the genome were functional.  On the other hand, this would lead them to misleading conclusions when it is found that significant portions of the genome can be excised from an ovum without detectable effect on the organism.

That we don't know everything about the genome yet, but that almost certainly parts of it we don't yet understand have some function?  Depending on how "ultra-Darwinist" or "pan-adaptionist" one is, an evolutionist might assume that most parts of the genome we don't understand do something: why else would they still be hanging around after millions of centuries of natural selection (of course, a sufficiently subtle "pan-adaptionist" might adopt the view that some parts of the genome were parasitic, functioning for their own perpetuation rather than that of the genome as a whole).   Ernst Mayr noted that "there is a widespread belief among Darwinians that such apparently unnecessary DNA would have been eliminated long ago by natural selection if it did not have some, as yet undiscovered function" -- though he also noted that different lineages differed in the efficiency with which nonfunctional DNA was eliminated.

1 comment:

  1. Congrats man, Ray folded quicker than most of us guessed. We should have been taking bets.

    The closest thing to debate Ray has had in ages.