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Science deals another blow to 'design'

November 26, 2005|By Doug Martin

To the editor:

The six-week trial is mercifully over and now we await a verdict that will generate much ado about precious little. Regardless of how the judge decides, evolution will still be science and Intelligent Design will still not be.

On the day Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District began in the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pa., (Monday, Sept. 26), The Washington Post ran a full-page article titled "Analysis of Chimp Genome Affirms Science of Evolution."

A month before the article appeared, scientists announced they had "determined the exact order of all 3 billion bits of genetic code that go into making a chimpanzee" and that the genomes of the chimp and the human are 96 percent identical.

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One of the characteristics that distinguishes science from all other disciplines is the ability of its practitioners to make testable predictions and non-obvious discoveries based on evidence and knowledge.

Using evidence from earlier research on the DNA of humans, canines and mice, and applying a mathematical formula developed from evolutionary theory, scientists were able to predict with remarkable accuracy the number of harmful mutations they would find in the chimpanzee DNA.

John West, a director at the Discovery Institute, the Intelligent Design think tank, was asked to cite examples of ID's testable predictions. He could offer only one. "In 1998, an ID theorist, reckoning that an intelligent designer would not fill animals' genomes with DNA that had no use, predicted that much of the 'junk' DNA in animals' genomes will someday be found to have a function," which, in fact, some have. Impressive, except for the annoying suspicion among scientists that "more than 90 percent of human DNA" has no determinable use, but is merely "the flotsam of biological history." Still, there are quite a few loose ends to tie up.

Considering this accumulation of pesky genetic detritus, wouldn't it be reasonable to conclude that a serial bungler and not an intelligent designer is the universe's real mover and shaker?

Of course, if the Discovery Institute were to reformulate its "theory" to comport with the evidence, the support of the Christian right would quickly evaporate, as would lay curiosity, media attention and, most critical, lucrative revenue sources, such as philanthropic foundation grants and corporate and individual contributions.

So now that geneticists, biochemists and evolutionary biologists have hammered yet another nail in ID's coffin with the sequencing of the chimp genome and subsequent testable prediction about harmful mutations, isn't it time for the directors and scientists at the Institute to finally pull the plug on their patient?

It's obvious that the only evolutionary phenomenon about which they are qualified to speak occurred in the late 1980s when the butterfly of Intelligent Design emerged from the caterpillar of creationism after the Supreme Court banned the latter from public schools. But is this an example of metamorphosis or survival (albeit temporary) of the less unfit?

Doug Martin
Middletown, Md.

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