Common Design Errors

| 19 Comments

Biblical creationism offers two explanations for what we see in nature: “God did it” and “the Fall did it.” Such theology often argues that God created nature perfectly and corruption entered into the world after the Fall. Such things like blind cave fish are explained as post-Fall degeneration. Such theology often argues that any similarities observed between “unrelated” organisms are due to common design. This is often invoked to explain similarities between humans and other creatures, because biblical creationism holds that humans are not related to any other species. However, these explanations are unable to account for common design flaws, which are features that are clearly biological flaws but are shared between organisms that are supposed to be unrelated. Unary pseudogenes are an excellent example of this problem for biblical creationism.

Humans, chimps, gorillas, and other primates lack the ability to synthesize ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and must eat a diet that includes it to survive. Other animals are able to synthesize ascorbic acid because they have a complete metabolic pathway. However, humans et al. are missing a key enzyme, L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, which is involved in the synthesis of ascorbic acid. However, we do have the non-functioning remains of this gene still in our DNA, as do other primates which have been studied: chimps, gorillas, orangutans, and macaques. In all five species the gene is broken in the same way (deletion of same exons) and is found in the same place in the genome.

Biology explains this shared flaw by proposing that in an ancestor of all five species, a deletion occurred in the L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, rendering it non functional. This deletion was then passed to its descendents, producing the pattern that we see today. Biblical creationism is unable to explain it because either God would have to have made a flawed creation or humans would have to be related to other species. Neither are options that biblical creationism allows.

I have proposed this problem many times to biblical creationists who insist that humans do not share a common ancestor with any other species. None of them have yet to account for this interesting fact of nature.

References

  • Nishikimi M et al. (1994) “Cloning and chromosomal mapping of the human nonfunctional gene for L-gulono-gamma-lactone oxidase, the enzyme for L-ascorbic acid biosynthesis missing in man.” Journal of Biological Chemistry 269: 13685-13688
  • Ohta Y and Nishikimi M (1999) “Random nucleotide substitutions in primate nonfunctional gene for L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidiase, the missing enzyme in L-ascorbind acid biosynthesis.” Biochimica et Biophysica Acta 1472: 408-411

19 Comments

Ah, but God made oranges delicious to primates (and not frogs, dogs, or oxen), and He gave us Anita Bryant to help promote them. Even Nobel chemist Linus Pauling recognized that Vitamin C intake was part of God’s plan. Be wary of finding flaws in patterns which you lack the Divine insight to understand!

Lately I’ve heard a lot about this ID argument that genetic similarity just indicates common design, but not imply common ancestry. I think this argument could really come in handy.

“Your honor, let me explain why the genetic paternity test does not indicate that I’m that kid’s dad. I have here some experts from the Discovery Institute.…”

’…but does not imply…”

How does Biblical Creationism cope with the fact that lions seem very well adapted to killing other animals for meat, mosquitoes to drinking blood and anteaters to catching ants (etc, etc)? Paradise in Eden was supposed to be vegetarian and deathless. Did lions gain their sharp carnivore teeth after the Fall, or were they supposed to be put to other uses? If so, what?

And another thought - it’s not just carnivores that are a problem. Why do rabbits and sheep have eyes on the sides of their faces so they can keep a watch for predators? Perhaps in Eden they had eyes that faced front, since there were no predators, and this is how they will look in the future, when “lion shall lie with lamb”.

As for the “similar DNA means similar design rather than a relationship” argument, of course a deity could have created two unrelated persons or species that appear to be related, and science would be unable to detect the deception. This is just another variant of the pointless “apprearance of age” argument.

Reed A. Cartwright Wrote:

However, these explanations are unable to account for common design flaws, which are features that are clearly biological flaws but are shared between organisms that are supposed to be unrelated. Unary pseudogenes are an excellent example of this problem for biblical creationism.

Surely you know that these (Biblical, creationist, ID, aliensdidit, etc.) “explanations” can “explain” (i.e. not rule out) anything. It is the implied claims within those “explanations” such as “independent abiogenesis” that cannot. The fact that most promoters of these pseudoscientific “explanations” do not address the potentially scientific explanations within them is a virtual admission that they would fail the tests, and that evolution would be the better explanation. And the fact that anti-evolutionists these days are implying less and letting the audience infer more only adds to this virtual admission.

How does Biblical Creationism cope with the fact that lions seem very well adapted to killing other animals for meat, mosquitoes to drinking blood and anteaters to catching ants (etc, etc)? Paradise in Eden was supposed to be vegetarian and deathless. Did lions gain their sharp carnivore teeth after the Fall, or were they supposed to be put to other uses? If so, what?

The excuse I’ve been seeing recently on this one is that only man was free from death not that death in the world didn’t exist before the fall of man. Of course that directly contradicts some of their creation “science” tenents, but since real science never got in the way of their biblical gymnastics I doubt their “science” will either.

“similar DNA means similar design rather than a relationship”…

Does this predict that killer whale DNA should look more like shark DNA than like cow DNA?

Bartholomew wrote

Paradise in Eden was supposed to be vegetarian and deathless

Not all believers contend that there was no death before the fall. One of the most noxious methodologies on this site is to paint all believers with the same brush–and to depict a caricature rather than reality.

This is just another variant of the pointless “apprearance of age” argument.

The appearance of age argument is not part of ID. It is unfalsifibale. Just like:

Biology explains this shared flaw by proposing that in an ancestor of all five species, a deletion occurred in the L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, rendering it non functional.

(italics added)

Comment #7108

Posted by Russell on August 30, 2004 11:57 AM

“similar DNA means similar design rather than a relationship” …

Does this predict that killer whale DNA should look more like shark DNA than like cow DNA?

I’ve never seen an IDist make a prediction, have you?

Anyway, a prediction would imply they had a current theory, and if they do, I haven’t found it, and my requests for others to provide info/links about it have gone unanswered. I’ve heard plenty about what ID Theory supposedly does (Explodes Darwinian Myths, establishes evolution can’t work, encompasses all Darwinian results and extends them, calculates Ontological Depth, revolutionizes Information Theory, etc) but never actually seen the thing itself, except in the form of hypotheses which have been somewhat retracted by their authors.

David Heddle: One of the most noxious methodologies on this site is to paint all believers with the same brush—and to depict a caricature rather than reality.

Yeah, I suppose that would be kind of noxious. But this hardly seems an example of that:

“Paradise was supposed…”

It’s true that some do suppose that; how do you get from that observation to “painting all believers with the same brush”? Can you come up with any better examples of that “noxious methodology” on this site?

I might counter by pointing out that it’s one of the more annoying traits of creationists in general to be quick to take offense and elevate art of the chip on the shoulder to new heights… But that would be wrong.

David,

The fact that you think such a propsition is unfalsifiable is remarkable. Did you even think about the proposition before you labeled it unfalsifiable? Come on, you can do better than that. I’m sure if you actually approached the question as a scientist, you will immediately think up various ways that the proposition that lack of vitamin C production in primates is due to common descent could be falsified.

Hint: guniea pigs.

Perhaps you are correct. Perhaps untestable is a better phrase. What is untestable: “in an ancestor of all five species, a deletion occurred in the L-gulano-gamma-lactone oxidase, rendering it non functional.”

It strikes me that the design flaw argument is of the same quality as the design argument–in one case you proclaim features that you cannot be sure will not turn out to be bugs. In the other, you point out bugs that you cannot be sure won’t turn out to be features.

David,

It is certiantly testable. Just think about it. Hint: guniea pigs.

David Heddle Wrote:

It strikes me that the design flaw argument is of the same quality as the design argument …

It depends on what you mean by the “design flaw argument.” If you mean one that implies that a designer would not do it that way, I agree. But the scientific one, whereby design flaws, such as plagiarized errors:

http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/molgen/

are evidence of common ancestry, is a good one, as it forces the opponent to come up with an alternate independent abiogenesis scenario that is detailed enough to account for those similarities between different species. Anti-evolutionists cannot do that of course, so they resort to the false dichotomy. Fortunately for them, the public buys the trick.

Dang! Reed beat me to what is perhaps the clincher to this particular piece of evidence.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/[…]opt=Abstract

I have presented this argument many times to a host of creationists/IDists, and have yet to see anyone offer anything other than “God works in mysterious ways” or its equivalent.

Jason Wrote:

I have presented this argument many times to a host of creationists/IDists, and have yet to see anyone offer anything other than “God works in mysterious ways” or its equivalent.

“Evolutionists” who believe in God also say that “God works in mysterious ways.” So when that is the only response an anti-evolutionist can come up with (albeit often very creatively paraphrased) they are admitting that they cannot come up with an alternative to evolution.

Bartholomew said: “How does Biblical Creationism cope with the fact that lions seem very well adapted to killing other animals for meat, mosquitoes to drinking blood and anteaters to catching ants (etc, etc)? Paradise in Eden was supposed to be vegetarian and deathless. Did lions gain their sharp carnivore teeth after the Fall, or were they supposed to be put to other uses? If so, what?”

To quote immortal Terry Pratchett (thoughtfully compiled and provided by http://www.digiserve.com/eescape/cl[…]gfather.html ):

“News like Susan gets around. The bears had heard about the poker. Nuts and barries, their expressions seemed to say. That’s what we’re here for. Big sharp teeth? What big shar– Oh, these big sharp teeth? They’re just for, er, cracking nuts. And some of these berries can be really vicious.” - Terry Pratchett, Hogfather

Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Also, if death wasn’t present before the fall, I have to wonder about all those plants that were being digested by the entire animal kingdom and were still alive when they came out the rear end. Yuck. I supose it would be even more implausible to state that all creatures were photosythetical, so no-one had to die for the rest to exist.

Is it me, or whomever comes up with those wild explanaitions of literal genesis tend to be foggy on details like “hey, plants are alive too!”?

Hope that helps,

Grey Wolf

Biblical creationism is unable to explain it because either God would have to have made a flawed creation

So, does this mean that cars are not designed because they need gas?

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This page contains a single entry by Reed A. Cartwright published on August 29, 2004 11:41 PM.

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