Let’s Talk Junk

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So-called “junk DNA” has been much the buzz lately. A recent (and outstandingly lousy) Wired magazine article on the topic uncritically printed assertions by the Discovery Institute’s lead hack Stephen Meyer that the discovery that some regions of DNA once thought to be functionless do have functions is, “a confirmation of a natural empirical prediction or expectation of the theory of intelligent design, and it disconfirms the neo-Darwinian hypothesis,” The author of the Wired article does not provide us with any explanation of how ID “theory” made that prediction, but a more recent article at the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints Division does.

The basis for this astounding prediction (yes, I am using “astounding” sarcastically) is actually pretty simple, as Casey Luskin explains. “[D]esign theorists,” he tells us, “recognize that ‘Intelligent agents typically create functional things.’” That’s right. We can predict that noncoding DNA has some sort of function for the animal because we know that designers usually design functional things. If you have paid any sort of attention to what Intelligent Design proponents have said over the years, I should probably apologize to your next of kin, because there’s a pretty good chance that your head just exploded.

For the survivors, here’s why the sheer chutzpah of Casey’s assertion is enough to cause neurological overload.

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

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A post today dealing with junk DNA led me to some thinking about just how the nature of a designer might impact the nature of the things designed. It seems to me that no matter where we are looking for design, whether in the form of alien artifacts on... Read More

91 Comments

Darwinists like to point out examples of what they consider bad design in organisms, because it supports the no-design hypothesis.

Calling something “junk” because it is not understood is typical of materialist science.

If there is some kind of universal intelligence, on the other hand, we would not expect organisms to be full of useless junk.

So that is, obviously, why ID advocates predict useful and elegant designs, and why Darwinists predict haphazard and wasteful designs.

Calling something Junk is a valid null hypothesis, calling it Design is typical of the ID non-science.

Your ‘prediction’ is meaningless as it lacks in any foundation of logic, let alone empirical data.

Has realpc EVER said anything not intended as bait?

seriously, why is it that PT contributors can’t figure out how to trashcan repeat trolls?

Re: Comment 183678 by the certified troll “realpc”:

If there is some kind of universal intelligence, on the other hand, we would not expect organisms to be full of useless junk.

This would be true if we knew what the “universal intelligence”, whatever this means, intended to do. What if that mysterious intelligence wanted to create a lot of useless junk for his (her, its) own unfathomable reasons? Since ID advocates refuse even speculate on the attributes and behavior of the “Creator,” they cannot make any real predictions whatsoever but always can pretend to have predicted everything and anything. They can always do so because their imaginary creator can supposedly to do anything and everything at whim.

AR,

You are absolutely correct. However, if you want to claim that any intelligent designer had anything to do with designing any eukaryotic genomes, I guess you would have to at least attempt to explain the motivation for the following types of genetic elements:

SINES LINES Pseudogenes Trinucleotide repeats in coding regions

Whenever ID proponents try to make postdictions, they still usually fail to learn the relevant science, so they usually still get it wrong.

Re “seriously, why is it that PT contributors can’t figure out how to trashcan repeat trolls?”

Cause they just evolve a new logon id when the old one stops working?

Henry

Darwinists

Funny how you can tell from his very first word that realpc did not read, and is not responding to, Mike’s post at TQA.

Cause they just evolve a new logon id when the old one stops working?

That’s no more responsive to what STJ wrote than realpc’s drivel is to what Dunford wrote.

Actually PG, Henry has a point. If you stop responding to a known troll, because they’re a known troll, said troll will just change names and start again. In other words, Henry’s comment is a valid response to Sir TJ.

Actually PG, Henry has a point. If you stop responding to a known troll, because they’re a known troll, said troll will just change names and start again. In other words, Henry’s comment is a valid response to Sir TJ.

From the Wired article:

Catherine Shaffer/Wired Wrote:

That’s why T. Ryan Gregory, an assistant professor in biology at the University of Guelph, believes that nonfunctional should be the default assumption. “Function at the organism level is something that requires evidence,” he said.

Sounds as a good idea. It’s junk, unless you can prove otherwise. Of course, since it’s in there, it serves some function, even if it only being there. But that a certain string of DNA has a particular function cannot be the à priori assumption.

Oh, yes, and the article isn’t too good – rather confusing.

- pwe

…and grady is just the Kansas curmudgeon yet again.

as to what henry said…

there’s this little thing called an IP address.

everybody has one.

even trolls.

I rather think that PT contibutors need a meeting to review posting policies and make a final decision about what to do with trolls, and follow through on that.

It’s not like people who violate posting rules have not been banned before.

man, it’s like people considering the “function” of DNA have never read The Selfish Gene.

realpc wrote -

Actually, let me begin by saying that, although I think it’s like shooting fish in a barrel, yes, it is instructive to show how wrong creationist posts are. It helps lurkers, especially those who may not be fully up to speed on the issue yet, to deal with similar types in their daily life.

Obviously, everybody has the right to reply or not, as they see fit, but I feel no special inhibition from shredding creationist nonsense.

Darwinists like to point out examples of what they consider bad design in organisms, because it supports the no-design hypothesis.

It supports that the particular feature under examination was not designed by a magical entity with human standards of what constitutes “good” or “bad” design, but that’s not why scientists point it out. They point it out because it’s what reality shows.

Note the use of the biased terminology “Darwinist”.

Calling something “junk” because it is not understood is typical of materialist science.

This is the exact opposite of the truth. First of all, science is characterized by admission of the existence of things that are not yet known; it is typically fundamentalist ideologies that insist that they can explain everything.

Second of all, it’s trivially obvious that the term “junk” is relatively seldom used in science, even though a great deal is unknown.

Note the use of the biased terminology “materialist”.

If there is some kind of universal intelligence, on the other hand, we would not expect organisms to be full of useless junk.

It is true that any biological feature that is less than perfectly functional more or less disproves the idea that it was magically created by a carefully planning “designer” with human standards of what is “useful” or “useless”. Thus, ID advocates realize that non-coding DNA alone explodes their agenda-driven drivel. (That’s true even if it has some low level of poorly regulated transcription, or if some or all of it serves some sequence-independent redundant function. I’m sure real scientists will discover more and more about DNA which is not part of the primary genome, but that won’t take away the problem for creationism.)

Technically, many might believe that there could still be a “universal intelligence” that either doesn’t magically squirt DNA into nuclei, or doesn’t share human standards, or has both of these characteristics. That, however, is not a scientific issue.

So that is, obviously, why ID advocates predict useful and elegant designs, and why Darwinists predict haphazard and wasteful designs.

Nonsense again. Scientists would equally expect many “useful and elegant” systems to result from the evolution of life. Of course, the terms above are purely subjective, but still, it’s not fair to say that scientists would describe biological systems as “haphazard and wasteful”

It is true that “ID advocates” are disproved whenever something that appears imperfect or puzzling to them, but can be explained by evolution, is observed.

It certainly does not follow that the theory of evolution suffers when systems are found to be elegant and efficient. The theory of evolution predicts that many such systems will be found.

It’s entertaining that ID/creationists always assume that if they can somehow “disprove evolution” their sectarian ideology will win by default, even though this would make no sense even if they could “diprove evolution”.

And of course, non-coding DNA does not, in itself, “prove evolution”, merely because it explodes ID/creationism. It’s just one more piece of evidence that supports the theory of evolution.

With reference to trolls, just to be clear: we enjoy them just as little as everyone else. Those who also violate any PT rule and can be banned based on i.p. address, are. Some however post from dynamic i.p. addresses that cannot be banned without inconveniencing legitimate commenters. In those cases, we just move the nonsense comments to the Bathroom Wall, or delete them if appropriate.

Until we can get around doing so (and sometimes it may take a while), the best thing to do for everyone else is to just ignore the fools.

I am not a creationist or a Christian. I am a skeptic. I believe the universe is made of information, not “matter,” and that it naturally evolves towards greater complexity.

Materialist science cannot explain the origin of new species, and it certainly can’t explain the origin of life. Neo-Darwinism is a weak theory, unsupported by evidence. It can explain adaptation in existing species, but not the development of new and more complex features.

When you insist that neo-Darwinism is adequate to explain the origin of new and more complex species, you are relying on materialist faith, not evidence or logic.

Christian creationism is not part of this debate. We are not debating whether life evolved or how long it took. We are not debating whether God looks like an old man or whether he wrote the bible. We are debating whether or not the universe is made out of information, intelligence, meaning. We are asking who is smarter, nature or ourselves.

It makes a big difference in how we think and live. If nature is mindless and evolution occurs by chance (yes, and natural selection), then we will respect and trust it less. If we see nature as an expression of infinite intelligence, far more complex than anything we can comprehend, we will be more ready to learn from it.

Materialist science has had some great successes and there is no reason to throw it away. But there is also no reason for not venturing beyond it.

If nature is mindless and evolution occurs by chance (yes, and natural selection), then we will respect and trust it less. If we see nature as an expression of infinite intelligence, far more complex than anything we can comprehend, we will be more ready to learn from it.

The first sentence is bald assertion, nothing more. Care to back it up? (not sure whom I’m kidding)

The second is patently self-contradictory: If we (without rationale) decide the universe is “far more complex than anything we can comprehend” why would we think we could learn anything from it?

I see realpc has tried to derail yet another thread. For those of you who are not familiar with his brand of argument, he uses the MSU method (making stuff up). Here is a list of some of the claims he has made on various threads. Of course he has presented absolutely no evidence for any of these claims and he has repeatedly failed to acknowledge any evidence to the contrary. Feel free to add to the list if I have missed anything.

(1) The “Law of Complexity” states that some things complexify themselves at some times by some unknown mechanism for some unknown reason.

(2) The “Theory of Creative Evolution” states that some things get better and better for some reason, or something like that.

(3) The “intelligence” of your body means that you can somehow create beneficial mutations whenever you need them and that this process is entirely “natural” even though there is no known mechanism by which it could occur.

(4) DNA does not “know” enough to “orchestrate” the process of development (and so apparently we don’t have any idea how it could possibly work).

(5) Development violates the laws of physics (not the known laws of physics just the unknown ones).

(6) “Natural” means understood by science (presumably anything not yet understood is not natural). I know, this directly contradicts number three, but I’m not the one making this stuff up.

(7) “Complexity” cannot be determined unless we know the purpose and function of something (apparently the complexity changes if the perceived purpose changes).

(8) We all exist in a shared virtual reality and the real reality is outside the matrix. (Wait I saw that movie, he might be right about this one. Anyway, I guess no one can prove him wrong).

(9) Humans are “newer” than dogs. (Even though Canis familiaris arose in Asia about 15,000 years ago). See Science 298:1610-1613 (2002) for example.

(10) AIDS is not caused by HIV.

Of course you are free to respond to realPC, after all no one can stop you. I would suggest that you at least try to keep him/her/it on topic, since threads seem to deteriorate rather quickly when he/she/it comes around. For example, the topic of this thread was supposed to be junk DNA. Could this be deduced from the last post made by realPC?

I don’t plan on responding to any of the baiting from realPC. He has a right to his opinions, but why should anyone else care? I would love to introduce realPC to ERV, but I already have too much respect for ERV to do that. Oh well, maybe they will meet some day. We can only hope.

“If we (without rationale) decide the universe is “far more complex than anything we can comprehend” why would we think we could learn anything from it?”

Well just think about it. If something is so complex we can’t ever understand it completely, does that mean we can never understand it at all?

If someone is smarter than you are, does that mean you cannot learn anything from them? If nature is smarter than we are, does it follow we cannot learn anything from it?

Well just think about it. If something is so complex we can’t ever understand it completely, does that mean we can never understand it at all?

If someone is smarter than you are, does that mean you cannot learn anything from them? If nature is smarter than we are, does it follow we cannot learn anything from it?

Have you ever looked at your hands? I mean really looked at them?

What would chairs look like if knees bent backwards?

pwe Wrote:

It’s junk, unless you can prove otherwise. Of course, since it’s in there, it serves some function, even if it only being there. But that a certain string of DNA has a particular function cannot be the à priori assumption.

We shouldn’t assume a sequence with no proven function is junk. That’s as unsupportable as assuming that every sequence does have a function. (Of course, if you have data to support that a sequence really is ‘junk’, that’s a different story.)

Also, I don’t think simple existence is really a function.

It’s possible I have the wrong troll, but isn’t he a fan of the invisible, unexplained, unevidenced genetic barrier which holds all evolution to the micro level, thus not allowing speciation?

We are asking who is smarter, nature or ourselves.

We wants it, yessssss, we do, precious.

Actually PG, Henry has a point. If you stop responding to a known troll, because they’re a known troll, said troll will just change names and start again.

Do you have any idea what “non-responsive” means? It doesn’t mean that the statement was false, but that it was a non-sequitur. The question was “why is it that PT contributors can’t figure out how to trashcan repeat trolls?” The response about trolls changing their names is idiotic, because we’re talking about realpc here, and “realpc” isn’t some new name that no one has seen before. Sheesh.

If you stop responding to a known troll, because they’re a known troll, said troll will just change names and start again.

Also, what you wrote is incredibly foolish on two other counts. One is that STJ referred to “trashcan”ning trolls, not merely shunning them. And if we were talking about shunning, what you’re saying in essence is that it’s useless to shun a troll because they’ll just change their name and you won’t recognize them as the same troll. One would have to be quite a fool not to grasp that that is not an argument for engaging trolls. So what is it an argument for? Well, nothing at all, it’s just a pointless observation that no action is perfect in its results – a rather pathetic approach to the world.

Of course, since it’s in there, it serves some function, even if it only being there.

That’s rather raw teleology. “serves some function” is equivalent to “serves some purpose”, but there are no purposes for unplanned processes or entities. “function” must be viewed strictly operationally, in terms of what effect something has, but just “being there” is not an effect.

It’s junk, unless you can prove otherwise.

That’s a textbook example of the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam. The effects, if any, of so-called (unfortunately) “junk” DNA are not negated by our failure to prove their existence.

BTW

I am a skeptic. I believe [in fairy tales contradicted by mountains of evidence]

I doubt that we would have any trouble spotting this particular troll regardless of what name it went by.

…and cue the pissing contest!

That’s a textbook example of the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam. The effects, if any, of so-called (unfortunately) “junk” DNA are not negated by our failure to prove their existence.

Lacking any evidence that it has function, the best assumption is the null hypothesis. Or we may as well accept that design is a better null hypothesis…

Whoops. Wrong thread. Feel free to delete this and my previous comment

At any point in time, the maximum complexity of anything that has existed up until that time is no less than it was at any previous time – that’s logic; it’s a tautology: maximal historical complexity is necessarily non-decreasing. And, if increase or decrease in complexity via evolution is some sort of drunkard’s walk, then maximal historical complexity must generally increase over time (although not indefinitely, because of entropy and the eventual heat death of the universe; at some point before that, maximal historical complexity will permanently level off). This is all tautological – necessarily true. Yes, the “universe is inherently creative” – it must be. But this inherent creativity is deeply natural. To attribute such essential, tautological, creativity to “intelligence” is terribly foolish and confused.

The program runs or it doesn’t, no matter what your software ideology may be.

While some people are occasionally logical, generally people’s reasoning is riddled with errors (google Kahneman and Tversky), and some people almost never have a coherent thought without a great deal of external help. Without the hard reality of the computer not producing the results you want, your errors would be boundless in that field too. In science, rather than a computer producing the right results as the check that our work is correct, we have the empirical evidence against which our hypotheses and theories must be tested.

I would like to know how many computer scientists prefer IDE over NDE, relative to biologists. I have a suspicion we are more likely to be bothered by the weaknesses of NDE than you biologists are.

Among both computer scientists and biologists, acceptance of NDE is highly correlated with familiarity with the facts of biology and an ability to think logically.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on June 17, 2007 11:03 PM.

Bill Dembski meets Hugh Hefner was the previous entry in this blog.

Luskin: Dual-Coding Genes “Nearly Impossible by Chance” — How Would Francisco Ayala Respond? is the next entry in this blog.

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