Science & Faith
5/3/12 at 09:25 AM 50 Comments

Removing the Darwinian Spin to Research Dominated by Intelligent Design

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DNA stores digital biological code. Where does your information come from?

On April 19 National Geographic News summarized a lengthy technical article related to life’s origin that was to appear in the journal Science the next day. NG News began its story with these words:

Step aside, DNA—new synthetic compounds called XNAs can also store and copy genetic information, a new study says. And, in a "big advancement," these artificial compounds can also be made to evolve in the lab, according to study co-author John Chaput of the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University.

Nucleotides, the building blocks of DNA are composed of four bases—A, G, C, and T. Attached to the bases are sugars and phosphates. … First, researchers made XNA building blocks to six different genetic systems by replacing the natural sugar component of DNA with one of six different polymers, synthetic chemical compounds. The team … then evolved enzymes, called polymerases, that can make XNA from DNA, and others that can change XNA back into DNA. This copying and translating ability allowed for genetic sequences to be copied and passed down again and again—artificial heredity. Last, the team determined that HNA, one of the six XNA polymers, could respond to selective pressure in a test tube.

As would be expected for DNA, the stressed HNA evolved into different forms. This shows that "beyond heredity, specific XNAs have the capacity for Darwinian evolution," according to the study…. "Thus, heredity and evolution, two hallmarks of life, are not limited to DNA and RNA."

NG News has done a remarkable job suppressing the pervasive use of intelligent design (ID) in the actual research they describe and giving their story a Darwinian façade. NG News is merely following (and popularizing) the way the authors of the study attempt a similar strategy of using Darwinian rhetoric to cover up the logic of ID that permeates the actual work of this fascinating research project.

Briefly, this team of researchers intelligently designed components of an artificial heredity system that (when properly manipulated by intelligent scientists) copied information from pre-existing DNA and then went through several carefully engineered tests and transformations.

Here is how ENV uncovers the real story behind the PR strategies described above:

An international team of 11 scientists found ways to replace the sugars on the backbones of DNA molecules. "With the use of polymerase evolution and design, we show that genetic information can be stored in and recovered from six alternative genetic polymers based on simple nucleic acid architectures not found in nature," they said in Science.

The boldface portions of the quotation reveal the guiding hand of intelligent design and the use of pre-existing biological “information” in the research project—both of which show the study tells us virtually nothing about how life could evolve from non-life by an unintelligent material process.

ENV then notes:

They called their designed molecules XNAs, where X stands for one of six alternative backbone sugars in the polymers. Using threose, for instance they got TNA; using arabinose, they made ANA, etc. So did these molecules evolve by a Darwinian mechanism? Did they grow skeletons, eyes and wings? Not even close.

Read more (ENV takes you deeper into the ID underneath the superficial Darwinian spin to this story).

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