Saturday, January 26, 2008

Synthetic Genome: I Thought DNA Was Supposed to Be Simple!

Scientists yesterday announced that they have successfully created an entire synthetic genome in the lab by stitching together the DNA of the smallest known free-living bacterium, Mycoplasma genitalium.


One genetisist, Roy Hood, commented that this is "a striking technical accomplishment." I know that naturalists do not characterize the formation of DNA as being unintelligent (they see the evolutionary process itself as being the creative force). But considering the considerable work, enormous investment, and massive amount of effort it is taking the most brilliant people on our planet, simply to stitch together their own man-made genome, is evolution really that brilliant in its ability to create life?

I suppose the argument could be put forth by a naturalist that given enough time (try millions and millions of years) and the right materials (you know, proteins, microscopes, tiny tweezers, etc.), life can eventually form. So even a group of apes in a lab could eventually have done the same thing. This really means that either evolution is a bloody brilliant creator, or the scientists who did this are no better than apes. Which is it, naturalists? Which is it?

5 comments:

  1. I think where natural selection breaks down in its ability to have brought forth something like the DNA strand is in its inability to have an end goal in mind. All it can really do is sustain the random mutations that just happen to make an organism better able to survive, but otherwise it is just like shooting in the dark. Furthermore, natural selection depends upon organisms replicating, DNA (which is necessary for the replication process) would have had to precede any organisms able to replicate (in other words, if DNA did not come first than the first organism itself would have had to been intact with DNA) and I am sure even a naturalist would admit to the incredulity of an organism popping into existence complete with DNA. The point being, if DNA precedes the replication, than what was the mechanism that allowed DNA to evolve, since there would have been no replication process before it, and hence, no natural selection.
    Admittedly I am not a scientist, so if I have missed something in my thinking, I would be happy to be corrected.

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  2. The naturalist might argue that when raw proteins began to exist in the "primordial soup," the ones which gathered into groups survived, and those which didn't gather simply died off, eventually leaving the world full of protein "communities." I would then surmise that the argument goes something like this: in order to survive, proteins which organized themselves into more complex communities survived while those which did not ceased to exist. Hence, the earliest forms of DNA came to exist randomly. I can't explain how a naturalist would propose the information written on DNA came to be so helpful in continuing the organism's survival, but I would assume that they believe anything can happen, given enough time.

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  3. And clearly that would be a more reasonable an explanation than creation would be.

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  4. Clearly. Remember Ockham's Razor!

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  5. It is funny you mentioned Ockham’s razor, because I have talked to many atheist who claim that Ockham’s razor is on their side. They argue that when you postulate there is a being behind creation, you are actually postulating a superfluous being and, thus, making the situation more complicated than it already is (sort of like adding another variable to the algebra problem). Hence, creation is the more complicated explanation, and hence, Ockham’s razor cuts the out the creation idea. I do agree that if having a creator is superfluous, there might be something to the argument, however, I think that it becomes clearer and clearer that an intelligent mind behind the existence of the world is anything but superfluous. Furthermore, the whole notion of what or what is not superfluous is determined solely on where you start. If you start with no God, then obviously God is superfluos in regards to existence (since things exist), however, if you start with God then evolution is superfluous to existence. The question than is, which is the better starting point?

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