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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sunday YouTubes - Stephen C Meyer speaks science rather than propagates propaganda

The above is a clip concerning an Illustra movie, "Darwin's Dilemma"

"Illustra Media produces video documentaries that examine the scientific case for intelligent design. Working with Discovery Institute and an international team of scientists and scholars (including Michael Behe, Guillermo Gonzalez, Stephen Meyer, and Lee Strobel), Illustra has helped define both the scientific case for design and the limitations of materialistic processes like Darwinian evolution. These documentaries include Unlocking the Mystery of Life, The Privileged Planet and Darwin’s Dilemma."  

This organization is a not-for-profit agency seeking to present information to the public and dependent entirely on sales and donations to exist.  It is a proactive organization dedicated to dissemination of information.

In stark contrast, the NCSE is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to stop the dissemination of other words, they are dedicated to censhorship of any ideas that disagree with Darwinism.

It seems to me better to be involved with and to promote an organization that seeks to share information rather than to be associated with one that is trying to stifle it.  Duh squared, right?   The only reason there is an NCSE is simply because Darwinism cannot stand on evidence without being propped up by propaganda.  No one needs to set up an organization to defend the laws of gravity, for instance.  There is no organization formed to fight against challenges to laws of magnetism or electricity or the definition of a triangle.   Good science can stand on its own two feet.   It doesn't require organizations designed to shield it from scrutiny.

Christianity is proactive rather than defensive.  Christians are on the march against evil.  The Bible says that the gates of hell will not stand against us.   Gates are part of a defense of a city or compound to keep those outside from getting in and taking over.   Christianity is intent upon breeching the defenses of the minds and hearts of individual people.   It is individuals, not governments, who are targeted by God.   Understand that this blog is a proactive worldview blog intent upon disseminating information that will lead unbelievers to believe and to prop up the shaky faith of the uncertain.   It is intent upon publishing truth by publishing the findings of science and the best writing of modern philosophers and writers as well as Biblical truths and supporting those truths with Bible quotes.   

Stephen C. Meyer wrote a ground-breaking book and today we are considering much of the content of the book and his views on the concept of Intelligent Design as a scientific concept and not a metaphysical one.

Meyer was a double-degreed scientist working for a large oil company seeking information when he realized that cells were packed with information and this began his journey of exploration that led him to the Discovery Institute.

Stephen C. Meyer, Senior Fellow - Discovery Institute
Program Director - CSC

Articles by Stephen C. Meyer

Stephen C. Meyer is director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and a founder both of the intelligent design movement and of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, intelligent design’s primary intellectual and scientific headquarters. Dr. Meyer is a Cambridge University-trained philosopher of science, the author of peer-reviewed publications in technical, scientific, philosophical and other books and journals. His signal contribution to ID theory is given most fully in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, published by HarperOne in June 2009. For more on the book, and more about Dr. Meyer's views on intelligent design visit his website at

Meyer earned his Ph.D. in the History and Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University for a dissertation on the history of origin of life biology and the methodology of the historical sciences. Previously he worked as a geophysicist with the Atlantic Richfield Company after earning his undergraduate degrees in Physics and Geology.

Dr. Meyer has recently co-written or edited two books: Darwinism, Design, and Public Education with Michigan State University Press and Science and Evidence of Design in the Universe (Ignatius 2000).

He has also authored numerous technical articles as well as editorials in magazines and newspapers such as The Wall Street Journal, The Los Angeles Times, The Houston Chronicle, The Chicago Tribune, First Things and National Review.

Discovery Institute main site

Uncommon Descent website!

Signature in the cell you tube website!

Intelligent Design is a scientific movement dedicated to uncovering and understanding evidence about the world around us today and especially the world of organisms.

Creationists can learn a great deal from the work of men like Meyer at the Discovery Institute, some of whom are and some of whom are not Christians. The sad truth is that Darwinist's primary complaint with the Institute is that it is a "bunch of Christians", an argument that isn't true but more to the point isn't relevant. Pay no attention to the various blah blah blah about who the scientists are at the place and whether or not they are Christians or Jews or Theists or Muslims or anything else.   Do pay attention to the quality of the evidence presented.   

Meyer himself does claim to be a Christian.   Interestingly, Shermer says that he "was a born-again Christian" at one time but has changed his mind.   That is a blog post in and of itself but there really is no such thing as an unborn again Christian.   There are many who have made an intellectual commitment to the concept of Christ as Savior and there are many who have said prayers to be "saved."   I myself did this as a grade schooler and I was certainly old enough to understand the concept of sin.  However, sin didn't much bother me and my prayer was not sincere.  It was many years later when I suddenly knew, heart and soul, that Jesus was Lord and I was not.   I was then ready to meet God on His terms and be made new within.   

Jesus did not use the term,"born again", lightly.   There was intentionality there because a birth cannot be undone.  No one gets to go back in the womb and if you have been born it is a completed act that is not reversible.   Pseudo-Christians are all around.   Many of them don't realize it, and it truly is a great thing when you are around someone when the "light comes on" and they really hear the call of the Spirit of God and come to a saving faith.  

Years later when I was walking through poor, crime-riddled areas seeking to lead people to come to faith in Christ my heart was in the right place but my doctrine was trailing behind.   Neither a simple prayer nor an intellectual assent is effectual.   If you are not touched to your very heart by the depth of your sin and the uselessness of your own will and abilities and see it all as worthless compared to Christ and unless you do indeed receive forgiveness for sins and give allegiance in not just your mind but your heart then you will not be likely be "born again."   There is a literal translation from a sinner with a dead spirit to a saint with the Spirit of the Living God within.    To explain this to an unbeliever is hard because you will find it far harder to "grok" than a mathematician considering the incompleteness theorem.   There must be a complete surrender within of both heart and mind to the God of the Universe and the work of Christ in order to actually be "born again" and going to church or saying prayers or reading the Bible or acting like a Christian is of no use otherwise.

Romans 10:9-13 (New International Version, ©2011)

9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. 11 As Scripture says, “Anyone who believes in him will never be put to shame.”[a] 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[b]
  1. Romans 10:11 Isaiah 28:16 (see Septuagint)
  2. Romans 10:13 Joel 2:32
To summarize the work of the Discovery Institute, you need to understand that they are an organization focused strictly on evidence and not philosophy nor religious concerns.   They have discovered overwhelming evidence for design within the cell because of the information contained within and the manifold sophisticated systems and also the as-yet not fully understood process of reproduction and many other cellular functions as well.   Science is still learning about organisms and frankly science is still learning from organisms.  You will not find commenters providing you with much actual evidence for macroevolution because they do not have it to give.   I am thankful for the existence of the Discovery Institute because they are continually publishing papers and other media that are all about the evidence, no just-so stories included.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Saturday Musings - Building Blocks, Actin and Acting on my faith

Warning!  This is a blog.   It is written by the blogger.  The blogger is in charge of the blog.  Commenters are welcome as long as they are not profane but the content of the posts and whether or not the blogger engages with commenters for any length of time is entirely up to the author.  The blog is like a ship at sea with a course to follow with many ports of call but it will not come to full stop at the whim of a passenger.  Welcome aboard!

A short commentary about this blog follows today's articles concerning life at the microscopic level

Origin of life: instability of building blocks

Evolutionary propaganda often understates the difficulty of a naturalistic origin of life. Production of traces of ‘building blocks’ is commonly equated with proving that they could have built up the required complicated molecules under natural conditions. The instability of ‘building blocks’ in non-biotic environments is usually glossed over.

The RNA/DNA base cytosine is not produced in spark discharge experiments. The proposed prebiotic productions are chemically unrealistic because the alleged precursors are unlikely to be concentrated enough, and they would undergo side reactions with other organic compounds, or hydrolyse. Cytosine itself is too unstable to accumulate over alleged geological ‘deep time’, as its half life for deamination is 340 years at 25°C.

Populist RNA-world propaganda

A pro-evolution booklet called Science and Creationism, recently released on the Internet by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS),1 summarized the origin of life section as follows:
‘For those who are studying the origin of life, the question is no longer whether life could have originated by chemical processes involving nonbiological components. The question instead has become which of many pathways might have been followed to produce the first cells.’ 2
No one disputes the existence of living organisms on earth, and that cells indeed are capable of using simple building blocks to generate the required complex biochemicals at the necessary time, location and concentration. The question is whether the massive co-ordination of the metabolic processes which perform such feats could have arisen without intelligent guidance and driven by only statistical and thermodynamic constraints.

The NAS book glosses over the enormous chemical and informational hurdles which must be jumped to go from non-living matter to even the simplest living cells (see also Q&A: Origin of Life).3,4,5 It’s not too surprising, considering the heavy atheistic bias of the NAS, which was documented in the journal Nature,6 and which was probably partly responsible for their demonstrable scientific unreliability in the area of origins.7 It is even less excusable to ignore the difficulties documented in their own journal—Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), USA, as will be shown here.

Production of ‘building blocks of life’

Science and Creationism argued:
‘Experiments conducted under conditions intended to resemble those present on primitive Earth have resulted in the production of some of the chemical components of proteins, DNA, and RNA. Some of these molecules also have been detected in meteorites from outer space and in interstellar space by astronomers using radiotelescopes. Scientists have concluded that the “building blocks of life” could have been available early in Earth’s history.2
Even if we granted that the ‘building blocks’ were available, it does not follow that they could actually build anything. For example, under plausible prebiotic conditions, the tendency is for biological macromolecules to break apart into the ‘building blocks’, not the other way round.8 Also, the ‘building blocks’ are likely to react in the wrong ways with other ‘building blocks’, for example, sugars and other carbonyl (>C=O) compounds react destructively with amino acids and other amino (–NH2) compounds, to form imines (>C=N), a common cause of browning in foods.9

Furthermore, some of the building blocks are very unstable. A good example is ribose, which is obviously essential for RNA, and hence for the RNA-world hypothesis of the origin of life.10 A team including the famous evolutionary origin-of-life pioneer Stanley Miller, in PNAS, found that the half life (t½) of ribose is only 44 years at pH 7.0 (neutral) and 0°C. It’s even worse at high temperatures—73 minutes at pH 7.0 and 100°C.11 This is a major hurdle for hydrothermal theories of the origin of life. Miller, in another PNAS paper, has also pointed out that the RNA bases are destroyed very quickly in water at 100°C—adenine and guanine have half lives of about a year, uracil about 12 years, and cytosine only 19 days.12
Most researchers avoid such hurdles with the following methodology: find a trace of compound X in a spark discharge experiment, claim ‘see, X can be produced under realistic primitive-earth conditions’. Then they obtain pure, homochiral, concentrated X from an industrial synthetic chemicals company, react it to form traces of the more complex compound Y. Typically, the process is repeated to form traces of Z from purified Y, and so on.13 In short, the evolutionists’ simulations have an unacceptable level of intelligent interference.14
Much of the populist evolutionary propaganda resembles the following hypothetical theory for the origin of a car:
‘Design is an unscientific explanation, so we must find a naturalistic explanation instead. Now, experiments have shown that one of the important building blocks of the car—iron—can be produced by heating naturally occurring minerals like hematite to temperatures which are found in some locations on earth. What’s more, iron can be shown to form thin sheets under pressures which are known to occur in certain geological formations ….
If this seems far-fetched, then note that even the simplest self-reproducing cell, which has 482 genes,15 has a vastly higher information content than a car, yet self-reproduction is a pre-requisite for neo-Darwinian evolution.

Essential building block missing—cytosine

The evolutionary biochemist, Robert Shapiro, published a detailed study of the ‘prebiotic’ synthesis of cytosine in the Proceedings of the NAS.16 Previous studies of his had noted that neither adenine17 nor ribose18 were plausible prebiotic components of any self-replicating molecule, but the problems with cytosine are even worse. Together, these studies raise serious doubts about whether a prebiotic replicator with any Watson-Crick base pairing could have arisen abiotically.

Shapiro noted that not the slightest trace of cytosine has been produced in gas discharge experiments, and nor has it been found in meteorites. Thus, he notes, either it is extremely hard to synthesise, or it breaks down before detection. So ‘prebiotic’ productions of cytosine have always been indirect, and involve the methodology alluded to above. That is, cyanoacetylene (HC≡CC≡N) and cyanoacetaldehyde

(H3CCOC≡N) have been found in some spark discharge experiments. Organic chemists have obtained pure and fairly strong solutions of each, and reacted each of them with solutions of other compounds which are allegedly likely to be found on a ‘primitive’ earth. Some cytosine is produced. This then apparently justifies experiments trying to link up pure and dry cytosine and ribose to form the nucleoside cytidine. However, these experiments have been unsuccessful (although analogous experiments with purines have produced 2% yields of nucleosides),19 despite a high level of investigator interference.

Unavailability of cytosine precursors

Shapiro also critiqued some of the ‘prebiotic’ cytosine productions. He pointed out that both cyanoacetylene and cyanoacetaldehyde are produced in spark discharge experiments with an unlikely methane/nitrogen (CH4/N2) mixture. The classical Miller experiment used ammonia (NH3), but NH3, H2O and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) greatly hindered cyanoacetylene and cyanoacetaldehyde formation. However, most evolutionists now believe that the primitive atmosphere was ‘probably dominated by CO2 and N2.’20

Furthermore, cyanoacetylene and cyanoacetaldehyde would undergo side reactions with other nucleophiles rather than produce cytosine. For example, cyanoacetylene and cyanoacetaldehyde both react with the amino group, which would destroy any prebiotic amino acids. And there is one destructive molecule which is unavoidably present: water. Cyanoacetylene readily hydrolyzes to form cyanoacetaldehyde (t½ = 11 days at pH 9, 30°C),20 although one should not count on this as a reliable source of cyanoacetaldehyde because cyanoacetylene would more likely be destroyed by other reactions.20 And cyanoacetaldehyde, while more stable than cyanoacetylene, is still quite quickly hydrolyzed (t½ = 31 years at pH 9, 30°C).21

The implausible production scenarios and likely rapid destruction means it is unrealistic to assume that the concentration of cyanoacetylene and cyanoacetaldehyde could remotely approach that needed to produce cytosine.

Instability of cytosine

As pointed out above, cytosine is deaminated/hydrolyzed (to uracil) far too rapidly for any ‘hot’ origin-of-life scenario. But it is still very unstable at moderate temperatures—t½ = 340 years at 25°C. This shows that a cold earth origin-of-life scenario would merely alleviate, but not overcome, the decomposition problem. And a low temperature also retards synthetic reactions as well as destructive ones.

On single-stranded DNA in solution, t½ of an individual cytosine residue = 200 years at 37°C, while the double helix structure provides good protection—t½ = 30,000 years.22 Such C→U mutations would be a great genetic hazard, but cells have an ingenious repair system involving a number of enzymes. It first detects the mutant U (now mismatched with G) and removes it from the DNA strand, opens the strand, inserts the correct C, and closes the strand.22 It seems that such a repair system would be necessary from the beginning, because a hypothetical primitive cell lacking this would mutate so badly that error catastrophe would result. And the far greater instability of cytosine on single-stranded nucleic acid is yet another problem that proponents of the RNA-world must account for.

Also, cytosine is readily decomposed under solar UV radiation, which requires that prebiotic synthesis should be carried out in the dark.21

An efficient prebiotic synthesis of cytosine?

This was claimed by Robertson and Miller.23 They rightly disagreed with a previous suggested synthesis of cytosine from cyanoacetylene and cyanate (OCN-) because cyanate is rapidly hydrolyzed to CO2 and NH3. Instead, they heated 10-3 M cyanoacetaldehyde with various concentrations of urea ((NH2)2CO) in a sealed ampoule at 100 oC for five hours with 30-50% yields of cytosine. Urea is produced in spark discharge experiments with N2, CO and H2O.

However, Shapiro criticised this experiment on the grounds of the unavailability of cyanoacetaldehyde and instability of cytosine, as above. Robertson and Miller avoided the latter problem by stopping the reaction after five hours. But in a real prebiotic world, such a reaction would most likely continue with hydrolysis of cytosine.

Shapiro also shows that urea is too unstable to reach the concentrations required (>0.1 M). Urea exists in equilibrium with small amounts of its isomer, ammonium cyanate, and since cyanate is hydrolysed readily, more urea must convert to maintain the equilibrium ratio (K = 1.04 x 10-4 at 60°C).21 Robertson and Miller’s sealed tube thus provided a further example of unacceptable investigator interference, because this prevented escape of NH3, thus unrealistically retarding cyanate and urea decomposition. In an open system, ‘half of the urea was destroyed after 5 hr at 90 oC and pH 7’,21 and t½ is estimated at 25 years at 25°C.21

The usual cross-reaction problem would intervene in the real world. For example, urea can react with glycine to form N-carbamoyl glycine,21 which would remove both urea and amino acids from a primordial soup.
Also, the primordial soup would be far too dilute, so Robertson and Miller propose that seawater was concentrated by evaporation in lagoons. But this would require isolation of the lagoon from fresh seawater which would dilute the lagoon, evaporation to about 10–5 of its original volume, then cytosine synthesis. However, such conditions are geologically ‘rare or non-existent’ today.24 Concentrating mechanisms would also concentrate destructive chemicals.

The conditions required for cytosine production are incompatible with those of purine production. Therefore this scenario must also include a well-timed rupture of the lagoon, releasing the contents into the sea, so both pyrimidines and purines can be incorporated into a replicator.

Shapiro’s materialistic faith

Shapiro concluded:
‘the evidence that is available at the present time does not support the idea that RNA, or an alternative replicator that uses the current set of RNA bases, was present at the start of life.’ 25
But unwilling to abandon evolution, he suggests two alternative theories:

1. Cairns-Smith’s clay mineral idea,13 which seems to be driven more by dissatisfaction with other theories than evidence for his own.
‘Cairns-Smith cheerfully admits the failings of his pet hypothesis: no-one has been able to coax clay into something resembling evolution in the laboratory; nor has anyone found anything resembling a clay-based organism in nature.26
[Update: recent research shows more difficulties with this idea: Darwin’s warm pond idea is tested, 13 February 2006:
‘Professor Deamer said that amino acids and DNA, the “building blocks” for life, and phosphate, another essential ingredient, clung to the surfaces of clay particles in the volcanic pools.
‘“The reason this is significant is that it has been proposed that clay promotes interesting chemical reactions relating to the origin of life,” he explained.
‘“However,” he added, “in our experiments, the organic compounds became so strongly held to the clay particles that they could not undergo any further chemical reactions.”’]
2. Life began as a cyclic chemical reaction, e.g. Günter Wächtershäuser’s theory that life began on the surface of pyrite, which Stanley Miller calls ‘paper chemistry’.27
‘Wächtershäuser himself admits that his theory is for the most part “pure speculation”.’28,29
Shapiro’s dogmatism is illustrated in his interesting popular-level book Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life in the Universe, where he effectively critiques many origin-of-life scenarios. But he says, in a striking admission that no amount of evidence would upset his faith:
‘some future day may yet arrive when all reasonable chemical experiments run to discover a probable origin of life have failed unequivocally. Further, new geological evidence may yet indicate a sudden appearance of life on the earth. Finally, we may have explored the universe and found no trace of life, or processes leading to life, elsewhere. Some scientists might choose to turn to religion for an answer. Others, however, myself included, would attempt to sort out the surviving less probable scientific explanations in the hope of selecting one that was still more likely than the remainder.’30


  • No plausible prebiotic synthesis of cytosine yet exists.
  • Vital ‘building blocks’ including cytosine and ribose are too unstable to have existed on a hypothetical prebiotic earth for long.
  • Even if cytosine and ribose could have existed, there is no known prebiotic way to combine them to form the nucleoside cytidine, even if we granted unacceptably high levels of investigator interference.
  • Building blocks would be too dilute to actually build anything, and would be subject to cross-reactions.
  • Even if the building blocks could have formed polymers, the polymers would readily hydrolyse.
  • There is no tendency to form the high-information polymers required for life as opposed to random ones.

Further reading


  1. Science and Creationism: A View from the National Academy of Sciences, Second Edition, , 28 July 1999. Return to text.
  2. , 28 July 1999. Return to text.
  3. Aw, S.E., The origin of life: A critique of current scientific models , Journal of Creation 10(3):300–314, 1996. Return to text.
  4. Thaxton, C.B., Bradley, W.L. and Olsen, R.L., The Mystery of Life’s Origin, Philosophical Library Inc., New York, 1984. Return to text.
  5. Bird, W.R., The Origin of Species: Revisited, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, Vol. I Part III, 1991. Return to text.
  6. Larson, E.J. and Witham, L., Leading scientists still reject God, Nature 394(6691):313, 1998. The sole criterion for being classified as a ‘leading’ or ‘greater’ scientist was membership of the NAS. [See also National Academy of Science is godless to the core — survey — Ed.] Return to text.
  7. For example, the NAS teacher’s guidebook Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science, National Academy Press, Washington DC, 1998. This has been shown to be severely flawed by Sarfati, J.D., Refuting Evolution, Master Books, Green Forest, AR, USA, 1999. Return to text.
  8. Sarfati, J.D., Origin of life: the polymerization problem, Journal of Creation 12(3):281–284, 1998. Return to text.
  9. Thaxton et al., Ref. 4, p. 51. Return to text.
  10. See Mills, G.C. and Kenyon, D.H., The RNA world: A critique, Origins and Design 17(1):9–16, 1996. Return to text.
  11. Larralde, R., Robertson, M.P. and Miller, S.L., Rates of decomposition of ribose and other sugars: Implications for chemical evolution, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 92:8158–8160, 1995. Return to text.
  12. Levy, M and Miller, S.L., The stability of the RNA bases: Implications for the origin of life, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 95(14):7933–38, 1998. Return to text.
  13. The evolutionist A.G. Cairns-Smith has raised the same objections against the typical ‘origin of life’ simulation experiments in his book Genetic Takeover and the Mineral Origins of Life, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1982—see extract. Return to text.
  14. Thaxton et al., Ref. 4, ch. 6. Return to text.
  15. Fraser, C.M., et al., The minimal gene complement of Mycoplasma genitalium, Science 270(5235):397–403, 1995; Perspective by Goffeau, A., Life with 482 genes, same issue, pp. 445–446. Return to text.
  16. Shapiro, R., Prebiotic cytosine synthesis: A critical analysis and implications for the origin of life, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 96(8):4396–4401, 1999. Return to text.
  17. Shapiro, R., The prebiotic role of adenine: A critical analysis, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 25:83–98, 1995. Return to text.
  18. Shapiro, R., Prebiotic ribose synthesis: A critical analysis, Origins of Life and Evolution of the Biosphere 18:71–85, 1988. Return to text.
  19. Orgel, L.E. and Lohrmann, R., Prebiotic chemistry and nucleic acid replication, Accounts of Chemical Research 7:368–377, 1974; cited in Cairns-Smith, Ref. 13, pp. 56–57. Return to text.
  20. Shapiro, Ref. 16, p. 4397. Return to text.
  21. Shapiro, Ref. 16, p. 4398. Return to text.
  22. Lindahl, T., Instability and decay of the primary structure of DNA, Nature 362(6422):709–715, 1993. Return to text.
  23. Robertson, M.P. and Miller, S.L., An efficient prebiotic synthesis of cytosine and uracil, Nature 375(6534):772–774; correction 377(6546):257. Return to text.
  24. Shapiro, Ref. 16, p. 4399. Return to text.
  25. Shapiro, Ref. 16, p. 4400. Return to text.
  26. Horgan, J., In the beginning, Scientific American 264(2):100–109, 1991; quote on p. 108. Return to text.
  27. Horgan, Ref. 26; Miller cited on p. 102. Return to text.
  28. Horgan, Ref. 26; Wächtershäuser cited on p. 106. Return to text.
  29. Sarfati, J.D., Ref. 8, extensively critiques one of Wächtershäuser’s latest experiments that supposedly supports his theory. Return to text.
  30. Shapiro, R., Origins: A Skeptic’s Guide to the Creation of Life in the Universe, Penguin, London, p. 130, 1986,1988. Shapiro then wishfully continues: ‘We are far from that state now.’Return to text.

Nano-scale aligning tool used in the assembly of actin filaments

by Giovanie Adams
The structure of filamentous actin. A. A 14-subunit filamentous actin as an isosurface, viewed along its longitudinal axis. B. The structure of 3-subunits of filamentous actin as an isosurface, viewed from the pointed end. The solid lines pass through the center of each actin monomer, showing the position of each actin monomer. The dashed paths travel from the pointed end to the barbed end and show the position of the next monomer with respect to the previous monomer.
Figure 1. The structure of filamentous actin. A. A 14-subunit filamentous actin as an isosurface, viewed along its longitudinal axis. B. The structure of 3-subunits of filamentous actin as an isosurface, viewed from the pointed end. The solid lines pass through the center of each actin monomer, showing the position of each actin monomer. The dashed paths travel from the pointed end to the barbed end and show the position of the next monomer with respect to the previous monomer.

Eukaryotic cells have systems for maintaining their shape and all their movement, and for the transport of molecules within them. Intra-cellular networks of fibers assemble from actin proteins, and are an important part of these systems. This network of actin filaments maintains cell shape by forming a support structure—an important component for cell motility—and provides the paths for the transport of molecules within the cell. The intra-cellular traffic of molecules along these paths is also necessary for cell fission (the division of one parent cell into two daughter cells). Actin filaments are also a major component of the muscle fibers of animals and are essential for the contractile apparatus of muscles.1
Actin filaments are made up of two long, twisted chains consisting chiefly of tens to thousands of monomeric or globular actin proteins. The assembly and disassembly of actin filaments is controlled at each step by sets of actin-binding proteins.1 The initial assembly of a short actin filament is a rate-limiting step in filament assembly,2 and a subset of actin-binding proteins has been designed to overcome the relative instability of these short filaments.3 This process of assembling short filaments of two or three subunits from monomeric actin is called actin nucleation.

This complicated mechanism, of actin nucleation and preparation of the nucleated product for elongation by spire, suggests the work of an intelligent designer who engineered it in an incredibly intricate manner.

The spire family of proteins is a family of actin-binding proteins that nucleates a pool of actin monomers and prepares the product of nucleation for elongation.4 Spire overcomes the relative instability of short filaments made up of actin dimers and trimers, by helping to overcome the kinetic barrier to nucleation.2 Spire also attaches the newly synthesized actin filament to a membrane and aligns the filament to a nano-scale machine, a dimer of formin proteins.

The formin dimer then proceeds to extend the filament by adding actin monomers, assembling long double-helical-twisted actin filaments. This complicated mechanism, of actin nucleation and preparation of the nucleated product for elongation by spire, suggests the work of an intelligent designer who engineered it in an incredibly intricate manner.

Structure of filamentous actin and spire proteins

Actin filaments appear in electron micrograph images as thin, dense lines of approximately 7 nm in diameter.1 The filaments are made up of two chains of monomeric actin with each actin monomer rotated 166.15º from the other. This produces two helical chains that lie almost back to back and wind into a right-handed, double-helical structure with a very long pitch with respect to its diameter (figure 1).

Filamentous actin is polar and, therefore, the two ends of the filament are different. Because of this polarity, the filaments often fit into other cellular structures in only one orientation, in a similar manner to how many of the parts of man-made structures are assembled. Growth, the addition of monomeric actin to the filament, occurs predominantly in one direction; the plus direction. This end of the filament (where the majority of growth occurs) is known as the barbed end and the other end is called the pointed end (figure 1).

The domain organization of spire family of proteins.
Figure 2. The domain organization of spire family of proteins. The kinase non-catalytic C-lobe domain (KIND), the four WASP-homology domains 2 (WH2), the Spir-box (S-box) and the FYVE zinc finger domain of spire.

Comparison of the spire family of proteins to other proteins has identified seven domains (figure 2). At the carboxyl-end of the protein is a domain called the FYVE zinc finger,5 and adjacent to this is a domain called the Spir-box (S-box).6 A cluster of four, evenly spaced domains, called the Wiskott–Aldrich syndrome protein homology domain 2 (WH2), are located in the central region of the protein,7 and a domain called the kinase non-catalytic C-lobe domain (KIND) is at the amino-end.8 The FYVE zinc finger domain may bind to the membrane, thus, FYVE may anchor the newly assembled actin filament to a membrane.5 The S-box is a potential binding site for Rab GTPase.9 The four WH2 are connected by linker regions; they bind monomeric actin and are sufficient to nucleate actin4. Finally, KIND has a high affinity for the FH2 domain of formin.10

Nucleation of monomeric actin

Proposed mechanism for actin filament nucleation by spire.
Figure 3. Proposed mechanism for actin filament nucleation by spire. From left to right the schematic shows actin nucleation by spire. Scene one shows the binding of an actin monomer to the carboxyl-end WH2 domain of spire and the binding of the FH2 domains of a formin dimer to KIND of spire. The FYVE and S-box domains of spire and the other domains of formin are not shown in these scenes. Scene two shows a second actin monomer binding to the second most carboxyl-end WH2 domain. Scene three shows the stabilization of two actin monomers by the two most carboxyl-end WH2 domains and the intervening linker region. Scene four shows the stabilization of four actin monomers into a helical structure by the WH2 domains and the intervening linker regions. Scene five shows the formation of an actin filament by four actin monomers binding to the single helical structure formed by four actin monomers. Scene six shows dissociation of KIND from the FH2 dimer and rapid polymerization of the actin filament by the FH2 dimer. All molecules are represented as isosurfaces.

It remains to be established exactly how a pool monomeric actin is nucleated by spire, but it may occur via the following steps (figure 3).4,10 The process is initiated by KIND of spire binding to the FH2 domains of a formin dimer; this step inhibits formin but enhances spire activity. Next, each WH2 domain of spire binds to an actin monomer. The two WH2 domains closest to the carboxyl-end and the intervening linker region align and stabilize the bound actin monomers. Actin monomers bound to other WH2 domains are then aligned to the initial structure by the action of the other linker regions. This results in the formation of a single-stranded helical polymer of four actin monomers. Following these steps, a second helical polymer consisting of another four actin monomers binds on the other side of the helix by self-polymerization. Once an actin filament of about eight monomers has formed, KIND of spire dissociates from the FH2 domains of the formin dimer. This exposes the FH2 domains to catalyze the incorporation of actin monomers into the filament resulting in rapid polymerization of the barbed end of the actin filament by the formin dimer.

Spire is likely to be an elaborate nano-scale alignment tool with some machine-like functions. This would make spire far superior to modern tools engineered by humans.
Actin filaments are highly dynamic structures that rapidly assemble and disassemble.2 To prevent disassembly of the newly synthesized filament from the pointed end, spire caps the pointed end of the filament.4
Although spire performs machine-like functions during actin nucleation, the main role of spire is probably to act as a nano-scale alignment tool. A broad definition of a tool is “an entity used as an interface between two or more entities”, that makes it easier for one entity to act upon the other. In the case of the function of spire in actin nucleation, spire probably acts as an interface between the actin monomers and formin dimer entities, facilitating the alignment of these entities. That is, the four WH2 domains of spire align four actin monomers, and the KIND of spire probably aligns the four monomers to the FH2 domains of a formin dimer. Therefore, spire helps to overcome the kinetic barrier to actin nucleation, stabilizing actin dimers and trimers.2


Actin filament nucleation by spire is yet another example of the complexity of the automated systems needed to assemble the nano-scale structures and machines found within living cells. Spire is likely to be an elaborate nano-scale alignment tool with some machine-like functions. This would make spire far superior to modern tools engineered by humans. All this attests to the work of an intelligent designer who engineered these structures and machines in an incredible intricate manner.

Related articles

Further reading


  1. Wolfe, F.L., Microfilaments and microfilament-based cell motility; in: Molecular and cellular biology, Arbogast, M. et al. (Eds.), Wadsworth publishing company, Florence, KY, pp. 451–490, 1993. Return to text.
  2. Sept, D. and McCammon, J.A., Thermodynamics and kinetics of actin filament nucleation, Biophys J 81:667–674, 2001. Return to text.
  3. Chesarone, M.A. and Goode, B.L., Actin nucleation and elongation factors: mechanisms and interplay, Curr Opin Cell Biol 21:28–37, 2009. Return to text.
  4. Quinlan, M.E. et al., Drosophila Spire is an actin nucleation factor, Nature 433:382–388, 2005. Return to text.
  5. Otto, I.M. et al., The p150-Spir protein provides a link between c-Jun N-terminal kinase function and actin reorganization, Curr Biol 10:345–348, 2000. Return to text.
  6. Kerkhoff, E. et al., The Spir actin organizers are involved in vesicle transport processes, Curr Biol 11:1963–1968, 2001. Return to text.
  7. Wellington, A. et al., Spire contains actin binding domains and is related to ascidian posterior end mark-5, Development 126:5267–5274, 1999. Return to text.
  8. Ciccarelli, F.D. et al., The KIND module: a putative signalling domain evolved from the C lobe of the protein kinase fold, Trends Biochem Sci 28:349–352, 2003. Return to text.
  9. Kerkhoff, E., Cellular functions of the Spir actin-nucleation factor, Trends Cell Biol 16:477–483, 2006. Return to text.
  10. Quinlan, M.E. et al., Regulatory interactions between two actin nucleators, Spire and Cappuccino, J Cell Biol 179:117–128, 2007. Return to text.
  11. UCSF Chimera software package from the Resource for Biocomputing, Visualization and Informatics at the University of California, San Francisco (supported by NIH P41 RR-01081) was used in the production of the molecular graphic images. Pettersen, E.F. et al., UCSF Chimera-a visualization system for exploratory research and analysis, J Comput Chem 25:1605–1612, 2004. Return to text.

Darwinism remains implausible to the extent of absurdity.   Very complex designs and unbreakable barriers to the naturalistic development of life are the findings of 21st Century science.   Get on board the train of Creation because science is eventually going to leave Darwin with no tracks, train engine or destination.   The empty siding of discarded hypotheses has a spot reserved for you...

We get married


My girls - Wife, three daughters and my granddaughter at Amanda's wedding this May

Dan and Amanda - so happy together!
We are very typical American Christians living the American dream...We are a Brady Bunch become one family.

One of the things I do occasionally and am doing currently is to read the Proverbs chapter that corresponds with the day of the month.   One could see and understand the political situation of both the USA and the City of Chicago summarized neatly by reading and understanding Proverbs 28 and 29.   As far as studying the Bible, my wife and I are in a small group that meets about three times a month to study scriptures, we work in the youth group, where we both have small groups we mentor and just in general work with high school students.   I teach the entire group once a month (used to be twice a month until I was unhappily introduced to MRSA and maybe one day I'll be to the point that twice a month would be fine) and will probably teach another science course this spring.   Then again, I might rather wait until next fall or instead do a summer course, not sure about that yet.

Grandsons after the soccer game is won!

My wife and I also pray out loud together every night and we study intentionally a book of the Bible together by reading a chapter out loud and discussing the chapter.  We've just begun 1st Peter after having done Daniel last month.  We have lots of reference books available if needed.   Ussher in particular is very handy when studying Daniel, as are a few commentaries.   I am very blessed to have a wife who is a Bible brain and a political science expert as well as a gifted artist.   We are remarkably happy to be husband and wife and before my health stopped us for awhile we visited Alaska and Hawaii and Seattle and Las Vegas and San Diego and the Appalachians and the surrounding area as well as the Maryland Eastern Shore and parts of Virginia and North and South Carolina and of course various local jaunts throughout parts of Illinois and Indiana and Michigan and Wisconsin and sorties into Missouri and Kentucky.  Hoping to be ready for air travel again by the end of this year at worst.   We have several destinations in mind, but for now our journeys are mostly limited to the exploration of information and we have the internet and scads of book and magazines and journals, etc. Before marriage to Debbie I had traveled to all sorts of interesting places and some I would like to share with her while we both have a few places we've never been that we intend to visit eventually.  Other than Hawaii I have never left the North American continent being limited to the USA and Canada and Mexico.  We intend to change that before too long.

Sara's husband Donny and daughter Sara at reception

We have three sons who live with us.  One is an English major who has his degree but needs to do his teaching semester to be licensed to teach high school English and he ran into money troubles, so he is working and saving and will finally be able to get back to school in the fall.  His older brother did a five year stint in the military, made sergeant, was awarded and on the fast track to make rank if he wanted to continue but he found that serving overseas in a combat area was challenging and interesting but being an MP in at a stateside fort was simply a way to have to deal with man at his worst - drunks, wife-beaters, brawlers, thieves and etc.  So he took his honorable discharge and is also saving money for school this fall, training to teach History to high schoolers.  The first son did work in youth group with us and now the oldest is working in youth group with us.  I think the oldest is just waiting to go back at the same time as his brother so they can sometimes share rides and experience the college life together for one more year.    Our third son is an entrepreneur who is working on building his own small business from scratch.

Old couple, new couple! 

Everybody else in the immediate family at wedding

Like the traditional family of human history, we do not seek to kick kids out the door at age 18.  As long as they are willing to toss a little bit into the family money pot and obey the rules of the house we prefer that they stay until job or marriage calls them to start their own family.   The three daughters have gone off to form new families but the sons are not yet gone and that is by mutual choice.  I cry every time one of my kids goes off away from home, whether it be by marriage or for military duty or college

Godson (currently SP4 in NG), godson, son with me at "The Villa" aka my house

One son is a sports enthusiast, a music lover and a history buff, while another collects cultural history in his brain, reads all sorts of books and loves movies.   Both were part of our family band that will, alas, never be reformed other than at holidays around the dinner table.   I am surrounded by lots of people within my own family with wide-ranging interests and therefore the conversations can go in manifold ways.   Some of us truly appreciate puns and well-timed jests, so humor is also a continual guest in our home.   When you include a few young people who are semi-family and come hang out from time to time and the large church family we are a part of in the equation, I am surrounded by lots of smart and creative people who enrich life, so that God's promise to me of an "abundant life" is fulfilled.   I am blessed to have avoided fame and sadly do not have nearly as much money as I would like but I chose family and God over money and that was the correct choice.   With six children and three grandchildren and a few "god-kids" as well, God has richly blessed me and I am very thankful!   We also have many good and faithful friends and it is often hard to find time to share with those we care about because life comes in 24 hour lumps and work demands much of my time so that a roof and walls and all that stuff remain provided for my little corner of the world's population.

First-string godkids before getting old and married

There are so many tugs on the sleeve of my time that I have had to make hard decisions.   I chose to shut down a promising career as a sports writer because it would have forced me to largely or completely abandon this blog.   I have declined positions in politics and political organizations for the most part in order to have enough time for work and family and, again, this blog.   This blog is, after all, much like a column on the editorial page of the internet.   When I was writing, I wrote mostly feature stories as a specialty, which was a step above the straight news reporters, but to ascend to the role of a columnist is the goal of most reporters.  The internet has allowed me to jump up to columnist level.   I much prefer a way to serve God than a few extra bucks discussing screen-and-roll defense or the VORP of a shortstop or the advantages and disadvantages of the cover-two defense.   I can still do that with friends and my wife likes watching games with me and my continual commentaries are actually interesting to her...the perfect woman!  She is cuter than me and loves me like crazy and I want no one else.   That, my friends, is an abundant life!

After basketball son, son, me, another godson (who is now a captain in the Army)

Wisdom comes from God and the Bible is the primary source of Godly wisdom.  Wisdom teaches me therefore to be willing to take a little time with the proverb concerning "heaping coals of fire" because it involves wisdom and to some extent doctrine.   On the other hand, any more time spent on something like "300 versus 800" is unwise by Bible standards:

Don't be fooled by the coats, these are actually our dogs

2 Timothy 2:22-23 (New King James Version)

22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife.

Titus 3:8-11 (New King James Version)

8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
Avoid Dissension

9 But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10 Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11 knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.

There is a clear line to be drawn between discussion and dissension.   There is a clear line to be drawn between discussions of doctrine and foolish disputes.  This is therefore why there are a few commenters who seek to draw me and others into doubtful and foolish disputes that I have often called "rabbit trails" in order to get both me and the readers away from the primary topic.   The clash of worldviews over origins is no foolish dispute but it is rather a foundational one.   The course of every man's life hinges largely on his view of the meaning of life.   Whether there is a God who can be discovered, whether there is a plan ongoing in the Universe or whether there is mostly random meaningless activity is of utmost importance.   If you don't settle in your own heart and mind what is and what is not foundational truth you are walking blindfolded in the dark down the pathway of life and you will fall.  If you make the wrong choice you will take the way where the bridge is out and the rocks are falling and avalanches are commonplace.   I assert that there is only one way to God but that way is both free and available to you as long as you draw breath. 

Why Intelligent Design is a threat to Darwinism and why Creationists should care

Why should Creationists care?  The Christian Research Institute is an organization that publishes a terrific magazine and has lots of online resources.   As it happens, William Dembski and Sean McDowell are both Christians and connected with the ID movement as well and are imminently qualified to speak to both the scientific and philosophical implications of Intelligent Design, objections made by Darwinists and sometimes by Creationists to the work of the Discovery Institute and the general ID movement.

I'd like to thank Highboy for alerting me to The Bereans website and it turns out they had the same answer to the question of "300 versus 800" that I presented, although their answer was more succinct.  I then realized one of my favorite websites was not on my links list and Apologetics Press should be another important resource for Christians and for those skeptics who want to check out so-called Bible errors.  Both link oversights have been corrected.   I may sometimes disagree with them (per eschatology primarily) they are still a good source for Bible students.

The following is an online version of an article published in CRI's magazine, which we receive, and any comments inserted within the text or any boldings of the text will be by me.  The rest will be from that article authored by Dembski and McDowell.

Objection Overruled

Responding to the Top Ten Objections against Intelligent Design
William A. Dembski & Sean McDowell

This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 31, number 5(2008). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to:

The controversy surrounding intelligent design (ID) and Darwinism continues to be at the forefront of cultural dialogue. Despite the growing success of ID, the same objections repeatedly appear in both scholarly and popular literature. Christians must be equipped with effective responses to such challenges.
For example, in The God Delusion Richard Dawkins asserts that design is unsuccessful unless it can explain who designed the designer. Besides his theological naivete, Dawkins here fails to grasp the nature of science. Simply put, explanations can be effective even if we can’t explain the explanations. For instance, an archaeologist can identify an object as designed even if she is unaware of the origin or identity of the designer. The same is true with the natural world.
With a little research, common challenges such as this are easily answered. It’s high time for Christians to educate themselves and put these objections to rest.

"Evolution Wars!" proclaimed the cover story of Time magazine, August 15, 2005. The following year Time ran another cover story titled, “God vs. Science,” featuring a debate between human-genome researcher Francis Collins and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. The controversy surrounding intelligent design (ID) continues to appear in major newspapers, magazines, popular television shows, and various forums on the Internet. In the major motion picture documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,1 actor Ben Stein examines how dogmatic Darwinists suppress the academic freedom of anyone who dissents from their theory, especially proponents of ID. The debate surrounding ID therefore continues to heat up and shows no signs of dying down.
Those who wish to search this blog will find posts concerning the movie, Expelled and also the article "God versus Science" inspired a multi-part series on this blog back during the time following the magazine's release.
It is telling that TIME magazine chose an exceedingly wishy-washy pair to debate the issue.  Dawkins is outspoken and popular but is sometimes embarrassing to his own side while Collins is so willing to be a compromiser on key issues that he almost represents the middle position in such a debate.  It was like a battle between German forces at the end of WWI versus Switzerland.  As David Berlinski said during the aforementioned movie:
 "Before you can ask is Darwinian Theory correct or not, you have to ask the preliminary question, is it clear enough so that it could be correct. That's a very different question. One of my prevailing doctrines about Darwinian Theory is: man that thing is just a mess. It's like looking into a room full of smoke. Nothing in the theory is precisely, clearly, carefully defined and delineated. It lacks all of the rigor one expects from Mathematical Physics. And Mathematical Physics lacks all of the rigor one expects from Mathematics. So we're talking about a gradual decent down the level of intelligibility, until we reach Evolutionary Biology. We don't even know what a species is, for heaven sakes!...
...And I think it's just a catastrophic mistake to have somebody like Dawkins address himself to profound issues of theology, the existence of God, the nature of life. He hasn't committed himself to disciplined study in any relevant area of inquiry. He's a crummy philosopher. He doesn't have the rudimentary skills to meticulously assess his own arguments."
In point of fact, it has never been "God versus Science", it has always been "God versus ungodly" and the ungodly have no more right to science than do Christians and in fact they owe the basis of modern science to Theists!
Despite incessant proclamations by the media and the academic establishment regarding the demise of ID, interest in ID is exploding,2 and philosopher J. P. Moreland contends that the ID movement cannot be stopped.3 Despite ID’s growing success, however, objections against it regularly appear in both scholarly and popular literature. In this article, we respond to ten of the most common criticisms raised against ID. Given the widespread misinformation in our culture about ID, it has become increasingly important for Christians to respond effectively to challenges posed against it. 
In his book Why Darwin Matters, skeptic Michael Shermer claims that the imperfect anatomy of the human eye disconfirms design. He asks, “For optimal vision, why would an intelligent designer have built an eye upside down and backwards?”4 According to Shermer, such imperfections are evidence for evolution and evidence against design.
Shermer has overlooked a basic point, however: design does not have to be perfect—it just has to be good enough. Imperfection speaks to the quality of design, not its reality. Consider successive versions of the iPod. The various versions have minor imperfections, but each clearly was designed; none evolved without guidance from programmers. Our ability to envision a better design hardly means the object in question lacks design.
What is true for the iPod is also true in biology. Living systems bear unmistakable marks of design, even if such design is, or appears to be, imperfect. In the real world, perfect design does not exist. Real designers aim for the best overall compromise among constraints needed to accomplish a function. Design is a give-and-take process. For instance, a larger computer screen may be preferable to a smaller one, but designers must also consider cost, weight, size, and transportability. Given competing factors, designers choose the best overall compromise—and this is precisely what we see in nature.
For instance, all life forms are part of a larger ecology that recycles its life forms. Most life forms survive by consuming other life forms, either living or dead. In due time, all life forms must die.
Suppose we object to design because foxes catch rabbits and eat them. If rabbits had perfect defenses, however, foxes would starve. Then rabbits, by reproducing without limit and eating all the vegetation, also would starve. The uncatchable rabbit, ironically, then, would upset its ecosystem and create far more difficulties for design than it would resolve. Given this larger perspective, it seems that the “imperfections” of individual organisms in nature are actually part of a larger design plan for life.
What about the human eye? Is the eye built upside-down and backwards, as many critics of design argue? Despite common claims that the eye is poorly designed, there actually are good reasons for its construction,5 and no one has demonstrated how the eye’s function might be improved without diminishing its visual speed, sensitivity, and resolution.

In the last two years more reasons to explain the design of the human eye and debunk Shermer's objections have come forth.  Shermer's stated position of skeptic doesn't extend past the boundaries of God, apparently, as he drops his skepticism at the Darwinist door.

Richard Dawkins has raised this criticism against design arguments for years now, most recently in his book The God Delusion. According to Dawkins, ID fails because it doesn’t explain the origin of the designer. If the universe bears the marks of design, as ID proponents claim, does the designer bear such marks of design in turn? We are led to ask, “Who designed the designer?” If we can’t answer this question, says Dawkins, then ID is fruitless.
Is this, however, how science works? Can scientists only accept explanations that themselves have been explained? The problem with this objection is that it is always possible to ask for further explanation. There comes a point, however, when scientists must deny the request for further explanation and accept the progress they have made. As apologist Greg Koukl has observed, “An explanation can be a good one even if you do not have an explanation for the explanation.”6
For example, if an archaeologist discovers an ancient object that looks like an arrowhead or digging tool, she would be fully justified in drawing a design inference. In fact, after a few clear instances she would be irrational not to infer design. She may have no clue as to the origin or identity of the designer, but certain patterns that the artifacts exhibit would point beyond natural forces to the work of an intelligent designer.
If every explanation needed a further explanation, then nothing could ever be explained! For example, if designer B was responsible for having designed designer A, then the question inevitably would arise, “Who designed B?” The answer, of course, is designer C. And so on without end. Given such an infinite regress of explanations, nothing could ever be explained, since every explanation would require still further explanation. Science itself would come to a standstill!

Duh.  DNA?  Sign of a Designer?  Bueller?
This criticism is meant to disqualify ID as a science. For ID to be considered untestable, however (and hence, unscientific), there has to be a clear definition of what it means for something to be testable and a clear failure of ID to meet that definition. As it stands, no such definition exists.
If by “testable” we mean that a theory should be open to confirming or disconfirming evidence, then ID most certainly passes the test. Darwin presented what he regarded as strong evidence against design. Claiming that ID has been tested by such evidence and shown to be false, however, creates a catch-22 for the critic: If evidence can count against a theory, evidence must also be able to count in favor of a theory. The knife cuts both ways.
One cannot say, “Design is not testable,” and then turn around and say, “Design has been tested and shown to be false!” For evidence to show that something is false implies that evidence also might show it to be true, even if one thinks the particular evidence in question fails to establish a claim.
Researchers have confirmed the evidence for ID across a wide range of disciplines including molecular biology, physics, and chemistry.7 Even if critics reject the evidence for ID, in the very act of rejecting the evidence, they put design to the test (which is exactly what they do when no one is looking!).
A simple way to see that ID is testable is to consider the following “thought experiment.” Imagine what would happen if microscopic investigation revealed the words, “Made by Yahweh” inscribed in the nucleus of every cell. Of course, cells are not inscribed with the actual words, “Made by Yahweh,” but that’s not the point. The point is that we wouldn’t know this unless we actually “tested” cells for this sign of intelligence, which we couldn’t do if ID were not testable. If ID fails, it won’t be for lack of testability. 
In 2003, Nobel Prize–winning physicist Steven Weinberg testified before the Texas State Board of Education about the methods of science. He explained, “By the same standards that are used in the courts, I think it is your responsibility to judge that it is the theory of evolution through natural selection that has won general scientific acceptance. And therefore, it should be presented to students as the consensus view of science, without any alternatives being presented.”8 Judge John Jones made a similar declaration in Kitzmiller v. Dover (2005).9 
Darwinian evolution undeniably is accepted by the majority of practicing biologists. Appealing to the majority view as a way to exclude alternative explanations, however, is highly problematic. Here’s why: scientific consensus in the past has been notoriously unreliable. In 1960, for instance, the geosynclinal theory was the consensus explanation for mountain formation. The authors of Geological Evolution of North America considered geosynclinal theory “one of the great unifying principles of geology.”10
Whatever happened to geosynclinal theory? Within ten years of this declaration it had been utterly abandoned and decisively replaced with plate tectonics, which explains mountain formation through continental drift and sea-floor spreading.
This is not an isolated example in the history of science. In 1500, the scientific consensus was that the Earth was at the center of the universe, but Copernicus and Newton shattered that misconception by showing that astronomical data were better explained by the Earth circling the Sun. The scientific consensus in the mid-1700s was that a substance called phlogiston caused heat, but Lavoisier shattered that misconception by showing that combustion was due to oxygen. At the end of the nineteenth century—forty years after the publication of The Origin of Species—the scientific consensus was to reject Darwinian evolution!
Today, when Darwinism is touted so widely as fact, it surprises many to learn that most biologists at the start of the twentieth century rejected Darwin’s theory of evolution. In the 1930s Darwinism revived when a handful of scientists merged Darwin’s theory with Mendelian genetics, which is now known as neo-Darwinism. Within neo-Darwinism, natural selection acted on genes that were randomly mutating. The history of science is filled with such turnabouts. As ID develops, we can expect Darwinism’s fortunes to change again, this time for the worse.

Interestingly this is around the time that Eugenics and Social Darwinism had reached their heyday.  The slaughter of aborigines, the various horrors that Southern blacks were subjected to, the massacre of Jews in Europe by not only Hitler but also Stalin and the forced sterilization of many Americans didn't look so good when Allied troops discovered the various German "final solution" camps.  Eugenics has renamed itself and gone underground and Darwinists try to revise history to get Hitler off of their resume but that is never going to work on people who take history seriously and are not part of the propagandized-by-paradigm hordes.
Darwinism remains the scientific consensus, but that consensus is shrinking. Dissent from Darwinism continues to grow in the scientific population. In 2001, Seattle’s Discovery Institute launch­ed the Web site to encourage scientists who are skeptical of Darwinism to make their dissension public. Since its inception, more than seven-hundred scientists from top universities worldwide have stepped forward and signed their names in dissent. Moreover, for every signatory of this list, there are tens if not hundreds who would sign it if their research and livelihoods would not be threatened by challenging Darwinism. (The documentary Expelled makes this perfectly clear.)
The very idea of “consensus science,” ironically, is bogus. In a speech at the California Institute of Technology, medical doctor, author, and public intellectual Michael Crichton said it best:
I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.
Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.
There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.11
ID does not identify the designer. Why not? Is it for lack of honesty, as this objection suggests? No. The identity of the designer goes beyond the scientific evidence for design. Most advocates of ID are in fact Christians, but many Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and agnostics also see evidence for design in nature. (David Berlinski’s recent book The Devil’s Delusion12 is a case in point.) The evidence of science can identify a designer consistent with the God of the Bible (one that is powerful, creative, skilled, and so forth), but science alone cannot prove that this designer is the Christian God or, for that matter, the God of any other religious faith.
In the foreword for our book Understanding Intelligent Design, apologist Josh McDowell offers a helpful comparison between ID and archaeology. To make the strongest case possible for the historical resurrection of Jesus, the deity of Christ, and the reliability of the Scriptures, for example, McDowell often uses recent findings from the field of archaeology. Regardless of the religious conviction of the archaeologist, the findings still can be used to support the biblical accounts of history—we owe some of the most significant archaeological finds that support the Bible to non-Christians.
As McDowell suggests, we ought to think of ID scientists in the same way as these archeologists. Should we dismiss an archaeological find because it happens also to be consistent with Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, or some other religion? Of course not. Regardless of their religious beliefs, ID theorists are finding evidence for design in the natural world that is consistent with the biblical view of creation. If they don’t identify the designer in their academic work, it is because such claims go beyond the scientific data. 
Darwinists and the media regularly confuse ID with traditional creationism. Why? To discredit it. In their minds, creationism has no intellectual credibility. To refer to ID as creationism is thus meant to ensure that ID likewise will be denied intellectual credibility. This is why Leonard Krishtalka, professor at the University of Kansas, famously referred to ID as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo.”13 Creationism and ID, however, are distinct.
Creationism holds that a Supreme Being created the universe. Creationists come in two varieties: young-earth and old-earth creationists.14 Young-earth creationists interpret Genesis as teaching that creation took place in six twenty-four-hour days, that the universe is between six- and ten-thousand years old, and that most fossils were deposited during Noah’s global flood.
Old-earth creationists, on the other hand, allow a wider range of interpretations of Genesis. They accept contemporary scientific dating, which places the age of the Earth at roughly 4.5 billion years old and the universe at 13.7 billion years old. They accept microevolution as God’s method of adapting existing species to their changing environments, but they reject macroevolution (the large-scale transformation of one species into a completely different species).
ID, though often confused with creation science, is in fact quite different from it. Rather than beginning with some particular interpretation of Genesis (as young-earth and old-earth creationists typically do), ID begins with investigating the natural world. ID looks for patterns in nature that are best explained as the product of intelligence. Given what the world reveals about itself, ID proponents reason that a designing intelligence best explains certain patterns in nature.
The great difference between ID and creation science, then, is that ID relies not on prior assumptions about divine activity in the world, but on methods developed within the scientific population for recognizing intelligence.15 Even Judge Jones in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial mentioned earlier recognized that ID proponents do not base their theory on “the Book of Genesis,” “a young earth,” or “a catastrophic Noachic flood.” Despite incessant comparisons in the media with creation science, ID is actually quite different from it (although the majority of ID proponents believe in some form of creation, and, indeed, many of them are Christians). 
According to many critics of ID, design proponents oppose evolution not because they have fairly assessed the evidence for it, but because they are religiously motivated. In particular, critics suppose that design theorists worry that Darwinism undermines traditional morality. Now, it is true historically that Darwinism has been used to undercut traditional morality. History professor Richard Weikart, for instance, details how Darwinism has been used to justify eugenics, abortion, and racism in his must-read book From Darwin to Hitler.16
Although the tension between Darwinism and traditional morality is undoubtedly fascinating and noteworthy, design theorists reject Darwinism for a more basic reason: its lack of scientific support. Design theorists oppose Darwinian evolution because natural selection acting on random variation gives no evidence of being able to account for the diversity and complexity of life as found in nature.
Biochemist Michael Behe, who is a Roman Catholic and perhaps the best-known design theorist, has repeatedly declared that his opposition to Darwinian evolution stems not from religious reasons, but on account of the scientific data. Behe had no theological problem wedding Darwinian evolution with his Catholic faith. The issue for Behe was the lack of evidence for evolution and the positive case for design.
Even if design proponents were religiously motivated, how would that render their findings unscientific? Why is motivation even relevant? The motivation of scientists is immaterial to the status of their research. Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking hopes his work in physics will help us understand the mind of God. Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg hopes his work in physics will help destroy religion: “I hope that this [i.e., the destruction of religion] is something to which science can contribute and if it is, then I think it may be the most important contribution that we can make.”17 Weinberg is not less of a scientist than Hawking because of his atheistic motivations, and Hawking is not less of a scientist than Weinberg because of his theistic motivations. Likewise, ID is not less of a science because its proponents happen to be motivated one way or another.
The real question for ID is not motivation, but evidence. Philosopher Francis Beckwith explains that “labeling a point of view, or the motives of its proponents, ‘religious’ or ‘nonreligious’ contributes nothing to one’s assessment of the quality of the arguments for that point of view. Either the arguments work or they don’t work or, more modestly, they are either reasonable or unreasonable, plausible or implausible.”18
Design critics regularly warn the public that allowing ID into science will either destroy science or significantly deter its progress. According to science writer Michael Shermer, for example, “The point of the [ID] movement is not to expand scientific understanding—it is to shut it down.”19
The truth, however, is just the opposite—by rigidly excluding ID from science, Darwinists themselves impede scientific progress. Consider “junk DNA.” The word “junk” suggests that useless portions of DNA have arisen together through a blind, unguided process of evolution. Evolutionary theorists thus have come to regard only a small portion of DNA as functional. By contrast, if DNA is the product of design, we would expect much of it to be functional.
Current research indicates that much of what was previously termed “junk DNA” is now known to have a function. This finding has become so well known in the scientific community that the popular press has picked up on it. In a recent Newsweek article, Mary Carmichael describes the transformation in how DNA is understood: “Researchers have realized that this forgotten part of the genome is, in fact, profoundly important. It contains the machinery that flips the switches, manipulating much of the rest of the genome….Genes make up only 1.2 percent of our DNA. The rest of the DNA, once called ‘junk DNA’ was thought to be filler. Recent finds prove otherwise.”20
Design thus encourages scientists to look for deeper insight into nature, whereas Darwinian evolution discourages it. The criticism that design stifles scientific progress is therefore mistaken. The criticism applies more readily to Darwinism than to design.

One of the most common tactics that critics of design employ is to label ID as religious rather than scientific. According to philosopher of biology David Hull, Darwin rejected design not just because he thought the evidence was against it, but because he thought it wasn’t even scientific: “He [Darwin] dismissed it [design] not because it was an incorrect scientific explanation, but because it was not a proper scientific explanation at all.”21 Critics, accordingly, suppose design to be an inherently religious idea.
How can this be? As noted earlier, ID studies patterns in nature that are best explained as the result of intelligence. Many special or specific sciences already study such patterns and draw agency or design inferences. Examples include forensic science (agency—did that person die of natural causes, or was there foul play?) and archaeology (design—is that an arrowhead or a naturally formed rock?). It is scientifically legitimate to recognize the work of an intelligent agent, even if the identity of that agent is unknown, as is often the case in archaeology.
Critics counter that we cannot apply design to biology because we only have experience with human designers (and any designer in biology would be nonhuman). The sciences of design, however, do not apply merely to human designers. We have evidence of animals that design things. Beavers, for instance, build dams that we recognize as designed. Design also need not be restricted to Earth. The Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI, as seen in the movie Contact) is a well-established scientific program that attempts to identify radio signals sent from outer space by intelligent aliens. The working assumption of SETI is that we can distinguish an intelligently produced signal from random radio noise.
Some critics discount ID because its designer is supposed to be unobservable. These same critics, however, often will turn around and postulate the “many-worlds hypothesis” (i.e., that multiple universes exist) to discount how finely tuned the laws of physics are to allow for the emergence and sustenance of life. If we are only one of many universes, critics surmise, then it shouldn’t surprise us that we find ourselves in a universe uniquely crafted for our existence. The existence of multiple universes has never been observed. In fact, they are such that they can never be observed! Does this mean the many-worlds hypothesis is rendered unscientific? Of course not. Science often progresses by proposing theoretical entities that have yet to be observed and even may be unobservable, because of their explanatory power. Observability is therefore not a necessary condition for an explanation to be scientific; macroevolution has never been observed, yet it is still considered scientific.
Another common way of excluding ID from science is to charge that science only deals with what is repeatable, and nature’s designs are unrepeatable. The problem is that scientists study many things that are unrepeatable, such as the Big Bang and the origin of life. Scientists have no clue how to repeat either of these events in a laboratory; yet they are clearly within the realm of science. If repeatability is considered a necessary condition for science, then disciplines such as archaeology, anthropology, cosmology, and paleontology must be excluded from science as soon as they discover some unique artifact or feature of nature. Since those disciplines are included within the realm of science despite their unrepeatability, ID also must be included. The repeatability objection therefore fails to exclude ID.
Other objections to ID’s status as a science are also readily answerable.22 The answers presented here, however, suffice to demonstrate that ID does not have to prove that it is a science—it already is. Popular atheist Richard Dawkins, surprisingly, agrees. Dawkins says, “the presence or absence of a creative super-intelligence is unequivocally a scientific question.”23

 ruling paradigm
Sometimes also called the “God-of-the-gaps” objection, the argument-from-ignorance objection is perhaps the most common criticism leveled against ID. In an argument from ignorance, the lack of evidence against a proposition is used to argue for its truth. For instance, a typical argument-from-ignorance might be: “Ghosts and goblins exist because it hasn’t been shown that they don’t exist.” The proponent of this view believes the lack of evidence against ghosts and goblins is positive evidence for their existence, which, of course, is logically absurd. According to critics, design theorists argue for the truth of ID simply because design has not been shown to be false.          
On closer inspection, however, it is the Darwinists who are arguing from ignorance. Darwinists frequently charge that just because it is not known how complex biological systems evolved doesn’t mean that Darwinism is false. If Darwinists can’t explain how complex biological systems evolved, however, what right do they have to claim that such systems evolved in the first place? Lacking an evidentially based model for how certain biological structures evolved means that Darwinists are arguing from ignorance.

In these encounters, Darwinists will often attempt to turn the tables, suggesting that ID reasons from, “Gee, I can’t see how evolution could have done it,” to the conclusion, “Shucks, I guess God must have done it.” This misrepresents ID, however. When we examine complex biological systems, we do not infer design merely because naturalistic approaches to evolution fail. We infer design not from what we don’t know, but from what we do know.
We have empirical evidence for the capacity of intelligent agents to design irreducibly complex systems such as the bacterial flagellum (the bacterial flagellum is a bidirectional motor-driven propeller on the backs of certain bacteria). Human engineers invented motors like this long before the flagellum was even discovered. If we apply the same reasoning to the flagellum as we do to human technology, it is obvious that the flagellum bears the marks of intelligence. ID is a positive argument from what we do know, not from ignorance.
Many evolutionary biologists pretend that the “house of evolution” is in good order, but occasionally a few come clean about its disarray. University of Chicago biologist James Shapiro, for instance, admits that “there are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.”24 University of Iowa rhetorician David Depew likewise concedes, “I could not agree more with the claim that contemporary Darwinism lacks models that can explain the evolution of cellular pathways and the problem of the origin of life.”25
There currently are no naturalistic explanations for the origin of life, the information content of DNA, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics, the privileged status of Earth, irreducibly complex biological structures, human consciousness, and morality. Given the lack of scientific evidence for these basic elements of life, it is more than fair to ask, “Who is ignorant here?” Naturalistic causes give no evidence of adequately accounting for any of these features of the universe. Intelligent causes, by contrast, have demonstrated this ability time and again.
It is high time not only to give ID the credit it deserves, but also to give Darwinism the discredit it deserves. Intelligent design is a young research program that still has a long way to go. Darwinism, by contrast, has become an outdated dogma ready to be consigned to the trash heap of history, and evolutionary theory, as developed by Darwin and prolonged by contemporary devotees, is essentially a relic of failed nineteenth-century economic theories about competition for scarce resources. We, on the other hand, live in the twenty-first century, an age of information where information is limitless. ID theory is the study of intelligently produced information. Despite all the protestations by Darwinists that ID is unscientific, ID is the cutting-edge of science. Get on board!

William A. Dembski and Sean McDowell are coauthors of Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language (Harvest House, 2008).
1              Kevin Miller and Ben Stein, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, directed by Nathan Frankowski (Dallas: Premise Media, 2008).
2              See William Dembski and Sean McDowell, Understanding Intelligent Design: Everything You Need to Know in Plain Language (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2008); William Dembski and Jonathan Wells, The Design of Life: Discovering Signs of Intelligence in Biological Systems (Dallas: Foundation for Thought and Ethics, 2008); Michael Behe, The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (New York: Free Press, 2007); Benjamin Wiker and Jonathan Witt, A Meaningful World: How the Arts and Sciences Reveal the Genius of Nature (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006); Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay W. Richards, The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery (Washington, DC: Regnery, 2004).
3              J. P. Moreland, Kingdom Triangle (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007), 13.
4              Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case against Intelligent Design (New York: Times Books, 2006), 17.
5              See Dembski and McDowell.
6              Gregory Koukl, “Answering the New Atheists, Part 1,” Solid Ground (May/June, 2008), 4, available at
7              See Dembski and Wells; Gonzalez and Richards.
8              Inside Science News Service, “Physics Nobelist Takes Stand on Evolution,” Story Archive (2003), American Institute of Physics,
9              The case of Kitmiller v. Dover evaluated whether teachers were required to read a four-paragraph statement to students, informing them that ID is an alternative theory to Darwinian evolution.
10           Thomas Clark and Colin Stearn, Geological Evolution of North America: A Regional Approach to Historical Geology (New York: The Ronald Press Company, 1960).
11           Michael Crichton, “Aliens Cause Global Warming” (Caltech Michelin Lecture, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, January 17, 2003), available at http:// (last accessed July 23, 2008).
12           David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and Its Scientific Pretensions (New York: Crown Forum, 2008).
13           See this link:
14           Ken Ham and Hugh Ross are well-known defenders of young-earth and old-earth creation­ism, respectively. For a good discussion on the different interpretations of Genesis see, The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, ed. David Hagopian (Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001).
15           William Dembski, The Design Inference (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1998), chaps. 2, 7.
16           Richard Weikart, From Darwin to Hitler (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).
17           “Nobel Laureate Steven Weinberg: Free People from Superstition,” Free Thought Today (April 2000), Freedom From Religion Foundation, available at 2000/april2000/weinberg.html (last accessed July 23, 2008).
18           Francis J. Beckwith, “Intelligent Design, Religious Motives, and the Constitution’s Religion Clauses” in Intelligent Design: William Dembski and Michael Ruse in Dialogue, ed. Robert B. Stewart (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2007).
19           Shermer, 99.
20           Mary Carmichael, “A Changing Portrait of DNA,” Newsweek, December 10, 2007, 64.
21           David Hull, Darwin and His Critics: The Reception of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution by the Scientific Community (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1973), 26.
22           See Dembski and McDowell, chap. 5.
23           Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (London: Bantam Books, 2006), 58–59.
24           James Shapiro, “In the Details…What?” (Review of Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box), National Review, September 16, 1996, 62–65.
25 David Depew, “Intelligent Design and Irreducible Complexity: A Rejoinder,” in Darwinism, Design, and Public Education, ed. Stephen C. Meyer (East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2003), 447.
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The ID movement has served to demonstrate that the Universe is a result of design rather than accident, which is bringing science back to rationality and away from mysticism and paganism.