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Intelligent Design

Nobel laureate, organic chemist and a leader in origin of life studies, Professor deDuve writes in his excellent book, Tour of a Living Cell, "If you equate the probability of the birth of a bacteria cell to chance assembly of its atoms, eternity will not suffice to produce one..”
Humans and all mammals have some 50,000 genes. That implies, as an order of magnitude estimate, some 50,000 to 100,000 proteins active in mammalian bodies. It is estimated that there are some 30 animal phyla on Earth. If the genomes of each animal phylum produced 100,000 proteins, and no proteins were common among any of the phyla (a fact we know to be false, but an assumption that makes our calculations favor the random evolutionary assumption), there would be (30 x 100,000) 3 million proteins in all life.
Now let's consider the likelihood of these 3 million viable combinations of proteins forming by chance: Proteins are complex coils of several hundred amino acids. Take a typical protein to be a chain of 200 amino acids. The observed range is from less than 100 amino acids per protein to greater than 1000. There are 20 commonly occurring amino acids that join in varying combinations to produce the proteins of life. This means that the number of possible combinations of the amino acids in our model protein of 200 amino acids is 20 to the power of 200 (i.e. 20 multiplied by itself 200 times), or in the more usual 10-based system of numbers, approximately 10 to the power of 260 (i.e. the number one, followed by 260 zeros!). Nature has the option of choosing among the 10 to power of 260 possible proteins, the 3 million proteins of which all viable life is composed. In other words, for each one correct choice, there are 10 to power of 254 wrong choices!

Randomness cannot have been the driving force behind the success of life. Our understanding of statistics and molecular biology clearly supports the notion that there must have been a direction and a “Director” behind the success of life.

Topics: evolution

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  • Jan 17 2012: You state that, "Once you understand that nature and the way it works explains the whole thing, the designer seems unnecessary, but that does not mean there is no designer." There you have it, we agree that we can disagree. Still, you and others have not addressed what I believe is the far more important issues about the nature and tone of this whole dialogue and its implications. I have no problem with this and never needed to resort to anything, but open and respectful dialogue. Far from what I experienced. Again, I am a psychotherapist, to me relationships and how the process of discussion and conclusion is paramount because only open and respectful dialogue allows the free flow of ideas and growth. What I have experienced in these conversations is far from this. Everything from telling me that my thoughts are ignorant to disallowing my comments on TED. I kept at the dialogue anyway because of this principle that I try to live by. I can imagine that many would not have and given up and you would be the worse for it. Many grand mistakes have been made in history and much suffering because one side felt it had the only truth and closed itself off from any other way of viewing issues.
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    • Jan 17 2012: David,

      I apologise for any hostility from my quarter; to explain, the argument you are promoting has been used in the past by underhanded people in the past to try to taint the education of our children. I love analogies so, what reaction would you expect from the Trojan people if they saw the Greeks wheeling up a second Trojan horse to their city gate?

      But Trojan horse it is, David, and I will take on good faith that you bring it forth innocently. I will now respond without vitriol.

      Science by definition has never closed itself off from any argument, and never will. In this subject the existence of an "intelligent agent" guiding the course of evolution cannot be disproved because this agent could have intervened only once in the staggering number of mutations leading our current existence and we would most likely never find evidence of that individual mutation. Indeed such an agent need not have intervened at all but merely be on the lookout for mutations that would cause a species to wipe out Earth's biosphere to be said to have been intelligently guiding our evolution, and we would have no evidence of it's existence. In this case the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and that is accepted in the scientific community.

      Some time in the future through sheer computing power or time travelling microscopes we may document every genetic mutation responsible for modern man. Such information would probably require a modern computer system about the size of the Earth just for storage let alone processing but doubtless in future we will all have access to not only every path our DNA took to reach our current state but every misstep and meandering it took along the way. The process of discovering this data will doubtless yield many scientific and medical boons that will save lives and provide us a better quality of life than we would have otherwise. Which is where I start to have a problem with Intelligent Design.
    • Jan 17 2012: Once you bring a null hypothesis such as "God did it" into the equation people start thinking that's good enough. You see less interest, motivation, funding into exploring our genetic roots and you miss out on all the cures to disease, longer life spans and myriad other benefits that science is so well known for.

      Worse, you also begin to see anger, reprobation and even violence against those who are trying to help people but are seen by the religious to be insulting God's work and meddling in his affairs. If you want some examples from history I'll dig some up for you, there are plenty, but I think you and I both know the truth of this.

      All through this, not once will science say that God does not exist - and believe me, if scientists were ever uncover any evidence pointing to the existence of such a being they will be the first to let you know. In the meantime, Christianity has never been a good friend to science and continues to this day to try to subvert science for it's own purposes through arguments such as the one you put forward.

      In this thread you have been provided with sufficient information to educate yourself on the current state of the discourse between the two viewpoints and to reach your own scientific conclusions regarding this subject, but for the sake of appearing magnanimous I will list them again for you:


      Also, based on my earlier assumption of your ignorance of the manipulative history of the argument you have used in this thread I feel you should also check these out:


      Please, please, please do not repost the same argument again, or talk about the "tone of this discussion". Ignorance is no excuse, especially if wilful, and if I come home drunk and see you've pulled this stunt again I'll probably end up being banned from TED.

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