Since the DI reads this site, they’ll undoubtedly not only reassure us that they’re fine, but go after me in the process. Too bad: they’re a bunch of creationist mushbrains, and they know they’ve lost the war. What prompts me to ask the question above is their Big Announcement yesterday that Attack Gerbil Casey Luskin is leaving the DI to, as he says, “fulfill a lifelong goal of furthering my studies.” This follows hard on the heels of William Dembski announcing last month on his blog that he’s leaving the study of ID for, as he says, “education, specifically to advancing freedom through education via technology.” The DI, though, still lists him as a Senior Fellow.
The humorous thing about Luskin’s long farewell, though, is his account of the Great Victories achieved by the DI during his tenure. Here are two:
During my time at Discovery Institute, we have also seen some of ID’s longstanding scientific predictions spectacularly fulfilled. Exhibit A: The ENCODE project’s discovery of widespread function for non-coding DNA. Again, since the late 1990s I’d been hearing ID-critics say “junk DNA refutes ID.” At that time, my rejoinder was “We haven’t even studied this ‘dark matter of the genome’ enough to know what it does. Let’s just wait and see.” Well, we’ve been waiting and now we’ve seen: ID was correct all along. Early indications of this mass-functionality first came to light in 2007 when ENCODE published its preliminary results suggesting that a great portion of our DNA is transcribed into RNA. But in 2012 ENCODE published its main results, showing that over 80 percent of the genome gives strong evidence of function. Papers uncovering specific functions for specific “junk” genetic elements continue to pour forth.
This is intellectually mendacious, for, as everyone knows now, the early claim that ENCODE showed that 80% of our genome had a function was incorrect, and there remains a huge portion of the human genome that’s nonfunctional. Even the leaders of the ENCODE projct now admit that they overestimated the functionality of the genome. (For a good discussion of the issue, see Larry Moran’s posts at Sandwalk, especially this one.) And even if 80% of the human genome were functional, how does that prove the existence of an intelligent designer? What about the other 20%? Did the Great Designer screw up there? But given the apparently erroneous data produced by the ENCODE researchers, will the IDers who touted the original ENCODE findings now admit that their “prediction” was wrong? Don’t count on it.
Exhibit B: The burgeoning field of epigenetics has also validated ID’s prediction of new layers of information, code, and complex regulatory mechanisms in life. We’ve seen discoveries of new DNA codes (e.g., multiple meanings for synonymous codons), as well as the histone code, the RNA splicing code, the sugar code, and others. It’s a great time to be an ID proponent!
Umm. . . the “new layer of information” that ID predicted was DIVINE information, not epigenetics. And the part of epigenetics that does add “information”—the epigenetic modifications of DNA already encoded in the genome—have been known for a long time. As for those “Lamarckian” modifications induced by the environment, well, that “information” is erased after a couple of generations, and so has no evolutionary import.
As always, it’s a lousy time to be an ID proponent, for, like Rodney Dangerfield, you get no respect—except from other creationists.
Let’s review the goals of the DI’s “Wedge Document,” set out in 1999:
Five year goals:
To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory.
To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.
Nope; not yet.
Twenty year goals:
To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology,biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.
Well, we’re sixteen years in already, and I don’t think this is gonna happen in the next four years.
h/t: Doc Bill