'Junk DNA' Ethics Genetics

ID theorists were right about junk DNA. Now here is an ID prediction about CRISPR gene editing

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William Dembski points out, chapter and verse, how the ID theorists were right and the Darwinians were wrong about “junk DNA.” Now here is a predictin he offers for CRISPR gene editing:

Given the human impulse to control nature with technology (an impulse especially evident in our age), it’s hard to imagine CRISPR not being used to produce enhancements in humans (consider militaries who want more effective soldiers, parents who want more beautiful and smarter children, governments who want more pliable citizens, etc.). One also sees the language of “taking charge of evolution” everywhere in discussions of CRISPR gene editing. Thus, we are told that CRISPR gene editing will for the first time give humans the power to take control of the evolutionary process.

Most who use such language see this newfound genetic power of CRISPR gene editing as a way to accelerate evolutionary change, making us bigger, faster, stronger, smarter, prettier, etc., and doing so much more quickly than the pokey pace of evolution by natural selection would allow. This is an interesting attitude because pokey-paced Darwinian evolution is also said to have produced the CRISPR gene editing system in the first place. So is natural selection smarter than we are, able to move evolution forward more effectively than we can (whatever it may mean for an undirected form of evolution, which is not supposed to have any telos, to move us forward)? Or are we, if not smarter than evolution as a whole, in a position to take a handoff from evolution and now, with CRISPR gene editing, do a better job than natural selection, at least from our place in natural history?

As it is, intelligent design has always regarded the creative potential of natural selection as minimal. At the same time, CRISPR gene editing, because it is a genetic technology used by human biologists to achieve specific ends, will always be an example of intelligent design. The big question, then, is whether CRISPR gene editing will allow for huge improvements of human and other animal forms via genetic enhancements. My prediction is that it won’t. Specifically, I predict that attempted enhancements of the human germ line using CRISPR gene editing will (1) quickly hit an “enhancement boundary” beyond which enhancements are no longer feasible and (2) prove self-canceling in the sense that intended benefits will be undone by unintended deficits.

William Dembski, “An ID Prediction for CRISPR Gene Editing” at BillDembski.com (July 27, 2021)

He goes on to explain the reasoning.

Note: The whole thing reminds me (O’Leary for News) of something that happened in Canada over thirty years ago. There was a Royal Commission to look into the bioethics of gene and other manipulation and I was asked for testimony. A Commissioner asked me, why did I think that gene manipulation would be a bad thing.

I said it would be used to enforce social prejudices.

By way of explanation, I noted a comment made to me by a medical doctor who dealt in hormones. The doctor often saw children whose parents were worried about their growth patterns. But he never saw boys who were thought to be too tall or girls who were thought to be too short. He always seemed to be seeing boys who were thought by their parents to be too short or girls who were thought to be too tall.

Whatever else happens, anyone who doesn’t see where that must lead needs a short course in reality-based thinking.

16 Replies to “ID theorists were right about junk DNA. Now here is an ID prediction about CRISPR gene editing

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    Makes sense. Old-fashioned breeders, using intentional selection, were able to improve certain qualities of wheat or roses or dogs, but every improvement comes with a larger loss elsewhere. The animal or plant is more suitable for one highly restricted situation, but less healthy in the wild.

    In programming or engineering, fixing one bug creates three new bugs elsewhere.

    This type of ‘entropy’ is bound to happen with gene injection.

  2. 2
    TAMMIE LEE HAYNES says:

    Manipulating human genes?
    Trust the Science

    Like the Science that gave us the pandemic. (either through incompetence or by evil intent).
    And then tried to cover it up.
    What could possibly go wrong.?

  3. 3
    ET says:

    The ONLY reason there was a pandemic is because the world’s population is unhealthy. Most of the deaths were due to vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

  4. 4
    doubter says:

    I think that another reason for the limited effectiveness and probable difficult tradeoffs involved in gene editing for human enhancement is the fact that is increasingly being realized that most of the stored information planning out the development of the embryo and the resulting final exceedingly complex final form of the embryo – the fetus – isn’t in the genes at all, and not even in the non-coding DNA. And therefore it can’t be manipulated and modified by CRISPR techniques.

    The genes primarily encode the protein building blocks of the organism. There is also the huge bulk of stored information directing the process of development of the organism – this is another matter entirely.

    DNA is a linear code of molecules that just creates another linear set of molecules, amino acids which fold up into protein molecules having a myriad of functions. But this is just a small piece of a four dimensional exceedingly complex interlinked puzzle. The cell and the organism are three dimensional and the genome has no information to handle this. Then it turns out that it is actually a four dimensional puzzle because timing and sequencing are necessarily added on top of this. The total is all the stored information determining the time sequence of development, when, how and where each specialized cell must be built and then migrate to form various stages in building up the embryo.

    Much or most of the spatial and time sequence information to form an embryo appears to be specified independently of the genome DNA. Some may be in the noncoding DNA. The coding and storage of all this information appears not to be much understood as of yet. It is known that there exist codes in the cell membranes called sugar codes and bio electric field codes. There are probably other codes too. So DNA is just one form of a biology code and may be a relatively simple one compared to the others.

    The CRISPR technique just works with with DNA. Some entirely new techniques would have to be worked out to modify all the extra-genic stored information referred to above.

    I would contend that successfully monkeying with this coded information for the interlinked four-dimensional puzzle – the making of all the specialized cell types and achieving the very special 3-D spatial arrangements of cells, the time sequences required to build the organism – is also only possible by a conscious entity that completely understands the whole interlinked embryological development process starting with the biological coding of all the stored information. An mass of stored information of truly incredible complexity and extent. Just consider the problem of building the brain consisting of billions of neurons of different types in an exceedingly complex interlinked structure. Otherwise, without complete understanding, usually disaster. Sometimes mistakes rather than totally disastrous would lead to strange mutations of form due to the plasticity of the development process.

    There is overwhelming evidence that the origin of all this can’t be RM & NS, and I think it is unlikely that human researchers will be able to successfully accomplish it in the forseeable future.

  5. 5

    We all think we are the first to employ gene editing. This is far from the truth. The Canaanites lived for 8 millennia in the same cities in the Jordan River valley, engaged in gene editing. Why did empires come and go, while the Canaanites were left alone? Because everyone realized that it was the homeland of purebred breeds whose descendants were special. Everyone drew upon that genetic pool. Was “special” society-defined? Of course, it involved great height, strength and intelligence. What happened to them? First the Moabites and the Ammonites displaced half of them in the 1800 BC time frame, and then Joshua finished off the other half in the 1400BC time frame, under strict orders to not leave a shred of DNA alive. It remained for David to mop up pockets that existed at Gath and other Philistine cities in the 1000 BC time frame. Why the drastic orders? Because gene editing is in danger of removing the soul. It isn’t just the devil that can take it. Which is yet another reason for not getting involved in CRISPR editing.
    The other reason being the Flood.

  6. 6
    Jonathan11 says:

    @Robert Sheldon
    Please tell me you are joking.

  7. 7
    ET says:

    Try as they may, Napoleon’s people could only tease out so much sugar from the sugar beet. Wm. Dembski is right in that there are limits to the enhancements. One of the limits is having the proper chaperone or chaperones required for the resulting polypeptide to fold into a biologically relevant, functional protein. The other is, of course, DNA doesn’t determine biological form. DNA influences the TRAITs of organisms. Those variations observed within a population.

    However, seeing that the reason to understand the intelligent design of life is so we can properly maintain and repair it, CRISPR, is a means to that end.

  8. 8
    Yarrgonaut says:

    I think we could (given enough knowledge) predict mild ‘enhancement’ from a reversal of deleterious mutations which might have previously accrued within the genome, but I imagine this still will be within a particular boundary (again not including serious illnesses like Huntington’s or PKU).

  9. 9
    Bob O'H says:

    Specifically, I predict that attempted enhancements of the human germ line using CRISPR gene editing will (1) quickly hit an “enhancement boundary” beyond which enhancements are no longer feasible and (2) prove self-canceling in the sense that intended benefits will be undone by unintended deficits.

    OK, so basically he’s predicting that intelligent design won’t work. I hope you all appreciate that I find this amusing.

  10. 10
    ET says:

    Bob O’H:

    OK, so basically he’s predicting that intelligent design won’t work. I hope you all appreciate that I find this amusing.

    I find it amusing that is what you think.

  11. 11
    Querius says:

    Doubter @4,

    Interesting. I didn’t know “It is known that there exist codes in the cell membranes called sugar codes and bio electric field codes.” Do you happen to have any references?

    -Q

  12. 12
    Yarrgonaut says:

    Bob,

    OK, so basically he’s predicting that intelligent design won’t work. I hope you all appreciate that I find this amusing.

    Well that depends. If the design is relatively sloppy, we should expect to be able to create drastic improvements very easily. If it is well designed, it is reasonable to expect that aside from countering effects of entropy, there should be a certain point at which we run into a kind of optimization barrier wherein significant changes would require a kind of system rework.

    In other words, to improve on random mutations and natural selection, shouldn’t be hard. To improve upon an already highly sophisticated design can often be very difficult. Even amongst peers it can require a plethora of information, and cannot be done frivolously. The Intelligent Designer is smarter than you. You cannot approach gene editing frivolously and expect a good result.

  13. 13
    doubter says:

    Querius@11

    The sugar code:

    “The sugar code (Glycocode) is designed by monosaccharides, which can condense into oligosaccharides, polysaccharides or more complex glycoconjugates. They can form infinite combinations of different monomers, providing unique structural features and powerful chemical information for cells and tissues.”

    Article: “Cracking the sugar code: Why the ‘glycome’ is the next big thing in health and medicine”, at https://theconversation.com/cracking-the-sugar-code-why-the-glycome-is-the-next-big-thing-in-health-and-medicine-97750 .

    The bioelectric field code:

    From Chapter 7 of “Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique”, edited by J. P. Moreland, Stephen C. Meyer, Christopher Shaw, Ann K. Gauger, Wayne Grudem:

    “The patterns of ion channels in membranes determine the forms of endogenous electric fields, which change in the course of embryo development.”

    Note: Endogenous electric fields have been found to have a profound effect on embryo development. These influences seem mainly to be by controlling cell movements that form the developing embryo. A lot of experiments have found this out by disrupting the fields and observing the damaging results. But these endogenous electric fields and their developing patterns can’t be traced to the DNA.

    This chapter expounds deeply on several topics including why DNA can’t be the source of all the information determining the detailed patterns in the developing embryo, how the bioelectric fields have been found to have such effects, and the “sugar code”.

  14. 14
    Querius says:

    Thank you, Doubter. This is fascinating information!

    I’ll also check out the link you provided.

    -Q

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