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If the genetic code just plain designed itself, would that be intelligent design?

Evolution News and Views

We only ask because … over at Evolution News & Views, they are asking “If Humans Write Genetic Code, Is It Intelligent Design?” (May 22, 2012),

It’s “totally rad,” announced a press release from Stanford School of Medicine: “Scientists from Stanford’s Department of Bioengineering have devised a method for repeatedly encoding, storing and erasing digital data within the DNA of living cells.” After 3 years of work and 750 tries, they found a way to create and erase digital code using DNA molecules.

They’re not using the A-G-C-T bases that the natural genetic code uses to store information. Instead, they use the way a portion of DNA points as the equivalent of a bit: one way indicates a one, the other indicates a zero. It’s rad because they named it that: Recombinase Addressable Data (RAD). It offers the power to use DNA as non-volatile memory and a molecular “switch” to turn on fluorescent proteins in microbes.

Now, the kicker:

If a researcher without foreknowledge of this technology examined a microbe employing it, would he or she be justified in inferring that an intelligent cause played a role in its origin? If so, what’s the difference with inferring an intelligent case for the origin of the “natural” genetic code, since it also involves the encoding and storage of functional information?

The short answer is that it depends on how completely committed to dogmatic materialism one is.

A dogmatic materialist denies that either instance represents actual intelligence in nature. Materialist philosophers argue that the mind is an illusion created by the buzz of neurons. That, indeed, is Francis Crick’s contested Astonishing Hypothesis (“You are nothing but a pack of neurons”).

The dogmatic materialist has the same problem as the multiverse proponent. His position is a dogmatic statement, not evidence. In fact, the more honest materialists admit that.

And that doesn’t stop them from presenting their views as the assured results of modern science or legacy media from unquestionably fronting them as such. At least for now.

And the question hangs: Believe the evidence of one’s senses or an imposing theory, backed by Top People?

At least part of the disagreement is that people disagree on what "intelligence" means. We have a whole discipline of AI, based on the assumption that a suitably programmed computer can be intelligent. We have many cognitive scientists saying that we supposedly intelligent humans are just computers anyway. We have biologists criticizing Shapiro for saying that there is intelligence in the cell. If we ever sort out what we mean by "intelligent", then I expect we will find a lot more intelligence in a cell than in a computer. Neil Rickert

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