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The Year in Review: Intelligent Design in 2012

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It’s that time of year again. 2012 is winding down and 2013 looms on the horizon.  Intelligent design has had another productive year in 2012, and we look forward to the challenges and successes of the coming year. So what has the intelligent design community accomplished in the past 12 months?

This year saw the publication of the ENCODE discovery that our genome, far from being replete with nonsensical ‘junk DNA’, is in fact alive with pervasive biochemical activity such as transcription, transcription factor binding, and histone modification (as much as 80% exhibiting such activity). This evidence is highly suggestive that our genome may be far more functional than has been traditionally assumed. The take-home message from the results is that at least “20% of the genome in some situation can directly influence gene expression and phenotype of at least one human cell type,” and probably much more.

Another milestone was the publication of the new book Science and Human Origins by Discovery Institute Press. Featuring contributors Dr. Douglas Axe, Dr. Ann Gauger, and Casey Luskin, the book is an important contribution to the debate over human exceptionalism and the origins of mankind.

Another significant publication was Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos. Written by a prestigious atheist philosopher, the book offers its gratitude to the intelligent design movement “for challenging a scientific world view” that is “ripe for displacement.” Moreover, he argues that “Even if one is not drawn to the alternative of an explanation by the actions of a designer, the problems that these iconoclasts pose for the orthodox scientific consensus should be taken seriously. They do not deserve the scorn with which they are commonly met. It is manifestly unfair.”

At the tail end of 2012, we saw the release of The Magician’s Twin, a masterfully-produced documentary about C.S. Lewis and his views on science and scientism.

Also important was the publication of four new papers in the research journal Bio-Complexityone new paper in the journal Life, and one in the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings. One significant paper was the literature review published in Bio-Complexity by Matt Leisola et al on the apparent inability of living organisms to use lignin, a complex organic polymer found in wood, as a primary energy source, despite it being the world’s second most abundant biopolymer (after cellulose) and also extremely rich in stored energy. As the paper explained, “Considering its massive abundance and its high energy content (40% higher than cellulose, gram for gram), it is striking that no organism seems to have tapped it as an energy source.” As it turns out, this apparent limitation on evolvability is essential for the maintenance of the biosphere as a whole. The authors frame this striking coincidence as a positive argument for design. You can read the paper for yourself here, and read the pertinent blog posts (which include responses to criticisms of the paper) herehere,here, and here.

The Bio-Informatics lab also published two new papers. One of them was a critical focus paperresponding to a paper, published in 2010 in PNAS, that had argued that “There’s Plenty of Time for Evolution.” For further discussion of this new paper, see Casey Luskin’s blog post here. The second one was a research paper responding to Thomas’s Steiner tree algorithm, a “genetic algorithm used to defend the efficacy of natural selection.” The paper “tracks the various sources of information incorporated into Thomas’s algorithm,” finding that “Rather than creating information from scratch, the algorithm incorporates resident information by restricting the set of solutions considered, introducing selection skew to increase the power of selection, and adopting a structure that facilitates fortuitous crossover.”

In the summer, the Discovery Institute trained another cohort of promising young undergraduate and graduate students — the next generation of ID scientists and scholars — at the annual summer seminar in Seattle. If you are a student with an interest in getting more involved in the ID community and meeting like-minded individuals, why not apply online for the 2013 seminar? The travel and accommodation expenses of successful applicants is covered by the Discovery Institute.

In the UK, the Centre for Intelligent Design held its annual conference in Malvern, featuring guest speakers Biologic Institute’s Dr. Douglas Axe and Oxford University’s Professor John Lennox. The turnout was encouraging (the event sold out) and we enjoyed a stimulating weekend of listening to cutting-edge ideas in intelligent design.

There is lots of further exciting stuff in store in 2013. Stay tuned!

Graham2 I never heard of them. Thats why they died. these things don't work. It requires activity without meaningful purpose. Origin subjects are intellectual ones by and large. Getting kids in groups is just a bunch of kids in a group. The young people should targhet the big leagues only and read and study the top thinkers or those striving for those circles. Interest is difficult to maintain in things like this unless there is a reward or hope for reward. Pure curiosity did never did anything on earth. however these are small circles and students etc in small numbers are interested in these subjects and smell there is a revolution to be a part of or rather a intellectual correction in the marketplace of human thought. Robert Byers
RB: That was sort of the point of my comment. The IDEA clubs were set up to do exactly that. Located (generally) on campuses, they should have been right at the centre of intellectual activity, but they have more or less died. Perhaps ID just didnt excite any minds ? Graham2
Graham2 No. I just mean students/young people noticing and getting intellectually involved in these issues and taking on the old ideas. Evolutionism is just waiting to be finished off by the youngsters. Robert Byers
Robert: more uppity youngsters taking on old man evolution Like, um, the IDEA clubs ? Graham2
OT: The True Christmas Story - Today's Christian Videos http://www.godtube.com/watch/?v=DWYYD7NX Herod and Jesus: A Contrast Between Two Kings http://followtherabbi.com/world/encyclopedia/article/herod-and-jesus-a-contrast-between-two-kings bornagain77
OT: The Nativity Defended - Jonathan McLatchie - October 26, 2012 http://www.apologeticalliance.com/blog/2012/10/26/the-nativity-defended/ bornagain77
JoeCoder: "How does he get these numbers?" I don't know exactly where he got the 70% number but he most likely got the '35 million single nucleotide changes and 5 million insertions or deletions' numbers from here: Jon Cohen, "Relative Differences: The Myth of 1%," Science, Vol. 316:1836 (June 29, 2007). http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/biology/franz/biology38/_files/1836.pdf as to the 70% number he may have got that number from a few different places and/or facts (if he did not reference it in his paper you would probably have to ask him personally to find out for sure): DNA Comparisons between Humans and Chimps - Fazale Rana Excerpt: It is interesting that when evolutionary biologists discuss genetic comparisons between human and chimpanzee genomes, the fact that, again, as much as 25 percent of the two genomes won’t align receives no mention. Instead, the focus is only on the portions of the genome that display a high-degree of similarity. This distorted emphasis makes the case for the evolutionary connection between humans and chimps seem more compelling than it may actually be. http://www.reasons.org/dna-comparisons-between-humans-and-chimps-response-venema-critique-rtb-human-origins-model-part-2 Chimpanzee? 10-10-2008 - Dr Richard Buggs - research geneticist at the University of Florida ...Therefore the total similarity of the genomes could be below 70%. http://www.idnet.com.au/files/pdf/Chimpanzee.pdf Study Reports a Whopping "23% of Our Genome" Contradicts Standard Human-Ape Evolutionary Phylogeny - Casey Luskin - June 2011 Excerpt: For about 23% of our genome, we share no immediate genetic ancestry with our closest living relative, the chimpanzee. This encompasses genes and exons to the same extent as intergenic regions. We conclude that about 1/3 of our genes started to evolve as human-specific lineages before the differentiation of human, chimps, and gorillas took place. (of note; 1/3 of our genes is equal to about 7000 genes that we do not share with chimpanzees) http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/06/study_reports_a_whopping_23_of047041.html bornagain77
its mnore then that. ID/YEC has continued to be very famous and seen as a threat. Everybody who reaches a audience that deals with origin issues is forced to denouce or say something about ID/YEC. I know in Canada university textbooks, by name, teach their readers the threat and error of this movement. I bet heaps of politicians in the late election were asked about ID/YEC as if it mattered what politicians think. This because its seen as bigger cultural threat to a existing order of things. The health of this revolution , every year, makes it more unlikely it will fail to overcome. Thinking scientists and smart people everywhere should not be questioning a established theory or thats its even a theory based on scientific investigation.!! Either the critics are quite mistaken or there is a serious problem with the evidence behind a established theory! Something got to give here if statistics of probability matter. It seems evolutionist after evolutionist wrote books or papers which ID/YEC could quote to our gain! A revolution that is not stopped in its intellectual tracks is likely to prevail. I predict this year increasing health and more uppity youngsters taking on old man evolution. YEC is blazing away with the general public but degree-ed ID thinkers are surely defining the contentions here in higher circles. It is a exciting time in scholarship history to see and be a part of a great revolution of correction in important matters. Smarter folks are taking on very well the old guard. If evolutionary biology, as is, is wrong then surely this year will see further decay of its foundations and perhaps serious body blows. 'If evolutionary biology is right then this year ID/YEC should get serious blows because so much of the establishment is threatened. Where are the great books or papers or media presentations putting us in our place!! Where's the creativity and smarts to stop/slow this revolution?! Error will be corrected as time and people put their minds to this issue. The wrong guys should be fearing this next year. I say lets raise the creationist expectations for 2013. You can quote my confidence. Merry Christmas. Robert Byers
In Joseph Kuhn's Jan 2012 paper in Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, he writes:
However, the actual similarity of the DNA is approximately 70% to 75% when considering the full genome, including the previously presumed 'junk DNA,' which has now been demonstrated to code for supporting elements in transcription or expression. The 25% difference represents almost 35 million single nucleotide changes and 5 million insertions or deletions
How does he get these numbers? (35 million + 5 million) / 3 billion is 1.3% different. Pehaps the indels were very long? I would love to cite this paper (and even the rebuttal, since it does such a poor job addressing the issue), but I don't want to unless I can verify these numbers. JoeCoder

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