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-Complexity, one 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) here, here,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!