Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Dawkins past sell by date?


Closing off our religion coverage for the week:

Look, this is really bad news for Dawkins Enterprises :

Dawkins-ism isn’t selling the way it once did. Get this, via  Nature,

A curious stasis underlies Dawkins’s thought. His biomorphs are grounded in 1970s assumptions. Back then, with rare exceptions, each gene specified a protein and each protein was specified by a gene. The genome was a linear text — a parts list or computer program for making an organism —insulated from the environment, with the coding regions interspersed with “junk”.

Today’s genome is much more than a script: it is a dynamic, three-dimensional structure, highly responsive to its environment and almost fractally modular. Genes may be fragmentary, with far-flung chunks of DNA sequence mixed and matched in bewildering combinatorial arrays. A universe of regulatory and modulatory elements hides in the erstwhile junk. Genes cooperate, evolving together as units to produce traits. Many researchers continue to find selfish DNA a productive idea, but taking the longer view, the selfish gene per se is looking increasingly like a twentieth-century construct.



as to:
Many researchers continue to find selfish DNA a productive idea, but taking the longer view, the selfish gene per se is looking increasingly like a twentieth-century construct.
First off, for Darwinists to ascribe 'selfishness' to a supposedly material entity, such as the gene or even to the entire DNA molecule, is to illegitimately ascribe a property of agents to a supposedly material object. i.e. Simply put, personal agents can be selfish, material objects cannot. This illegitimate ascribing of a property of agency to some set of atoms is rampant within Darwinian literature. To illustrate how rampant, Talbott challenges biologists to describe a single topic in biology using language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness:
The 'Mental Cell': Let’s Loosen Up Biological Thinking! - Stephen L. Talbott - September 9, 2014 Excerpt: Many biologists are content to dismiss the problem with hand-waving: “When we wield the language of agency, we are speaking metaphorically, and we could just as well, if less conveniently, abandon the metaphors”. Yet no scientist or philosopher has shown how this shift of language could be effected. And the fact of the matter is just obvious: the biologist who is not investigating how the organism achieves something in a well-directed way is not yet doing biology, as opposed to physics or chemistry. Is this in turn just hand-waving? Let the reader inclined to think so take up a challenge: pose a single topic for biological research, doing so in language that avoids all implication of agency, cognition, and purposiveness1. One reason this cannot be done is clear enough: molecular biology — the discipline that was finally going to reduce life unreservedly to mindless mechanism — is now posing its own severe challenges. In this era of Big Data, the message from every side concerns previously unimagined complexity, incessant cross-talk and intertwining pathways, wildly unexpected genomic performances, dynamic conformational changes involving proteins and their cooperative or antagonistic binding partners, pervasive multifunctionality, intricately directed behavior somehow arising from the interaction of countless players in interpenetrating networks, and opposite effects by the same molecules in slightly different contexts. The picture at the molecular level begins to look as lively and organic — and thoughtful — as life itself. http://natureinstitute.org/txt/st/org/comm/ar/2014/mental_cell_23.htm
This working biologist agrees with Talbott’s assessment:
Life, Purpose, Mind: Where the Machine Metaphor Fails - Ann Gauger - June 2011 Excerpt: I'm a working biologist, on bacterial regulation (transcription and translation and protein stability) through signalling molecules, ,,, I can confirm the following points as realities: we lack adequate conceptual categories for what we are seeing in the biological world; with many additional genomes sequenced annually, we have much more data than we know what to do with (and making sense of it has become the current challenge); cells are staggeringly chock full of sophisticated technologies, which are exquisitely integrated; life is not dominated by a single technology, but rather a composite of many; and yet life is more than the sum of its parts; in our work, we biologists use words that imply intentionality, functionality, strategy, and design in biology--we simply cannot avoid them. Furthermore, I suggest that to maintain that all of biology is solely a product of selection and genetic decay and time requires a metaphysical conviction that isn't troubled by the evidence. Alternatively, it could be the view of someone who is unfamiliar with the evidence, for one reason or another. But for those who will consider the evidence that is so obvious throughout biology, I suggest it's high time we moved on. - Matthew http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/06/life_purpose_mind_where_the_ma046991.html#comment-8858161
Moreover, besides biology, physics itself improperly ascribes agent causality to inanimate objects:
"to say that a stone falls to earth because it's obeying a law, makes it a man and even a citizen" - CS Lewis
In fact, I hold that,,,
The most profound confusion in modern physics is the fallacious belief that blind causality is superior to agent causality in terms of explanatory power. - May 2015 https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/philosophy/is-mathematics-intrinsic-to-the-universe/#comment-565812
and I also hold that,,,
When the agent causality of Theists is rightly let ‘back’ into the picture of physics, as the Christian founders of science originally envisioned, (instead of the self refuting ‘blind’ causality of atheists), then a unification between Quantum Theory and Relativity is readily achieved in the resurrection of Christ from death: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/mathematician-planck-data-disappoints-multiverse-claims/#comment-548425
But back to the supposedly 'selfish' gene (and 'selfish' DNA). To add insult to the injury that Comfort has brought on Dawkins' 'selfish gene' concept with this present article, should not there at least be a thing called a 'gene' in the first place, something that really exists, before such a said gene can be held to be selfish, shy, happy, sad, or giving, etc..? As Sternberg, Shapiro, and others have pointed out, it is hard to even know what a gene really is anymore.
In the following podcast, Dr. Sternberg’s emphasis is on ENCODE research, and how that research overturned the ‘central’ importance of the gene as a unit of inheritance. As well he reflects on how that loss of the term ‘gene’ as an accurate description in biology completely undermines the modern synthesis, (i.e. central dogma), of neo-Darwinism as a rational explanation for biology. Podcast - Richard Sternberg PhD - On Human Origins: Is Our Genome Full of Junk DNA? Part 5 http://www.discovery.org/multimedia/audio/2014/11/on-human-origins-is-our-genome-full-of-junk-dna-pt-5/ Here are a few more references on the loss of the term gene as a ‘central’ concept in the dogma of Darwinism: https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/about-that-central-dogma/#comment-567076
As to 'selfish DNA', as opposed to merely 'selfish genes', that concept is also a fallacious concept. Almost as bad as the selfish gene concept was to begin with:
“The genome is an ‘organ of the cell’, not its dictator” - Denis Noble – President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences How life changes itself: the Read-Write (RW) genome. - 2013 Excerpt: Research dating back to the 1930s has shown that genetic change is the result of cell-mediated processes, not simply accidents or damage to the DNA. This cell-active view of genome change applies to all scales of DNA sequence variation, from point mutations to large-scale genome rearrangements and whole genome duplications (WGDs). This conceptual change to active cell inscriptions controlling RW genome functions has profound implications for all areas of the life sciences. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23876611 Ask an Embryologist: Genomic Mosaicism - Jonathan Wells - February 23, 2015 Excerpt: A few years ago, however, everything changed. With the development of more sophisticated techniques and the sampling of more tissues and cells, it became clear that genetic mosaicism is common. I now know as an embryologist,,,Tissues and cells, as they differentiate, modify their DNA to suit their needs. It's the organism controlling the DNA, not the DNA controlling the organism. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2015/02/ask_an_embryolo093851.html
Supplemental note: At the 10:30 minute mark of the following video, Dr. Trifonov states that the concept of the selfish gene has,,,
"'inflicted an immense damage to biological sciences', for over 30 years:" Second, third, fourth… genetic codes - One spectacular case of code crowding - Edward N. Trifonov - video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fDB3fMCfk0E
OT: Rosaria Butterfield: Repentance & Renewal (An academic, and former homosexual, honestly confronted Romans 1) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBX8_vhu4Xw bornagain77

Leave a Reply