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Intelligent Design Defended by Unsolved Genetic Puzzle

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By Michelle A. Vu, Christian Post Reporter
November 17, 2006|2:45 pm

MCLEAN, Va. – A distinguished Christian professor of science and religion defended Intelligent Design by presenting an unsolved genetic puzzle on Thursday during a three-day apologetics conference at McLean Bible Church.

Dr. Paul Nelson, a Biola professor and apologist, approached the heavily debated theory of Intelligent Design from a biological angle. He set out on an intense 45-minute session entitled “Intelligent Design in Three Easy Steps” to argue that science supports the idea that an intelligent being designed the universe.

“I want to remind you that you don’t need a theory of design to know that is design,” said Nelson. “The reality of detecting intelligence doesn’t require a theory. A theory is a nice thing to have, certainly if we are going to apply this to biology, but design inferences are sound and stable even if we don’t have a fully articulated theory.”

The apologist outlined that there are three main issues for Christians to keep in mind when they approach people skeptical of theism, Christianity, and Intelligent Design (I.D.). First, Christians need to realize that part of basic human rationality detects action of intelligence. The second step, which was the main focus of Nelson’s workshop, is to look carefully at the evidence. Lastly, step three calls for people to ignore philosophical rules.

Nelson gave his colleague William Dembski’s basic definition of Intelligent Design as the study of patterns in nature that are best explained as a result of intelligence. To explain the first step, the apologist listed emails, Stonehenge, and monuments in Washington as examples that are “clearly the products of intelligence” that would be “irrational” to explain otherwise.

For most of the evening, Nelson used specific examples of genes, enzymes, proteins, and cells with a focus on ORFan (open reading frame) genes, which are sequences of DNA that codes for protein.

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Nelson looked at a pattern in biology that pointed strongly to design and challenged Darwin’s theory of common descent. Darwin said that if there were systems in nature that could not be arrived at by some gradual means or process then his theory could be reasonably doubted; the evolution theory requires gradual steps in biological developments.

To challenge Darwin’s theory of evolution and defend I.D., Nelson focused on the growing discovery of new ORFan genes that are not in the GenBank database.

Nearly one-third of the protein-coding genes of mycoplasma, the simplest “free-living thing” up until last year, are unknown genes or ORFans. The questions that result from these discoveries are where did all these genetic information come from and why are they specific to one bacteria if according to Darwin’s theory of common descent they have to derive from a common ancestor?

“On an evolutionary view of life, all living things on earth share a common ancestor,” said Nelson. “Where are the similar sequences that gave rise to these ORFan genes? Where are the necessary intermediates that must have been there? Where are the parents, if you will, of these mysterious genetic words?”

Nelson said that if the theory of evolution were completely true, then there “must” be a way to reconstruct evolutionary history of every gene and protein and we would not expect so many unknown genes or proteins.

“The intelligent design debate has nothing to do with the evidence,” concluded Nelson. “It has everything to do with what we are going to let that evidence tell us.

“Is it possible that life did not derive strictly from natural causes but it was intelligently designed? Of course it is possible. What is the problem? The problem is not [with] the evidence from biology, but the problem is what are we going to let that evidence tell us?”

 

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