Friday, July 22, 2005


Jonathan Wells and ID's Blind Alley

Not long ago, the Seattle-based Discovery Institute breathlessly announced the publication of a paper by Jonathan Wells in the fringe science journal Rivista di Biologia that supposedly uses intelligent design to formulate a testable hypothesis about centrioles. Wells' hypothesis is that centrioles generate a polar ejection force (PEF) and that an excessive PEF causes chromosomal instability.

In the news release announcing publication of the paper -- the boys at the Discovery Institute ranked it just behind the discovery of penicillin and the first moon landing -- Wells opined:
"Darwinian evolution, despite the claims of its defenders, has been remarkably unsuccessful in guiding practical research in biology and medicine," said Wells. "Although ID is still controversial in the scientific community, some of us are now using it to formulate testable hypotheses."

Now comes news of a study by an international team of 25 scientists led by Harris A. Lewin of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and William J. Murphy of Texas A&M University. Their team compared the organization of chromosomes in humans, mice, rats, cows, pigs, dogs, cats and horses at high resolution. (Reported in the July 22 issue of Science, the journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science)

Would you be surprised if RSR told you that despite Wells' fabulous paper and his fatuous comment about the success of evolution in guiding practical research in biology and medicine that the Lewin -Murphy study has found that "breakages in chromosomes in mammalian evolution have occurred at preferred rather than random sites as long thought, and many of the sites are involved in human cancers."

"This study has revealed many hidden secrets on the nature and timing of genome evolution in mammals, and it demonstrates how the study of basic evolutionary processes can lead to new insights into the origin of human diseases," said Lewin, the director of the Institute for Genomic Biology at Illinois and a professor of animal sciences.

RSR knows that readers will have to weigh carefully whether or not an international team of 25 real scientists can equal the genius that the Discovery Institute's senior fellow brings to his "research," but this paper, coming so soon after the publication of Wells' Rivista paper is almost -- but not quite -- enough to convince RSR that there is a god after all.

We'll leave you with this little Wells' gem:
"Most research guided by neo-Darwinism is a huge waste of time and money. For example, a large number of scientists, and millions of taxpayer dollars every year, are presently devoted to constructing hypotheses ("phylogenetic trees") about how specific organisms might be related to each other through common ancestry. The only fruit has been a mish-mash of conflicting speculations that have produced no real benefits. In other words, fascination with neo-Darwinism has diverted precious public resources down a blind alley."

Oh, really? If knowing how specific organisms might be related through common ancestry is a huge waste of time and money, how can the use of rats in drug research testing compounds designed to treat human diseases be justified?


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