Monday, July 16, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0599 - "Junk" DNA and Colon Cancer

I awoke this morning to a Google Alert for a news item claiming that Neo-Darwinian concepts are responsible for the scientific failure to discover a genetic marker for colon cancer earlier than what occurred (see the "news" post here). Casey Luskin, writing for the Intelligent Design clearinghouse, writes, "How much earlier might these non-coding 'junk' DNA causes of disease have been recognized had scientists operated under an intelligent design paradigm rather than a Neo-Darwinian one?"

What an odd argument. For someone who would dearly loved to have had a blood test 10 years ago which would have indicated a gene marker for predisposition to colorectal cancer and thus a reason to perform an earlier-than-normal colonoscopy, this implication that godless scientists held back scientific progress is no mere theoretical difference of opinion.

Let's rephrase the question. If molecular biologists had operated under the assumption that supernatural forces operated in nature to design molecular biological systems, would we have discovered a genetic marker for colon cancer earlier than we did? I don't know. But let me ask you a question.

In the case of so-called "junk" DNA, is it bad science to say "I don't know what it does, therefore it does nothing."? Obviously.

But is this any better? "I don't know what this does, so God must have done it." Personally, I think that is even worse. It isn't even science.

Scientific and medical progress is all about discovering our mistakes and making adjustments. If molecular biologists can be chided for ignoring possible functions in "junk" DNA, so be it. That's the way progress works. But until and unless intelligent design enthusiasts can point to scientific discoveries which could only be made by a previous assumption of supernatural design, I say "Shut Up". People who have colorectal cancer or have been treated for colorectal cancer don't need this kind of "news".

No comments: