Real Intelligent Design and the Jackalope
Imagine having a box with an “on-off” switch and four different keys, “a,” “c,” “t,” “g,” and “enter”. Imagine next, keying in a series of half a billion letters or so, followed by “enter.” A living organism emerges, alive, according to the series entered, a different one for each and every combination possible. Lastly, imagine that this box is no longer imaginary, but actually exists.
Like two others that have preceded it, this article addresses the fact that science can now artificially synthesize a species without any physical genetic predecessors, as nature would require for doing so, that is, through the creation of offspring; specifically, it addresses the “power” that this technology might render. Again, to state what science can now do, as clearly as it can be stated: science finally possesses the technology to physically assemble a living organism (a species) -- the DNA -- from wholly inanimate, non-living material.
Science can now “manufacture” life, “at will,” using purely lifeless chemicals (no, not mud or clay), molecule by molecule, according to instructions from a computer, which is, itself, programmed by humans, making the “will” incorporated, that of the human programming the DNA sequence (and without the incorporation of any extra-natural phenomena whatsoever). Among many other important, historic, scientific revelations that this achievement substantiates, most noteworthy among them, manufacturing life artificially, physically demonstrates “once and for all,” the irrefutable validity of the Theory of Evolution, because the chemistry is identical.
Before, the only means existing for “intelligently designing” life has been by selectively breeding it, as was done to create domestic animals, animals that would never have emerged through natural selection (evolution); but this process is limited, being incapable of creating new species. (Although hybrids, like the mule, for example, a cross between a donkey and a horse, are otherwise viable, they are not a species, because, according to a general scientific definition of the term, being a species requires the ability to produce fertile offspring, and no mule can ever be fertile, producing offspring.)
Apart from the selective breeding that came with the domestication of animals, the only other means for designing life has, of course, been the “selective breeding” of evolution alone, which, in and of itself, lacks any expression of plan, purpose, or forethought, as domestic` breeding does, and hence, lacks “intelligence” altogether in its designs (which is why most of its innovations fail). (Nature, however, can do one thing that selective breeding can’t. Because nature has a resource that selective breeding lacks, namely, time, vast amounts of it, for the thousands of generations necessary. There is time enough for NEW information, and hence new species, to emerge, through evolution’s purely UNintelligent process of selection.)
Independently of scientific manipulation, only accidental mutation can create new genetic information. Evolution has the hundreds of thousand, indeed the millions, of years and comparable numbers of generations to mutate enough new information to yield a wholly new species. Rare and infrequent happenstance is required for creating new information improving design. This is why evolutionary change is so slow and gradual compared to the duration of a single human life span, requiring, for example, approximately two hundred and fifty thousand (250,000) years (as well as, again, about as many generations), to evolve an eye as effective as our own.
Given that nature has thousands of millions of years (it has been on land for over four hundred million), two hundred and fifty thousand (a quarter of a million) is trivial. Consequently, the eye has evolved many different times in nature, among many different types of animals. There is nothing whatsoever miraculous about it.
In contrast to mutation,, which must blindly “stumble” into new genetic information, intelligent design CAN create it -- ANY within the capacities of the technology -- wholly from “scratch” (ignoring, of course, the creation of the ideas leading to the novelty, which is, itself, the outcome of the evolving of a complex brain), using merely four different jars of proteins that constitute DNA (adenine, cytosine, thymine, guanine), and an electrical spark initiating the “cascade” of actions that life is (a collection of patterns). Instead of awaiting a beneficial mutation to survive and prosper, intelligent design need only “formulate” the appropriate genetic code, and need take only as long as it takes to physically assemble the organism ONCE.
Utilizing another scientific term that creationists once misused in their attempt to scientifically justify the inclusion of a supernatural agent into the text of a ninth grade biology textbook, because its design can be formulated in advance of their assembly, intelligently designed life can be genuinely “irreducibly complex,” which is something that ordinary evolved life can never be, despite erroneous claims by the mediocre “scientists” found in creationist doctrine claiming the contrary. (A federal court ruled that it is illegal to teach this doctrine as science in public schools: Kitzmiller vs. Dover, 2005.)
In a true scientific application of the term, irreducible complexity means that foresight, and hence insight, can be incorporated into artificially designed life, which is something that can never be done through nature’s ordinary, single step method of designing life, again, evolution. Absolutely no part of anything living on earth, past or present, has ever been irreducibly complex.
Ordinary life lacks the power of irreducible complexity because all ordinary evolving (that is, UNintelligently designed, reducibly complex) life lacks foresight in every last aspect of its designs. To be clear, there exists no such thing as a “direction” to evolution. Mutation lacks any kind of thought at all. Even so, because there is so much time and so many generations, every so often, a new design feature improves that which precedes it, instead of failing. With the right “luck,” it proliferates in a population, improving a prior, less effective feature, or perhaps introducing an altogether new one never existing before. This method makes only single steps at a time, never many together, as genuine scientific irreducible complexity would.
Ordinary life on Earth has always evolved at the rate of one genetic step at a time. In contrast, intelligent design can take as many steps as the design includes, all at once, with all steps ever taken reflected in the genes of the new offspring, but without having to have gone through the selective rigors that evolution’s series of single steps would have imposed. Moreover, artificially created life forms can not only take many steps at once, but, can take steps that would or could never have been taken by single steps. Therefore, what would be effectively impossible is no longer so, given the powers of foresight that genuine intelligent design’s genuine irreducible complexity can include. Moreover, it heralds the power of science to even surpass evolution’s robust generative abilities, by introducing possibilities for life that would otherwise be altogether impossible.
The possibilities for intelligently designing life are vast. They not only include many that could possibly have emerged naturally through the UNintelligent design of evolution, like an ancient woolly mammoth (the only prehistoric animal whose DNA has been mapped), perhaps dinosaurs, trilobites, or long extinct plants and giant, prehistoric insects, for example, but include also an even greater number of other species that NEVER could, through evolution (like the “jackalope,” for example, a jack rabbit with the antlers of an antelope). With intelligent design, they can. Furthermore, the number of possible variations far exceeds not only the number of species presently on the planet (millions), but also, the number of species that have ever lived upon it during the past several thousand million years. The enormous number of these unexplored possibilities is staggering, their scope vast.
Science has finally enabled life to intelligently design itself. But, after having gone this far, there is now no turning back -- not without turning back human invention and achievement itself. Intelligent design holds the promise of miracles, like cures for any disease, for example, or bacteria that can “eat” environmental devastators like oil spills. Likewise, it is rife with a plethora of horrifying risks too, like half human “servants” living and dying to “serve” an indifferent and malevolent master, or “super human” soldiers living only to kill, serving the same kind of master, just to name two obvious applications. Like any powerful scientific technology, in ANY hands, designing life has the capacity for creating monsters and nightmares, surely as easily as creating the miracles to which it can also be applied. Designing life commands the power of evolution itself, the power to shape life’s course altogether. Only the competent need be empowered with its application, because of its potential power of biology for shaping the course of life itself. Luckily, deep understanding is required, which may serve to limit or exclude the shortsighted vision of the simple minded.
Artificially designing life is the most powerful biological tool every created. In these modern times, many individuals have far-reaching political authority and/or immense wealth that empowers them access to the intellectual resources necessary to implement this technology, unchecked, according to the short sighted whims of a reptilian brain that still dwells beneath the human will of all, especially those undeservingly empowered, and which has no regard for tomorrow.
Only civilization itself stands between us, and a host of other, yet to be imagined, horrifying outcomes of intelligently designed life; and civilization clearly rests upon understanding the magnitude of the potential risks, just as much as it relies upon realizing the marvel of its benefits. This, of course, demands a widespread understanding of genuine science, which, sadly, diminishes with every human decision made instead, to avoid the time and work necessary for gaining this understanding. This series of articles (like the chongonation.com website) attempt to remedy and hopefully someday reverse this regrettable trend, so that intelligently designed life is that, rather than the simple-minded wants and fears of an empowered reptile brain, in human form, shaping life and possibly even evolution itself, irresponsibly, uninsightfully, and UNintelligently instead.