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May 6, 2010
If you're looking for some ammunition in a creationist argument, evolutionary biologist John Avise of UC-Irvine has provided plenty in a new PNAS article entitled "Footprints of Nonsentient Design Inside the Human Genome". He goes over a number of not-too-intelligent-looking kinks in our genes.
This same point has occurred to many other people before, of course (I went on about it a few years ago here), but Avise has done a real service by collecting the arguments in one place in a clear and concise way. Exons and introns, spliceosomes, disorders of gene transcription and regulation, the unreliability of mitochondrial DNA, duplicons, pseudogenes, mobile DNA elements - they're all here, and all (to my eyes) much better explained by random, nonsentient tinkering than by thoughtful design.
Avise tries at the end to propose evolution as a helpful adjunct to religon, but I don't think his argument is going to fly with the people who might be most in need of it:
Evolution by natural causes in effect emancipates religion from the shackles of theodicy. No longer need we agonize about why a Creator God is the world’s leading abortionist and mass murderer. No longer need we query a Creator God’s motives for debilitating countless innocents with horriﬁc genetic conditions. No longer must we anguish about the interventionist motives of a supreme intelligence that permits gross evil and suffering in the world. No longer need we be tempted to blaspheme an omnipotent Deity by charging Him directly responsible for human frailties and physical shortcomings (including those that we now understand to be commonplace at molecular and biochemical levels). No longer need we blame a Creator God’s direct hand for any of these disturbing empirical facts. Instead, we can put the blame squarely on the agency of insentient natural evolutionary causation. From this perspective, the evolutionary sciences can become a welcome partner (rather than the conventionally perceived adversary) of mainstream religion
No, we're not going to get rid of theodicy that easily. The people whose beliefs most draw them to creationist and ID arguments tend, I'd say, to see life (and most especially intelligent human life) as one of the most important parts of Creation. Humans are, according to the Bible, the absolute peak of the entire process, and are thus the deserving subjects of continuous special attention from the Deity. Very few people with these foundations to their beliefs are willing to allow random evolution to share the stage.
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