Mar 4, 2008

Intelligence is Expelled....The Aftermath

"Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" is a movie about scientists who dare to question Darwin's theories, and who are subsequently shunned, persecuted, and virtually expelled from the scientific community, with no more opportunity for publishing their work. The movie features Ben Stein as the scientific journal editor who has the audacity to publish Dr. Steven C. Meyer's extensive review essay on the rationale and biological data for inferring intelligent design.

WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah reviews and gives more information on the movie. Bill O'Reilly interviews Ben Stein here on "Expelled." The trailer/preview also is quite interesting and gives a peek into the plot. I definitely plan to see "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" that opens April 18, 2008.

The movie focuses on the publishing of Dr. Meyer's paper on August 4th, 2004 in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (volume 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239), a peer-reviewed biology journal published at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Meyer's article is entitled, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories”, [If you're interested in science and evolution, do read Meyer's seminal essay on the scientific basis for intelligent design of biological systems.]

If you're interested in science and evolution, do read Meyer's seminal essay on the scientific basis for the intelligent design of biological systems. Here are a few paragraphs for you to get a feel for a few of Meyer's arguments:

The “Cambrian explosion” refers to the geologically sudden appearance of many new animal body plans about 530 million years ago. At this time, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five phyla of forty total (Meyer et al. 2003), made their first appearance on earth within a narrow five- to ten-million-year window of geologic time (Bowring et al. 1993, 1998a:1, 1998b:40; Kerr 1993; Monastersky 1993; Aris-Brosou & Yang 2003). Many new subphyla, between 32 and 48 of 56 total (Meyer et al. 2003), and classes of animals also arose at this time with representatives of these new higher taxa manifesting significant morphological innovations. The Cambrian explosion thus marked a major episode of morphogenesis in which many new and disparate organismal forms arose in a geologically brief period of time.

....analyze whether the neo-Darwinian process of mutation and selection, or other processes of evolutionary change, can generate the form and information necessary to produce the animals that arise in the Cambrian.

For neo-Darwinism, new functional genes either arise from non-coding sections in the genome or from preexisting genes. Both scenarios are problematic.

In the first scenario, neo-Darwinists envision new genetic information arising from those sections of the genetic text that can presumably vary freely without consequence to the organism. According to this scenario, non-coding sections of the genome, or duplicated sections of coding regions, can experience a protracted period of “neutral evolution” (Kimura 1983) during which alterations in nucleotide sequences have no discernible effect on the function of the organism. Eventually, however, a new gene sequence will arise that can code for a novel protein. At that point, natural selection can favor the new gene and its functional protein product, thus securing the preservation and heritability of both.

This scenario has the advantage of allowing the genome to vary through many generations, as mutations “search” the space of possible base sequences. The scenario has an overriding problem, however: the size of the combinatorial space (i.e., the number of possible amino acid sequences) and the extreme rarity and isolation of the functional sequences within that space of possibilities. Since natural selection can do nothing to help generate new functional sequences, but rather can only preserve such sequences once they have arisen, chance alone--random variation--must do the work of information generation--that is, of finding the exceedingly rare functional sequences within the set of combinatorial possibilities. Yet the probability of randomly assembling (or “finding,” in the previous sense) a functional sequence is extremely small.

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