Thursday, March 4, 2010

A New Prediction by Intelligent Design Theory

In my previous post, I pointed out that contrary to the tenets of "Intelligent Design Theory", we routinely observe that complex form and function arises by means of "blind" (that is, unconscious) natural processes. The example I used was the vertebrate immune system, where the laws of chemistry can be seen to give rise to complex functional structures (viz. antibodies).

Another interesting example of functional information being generated inside the body is protein folding. When amino acids are strung together to make a protein inside the cell, the resulting polypeptide must assume a specific, complex, three-dimensional shape in order for the protein to be functional. While the immune system is reasonably well understood, how proteins manage to assemble into the correct conformation remains a mystery, despite half a century of concerted effort. This "Protein Folding Problem" is generally acknowledged to be the primary unsolved problem in computational biology.

It has been established that if nothing but random chemical interactions were responsible, there are so many possible shapes that many of these molecules could assume it could take millions of years to happen across the correct shape by chance. Somehow, though, our proteins assume the correct shapes in a matter of seconds or even milliseconds, so it is clear that something we don't understand is guiding the process.

So here is a case where no known combination of chance and natural law can account for the existence of these properly folded proteins in our cells. According to "Intelligent Design Theory", since we can't explain how folding proceeds, and our bodies "lack the probabilistic resources" for the functional proteins to be produced by chance, we ought to conclude that some sort of intelligent agent is busy inside each of our cells, folding up all of our proteins, day in and day out!

More reasonable theories do not involve little intelligent beings, however, and it is expected that physical chemistry will at some point succeed in explaining the details of this phenomenon.

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