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Hagiography for Nature's Faithful

Readers of ENV may remember that I critiqued the newest paper by the lab of Joseph Thornton a few months ago. Well, the current edition of Nature contains a four-page spread (counting a full-page photo of a dapper Thornton in his lab) on the man himself. It's an interesting read; Thornton has taken a circuitous route to his present position, by way of some unusual pursuits.

The focus of the feature, however, is not so much Thornton as it is intelligent design. The title, "Raising the Dead," quickly gets one in mind of that old time religion, and the subtitle trumpets, "His findings rebut creationists...." We learn that, with undoubtedly girded loins, "he has been fearless -- almost enthusiastic -- about [challenging] a creationist argument called intelligent design: the claim that complex molecular systems can only have been created by a divine force." And of course heroes never fail: "Thornton shows how evolution did the job, leaving no need for a designer."

The author of the feature, longtime Nature writer Helen Pearson, cites Christoph Adami in a 2006 Science commentary asserting modestly that an earlier Thornton paper "solidly refute[s] all parts of the intelligent design arguments." For balance she quotes an ID crank (moi) observing, "I think [Thornton's] results are quite consistent with my own view that Darwinian processes are poor ones to explain the complexity found in life." Tired of pussyfooting around with heretics, she later snorts that the current study "flipped another finger to intelligent-design proponents."

Well, now. Hagiography can be inspiring for the faithful, but for those who want a less credulous assessment of the import of Thornton's work, simply do a search on his name for articles here at ENV. It tickles me no end that Nature is so emotionally invested in engaging intelligent design. I look forward to their next several dozen articles that solidly refute all parts of intelligent-design arguments.