Design Can Be Suboptimal on Purpose - Evolution News & Views

Evolution News and Views (ENV) provides original reporting and analysis about the debate over intelligent design and evolution, including breaking news about scientific research.

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Design Can Be Suboptimal on Purpose

Evolutionists wrongly argue that ID can't be true because some designs are not optimal. But there might be a perfectly intelligent reason for some suboptimal designs in nature.

"When It Comes to Genetic Code, Researchers Prove Optimum Isn't Always Best," according tothe news from Texas A&M University. For example, "Imagine two steel springs identical in look and composition but that perform differently because each was tempered at a different rate." Engineers might want the springs to perform differently, and temper them that way for a reason.

Turning to the living cell, the researchers considered how variations in the coding of the biological clock can create similar timing differences. Their finding is related to our comments the other day on the "snooze button" on the biological clock. They were part of the team that found out how synonymous codons allow for timing differences that fine-tune circadian rhythms. Applying their analogy about tempered springs, we learn:

The group's research indicates that the protein in the fungal genus Neurospora they studied, frequency, performs better when the genetic code specifying it has non-optimal codon usage, as is normally found. However, when the genetic code is deliberately altered so that codon usage is optimized, clock function is lost. The reason for this is that non-optimal codon usage slows translation of the genetic code into protein, allotting the frequency protein the necessary time to achieve its optimal protein structure.

The team's results also demonstrate that genetic codons do more than simply determine the amino acid sequence of a protein as previously thought: They also affect how much protein can be made as well as the functional quality of that protein. (Emphasis added.)

So what at first appeared sloppy or suboptimal actually has a purpose. "Less is more" sometimes. Even though an alternate codon specifies the same amino acid, it can affect the action of the resulting enzymatic reaction through timing.

Also noteworthy about the news from Texas A&M is its elevated praise of design in the biological clock:

"Living organisms' inner clocks are like Swiss watches with precisely manufactured spring mechanisms," said Matthew Sachs, a professor in the Texas A&M Department of Biology. "For example, if you fast-temper a critical spring, the watch may be unable to keep time, as opposed to slow-tempering it. It's not just about the composition of the components, such as which alloy is used. It's about the manner in which the components are made. Our research says the genetic code is important for determining both composition and fabrication rate for a central component of the circadian clock, and that the fabrication rate also is critical. And that's essentially a discovery."
Swiss watch, you say? That sounds almost like an echo of Paley. But Paley's approach was natural theology. This approach is intelligent design: finding complex specified information, functioning with a purpose, that implies not necessarily a deity, but an intelligent cause that can be rightly inferred scientifically from our uniform experience with what intelligence routinely does.


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