The not so irreducible complexity of the mousetrap

The rather nice Bioimplement blog, which alas is updated somewhat infrequently has a particularly detailed overview of the history of the mousetrap. The mousetrap is often cited to illustrate the concept of irreducible complexity: a device  which could not function with one of its parts missing. Irreducible complexity is one of those important concepts of Intelligent Design creationism, helping ID creationists posit the existence of a god designer because the ID creationist cannot conceive how complexity can arise through non-supernatural means.

Anyway, a new article at Bioimplement traces the patent history of the modern day mousetrap (The mouse trap, redux), and finds it has a rather neat evolutionary history, which can be traced back to a fish hook.

The article itself is splendidly detailed, and is an entertaining read. Well worth reading.

Sean Eddy on Junk DNA

This link arrived via the HHMI Twitter feed – Sean R. Eddy’s FAQ on Junk DNA: The C-value paradox, junk DNA, and ENCODE.

The HHMI tweet refers to this as an upcoming Current Biology article. It’s a spectacularly clear and lucid exposition in a historical context of what junk DNA is. It clearly explains why ENCODE’s message that 80% of the human genome is functional is so off-base.

I don’t suppose it will deflect the inane claims of the Intelligent Design creationists. But one can only hope.

Thursday linkage

Since my time available for blogging has somewhat disappeared at the moment, I’m merely going to briefly link to postings generally relevant to creationism.

Peer reviewed Intelligent Design creationism?

Claims of Peer Review for Intelligent Design examined … and debunked – Dave Gamble reviews the supposedly peer reviewed publications of intelligent design creationism, focussing on the output of the Discovery Institute. His initial filter weeds out papers in BIO-Complexity, the house journal of the Biologic Insitute (the research arm of the DI). Similarly, other classes of output are cast aside. Dave’s conclusion?

The complete lack of any credible scientific evidence tells you all you really need to know. Is there any scientific foundation for Intelligent Design? The quick one word summary is “No“.
With no credible evidence on the table, any and all creationist claims need not be addressed, but instead should simply be dismissed. If they wish to ever assert a claim that is not dismissed, then they need to first go do some science that backs it up.

But you really should read the article.

ENCODE and the reality of junk DNA

Of course, the big news in the last few weeks has been the bizarre claims of the ENCODE project that they have identified a ‘function’ for 80% of the human genome…and they expect that proportion to increase. This was eagerly set upon by ID creationists as some kind of demolition of the existence of junk DNA, along with erroneous claims that junk DNA was originally defined or equated with non-coding DNA. Of course, the latter is incorrect, and anyway, the ENCODE project had to redefine ‘function’ to get the 80% figure. It’s worth reading ENCODE says what? at the Cryptogenomicon blog – written by labs who really know what they are talking about.

Similarly T. Ryan Gregory at Genomicron has weighed in: ENCODE spokesperson: 40%, not 80%; Student ENCODE authors show the way; Good reads about ENCODE; ENCODE (2012) vs. Comings (1972). Many of these articles present a clear historical perspective.

Sites like Genomicron and Cryptogenomicron have articles that really ought to put to rest this new fable that Junk DNA is a myth, but it has spread like wildfire round the internet at the hands of those who are too ignorant or deceitful to understand the reality of the data.

The Salem hypothesis revisited

Here’s a blog article that popped up in my Trapit app the other day: Intelligent Design, Evolution, & Molecular Machines. The author, Orrin Woodward, would appear to be an engineer. That an engineer might sign up to ID creationism shouldn’t really be a surprise (see The Salem Hypothesis).

Almost unbelievably, Woodward homes in on that most discredited example of irreducible complexity, the bacterial flagellum. Reading this made it seem I was in a time warp and had ended up pre-Dover! What gives the game away are a series of quotations from the bible. Woodward closes with an exhortation “Indeed, it’s not as important that we all think the same, but it is desperately important today that we all start to think.” Unfortunately, his blog article clearly demonstrates the author’s unwillingness to think beyond outdated and discredited creationist misrepresentation of biology and his own religion’s sacred texts.