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Do we just imagine design in nature?

Or is seeing design fundamental to discovering and using nature’s secrets?
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Frances Arnold (2012)/Beavercheme (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Michael Egnor reflects on the way in which the 2018 Nobel Prize in Chemistry has so often gone to those who intuit or impose desire or seek the purpose of things:

Drs. Arnold, Smith, and Winter discovered an ingenious way to design biological molecules for specific purposes. They used random variation of the sort that occurs in nature — the sort of variation that accomplishes no biological purposes — and by applying intelligent selection of molecules suited to the designers’ (the scientists’) purposes, they were able to engineer biomolecules for specific tasks with remarkable effectiveness and efficiency.

Drs. Arnold, Smith, and Winter applied intelligent design methodology to biological science to transcend purposeless unintelligent Darwinian mechanisms. Their use of intelligent design methodology is only the most recent remarkably successful application of the design inference to biology. For example, the discovery of the structure and function of DNA by Watson and Crick was critically dependent on the inference that there was a purpose — a design — to its structure. The structure of DNA had to account for the purposes DNA accomplishes (encoding protein structure, replicating the genome, etc.).

Linus Pauling’s groundbreaking work on protein structure in the early 20th century (for which he won the Nobel Prize) depended critically on his correct inference that the structure of a protein must account for the purpose the protein serves in cellular metabolism. Most Nobel Prizes in biological sciences have been awarded to researchers who used the design inference extensively in their work — from Golgi who revealed much of the structure and function of neurons, to Dale and Loewi who studied chemical transmission of nerve impulses, to Holley, Khorana, and Nirenberg who studied the genetic code and the mechanism of protein synthesis, to Axelrod who studied synaptic transmission, to Kandel who investigated signal transduction in the nervous system, to Békésy and Bárány who elucidated cochlear and vestibular function.

None of these researchers used any inference to randomness or purposeless in biological function. All were guided by the inference to purpose and design. No scientist has ever won a Nobel Prize for research restricted to a Darwinian — that is, an unintelligent — perspective on biological function. The inference to purposes — the inference to design — is what guided so much of the best biological science of the modern era.

The best research in modern biology is motivated by the design inference, whether explicitly or implicitly. Michael Egnor, “Intelligent Design Wins Another Nobel Prize” at Evolution News and Science Today:

Michael Egnor is a neurosurgeon, professor of Neurological Surgery and Pediatrics and Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, Neurological Surgery, Stonybrook School of Medicine

Also by Michael Egnor: Does your brain construct your conscious reality? Part I
A reply to computational neuroscientist Anil Seth’s recent TED talk

Does your brain construct your conscious reality? Part II In a word, no. Your brain doesn’t “think”; YOU think, using your brain

Do we just imagine design in nature?