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In addition, now that both the human and mouse genomes have been sequenced, researchers know that 99 percent of mouse genes are similar to those found in humans. Even more amazingly, 96 percent of the genes in both mice and men are present in the same order on their different genomes. Why would this be? A fascinating question for intelligent design researchers to answer is what constrains the super-intelligent purple space squid creators (or any other intelligent creator) to use the same genes over and over again in millions of species?
And here's another minor curiosity: Why did the purple space squids design humans so that we need to eat foods like oranges that provide us with vitamin C? Without vitamin C people die of the deficiency disease scurvy. It turns out that the super-intelligent squids created nearly all other mammals so that they have genes—including the GLO gene—that synthesize this vitamin in their livers. Biologists have discovered that when the purple space squids created us, they for some reason left a broken remnant of the GLO gene in our genomes. There is one group of mammals that share our inability to make vitamin C —orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and macques all have broken GLO genes. Even more interestingly, biologists have found that gorillas and chimpanzees have exactly the same errors in their GLO genes that people do. So why did the purple space squids create those species along with us with exactly the same errors so that they and we could not produce vitamin C?
One other consideration: Are the intelligent designers—the super-intelligent purple space squids—finished creating new species? Are they resting from their creative labors for now? What evidence would show that intelligent designers are still at work creating new species around us? And how would we know?
The point of the foregoing is that intelligent design proponents do not have good answers to the questions I have posed. But evolutionary biologists do. In his new book, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul, Brown University biologist Kenenth Miller argues, "Design rests ultimately on the claim of ignorance, upon the hope that science cannot show evolution to be capable of producing complex organs, assemblies of molecules, or novel biological information. If evolution cannot achieve that, the argument goes, then design must be the answer.
"Since any field of biology, including evolution, is filled with unsolved problems, intelligent design can be invoked as the default explanation for any one of them," adds Miller. "The hypothesis of design is compatible with any conceivable data, makes no testable predictions, and suggests no new avenues of research."
Ultimately, the intelligent design hypothesis just leaves everything up to the ineffable whims of the moral equivalent of super-intelligent purple space squids or whoever else is the alleged "source of design."
One addendum: During his presentations, Gilder claimed several times that evolutionary biology somehow undermined the notions of freedom and economics. He just couldn't seem to get his head around the concept of bottom-up order. This so frustrated me that I eventually quipped, "Intelligent design is to evolutionary biology what socialism is to free-market economics."
Ronald Bailey is reason's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.
Disclosure: I want to gratefully confess that I took many of the arguments I used in the debate from Kenneth Miller's interesting new book.