Post-Genomics Blog

Forging a connection between research and clinical applications.

Molecular Biology and the New Creationism?

Molecular Biology and the New Creationism?1

The decision in the Dover creationism trial last month probably came as a relief to most biologists worried about the status of our science in the nation’s high schools. Unimpressed by the arguments of renegade biochemists such as Michael Behe, a judge ruled that “ID [Intelligent Design] is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.�2 The judge was equally correct in holding that the ID creationists’ arguments were old, in fact going back to William Paley’s argument from design from the early nineteenth century. But one aspect of the dispute has changed, in fact changed radically from even twenty years ago, when Scientific Creationism rather than Intelligent Design was on trial.3 All of Intelligent Design’s examples and arguments are molecular. There are two questions lurking here. Why have the creationists gone molecular? And what can we expect from them in the future, given that genomics is revealing more and more complex detail about the organization and behavior of genomes? We should think about these questions seriously because, in spite of this defeat, these well-funded creationists4 are not about to go away.

Systems Biology

Systems Biology1
Over a half-century ago, the renowned (and eccentric)2 mathematician, Norbert Wiener, suggested that living organisms be viewed as systems governed by feedback control.3 Wiener attempted to found a new discipline—“cybernetics�—for the study of such systems. In spite of Wiener’s impassioned proselytization on behalf of the new discipline, cybernetics didn’t amount to much. It generated some excitement in the social sciences in the 1950s4 and then fizzled out. Engineers occasionally referred to cybernetic concepts (especially feedback) but that’s about it. In biology, especially in the emerging field of molecular biology, cybernetics proved to be a disaster.5 Strangely, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, Wiener’s vision has returned with a vengeance.

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