DNA Design and Science

DNA Design and Science

Most of us know that we have something called genes that determine our physical characteristics, which pass on to our children. Genes are pieces of a molecule called deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This molecule consists of two chains of alternating sugar and phosphate groups that coil around each other to form a double helix. These simple units line up in that double helix in a way that carries information much like the pages of a huge book. The DNA design carries much of the information that makes us who we are.

The complexity of the DNA molecule is astounding, and its size is even more so. If all the DNA molecules in your body were uncoiled and laid end-to-end, it would stretch from here to Pluto and back. Humans do not have the largest DNA molecules. A flowering plant native to Japan called Paris Japonica has a DNA molecule 50 times longer than human DNA. 

DNA was discovered in 1869 by Swiss Biochemist Friedrich Miescher, who called it nuclein. In the early 1940s, bacteriologist Oswald Avery discovered DNA’s connection to genetics. James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA design in 1953. 

Because the molecule is so large and complex, the opportunities to study it and make practical use of it are almost limitless. Scientists are using synthetic DNA to create vaccines. Some DNA vaccines have been successful in animals. At this time, some scientists around the world are working on COVID-19 vaccines using DNA.

Scientists are developing other uses for DNA coding. The Consortium for the Barcode of Life (CBOL) is working to establish barcodes to identify plant and animal species. The use of DNA has solved many criminal investigations. Modification of DNA has given us genetically modified foods.

There are two lessons we can learn from this. First, the complexity of DNA design boggles the mind. Suggesting that it is the product of random chance seems much less likely than the idea that an intelligence designed it. That leads us to the question of whether we are playing God in some DNA experiments. We have previously talked about genetically modified babies. The extreme complexity of DNA makes it much more likely for a human error, causing harm to others. Scientists working with DNA manipulation should be guided by reverence for the Creator and the life that He created.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Expert in All Fields – Or Not

Many years ago, we had an article in our printed periodical titled, “When Does Ph.D. mean Post Hole Digger.” The point of the article was that being well informed in one field does not make you an expert in all fields. Famous Ph.D. scientists can make serious mistakes when speaking or writing outside of their areas of expertise.

Science writers Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov wrote articles and books against Christianity and the Bible. Their training and knowledge in science were excellent, but their theology was very limited and, therefore, full of errors. In today’s world, we see well-known atheists like evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writing books and making speeches about God. His understanding of what God is and what the Bible actually says is full of errors. If he were not famous for his scientific knowledge in biology, his theological discussions would not get any coverage in the media.

In the May/June 2020 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the cover article is titled “The Nobel Disease – When Intelligence Fails to Protect Against Irrationality.” The article points out that even a Nobel Prize winner is not an expert in all fields. As a result, they have presented some very destructive teachings and beliefs. The discoverer of the transistor was William Shockley, who received a Nobel Prize in 1956. Shockley maintained that blacks were genetically inferior to whites and should be paid to volunteer to be sterilized. James Watson, the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA, received a Nobel prize in 1962. Watson maintained that blacks are inherently less intelligent than whites and that exposure to sunlight increases sexual urges.

Many Nobel Prize winners promoted ideas and procedures that were not only incorrect but were sometimes dangerous. Our point here is that it is not valid to use an expert in one area to prove something in an area outside of their field. We are not merely talking about personal belief systems but scientific concepts and principles that control what people do and influence national political policy. A Ph.D. In science in an area of science does not make one an expert in all fields.

Many Nobel Prize winners are believers in God. We have a column in our quarterly journal titled “Scientists and God” which quotes many of those famous believing scientists. The purpose of that column is to show that being a scientist does not preclude personal faith in God. The aim is not to scientifically prove anything or to promote any action or political policy. We simply want young people to know that a good scientist doesn’t have to be an atheist.

— John N. Clayton © 2020

James Watson’s Racial Remarks

James Watson's Racial Remarks
One of the most famous scientists in recent history is James Watson. Watson along with Francis Crick discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, and they received a Nobel Prize for their work. Even though he is 90 years old, Watson has been highly sought after as a speaker. James Watson’s racial remarks have changed things.

In early January of 2019, Watson was interviewed in a PBS documentary titled “American Masters: Decoding Genetics.” In that interview, he said that “genes are responsible for inferior intelligence among blacks.” There are so many problems with this claim that it is hard to know where to start. There are valuable lessons to be learned as well.

The claim that blacks have inferior intelligence is a very ignorant statement. I have a degree in psychometry which is the study of tests and how they are constructed and used. I.Q. tests are loaded with cultural bias, and there are many different types of I.Q. In my early days working under David Segal at Indiana University, I studied the Stanford-Benet I.Q. test and the Otis I.Q. test. As a personal demonstration of the problems with I.Q., my foster son Tim would consistently score 40-50 on the Stanford-Benet test, and yet he would score 90-100 on the Otis. The Otis was a test based on verbal skills. Because we read to Tim regularly during his childhood years, he had average verbal skills. The Stanford-Benet was not verbal but was based on reasoning. Tim was and is mentally challenged in those areas.

Many blacks do score lower on I.Q. tests that were written by upper-class whites in New England. On an I.Q. test written by a black author raised in a profoundly racist geographic area, blacks have better scores than whites. Unbiased testing does not support Watson’s assumption that blacks have inferior intelligence.

Another issue is that there are different kinds of intelligence. Koko, the gorilla trained by Penny Patterson, could use the sign language of the deaf. His I.Q. score was in the 90s, close to normal human values, on a test that measured literary capability. On a test that measured scientific reasoning, the scores were far lower. That test measured a different kind of intelligence.

Because of James Watson’s racial remarks, the laboratory he once led stripped him of honorary titles. The Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory immediately printed a statement saying Watson’s comments were “reprehensible and completely without a scientific basis and were a misuse of science to justify prejudice.”

The Bible describes humans as created in the image of God, and condemns all attempts to separate humans on any criteria. “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Because a man is an expert in one field of study does not mean his opinions should be held superior to others. Watson is an expert on DNA. He is not an expert on racial origins or how our understanding of the function of DNA impacts areas as nebulous as intelligence. James Watson’s racial remarks make that clear.
–John N. Clayton © 2019