Guided mutations

ID proponents claim that they aren’t insisting that the “designer” is the Christian god, but that the evidence points to some unknown designer. Mike Behe accepts common ancestry, but rejects the idea that random mutations can explain all of evolutionary history. Many theistic evolutionists also believe that god in some way “guides” evolution. For sake of argument let’s say that there is an unknown designer, but not necessarily the Christian god. If this designer had originally created DNA so that he/she/it/them wouldn’t need to intervene during evolution, but at specific points during evolutionary history something (maybe the environment or a mutation) would immediately trigger some other specific mutations to occur, would we find any evidence that certain mutations had been planned to occur, and weren’t random? As I said, I’m not saying that the designer is the Christian god, or that the designer is omniscient or omnipotent, so, for example, it could be an alien. I’m just interested in knowing if there is anyway to know if a “designer” had set things up in such a way that certain specific mutations would trigger other specific mutations so as to get a desired outcome. If so then evolution would be guided without the need for this alien, god, whoever, to intervene.

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An important distinction here is that most TE folk do not suggest that divine guidance is a scientifically testable hypothesis.

I suppose it;s possible for a divine designer to do this (more data needed), but by definition this rules out “knowing” the designers did anything at all.

Of the designer wants to be known, there is no need to go to all that trouble.

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I’m not assuming the designer must be a “God”, but if there was a designer who started of life on earth then stepped back without further intervention, but who had created the genome in such a way that certain mutations were pre-programmed to occur at certain points during evolution so that eventually human like intelligence would evolve, wouldn’t that involve some mechanism that we’d be able find?

This seems a lot like “front loading”, an IDC topic that is rarely mentioned any more.

I think this begs the question that such a mechanism is possible. IF it is possible, then we might have some idea of what to look for. Without some defining hypothesis this is indistinguishable from the godlike Tricky Designer who doesn’t want to be found.


Elliot Mudd,

Behe, and the great majority of Christians who are pro-Evolutionary science, believe in Providence - - i.e., that God works his design through his divinely ordained natural laws, INCLUDING EVOLUTION.

You waste your time arguing with Atheists.

George Brooks
Cell/Text: 813-215-0670

How would we find evidence of what caused some historical mutation? All we have is the mutation, not it’s cause. So I don’t see how that is possible.

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Hi George! :slight_smile:
I think @Elliot_Mudd is *asking,*not arguing.

I sort of agree with the premise that, in the absence of a divine designer, there ought to be some material mechanism that could be detected. The existence of such a artificial mechanism seems unlikely given that it would need to survive thru hundreds of millions of years of the same forces that are supposed to make evolution impossible.

Of course we already know of a natural mechanism to solve the problem - evolution itself.


Michael Denton suggested that the conditions set up with the creation of the universe resulted in the universe being optimized for the emergence of life and ultimately even to intelligent bipedal species like humans. He expected that it might be possible to find these other ‘laws’ / tendencies / attractors that cause life to converge on similar forms.

Then again, he predicted that specific proteins found in nature would work better in the organism in which they appear than synthetic proteins (modified genes) or even proteins from other species. This is not the case, however. That and others cases suggest that the basic laws of physics are not set up so as to constrain and direct life’s evolution nearly as tightly as Denton proposes.

I’d also note that Denton’s hypothesis about a universe designed to create life and human like intelligence would seem to have a hard time explaining the failure of SETI to find civilizations outside our solar system.

I find this line of inquiry to be rather bizarre. I completely agree that there should be no expectation that SCIENCE can discover a divine creator’s finger prints.

But if a person ALREADY believes in the Divine, that belief can easily dovetail with the idea that a divine creator can employ natural laws to arrange the desired outcomes.

This is consistent with the beliefs held by most Christians who ALSO support Evolutionary evidence and theories.

This view point differs from FRONTLOADING in only one regard: the divine creator would also receive (and sometimes respond to) prayers in real time!

I havd asked this question many times. All i hear is crickets. Even Behe has no answer to questions like:

“Are whales a degenerate/devolved form of mammal that has lost the ability to gallop a prairie? Or is it an evolved form of mammal able to spend extended time deep underwater?”

Behe has no way to distinguish between the two.

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One fact suggests to me that this isn’t possible, at least in the way you describe it:
If true randomness exists (something about the quantum world) then given the randomness inherent in protein function (for example, proteins continuously vibrate and this is central to their work), most kinds of mutation are unpredictable in principle. I suppose that if one denies the existence of true randomness, then everything is predictable in principle if not in practice. This would take us to a discussion of determinism… no thanks.

Otherwise, I think we can entertain the possibility that a “guided” mutation can be detected. More plausibly, we can entertain the possibility that we can find evidence of such guidance. My view is that we have to entertain this possibility for the simple reason that we know that mutations can be guided because we’ve done it ourselves, millions of times, in the lab.

My view, though, is that an intelligent designer need not guide mutations. They need only set up a biosphere like ours, with a lot of flexible tools (proteins most notably) and some favorable conditions (water etc) then wait for the system to bring forth wonders. This assumes, of course, that the intelligent designer ever wanted the stuff that we see. Maybe she wanted a time-traveling humanoid with two hearts.

And finally, why mention proteins at all if the topic is DNA mutation? Because most mutations arise from replication errors, and replication is accomplished by protein machines. Other kinds of mutations (caused by environmental mutagens such as UV) seem even less predictable, in principle, to me. Maybe the only kind of “designed” mutation-generating system that is reasonably detectable is a fragile site, and there are plenty of those around.

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Front-loading implies that the “designer” knew intimate details of what the physical world would be millions of years ahead, as well as the dynamics and history of the biosphere.

Sounds like “god-like powers” to me.

Yeah, that’s where I was coming from. I’m not talking about all (or the majority) mutation being guided. But rather in extremely rare instances, when a particular mutation occurs it could trigger a few other mutations that are pre planned to occur. I know a computer program is not the best analogy when discussing DNA, but you could imagine a computer program randomly generating numbers (similar to random variation mutation in evolution), but that when a certain combination appeared the computer program triggers some pre planned mutations. I’m not sure if this mechanism would be as easy to detect until the right combination was reached and the point the correct combination was reached, and the pre planned mutations suddenly occurred. I’m using the idea of aliens in the question as opposed to god so as to avoid simply saying they divine providence (supernatural) would answer it.

Yes I’m aware some ID proponents view that as a possibility. But some ID proponents also put forward other ideas such as front loading. I don’t consider speaking to atheists about this an issue. I’m not a theist myself.

As long as Christian evolutionists include God answering prayers as part of their scenario, it isnt “front loading”.

Since the great majority of Western Christians accept evolution, in the millions, favoring the atheist version of Evolution is both distracting and non-responsive to the most popular version of “Old Earth” Evolutionary theory.

I’m not assuming the “designer” is “divine”. I know that if we invoke the supernatural we can talk about divine providence etc. I’m looking at this from the point of view of a natural process and if it would necessarily be detectable or not. If the entire evolutionary process was preprogrammed so that each mutation was guided by some type of physical mechanism then I think we should be able to detect it. But, like I said in a previous comment, we could imagine a computer program randomly generating numbers (similar to random mutation in evolution), but that when a certain combination appeared the computer program triggers some pre planned event (like a specific mutation). I’m not sure if this would be as easy to detect until the right combination was reached and the point the correct combination was reached, and the pre planned mutations suddenly occurred. In my original question I mentioned the designer being aliens as opposed to god so as to avoid simply saying that divine providence (supernatural) would answer it.

I agree - we should be able to detect it - and the easiest way would be to look for exceptions to Common Descent. This mechanism has no need to restrict itself to the nested hierarchy predicted by evolution. In fact it would need to be aware of all other life and purposely avoid breaking that pattern, so we are back to the Tricky Designer again.

It seems to me that we already know this mechanism, and it is evolution itself.

Wouldn’t that depend on how much you think the “designer” had pre-planned the evolutionary process? If he’d planned every detail then yes, that would require “god-like powers.” But if the “designer” didn’t care precisely how evolutionary history turned out, except that at some point a species would evolve human like intelligence then very few mutations would need to be preprogrammed so as to keep evolution “on track.” The chance of human like intelligence evolving is extremely unlikely, but if certain mutations were preprogrammed to occur then wouldn’t the make it far more likely? So the “designer” wouldn’t need to know all the intimate details of what the physical world would be millions of years ahead, as well as the dynamics and history of the biosphere, they’d simply need to know that organisms with brains would evolve at some point, and then certain preprogrammed mutations would make it likely that human level intelligence would evolve.

I can dream up some barely-plausible scenarios that would look a bit like this. They’re painfully strained, batshit-level implausible, and… this is important… utterly unnecessary from an explanatory point of view. In other words, to echo @Dan_Eastwood, we already have a robust and creative mechanism. Nevertheless, if we wanted to look for evidence of a superintelligence “guiding” evolution so as to create us, there are some things we could look for. We could also look for bleu cheese at the moon’s core, and that would be equally reasonable.

The mechanism to create programmed mutations would be problematic. Where would it be located? How would it act? Most importantly, how would it be preserved until it was needed, as at all other times it would be subject to random mutations with no selection acting to maintain its function?