Jorn Dyerberg on Intelligent Design

Here is a brief podcast interview of Jorn Dyerberg, the Danish biologist and co-discoverer of the role of omega-3 fatty acids in human health and nutrition, in which he endorses intelligent design.

He would seem to be another accomplished research scientist who does not think that design inferences are irrational, or anti-scientific.

Thanks, but I’m pretty sure we all agree that design inferences, in principle, can be rational and scientific.


Hi Eddie
Here is the ENV page for the podcast. The podcast itself did not upload.

Omega-3 Nutrition Pioneer Tells How He Saw Irreducible Complexity in Cells 40 Years Ago | Multimedia Library.pdf (71.4 KB)

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Did you listen to the interview? I doubt very much whether anyone here would agree with his view that the citrate cycle arose from design is scientific.

That is a separate point. I was responding to:

I’m unaware of any scientists that seriously maintains that science cannot make design inferences. We just do it in a different way than does ID, and we treat divine design different than creaturely design.


I haven’t listened to the podcast, nor will I do so, but if he says that the citric acid cycle could not have arisen by some version of an evolutionary process, then he’s just sharing an opinion. Maybe others around here would say that isn’t “scientific,” but I’m not one of them and I don’t think it even matters whether it’s “scientific.” I’m more interested in whether his opinions are based on sound judgment of current knowledge and whether the reasoning is rational. And I’m completely uninterested in–and unimpressed by–his unrelated expertise.


Joshua, you added this clause after I posted my reply, so it does not appear in my quotation or my response. I add some brief remarks:

1-- Since you were speaking about scientists generally, and not just scientists who were theists, “we treat divine design different(ly)”, sounds very odd. I would say that a good number of scientists, and probably the majority of biologists (especially biologists in the NAS), don’t think God exists, and don’t treat of “divine design” at all.

2-- You will have to speak for yourself, since I know you don’t like to define yourself as a TE, but a very common position among TEs is that design in nature is discernible “only through the eyes of faith.” Such TEs, given that position, must reject arguments for design that presume to be religion-neutral, that rely only on the data of nature and rational inferences therefrom. That is, if a theistic scientist is convinced, as a matter of principle, that design can only be perceived by faith, that scientist will, as a matter of principle, reject design arguments of exactly the type that modern ID offers (or for that matter, that Paley offered). They will say that design arguments are not the sort of thing that science can provide-- that they belong wholly within the realm of faith.

Good. I agree.

I agree.

What makes you think he does not have related expertise? Do you doubt that in his biological training he learned a great deal about the citrate cycle? But this is a side-point. I agree most of what you said.

Has he written a 1000 page book that describes in exacting detail all the scientific evidence that brings him to this conclusion?

Asking for a friend.


Joshua, in the past you have given examples of “design inferences” legitimate in science (I think one of them might have been an inference of a man-made rather than wild strain of some crop, based on the genome), and they aren’t the sort of design inferences that ID people are primarily concerned with. I think you know that. And I think you know that most mainstream biologists deny the possibility of design inferences of the type that ID people are talking about, e.g., the inference that design had to be involved for the first life, or that it had to involved for the evolution of the eye, or for the evolution of winged flight. You see the atheist biologists here fighting tooth and nail against any design inference of that sort that has ever been proposed, from Paley through to modern ID. And it’s only that sort of design inference that is culturally controversial. The sort of design inferences that you say scientists allow aren’t the culturally controversial ones.

In this case, Dyerberg is making exactly the sort of design inference that most people posting here would reject. He frames the origin of the citrate cycle in terms of “chance” vs. “intelligent design” and opts for design. I am betting that John Harshman, Arthur Hunt, Rumraket, and T. aquaticus all believe that the citrate cycle evolved without any help from design.

I am not trying to prove that Dyerberg is right; I’m merely giving him as an example of bona fide research scientist – and a highly regarded one – who not only thinks that design inferences about biological origins are permissible, but has even drawn a specific inference regarding a cycle whose origin is by many claimed to be already “known” to be due to standard evolutionary processes. The standard line that ID supporters aren’t real scientists, but just philosophers of science or non-active scientists, does not apply here. That was my only point.

If people here want to start arguing about the citrate cycle and why Dyerberg is wrong, they are welcome to do so. I won’t be participating in any such argument. I just wanted to register that the design inference in this particular case comes from someone that no one here could deny is a competent, published, and very good research scientist. The usual charge around here, that I get all the time from the likes of Tim and Faizal Ali, is that ID people don’t understand how science is done; well, they won’t be able to say that Dyerberg doesn’t know how science is done. They might disagree with him, but they will have to drop their typical line of argument, i.e., that only someone who did not understand what science was would claim what Dyerberg claimed.

Seems to be the usual argument from ignorance and personal incredulity. “This is soooo complex and I can’t understand how it could evolve, therefore DESIGN!”. Same ol’ same ol’ from the DI.

Meanwhile on the science education front:

The evolution of the Krebs cycle: A promising subject for meaningful learning of biochemistry

Abstract: Evolution has been recognized as a key concept for biologists. To enhance comprehension and motivate biology undergraduates for the contents of central energetic metabolism, we addressed the Krebs cycle structure and functions in an evolutionary view. To this end, we created a study guide that contextualizes the emergence of the cyclic pathway, in light of the prokaryotic influence since the early anaerobic condition of the Earth to increase oxygen in the atmosphere. The study guide is composed of three interrelated sections: (1) a problem, designed to arouse curiosity, inform and motivate students, (2) a text about life evolution, including early microorganisms and the emergence of the Krebs cycle, and (3) questions for debate. The activity consisted on individual reading and peer discussion based on this written material, under the guidance of the instructors. The questions were designed to foster debate in an ever‐increasing level of complexity and to strengthen the main contextual aspects leading to emergence, evolving, and permanency of a complex metabolic pathway. Based on classroom observation, analysis of student’s written responses, and individual interviews, we noticed they were engaged and motivated by the task, especially during group discussion. The whole experience suggests that the study guide was a stimulus to broaden the comprehension of the Krebs cycle, reinforcing the evolutionary approach as an important subject for learning purposes.


Yes that seems about right. And that demonstrates that scientists have no problem inferring design. The issue is with the specific inferences being made by ID.

And yes this guy may be making that ID sort inference, but the fact it is an inference to design isn’t the problem.

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Why don’t you guys invite him here to explain his reasoning? It might be a useful discussion.

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Sure. Send him an invite, and cc me. I’ll invite him along too. :slight_smile:

Hey Eddie, rather than speak in general terms about the criticisms various pro-ID ideas have received here in the past, it would be helpful if you could quote people directly instead. That way we could see how you’re not actually describing people’s positions all that well.

Be specific, what IS the design inference they have been fighting tooth and nail, and with what arguments did they do so? What did they actually say? In what way are they “not allowed”, and what did people actually say? Not your undertanding of it, but their own words please. It’s easy to do this kind of uncharitable summary of people’s positions rather than letting them speak for themselves.


Oh man, I just listened to that podcast with Jorn Dyerberg to hear his design inference. It’s standard irreducible complexity stuff. The idea is that the full Krebs cycle couldn’t evolve by standard “neo-Darwinian” means because what good would one or a few enzymes of the pathway be, you’d need the complete cycle, otherwise you have one or a handful of useless enzymes waiting millions of years before the next enzymes in the cycle evolves. And so on and so forth until finally the complete cycle.

But this is exactly where this putative “lack of progress in origin of life research” we’ve been told about before isn’t actually lacking. Turns out you don’t actually need hosts of enzymes to catalyze basic reactions in ancient metabolic networks. Metals and minerals can catalyze the reactions. And there’s even a good historical explanation for why this wasn’t discovered until about 2016-2017(it has to do with whether the instruments are capable of detecting the reactions), which you can read about in the first reference below:

Ralser M. An appeal to magic? The discovery of a non-enzymatic metabolism and its role in the origins of life. Biochem J . 2018;475(16):2577-2592. Published 2018 Aug 30. doi:10.1042/BCJ20160866

Keller MA, Kampjut D, Harrison SA, Ralser M. Sulfate radicals enable a non-enzymatic Krebs cycle precursor. Nat Ecol Evol . 2017;1(4):83. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0083

Muchowska KB, Varma SJ, Chevallot-Beroux E, Lethuillier-Karl L, Li G, Moran J. Metals promote sequences of the reverse Krebs cycle. Nat Ecol Evol . 2017;1(11):1716-1721. doi:10.1038/s41559-017-0311-7

Springsteen G, Yerabolu JR, Nelson J, Rhea CJ, Krishnamurthy R. Linked cycles of oxidative decarboxylation of glyoxylate as protometabolic analogs of the citric acid cycle. Nat Commun . 2018;9(1):91. Published 2018 Jan 8. doi:10.1038/s41467-017-02591-0

Varma SJ, Muchowska KB, Chatelain P, Moran J. Native iron reduces CO2 to intermediates and end-products of the acetyl-CoA pathway. Nat Ecol Evol . 2018;2(6):1019-1024. doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0542-2

Muchowska KB, Varma SJ, Moran J. Synthesis and breakdown of universal metabolic precursors promoted by iron. Nature . 2019;569(7754):104-107. doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1151-1

There seems to have been a veritable explosion of research into these kinds of metal/mineral catalyzed versions of primitive metabolism recently.


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