Design: More Intelligent Every Day

Synthetic biology requires intelligent design, but not the kind they teach in Kansas

Glenn McGee
Jan 1, 2006

Thanks to a recent court decision, children in Kansas will learn that the fossil record of our planet holds evidence of "irreducibly complex" traits, biological wonders that seem to sophisticated to be products of natural selection. Advocates of intelligent design argue that such complexity of biological life reveals evidence of a designer.

A different sort of designer is working in the nascent filed of synthetic biology. These scientists generate novel biological functions through the design and construction of living systems (see Is This Life?). Synthetic biologists manipulate the most complex biological interactions using the tools of engineering and computer science. It has borne fruit in the design of genomes, proteins, devices, integrated biological systems, and even cell-circuit hybrids. Synthetic biologists use evolution as a method. That seems pretty intelligent.

William Paley probably wasn't imagining such researchers when he expounded on the form of the intelligent design theory that children...