“Junk” DNA: Same Fallacious Reasoning, Different Day

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I haven’t been inspired to write much lately but today I caught wind of the whole ENCODE thing. I don’t know what (a)theists are saying about this, but I can imagine. My bet is that it’s business as usual: snarl, hype, misinformation and a noticeable absence of statements even remotely construable as conciliatory. As the “junk DNA” thing is old news, I don’t have much to say about it, other than to warn atheists against disbelief bolstered by illogic.

That biologists haven’t identified a function for organ X does not justify the inference that organ X is functionless. That geneticists haven’t identified a function for genome Y does not justify the inference that genome Y is functionless. This is the same type of logical error many atheists make when they tromp haphazardly down POE lane: that atheists can’t identify a higher good for suffering X does not justify the inference that suffering X has no higher good. These are textbook fallacies of incredulity.

Apparently Jerry Coyne was “strangely silent” about ENCODE at the recent WEIT conference. It’s not hard to imagine why he might be. After all, like many atheists, Coyne warmly embraces the illogic of previous Darwinists with regard to so-called “vestigial organs.” You’d think our rational superiors would learn from their mistakes, but this is where that “scientists are typically horrible philosophers” thing really comes to light.

May the episode serve as another reminder: if you really care about having true beliefs, be careful with your inferences lest you wind up mistaking a fallacious one as justified.

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