More Evidence of Intelligent Design

Science Daily is reporting today on a study about the human-directed “evolution” of St. Bernards.  This is an area close to my heart since I am such a dog lover, and it’s a great example of ID science in action.  We can trace what the human-directed selective pressures accomplished in this breed of dog.  This is ID science; not evolution, except in the general sense of change over time.  Of course, at the end of the article, the author has to throw in the disclaimer against Creationism and ID:

“Creationism is the belief that all living organisms were created according to Genesis in six days by ‘intelligent design’ and rejects the scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.

“But this research once again demonstrates how selection — whether natural or, in this case, artificially influenced by man — is the fundamental driving force behind the evolution of life on the planet.”

These two paragraphs don’t flow at all with the rest of the article and are clearly put there to assuage the Darwinista.  They are very wrong too.  The author first tries to link ID with Creationism, which is incorrect.  Then, the author tries to conflate selection with Darwinism, when we all know that Darwinism also relies on random mutation to supply the material for selection to use.  That was not what happened here, however.  This was selective breeding, which is part of ID science.


31 responses to “More Evidence of Intelligent Design

  1. Just so I understand – breeding is intelligent design science, correct? Is this what I am reading here? If so, does this apply for all human-directed breeding?

    Thanks for clarifying this.

  2. professorsmith

    Yes, it is an example of ID science.

  3. Ok. Two questions for follow-ups:

    1. Can we agree that the breeding of humans by humans would also be an example of ID science?

    2. Do (or did) humans determine or direct or create the specific mutations that gave us St. Bernards (as well as other dog breed)?

  4. Of course, you could wait several billion years and nature would never, on its own, produce a St Bernard from an Arctic wolf. A few centuries of intelligently directed selection, and no problem. Thereby illustrating that intelligence can do in short order what nature could never do left to its own. Why domestic breeding is supposed to be illustrative of evolution in action is a mystery to me.

    Dawkins, in his absurd “review” of Behe in the NYT, used dog breeding as an instrument of mockery. But surely he doesn’t believe that starting with nothing but Chihuahuas we could breed an Arctic Wolf, does he? Domestic breeding merely segregates pre-existing genetic information. With intelligent breeding action you can get Chihuahuas from wolves. Without it you can’t (since nature can’t supply the sufficient selection coefficients on its own). And with intelligent breeding alone, you’re never going to get wolves from Chihuahuas. The genetic info required has been bred out. So I don’t know what dog breeding is supposed to prove about macroevolution. Therefore I find it ludicrous when Darwinists start swinging it around like it was some kind of deadly weapon.

  5. To be more concise:

    The Darwinist argument is along the lines of “If measly human beings can do so much in so short a time via domestic breeding, just imagine what mighty nature can do on its own in millions of years!”

    My answer is: “Lacking intelligent guidance, I’d imagine that mighty nature would be able to accomplish a whole hell of a lot less.”

    Another example: The age of the universe would be insufficient to expect a card shuffling machine to blindly yield an ordered deck. A human being can get it done in a couple of minutes. Therefore, as a general proposition, the idea that unguided nature trumps intelligent activity if you just give it time, is simply false. The Darwinist extrapolation from artificial to natural selection is a complete non-sequitur.

  6. professorsmith

    I see where you are going with your questions. The answer to the first is, “Yes.” I might take some heat from my fellow ID science advocates, but eugenics is actually an example of ID, just as dog breeding. Of course, I know that you won’t stoop to the argument that this somehow invalidates ID science (is/ought fallacy) because surely you realize that the truth of a scientific endeavor has nothing to do with how people use it.

  7. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    Do me a favor and read the paper (as opposed to press releases and news articles) when you get a chance. Here is the reference.

    A. G. Drake and C. P. Klingenberg, The pace of morphological change: historical transformation of skull shape in St Bernard dogs, doi:10.1098/rspb.2007.1169

  8. professorsmith

    Have you read it?

  9. Oleg Tchernyshyov

    I have.

  10. What about my second question?

  11. professorsmith

    Mr. Tchernyshyov,
    Then, perhaps you can tell me how it is relevant. I know, that statement must be shocking, but in this case I am willing to make that comment. We are talking about directed evolution and how it comprises an example of ID. No matter what the authors claim, or how much they claim that it is an example of evolution, that is simply not true.

    Pardon me, I did miss that one.

    Humans certainly directed the mutations that would occur. As Mendel figured out, genes are passed from parent to off-spring. In using that knowledge, humans directed which genes would be passed. This is ID.

  12. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    I do find it shocking that you dismiss the authors’ conclusions without having even seen the paper and do so in such strong terms as “No matter what the authors claim… that is simply not true.” There can be no dialogue if one side refuses to listen.

    Now let me address your interpretation of this work as an example of ID. You say in response to Art that “genes are passed from parent to off-spring. In using that knowledge, humans directed which genes would be passed. This is ID.” You’re making a simple error here.

    Dog breeders don’t tinker with genes, as your interpretation suggests. In fact, even if they examined the DNA of every puppy they wouldn’t know what to do with it: we still don’t know which genes are responsible for which physical traits. (That work is just beginning: you might want to read papers by Elaine Ostrander.)

    Instead, dog breeders provide feedback by selection, just as Nature does. The difference is merely quantitative: selection costs in breeding are much higher than they are in the wild. That speeds up the evolution allowing us to observe it over the course of a century, thanks to this work.

    On the genetic level artificial breeding works exactly in the same way as in the wild: random mutations provide the raw material from which either human breeders or natural conditions select better fit animals.

  13. professorsmith

    It’s not about “refus[ing] to listen” it’s about definitions. This is one definition of ID. It is the materialists who refuse to recognize this point.

    As for knowing which genes will be passed, that is absurd. We might not know which specific genes contribute to certain traits, but we don’t have to. If I have a dog that is larger than the others, I don’t need to know which specific gene it has that makes it larger in order to breed that dog trying to make more large dogs. It’s like a computer program. I don’t need to know which registers or stacks are being used in order to use my word processor to design the outcome that I want. I am directing those stacks and registers to give me my outcome without tinkering with them directly.

    Further, this ensures that we aren’t bound by waiting for random mutations to come along when we select. In fact, we are hoping that certain mutations do not occur and selectively increasing the rate of others. IOW, it is not random, but part of the direction and artificial selection of the breeders. This isn’t a case of speeding up evolution, as we would not have St. Bernards and Chihuahuas without breeding the specific traits those dogs carry.

    Again, this is ID.

  14. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    Once again, you are making a very elementary mistake. Breeding does not affect the frequency of mutations. It works on a different level, by selecting individuals whose genes already have mutations that enhance desirable traits.

    Look, before you criticize the theory of evolution you ought to learn what it says. You say as much on another thread. Why don’t you follow your own advice and crack a high-school biology book for once?

  15. Oleg Tchernyshyov

    The frequency of mutations can be changed to aid breeders.

    To do so, you irradiate organisms with X or gamma rays. That increases the rate of random mutations thus creating a larger variety of genes. While most mutations are neutral or harmful, there are a few that are beneficial. Selecting these lucky few organisms lets you create new breeds faster than by mere selective breeding.

    This is not a speculation. Radiation breeding has been successfully used to create new varieties of rice, pears, beans, grapefruit and more. Here’s a popular article in the New York Times describing the technique: Useful Mutants, Bred With Radiation.

    St. Bernards, on the other hand, are the result of selective breeding, with no speed-up (or slow-down) of random mutations.

  16. professorsmith

    Mr. Tchernyshyov,
    Your crack that I should “crack a high-school biology book for once” is duly noted. In the future, perhaps you will purport yourself with more humility, considering that you are arguing outside of your field and losing.

    Did the breeders of St. Bernards irradiate organisms with X or gamma rays? No, they did not. Please stay on topic. Further, once you throw in the element of artificial selection, it is no longer evolution in an NDE sense, it is ID. There can be no argument about this, it is definitional. I suggest that you actually learn something about ID instead of relying on the canards that you have so careless tossed about quite a few times on this blog.

  17. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    Please tell me in what way artificial selection of a trait differs from its natural selection. Both are directed and nonrandom processes.

  18. I guess I don’t see an answer to my question, professorsmith. I’m not interested in the results of election that may favor particular combinations of alleles, I’m interested in your opinions as to the origins of these alleles. Do you think that humans deliberately altered the DNA of dogs to produce breeds such as the ST. Bernard? If so, then how? What technology or methods did they use? (I see that you don’t think random mutation was used . Are you of the opinion that dog breeders introduced specific DNA sequence changes that they knew or expected ahead of time would yield the results they wanted?)

    Or maybe you think that all of the alleles that contribute to the phenotypic variation we see in dogs were present in the ancestral wolf population. If this is the case, do have any experimental data that supports your opinion? Have you thought this through to the point where you can speculate as to the likelihood of this explanation?

  19. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    I’m starting to understand your insistence on labeling this paper as one that supports ID. You seem to think that involvement of human beings in the selection process makes it qualitatively, vastly different from natural selection. I find it interesting (hence the question in my previous post) and want to pursue this avenue for a while. I’m genuinely interested.

    It is obvious to me that treating anything that involves intelligence on a totally separate footing leads to some considerable problems. For instance, you refuse to even consider natural and artificial selection as similar phenomena, which can be quantified using the same math. It’s a bit like using different calculus for apples and oranges on the basis of their difference. Can be counterproductive. After all, we know that the laws of physics, chemistry and biology apply to intelligent human beings.

    But perhaps the downside is compensated by an upside. I don’t see any upside, however, not in the biological context, anyway. Permit me to explain why.

    Let’s adopt your position that selective breeding of dogs is totally, absolutely different from natural selection and instead should be considered an instance of intelligent design. It should then be noted that this instance of intelligent design also leads to rather unpleasant side effects, such as hundreds of genetic diseases in purebred dogs. Major screwup.

    Let’s consider another example: drug-resistant bacteria. There is no doubt that they are a result of purposeful application of antibiotics. They were artificially selected by humans much like genetic diseases in purebred dogs: unwittingly (hi Sal!). Can we consider that an instance of intelligent design? Certainly design processes in general are accompanied by major screwups, so perhaps ID theory should have a chapter on snafus. All designers we know of make mistakes from time to time. Why can’t the Designer? In fact, the inverted retina in vertebrates could serve as an example of that.

    I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

  20. professorsmith

    Mr. Tchernyshyov,
    Artificial selection differs in that an intelligent agent is operating on the event. This allows natural processes to rise above what would be normally possible. Sure, we mess up. Genetic diseases in purebred dogs is a huge issue that leads to many complications in the dog’s life, and that is very unfortunate. As a dog lover, I would not wish any dog to have to go through the complications that some dogs face. I don’t see this as evidence against ID, however. I don’t think that all designers are perfect, and it’s quite likely that none are. There is no requirement for the Intelligent Designer(s) who have operated on the lifeforms on this planet to be perfect.

    I don’t deny that evolution happens. In fact, I’m thinking of doing a post on this. Evolution is a fact. It does happen. We do see small variations. What are the limits of these variations, however? That dog genes can change to give larger features is trivial. That we put the selective pressure to force that change is ID.

  21. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    Thank you for answering my question.

    So it looks like the one (and so far only) difference between evolution caused by artificial selection in selective breeding and natural selection in the wild is the involvement of an intelligent agent. Is there a way to infer the involvement of intelligence without a priori knowledge of it? How would you figure out, by examining dogs, that selective pressure was put on by humans, rather than by natural forces?

  22. Hi professorsmith,

    Your answer to my second question remains a bit ambiguous. It seems as if you are asserting that selective pressure can create changes in DNA sequence.

    If this is so, might I inquire as to the experimental data you call upon to support this claim? How does this stack up with the venerable history of experimental studies (starting with Luria and Delbruck) that show exactly the opposite?

    Also, exactly how do you suppose the act(s) of dog breeding causes changes in DNA sequence? You have already intimated that dog breeders do not cause massive changes using mutagenic agents. Do breeders physically and specifically alter DNA sequence in dogs using recombinant DNA methods (including those for which the latest Nobel prize was awarded)? Have they been doing this for the entire history of dog breeding? Or are other mechanisms in play here? If so, what are they?

  23. professorsmith

    Mr. Tchernyshyov,
    We can infer intelligent agents by eliminating the alternatives (chance) and/or inferring from the hallmarks of design. In the case of dog breeding, we happen to know that intelligence was the driving factor, so there was no need. We can use this example – and others – as a proof of principle and another data point to use in our inferences.

    Sigh. Of course the dog breeders didn’t tweak genes. We don’t have that capability now, so I would assume it wasn’t available then. I thought I had made that quite clear.

  24. Oleg Tchernyshyov


    I don’t think you answered my question. ID claims to be able to identify design without ever knowing the designer. How would it infer the involvement of intelligence in this particular case without knowing a priori that humans did it?

  25. professorsmith

    Because it’s the best inference. We know that chance is not up to the task. We wouldn’t have St. Bernards and Chihuahuas if chance and necessity were solely at work, so it’s safe to say that something else was necessary. The hallmarks of design are present, in that the forms are highly specialized for specific ends, hence design.

  26. So it would seem as if we all agree that random genetic variation is the “substrate” for artificial as well as natural selection.

    Of course, I have other questions. For one, is breeding by insects (which goes on all the time, as certain insects are highly selective in their choice of plant on which to feed, a consequence of which is a selection for plants with very specific traits) a case of ID?

    Another question – which has the greater potential to elicit dramatic morphological change in the course of evolution, natural or artificial selection? (Before you answer, you might want to check out the url at the end of this post, and consider that the range of variation seen in these plants, that are undeniably derived from a common ancestor, far outstrips that which is seen in the complete set of placental mammals, including domesticated dogs.)

    Finally, professorsmith, what experimental data do you call upon when you assert that chance and necessity are not up to the task of “evolving” St. Bernards and Chihuahuas? Some specifics would be most welcome.

    The link –

  27. professorsmith

    Except it’s not truly random, is it? By restricting the space that the mutations have to work with (through the act of selective breeding) the mutations are driven in a specific direction. The limited reach of evolution is extended by focusing it. Take a light that shines in all directions and try to look at one spot on the ground, then take a focused beam and point it at that spot. You’ll find you see much better in the second attempt, especially since you might not have been able to see at all with the first. This is the power of intelligence acting.

    A question for you – you want to ask me how I can prove that evolution would not have made St. Bernards and Chihuahuas, but that’s not my problem. You are the one who is telling me that we would have St. Bernards and Chihuahuas anyway, even if we had not intervened. What experimental data do YOU call upon when you assert that intelligent design was not present nor needed? Some specifics would be most welcome. I’ve been a pretty good sport about answering questions and I’ve given you a free ride in return, but you don’t get to simply grill me eternally without having to back up your claims.

  28. professorsmith, you seem to me (perhaps it’s just because I think the answer can be spelled out plainly, and you’re not doing so) to be avoiding the question as to how design changes DNA sequences in the course of breeding. You imply that such changes are not random, but then leave us hanging when it comes to how design makes it otherwise. Selection occurs after the fact of random mutation. How does design “non-randomize” the mutational events at the outset?

    I’m glad to answer a question or two, even if it means nudging you a bit off center of your soapbox. I’ll start off by noting that you did not, nor, I daresay, can you support your claim that “chance and necessity” cannot give us St. Bernards or Chihuahuas. It’s an unsupported assertion.

    I’ve given you a few specific examples of chance + necessity leading to evolutionary changes that far exceed what human breeders have and can accomplish. I’m not sure what to add to these. Maybe you want an exposition on the chemical and enzymatic mechanisms of mutation, and how we know that these various mechanisms operate in the realm of “chance + necessity”, and are utterly devoid of design influence. And how this knowledge tells us that the important mutational events that underlie the Silversword radiation also fall into the “chance + necessity” realm. If that is the case, let me know and we can clutter up your blog with some chemistry and molecular biology.

  29. professorsmith

    Irony, thy name is Art.

    I asked you a point blank question about whether you can prove that evolution would have brought about St. Bernards and Chihuahuas, and you dodged that one while simultaneously accusing me of the same thing. Nice work. Your bluff is officially called. Also, your sarcasm about my soapbox is duly noted. I see that it is all right for you to pepper me with questions, but questions aimed back at you result in dodging, accusations, and cracks about soapboxes. No wonder your science is bankrupt.

    As to whether evolution could not produce St. Bernards and Chihuahuas, it is exceedingly difficult to prove a negative, and it’s not even my burden of proof to bear. You say it can be done, I say that I need proof. You must provide the proof. That’s how it goes, or am I supposed to believe in your claims simply because you claim them unless I can disprove them to your satisfaction? How ridiculous. I will offer this, however – going above and beyond the call of duty – that there would not be St. Bernards and Chihuahuas because necessity would never have played into it. What necessity would those particular breeds have? No, it was the intelligent agency that gave a teleological ending point to the exercise of dog breeding that brought about these breeds. You can claim that evolution would have done it eventually, but you can’t prove it. The best we can say is that ID has been demonstrated.

  30. I fear my points here are being missed.

    Let’s try a different approach – I have shown that one can get from NYC to LA (the extent of phenotypic variation seen in the Silversword alliance). professorsmith, you are claiming that one cannot even get from NYC to Newark (the variation in the domesticated dog), even though I have shown that one can get from NYC to LA. But you choose not to explain how, even though we can get from NYC to LA, we cannot get from NYC to Newark. And you are asserting that, because I have not talked about Newark explicitly, that I have not made a case that we cannot get there from NYC. I have – it’s built into the fact that the morphological variation in the Silversword alliance far outstrips that seen in canids.

    Is that any clearer? Can you tell us why such a tiny step (dog breeding) is impossible when we know that much larger leaps have occurred in nature?

    Also, I would be interested in knowing if you think plant breeding by insects (a situation closer in scope to the example of dog breeding) is ID in action (Insect Design, that is)? If so, is it different from ID (human design)? Why? What is the basis for drawing such a distinction?

  31. professorsmith

    No Art, I get your point loud and clear. You think evolution is capable of bringing dog breeds about. You may have given support that one can get from NYC to LA, but that’s not what was asked or what we were talking about. We all know we can get from NYC to LA, but how? Was it by bus, train, car, plane? You assert that one can walk there by taking random steps in any direction and get there, yet this ignores the teleological nature of trying to reach a specific destination.

    Further, it is not my burden of proof to disprove your assertion that evolution would lead to these dog breeds, no matter how much you stamp your feet. I only know how it did happen and it is an example of intelligent design. Please keep on topic.

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