For example, recently, it was reported that, an international team of 11 scientists found ways to replace the sugars on the backbones of DNA molecules. – “With the use of polymerase evolution and design, we show that genetic information can be stored in and recovered from six alternative genetic polymers based on simple nucleic acid architectures not found in nature,” they said in Science. They called their designed molecules XNAs, where X stands for one of six alternative backbone sugars in the polymers. Using threose, for instance they got TNA; using arabinose, they made ANA, etc.
It was claimed that
We also select XNA aptamers, which bind their targets with high affinity and specificity, demonstrating that beyond heredity, specific XNAs have the capacity for Darwinian evolution and folding into defined structures. Thus, heredity and evolution, two hallmarks of life, are not limited to DNA and RNA but are likely to be emergent properties of polymers capable of information storage.
Media reporting of this also claimed that this provided a basis of Darwinian Evolution.
Gerald Joyce, summarizing the work in the Jouranal Science, mentioned
Genetics provides a mechanism for molecular memory and thus the basis for Darwinian evolution. It involves the storage and propagation of molecular information and the refinement of that information through experience and differential survival. Heretofore, the only molecules known to be capable of undergoing Darwinian evolution were RNA and DNA, the genetic molecules of biology. But on page 341 of this issue, Pinheiro et al. expand the palette considerably. They report six alternative genetic polymers that can be used to store and propagate information; one of these was made to undergo Darwinian evolution in response to imposed selection constraints. The work heralds the era of synthetic genetics, with implications for exobiology, biotechnology, and understanding of life itself.
National Geographic announced, “Synthetic DNA Created, Evolves on Its Own.”
So did these molecules evolve by a Darwinian mechanism?
An article published at Evolution News & Views, the blogging site for Center for Science and Culture, Discovery Institute, disagrees. The author points out that Synthetic Genetics is not evidence for Darwinian Evolution. Infact, it is an evidence for Intelligent Design.
How can geneticists engineer unnatural molecules — intelligent design, without doubt — and call them examples of Darwinian evolution?
Commenting on the same experiment, he points out
Right off the bat, we notice several examples of sneaking design into the experiment:
• The scientists selected the aptamers.
• The scientists selected the targets.
• The scientists selected the defined structures.
Wishful thinking is also present in abundance:
• A capacity for Darwinian evolution is not a demonstration of it.
• The likelihood of emergent properties is not a demonstration of it.
• The capability for information storage is not a demonstration of it.
One can read the complete refutation of this claim by Evolution News & Views at Synthetic Genetics Is ID, not Darwinism
Thus we conclude that Synthetic Genetics provides experimental evidence for Intelligent Design and not Darwinian evolution.