Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reverse Engineering in Biology

Reverse engineering is a term used with increasing frequency by intelligent design advocates. Michael Egnor wrote a blog entry at Evolution News & Views about bias at Wikepedia which referenced reverse engineering. This snippet is found in Egnor's linked post:

"I recently noted that the discovery of the structure and function of DNA was a good example of reverse engineering in biology and that the discovery of DNA had nothing to do with Darwin’s theory. Reverse engineering in biology is an inference to design, even if the inference is implicit and not explicit, and even if the scientist using the reverse engineering methodology doesn’t agree with the philosophical implications of the design inference. Much of modern molecular biology is the reverse engineering of biological molecules.

To illustrate my point, I linked to the "Reverse Engineering" entry in Wikipedia, which had a nice succinct definition:

Reverse engineering... is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device or object or system through analysis of its structure, function and operation…Reverse engineering is essentially science, using the scientific method. Sciences such as biology and physics can be seen as reverse engineering of biological 'machines' and the physical world respectively (emphasis mine). My post was published on Evolution News and Views on April 3rd.

On April 4th, the Wikipedia reference to biological reverse engineering was airbrushed out. It was changed to:

Reverse engineering … is the process of discovering the technological principles of a device or object or system through analysis of its structure, function and operation. It often involves taking something (e.g. a mechanical device, an electronic component, a software program) apart and analyzing its workings in detail, usually to try to make a new device or program that does the same thing without copying anything from the original. The verb form is to reverse engineer.

This was airbrushed:
Reverse engineering is essentially science, using the scientific method. Sciences such as biology and physics can be seen as reverse engineering of biological 'machines' and the physical world respectively"


There is an insecurity evident among too many opponents of intelligent design. It is not enough to dominate press coverage, major publications and academia. It is not enough to be able to present one's view and counter the views of the opposition in free societies. It is as if certain viewpoints must be quashed by self-appointed censors.

Wikepedia has been known to have its share of problems as this incident illustrates and ID critics are aware of its its lack of dependability. But imitating the airbrushers of a fallen empire should be beneath them.

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