respectively, of human births (Brouha et al., 2003; Cordaux et al., 2006). Another problem is that when a mobile element lands in a functional gene, genetic instabilities are sometimes observed that result in deleted portions of the recipient locus. Several genetic disorders have been traced to genomic deletions associated with de novo insertions of mobile elements (Chen et al., 2005). Finally, mobile elements (or their immobile descendents that previously accumulated in the human genome) can also cause genomic disruptions via nonallelic homologous recombination (Burwinkel and Kilimann, 1998). Serious metabolic disorders can result (Hedges and Deininger, 2007).
Despite the relatively recent discovery of mobile elements, the list of genetic disorders associated wholly or in part with their activities already is long. Still, any such list provides only a minimum estimate of these elements’ collective toll on human health. This is because some of the most serious medical difficulties probably arise so early in ontogeny as to cause miscarriages that normally will remain of unknown etiology. Indeed, most mobile elements are especially active in the germline; thus, many of their deleterious effects probably register in gametic deaths and lowered fertility.
From scientific evidence gathered during the past century, and especially within recent decades, we now understand that the human genome and the metabolic processes it underwrites are riddled with structural and operational deficiencies ranging from the subtle to the egregious. These genetic defects register not only as deleterious mutational departures from some hypothetical genomic ideal but as universal architectural flaws in the standard genomes themselves. The findings of molecular biology thus offer a gargantuan challenge to notions of ID. They extend the age-old theodicy challenge, traditionally motivated by obvious imperfections at the levels of human morphology and behavior, into the innermost molecular sanctum of our physical being.
Exactly how a fall from Grace in the Garden of Eden might have become translated into these molecular defects is mechanistically unclear (to say the least). How such genomic flaws arise and persist poses no insuperable mystery from the scientific perspectives of genetics and evolution, however. Herein, I suggest, lies a wonderful opportunity for nonfundamentalist religions.
Evolution by natural causes in effect emancipates religion from the shackles of theodicy. No longer need we agonize about why a Creator God is the world’s leading abortionist and mass murderer. No longer need we