DARWIN’S DOUBT and Intelligent Design

Darwins DoubtIn Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, Philosopher of Science, Stephen C. Meyer (founder of the Discovery Institute and advocate for Intelligent Design), offers scientific evidence which questions the Theory of Evolution and advocates for why he believes Intelligent Design can in fact explain the existing fossil evidence (particularly the Cambrian Explosion) for which Darwinism cannot fully account.   Meyer says the problems with neo-Darwinian theory can be readily accounted for by the notion of Intelligent Design.  It should be noted that a number scientists who do accept the overall concept of evolution have publicly pointed out problems with the theory – so what Meyer is offering is not news nor a surprise to scientists committed to neo-Darwinian theory.

The impasse is that even many of the scientists who have serious reservations about evolution still stick with purely materialistic explanations of how life evolved on earth.  Meyer thinks that is a limit imposed on science by atheism but is not itself a scientifically verifiable premise.  It is a philosophical assumption.   He says many of the dilemmas existing in the evolutionary theory of scientific materialism can be readily resolved by simply acknowledging that intentional design is part of what happened.  Of course for those who deny the possibility of design, they cannot by their own belief system admit to the possibility of a designer.  Meyer argues that one does not have to acknowledge the God of the Bible, even if one sees design in the universe.  His argument is that in fact design (and thus intention) are obviously there even if we cannot account for it.  He does not assume all explanations must be found in materialistic explanations so is willing to look beyond scientific atheism to understand creation.  And just like not every scientist agrees with the current theory of evolution, not every Intelligent Design advocate believes in a 6000 year old earth.  Meyer wants everyone to be clear that Intelligent Design is not related to the ideas of biblical literalist’s New Creationism which insists the world is only about 6000 years old based on the history gleaned from the Bible.  Many atheists who oppose Intelligent Design try to lump the two ideas together, but Meyer points out this is a ploy to discredit the science supporting the ideas he presents for Intelligent Design.  He seems to accept the notion that the universe is in fact billions of years old.  However old the earth may be, Meyer is not convinced that the time periods are enough for macro evolution to have incurred as envisioned in Darwinian theory.

The first half of Meyer’s book is his look at the scientific challenges to evolutionary theory.  The last part of the book is more a philosophical argument for Intelligent Design.  Meyer summarizes his scientific evidence against the current theory of evolution this way:

darwinwrong“This book has presented four separate scientific critiques demonstrating the inadequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanism, the mechanism that Dawkins assumes can produce the appearance of design without intelligent guidance. It has shown that the neo-Darwinian mechanism fails to account for the origin of genetic information because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functional genes and proteins and, consequently, (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes, are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information necessary to build a body plan.”   (Kindle Loc. 7644-50)

According to Meyer an increasing number of prominent scientists admit that the evidence we currently have cannot account for how life might have original arisen, nor can it account for the Cambrian explosion.  In the next blog we will look at some of the evidence Meyer offers.  But he admits that scientists still are committed to finding a materialistic explanation for everything, and with this philosophic commitment, they will not even consider the merits of Intelligent Design.  In a future blog I’ll offer a few quotes from Meyer on why he considers Intelligent Design to be true science, and why he sees a commitment to materialism to be a philosophic not scientific choice and belief.

Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin

“During the nineteenth century, biologists regarded the adaptation of organisms to their environment as one of the most powerful pieces of evidence of design in the living world. By observing that natural selection had the power to produce such adaptations, Darwin not only affirmed that his mechanism could generate significant biological change, but that it could explain the appearance of design—without invoking the activity of an actual designing intelligence. In doing so, he sought to refute the design hypothesis by providing a materialistic explanation for the origin of apparent design in living organisms. Modern neo-Darwinists also affirm that organisms look as if they were designed. They also affirm the sufficiency of an unintelligent natural mechanism—mutation and natural selection—as an explanation for this appearance. Thus, in both Darwinism, and neo-Darwinism, the selection/variation (or selection/mutation) mechanism functions as a kind of “designer substitute.” As the late Harvard evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr explains: “The real core of Darwinism . . . is the theory of natural selection. This theory is so important for the Darwinian because it permits the explanation of adaptation, the ‘design’ of the natural theologian, by natural means.” Or as another prominent evolutionary biologist, Francisco Ayala, has put it succinctly, natural selection explains “design without a designer.”  (Kindle Loc. 6315-27)

Darwinius
Darwinius

Scientists tend to discredit Intelligent Design as not truly answering the questions science is asking about how things did, can or do happen in the existing world.  Claiming there is design built into the universe just creates a different mystery and at best solves nothing in their minds, but, even worse, adds a non-material being into the equation which does not help science understand how the empirical universe works.   A number of scientists who have identified themselves as theists and who accept evolution have tended to doubt the current theory of Intelligent Design for similar reasons.  Theistic scientists tend to assume science has to look for materialist causes as science is in fact focused on the material world.  They accept the existence of a Creator God but do not try to make God part of any scientific formula or equation.  Intelligent Design on the other hand accepts that the very existence of a Creator explains some aspects of the material world which science cannot account for by its current theories.  For ID defenders simply saying there is a Creator is sufficient explanation for some mysteries.  Materialistic science looks only for cause and effect in the material world, and does not see how claiming there is design in the universe helps us understand how the material world in fact works.

Next:   The Science that Doubts Darwin