In this post I will cover some of the topics found in the textbook Discovering Intelligent Design. This is not a review of that book, nor of the book having the same title as this post. In this article, and other future articles, I hope to highlight some of the inconsistencies in the scientific reasoning that would cause a critical thinker to think twice about what is fact and what not. Regardless, these inconsistencies get taught as fact all around the world. Why is that? Could there be a deception that seeks to cover up the latest scientific discoveries and distort observable facts in order to present a carefully curated set of opinions as the only theory of our origin worthy of study and beyond critique?
We will start this series by considering the evidence presented in the book Discovering Intelligent Design.
Discovering Intelligent Design Textbook
An easy to read, comprehensive presentation of the evidence for Intelligent Design. Great for a study group or for the interested individual.
So to begin with, what is intelligent design? It is according to the book:
A scientific theory that holds that many features of the universe and life are best explained by an intelligent cause.
Intelligent Design is often abbreviated to ID. Scientists holding to ID usually start with the tenet that information reveals intelligence. Evolutionists on the otherhand believe that "chance" can produce similar results. Or some have proposed that a set of law-like principles may be involved. ID however, requires intelligence to produce those results and thereby, what they term, an Intelligent Agent.
For example, consider a spot of ink on a page. It could have arrived there by chance. But once arranged into specific characters that convey information as in a sentence of text, then the chance theory would tend to fall apart and we would suggest intelligence produced the text.
A rock formation when examined in great detail contains a lot of information that can differentiate it from other rocks. The specific cracks, layers, peaks and valleys are all unique to this formation, there is a lot of information in these rocks. But upon investigation, we find that the geological processes of uplift and erosion can explain the shape of the rock adequately. Mount Rushmore however, is of an altogether different quality. It too is a rock formation with layers and cracks and peaks and valleys. On the surface of that formation, however, are etched the faces of four former US presidents. The information is similar but there is a difference in the quality of the information. The shape of Mount Rushmore is not adequately explained by the process of erosion but rather by an intelligent designer.
To continue the discussion we should define what we mean by Information. Information can be conveyed by a unique pattern. That pattern can be very complex like letters on a page. Something is complex if it is unlikely.
An example of complexity: xhasdfuwehbaspweoihgnasddjkeyrif
The particular example is complex because that specific pattern of letters, like a computer password, is very unlikely to occur by chance or be guessed. However, it does not match any external pattern and cannot imply design. It could simply a case of a cat having sat on a keyboard.
Information is specified if it matches some sort of pattern.
An example of specificity: 1212121212121212
The specificity example shows a simple repeating pattern. It is not complex enough to infer design, it could have occurred by a law-like process. Perhaps a cat put its paw on the number 1 and 2 keys together, and a process in the computer causes the keys to print out the characters in such a way on the screen.
When information is both specified and complex, ID scientists say only then can intelligence be inferred. Specified complexity is something we are used to observing, and when we observe it, we innately distinguish it from that which is naturally occurring, recognizing that an intelligence is involved in its design.
Specified Complexity is a property exhibited by an event, object, or sequence of information that is unlikely and matches an independent pattern.
Languages and codes are examples of complex and specified systems, and our experience confirms that these systems are always developed by an intelligent source. A random mixture of organic polymers can be very complex but lacks specificity. Living organisms however are both complex and specified. The structures form patterns especially suited to biological processes and these structures are highly unlikely to occur by chance. This will be looked at in more detail later in our series.
Does Intelligence imply God?
Intelligent Design does not necessarily imply the existence of a god and in particular, does not imply that the creation account of Genesis is correct. Scientists working in ID may have reached this conclusion by themselves and may hold to a particular religion but religion is not discussed in the textbooks or the scientific literature.
The scientific method considers the observable evidence and arrives at the appropriate conclusions. It is our experience and historical teaching within the Church, that knowledge of a particular god cannot be arrived at simply by examining physical and experimental evidence. So when discussing ID, at least in writing, gods are left out of the discussions.
That does not mean that this blog and this author holds that position. The Intelligent Design scientific community has some great researchers in it, and the literature can open up discussions with an atheist on the topic. Introducing the Bible or philosophy to the conversation often muddies the waters and the usual lenses get applied and you're judged accordingly. The ID corner then can be a safer space for researchers and students to reside, there is a body of literature supporting their position, there may be colleagues that support this position. Bringing the Bible into the discussion can create divisions where there do not need to be divisions.
What does Materialism have to do with Science?
Resistance to the idea of Intelligent Design comes from a philosophy known as Materialism.
Materialists claim that there is no God and that nothing exists beyond what can be measured. They hold the following main tenets:
- The universe is self-existent, it is either infinitely old or appeared by chance.
- Physical laws and constants of nature are a function of chance.
- All life arose by chance.
Public opinion, education and scientific literature has been influenced by materialism without an understanding of the implications. Slowly the tide is turning again as we better understand the massive engineering effort required on the part of chance, but materialism is always given the benefit of the doubt. Nothing is assumed to be the cause of everything unless proven otherwise. And in the absence of absolute proof, materialism is usually assumed.
Materialists should question their assumptions and critically appraise their thinking.
If A and Not A equals materialism then the equation is wrong.
Science supposedly practices Hypothesis, Observation, Conclusion. A theory is developed and then observations are recorded and either the observations match the hypothesis or they do not. Normally if they match, the hypothesis is regarded as correct but if the observations do not match then the hypothesis is considered false. Any high-school student can understand how that works and it makes sense. Unfortunately this principle is disregarded when it comes to origin of life and origin of the universe. The answer is assumed to be materialism and if the evidence does not point to materialism, then it is believed there is more evidence that still needs to be uncovered.
Charles Darwin saw that there appeared to be common features between animals. Birds, for example, had been separated into their unique species, but all the bird species had characteristics defining them as birds. Specifically they were categorized into the animal class: Aves. Even within a species, there were differences. Darwin suspected that given enough time the differences would diverge. Then when some external pressure, or influence was applied, such as from predators or food scarcity, then some characteristics would favour the survival of one divergent characteristic over the other. By adding even more time the divergent characteristics could be so great as to form all the species. Darwin, however, was not short on time because his belief was that the universe had always existed.
So Darwin (and Darwinism) proposed all species had a common ancestor (that's the hypothesis), the observation expected to prove this was the fossil record with many intermediate species. In the following 150 years, not a single convincing intermediate species has been identified. Ordinarily, the hypothesis would be rejected and an alternative proposed. This has not happened, instead, explanations have been given as to why the observations were not made but the hypothesis is still correct. The can has been kicked down the road. Evidence has not been observed. A new hypothesis has been developed stating that we should not expect evidence because the changes are too rapid to be observable. One has to wonder how rapid the changes would need to be as fossils have been found with undigested food in the stomach, and with a fetus in the womb. Apparently evolution might happen faster than that!
Neo-Darwinism takes account of genetics. Darwin did not know about genes, and indeed he did not know about germs. At the time, they understood that if you leave something dead to decay, then life mysteriously develops in its place. They considered life to be inevitable. Darwin also believed that a learned skill, or a trait developed whilst living would be passed on to subsequent generations. We know intuitively that if you lose a limb, your child is not bound to also lose a limb. Instead, we understand how genetics play a fundamental role in passing on the traits of parents to their offspring, and how these genes are already present at birth. Neo-Darwinism recognises that traits developed whilst living will not be passed on and instead suggests random genetic mutations in the germline are the mechanism for producing advantageous differences in individuals. It can be supposed that most are non-advantageous, but enough advantageous differences are produced that allow evolution to occur through this mechanism.
The Failings of Darwinian Evolution
Follow Neo-Darwinism back far enough and you get to a point where there is no DNA. Except the evidence shows that DNA is required for life. A cell membrane, DNA and some proteins are required for the most basic living cells. And these cells are not that basic. They are miniature factories running on information, filled with highly complex machines. Two of these complex machines are:
- Ribosome. This molecular machine alone requires a minimum of 53 proteins to function.
- ATP synthase. This molecular marvel uses a rotary motor to create ATP energy molecules.
How to get from non-complex, non-living molecules to highly complex factories is a mystery, without the involvement of an intelligent agent.
Secondly to get from this most basic cell, which is a marvel in itself, to more complex organisms and indeed all the animals involves an unknown mechanism. Materialists suggest random mutations as the mechanism; now, thanks to the work of scientist Douglas Axe, we understand the impossible good luck required. Douglas Axe rigorously studied the rarity of functional proteins among all possible protein sequences. Proteins are only functional when they can adopt their special shape, and even one amino acid change can prevent the protein from being functional. Taking a modest protein of 150 amino acids in length, he determined that of all the possible sequences, the odds of finding a functional sequence are 1 in 10⁷⁴. Those are impossible odds, even if you have eternity to try different sequences!
Have you been taught Neo-Darwinian Evolution as though it were fact? Do you continue to believe that the theory is sufficient to explain the origin of life?
I encourage you to diligently investigate this issue further because where we come from may hold clues to where we are heading and what will happen when we die. I believe the consequences of our beliefs on this matter are eternal!
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