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Darwin vs. God: The Argument between Intelligent Design and Evolution
According to Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), creationism is religion, and religion, focusing on nonmaterial reality, has nothing in common with science, which searches for material explanations (Scott, 2004). Some evolutionists go so far as to say professional scientists are effectively throwing their hands in the air and saying “It must be a miracle!” because they cannot find the answer, but there are many scientists who are finding God in their work, and evidence of His works (Strobel, 2004). Indeed, Walter Bradley, a former professor at Texas A&M University and co-author of The Mystery of Life’s Origin (1984), said, “I think people who believe that life emerged naturalistically need to have a great deal more faith than people who reasonably infer that there’s an Intelligent Designer” (Strobel, 2004, location 699). The main argument evolutionists have against creationism and Intelligent Design is that “the most insidious evil of supernatural creationism is that it stifles curiosity and therefore blunts the intellect” (Scott, 2004, p. 253). This paper does not intend to prove the existence of God or disprove evolution, but aims to show the weakness in evolutionary theory, such as the lack of transitional forms and the various animals that seem to defy evolution, and the evidence pointing toward design, through irreducible complexity and specified complexity, to show that Intelligent Design is not merely a method of intellectual surrender, but a legitimate, scientific theory on par with evolution theory.
There is quite a bit of confusion that takes place between the different belief systems. Many people form their arguments against “evolutionists” or “creationists,” but those two terms can mean a great many things to different people. The first step, then, is to fully define each group of beliefs so arguments over semantics and “word games” can be avoided. There have been scientists who try to place the different creationism beliefs onto a line showing how literally they follow the Bible and thus, how scientific their beliefs are, but this ignores the large impact the Bible has had on scientists throughout history, including Darwin himself (Ross, 2005). Since the main argument of this paper deals with universal common ancestry, that will be the dividing line between “evolutionism” and “creationism” for the purposes of this paper. The term “evolutionist” or “naturalist” refers to all persons who believe all living plants and animals descended from the same single-celled organism, and that all events can be attributed to natural processes. The term “creationism” or “Intelligent Design” refers to the belief that universal common ancestry is false, and that someone or something, which is unnamed, created several organisms, fully-formed.
This paper was compiled using secondary sources and books that used both primary and secondary sources for their research. The books used are either written by prominent scholars in the evolution field, such as Eugenie Scott of the NCSE, or are accounts of interviews with leading scientists in the field. Lee Strobel’s Case for a Creator is an account of interviews conducted with several leading Intelligent Design scientists at the Discovery Institute, and proved to be incredibly useful as many of the peer-reviewed articles were unavailable through the Ashford Library. Other sources were obtained through Ashford Online Library’s search engines. One major difficulty in compiling this paper was the scarcity of articles in scholarly journals defending creationism. The Discovery Institute has a list of peer-reviewed articles, but few were available through Ashford resources and applicable to the narrow focus of this paper.
“Dogma- an idea held by belief or faith- is anathema to science,” says Eugenie Scott (Scott, 2004, p.8), but creationists argue that the absolute belief in atheism is simply scientific dogma. One large argument from evolutionists is that science tests hypotheses against nature, and a Creator is outside the ability of science to test because a scientist could not hold a Creator constant, and “any action of an omnipotent Creator is compatible with any and all scientific explanations of the natural world” (Scott, 2004, p. 19). Therefore, naturalists spurn the idea of a Creator and believe that natural processes are the only options for development of life. Some creationist scientists, such as Stephen C. Meyer, claim that this refusal to acknowledge the possibility of the supernatural is an atheistic dogma, that “many believe that science must only allow naturalistic explanations, which excludes from consideration the design hypothesis,” and “many scientists put blinders on, refusing to acknowledge that evidence” (Strobel, 2004, location 1474). In effect, both naturalists and creationists believe the other side is simply reading what they want into the evidence and not following scientific method properly. Naturalists refuse to believe the supernatural could have had an effect, and creationists refuse to let go of God if they continue to see evidence that fits into their world view.
Macro- versus Micro- evolution
One of the easiest ways to believe in evolution is to look around at the present world and see how many strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, insects resistant to pesticides, or even people’s average heights increasing over the last several hundred years. These are examples of “micro-evolution,” or evolution on the species level. The real argument creationists provide is the argument against “macro-evolution” or evolution between types. For universal common ancestry to be true, fish would evolve into amphibians, amphibians into reptiles, reptiles into birds and mammals, and mammals back into the water as whales and dolphins.
Darwin himself said “[i]t is a truly wonderful fact . . . that all animals and all plants throughout all time and space should be related to each other . . .” (Darwin, 1859, p. 122). However, even Darwin knew the fossil record did not support his theory at the time of On the Origin of Species’ publishing. He mentions the lack of “transitional forms” in Origin, wondering how there can be such distinct forms, rather than variants from one to another (Darwin, 1859). The biggest dent in evolution theory comes from 540,000,000 years ago: the Cambrian Explosion. As many as forty new and unique body types appeared “suddenly” in this layer of the Earth, with no discernable transitional forms preceding them (Strobel, 2004). The argument that previous body types were too soft or too small to leave traces does not hold up under scrutiny considering that several single-celled organisms, which are both soft and small, sponges, worms, and jellyfish had been found in the layers older than the Cambrian (Strobel, 2004).
“Natural selection will never produce in a being anything injurious to itself, for natural selection acts solely by and for the good of each” (Darwin, 1859, p.183). If a creature or plant were found to have a part of itself that caused harm, it would go a long way towards disproving evolution. An example may be found in the honeybee. The honeybee has a barbed stinger that will stick into a mammal’s skin so forcefully that when it flies away, the stinger, along with some of the bee’s insides, will be ripped from its body, causing the bee to die (Brown, 2010). The barbs apparently aid in bee-to-bee combat, helping to penetrate the armor of the other insects, but they get stuck in the elastic skin of mammals (Brown, 2010). The interesting part of this is that the honeybee is the only member of the family to have such large barbs on the stinger, possibly because the other bees and wasps have evolved to smaller or nonexistent barbs, but the honeybee did not for no discernable reason (Brown, 2010).
One pillar of Darwin’s theory was that every trait a creature developed was for the good of that creature alone. “If it could be proved that any part of the structure of any one species had been formed for the exclusive good of another species, it would annihilate my theory, for such could not have been produced through natural selection” (Darwin, 1859, p. 182). This brings to mind creatures that live symbiotically. Most symbiotic relationships do not function this way, but one that looks possible is that of the tubeworm Lamellibrachia luymesi. L. luymesi is entirely dependent on the bacterial symbiont living within its body because the tubeworm itself has no digestive tract (Cordes, Arthur, Shea, Arvidson & Fisher, 2005). This creature was discovered relatively recently, and more research must be done to determine whether the bacteria gains any benefit from oxidizing the sulfates, or if the tubeworm’s foot provides any benefit to the worm beyond feeding the bacteria that feeds the worm (Cordes, et al., 2005). Such a circuitous path surely is not within the realm of natural causes.
One of the cornerstones of Intelligent Design, irreducible complexity describes an animal, cell, or body part that needs each of its pieces to work in order to perform its function. This seems to be a direct assault on Darwin, as he said “[i]f it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down” (Darwin, 1859, p. 173). The example used by Michael Behe is that of a mousetrap. Each piece, the platform, the spring, the trigger, the hammer, and the connector between trigger and hammer, has a specific job, and without any one of these pieces, the mousetrap would not work (Strobel, 2004). Behe, author of Darwin’s Black Box (1996), says that irreducibly complex biological machines cannot be produced “directly by numerous, successive, slight modifications of a precursor system,” because any precursor, or transitional form, would be missing a piece and thus be unable to function properly (Strobel, 2004, location 3564). Biological examples of these irreducibly complex machines include the hair-like cilia on the surfaces of cells, blood clotting, and the bacterial flagellum (Strobel, 2004). The flagellum has a drive shaft, a hook protein, a bushing to allow penetration into the cell without allowing “leakage” in or out of the cell from around the shaft, and a power source that is still unexplained by science, and is made up of at least 40 different proteins (Holmes & Randerson, 2005; Strobel, 2004). It spins more efficiently, at higher speeds, than any car motor we have ever been able to produce, and can stop and reverse directions within ¼ of a turn (Strobel, 2004). Blood clotting involves specified coordination between ten different proteins and could not have occurred naturally through slow changes without causing the animal to bleed to death in the meantime (Strobel, 2004; Holmes & Randerson, 2005).
Another argument Intelligent Design offers is that of specified complexity. A common analogy for specified complexity involves a million monkeys at a million typewriters. No matter how long you let them pound away, they will never write a Shakespearean sonnet. DNA stores information written in a code of four chemicals, adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine (Strobel, 2004). However, just putting those four letters together in random sequences will not produce life; they must be put in the correct order, thus specified complexity. Each protein has anywhere between 1,200 and 2,000 letters in its code, meaning that for the specific organization of these letters to form would take a prohibitively long time (Strobel, 2004). Even if the complex protein evolved from a simpler one, the minimum required complexity for a protein to properly fold from the four chemicals is somewhere in the range of 75 amino acids, and the likelihood of this happening by chance is astronomical- one in the number “ten with 125 zeroes after it” (Strobel, 2004, location 4139). In Scott’s book, she says that life could not have survived prior to 3.8 billion years ago, while comets and meteors were bombarding the Earth, but “shortly after the bombardment ceased . . . primitive replicating structures appeared” (Scott, 2004, p. 24). If the chances of specified complexity occurring naturally are astronomical, the chance that it happened in a relatively short amount of time must be even lower.
Science is about maintaining an open mind and following the evidence, wherever it may lead. Both sides can be faulted for dogmatic beliefs in the evolution/creation argument. It is rare to hear an evolutionist even acknowledge a creationist scientist’s findings because they prefer, generally, to dismiss creationism as pseudo-science at best. Some creationists are guilty of infusing religion into science without any evidence or against contradictory evidence. As Eugenie Scott herself said, “the willingness to change one’s explanation with more or better data, or a different way of looking at the same data, is one of the great strengths of the scientific method” (Scott, 2004, p. 5). Perhaps evolutionists should be reminded of this passage when dismissing Intelligent Design’s claims.
Evolution has some strong arguments behind it, but there are still flaws and gaps that have yet to be explained. The fossil record is far from complete, but points overwhelmingly toward an event called the Cambrian Explosion, in which as many as forty new body types were suddenly introduced to the world (Strobel, 2004). Evolution does not act quickly, as it requires several small changes through generational change using natural selection as the main tool (Darwin, 1859). Some of the hypotheses for macro-evolution have held up, while others require as much faith as creationism. Another flaw is found in body parts that cause harm to the possessor, the most obvious being the honeybee. If a bee dies when it stings a mammal, the gene that produces the barbed stinger should be selected against, and no longer occur, but it still does. Finally, more research is required to determine the validity of this particular event, but natural selection would not provide for a creature to function in a way to be exclusively beneficial to another creature. The newly discovered Lamellibrachia luymesi may have a hand in overturning this pillar of evolution.
Intelligent Design has foundations in astronomy, cosmology, biology, and physics, to name a few, but in this paper, biology and biochemistry were the main focus. Irreducible Complexity shows that numerous, successive, small changes from a natural phenomenon could not have created complex bio-machines, such as the flagellum, the cilia, and the act of blood clotting. These pieces must have been created at the same time to have any ability to function correctly, and “created” is the best way to describe the action. Alone, “irreducible complexity fulfils [sic] the requirements of being science. It relies on empirical, historical, and experimental evidence to support its stance” (Bateman & Moran-Ellis, 2007, p. 272). Specified complexity attempts to explain that the time required to randomly generate complex codes to build proteins that actually work to create life would be prohibitively long.
In conclusion, the scientists at Discovery Institute, the leading proponents of Intelligent Design, believe there is real scientific evidence for a Creator without invoking Biblical passages or other revelatory text. The least science can do is investigate these claims with an open mind and discover the truth. It would truly be a fault against science if it dismissed the possibility of supernatural events simply because of a dogmatic belief that everything must occur naturally.
Bateman, P.W., & Moran-Ellis, J. (2007). The science in the intelligent design debate: Teach it like it is. South African Journal of Science, 103(7/8) 271-273. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Brown, J. (2010, September 28). Bees, wasps, and stings. The Signal, 15. Retrieved from ProQuest. DOI: 2151091471.
Cordes, E. E., Arthur, M. A., Shea, K., Arvidson, R. S., & Fisher, C. R. (2005, March). Modeling the mutualistic interactions between tubeworms and microbial consortia. PLoS Biology, 3(3), e77. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1044833/ ?tool=pmcentrez#pbio-0030077-b06
Darwin, C. (1859). On the origin of species [Kindle edition].
Holmes, B. & Randerson, J. (2005, July 9). A sceptic’s [sic] guide to intelligent design. New Scientist 187(2507), 10-12. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.
Ross, M. R. (2005, May). Who believes what? Clearing up confusion over intelligent design and Young-Earth Creationism. Journal of Geoscience Education, 53(3), 319-323. Retrieved from http://nagt.org/files/nagt/jge/abstracts/Ross_v53n3p319.pdf
Scott, E.C. (2004). Evolution vs creationism: An introduction [Kindle edition]. London, England: University of California Press, Ltd.
Strobel, L. (2004). The case for a creator [Kindle edition].