I kicked off quite a firestorm with my recent post on Marketing Darwin. The blogger Orac picked it up, shredded it to pieces, which led to dozens of comments at my blog and his. Smelling fresh blood, Professor PZ Meyers takes me to task, and more comments ensue. Basically, I get trashed really badly. Thank goodness I am secure in my old age! :)
I find it all interesting. Many of the commenters raise some really good points, and I agree with some of them. Many though seem to deliberately misunderstand me, and then trash the misunderstanding. I only spent about 15 minutes writing Marketing Darwin but would have taken more time to clarify myself if I'd known how it was going to be used.
So I thought I would write another post, this post, partially in answer to some of those comments. I don’t expect to change the minds of my critics. But I do hope that some of you reading this will gain insight into what has been going on for at least the past 10 years or so with the advent of the Intelligent Design versus Macro Evolution debate among scientists.
First, I am definitely not a schooled scientist, though I love science and always have, especially biological science. In grade school, I did a science project that analyzed specific amino acids lost in the production of commercial cereals like Corn Chex, Cheerios, and Rice Crispies. I used two-dimensional paper chromatography to do the analysis. I entered my project into the Illinois state science competition and won a top award. My mom probably still has the newspaper clipping and my trophy somewhere. ;-)
And even though I majored in Business Marketing, almost every elective course I took in college was a science course.
Later, the search for "puzzle pieces" regarding my health issues forced me to learn as much as I could about biology and the human body. So I am a fan of science, both by interest and by need. I claim no high level of knowledge in any scientific discipline. I am a lay observer who has used everything I've learned to recover from 30 years of debilitating chronic conditions. Through my own study and observation, I have developed opinions and I like to write about those things.
I was introduced to Intelligent Design (ID) ten years ago by happening on to Darwin's Black Box by Michael Behe. I actually exchanged a few emails with him shortly after the introduction of his book. I had a few questions which he cordially answered. So I have followed the usually angry debate regarding ID vs Macro Evolution.
I now have read Behe’s new book, The Edge of Evolution, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I found it even more compelling than his first book. As much as the evolutionists rail on him, it is obvious that he is NOT a stupid man. His grasp of current evolutionary thought seems obvious. He acknowledges that evolution has clearly taken place in at least a micro way. His observations about known data and theories seem very well argued, thoughtful, respectful.
I realize that everything I write here will likely be trashed and treated with disdain by the evolutionists who simply despise anything even remotely friendly to ID thinking. I accept that my views are opposed to current scientific consensus. And I would like to make sense of the angry struggle between IDers and evolutionists.
So in no particular order, I offer a list of my impressions and observations of the debate.
1. It seems fairly customary for evolutionists to attack the person and motivation of trained scientists who support ID. Often they use "IDiots" as a way of addressing them. With exceptions, they rarely attack the ideas, observations of the ID scientists. The suggestions of some who debate ID scientists actually instruct to attack the ID scientist as a religious/creationist fanatic. They attack the person. This is unfortunate and lends nothing to the debate.
2. Macro Evolutionists/Darwinists claim that ID is simply NOT science. They claim that since ID scientists point to a "designer" they are stupid and not scientists. Any conclusion of a "designer" immediately discredits all their observations since "science" by definition and presupposition, CANNOT have anything but a natural explanation. It cannot have a "designer." The evidence and conclusions MUST point to naturalistic explanations so a designer always, absolutely is rejected regardless of any strength and logic of the ID observation.
3. Evolutionists conveniently equate Intelligent Design with Creationism. This gives them a much easier target to attack. This straw man label allows them to denigrate the ID scientists ad nauseum without having to deal with their ideas. They use this attack ruthlessly. It allows them to call the ID scientists ugly names. Without hesitation, they readily and conveniently ignore the fact that virtually all ID scientists are clearly not creationists.
4. Macro Evolutionists virtually always dismiss (usually with angry disdain) ID as "religion." My reading and study doesn't prove out any hard core ID religiosity. I have read fundamentalist, creationist literature in my past. The difference between the two are night and day. Not even close! Simply because ID is partially congenial to the religionist's views, does not mean that ID is religious. In fact, ID does NOT support some very precious views held by creationists -- a young earth being one of them; and DOES support some very loathed ones -- Common Descent and Random Mutation being two. ID is no great friend to creationism. In fact, creationists like Henry Morris have consistently rejected ID. To say that ID is merely religion or creationism is a cop out to totally disregard the contrarian views of some pretty smart guys.
5. ID scientists present their ideas and conclusions at GREAT personal peril and cost. They risk jobs, future tenure, salary decreases, potential for grant money, ridicule from every side, disrespect, advancement within their fields at universities and scientific organizations of every type and access to peer review publishing. Whatever you might think about their ideas, one ought to recognize the courage it takes to go against the grain of consensus. It does not make them right, just brave. If they could be called "fools", it's not for their ideas, but for the great risk they assume.
6. If a God actually did create the earth at some point in time, it seems evolutionists could/would NEVER discover this fact. Their pre-suppositions and definitions of science disallow this knowledge. It simply cannot be true, even if it was. What if there actually were a designer? What if God or some intelligent being did, long ago deposit RNA or DNA on earth and let it run it's course. To automatically EXCLUDE any reasoned conclusion on the basis of a biased presupposition seems to me to be anti-science. I find it surprising to reject a very real possibility at the outset of an investigation.
7. Opponents to ID ALWAYS look for one statement, one concept, one observation and seek to destroy it and then reject with disdain all other observations. This is an effective method of debate. But it is NOT science. It seems with evolutionists there is a double standard in regard to truth. If ID questions something in evolutionary thought it is ridiculed by the evolutionists. If even the smallest detail is found to be wrong in ID thought, ALL ID thought is rejected and ridiculed. All it takes is one small alleged or real error. ID has to be 100% correct, 100% of the time. But it is quite alright for evolutionists to regularly change, alter, modify, suggest and explain differently their observations and theories. Or to simply say, "We don't have an exact answer for that as of right now, but we will discover the reason in the future and macro evolution will still be true."
8. It seems when an evolutionist uses conjecture to imagine and suggest how some machine, molecule, system etc. MIGHT have arisen, this imagination is often treated by other evolutionists as newly, proven fact. If the suggestion is in someway rational and at least potentially rebutts any well reasoned ID observation, the new conclusion is ALWAYS accepted and the ID observation is ALWAYS rejected no matter the strength of the two observations. Again, the evolutionist’s reasoned conclusion must always be right because anyone ID is "not a scientist, religious, and stupid."
9. I often sense that evolutionist's beliefs are more akin to the beliefs of religious fundamentalists, than IDers. Let me explain. Creationists START with the belief that creation happened because "the Bible says so." They then force fit everything to their view. Evolutionists START with the belief that evolution is true because their starting definition of science says so. Their definition of science totally excludes all non-natural, materialistic conclusions. They force fit any new discovery or reasoned conclusion into their belief system. Both religionists and evolutionists hold to their beliefs dogmatically, always denigrating anyone who dares to disagree with them. Civility and tolerance are traits neither group hold, except towards their own.
10. It seems evolutionist attacks on alleged religious bias denies the evolutionist's own religious bias. Common is the disdain for all religious belief, especially Judeo-Christian belief. While claiming total objectivity it seems convenient that evolution often fits the desired beliefs evolutionists hold or wish to hold. With evolution they can readily set aside any religious requirements they wish. If there is no God, there is no responsibility to that God. That is not to say that all evolutionists are immoral or unethical. But they have no overriding need to be moral or ethical because there is no supreme Justice, only karma.
Of course this does not mean the opposite is true either. All religious people are not all moral and ethical. Unethical and immoral people (even evil in a secular sense) are readily found in all belief systems: Christians who murder abortion doctors, Muslims who chop off the heads of infidels, Nazis who slaughter Jews, etc.
What I'm saying is this, I don’t buy the supposed total objectivity of the evolutionist. Everyone brings bias to their arguments, conscious or unconscious, and bias in and of itself is not wrong -- hidden bias is what's wrong.
11. Behe and other ID scientists are NOT stupid people to be easily dismissed. Neither are evolutionists. Both are highly trained, very smart people. I believe that both sides strongly and honestly believe the positions they hold are well reasoned, evident, and obvious. Both seem to believe they are being intellectually honest, yet it seems to me that the evolutionists would do themselves well to be more civil in the way they try to deal with the honest ID arguments. "Honest men can disagree." Whoever is able to yell the loudest should not decide the fate of the debate.
12. My own personal experience was this. I essentially became an agnostic during high school (a Catholic, all boys school) and even more so in college in the early 70s. Evolution was the basis for my rejection of religious belief, but mostly because it allowed me to justify behavior that previously would have produced guilt.
After a course in beginning biology, where the entire presupposition and teaching was Darwinian evolution, I found myself intellectually dissatisfied with evolutionary theory. It just didn't impress me. That did not make it untrue or true. I am just saying after spending a semester learning about it, I was not impressed in spite of my bias to want to believe it was true.
After that class, an introductory Anatomy course challenged me in ways I did not expect. I found myself in awe of how things worked. I personally concluded for myself -- on the basis of the evidence presented by an evolutionist teacher -- that the probability of this incredible level of coherent, interdependent, complex systems was unlikely to have been accomplished by random mutational events and natural selection. My conclusions were in spite of the irreligious views I held and in spite of the absence of current ID arguments.
13. It seems evolutionists regularly assume macro evolution because of the very real evidence supporting micro evolution. e.g because a malaria parasite or HIV virus readily develop resistance to medications via random mutation they make the jump to say everything developed due to random mutation. I personally do not believe macro evolution has taken place on any kind of scale required to produce what is observed. I believe the difficulty of random mutation explaining the amazing development of ever increasing complex cellular machinery represents great difficulties to macro evolutionary theory. Every argument that either side makes ought ALWAYS be framed by whether they are talking about micro or macro evolution. It is easy to exclude this though and makes debate much less clear.
14. Every ID scientist I have read agrees that the basic tenets of Darwinian evolution are TRUE! Yes, true. Common descent, natural selection and random mutation actually happen and can explain some, even many elements of life. It seems the disagreement is in the degree of life that those real and observable events explain.
These tenets do not seem to explain the complexity of self-replicating, nanobot-like abilities of cellular machinery. Nor do they explain the amazing fine tuning of our universe to support the possibility of life. Add the fact that these alleged random machines then work with other random machines to create and sustain life in extremely intricate ways. The conclusion that blind, random processes actually produce this amazing complexity seems suspect and deserves consideration.
15. A challenge often made regarding design is "explain why a designer so poorly designed things to allow disease?" A possible explanation: The human body is an example of "macro-design." But the designer designed in the ability for the human body to adapt to an ever-changing environment via the proven micro evolutionary abilities of random mutation and natural selection. These mutations are sometimes good and sometimes bad The good ones are naturally selected producing something beneficial in response to the changing environment. Sometimes, however, a mutation produces something bad, like a particular disease.
More so, I believe MAN has dramatically altered it's own environment by stupidly introducing tens of thousands of poorly tested toxic chemicals that the body likely has almost no chance to adapt to, creating many diseases never before seen. To me a better question is to ask why the human body does not break more often.
16. It seems the evolutionist's answer to intricate complexity is almost always the “time god.” It seems when stumped, they always appeal to the magical, miracle producing time god. They say, "given TIME, random mutation and natural selection will/has produce(d) this complexity." As pointed out by ID scientists and others, the mathematical probability of these types of blind mutational events often exceeds the time the earth has existed.
17. Seems to me things that appear designed probably are. No one would look at anything that man has created and conclude that it happened without intelligent planning and building. To look at the machinery of the cell and not see design seems difficult for people like me. Even more amazing is not a single thing designed and created by man has the ability to self replicate, meaning build itself over and over.
And yet in the cell, hundreds of protein machines daily perform this task millions of times. These proteins not only build incredibly intricate, beautiful machines but when one breaks down, other machines immediately rebuild that machine using an informational system (DNA) that so far defies scientific understanding. Any new scientific revelations only describe WHAT happens, but rarely explain HOW that ability actually came to be, leaving room for competing reasonable explanations and theories.
18. I come out of the computer software business where every detail, large and small, HAD to be programmed intelligently, requiring much detailed planning, thought, revision and testing to make sure you got it right. And we never got it totally right in any version, regardless of how big (or small) the product development team was. Your computer ever lock up? The more programs you have running, the more likely it will lock up. It seems hard to believe that living informational systems -- far more complex and detailed -- simply arose from nothing by totally blind random events. It readily appears designed and boggles my ability to have faith in randomness.
19. Whenever a mutation does happen in the genetics of any of these complex machines, it almost always is destructive. e.g. some humans developed immunity to malaria due to a mutation to the hemoglobin machine in their red blood cells. This appears beneficial and is, partially. It is an oft used example by evolutionists to prove random mutation. In fact, it is proof of random mutation and natural selection.
But when two people carrying that same gene produce offspring, the unfortunate pairing of those two genes will produce Sickle Cell anemia. So what was a benefit, now kills with no uncertainty. This mutation only happens in one position of the DNA. It seems extremely rare to demonstrate 2 or 3 random mutations that produce something beneficial and to my knowledge has never been shown to create entirely new protein machinery.
The eminent geneticist Francois Jacob famously wrote that Darwin is a "tinkerer," not an engineer.
20. It seems the more we learn about the development and operation of cellular machinery the more incredibly complex things become. Darwin's blind, small, random mutations producing ever increasing complexity seems to break down very early in the march towards complexity. Every mutation has a much greater chance of screwing up machinery instead of making it better. Add the complexity of cells needing to become many types of cells (a few hundred different types in humans) in order to produce the many systems found in a plant, animal or human; the task of planning, creating, and maintaining these many systems seems mathematically astronomical. Especially if the intricacies HAVE to be accomplished by blind, random means.
Add to this, the absolute need for very finely tuned physical and chemical laws of the universe to be "just so" with incredible precision and detail in order for life to even exist. Even the properties of water are unique versus any other liquid and life cannot exist without that uniqueness. Design seems more probable, if not at the very least, a reasonable possibility.
21. The three theories that make up Darwinian evolution -- common descent, random mutation, and natural selection -- while true, don't seem to explain how things actually began or originated (abiogenesis). Inanimate to animate? Dead to living? Nothing to something? Where and how did the incredibly complex informational system found in DNA arise on its own to produce even simple cells?
Evolutionists and IDers can neither prove nor disprove anything with
scientific method because no one was there to observe what actually
happened. So when macro evolutionists regularly point out with disdain
that ID (abiogenesis) is
"not science because it can't be tested," they should be intellectually
honest and admit this same flaw in their own theory.
22. Darwin's theories and observations were made at a time when virtually nothing was known regarding the actual complexity of cells and their machines. The cell was considered "gray goo" since he did not have a microscope to see structures within the cell. His observations, while true in the micro, did not anticipate or explain the utter complexity we now know exists. Darwin himself suggested that if cells were eventually shown to be extremely complex his theories regarding the jump to macro evolution might be wrong. That is refreshing if so. Darwin humbly suggesting there might be reasons to question his theories? Wow!
23. Recent discovery that DNA is NOT mostly "junk DNA" seems problematic to macro evolution. No longer an argument against design and yet more incredible complexity to explain. If less than 5% of the information in DNA is needed to create functional machines then why did a "designer" make all the other junk? Well, it isn’t junk! Discoveries that most of DNA actually does something highly functional means that even more blind, random, beneficial mutations had to have happened to create this massively detailed, machine creating, self-replicating informational system.
24. Much of what I read by evolutionists is of the same types of arguments made by IDers. Conjecture, inference, logic, suppositions, envisioning, reasoning that build on each other to conclusions -- most of which can never be reproduced in a lab. It seems both side's arguments are simply observations and conclusions looking at the ever increasing amount of data. Each draw different conclusions from this exact same data. Much like Democrats and Republicans arguing in uncivilized ways over the exact same data and issues, all from a different bias.
Concluding, it seems much of our universe is beyond the understanding of even the smartest of scientists. And isn't that cool in and of itself. There is still a mysterious world to discover.
I appreciate the evolutionists and ID scientists who maintain a sense of humility in their approach to the awesomeness of the universe. Arrogance and incivility becomes no one. I have read comments by evolutionary scientists marveling at the universe’s complexity and mechanisms needed to create them; from the physics of the earth which appear so finely tuned for life, "as if the universe anticipated us" down to the tiniest, incredibly intricate, molecular machines that clearly have wonderful informational systems making everything happen with such precision.
I too appreciate the awe that our universe inspires in most everyone who observes it.