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Posts Tagged ‘irreducible complexity’

A Change of Heart on Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Posted by Tony Listi on August 11, 2008

Dr. Ken Miller, a Roman Catholic professor of biology at Brown University, examines Intelligent Design as a political phenomenon and addresses two of its key objections: the paucity of intermediate organisms in the fossil record and, more importantly, Michael Behe’s theory of irreducible complexity. He takes these scientific objections to evolution seriously and then scientifically refutes them with specific examples. He does not dismiss such objections merely as “religious” and then end the discussion.

This video of his lecture has changed my view of the ID movement and my thinking on the science behind evolution. I’m more inclined to think evolution is a sound theory now.

It has not changed my belief that science should not be funded by the government nor that there is a hostile, secular, aggressively anti-religious bias within much of the scientific establishment and academia in general.

I am not a creationist and the Christian faith does not compel belief in creationism as literalist Protestants define it.

The natural process of evolution need not contradict the existence of God and his Providence. Thus, neither does it preclude the existence of morality. I mean, what would it say about morality if we really believed a material, natural process could influence its validity at all? That is what liberalism/secularism believes. Creationists make a dangerous misstep since their logic implies this too. Though evolution has certainly been used to justify horrible crimes, so has religion. And we should reject the flawed logic of such criminals that misuse both science and religion.

I am a big fan of Dinesh D’Souza’s biblical argument in defense of evolution:

“We read in Genesis 2:7 that ‘the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.’ Right away we notice something different: the Bible says that the universe was created out of nothing but it does not say that man was created out of nothing. Rather, it says that man was made or shaped from the existing substance of nature. ‘Dust thou art and to dust thou shall return.’ So the Bible is quite consistent with the idea that man is made up of atoms and molecules and shares the same DNA found in earthworms, whales, and monkeys.

It is true, however, that the creation account in Genesis does not prepare us for the discovery that man has about 98 percent of his DNA in common with apes. In his Descent of Man, Darwin writes that ‘man…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.’ Our resistance to this is not religious; it is because we sense a significant chasm between ourselves and chimpanzees. Of course Darwin is not saying that man is descended from chimpanzees, only that apes and man are descended from a common ancestor. Whatever the merits of this theory, there is no reason to reject it purely on biblical grounds. Christians since medieval times have agreed with Aristotle that man is an animal–a ‘rational animal,’ but still an animal.

What makes man different, according to the Bible, is that God breathed an immaterial soul into him. Thus there is no theological problem in viewing the bodily frame of man as derived from other creatures. The Bible stresses God’s resolution, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ Christians have always understood God as a spiritual rather than a material being. Consequently if man is created in the ‘likeness’ of God, the resemblance is clearly not physical. When Jared Diamond in his book The Third Chimpanzee refers to humans as ‘little more than glorified chimpanzees,’ he is unwittingly making a Christian point. We may have common ancestors with the animals, but we are glorified animals.”

Posted in Christianity and Politics, Culture War, Education, Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, Government and Politics, Politics and Religion, Science and Politics, Science and Religion, Uncategorized, Written by Me | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Origins of Life: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution

Posted by Tony Listi on January 22, 2008

“[Evolutionary theory] is still, as it was in Darwin’s time, a highly speculative hypothesis entirely without direct factual support and very far from the self-evident axiom some of its more aggressive advocates would have us believe.”
-Michael Denton, molecular biologist

“The result of these cumulative efforts to investigate the cell−to investigate life at the molecular level−is a loud, clear, piercing cry of ‘design!’” biochemist Michael Behe of Leigh University said in his groundbreaking critique of Darwinism. He went on to say: ‘The conclusion of intelligent design−not from sacred books or sectarian beliefs…. The reluctance of science to embrace the conclusion of intelligent design…has no justifiable foundation…. Many people including many important and well-respected scientists, just don’t want there to be anything beyond nature.”
-qtd. in The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

Paucity of fossil evidence: “Even Darwin conceded that the lack of these fossils ‘is perhaps the most obvious and serious objection’ to his theory, although he confidently predicted that future discoveries would vindicate him. Fast forward to 1979. David M. Raup, the curator of the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, said: ‘We are now about one hundred and twenty years after Darwin and the knowledge of the fossil record has been greatly expanded. We now have a quarter of a million fossil species, but the situation hasn’t changed much…. We have even fewer examples of evolutionary transition than we had in Darwin’s time.’ What the fossil record does show is that in rocks dated back some five hundred and seventy million years, there is the sudden appearance of nearly all the animal phyla, and they appear fully formed, ‘without a trace of the evolutionary ancestors that Darwinists require.’ It’s a phenomenon that points more readily toward a Creator than Darwinism.”
-The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“In his book Origin of Species, Darwin also admitted: ‘If it could not be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, then my theory would absolutely break down.’ Taking up that challenge, Behe’s award-winning book Darwin’s Black Box showed how recent biochemical discoveries have found numerous examples of this very kind of ‘irreducible complexity.’”
-The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel

“The most amazing thing to me is existence itself. How is it that inanimate matter can organize itself to contemplate itself?”
-Allan Sandage

“Biological evolution can only take place after there was some sort of living matter that could replicate itself and then grow in complexity through mutation and survival of the fittest.”
-The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel
Is DNA itself the product of evolution? Evolution claims to manipulate DNA into greater and greater complexity, not create it, right?

Stanley Miller’s landmark experiment: He recreated the atmosphere of the primitive earth in a laboratory and shot electricity through it to simulate the effects of lightning. Before long, he found that amino acids−the building blocks of life−had been created.
“But there was a major problem with the experiment that has invalidated its results…. Miller and [Alexander] Oparin didn’t have any real proof that the earth’s early atmosphere was composed of ammonia, methane, and hydrogen, which Miller used in his experiment. They based their theory on physical chemistry. They wanted to get a chemical reaction that would be favorable, and so they proposed that the atmosphere was rich in those gases. Oparin was smart enough to know that if you start with inert gases like nitrogen and carbon dioxide, they won’t react…. From 1980 on, NASA scientists have shown that the primitive earth never had any methane ammonia, or hydrogen to amount to anything. Instead, it was composed of water, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen−and you absolutely cannot get the same experimental results with that mixture. It just doesn’t work. More recent experiments have confirmed this to be the case…. When textbooks present the Miller experiment, they should be honest enough to say it was interesting historically but not terribly relevant to how life actually developed.”
-Dr. Walter L. Bradley, retired from Texas A&M

“Darwin probably didn’t think it would be very difficult to create life from nonlife because the gap between the two didn’t appear very great to him…. In those days they didn’t have any way of seeing the complexity that exists within the membrane of the cell. But the truth is that a one-cell organism is more complicated than anything we’ve been able to recreate through supercomputers…. [E]ven when you try to imagine what the minimal living cell would have been like, it’s still not simple at all…. [complexity of amino acids themselves and in making a protein] The making of DNA and RNA would be an even greater problem than creating protein. These are much more complex, and there are a host of practical problems. For instance, the synthesis of key building blocks for DNA and RNA has never been successfully done except under highly implausible conditions without any resemblance to those of the early earth. Klaus Dose of the Institute for Biochemistry in Mainz, Germany, admitted that the difficulties in synthesizing DNA and RNA ‘are at present beyond our imagination.’ Frankly, the origin of such a sophisticated system that is both rich in information and capable of reproducing itself has absolutely stymied origin-of-life scientists. As the Nobel Prize-winner Sir Francis Crick said, ‘The origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have had to be satisfied to get it going.”
-Dr. Walter L. Bradley, retired from Texas A&M

“[W]ith the discovery of background radiation in 1965, the Big Bang theory came to dominate in cosmology. The bad news for evolution was that this meant the universe was only about fourteen billion years old. More recent work has verified that the earth is probably less than five billion years old…. Based on the discovery of microfossils, scientists have now estimated that the time gap between the earth reaching the right temperature and the first emergence of life was only about four hundred million years. That is not much time for chemical evolution to take place…. And not only was the time too short, but the mathematical odds of assembling a living organism are so astronomical that nobody still believes that random chance accounts for the origins of life. Even if you optimized the conditions, it wouldn’t work. If you took all the carbon dioxide in the universe and put it on the face of the earth, allowed it to chemically react at the most rapid rate possible, and left it for a billion years, the odds of creating just one functional protein molecule would be one chance in a 10 with 60 zeroes after it…. [other colorful odds examples] In other words, the odds for all practical purposes are zero. That’s why even though some people who aren’t educated in this field still believe life emerged by chance, scientists simply don’t believe it anymore.”
-Dr. Walter L. Bradley, retired from Texas A&M

“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…. For the past one hundred and fifty years, scientists have used arguments based on analogies to things we do understand to formulate new hypotheses in emerging areas of scientific work. And that’s what this is all about…. If the only time we see written information−whether it’s a painting on a cave wall or a novel from−is when there’s an intelligence behind it, then wouldn’t that also be true of nature itself? In other words, what is encoded on the DNA inside every cell of every living creature is purely and simply written information…. Now when we see written language, we can infer, based on our experience, that it has an intelligent cause. And we can legitimately use analogical reasoning to conclude that the remarkable information sequences in DNA also had an intelligent cause. Therefore, this means life on earth came from a ‘who’ instead of a ‘what….’ Each cell in the human body contains more information than in all thirty volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s certainly reasonable to make the inference that this isn’t the random product of unguided nature, but it’s the unmistakable sign of an Intelligent Designer…. [Darwinists have not been able to provide a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life.] Despite all their efforts, they haven’t even come up with a single possibility that even remotely makes sense. And there’s no prospect they will. In fact, everything is pointing the other way−in the unmistakable direction of God. Today it takes a great deal of faith to be an honest scientist who is an atheist.”
-Dr. Walter L. Bradley, retired from Texas A&M

“I stand in awe of God because of what he has done through his creation. Only a rookie who knows nothing about science would say science takes away from faith. If you really study science, it will bring you closer to God.”
-James Tour, nanoscientist and professor at Rice University’s Department of Chemistry and Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology

I went to a Catholic school all my life, and from what I was taught, Genesis was most likely meant to be merely allegorical. That doesn’t mean that there are not profound truths contained within the book though.
If God created Time, is not in Time, and is not bound by Time, then what does the six days of Genesis really mean? People measured days by the rising and setting of the sun, heavenly bodies that were created during these “days.” If God creatively chose to use evolution as the vehicle by which he would bring all life and the pinnacle of life, mankind, into this world, does that really lessen God or the Bible? I don’t think so. He is still the driving force in this evolutionary scenario.
Personally, I believe in microevolution, the process of changes in traits within a species. The logic of natural selection seems to make sense at this level. I have not decided about macroevolution, the process of changes that brings about new species or whole new kingdoms/phyla of life. The fossil record supports microevolution more than macro. Most of the charts/pictures in our science books demonstrate this (merely lines connecting totally different kingdoms/phyla, nothing in between to indicate actual evolutionary intermediaries).
There is also the counter-theory of irreducible complexity, which observes that the biology of life forms are highly complex and highly interdependent, making their existence the result of incremental changes over time highly unlikely. A clock (much more simple than animal biology) does not work without each and every cog and wheel instantaneously working together, adding a cog or wheel slowly over time is pointless. However, this counter-theory of irreducible complexity does not completely contradict evolution’s mechanism of natural selection but rather limits the extent and types of changes the mechanism can bring about.

Posted in Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design | Tagged: , , , , , | 12 Comments »