Theories of Evolution and Intelligent Design


23 Mar 2015 18 Dec 2017

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Humans have a profound longing to know their roots. In the broadest context, this longing expresses itself as a desire to understand how the universe itself came to exist, in a more particular framework, the origin of living things. Various models attempt to explain how life comes to be. These controversial issues settle on by two views. The evolutionists argue life evolved, while the proponents of intelligent design argue that life is a product of an intelligent cause. Then there are creationists who consider life to be created by a deity or deities. Nevertheless, creationism is not of importance because creationism focuses on defending the sacred texts, having no scientific evidence to how life comes to be. The contentious matter is whether intelligent design is science or not. As Charles Darwin wrote in the On the Origin of Species, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”

Now, there seems to be a great deal of confusion among the society on what exactly evolution and intelligent design is. According to the online dictionary, evolution is the “change in the genetic composition of a population during successive generations, as a result of natural selection acting on the genetic variation.” Therefore, evolution is mainly a process occurring from one generation to the next, which results in heritable changes in a population. More accurately, evolution is any change in the “frequency of alleles within a gene pool” over succeeding generations. Like evolution, intelligent design is on the online dictionary too. The online dictionary states, intelligent design is, “the assertion or belief that physical and biological systems observed in the universe result from purposeful design by an intelligent being rather than from chance or undirected natural processes.”

Thus, intelligent design argues that an intelligent cause rather than an undirected process best explain certain features of the universe. If an intelligent cause best explain certain features of the universe, then intelligent design supporters must agree that certain features are best explained by the evolution theory. Intelligent design supporters like Stephen Meyer say that intelligent design supporters are not against evolution per say. Evolution can mean change over time or common ancestry, which are not meanings of the term they dispute. They do challenge the “specific Darwinian ideal, that life is the result of a purely undirected process that merely mimics the powers of designing intelligence.” Charles Darwin’s theory is that all living things evolved from a simple organism over immeasurable generations. In addition to the countless generations, random mutations or changes in the traits and natural selection took place, with only the fittest of species surviving and reproducing. As pointed out before, intelligent design supporters do not reject evolution, nor do they believe that the universe was created in six days. However, proponents of intelligent design do say an intelligent designer created life. Even though they are silent about the identity of the designer, most assume it the God of Christianity. Intelligent design proponents tend to stay away from defining design. Stephen Meyer, an intelligent design proponent says there are two features to what this intelligence is. Meyer quotes, “you can’t tell from the science alone the identity of the designer. It is like having a painting that was not signed. You can tell from the characteristic signature of intelligence, namely the presence of information, that some mind played a role, but we cannot tell from the science the identity.” Dr. Micheal Ruse, an evolutionist states “if a painting isn’t signed, a good art historian could look at the painting and say I think it’s a 13 century painting or this painting is an impressionist.”

Proponents of intelligent design argue that even the simplest of living things have numerous complex and sophisticated structures that not even natural selection can produce. For that reason, how do you explain the complexity of design? The question that appears to be asked often is, “is the design of biology an illusion produced by a natural mechanism, namely natural selection that can mimic the power of designing intelligence or is the appearance of design, which all biologists recognize the product of actual intelligence, a mind not a material process.” Hence, proponents of intelligent design, in particular Michael Behe argue the challenge of irreducible complexity, suggesting the existence of an intelligent designer behind the purposeful structures of each living cell. Irreducible complexity implies a “single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, were in the removal of any one of the part causes the system to effectively cease functioning.”

Michael Behe’s famous everyday example of an irreducibly complex system is a mousetrap. If one of the pieces of a mousetrap is unavailable, no longer will the mousetrap be effective. An irreducibly complex system is similar to this example. All the components have to be in place before you can catch a mouse or have a functioning system. Michael Behe considers an irreducibly complex system to be very difficult or highly unlikely to form by not only by numerous, successive modifications, but because any essential part could cease to function if a piece from the preceding generations was missing. Michael Behe supports his point how natural selection cannot clarify the complexity that is within a cell by acknowledging a quote Darwin said. “If 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.” The nature of an irreducible complexity poses as a threat to the Darwinian theory because systems which are entirely working can then only natural selection be present. An example in a living cell is the scheme of how proteins are able to navigate to the precise destination where proteins carry out their “specialized tasks, such as digestion of nutrients and excretion of wastes. This constant, regulated traffic flow in the cell comprises another remarkably complex, irreducible system.” In order for a system to function fittingly, a system should no break down and the system’s parts should not break down.

Kenneth R. Miller counters the argument of irreducible complexity; an intricate system cannot be produced by evolution. Kenneth Miller proves his disagreement by explaining the fault he sees in Michael Behe’s own example, the mousetrap. Michael Behe states how removing a part of the mousetrap causes it to stop functioning, but Kenneth Miller states that you may not have a mousetrap taking away certain pats, but you can have another fully functional machine. A mousetrap is composed of a base, a metal hammer, a spring, a catch and a metal bar. “Take away the catch and the metal bar, [there is] a functional paper clip. Take away the spring, and you have a two-part key chain. The point is that bits and pieces of supposedly irreducibly complex machines may have different, but still useful functions.” Kenneth R. Miller argues that Darwinian mechanisms could have arranged the numerous complex system that exists within living things. “Evolution produces complex biochemical machines by copying, modifying, and combining proteins previously used for other functions.” Kenneth Miller uses again one of Michael Behe’s own example. As mentioned before, Michael Behe argues how an intelligent design is behind the complexity of how the proteins move from one “subcellular compartment” to another. The journal called Cell has an article where working researchers noted “these mechanisms suggest in a natural way how the many and diverse compartments in eukaryotic cells could have evolved in the first place.” Overall, intelligent design does not succeed with present any biochemical evidence.

William A. Dembski makes another interesting intelligent design statement. Dembski draws attention to how neither chance nor necessity can explain the creation of the universe. The origin of all living things must have had help from a designing intelligence. Researchers receive a sufficient amount of random signal from space for plenty of years. Dembski states, “If a sequence lacks complexity, it could easily happen by chance.” In other word, if it is complex, it must have not occurred by chance or randomness. Therefore, researchers must infer an extraterrestrial intelligence is the source for such “complex, sequenced patterns” (random signals). “Intelligence leaves behind a characteristic trademark or signature [called] specified complexity.” Specified complexity is not similar to the term irreducible complexity. The both have different definitions. Specified complexity indicates that it is an event “if it is contingent and therefore not necessary, if it is complex and therefore not easily repeatable by chance, and if it is specified in the sense of exhibiting an independently given pattern.” Slim chances of unlikely events to happen do not reduce chance. For instance, if you roll a dice for an adequate amount of time, you will be able to notice a “highly complex or improbably event.” Another appealing argument is that “specifications be objectively given and not just imposed on events after the fact.” For example, if a soccer player kicks a soccer ball onto the field and then we place the soccer net, “we impose a patter after the fact.” Alternatively, if the soccer net is “set up in advance (specified)” and then the soccer player shoots the ball into the net, “we know it was by design.”

Robert T. Pennock presents his counterargument to Dembski argument. Pennock claims that proponents of intelligent design like Dembski do not provide the society with “positive evidence” and instead present us with “negative evidence.” Basically, “negative evidence” is evidence that an individual has not experienced by their five external senses, mainly if the whole thing is a phony. On the other hand, “positive evidence” is the opposite, where there is truth and evidence for the event that took place or for any science matter. Dembski did not present any examples from humans and therefore Pennock states “Dembski has no way to show that the genetic patterns are set up in advance or independently given.” A common argument creationists attack on is how the second law of thermodynamics doesn’t support evolution. Proponents of intelligent design make use of this argument by means of different approaches to the matter, but it all comes down to how “can evolutionary processes produce more complex life-forms from more primitive ones [if] evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics.” Pennock states that biological complexities are open systems and since the law applies to closed systems, which is why the second law does not pass the test of evolution. This is simply a misunderstanding of how intelligent design supporters are not able to apply the law to biological systems. Again, the entire hypothesis made by proponents of intelligent design does not provide any scientific evidence. Also, if the origin of the universe was created by a designing intelligence, is this hypothesis testable? Proponents of intelligent design make assumptions on what evolutionists have not yet to discover information or fully understand the cause and reason behind a finding. “There is no way to dust for [the designer’s] fingerprints.”

Jonathan Wells, a proponent of intelligent design claims in fact Darwin’s theory in hard to believe considering that certain features of living things appear to be designed. Natural selection and random variation cannot explain Darwin’s theory of evolution. Wells uses Darwin’s own two examples, the finches and the four-winged fruit fly, to back up his statement. Darwin’s finches and the four-winged fruit fly prove his theory of evolution, but Wells uncovers that Darwin’s theory can only account for certain feature and not all features of living things. Generally, finches vary among the shape of their beaks and Darwin concluded that the shape of their beaks differed due to the assorted food the finches ate. In other words, the finches adapted through a variety of food, but evolved from a common ancestor and the undirected process, natural selection is the cause of such diverse collection of finches. Wells argue that natural selection can only account for the fact that it works within its species and not modify the anatomical structure. Wells agrees that DNA mutations allow certain advantageous variations like antibiotic resistance. Now evolutionists provide evidence of anatomical changes through the four-winged fruit fly, but the fly does not indeed provide proof. The wings that the fly seemed to acquire through mutation show that these wings are not only useless but also worse.

Eugenie C. Scott, a well-known evolutionist responds to Jonathan Wells claim by stating that natural selection alone does not explain the features of living things. Besides natural selection, there is genetic drift, symbiosis, genetic recombination and gene flow and chromosomal rearrangement. Scott assures that Wells is sticking to the religious belief rather than the scientific explanation. Today, “modern genetic analysis” provides scientists with plenty of evidence that all species descended from a common ancestor. The Ultrabithorax (Ubx) complex is “found in animals as different as sponges, fruit flies, and mammals. They turn on or off the genes involved in body segmentation and the production of appendages such as antennae, legs, and wings.” This Ubx complex is the key to the evolution of body parts and counterargument to Wells claim of how Darwin’s theory does not explain anatomical change. “The loss of legs in snakes, the change from lobe fins to hands, and the origin of jaws in vertebrates” are just some of the examples that the Ubx complex is involved in.

For over a decade there has been a controversial issue among school boards whether it is appropriate to teach scientific creation, recently intelligent design, in public school science classes. In 1996, Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box helped emphasize that intelligent design as scientific rather than a religious viewpoint. Although Behe does not mention the name of the designer, the scientific community refuse to believe his arguments and claim it to be from personal incredulity. This book presented points on why the teaching of intelligent design should be included and attacked the teaching of evolution in public schools. “The 2005 Kitzmiller v. Dover case put the calim that intelligent design was religion masquerading as science to the test.” Evolutionists know that Darwin’s theory has gaps and it is not perfect, but proponents of intelligent design.

In conclusion, proponents of evolution and intelligent design dispute over whether life on earth evolved through natural mechanisms or produced by an intelligent cause. Each side brings up interesting arguments where neither side admits defeat. While evolutionists assert the community that intelligent design are more religious and philosophical, not scientific. They believe intelligent design has a link to creationism. Proponents of intelligent design claim evolutionists refuse to admit that life appears to look designed because in fact it really is designed. Even though evolutionists argue how intelligent design has no scientific evidence, proponents of intelligent design argue how there are peer-reviewed articles on intelligent design. The controversial issue in the Unites States of America is whether intelligent design should be taught in schools. Evolutionists say it’s acceptable to for students to learn about intelligent design, but not as a branch of biology. Proponents of intelligent design insist on teaching intelligent design in biology classes. There have been court cases due to this issue and the judge ruled out that intelligent design cannot be taught in schools. “It is pretty hard to find the right result to a controversial issue.”


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