In Search of Better Stories

Darwins Doubt

Darwin had a problem, and he knew it. 

    The difficulty of understanding the absence of vast piles of fossiliferous strata, which on my theory were no doubt somewhere accumulated before the Cambrian epoch, is very great…I allude to the manner in which numbers of species of the same group suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks.

    Darwin’s doubt about the Cambrian explosion centred on the problem of missing fossil intermediates. Not only have those forms not been found, but the Cambrian explosion itself illustrates a profound engineering problem that fossil evidence does not address— the challenge of building a new type of animal life by gradually transforming one tightly integrated system of genetic components and their products into another. 

    Wrestling with uncooperative evidence to try and point it back in the direction favourable to a Darwinian explanation is proving increasingly difficult for scientists. So much so, that other explanations are becoming popular. There is only one rule to keep when asserting a new theory explaining the sudden appearance of unique organisms in the fossil record. One must express one’s opinion in strictly materialistic terms. Adherence to this rule is the scientific equivalent to the rigid religious dogma.  Richard Lweontin speaks for much of the scientific community when he says “Materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” Admittedly, this book takes on a rebellious tone, it simply cannot abide by this rule. Cue the music from Twisted Sister “No, we are not going to take it anymore!” Meyer appeals to his readers: “Let’s break some rules and follow the evidence wherever it leads.”

    So what is making so many scientists grumpy and rebellious with Darwinian theory? 

  • Irreducible complexity — Complex biological systems depend for their functions on hundreds, of independent, yet jointly necessary parts. As the number of essential components increases, the requisite number of coordinated changes increases too, rapidly driving up the difficulty of maintaining the functional integrity of the system while modifying its parts. When modifying the design of a machine, an engineer is not bound by the need to maintain a real continuity between the first machine and the modification. The evolutionary problem is, in a real sense, the gradual improvement of a machine while it is running. The more functionally integrated a system is, the more difficult it is to change any part of it without damaging or destroying the system as a whole.
  • Mathematical impossibility — The idea that new genetic information arising from random mutations in the DNA runs smack into the problem of “Combinatorial inflation.” Mathematically inclined scientists have realized that if the mutations themselves were truly random— that is, if they were neither directed by an intelligence nor influenced by the functional needs of the organism (as Neo-Darwinism stipulates) — then the probability of the mutation and selection mechanism ever producing a new gene or protein could well be vanishingly small. Why? The mutations would have to generate, or “search” by trial and error, an enormous number of possibilities — far more than was realistic in the time available to the evolutionary process. The math doesn’t work out.  
  • Junk DNA is not Junk — For a long time the rejoinder to silence scientists dabbling with intelligent design was as follows:  “If the information in DNA provides such compelling evidence for the activity of a designing intelligence, why is over 90% of the genome composed of functionless nonsense sequences?” It isn’t. “Junk DNA” as it has been called, doesn’t actually exist. According to a landmark study concluded in 2012, every part of the genome is overwhelmingly functional. 
  • Random mutation doesn’t cut the mustard — Mutations of any significant quality that could alter a body plan to the degree that it becomes a different creature separate from its ancestor would have to happen during the embryonic stage of life. But if you screw around with embryonic development in hopes of creating a significant mutation, you will find that early stage manipulation results in catastrophic failure for the embryo every time. Microevolutionary changes do not create new body plans, and the macro-level mutations are always harmful. 
  • DNA as language — All Body plans have blueprints. Blueprints are highly specific instructions pre-built into each organism. It’s like each organism is a book. Each book has arranged the alphabet into specific words strategically sequenced to make a complete story. Random mutation is when the letters of the words in the book get scrambled. Is it possible for an entirely new story to be produced by the random scrambling of these letters? Moby Dyck does not become the Hunger Games by randomly scrambling the letters. There is no way one book becomes another no matter how many times the words are rearranged.     

Since genes, like English sentences, contain sequence-specific functional information, multiple changes in the genetic text will inevitably degrade function (or fitness) long before a new functional sequence will arise — just as random changes in a meaningful English sentence will typically destroy meanings long before such changes produce a significantly different sentence.

  • Micro-evolution leading up to macro-evolution is a baseless assumption: Because of what we know of DNA and epigenetic information. It won’t do any more to look at finch beaks and butterfly wings as pointers to Macro-evolution. There is a big difference between shuffling and slightly altering preexisting sequence-specific modules of functional information and explaining how those modules came to possess information-rich sequences in the first place. 
  • Does design actually demand a designer? Some scientists like Stuart Kauffman are promoting “the self-organization” theory. He says “life bubbles forth in a natural magic beyond the confines of entailing law, beyond mathematization.”  For scientists less inclined to the mystical materialism of Kauffman the only option is to hang on doggedly to large scale sudden macro-mutations as explanations for the Cambrian explosion.“A bird hatches a reptilian egg”— says Otto Schindewolf.  Jeffrey Schwartz speaks of animals suddenly originated “full-blown and raring to go.” Other theories hold on to a specific mutation of the Hox gene as the explanation or geographical location being the necessary cause for macro-evolution of the quickened variety.  

Whatever the materialistic explanation, all scientists today speak of the appearance of design. Selection and mutation function as a kind of “designer substitute” says Ernst Mayr. Fransicsco Alya says that natural selection explains “design without a designer”  Richard Dawkins himself says that the digital information in DNA bears an uncanny resemblance to computer software or machine code. He explains that many aspects of living systems “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” Nevertheless, to be faithful to Darwinian orthodoxy all must agree that evidence of design is illusory. Natural selection, though it appears in every way to the contrary, must be wholly blind and undirected. 

The question comes down to is “Is design real or illusory?” Intelligent design theory contends that it’s real. Intelligent design does not negate science or even much of evolutionary theory, but it does argue that living organisms look designed because they actually are designed. This conclusion is based on evidence first of all, not religion.  

Good Illustration:

The Easter Island statues — Archeologists, still don’t know the exact means by which they were carved or erected. The ancient head carvers might have used metallic hammers, rock chisels, or lasers for that matter. Though archaeologists lack the evidence to decide between various hypotheses about how the figures were constructed, they can still definitely infer that intelligent agents made them. In the same way, we can conclude that an intelligence played a causal role in the origin of the Cambrian animals.  Even if we cannot decide what material means, if any, the designing intelligence used to transmit the information, or shape matters or impart its design ideas to living form. 

Good Quotes: 

  • After giving a lecture in America J.Y. Chen, a Chineses scientist vociferously critical of Neo-Darwinian orthodoxy was asked why he wasn’t nervous about his anti-Darwin perspective. He gave his answer with a wry smile “In China, we can criticize Darwin but not the government. In America, you can criticize the government, but not Darwin!” 
  • Microevolution looks at adaptations that concern the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest, the question of origins remains unsolved. 
  • Michael Polanyi argues that “chemistry and physics alone could not produce the information in DNA any more than ink and paper alone could produce the information in a book.” 
Subscribe to my blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 207 other subscribers

3 Responses

  1. This is my only book in this area! I have stayed away from science books, but I must say I really enjoyed it. This book has given me non-religious permission to be very skeptical of the basic tenets of Darwinian evolution. — Meyer is a good writer as well, helpful illustrations and lots of stories mixed in to make the science understandable. Meyer is committed to a very old earth, and loads of aspects about evolution make sense to him, he is not into young earth creation at all or even a Collins type of Theistic evolution. The book is simply a full-on assault of Darwinism & neo-Darwinism.

Leave a Reply

Other Posts That Might Interest You

Rock Man Vs. Water Man

To sit on a sea wall bench in downtown Vancouver each morning means you will see some strange things!

Book Review for Deep & Wide

    The Big idea: Do whatever it takes to create a church experience that unchurched people like, and will come back to. To use Andy’s

Holiday Season Death Toll

Michael Holiday season death toll. Michael was the first to go.   From the hospital newly arrived. No one predicted he would have died.  

Discover more from Dennis A. Wilkinson

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading