by Brad Nelson 10/19/14
One of the things I gauged from the Meyer/Sternberg and Prothero/Shermer debate that I ran into by chance on the web (which I don’t consider worth watching in regards to learning anything substantial about either intelligent design or neo-Darwinism) is that if one doesn’t have a good argument, one’s argument will tend to descend into attacks on someone’s character. That was central to the “debate” from the side of the Darwinists. (And “debate” needs to be in quotes, for as is typical of such “debates,” it’s more a pissing contest than a careful and thoughtful articulation of ideas and arguments — a circumstance exacerbated by the disingenuous demeanor of the Darwinists).
And that makes sense because the Darwinists don’t have a detailed argument for how complex life evolved via random mutations and natural selection. There has not been even one paper published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal that explains, in any relevant detail, how any complex biological system came to be via neo-Darwinian theory.
Indeed, all that neo-Darwinists can say in regards to these complex systems and data is that “things evolved.” And they do so (and keep doing so) in many imaginative ways — some of them clever, some of them stale. For example, they will point to the obvious fact (a fact not in dispute regarding intelligent design) that, on the long scale, we see in the fossil record (starting with cyanobacteria and ending with man) that things have certainly become more complex. Meyer stipulated several times in the debate that he had no argument regarding the facts, only with the efficacy of neo-Darwinism to explain those facts.
To be fair, I sympathize with the argument presented by one of the neo-Darwinists in this debate (although he seemed to be arguing more from the side of atheism than from science) that positing a designer sort of short circuits the scientific enterprise. In some respects, I think it does. I think it’s only honest to admit that. But perhaps that is where the evidence is leading us, while acknowledging that it is one thing to posit an intelligent cause for life. It’s quite another to prove it.
As I roughly view things, neo-Darwinism is dead (and, according to Dr. Paul A Nelson in his interesting presentation, has been known to be dead by the scientists themselves for over 20 years now) as a credible explanation and cause for the complex systems of life. For bending a finch beak a little? No problem, although the famous Galapagos finch beak observation in question that is hailed as proof of the power of Darwinism was shown to be merely a seasonal variation…there was no permanent change to the species. But for creating the flagellum or human immune system? There is no even marginally credible reason to believe that neo-Darwinism could do so. The only power this theory has at the moment is that there is no other solid explanation in hand proven to a sufficient degree. Neo-Darwinism glides on the kind of vapid “consensus” that keeps alive the fraud of man-made global warming.
Stephen Meyer and others assert that intelligent design is the alternative (and only) theory that is able to explain the specified information and the complex systems of life. Asserting an unknown intelligence as a possible alternative explanation is all well and good. But short of a barcode imprinted by the designer in the DNA molecule, the idea of an intelligent designer is still in the realm of informed speculation, even granting some of the somewhat “soft” proofs that Stephen Meyer has posited for intelligent design (including the one for the supposed junk DNA which so far has borne out in favor of those who support the theory of intelligent design).
Still, I find it a credible argument by neo-Darwinists, for example, that it’s one thing to infer design from, say, ancient cave paintings because we know that humans do such things today and that there were humans around tens of thousands of years ago. But it’s another thing to infer a designer of the type we have never before seen. And although Meyer makes a good case in one of his books that one need not show proof of the designer if one can show that intelligence was the only cause able to produce the particular effect in question, it’s only common sense regarding something this important to need the designer as well. The designer is integral to the argument.
This is important because, again, I’m sympathetic to the objections by materialists of ambiguous story-telling entering as an explanation for something we see in nature. Humans are capable of endless story-telling (as we see in Darwinists themselves in their weak apologetics for their theory) regarding some basic set of circumstances, texts, or ambiguous (or otherwise) evidence. The power of science has been to ignore any and all such stories and to assume that whatever was seen in nature was necessary. And if one were to make a story, it would be formed as a hypothesis that could develop into a theory, which could then be supported or refuted by hard evidence — by something other than the clever ways we humans have of manufacturing and twisting rhetoric (or mathematics, as Stephen Hawking has done to produce his mythical multiverse).
It is entirely reasonable to resist an idea that basically says, “On the most important question facing humankind, we must now throw aside the assumption of hard evidence and resort to a kind of soft story-telling that is based upon rhetoric, logical or otherwise.” One thing we learned from the Greeks, for example, is that one couldn’t come to understand the universe via mere logical argument — story-telling from the armchair, if you will. And the overall assumption of intelligent design does engage in at least a bit of story-telling regarding the designer, thus I believe that the nature and motives of any such proposed designer are integral, not peripheral, to the intelligent design argument or the argument itself will forever remain in the realm of mythology.
That neo-Darwinism should be junked for anything other than peripheral biological issues and micro-evolution (with the edge between that and macro-evolution still to be precisely determined) seems self-evident, as does the fact that many have made materialism/naturalism not just their default procedure for doing science but their religion. Where intelligent design might take us perhaps depends, suitably, on whether the designer wishes to take active credit for the design. We’ll see.
There is still so much to discover about the mechanisms of cells (however those mechanisms came to be) and the various complex systems of life. And that information will surely direct us to one theory or another, even if those theories are necessarily speculative. And it is more than fair, and eminently logical, to posit mind as an ingredient in the solution — maybe even the key ingredient. But if the insertion of mind is integral to the process, it could be that we have come somewhat to the end of science (at least regarding biology) and that our theories (short of a credit-taker) will remain necessarily fuzzy and unconfirmed to the extent that we are used to.
So, the ball is in the designer’s court. The designer or designers must step forward and take due credit for his or her (or their) work if this mystery is to be resolved. And if that sounds amazing, I don’t think it’s any more amazing the positing a designer in the first place.
By the way, the thumbnail image to this article is an image of coccolithophores, a type of algae that, according to this info, first appeared 220 million years ago: “They produce peculiar plates called cocoliths out of calcium carbonate, and incorporate them into an external shell.”
And that, of course, makes me cuckoo for cocoliths.
Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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