Friday, August 05, 2005

The ID Debate Reignites

Since the President's comments regarding the teaching of Intelligent Design, the debate has been reengaged with vigor. Yet when I read comments from those standing against an open discussion of the subject of origins, what is most fascinating is how little the critics of ID know about Evolution (much less Intelligent Design).

Michael Medved was discussing the subject on his radio show today and an anti-ID caller claimed that evolution could easily have occurred in the several billion years the earth has been in existence. His proof? "we're here aren't we?". Of course, I could claim that ID is true using the same argument. The reality is, most people have no idea that the discussion is more nuanced than the standard disproven pop science taught in the average high school biology classroom and that the concept of life arising by chance was long ago abandoned by serious chemical evolution researchers.

The unfortunate reality is that most anti-IDers don't even realize that there are two differentiated theories of Evolution and thus, they often confuse the two:

1. Chemical evolution (chemicals forming amino acids in the "primordial soup" to form proteins which then produce simple celled life). About 35 years ago scientists thought this process happened by random processes but now do not.

2. Biological evolution (commonly referred to as Darwinism and which seeks to expain speciation rather than origins).

Most people conflate these two concepts thinking that chemical evolution is Darwinism and vice versa. The latter, biological evolution, is the theory that a combination of random mutations and natural selection (which are two separate things and which are also typically conflated but that is a discussion for another day) accounts for the wide variety of life we see today. Darwin only was theorizing in the area of speciation which, if it ever happened as he imagined, would only happen once life actually blossomed on the planet and in no way has anything to do with the advent of the first cell. Darwin never theorized anything about chemical evolution (aka the theory that chemicals bind together to form amino acids which then form chains that build proteins which then join together to build "simple" cells).

Yet, ask the average high school educated person and, if they can even address the subject at all, they will guess that the Darwinism/biological evolution theory encompasses "primordial soup", a few lightning strikes, and then BOOM, simple cells (which then later turn into apes and then President Bush).

The reality is, the concept of life arising by random chance from a chemical soup was abandoned by chemical evolutionists in the 1960s. Researchers realized that the chances of amino acids forming chains to produce life giving proteins was simply mathematically impossible (see my previous article for more on this point). Since then, they have moved to the theory that life arose by necessity much like crystals form.

Even though this is the hill chemical evolutionists are currently defending, it is quickly becoming more of a losing battle everyday as they learn that the basis for life is not merely amino acids or even chemicals. The foundation of life is INFORMATION. Simple cells turn out to be anything but. They are mini-factories that are more complex than any man-made machine. Researchers are now faced with trying to understand where the programming came from to produce such complex machines.

This is where the information sciences are now gaining in importance in the study of origins. Since it is now clear that the foundational element of life is information rather than chemicals, the concept of an author (whoever that may be) who wrote that information now becomes a topic of renewed interest.

I am reminded of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Picard and the gang go in search of an answer to a "4 billion year old mystery" involving DNA and the origination of our species. The story was intriguing to me, not that the payoff was anything but silly but because Picard and the other sleuths onboard looked beyond naturalistic explanations for why our DNA is coded the way it is. Once they set aside the notion that DNA is merely random (or repetitive chemical) bonding of protein sequences, they were able to set out on a journey of discovery that they would never have otherwise experienced. Of course, ST:TNG is a secular show with a generally anti-Christian bias so the conclusion revealed that an ancient race, and not God designed our DNA but that said, it was designed nonetheless.

DNA is a 3 out of 4 self-replicating, self-correcting programming language, more complex than anything written by anyone in Redmond or Cupertino. Such programming language is aperiodic (rather than simple repetition as we see with the formation of crystals for example). Look at a headline in a newspaper and you will grasp a little of what researchers are now dealing with. The ink and newsprint do not cause the formation of the letters that say "Bush Promotes Intelligent Design". The ink and paper are simply a "backbone" on which the information is carried. They have no input into the content of the headline. That input comes from outside. Hence the current interest in ID.

Absent a designer, the only other two options available to scientists to explain origins are either "chance" (now seen to be mathematically impossible) or "necessity" (also impossible since information is not formed by the repetition of chemical bonds like we see in crystals).

Design is the only other option and should not be dismissed just because it might lead to God. There are several areas of scientific endeavor that look beyond materialistic naturalism. The study of origins should likewise be open to the possibility that the answers lie with design, especially since the other options have proven to be dead-ends.


Blogger Ryan M Scott said...

I am so glad to see you posting again. As always your writing is excellent. What great points you make.

8/7/05, 11:02 PM  
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