EVOLUTION INSTALLMENT TWENTY SEVEN

Chapter Ten (Continued)

Alexander next asks whether ID has generated a research program, suggesting that the introduction of design into biology is a scientific dead-end. In fact, he concludes the subject by saying that “Labeling a biological entity ad ‘designed’ leads to no experimental program that could be utilized to test the hypothesis.” This is a common complaint among evolutionists, and it’s patently false. Like Newton’s laws of physics, the insights of ID have led to testable concepts and numerically-oriented results that far exceed those of evolution. As Johnson says in Defeating Darwinism16,

“Molecular biologists don’t even attempt to fill in the Darwinian theory with specific examples because they don’t know how to do it. The textbooks typically endorse Darwinism in general terms in the introductory chapter and thereafter ignore it. Most molecular biologists accept Darwinism uncritically because they are scientific materialists and have no alternative, but the Darwinian mechanism plays no role in their science.”

Alexander claims that if ID indeed had something useful to say, “Such a purported scientific breakthrough must surely lead to a fruitful research program generating thousands of publications in the scientific literature?”

His insinuation is either extremely naïve or extremely dishonest. One would think that he, as a self-proclaimed scientist, would understand the prevailing secular politics that seeks to exclude the notion of the Judeo-Christian God from the public square. One would think that he would be aware of the pervasive bias of the information disseminators, the government, and certainly the mainstream biology community, against introducing God into the study of living systems.

Alexander states that “ID proponents normally cite methods of investigation such as archaeology, cryptography and forensic science, or the SETI [Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] program that looks for evidence for intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. . .But these are all examples where we already know that purposive human behaviors, or purposeful actions by potential little green men, are involved, so we are not surprised at finding evidence for such behavior, at least when it comes to items such as archaeology and forensic science17.”

His argument is embarrassingly weak. Much of forensic science is devoted to establishing whether a person’s death is accidental or intentional. In these cases, there obviously is no a priori presumption of purposive human behavior. As for the SETI program, science has to date failed to establish the certainty of the existence of ‘little green men’. The science behind SETI is to formulate the rules to differentiate between randomly-generated signals and those resulting from intelligently-created information, making the SETI objective virtually coincide with that of intelligent design.

He continues on the subject of SETI to say regarding it, “It is not all obvious to me, however, why the SETI program should have anything to do with understanding the origins of the flagellum, and nor is a sequence of prime numbers as a potential intergalactic signal anything like DNA sequences.” It is here that Alexander most clearly reveals the poverty of his comprehension of either evolution or ID, for in his failure to grasp the difference between information (a common element of both DNA and a valid SETI signal) and the material world he fails to comprehend the essential element driving the ID movement. The physical structure of DNA, involving the dual sugar-phosphate chain and the base pairs embedded within it is purely material. The pattern of the embedded base pairs is something else entirely – it is nonmaterial information, software, if you will. All life, even the simple prokaryotes, has one attribute in common – DNA and its embedded information. It is the discovery of useful functionally-related information, the “specified” information described and investigated by Dembski, comparable to that of DNA, that the SETI researchers so avidly seek. Thus there is an intimate connection between the information associated with life that fuels the ID movement and the information sought by the SETI program. In fact some ID investigators see in DNA the actual fulfillment of the SETI objective.

Phillip Johnson has much to say regarding the role of information in biological systems in Defeating Darwinism18. Prior to delving into the importance of information, he notes that pure materialists like Richard Dawkins apparently are unable to comprehend the huge difference between the hardware and software aspects of living systems:

“Gene selectionism is an example of what philosophers call reductionism. Reductionists claim that everything, including our minds, can be ‘reduced’ to its material base. For example, Dawkins has written that the discovery of the structure of DNA and its genetic code ‘has dealt the final, killing blow to the belief that living material is deeply distinct from nonliving material.’ Life is matter [to Dawkins], and only matter. Dawkins does not flinch from applying this philosophy to human beings: ‘We are survival machines – robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish molecules [of DNA] [comment in the original] known as genes.’ The only purpose of life is DNA survival: a person is nothing more that DNA’s way of making more DNA like itself. That’s materialist reductionism as articulated by Richard Dawkins, today’s most influential evolutionary biologist.”

Johnson then tells the reader what Richard Dawkins has left out of the picture, and it’s certainly not trivial. It is the most important element of life, information. In Defeating Darwinism, after quoting biologist George C. Williams to the effect that “’Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter’”, he says that18

“The Gospel of John begins with the memorable statement that ‘in the beginning was the Word.’ That is exactly how we would describe the creation of a literary work, or a computer program, or a building. In the beginning was the concept and the working out of that concept in the mind of the author or designer. Thereafter the concept was recorded, or realized, in matter. Matter is important, but secondary. The Word (information) is not reducible to matter, and even precedes matter. If only matter existed in the beginning, then the first verse of the Gospel of John – and the worldview of the Bible – is false. In the beginning [assuming the Bible to be false] were the particles, and everything else came only from them.”

Therein lies Alexander’s dilemma, whether or not he realizes it: he can be an evolutionist, or he can be a Christian, but he can’t be both. Perhaps his failure to understand the centrality of information to life has permitted him to compartmentalize his mind to separate his belief in evolution from his belief in Jesus Christ, but if that is the case, then one or the other of his beliefs must necessarily be so shallow as not to constitute real faith. Ultimately, if he is confronted with this realization, he himself will have to choose. Prior to selecting evolution, however, he would do well to consider the implications of the vast amount of information contained within each DNA molecule.

He discusses next, regarding the ID literature, the “huge improbabilities involved in bio-chemical systems coming into being ‘by chance’. But what the reader might easily miss,” he continues, “is that the calculations are based on the whole system self-assembling all in one go.”

What Alexander misses is that this is the entire point of Behe’s concept of Irreducible Complexity. He doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that the huge improbabilities allude to the fact that the evolutionary process is undirected. An undirected process cannot anticipate – it can’t work toward an objective. Therefore, the likelihood of an incremental process of evolution to which Alexander obviously adheres performing an undirected multiple-stage sequence of modifications leading toward a complex system is roughly the same as if it assembled the system all in one go. Alexander’s charge that ID indulges in the “fallacy of large numbers”, followed by his specific attribution of this fallacy to Behe in Behe’s The Edge of Evolution simply has no merit. It actually turns the tables on Alexander by hinting of a shallowness of his understanding of the dominant theme of evolutionary theory, that as a self-defined fully naturalistic process, evolution must necessarily be unintelligent and, above all, undirected.

As Johnson has noted often19, many evolutionists, including some heavy-hitters like Dawkins, seem to fail to grasp this fundamental element of evolution, persisting in what Johnson labels in Defeating Darwinism as “Berra’s Blunder”: failing to grasp the difference between intelligent and unintelligent causes. According to Johnson, evolutionist Tim Berra in his book Evolution and the Myth of Creationism produced an easy-to-understand example of evolution, that of the ‘evolution’ of the Corvette from its initial introduction in 1953 over the years to 1978.
The basic problem with this example, as Johnson reminds us, is that it isn’t evolution. The changes to the Corvette were indeed gradual, but they most certainly weren’t undirected. They were planned. They were designed. The changes were directed by humans, most of whom are intelligent beings.

Near the conclusion of his chapter on intelligent design, Alexander comments on its negative aspects:

“Overall I’m afraid that this chapter has been rather negative, but sometimes it is necessary to clear the decks of unhelpful ideas, as I believe ID to be, in order to focus on something more useful.”

To paraphrase Alexander, overall we’re afraid that this critique of his work has been rather negative, but sometimes it is necessary to clear the decks of unhelpful ideas, as we believe his ideas to be, in order to focus on something more useful.

What is the point of this bleak exercise in negativity? It is not to defend the Intelligent Design Movement against the charges leveled against it by Denis Alexander and his evolutionist associates. The ID movement is sufficiently stable and productive as not to require any defense. The two paradigms are so completely in opposition to each other that any attempt such as this to defend one of them against the other would be useless anyway. The point of this exercise is to communicate to other would-be theistic evolutionists that they can’t have it both ways. The theistic evolutionist is essentially a fence-sitter who finds it difficult to commit fully either to Christianity or to evolution. This exercise hopefully will serve as an example of one individual who attempted to show that it is possible to make a commitment of some sort, but who, in the process, demonstrated that it comes at the cost of superficiality in both endeavors. Alexander, as we have shown, is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. He hasn’t committed sufficiently to evolution to understand its limitations, and apparently his commitment to God is one of emotion void of intellect. God wants us to understand Him intellectually as well, for only through the mind via His Word in Scripture and Creation can we begin to perceive His true love and greatness.

As Jesus said in Matthew 6:24:

“No man can serve two masters; either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

NOTES:

16.Johnson, Defeating Darwinism, p. 78

17. Alexander, Creation or Evolution, pp. 309, 310

18. Johnson, Defeating Darwinism, Chapter 5; cf pp. 69-71

19. Ibid., pp. 62-64; read Johnson’s quote of Francis Crick on p. 64

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