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William B Stoecker

Intelligent design

January 17, 2008 | Comment icon 37 comments


Image Credit: Julia Margaret Cameron
Regarding the whole question of evolution, people seem to divide into three camps. Creationists, whether Christian, Jewish, or Moslem, believe that God created life and all existing species. Darwinists believe that species evolved from earlier species via natural selection, or survival of the fittest. If an animal, for example, had several offspring with minor variations among them (which Darwin could not explain, since mutations were not understood and genetics had yet to be developed), those most suited to survive would be likely to do so, and pass down these characteristics to the next generation. Over time, the variance from the original ancestor would become so great that an entirely new species would come into existence. Darwin was a bit hazy on the details, and this has never been observed in nature. The proponents of intelligent design admit that the fossil record shows species becoming extinct and new species somehow evolving from older ones, and it is clear that natural selection plays some role in this process. But, for reasons which we shall explore, random mutation and natural selection alone are insufficient to explain the process, and proponents of intelligent design believe that some kind of Supreme Being, for reasons beyond our understanding and over eons of time, creates new species by modifying older ones. Entire books have been written on this subject, but its main points can be summarized here.

The first problem for the Darwinists is irreducable complexity. That is, certain structures in living organisms, some at the cellular level, are incredibly complex and will only function if all their parts are present. For example, one celled animals sometimes have structures called flagella, whip-like appendages used for swimming, which function rather like microscopic electric motors with ionized rotor and stator rings. Such is their complexity and perfection that no mutation could have produced them, but if they evolved gradually from simpler structures, the simpler structures would not have worked, for all of the components have to be present, and these hypothetical simpler structures would therefore have constituted a worthless drain on the organism, which, according to the strictures of Darwinism, would make it less likely to survive. Also, cells only function if a complex series of enzymes are present and proteins can be synthesized, but, according to the Darwinists, these cells must have evolved from simpler cells...but these, lacking the balance of enzymes, would not have survived.

This irreducable complexity is repeated on a larger scale with feathers. Even relatively simple insulating feathers are supposed to have evolved from scales, but a scale gives protection and some insulation to the animal, and the fully evolved feather provides insulation, and all conceivable intermediate structures would provide neither, and, again, the animal would likely not survive. It is an all or nothing matter, rather like crossing the street.

Opponents to Darwinism long cited the huge gaps in the fossil record, the lack of intermediate species in many cases. Biologist Stephen Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibria, suggesting that new species evolved in small numbers in isolated habitats like islands, oases, valleys, or mountain tops before spreading out over larger areas. Given the fact that fossils only form under certain conditions, this would seem to explain at least some of the gaps.

The problem is that there are gaps too large to be bridged. Once there were crustacea, a few of which could briefly come up on land, and then there were the land arthropods (spiders, insects, etc.), fully adopted to live on land, with no transition. There were fish( and today there are lungfish and mudskippers that can spend some time on land) and then there were amphibians (frogs, salamanders, etc.) whose larvae had lungs and whose adults are usually air breathers, but, again, no transitional species bridging the huge gap between water and land habitats. After all, amphibians three hundred million years ago could not evolve from lungfish living today, unless they have time machines. There were the amhibians, laying eggs in water, and then there were reptiles, whose leathery-skinned eggs, protected from drying, are laid on land, and who are air breathers as soon as they hatch.

Animals moved from water to land, but some moved back the other way. One day there were land dwelling reptiles, and then there were pleisiosaurs, mosasaurs, and other marine reptiles with flippers, fully adopted to living in water, and only in water. Again, there are no transitional fossils. Much the same happened with whales and dolphins, where there are only one or two possible intermediate species, still leaving a huge gap.

And what of flight? There were crawling insects, and then, suddenly, they took to the air with both wings and flight behavior, rather like fully functioning airplanes and fully trained pilots appearing at the same time out of nowhere. Intermediate wing structures or fully functioning wings without the instinctive skill to use them would be a drag on the organism, and no fossils of, for example, gliding insects have ever been found. One day there were reptiles, and then there were fully developed pterosaurs, or so called flying reptiles, again with wings and pilot skills together. There was some small running dinosaur (no one knows which one), and then there were birds. Earlier, we discussed the simplest feathers, but birds also require flight feathers, complex structures with little barbs connecting the filaments, which, again, are an all or nothing proposition. And no partly evolved (and worthless) flight feathers or gliding dinosaurs have ever been found in the fossil record. Bats, also, came from nowhere; today we have flying squirrels and other gliding mammals, but no gliding ancestors of bats have ever been found.

Darwinism does not explain the incredibly complex behavior of animal engineers like beavers, with their dams and canals and houses with air vents and underwater entrances, or social insects like ants that herd and milk aphids, or leaf cutter ants that chew up leaves as food for gardens of fungus which they consume.

Nor does Darwinism explain symbiosis, where two or more species have to evolve their behavior, and, sometimes, their physical structure, in perfect lockstep together. There are innumerable examples, but one of the best is the Central American bullhorn acacia and its resident ants. The acacia grows hollow thorns for the ants to live in, and produces fruit like structures to feed them; the ants fiercely defend the acacia. Why would they defend it unless it was already feeding and housing them? And why would it feed and house them unless they were already protecting it?

And then there are angiosperms, or flowering plants. One day, there were gymnosperms, with no flowers, like pine trees, depending on the wind to spread their pollen, and surviving quite well (they are still very successful today), and then, again with no intermediates, there were angiosperms with well developed and colorful flowers, using color and scent to attract bees and other pollinators, and nectar to pay them for their work. But why would the flowers evolve such costly structures unless the pollinators were already present? And how could nectar eating pollinators exist before nectar? And why would they be attracted by scent and color unless flowers already existed? All the problems of Darwinism come to a head here, and they are insurmountable.

A few Darwinists have asked why an Intelligent Designer would saddle us humans with such a worthless and dangerous structure as an appendix. Indeed, this is a valid point, and there are other examples of counterproductive structures and behaviors. But here they are arguing the personality and motivations of the Supreme Being, like asking why there is evil in the world, and this is a mystery to all of us. I would point out that the appendix, while it may argue against a completely benevolent Supreme Being, also argues against Darwinism, as people with an appendix are less likely to survive and breed.

But Darwinism, which spawned the ruthless doctrine of Social Darwinism, and the Eugenics Movement (which created Planned Parenthood) contnues to be taught in the schools, and intelligent design is usually excluded by the "open minded" and "scientific" elites.

William B Stoecker[!gad]Regarding the whole question of evolution, people seem to divide into three camps. Creationists, whether Christian, Jewish, or Moslem, believe that God created life and all existing species. Darwinists believe that species evolved from earlier species via natural selection, or survival of the fittest. If an animal, for example, had several offspring with minor variations among them (which Darwin could not explain, since mutations were not understood and genetics had yet to be developed), those most suited to survive would be likely to do so, and pass down these characteristics to the next generation. Over time, the variance from the original ancestor would become so great that an entirely new species would come into existence. Darwin was a bit hazy on the details, and this has never been observed in nature. The proponents of intelligent design admit that the fossil record shows species becoming extinct and new species somehow evolving from older ones, and it is clear that natural selection plays some role in this process. But, for reasons which we shall explore, random mutation and natural selection alone are insufficient to explain the process, and proponents of intelligent design believe that some kind of Supreme Being, for reasons beyond our understanding and over eons of time, creates new species by modifying older ones. Entire books have been written on this subject, but its main points can be summarized here.

The first problem for the Darwinists is irreducable complexity. That is, certain structures in living organisms, some at the cellular level, are incredibly complex and will only function if all their parts are present. For example, one celled animals sometimes have structures called flagella, whip-like appendages used for swimming, which function rather like microscopic electric motors with ionized rotor and stator rings. Such is their complexity and perfection that no mutation could have produced them, but if they evolved gradually from simpler structures, the simpler structures would not have worked, for all of the components have to be present, and these hypothetical simpler structures would therefore have constituted a worthless drain on the organism, which, according to the strictures of Darwinism, would make it less likely to survive. Also, cells only function if a complex series of enzymes are present and proteins can be synthesized, but, according to the Darwinists, these cells must have evolved from simpler cells...but these, lacking the balance of enzymes, would not have survived.

This irreducable complexity is repeated on a larger scale with feathers. Even relatively simple insulating feathers are supposed to have evolved from scales, but a scale gives protection and some insulation to the animal, and the fully evolved feather provides insulation, and all conceivable intermediate structures would provide neither, and, again, the animal would likely not survive. It is an all or nothing matter, rather like crossing the street.

Opponents to Darwinism long cited the huge gaps in the fossil record, the lack of intermediate species in many cases. Biologist Stephen Gould developed the theory of punctuated equilibria, suggesting that new species evolved in small numbers in isolated habitats like islands, oases, valleys, or mountain tops before spreading out over larger areas. Given the fact that fossils only form under certain conditions, this would seem to explain at least some of the gaps.

The problem is that there are gaps too large to be bridged. Once there were crustacea, a few of which could briefly come up on land, and then there were the land arthropods (spiders, insects, etc.), fully adopted to live on land, with no transition. There were fish( and today there are lungfish and mudskippers that can spend some time on land) and then there were amphibians (frogs, salamanders, etc.) whose larvae had lungs and whose adults are usually air breathers, but, again, no transitional species bridging the huge gap between water and land habitats. After all, amphibians three hundred million years ago could not evolve from lungfish living today, unless they have time machines. There were the amhibians, laying eggs in water, and then there were reptiles, whose leathery-skinned eggs, protected from drying, are laid on land, and who are air breathers as soon as they hatch.

Animals moved from water to land, but some moved back the other way. One day there were land dwelling reptiles, and then there were pleisiosaurs, mosasaurs, and other marine reptiles with flippers, fully adopted to living in water, and only in water. Again, there are no transitional fossils. Much the same happened with whales and dolphins, where there are only one or two possible intermediate species, still leaving a huge gap.

And what of flight? There were crawling insects, and then, suddenly, they took to the air with both wings and flight behavior, rather like fully functioning airplanes and fully trained pilots appearing at the same time out of nowhere. Intermediate wing structures or fully functioning wings without the instinctive skill to use them would be a drag on the organism, and no fossils of, for example, gliding insects have ever been found. One day there were reptiles, and then there were fully developed pterosaurs, or so called flying reptiles, again with wings and pilot skills together. There was some small running dinosaur (no one knows which one), and then there were birds. Earlier, we discussed the simplest feathers, but birds also require flight feathers, complex structures with little barbs connecting the filaments, which, again, are an all or nothing proposition. And no partly evolved (and worthless) flight feathers or gliding dinosaurs have ever been found in the fossil record. Bats, also, came from nowhere; today we have flying squirrels and other gliding mammals, but no gliding ancestors of bats have ever been found.

Darwinism does not explain the incredibly complex behavior of animal engineers like beavers, with their dams and canals and houses with air vents and underwater entrances, or social insects like ants that herd and milk aphids, or leaf cutter ants that chew up leaves as food for gardens of fungus which they consume.

Nor does Darwinism explain symbiosis, where two or more species have to evolve their behavior, and, sometimes, their physical structure, in perfect lockstep together. There are innumerable examples, but one of the best is the Central American bullhorn acacia and its resident ants. The acacia grows hollow thorns for the ants to live in, and produces fruit like structures to feed them; the ants fiercely defend the acacia. Why would they defend it unless it was already feeding and housing them? And why would it feed and house them unless they were already protecting it?

And then there are angiosperms, or flowering plants. One day, there were gymnosperms, with no flowers, like pine trees, depending on the wind to spread their pollen, and surviving quite well (they are still very successful today), and then, again with no intermediates, there were angiosperms with well developed and colorful flowers, using color and scent to attract bees and other pollinators, and nectar to pay them for their work. But why would the flowers evolve such costly structures unless the pollinators were already present? And how could nectar eating pollinators exist before nectar? And why would they be attracted by scent and color unless flowers already existed? All the problems of Darwinism come to a head here, and they are insurmountable.

A few Darwinists have asked why an Intelligent Designer would saddle us humans with such a worthless and dangerous structure as an appendix. Indeed, this is a valid point, and there are other examples of counterproductive structures and behaviors. But here they are arguing the personality and motivations of the Supreme Being, like asking why there is evil in the world, and this is a mystery to all of us. I would point out that the appendix, while it may argue against a completely benevolent Supreme Being, also argues against Darwinism, as people with an appendix are less likely to survive and breed.

But Darwinism, which spawned the ruthless doctrine of Social Darwinism, and the Eugenics Movement (which created Planned Parenthood) contnues to be taught in the schools, and intelligent design is usually excluded by the "open minded" and "scientific" elites.

William B Stoecker

Comments (37)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #28 Posted by Traveler_Dante 15 years ago
I would like to point out evolution for the poster above, that evolution is not totally random. This is often a failed understanding in evolution. Mutation is chance, recombination is chance, but not everything in evolution is chance. Recombination hotspots in the genome are not regulated by chance, hence the name "hotspots", genetic recombinations happen there more frequently, meaning they are a non-random event. Also, Natural selection is not random, It is not goal driven, but word selection should que one in to it not being random. Thanks, but I don't think I implied that evolution is entir... [More]
Comment icon #29 Posted by camlax 15 years ago
Thanks, but I don't think I implied that evolution is entirely dictated by chance. Chance plays a HUGE role in it, but it would be naive to ignore the other influential variables involed with natural selection. I was simply trying to point out that, given the right pre-existing circumstances, chance can result in the evolution of species. Thanks for the clarification, though. Sometimes I get a little carried away and its difficult to address ALL the aspects of evolution in a single post. That was directed at DB, I thought your post was a great rebuttal of his.
Comment icon #30 Posted by dragonis 15 years ago
Hi, There is a documentary from BBC Horizon series called "War on Science" that deals with this topic. You can find it easily online and it is really woth seeing, as it clearly explains the pros and cons of each "science" (if intelligent design can be described as science). Regards
Comment icon #31 Posted by biorhythm 15 years ago
i am definitely gonna cover this one in more detail.......the original article showed vast ignorance for darwin's theory, phylogenetics, and science as a whole......not to mention the nice little federal court case that was decided by a george bush appointed federal judiciary who found that there was no evidence provided by the individuals representing intelligent design.....oh, how i will go into so much detail on another day, but for now i will leave you with the words of HH the Dalai Lama this past october in bloomington: "creationism, not a lot of evidence......on the other hand, evolution... [More]
Comment icon #32 Posted by biorhythm 15 years ago
couldn't have said any better myself...... "Survival of the fittest" actually has nothing to do with Darwin nor his theory of evolution. Though it does not seem that you are aware of it. The term was actually coined by Herbert Spencer a philosopher and political theorist. He was less interested in science and more interested in how those not of "landed gentry" strained his/the gentry's lifestyle. Darwin never developed an idea of "social Darwinism" nor did he believe such a thing could be done (Natural selection, not social selection). It was developed by Herbert Spencer, who read Darwin's wor... [More]
Comment icon #33 Posted by ArtistNyk 15 years ago
This article made me laugh. It's remarkable how much creationists try to look for gaps in scientific research and attribute those gaps to god. Irreducible complexity? How can you be so sure something is irreducibly complex? You might think something is when it really isnt. Slowly forming eyes.....wings....flagella....even partial appendages and organs can have some slight advantage depending on the circumstance. Even if there was such a thing as irreducible complexity we cannot simply say, its god, and move on. Creationists teach the world to be satisfied with not understanding. Whenever there... [More]
Comment icon #34 Posted by weareallsuckers 15 years ago
One day we might know for sure until then these threads will go on and on and on and on........................
Comment icon #35 Posted by Traveler_Dante 15 years ago
Wow.....I really just can't believe that almost 30% of people polled on the front page side with creationism over evolution. I mean...wow.... Stupid people are breeding faster than smart people, too. Pretty soon this country's general IQ is going to drop and we'll start making human sacrifices again. Get with the program, people. Believing in evolution doesn't mean you have to give up your religion! Drop this backwards view of the world and start listening to the evidence! This is not an issue of religion versus nonreligion! This is an issue of either acknowledging a valid scientific theory or... [More]
Comment icon #36 Posted by BaneSilvermoon 15 years ago
Well I was planning on putting a large post on here but Camlax nailed much of it for me heh. Reading this article I couldn't help but think this person hasn't bothered to do the slightest bit of research on the Theory of Evolution as many of the statements in the article are flat out incorrect. Not opinion pieces, facts listed that are opposite the real facts. The whale transitions Camlax listed being a perfect example. Heres a rudimentary chart that shows some of the whale transitional species. http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/whaleevolution.gif And look up a species called Tiktaalik, its e... [More]
Comment icon #37 Posted by tarheelsfan23 15 years ago
Hello i'm new on here and saw this topic and thought I should reply. I'm a born again Christian and a Creationist, but I don't claim to have a PhD or anything like that. Anyways, in my opinion, I think you should do your own research concerning creation and evolution, and if you want to believe in evolution, thats great, if you want to believe in creation, thats great, and if you want to believe in Santa Claus, the Easter bunny, etc., thats great too. However, the problem I have with it is that our kids, the next generation of scientists, geologists, etc., are not being taught both sides, they... [More]


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