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news & opinion with no titillating non-news from the major non-news channels.


I am: progressive, not a wild-eyed Progressive; liberal, but shun liberals and Liberals; conservative, but some Conservatives worry me; absolutely NOT a libertarian. I am: an idealist, but no utopian; a pragmatist, but no Machiavellian. I am a realist who dreams.


I welcome all opinions.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Intelligent Design vs. Evolution

This is in response to a posting on the Port McClellan blog, On Intelligent Design, Aug 3, 2005:

First, to suggest that one scientific theory (the Big Bang) disproves another (Evolution) in some sort of 'gotcha' is ludicrous (I am starting to abuse that word). Claiming that "this implies that someone or something brought the universe into existence." is, well, ludicrous. The Big Bang says nothing of the sort. Our math merely fails when we try to divide by zero and the physics fail because of the extreme quantifications of energy, matter and space.

In the same way, Newtonian physics failed utterly when science tried to explain phenomenon of the late 19th century, only to be epiphanied by Einstein's two theories of relativity.

Besides, the Big Bang theory is in trouble. Recent work in physics suggest that the Big Bang was not a universal moment of creation, with nothing outside of it, but instead perhaps a climatic moment of collision between two three-dimensional membranes in an eleven dimension universe.

What that means is that there was existence, natural existence, before, during and after the 'brane collision. No need to, yet again, resort to supernatural forces to explain.

Second, the 'universe' seems to be "finely tuned" only because we live in it. If it wasn't finely tuned for our existence, we wouldn't be hear to report on it. I believe logicians and philosophers call that a tautology. Or as I like to put it, and your point is...?

The 'brane theory of physics suggests there are other three dimensional membranes, all with their own particular physics and existence. We really need to, as a species, drop this heliocentric or geocentric or solarcentric arrogance of ours. We just are not that special, in the context of the universe as a whole. Again, no need for supernatural or numerological forces to be magically invoked to explain.

Third, I am sure those who created life in spark chambers are flustered and flattered to be called ingenious. The fact is their ingenious devices did produce life in simulated primordial environments (sarcasm definitely intended).

Fourth, yes, genetics is a code of life and it is complex. To assert that life is simply too complex to have just happened, completely and deliberately ignores evolution theory. As the Samuri crab explanation shows, when you throw out the rejects and keep only that one in a million chance, after four billion years, that’s a lot of successful long shots. Again, no need for supernatural explanations. In fact, I wish I had that kind of mechanism as I play the stock market...

Fifth, the embarrassment of the fossil record is an embarrassment only in the minds of evolution-detractors. As I indicated earlier, anti-evolutionists "expect scientific theories to explain everything." The statement that because we haven’t found everything, then we know nothing is, well, ludicrous. New fossils are being dug up all the time. Name one fossil that disproves evolution. Show me da mon'y! That is like saying there is no intelligent life anywhere in the universe because we haven’t found them.

Ok, let's suppose that there is a vast, qualitative difference between micro and macroevolution (the jury is still out on that, even among the scientific community). So, Samuri Crabs and the species of the Galapagos Islands are evidence of microevolution.

What is evolution? Speciation driven by natural selection and genetic mutation.

Microevolution is the occurrence of small-scale changes in gene frequencies in a population over a few generations.

Macroevolution is the concept that evolution of species and higher taxa is the result of large-scale changes in gene-frequencies over time.

Macroevolution seems to be the bone of contention. According to ID, natural selection and genetic mutations aren't sufficiently powerful enough to create sudden shifts in speciation.

Why not? There is ample evidence, for everyone who accepts the Earth existed before 4004 B.C., that there were many massive climatic (read, environmental) changes in the past several hundreds of million years, killing off millions of species. Those that survived needed to change quickly to continue to survive. The theory of punctuated evolution asserts that there are relatively short key sequences in genetics that are critically important. Genetic engineering, for example, is critically dependent upon that being true.

When the environment changes that drastically, the dominant life forms (like the dinosaurs) die out. It has been shown that long standing dominant forms develop a homogenous genetic code to reinforce their advantage. They lose the ability, as a species, to rapidly change when the environment does a hard left. Those species that have been living on the fringe, often in isolation, retain rapid adaptability just to survive. When the environmental conditions change, they move in and the resulting population explosion is, explosive.

So, why haven’t we found the missing link? Maybe there wasn’t one. Maybe we come from a very small group of primates that left little if any fossilized record.

Somebody said it better than me:

The missing link is a popular and not a scientific concept. Scientists studying the fossil record have long known that not every species that lived was 'lucky' enough to leave behind a fossil. More importantly, populations are constantly changing and species are statistical constructs and not ideal-types; therefore, there is not scientific meaning to the notion of a "transitional form."

Having said that, as possible proof, let me refer you to the recent works in mitochondrial genetics that suggest Eve really existed some 100,000-200,000 years ago. We appear to have all come from the same womb. That would certainly suggest a very small isolated population living on the fringes until something happened that gave our genetic code a comparative advantage that even the Chinese today would envy in global economics.


Anonymous DSC said...

Very thorough explanation. A good article from the new yorker if you are interested: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/050530fa_fact

8/08/2005 11:07 PM  
Blogger Len said...

In Canada, a similar debate is underway of whether or not Intelligent Design should be taught in school science classes. I subscribe to no religion, and I am a firm believer in evolution. However, I do think Intelligent Design has a place in our school system - perhaps not in science classes, but in a theology class or a religious studies class.

My biggest beef with the Intelligent Design doctrine is that it needs to be broadened so that it does not simply apply to Christianity. Intelligent Design cannot suggest a Christian God, it can merely suggest a plan. That plan might have been created by the Hindu Gods and Godesses, or by Mount Olympus, who knows? Intelligent design should not become a teenage recruiting tool for Christian Churches.

8/08/2005 11:21 PM  
Blogger Jay Cline said...



My take on ID is more anthrocentric, and therefore more anthrodependent. Certainly not supernatural, but very possibly transcendental.

What I call god (I almost said We, but I claim no rights to represent anyone but myself) may not be omnipotent, or even omniscient. I am not even sure there is conscious thought there, but there is more to life than we understand. As tenuous as my comprehension of god is, I do believe that behind all the veils is an understanding of good and evil and truth and lies and beauty and ugliness and justice and depravity.

All the great ideas that Mortimer Adler summarized in his book, Six Great Ideas.

I am not a strict humanist; I sense a gestalt, beyond what some call gestalt, in poetry and sacred music and good deeds and philosophy and logic. A spiritual humanist, if such a thing is possible.

8/09/2005 8:37 PM  

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