many Americans, I have recently become aware of a new storm brewing on the
squall line between church and state, and on a similar line dividing science
and religion. This new atmospheric
disturbance is called Intelligent Design, which purports to be a scientific
refutation of at least part of modern evolution theory. I decided to take a close look at the claims
and arguments of ID. What I found was
an Alice in Wonderland world where the normal words of scientific discourse
have been twisted into new and unrecognizable shapes in the service of an extraordinarily
clever stealth campaign to violate those boundaries that have served science,
religion and democracy so well.
this examination of Intelligent Design, I have attempted to understand ID in
the context of the history of science and the relationship between science and
religion; to analyze some specific claims of ID; and finally to examine its
implications for science education and public health. Because Intelligent Design asks us to make
conceptual leaps that are orthogonal to the normal course of scientific
development, I have included discussions of the philosophy of science along
with several brief case studies from the history of science.
have written in a conversational style that occasionally lets slip the
intensity of my exasperation. I hope
that this will not cause offense, and I apologize if it does. Despite its air of polite erudition, ID is
deeply radical and insurrectionist, and calls for a muscular response. It is, in my opinion, fundamentally
dishonest and a serious threat to the teaching of science and to science itself,
and must not be taken lightly. We will
not move forward by embracing self-inflicted ignorance and obscurantism. Problems in science are solved by solving
them, not by redefining them as metaphysical.
What we have
most to fear in America is not foreign invasion or even terrorism, but the rise
of a nativist, sectarian, know-nothing, anti-intellectual, anti-science,
illiberal, Luddite, Butlerian crusade that finds its distant echo in the
backward-looking Islamic jihad that has caused us and the world so much
pain. If we lose our national
commitment to high-quality public education, the arts, science, robust
journalism and all those Enlightenment virtues embraced by our Founding
Fathers, we are in danger of recapitulating the declining years of the Roman
Empire, a corrupt imperial shell with little to be proud of beyond a powerful
military. The barbarians are not at the
gates, the barbarians are our own worst impulses, among which are intellectual
laziness and a hankering for the quick fix.
In the immortal words of Pogo, "We have met the enemy and he is us."
This is how Homer and Hesiod saw the world, and it may be
taken as representative of ancient peoples everywhere. The revolutionary step taken by certain
Greek philosophers of the sixth century BC (the "Pre-Socratics") was to begin
to suggest that the gods need not be invoked to account for the origin and
nature of the world and for events occurring within it; that there just might
be natural explanations for natural events.
This is not to say that the Pre-Socratics entirely
shuffled off their belief in gods, spirits or supernatural forces. It would be incorrect to suggest that
Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes were ready to replace mythos with logos,
but the birth of science and its further development over the centuries can
only be understood as a gradual process of wringing the supernatural out of our
understanding of natural events and replacing it with concepts of material
causality, matter and energy.
Metaphorically speaking, science has sent the gods back to Olympus and
chained them there.
do we blame Poseidon for earthquakes or see the hand of Zeus in lightning
bolts, no longer fear the plague-tipped arrows of Apollo. And it's a good thing, too, because as long
as powerful events belonged only to the domain of the gods they were
necessarily beyond human understanding and control: random, arbitrary and
unpredictable. Two and a half millennia
later, with our better understanding, we have learned to enforce special building
codes near the ragged, earth-shaking boundaries of tectonic plates, know to
avoid hilltops in storms, and recognize the true vectors of plague: rodents and
a few centuries the path first indicated by the Pre-Socratics yielded
remarkable returns. The earth was
understood to be spherical and its circumference measured; the irrationality of
the diagonal of a unit square was recognized; Euclid wrote the most successful
textbook in history; geometrical models of the solar system were constructed
that predicted complex planetary motions.
all Greek accomplishments, but Hellenistic Greece was soon overshadowed by
Imperial Rome, a civilization of soldiers and lawyers uninterested in science,
and later by the early Christian Church, jealous of its truth-revealing
prerogatives and positively hostile to independent investigation. The Greek achievement was almost lost to
civilization, and it is largely to the credit of Islamic scholars that anything
at all of Classical Greece and its culture was preserved. With the publication in 1543 of Nicholas
Copernicus' De Revolutionibus,
the path to enlightenment was rediscovered, though the Roman Catholic Church
continued to make that road perilous to its travelers for the next 100 years or
great set-piece confrontation between science and religion was the trial in
1925 of John T. Scopes for teaching evolution in violation of Tennessee's
Butler Act. In representing the
prosecution, William Jennings Bryan made no bones about the trial being a
contest between Christian teachings and "atheistic" evolution. Since Scopes freely admitted that he had
taught evolution, the jury had no choice but to convict him and impose a $100
fine. Inspired by Tennessee's example,
a number of other states soon passed anti-evolution laws. The matter was finally settled in 1968 when
the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Epperson v. Arkansas (393 U.S. 97) that such
bans contravened the Establishment Clause of the U. S. Constitution.
doctrine that has been fairly consistent from Pius XII through John Paul II,
the Roman Catholic Church has taken the position that it is the soul that
theology addresses, together with morality and ethics. Since science does not address the soul,
this stance – which might be called the Great Compromise between science and
religion – has been acceptable to all
the major scientific organizations, including the American Association for the
Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences.
between religion and science, never perfect, is again threatened. Constrained by the Supreme Court's clear
commitment to the Establishment Clause, this new attack on Darwin attempts to
slip under the constitutional radar by calling itself science and positing that
certain kinds of biological complexity are understandable only as
manifestations of the design "skill"
of "an intelligence," without publicly identifying this agency with God. However, a search of organizations
supporting ID reveals the "usual suspects," conservative groups that have long
attempted to inject religion into public education by other means. Exposing this subterfuge requires a close
examination of the claim that ID is legitimate science.
II. The Fundamental Assumptions of Science
beginning of the twenty-first century, the philosophy of science remains a
dynamic and contentious discipline with many warring interpretations and points
of view. Yet, at some risk of
oversimplification, I propose the following list of its fundamental assumptions.
- There exists an objective material world that is governed by
immutable and consistent laws that act without exception. (For a discussion of indeterminacy, see
- The proper instrument for discovering these laws and the
nature of the substance upon which they act is human intellect aided by
observation, experiment and reason.
("Observation and experiment" are understood to include eyes, ears,
nose, etc., and all the extensions thereto commonly called scientific
instruments. "Reason" is understood to
include logic and mathematics.)
- Such laws can be discovered, or at least approximated. (Some might argue that assumption 3 is
implicit in assumption 2, but it's a good idea to make it explicit.)
If any of
these assumptions fails, the project of science, thus conceived, will be unsuccessful. Let's look them one by one. If the "stuff" of the physical world is no
more than a projection of our individual minds, and events are only sometimes
(or worse yet, never) governed by stable laws, then science chases a hopelessly
moving target. Each successive
observation or experiment may differ in outcome and implications from its
predecessor. Efforts to impose order on
the world are constantly and inescapably frustrated. Science grinds to a halt.
If, on the
other hand, order exists, but its laws are necessarily beyond human
comprehension, then, equally, a full understanding cannot emerge. We will thrash about in vain searching for
connections that are forever beyond us.
In this situation, the look of the world may not differ appreciably from
that occasioned by a failure of assumption 1, and we may never know the
possible to imagine a situation in which assumptions 1 and 2 are true, but that
assumption 3 fails for some particularly difficult problem or problems. For instance, the definitive experiments
that could illuminate the earliest moments of the Big Bang might forever remain
impossible because of the extraordinarily high energies required. In this case, we might be able to develop
physical theories that take us back to the end of first second (or nanosecond,
etc.) of the Big Bang, but no further.
important to keep in mind that the above propositions are assumptions. They cannot be proven. We sometimes think of them as rules of the
game, but if so, it is in a different sense from those of ordinary games. The rules of chess are what they are; we may
not like them (when checked), but there is no sense in which we could ever say
that they are false or incorrect. The
rules of doing science are different; the assumptions upon which science is
based could be wrong. We might feel
that we have an indication of this if centuries of intensive research fails to
solve some important problem, especially if it appears not particularly
difficult to solve.
is a hazard in the latter view which the history of science makes quite
plain. We have no way of predicting
which potentially helpful intellectual techniques or technologies may evolve in
the future as they have in the past, e.g., the calculus, non-Euclidean geometry,
group theory, information theory, high-energy particle accelerators,
astronomical satellites, genetic engineering, radio astronomy, DNA sequencing,
x-ray astronomy, scanning-tunneling microscopes, etc. Because we can never know that the human intellect and its
command of technology have reached a final limit beyond which they cannot pass,
we can never say that the assumptions of science have been falsified by failure
and the game of science is over. Even
observations that seem today chaotic may someday yield to analysis. With these considerations in mind, it will
be instructive to examine some specific problems in the history of science.
The word planet
comes from the Greek word planestos, wandering. To the Greeks, planets were wanderers
because no one could make any sense of their apparently irregular
peregrinations about the heavens. This
remained a problem for well over 2000 years, until Newton proposed his Law of
Universal Gravitation. Even then, his
explanation was questioned by those who asked why material bodies should
attract each other at all, and whether Newton's absolute frame of reference (in
which the planets had their motions) made any sense. It was not until Einstein proposed his theory of General
Relativity that a truly elegant, consistent and complete picture emerged. As long as the gods controlled planetary
motion, this project could not even get started; and if, at any time,
scientists had been content to say, "It's just because God moves them that
way," all progress toward a coherent picture would have stopped. The story is told that Newton proposed that
God occasionally nudged the planets back into position if they wandered too
far. More precise measurements and
calculations made this divine fudging unnecessary.
end of the nineteenth century, physics was in a peculiar situation. While some scientists claimed that physics
was fully mature and needed only finer measurements of fundamental constants,
disquieting problems would not go away.
The ether (or aether), confidently invoked by James Clerk Maxwell as the
medium of light transmission, defied all experiments aimed at detecting it. Contemporary, quite elegant, calculations
implied that when a door (or even a peephole) into a hot furnace was opened, an
infinite flux of energy should emerge, destroying the universe. Light, which had been described by Newton as
a flow of particles, quite perversely insisted upon displaying wave properties as
well. It all depended on how one
looked at it, quite literally!
scientists could have simply thrown up their lab notebooks and said, "God's
ways are mysterious," and let it go at that.
Undoubtedly, some physics students have wished that they had, but if
physics had given up at that point we would have no Einsteinian relativity,
quantum mechanics, integrated circuits, cell phones, computers, GPS system,
television, electronic ignition, anti-lock brakes, talk radio, Internet and
countless other (sometimes questionable) conveniences of modern life. More to the point, those very sticky
problems of physics would have remained forever beyond our grasp, as miraculous
and arbitrary as Poseidon's earthquakes.
By now the
moral of these stories should be clear.
Once committed to science's rules of the game, you can't get out. Not, that is, without throwing over the game
completely. We have seen that at any
point scientists could say, "It's because God made it that way." Inevitably, this stops the previously agreed
upon game and starts another in which the rules are no longer fixed, chaos and
anarchy rule, and understanding ceases to expand. Think again of Newton. As
long as he (or others) believed that God helpfully nudged the planets into
their appointed rounds, further refinement of Newtonian dynamics was unnecessary
and therefore unimaginable and unreachable.
Crisis points such as those discussed above, some lasting
for thousands of years, have occurred
so many times in the history of science and were eventually overcome, that
anyone who says, "OK boys and girls, this is the end," should be regarded not
only with the most active skepticism, but as ignorant of history as well. If, on the other hand, science as we know it
had failed abjectly, and for millennia, to solve even the most straightforward
problems, we would be justified in asking whether the game (as designed) had
any meaning at all. But that's not what
nicely illustrated by a striking, though not unique, anecdote from
physics. Einstein found quantum
theory's prediction of randomness at the heart of certain physical events
deeply disquieting, and he mounted many attacks on the theory (see Appendix
II). In 1935 he, Boris Podolsky and
Nathan Rosen published a paper in which they scrupulously followed the
mathematical formalism to what they regarded as an absurd conclusion. By now you can guess the result; decades
later their "absurd" effect was shown to actually happen. It is now known as entanglement, and has
been demonstrated many times in many different situations.
designing his attacks on quantum theory, Einstein carefully stayed within the
rules. In doing so, he wound up
contributing materially to the progress of physics. If instead he had simply said, "an intelligence did it," those
contributions would have been lost. If
physics generally had taken that path, it would have been the end of the road.
examine creationism, missing-linkism and Intelligent Design in the light of
what has been said about science. If
someone wants to believe that God, by any name, created the world just as we
find it today in a week's time six thousand years ago, that is certainly his or
her privilege. Or, somewhat
differently, if someone wants to believe that God wound up the universe and now
lets it run by itself on physical laws, except once in a while, they are
entitled to believe that, too. But
please don't call it science. As we
have seen, the rules of the science game don't admit it. They don't admit it because, like sand in
the bearings, it's fatal to the whole enterprise. Once the possibility of divine intervention is allowed, it
becomes impossible to learn at what point and to what extent divine meddling
jiggers the results, because there are then neither applicable rules of evidence
nor knowable laws of cause and effect.
It's perfectly arbitrary; your version is as good as mine.
Having said all this, it would certainly be a downer for
science if, confronted with the quite extraordinary natural world of plants and
animals, we failed utterly to make any sense of it and could not begin to
imagine how, in all its variety and complexity, the life we see before us came
to be. One has to imagine that, before
Darwin, many quite sincere scientists must have felt this way.
A hundred years ago we would have been talking about a
"missing link," that is, the lack of a (discovered, dug up, found) intermediate
form between ape and man. In the
intervening years so many links have been found that we now know that
man did not evolve from (modern) apes at all, and the hypothetical single chain
is, in fact, more like a bush in which most branches died out. We are at the end of one branch, apes at
another, chimps at another, Neanderthals at another (now dead), and so on. Thus, with the help of additional evidence,
do paradigms die and models change.
Eighty years ago (and even now) there were those who said
that everything was created a few thousand years ago, intact and complete. Could be....
Yet one is moved to ask, "If so, then why did God fill the world with
such an overwhelming abundance of false evidence that things got going billions
of years ago?" This isn't a substantial
objection of course, because, being omnipotent, He could presumably have done
anything. But the cognitive dissonance
of this picture has undoubtedly led to some retrenchment on the part of literal
Next it was the eye.
The eye is so obviously "designed" to see, is so complex and works so
well that (we were told) it could never have arisen from "unguided" evolution. Then came the real drop-dead questions: What
good is 5% of an eye, and where are the intermediate forms? We don't hear this anymore because 5% of a
really good eye is still an eye and much better than nothing at all;
just ask anyone who has lost a lens to a cataract operation, or simply lost his
Coke-bottle-bottom glasses. Moreover
intermediate forms exist, and the eye is so useful that it seems to have
evolved independently several times.
So now we are told that the "motor" that drives the bacterial
flagellum could not have evolved because, lacking any individual piece in
exactly its current form, it wouldn't work.
"It requires at least forty, highly complex, interlocking, moving
protein components for assembly and operation and is believed to have been a
fully functioning component of the most primitive cells." (my emphasis) "Is believed" by whom?
Why should we believe it?
Moreover, who could know what "the most primitive cells" looked
like? Did friendly aliens visit the
early earth and leave us a set of electron micrographs?
This example is a case of what Intelligent Design
advocates call an "irreducibly complex system." For instance, Michael J. Behe,
professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, points to the common mousetrap
as a (manmade) example of such a system.
If any part of a mousetrap is omitted, it won't work. That there are analogous biological systems
is uncontroversial. If any of the many
biochemical steps in blood clotting fails, serious consequences can result. If any component of a human heart fails, the
patient dies. The question asked by ID
advocates is how such systems could have arisen in the first place.
This problem was first addressed by Nobel prize-winning
geneticist H. J. Muller in 1918 and more fully worked out in a 1939 paper,
"Reversibility in Evolution Considered from the Standpoint of
Genetics." Professor of Biology H. Allen Orr,
writing in the Boston Review and using Muller's ideas, explains how this might
An irreducibly complex system can be built gradually
by adding parts that, while initially just advantageous, become – because of
later changes – essential. The logic is very simple. Some part (A) initially
does some job (and not very well, perhaps). Another part (B) later gets added because
it helps A. This new part isn't essential, it merely improves things. But later
on, A (or something else) may change in such a way that B now becomes
indispensable. This process continues as further parts get folded into the
system. And at the end of the day, many parts may all be required.
The construction of an arch illustrates this. In order to build an arch, you must start
with a scaffold. Only after the
capstone is inserted can the scaffolding be removed. Without the scaffolding in place an observer might ask, "How did
this thing ever get built?" Biological
structures that become unnecessary and disappear can make what is left look
irreducibly complex. Professor Orr
describes evolution of the lung as another kind of transformation to irreversibility. The lung may have originated as an air
bladder in certain fish. In giving
better control of buoyancy it was an improvement, and an even greater
improvement when the fish began to make brief excursions onto dry land. After the fish's descendants ceased to be
water animals, and the bladder had become lungs, the structure that had begun
as an improvement became a necessity.
In his 1939 paper, Muller did not use the phrase
irreducible complexity, but rather reversibility, or the lack of it – the
idea that removal of some part disables the system. Because more than one kind of complexity is at issue in the ID
debate, it might be better if the term irreducible complexity were
replaced with irreversible
complexity, specifically referring to the "missing part" problem discussed by
Muller and Orr.
The other kind of complexity at issue is what one might
call ordinary or garden-variety complexity.
Upon close examination during the twentieth century, the cell
turned out to be extremely complex; too complex, ID proponents tell us, than
can be accounted for by mutation and natural selection. Here is Orr's response to this claim.
To anyone paying attention over the last century,
the revelation of complexity is no revelation at all. Geneticists, for instance,
have known for sixty years that the modest fruitfly sports at least five
thousand genes. So how could it not be complicated? You don't need a script to
know that a play featuring five thousand speaking parts is going to be a tad
complicated. Moreover, evolutionists all know that, from the time the earth
formed, it took three billion years to evolve the first true cell but only half
as long to get human beings from this cell. And we all interpret this the
same way: it's harder to evolve a cell than a human given a cell. But, surprise
or no, Behe's talk of complexity is utterly beside the point. As he well knows,
Darwinism has no trouble explaining sheer complexity: four billion years is an
unimaginably long time for things to get complicated. (my emphasis)
But back to
the flagellum. If flagella began as
nothing more than slightly irregular lumps of membrane, and wiggled, that's
more motility than none at all, and several billion years of evolution have
tuned that up nicely, just like the eye.
chance, progress in understanding happens.
Invoking divine intervention stops the search. From what we have seen here it would appear that ID is beating a
dead horse, trying to turn solved problems into unsolved problems so they can
apply their special fix. Whatever else
it may be, that certainly isn't science; rather, it resembles a kind of Deus
British evolutionist Richard Dawkins observes that many doubters of Darwinian evolution employ
what he calls the Argument from Personal Incredulity (API). Could the eye have evolved? "No way, couldn't have happened!" API.
Could the ear have evolved, especially when used for echolocation (bats,
whales and porpoises; also some blind people)?
"Impossible! Preposterous!" API.
We must recognize (as proponents of Intelligent Design
certainly do) that extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. Neo-Darwinian evolution theory
makes the extraordinary claim that its mechanisms explain, account for, make
reasonable the breathtaking diversity of life on earth. One of the reasons that the claims of
evolution appear fantastic is that we humans have a very poor appreciation for
the enormous span of geologic time and the immense size of the world. A small numerical exercise will help give a
(slightly) better feel for what can happen over long times.
We hypothesize that some jumping mouse is subjected to
mild evolutionary pressure (this will be defined later) to become larger. We assume that it starts out weighing one
ounce, and that owing to evolutionary pressure each generation increases in
weight by 0.01%. Assume further that a
generation is two years. This means
that every two years our mouse species will increase in weight, on the average,
by a factor of 1.0001. Since individual
variation in weight might be 20%,
it would be impossible to measure the weight gain from one generation to the
It would also be impossible to measure the weight gain
over the entire life span of a very long-lived scientist. In 90 years the increase would be only 0.4%,
much less than the assumed variation.
Throughout the entire written history of mankind, say 4000 years, the
increase would be only 22%, requiring careful measurement and statistical analysis
to identify any change at all. So much
for human time spans.
Now let's consider some geological times: short
geological times. At the end of 100,000
years our mouse would weigh a bit less than 10 pounds – roughly small-dog size;
but at 200,000 years it would weigh around 1,370 pounds; roughly the weight of
a medium-large Kodiak bear. Two hundred
thousand years is a long time to us, but it's miniscule compared to the
interval since (for example) the Cambrian Explosion, 600 million years
ago. At a remove of 600 million years,
200 thousand years is essentially instantaneous; even a million years is very
short. Moreover, life was probably
around for over 3 billion years before that, working up to its Cambrian coming-out
party. It is thus not surprising
that major groups of animals seem to appear "suddenly" in the fossil record at
600 million years before present. We
must also recognize that the statistical sampling represented by the fossil
record from hundreds of millions of years ago is very sparse.
The mouse-weight numbers are summarized in the table
Evolution is concerned with events that actually happened
but appear to be extremely improbable.
Perhaps the most improbable event of all that evolution must come to
terms with was the advent of self-replicating molecules: life, however
primitive, coming into being for the first time. We can again use some hypothetical numbers to examine just how
improbable this can be, and still have a good chance of happening.
In 1953 Harold C. Urey and Stanley L. Miller
conducted a series of experiments in which large flasks filled with atmospheres
thought to be approximations to the early earth atmosphere were subjected to
strongly ionizing conditions, such as electrical discharges or ultra-violet
light. In a very short time organic
molecules appeared, including some of the constituents of life: amino
acids. "More recently, laboratory
simulations of the chemical conditions of earth before the coming of life have
yielded organic substances called purines and pyrimidines. These are building blocks of the genetic
molecule, DNA itself." Of course, no self-replicating systems
(primitive life) appeared. If they had,
you'd have heard about it.
But is there any surprise in that? It seems plausible that life, if it
originated on earth rather than elsewhere, might have arisen in the oceans, the
supposed "primordial soup." So, we will
imagine a very patient scientist who sets up 1000 vats containing 1 gallon each
of such "soup," and introduces ultra-violet radiation and/or various chemicals
that might have triggered reproduction.
He then monitors them for 100 years for the emergence of
Multiplying the 1000 gallons by 100 years, we could call this a "100,000
gallon-year experiment." (We will
consider such an experiment a single "trial.")
It's fairly ambitious, but what are the chances of success?
Nature has also conducted such an "experiment," but a
successful one. Let's assume that the
probability of life arising on the earth in the first billion years was 50%, a
single toss of a coin. Since we're
here, we obviously won the toss.
Postulating that life did arise in the ocean, and that it occurred (to
be conservative) somewhere in the top 1 foot of the ocean, how many
gallon-years does this experiment represent?
There are about 3 x 1016 gallons in the top 1 foot of the
modern oceans. Multiplying this by 1
billion years gives 3 x 1025 gallon-years (GY). If the probability of success was 50% (0.5),
we can then calculate the probability that our scientist might see life arise
in his much smaller experiment. It is, approximately:
This is a very low
probability. In order to raise the
probability back to 0.5 (50%) our Prof can run N sequential trials:
Since each trial takes 100 years,
in order to achieve a roughly 50% chance of seeing life arise in any of his
1000 vats (based on this estimate), our poor long-suffering professor would
have to continue his experiment for about 3 x 1022 years, or about
2,000,000,000,000 times the current age of the universe. If life arose in the first million years
instead of the first billion, that only knocks off three zeros from our Prof's
wait. Would 100 years in the lab make a
definitive experiment? Would failure
prove anything? Hardly. The moral of this story, as before, is that
the earth is an exceptionally large laboratory with lots of time at its
disposal, more than we can easily imagine.
These numerical examples must not be taken too
seriously. They are presented only to
demonstrate how inadequate our intuitions can be – accustomed to much smaller
numbers – when confronted by the huge quantities that evolution must deal
with. But while we're here at the
creation (so to speak), it's appropriate to point out that the first "life" –
the first reproducers – need not have been DNA based at all. Some simpler, therefore more probable but
less stable, reproducer might have kicked things off and later evolved into
DNA. Furthermore, the blessed event may have happened not
once, but zillions of times, before a successful strain finally emerged.
part, the successful strain, appears indeed to have happened just once, because
all life on earth is now based on DNA (except for the RNA viruses). In the time since DNA took over, the DNA creatures
(or changed conditions, or both) have wiped out all their predecessors. The big numbers problem may prevent us from
ever knowing exactly what happened, but a number of labs around the world are
developing methods to vastly increase the probability of spontaneous
generation of reproducers, making it ever more likely that we may actually
observe something resembling life arise spontaneously. Stay tuned.
Up to this point we have treated neo-Darwinian evolution
as a black box, without ever peeking inside.
Fortunately for us, and quite unlike string theory or quantum mechanics,
Darwinian evolution is based on two very simple and easily understood
principles. But before opening the box,
a word from our sponsor, DNA.
By now everyone knows that DNA is a very long,
doubly-helical molecule that carries the genetic information needed for
reproduction. It is based on a chain
of repeating structures and is
therefore a polymer, vaguely like Nylon. For us, it is the recipe for making more of us, and there are two
copies of it in every cell of our bodies, one from our father and one from our
mother (except red blood cells (none) and reproductive cells (one)). Every time one of our cells (or any cell)
divides, that recipe is copied and passed on to two daughter cells. Thus, production of a full-grown person
requires copying the recipe thousands and millions of times.
If you copy
a short poem, hand it to someone else who copies it and hands it to someone
else, etc., even as few as a dozen times, you would expect to see numerous
errors in the result. The marvelous
thing about DNA copying is that very, very few copying errors are made,
and most of those are fixed by error checking and correcting algorithms
(molecules, actually). But in DNA
copying as in life, errors do happen, and when they do they are called mutations. The two most important things about
mutations are that they are random, and that they breed true
(unlike acquired traits like big biceps).
If the mutated DNA is copied, the mutation is copied with it.
errors that creep into a multiply-copied poem are not likely to improve the
poem, so too, mutations are not likely to improve the recipient. If the recipient of a mutation (whether cell
or person) immediately dies, that ends the unwholesome career of that
mutation. Even if the first recipient
of the mutation does not die outright, the recipient may not be able to
reproduce, and, as before, the mutation is eliminated.
(however rarely) a mutation may represent an improvement, a change which
(however slightly) increases the chances for successful reproduction. Assuming that reproduction actually happens,
that mutation has, in a sense, taken on a life of its own and carries the
potential to improve the survivability of its carriers and their offspring.
We can now
extract from the foregoing the two fundamental principles of neo-Darwinian
- Mutations (DNA copying errors) happen randomly and with
random effects. Since life relies on
finely balanced biochemical systems in which exactly the right things must
happen at exactly the right times, most mutations are harmful. A very few have no significant effect and
just hang around. (This makes genetic
fingerprinting possible.) A very few
are potentially beneficial.
- Natural selection performs a sieving (sort and reject)
operation on mutations, retaining those with beneficial effects and eliminating
those with harmful effects.
It is the
randomness in I that creates non-directional diversity. It is the sieving operation in II (selection
of the best) that gives evolution its quite directional and non-random
push toward "better" (reproductively more successful) forms. These two principles act recursively; that
is, the output from II becomes the next input to I. We are looking here at the central claim of mainstream evolution
theory: that cycling through these two steps billions of times over billions of
years has produced the variety of life we see in the world today. Intelligent Design proponents take the
opposite view, that this mechanism is inadequate and that only the intervention
of an intelligence can explain life as we see it. Let us look further at how evolution works – and doesn't.
mutation (that just now happened) should be thought of as the "first step"
toward an eye or a liver or any other specific structure, or any structure at
all. Mutations are truly random and
innocent of aspiration. They must not
be thought of as design elements in a greater plan, or as manifestations of intent
to create an X of any particular kind.
It is the iterative-recursive process, working in an environment
consisting of all the other DNA, the total organism and the external world that
ultimately determines the result.
to the flagellum gives us a chance to see this process in action. Apparently, motility is useful to
bacteria. It may be useful because it
moves the bacteria away from regions of depleted nourishment, or away from
regions contaminated by their own waste products, or allows them to evade
predators or to chase food; probably all of these and more. Under such conditions there will be selection
pressure toward greater and more efficient motility; that is, any mutation
that results in an incremental ability to move (without trashing something
else) increases the chances of reproduction.
Mutation produces random results; natural selection preferentially
preserves the improvements, some of which increase motility.
the number of "trials" our evolving bacteria might have undertaken, we can
calculate roughly how many generations of bacteria have lived since life first
appeared on earth 3 or 4 billion years ago.
Say it was 3 billion years, and a single bacterial generation lives 6
hours (long by usual bacterial standards).
This gives about 4.38x1012 generations, or 4,380,000,000,000
times through steps I and II of the evolutionary mechanism. Moreover, because of branching (one cell
produces two daughters, etc., allowing many simultaneous trials) the actual number
of trials is enormously larger. As
usual we mustn't read too much into these numbers, but it seems reasonable that
the motility of bacteria might have undergone quite a lot of refinement through
so many iterations.
of the eye provides firmer insight into the process because so many variant
forms of biological light sensor are known.
Imagine a tiny single- or multi-cell creature we'll call Beta that makes
its living by eating chlorophyll-containing blobs. If mutation throws up a few molecules that generate chemical
signals in response to light, then Beta has the possibility of moving to
locations where there is more light and therefore more chlorophyll blobs. It's not very efficient because Beta must
move to test the gradient: swim this way, the signal goes up; swim that way,
the signal goes down.
Now imagine another mutation that shifts the light-sensitive molecules
toward one end of Beta. This begins to
add some directional capability, because light from one direction is attenuated
by passing through Beta's body, while that from the opposite direction is
not. Mutational addition of some opaque
molecules just beneath the light-sensitive ones creates even more directional
discrimination. Equipped with vaguely
directional light-sensing splotches on its surface, Beta can now head off in
the preferred direction with little prior motion. In a few cases, zillions of generations of such individually tiny
improvements have produced eyes in a wide variety of styles. Naturally by that time Beta would have
become something quite different. (But
others haven't, and still sport primitive "eye patches.")
quick review of Darwinian evolution may sound oversimplified, and of course it
is. In evolution the miracles are in
the details, and it is the details that have kept evolutionists busy these 150
years. You will perhaps have noticed
that I have not mentioned genes, and I will not mention them again. The genes, the details and all the rest are
the proper domain of professional biologists, and it is to them that the reader
must turn for more information. Some
books that have helped me are listed at the end of the endnotes. In addition, a link is provided to Talk
Reason, a website devoted to the defense of science from a variety of
As we have seen, the earliest (modern) anti-evolutionists
based their rejection of Darwin on what they felt was a literal interpretation
of the Bible. According to their
reading, the world was created a few thousand years ago very much as we see it
today, minus the effects of Noah's flood.
As paleontology and geology have taken root and advanced, there has been
a steady diminution from such monumentality to ever more modest and subtle
claims for divine intervention. Over a
period of a hundred years or so the architectonic feats of the Lord seem to
have dwindled from sculpting the world entire in a single stroke to the truly
miniaturistic touch of a bacterium's flagellum, too small to be appreciated
without an electron microscope.
dispassionately (if such a thing is possible) such a progression has the
unmistakable feel of strategic retreat.
It recapitulates in miniature the 2500 year progression from mythos
to logos with which this paper began, the gradual "wringing out" of the
supernatural from our understanding of natural events.
The latest generation of anti-Darwinists, the proponents
of Intelligence Design, do not (at least publicly) invoke the authority of the
Bible, but claim the invention of a new science. The following statement is from the website of Intelligent
The theory of intelligent design(ID) holds that certain
features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an
intelligent cause rather than an undirected process such as natural selection. ID
is thus a scientific disagreement with the core claim of evolutionary theory
that the apparent design of living systems is an illusion.
of Intelligent Design actively promote the teaching of their ideas in the
public schools and in universities as science. They understand that this will not happen as long as ID is
perceived to be religious in origin and content, and they understandably try
very hard to distance themselves from obviously theological aims.
Intelligent Design is not
creation science. ID is simply an
hypothesis about the direct cause of certain past events based on an
observation and analysis of data. ID
does not arise from any religious text, nor does it seek to validate any
scriptural account of origins. An ID
proponent recognizes that ID theory may be disproved by new evidence.
We might admire such wholehearted commitment to
scientific objectivity were it not for this, in the same paper a few sentences
ID addresses one question
only: is life the product of a guided or an unguided process? Did it arise from a mind or from the
meaningless meandering of molecules in mindless motion?
The first sentence introduces a false dichotomy that
arises from a persistent misunderstanding of Darwinian evolution. As we have seen, evolution is powerfully
guided by principle II, natural selection.
The guiding is not toward a predetermined form, but toward reproductive
success. It may result in cabbages or
kings, but it is not unguided. The second
sentence builds on the misunderstanding in the first, and its sextuple
alliteration clearly telegraphs that, for the authors, and despite their claim
to objectivity, the jury is no longer out.
The following excerpt, in my view, captures the ID worldview
with admirable clarity and concision.
But it also isolates and highlights the problem that its central
assumption creates for science.
ID proposes nothing more
than that life and its diversity were the product of an intelligence with
power to manipulate matter and energy.
Period. (my emphasis)
Maybe "nothing more" and "Period" are intended to suggest
that the authors make a modest proposal, but to accept it would introduce into
science a lethal dose of ad hoc subjectivity and trash any hope of
coherence and rigor. There is nothing
more basic to science than the interaction of matter and energy. If that can be manipulated by an external
intelligence, then the rules disappear, the game is over and we are back, not
to Square One, but somewhere off in Aristophanes' cloudcuckooland.
Let's try to put this ID claim into a wider
perspective. What scientist in his or
her right mind – or team of scientists – would invest decades of time and
billions of dollars building scientific instruments that sprawl over miles of
in order to measure precisely the interaction of matter and energy – if
they believed that "an intelligence" has a reputation for manipulating such
outcomes at will? Clearly, the
scientists, engineers, project directors, politicians and national assemblies
wouldn't consider making such investments if any of them seriously believed
that the experimental results were not determined by "fixed laws operating
I'm not suggesting that we should look to Parliament for
guidance on how the world works. What I
wish to show is how thoroughly the assumption of fixed natural law permeates
our modern world view and by contrast (this is the important part) how
radical, insurrectionary and anarchistic is the ID proposition quoted above.
As it happens, Harris and Calvert have thought about this
problem and respond as follows
First, we are not discussing all of science, we are
discussing how life and its diversity originated. How something works and how it came to be are vastly different
truly bizarre. Throughout most of their
paper Harris and Calvert are understandably coy in avoiding any equivalence
between "an intelligence" and God, but here they imply that this mysterious
force only intervenes in the process of "coming to be," and not in "how it
works." If they are as innocent of
theological presupposition as they claim, how would they know so precisely when
the "intelligence" acts and when it doesn't?
Moreover, the quotation from Intelligent Design network that opened this
Section and that reads in part, "...certain features of the universe and of living things..." doesn't
even restrict the domain of ID to biology.
coherent world of uniform natural law, how something works and how it came to
be cannot be "vastly different questions."
Are mutation and mitosis part of "coming to be" or part of "how it
works?" Harris and Calvert don't tell
us, yet they ask that we sign over to them merely those parts of the
world in which they claim superior knowledge, a proposal that is both
incoherent and disingenuous. If we give
them this inch, they inherit the whole universe. It's the ultimate Trojan Horse – and believe me, they know it!
Let's try to back away from the grubby, contentious
details of science and religion and clear our minds for what is (arguably) the
most basic question of all. We want to
ask, in the most global yet naïve way, "What's out there? What is the nature of the world and what, if
any, are its laws?" Answers come
pouring forth from all the divisions and disciplines of human activity. How are we to judge them? How decide which are useful and which
not? In slightly more formal language,
we can ask – like good lawyers –
"What are the rules of evidence?
What is evidence?"
Theologian Paul Tillich, in his massive three-volume work
suggests that we make a primal, generative "non-rational choice" when we decide
what we will accept as legitimate, useful evidence. Not an irrational choice, as in unreasonable, illogical or
crazy, but non-rational, as in not proceeding from ratiocination – not a
product of either deductive logic or empiricism. According to Tillich, this choice will ineluctably mold and color
all subsequent investigation, finally and powerfully fixing our conception of
the world we inhabit. Tillich's
proposition can be rendered into a (not entirely tongue-in-cheek) epigram: Ontology recapitulates epistemology. That is, our conclusions about what is
arise from, and are dependent upon, our (pre-) conceptions about knowledge and
If your choice is to accept your own internal perception
of faith as evidence of truth, and my choice is to rely on double-blind
clinical trials, then Professor Tillich cautions that neither of us can
legitimately say to the other, "You are wrong, you have made an
incorrect choice." The mystic may rely
on trance or dreams for evidence; the Christian may rely on a divinely inspired
Bible or ex cathedra encyclicals from the pope. What lies at the root of these differences
is the choice of what kind of evidence we are willing to accept as dispositive.
just for myself, I don't see any way around this. I said at the outset that the assumptions of modern,
materialistic science are just that, assumptions and unprovable. In Tillich's language these are (part of)
the non-rational choice we make when we decide to be scientists. (Or, more precisely, when we choose to
accept the evidentiary rules of material science.) We could have chosen to be astrologers, mystics or priests, and
each of the associated world-views proceeds from a different evidentiary
choice. But that's the way it is: I
cannot say that your mystical world is wrong because my empirical
evidence denies it. I can only say that
we have chosen different ground rules and (unsurprisingly) arrive at different
tried in this paper to lay out, as clearly as I can, what happens when we are
not consistent or precise about our rules of evidence and attempt to mix
incompatible systems. Do matter and
energy interact according to fixed laws, or does "an intelligence" have the
power to "manipulate matter and energy?"
These two propositions have fundamentally different assumptions; they belong
to different systems. We should like to
say that if one is true the other is nonsense and a fool's errand. But since each interlocutor stands, as it
were, in a different universe with different rules, even this dichotomy is
muddy and imprecise. Mixing the two can
only result in incoherence and chaos.
philosopher Karl Popper
proposed that no theory can be properly termed scientific unless it is
"falsifiable." For example, I advance a
theory that an elf sits on my shoulder with the special property that nothing
and no one can detect it. My theory is
safe – no one can disprove it. But it's
not science. Many of Popper's ideas have
fallen out of favor, but the concept of
necessary falsifiability has (largely) endured. I suggest that Intelligent Design cannot be a scientific theory
because it is not falsifiable. It is all very well to say, "An ID proponent
recognizes that ID theory may be disproved by new evidence," but they are
perfectly safe. It's not falsifiable. In biology, so much more complicated than
physics, there is effectively an infinite number of questions. Because they cannot all be answered, no
statement about an unspecified subset of them can be disproved (falsified). "Oh, you found a mechanism for that? Not to worry, the intelligence wasn't acting
the implications for education alone.
Teaching students what science is and how it works are hard enough as it
is. Introducing Intelligent Design into
the high school curriculum would make it impossible.
the beginning of the twenty-first century may or may not be firmly on the road
to a Theory of Everything.
Neo-Darwinian evolution may or may not have got all its ducks in a
row. The fundamental assumptions of
science take no side in this. What they
do is allow us to map out coherent strategies for investigation, and consistent
rules for evaluating their outcomes.
I wish to
propose a small thought experiment that will be trivial to some and no doubt
infuriating to others, but I do it as another way of highlighting the
discontinuity that ID proponents urge upon us.
Imagine if you will a universe much like ours, filled with leptons,
quarks, fields, energy; all the familiar stuff. And yes, it has at least one intelligent species who call
themselves Alphas and are utterly secular.
Like us, the Alphas carry out science and work on hard problems,
including evolution. Faced with some
particularly tough nut, do you suppose that they would suddenly propose the existence
of a cosmic "intelligence" – an ontological object as alien and capricious to
them as the pocket watch
on the heath; a sideways lurch that nothing they had ever done or thought
before had in any way suggested? One
thinks not; more likely they would just work harder.
through its assumptions and by nearly universal agreement, has chosen to work
in that secular universe. One has to
ask then why a scientist like Professor Michael Behe,
by his own statement a Roman Catholic,
can consider it a minimal extension of science to take the plunge that our
Alphas cannot conceive. I think the
only possible answer is that there is something readily at hand, really
convenient, to plug right in – and we all know what that is: God. I am not suggesting that Professor Behe
himself is being disingenuous in not identifying the intelligence with God (I
don't know what he thinks), but I do believe that the movement as a whole is
dishonest. How many people, especially
high school students, can make the fine philosophical distinction (which may be
no distinction at all) between a ruling metaphysical intelligence and God?
Until this Section I have avoided ascribing
thoughts or positions to ID proponents that are not explicit in ID publications
which I have read. However, there are
certain subliminal themes that seem so firmly embedded in the ID worldview that
I must comment on them. ID proponents
go to great pains to convince us of the astronomical improbability of
genetically proceeding from A to B based on random mutation, where B is closely
specified – for instance, in evolving from nothing much to flagella of a
specific design. In this they are
right, but they hide their major premise and draw the wrong conclusion.
I deal all 52 cards from a
well-shuffled deck, recording each one.
The probability of exactlythatsequence of cards
appearing was essentially zero ((52 factorial)-1, roughly 1 in 1068);
it will almost certainly never happen again.
But it did happen. One must be
careful with this analogy, but it illustrates that "statistically impossible"
things happen all the time if you don't demand to know what they will be
beforehand. The corresponding process
in evolutionary biology is not a molecular deal, not the chance
assembly of zillions of atoms into a person or an eye, because that's not the
way it works. Instead, we should think of the shuffle and
deal as millions of chance mutations (culled by natural selection) leading to
thousands of diverging branches. After
many branchings, the probability of any previously specified twig
appearing is essentially zero.
Consider a specific example. The probability of evolving from, say, a
single cell to a kangaroo is essentially zero.
It will never happen again; in the entire rest of the universe there is almost
certainly nothing quite like our kangaroo.
There are too many chance branches to something else. All those millions of chance branches
(subjected to reproducibility testing) had to lead to a great many somethings,
and one of them wound up being a funny-looking animal we've named the
kangaroo. But (and this is the
crucial point) there was never a plan, design, intent or necessity to produce a
kangaroo. In principle, we can look
backward and observe the steps that led to the kangaroo (analysis), but there
was no kangaroo-ness in the beginning that guided evolution, only the
potentiality to produce almost anything, as long as it was viable and
competitively successful. ID proponents
insist on running analysis the wrong way around as synthesis,
with a predetermined outcome. That
really does produce statistical impossibilities.
Now I take a leap in inferring ID thoughts that are
not so clearly or explicitly expressed.
I suspect that the ID folks have quite a clear conception of what human
beings ought to look like, i.e., pretty much as we do. Now, what was the likelihood of evolving
from a single cell to precisely us?
Essentially zero, because there were so many divergent
possibilities. But millions of
possibilities had to happen, did happen, and one of them developed
intelligence. It is only with the
(implicit) assumption that we – as we are – had to be the current
endpoint of one evolutionary branch that statistical impossibility arises. Whether evolution to something with
intelligence is a high-probability event or a low-probability event, we don't
know. All we can say is that it did
happen, but it might have happened quite differently or not at all. We, handsome brutes that we are, just lucked
There are issues of common body
forms and "evolutionary convergence" which are beyond the scope of this
paper. These issues are addressed in
good books on evolution. But if you are
wondering where the really weird body forms are – the science fiction-like
monsters – I can tell you: they're in the sea.
On dry land the rigors of gravity place limits on the freedom of
nature's efflorescent creativity.
Intelligent Design is often described by its
proponents as the "science of design detection." Because I regard ID design detection as ad hoc,
self-serving, transparently subjective pseudo-science, I am not eager to
address it. It is the Tar-Baby of the
ID brier patch, and one approaches it with reluctance. However, because of its centrality in the ID
argument, ignoring it would invite accusations of failure to engage.
The word design can mean a
variety of quite different things.
Design can be a transitive verb: He designed the toaster. Here, the instrumentality of intelligence is
clearly pointed to. On the other hand,
one might speak of the pleasing design created by slicing and polishing
a rock. No one would think that the
agency of an intelligent designer was being invoked. It is with the contentious middle ground that we are concerned.
As the eighteenth century
theologian William Paley famously observed, if a pocket watch were to be
discovered upon the heath, "...I should hardly think of the answer which I had
before given [with respect to a stone], that for anything I knew, the watch
might always have been there." Instead,
he would conclude that the watch
...must have a maker; that there must have existed at
some time and at some place or other an artificer or artificers, who formed it
for the purpose which we find it actually to answer... [i.e., telling time]
follow this. You stumble upon a watch,
a toaster, a cell phone or any other product of industrial civilization and you
will almost certainly identify it as man-made and designed by an intelligence. Now imagine you meet a hedgehog. You whip out your portable biology
laboratory and proceed to dissect and analyze it. What are your conclusions?
hedgehog have design? Here we might
think of design in the same way we think of the watch as having design, i.e., as
complex structures with specific functions: an eye, an ear, a stomach, a liver,
muscles, bones, etc. No contest. Yes, it has design.
So now we have two things, watch
and hedgehog, that have design. Setting
aside the likelihood that we would recognize familiar technology in the watch,
we can still give many reasons for believing it was manufactured: We find no infant watches, no pregnant
watches, no watch nests or burrows, no watch wells or veins of watches, even in
rich gold deposits, no primitive gears or proto-hairsprings in the fossil
record; and we cannot propose any plausible mechanism by which its various
parts might have arisen naturally and assembled themselves; in short, no
consilience with the world of natural objects whatsoever. What of the hedgehog? Quite the opposite on every count (except
the wells and mines).
What are the important differences
here? The watch on the heath is totally
unique, an object without connection or context. By contrast, the hedgehog is firmly embedded, not only in the
life of the heath, but in a biological history that can be traced back billions
of years through hundreds of body forms to smaller and simpler creatures. Moreover we have, in neo-Darwinian
evolution, a powerful and coherent mechanism for accounting for the
whole picture, including the emergence of design. By now we might be wondering just what point the good Doctor
Paley thought he was making, or why proponents of Intelligent Design quote him;
for the exercise seems to illustrate the ease of distinguishing evolutionary
design from intelligent design, not the reverse.
So much for design detection. No argument, there is design in living
Another, related, subject that
engages the ID folks almost as much as design detection is information
detection. Not random gibberish, like
the order of cards in a deal, but real, coherent information. This is even more easily disposed of than
design detection. Of course
there is information in DNA, and molecular geneticists have even learned how to
read it, and write it. As we
have seen, DNA carries the recipe for making more of its own kind, and that
certainly qualifies as information.
everyone agrees that design and information exist in living things, we can ask
why ID proponents expand at such great length about non-random messages,
syntactical meaning, information- and design-detection filters and the
like. One can guess it's because it
gives them the opportunity to generate a large amount of highly scientific-sounding
language that no one but a specialist in information theory could reasonably be
expected to understand, much less evaluate – all of which is clearly intended
to lend ID a spurious patina of intellectual legitimacy.
current point man on design detection is arguably William A. Dembski. In Dembski's articles and books
he proposes mathematical methods for design detection, including a measure
which he calls "complex specified information", or CSI. Dembski asserts that the presence of CSI is
diagnostic of intelligent design, and is found in specific cases. Taking on the edifice of semi-mathematical
verbiage Dembski has erected and deconstructing it brick by brick is a dirty
job, but someone had to do it, and Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey Shallit have
taken up the challenge in their paper Information Theory, Evolutionary
Computation, and Dembski's "Complex Specified Information". In the course of this paper, the authors
quote the paragraph below, which I will take as an illustrative example of the
quality of Dembski's reasoning.
(Elsberry and Shallit discuss it from a somewhat different perspective.)
In every instance where  the
complexity-specification criterion attributes design  and where  the
underlying causal story is known (i.e., where we are not just dealing with
circumstantial evidence, but where, as it were, the video camera is running and
any putative designer would be caught red-handed), it turns out  design
actually is present; therefore,  design actually is present whenever the
complexity-specification criterion attributes design.
complex sentence is most easily parsed with the aid of a Venn diagram (see
below). We begin by defining three sets
of Dembski-style "events":
 A: the
complexity-specification criterion attributes design
 B: the underlying causal
story is known
 D: design actually is
The word "and"  implies the existence of a non-null set C,
which is the intersection of sets A and B:
 C: <the
complexity-specification criterion attributes design> AND <the underlying
causal story is known>
Dembski then asserts ("it turns out") that the intersection
of A and B, which is C, is a subset of D ("design
actually is present"). He then
concludes "design actually is present whenever the complexity-specification criterion
attributes design." This is easier to
understand if we turn it around as an IF THEN statement:
 IF < the
complexity-specification criterion attributes design (A)> THEN <
design actually is present (D)>.
This is equivalent to the statement
that every member of set A (including any future, as-yet untested event)
is necessarily also a member of set D.
We can see from the diagram that this conclusion does not logically
follow (A is not contained in D; only some of it is). Moreover, even if Dembski could show us a large number of members
of D ("design actually is present") that his methods had successfully
assigned to A ("the complexity-specification criterion attributes
design"), his conclusion would be merely inductive, since he has not proved
that every future member of A will also be a member of D. (That appears to be what he thinks he did
with his pseudo-syllogism, but the diagram shows that he didn't.) Unfortunately, this seems to be
representative of the quality of mathematical rigor in Dembski's books and
papers in general, as reported by Elsberry and Shallit.
But really, all this mathematical
mumbo-jumbo is like applying the calculus of finite-dimensional vector spaces
to the question How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? without
a rigorous definition of the word "design" (by which Dembski means "intelligent
design"), something Dembski fails to give us.
Without that, we have nothing to talk about. This situation resembles Supreme Court Justice John Potter
Stewart's famous definition of pornography: "I know it when I see it." That was bad enough for the law. For science, it's hopeless – the very
definition of non-science.
and Shallit's paper is 54 pages long, and I recommend it highly for folks
interested in pursuing the design/information question in more depth. I will end here with an excerpt from their
We have argued that Dembski's justification for
"intelligent design" is flawed in many respects. His concepts of complexity and information are either orthogonal
or opposite to the use of these terms in the literature. His concept of specification is
ill-defined. Dembski's use of the term
"complex specified information" is inconsistent, and his proof of the "Law of
Conservation of Information" is flawed.
Finally, his claims about the limitations of evolutionary algorithms are
If this is
the best that ID mathematical analysts can do, then we might as well avoid the
red herring of design detection entirely by simply stipulating that design and
information do exist in living things.
This instantly moves the conversation forward to the leap that ID
proponents make with respect to both design and information: design requires an
intelligent designer; information requires an intelligent informer. In other words, the proposition that a
suitably motivated "intelligence" can bond atoms and molecules at will,
generating desired evolutionary outcomes.
Stripped of their epistemological exfoliation, ID
arguments ultimately come down to Richard Dawkins' Argument from Personal
Incredulity. Our ID friends look at the
natural world as understood by evolution theory and say, "I don't believe
it." This is a perfectly decent,
respectable response; but it is a thin reed indeed from which to launch a
radical attack on the fundamental assumptions of science, and upon which to
erect such an ungainly, creaking edifice as Intelligent Design – which for me
resembles nothing quite so much as Howl's Moving Castle.
material of Intelligent Design – its stock in trade – consists in identifying
problems that cannot be solved. That's
what "irreducible complexity" is supposed to mean and "design detection" is
supposed to find: intractable mystery.
A waggish ID slogan might be:
Failures R Us. A string of newly
solved problems might look bad for ID.
As we have seen from Harris and Calvert and from Intelligent Design
network (at the end of Section VI), the identification of what does and does
not belong to the domain of ID is incoherent or worse. Let's see how this might work out in
Meet Bob and Sam, both of whom are
biologists. Bob is a mainstream
university researcher, and Sam is an ID proponent. (I refuse to say ID scientist because I'm convinced it's an
oxymoron. You'll see why in a
moment.) When Bob goes into the lab to
tackle a new problem, he says to himself, "Boy! I really want to solve this
problem and I'll work as long and hard as it takes!" In fact, everyone wants Bob to solve the problem: his dog,
his 9-year old kid, his wife, his department chairman, his funding agency and
the public who will benefit. They're
all on board and pulling in the same direction.
goes into the lab he says, "Gee, what should I do? When I fail at problems that's good because I can rack up
more points for "the intelligence," but it's bad because ID skeptics
will say I'm failing on purpose." Poor
Sam is permanently uncertain about how hard to try. He's caught in a conflict of interest vortex he can't get out of.
Which guy would you want on your cancer research team? I mean, your cancer.
Here is why
this story is serious instead of silly.
Proponents want to inject ID into science education. Science education is where we get our
research scientists from. Research
scientists are the folks who will cure cancer..., if it is cured. Do we want to give control of the teaching
of science – any control – to folks who have a vested interest in not
solving problems? The ID lobby will
cry, "Foul! We're not talking
about those problems!" But I'm
afraid they are. Cancer is genetics
gone wild. Genetics is the home turf of
ID. There are many other diseases that
are genetic in origin, including sickle cell anemia, cystic fibrosis, type 1
diabetes, leukemia, Down syndrome, hemophilia A, and countless others. Some of the most exciting prospects for
future cures involve manipulating genetic information. The last thing we want to do is instill in
our young people a propensity to regard genetics as a domain of necessary
mystery and not open to robust scientific investigation. If you are beginning to get a queasy feeling
about all this, you will know why "ID scientist" is an oxymoron.
Science learning in the United States
is already in crisis:
making students better at reading and math is the nation's priority. When it
comes to science, however, a quiet crisis is engulfing schools, say scientists,
educators, business leaders and entrepreneurs.
improving the quality of science teaching, ID proponents seek to poke a
theological finger down into the heart of early science education and addle it
with fake mysteries. That is not the
way to attract kids to a lifetime of research.
Intelligent Design claims to be
science. It is not. Was there ever in the history of science, or
any other cognitive trade, a movement whose calling card reads, "We do not
understand – Which is good news for us"?
Intelligent Design is a Luddite,
bent on distorting and dumbing down the teaching of science to fit a retro
religious agenda that is more interested in gaining converts than advancing the
frontiers of human knowledge or relieving human suffering.
We are not engaged here in mere
parlor talk. ID proponents everywhere
are lobbying for inclusion of Intelligent Design in the high school and college
science curricula, to be taught as science and at least in
parallel with Darwinian evolution.
President George W. Bush has recently announced his support for the
teaching of ID. If the President were
to make promotion of ID a personal project, millions of Americans would cheer
and follow him. If the emotional
intensity of the public debate over ID were to rise to the level of the
abortion debate, all scientists, and especially biologists, could find
themselves working in a hostile environment.
Some already do. In many places,
high school teachers of biology already suffer intense scrutiny, professional
challenge and emotional attack.
Advocacy for ID is following a
course that we have seen in other areas.
Pushed by a wave of conservatism and backed by affluent organizations
such as The Heritage Foundation, Focus on the Family, The Discovery Institute
and others ID
proponents are girding for battle.
Numerous publications, such as those referenced in this paper, are
produced and speakers are trained in all the rhetorical skills of Hellenistic
Greece, gussied up with the latest buzzwords.
A brief Internet browsing session will reveal the breadth, seriousness
and professionalism of this movement.
Given the skill and commitment of
the promoters of ID, scientists should think twice before engaging in public
debate. Those who choose to rise to the
challenge should, if possible, study transcripts of previous debates and
develop their positions with rigor, care and scientific honesty. Many very brilliant and creative scientists
are poor teachers or communicators. A
few genuine experts have faired badly in public debate. If you feel compelled to publicly resist
this threatened march from logos back to mythos, be brutally
honest with yourself. If you don't have
a proven record as a teacher, debater or public advocate, think carefully
before you put yourself and your field in harm's way. In a large venue you can be pretty sure your adversaries really
are debating champions, and the best in the business. That's why they're there.
It is time to call the thing by its right
name. I have attempted in this paper to
show that ID is not science, conflicts with science quite fundamentally, can
hobble or destroy the teaching of science, and is in fact the thin end of a
wedge that is intended to pry religion into public education. If any broad-based movement can claim with a
straight face that "an intelligence" which has the ability to manipulate matter
and energy to control evolutionary outcomes is not God by another name, we
might admire their chutzpah but we would be fools to believe them.
discussion in the main text reflects a philosophy of science that is usually
called Scientific Realism, which can be described as
...the view that the subject matter of scientific
research and scientific theories exists independently of our knowledge of it,
and that the goal of science is the description and explanation of both
observable and unobservable aspects of the world.
formal language, this point of view states that there are real objects "out
there," outside of ourselves and our minds, that exist independently of whether
we see them, measure them, or even think about them; and that these objects
change and interact in regular ways that also do not depend upon our perception
or non-perception of them. For instance, scientific realism would
assert that the earth was spherical and revolved about the sun even at a time
when people thought the earth was flat and the sun a golden chariot. Moreover, the realist would say that the
same was true even before there were people to perceive it. Every time we talk about the evolution of
the solar system, we assume it was really there long before we were.
been and are philosophers of science who take virtually the opposite point of
view, specifically, that it is incorrect to speak of things existing
independently of thought, perception or theory. An early example of this point of view was expressed by the Greek
philosopher (or sophistes) Protagoras in his famous aphorism, "Man is
the measure of all things." Among
anti-realists and anti-realist theories are: Bishop Berkeley's subjective
idealism; Thomas Kuhn's scientific communitarianism,
Bas van Fraassen's constructive empiricism; radical empiricism; Social
or inductive reasoning is what we employ when we make statements like, "I've
always seen the sun rise in the morning, therefore it will rise tomorrow
morning." It has happened thus,
therefore it will happen thus.
We generally regard such statements as carrying little weight. We have reason to think, for instance, that
someday the sun will expand into a red giant, engulfing the earth. After that there will be no more morning
sunrises (on the earth). Adherents to
scientific realism try to deduce from observations theories that make
predictions that are not based on past experience per se, but that arise
necessarily from laws that exist as real aspects (components, elements) of the
physical world. Thus when a stone is
lifted from the ground and released, we predict that it will fall, not
because it always has, but because the stone and the earth attract each
may be an irreducible inductive component in even our most careful predictions
about the physical world. I have said
fairly explicitly in Section II that we are given considerable encouragement
toward accepting the three assumptions of realism by the historical success of
the scientific endeavor that was based on them. Many would see at least a grain of induction in this. On the other hand, realists like to point to
the "stability of the phenomena," the fact that the same experiments produce
the same results quite reliably; that it doesn't matter whether the
experimenters are Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, vegetarian, atheist or
Seventh Day Adventist, the results are the same. The fact that cultures as disparate as the United States, France
and Japan can independently build atomic clocks that agree to within one part
in 1015 (1 second in 31.7 million years) is impressive. That's a lot of stability in the phenomena.
history of atomic theory will illustrate this further. The Greek philosophers Democritus and
Leucippus proposed that matter is not infinitely divisible, but instead
consists of a multitude of very small non-cuttable atoms (a-toma). They had no real evidence for this and the
idea died out, but in the nineteenth century atomic theory was resurrected by
chemists to explain the observation that elements combine to form compounds
in fixed ratios of weight. Physicists, however, remained skeptical.
was one of the first physicists to argue persuasively for the atomic theory in
his 1905 paper on Brownian motion.
Ironically, much of the other contemporary evidence for the existence of
atoms came from studies of sub-atomic particles carried out by Thompson,
Rutherford and others. As theories of the chemical bond were
developed, the regular lattice structures of crystals were predicted, then
"confirmed" by x-ray crystallography.
But still, no one had ever seen an atom. To some philosophers atoms were an unobservable,
therefore in some sense not legitimate objects of science.
several decades ahead, the invention of the scanning-tunneling microscope made
it possible to physically "feel" the atoms on a surface and map their
locations. For the first time images of
individual atoms were produced, and I vividly remember saying at the time,
"Wow, they're really there!"
They were not only there, they were exactly where theory said they
should be, in exactly the predicted patterns.
In a few
years it became possible to move atoms about one by one – even to arrange a
dozen or so into the letters IBM. Skipping
ahead once more, recent experiments (apparently) have succeeded in imaging
the spatial extent and shape of the quantum mechanical wave function that
describes the "...highest occupied molecular orbital of N2." These images agree with theory. Since wave functions are among the most
ontologically weird constructs of the quantum world, this is an astonishing
event. Once again, one can only say,
We have to
be impressed by the stability through all these historical steps, not
only of the idea of the atom, but of quantitative predictions made about
it. Stories like this abound in
science; they are what make scientists confident that they are on the right
track, that they are measuring real things, even if they give little thought to
the underlying philosophical questions.
The advent of quantum mechanics and
relativity in the early twentieth century solved serious problems in physics,
but radically altered our view of nature in many fundamental respects. Such concepts as necessary indeterminacy,
relativity of reference frames, and warping of the geometry of spacetime by
mass/energy challenge and sometimes completely defeat our physical intuitions. These developments have given philosophers
of science many restless nights and started arguments that continue to this
day. Yet this new science has been
astoundingly successful both in rationalizing the phenomena and predicting the
outcomes of new experiments. In 1943
Erwin Schrödinger, a pioneer of quantum theory, speculated that the stability
of the genetic code could only result from quantum energy barriers to
degradation of the code. It wasn't the
whole answer, but it was a start in the right direction.
theory addresses matter/energy interactions at the smallest scales, from
molecules on down. One of its most
startling propositions is that we cannot predict the outcome of certain
small-scale events, not (merely) because we don't know the initial conditions
well enough, but because there is an irreducible randomness built into the
world at this level. The easiest
example is natural radioactivity, in which atoms spontaneously disintegrate
into other elements.
Given a sample of radium, there is
no way of knowing which atoms will decay in the next second and which will
decay in 10,000 years. All we can say
is that in 1,620 years half of the atoms (of its most stable isotope) will have
decayed into other elements. If the
sample is very small, moreover, that "half" is only approximate. This state of affairs does not result from
lack of information about the individual atoms, it is truly intrinsic to the
process. Einstein expressed his intense
dislike of such ideas with his famous, "God does not play dice."
Physics adjusted to this shock, even if Einstein
didn't, and the current version of the theory (the "standard model") is
arguably the most successful in the history of science. It does, however, give a different flavor to
the claim that there are fixed physical laws, and that (among other things) is
what kept the philosophers up at night.
Einstein published his theories of
Special and General relativity in 1905 and 1915. Special relativity addresses the propagation of electromagnetic
radiation (including light). Einstein
began by making two modest assumptions: 1. The laws of physics are the same for
all observers in uniform unaccelerated motion and, 2. The speed of light is the same for all such observers. Among the startling consequences of these
assumptions are the following: 1.
Events that are simultaneous to you may be non-simultaneous to me. We can both be right. 2. Time "ticks" more slowly for a clock in
motion. 3. . 4. The speed of
light is the absolute speed limit of the universe. General relativity addresses gravity. A popular epigrammatic expression of general relativity runs as
follows: matter tells space how to warp, and warped space tells matter how to
move. Einstein's two relativities kept
philosophers of science working overtime because of (among other things) their
radical reconsideration of privileged observers and frames of reference.
Modern quantum theory (modified by special
relativity) and general relativity have been extraordinarily successful in
accounting for and predicting physical behavior. But there's a problem: they are mathematically incompatible with
one another. Quantum theory (the
standard model) addresses matter and energy on very small scales, while general
relativity addresses matter and energy on very large scales. Black holes and the very early universe are
very small (standard model) but very massive (general relativity). Either a synthesis or a whole new beginning
must be found, and string theory, M theory and quantum gravity are examples of
current efforts in this direction. One
hundred years after the tsunami of relativity and quantum theory, physics
stands at another cusp; we live in interesting times.
* * *
Why have I included these
Appendices on the philosophy and workings of science, physics in particular
(the author modestly asks)? It is
because they provide instructive glimpses into how science works, and
how well it works, when the rules are followed. These examples (or, better, the actual
scientific work to which they refer) illustrate the enormous success that
science has had in making sense of the universe we live in, and in generating
profound insights into the most fundimental questions of how things work. This is the standard to which Intelligent
Design, or any new science, must conform if it is to be legitimately called science. I submit that an objective assessment of ID
demonstrates that it meets essentially none of the necessary tests of
scientific rigor, and that it is ultimately theological in intent and content. It is, in fact, the subject that dares not
speak its name, which is: religion.
 The Nitty Gritty Bit, by
Thomas D. Schneider, Ph.D., examines the potential impact of ID on a looming
public health crisis. http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Nitty.cfm
 Mythos = Myth. Logos = Reason, account, word,
rational principle, rational argument, etc., etc.
 R. Waterfield, The First
Philosophers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) This is an excellent
new commentary on, and translation of, the venerable Diels/Kranz Fragments
of the Pre-Socratics, which are such a treasure and frustration to would-be
historians of science.
 Intimidated by the Church,
Copernicus delayed publication until he was on this deathbed.
 Many people
have pointed out that any "designer" must have been either disastrously
unskilled or positively malign, since he left us with so many mistakes, among
them a backwards-wired retina, the ever-troublesome appendix and an unhelpful
craving for fast food. Here's Steven
Pinker: "The moral design of nature is
as bungled as its engineering design. What twisted sadist would have invented a
parasite that blinds millions of people or a gene that covers babies with
excruciating blisters? To adapt a Yiddish expression about God: If an
intelligent designer lived on Earth, people would break his windows." Time
Magazine, 15 August, 2005.
 See Appendix I for a
further discussion of the philosophy of science.
 Some scientists might
include intuition in this list, but although intuition is often quite effective
in indicating profitable directions for research, it must ultimately be
replaced (or fleshed out) by the other members of this list.
 Though not necessarily
 The Michelson, later
Michelson-Morley, interferometer experiments failed to detect any difference in
the propagation velocity of light whether with, across, or against the motion
of the earth through the supposed ether.
 Perhaps I exaggerate, but
not by much. In any event, the
"ultra-violet catastrophe" problem was solved by the introduction by Max Planck
of the quantum of energy. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ultraviolet_catastrophe
 The so-called
"wave/particle duality" is another problem addressed by quantum mechanics. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave-Particle_duality
 The only book written for a
popular audience I'm aware of that does a decent job explaining entanglement is
Sneaking a Look at God's Cards by GianCarlo Ghirardi (Princeton:
Princeton University Press) For an
article on the Web, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/EPR_paradox
 W. S. Harris, J. H.
Calvert, Intelligent Design: The Scientific Alternative to Evolution,
(National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly, Autumn 2003) Page 550. On the Web: http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/NCBQ3_3HarrisCalvert.pdf Most ID quotations herein are from this
paper. They are signified by
Harris_Calvert_op._cit. Page numbers
are those of the Bioethics Quarterly.
 Professor of Mathematics
John Allen Paulos of Temple University finds an analogy to the mousetrap in
free-market economics: http://www.guardian.co.uk/life/lastword/story/0,13228,1564377,00.html
 H. J. Muller,
"Reversibility in Evolution Considered from the Standpoint of
Genetics," Biological Reviews 14 (1939): 261-80. Referenced in Professor Orr's Boston Review
 Professor of Biology,
Department of Biology, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York, http://www.rochester.edu/College/BIO/faculty/Orr.html
 Darwin v. Intelligent
Design (Again), H. Allen Orr, http://www.bostonreview.net/br21.6/orr.html This is a review of Michael J. Behe, Darwin's
Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, (Free Press)
 "God from ignorance."
 R. Dawkins, The Blind
Watchmaker (New York, W. W. Norton and Company, 1996) Page 38.
 The neo in
neo-Darwinian refers to the synthesis of Darwin's original theory, which
emphasized natural selection but provided no mechanism for genetic change, with
subsequent work in genetics and finally molecular biology, which do provide
 Standard Deviation.
 This example is based on an
idea suggested by G. Ledyard Stebbins and described in Dawkins' The Blind
 R. Dawkins, The Selfish
Gene, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1976, 1989, 1999)
 These equations are based
on the linear first-order term of the binomial expansion. For a small probability p such that Nxp=1, the probability of one success in N trials is
approximately Nxp. For Nxp=0.5, the error is about 25%, good enough for order-of-magnitude
 Dawkins, The Blind
Watchmaker Pages 140, 157.
 I am ignoring the whole
subject of chromosomes and genes, the details of which are irrelevant to the
 Organic molecules that
respond to light are very common. It is
(almost) difficult to make large organic molecules that do not respond to
 This discussion of eye
evolution follows that in Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, Page 77.
 Intelligent Design network:
 The implausibility of
assertions about the non-religious character of ID is further examined in
Jeffery Shallit's "Desperately Evading the Toughest Questions About Intelligent
Design: A review of Dembski's The Design Revolution". Shallit also points out that 65 orders of
magnitude isn't just chump change (re: an error in one of Dembski's
 There are scientists,
philosophical heirs of Ernst Mach, who believe that relationships are
the most fundamental things in the universe.
 This refers to CERN, the
high-energy particle accelerator facility on the Swiss-French border near
Geneva. On the Web: http://public.web.cern.ch/Public/Welcome.html
It could equally well refer to Fermilab in Illinois.
 Paul Tillich, Systematic
Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973)
 This is a play on the
biologists' shorthand for embryonic development, ontogeny recapitulates
phylogeny. Google can be such a
downer. I thought I'd had a unique
thought, but Google managed to find an occurrence of it, just one. Oddly, it refuses to tell me who the author
is, but in the interest of full disclosure, here is the chapter title: Chapter 2
Ontology Recapitulates Epistemology: Gassendi, Epicurean Atomism and the
Critique of Certainty.
 (1902 – 1994) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Popper. He is now perhaps best known for his book, The
Open Society and its Enemies.
 For a more detailed
discussion of falsifiability, see: "Dances With Popper": an Examination of
Dembski's Claims on Testability", by Wesley R. Elsberry. http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Popper.cfm The demand for falsifiability is often heard
these days in connection with String Theory.
If it doesn't make testable predictions, the critics ask, can it be a
scientific theory? Is it science? The same questions must be asked of ID.
 See Paley in Section IX.
Professor Behe has placed himself squarely in the vanguard of ID, I think it
not unfair to refer to him in this discussion.
 "Although his writing is
couched in the language of science, Behe, a practicing Catholic who home
schools his nine children, believes the hand of the designer is self-evident.
"That's why most people disbelieve Darwinian evolution," he says.
"People go out and look at the trees and say, 'Nah.'"" Time Magazine, Online Edition, 8/8/05
 For one thing, the laws of
the chemical bond forbid it; they are very specific about what kinds of
structures are allowed. Atoms and
molecules don't stick together like so many wads of chewing gum; instead they
are more like Leggo blocks, which can join in only a limited set of ways. But this is irrelevant to the ongoing
process of evolution anyway, which proceeds by mutation, not by atoms jumping
into complicated formations. It is
relevant to the emergence of the first reproducers. See Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker, Chapter 6.
 Quoted in Dawkins, The
Blind Watchmaker, Page 4.
 W. A. Dembski, The
Design Inference: Eliminating Chance Through Small Probabilities.
(Cambridge University Press, 1998); Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between
Science & Theology, (InterVarsity Press, 1999); No Free Lunch: Why
Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased Without Intelligence, (Rowman
& Littlefield, 2002).
 Wesley Elsberry and Jeffrey
Shallit, Information Theory, Evolutionary Computation, and Dembski's
"Complex Specified Information", http://www.talkreason.org/articles/eandsdembski.pdf
 W. A. Dembski, No Free
Lunch, page 25 (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). Quoted in Elsberry and Shallit, Information Theory,
Evolutionary Computation , and Dembski's "Complex Specified Information", page 10.
 Further examples of
Dembski's penchant for getting things wrong can be found in Jeffery Shallit's
"Desperately Evading the Toughest Questions About Intelligent Design: A review
of Dembski's The Design Revolution" http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Desperately.cfm
 Elsberry and Shallit, Information
Theory, Evolutionary Computation , and Dembski's "Complex Specified
Information", page 43 http://www.talkreason.org/index.cfm?category=10
 "Genes and Diseases" http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/bv.fcgi?call=bv.View..ShowTOC&rid=gnd.TOC&depth=10
 "In recent years, the terms Luddism
and Luddite or Neo-Luddism and Neo-Luddite have become
synonymous with anyone who opposes the advance of technolgy due to the cultural
changes that are associated with it." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite
 Refers to the Butler Act
which outlawed the teaching of evolution in Tennessee in 1925. Is this the Butler of the "Butlerian Jihad"
from Frank Herbert's Dune books?
 This link is to a letter
from Bruce Alberts, president of the NAS, to members of the National Academies
of Science describing efforts to promote ID teaching in schools. http://www.nasonline.org/site/PageServer?pagename=NEWS_letter_president_03042005_BA_evolution
http://www.discovery.org/ , http://www.family.org/ http://search.family.org/query.cfm?qt=evolution&style=family&Search.x=32&Search.y=4
and conduct your own search.
 This section of the website
Talk Reason, The Art of ID Stuntmen, contains numerous articles that will be
helpful in understanding the arguments and debating tricks of ID
 The Cambridge Dictionary of
Philosophy, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999) Page 821.
 As usual, quantum mechanics
has given a new flavor to such statements.
 Thomas S. Kuhn's The
Copernican Revolution (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957, 1985,
2002) is an outstanding analysis of how modern cosmology emerged and
transformed Western thought. I'm not
sure whether Kuhn can properly be termed an anti-realist. His most influential book is The
Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
 The Cambridge Dictionary of
Philosophy, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1999) Page 33.
 Steven Weinberg, The
Discovery of Subatomic Particles, Page 2
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Revised Edition, 2003)
 Steven Weinberg, op. cit.
 J. Itatani, et al.,
"Tomographic Imaging of Molecular Orbitals," Nature, 16 December, 2004, Page
 Kip S. Thorne, Black
Holes and Time Warps, Chapter 2. (W. W. Norton and Company, 1994).
Nothing, certainly not this paper, can substitute for a
close reading of several books on neo-Darwinian evolution. There, and in countless scientific papers,
is where the extraordinary evidence for evolution's extraordinary claims is to
be found. There is nothing like a
careful, step-by-step explanation of evolution theory's intricate mechanisms to
assuage doubt in the power of neo-Darwinian evolution theory to account for the
variety of life we see in the world. It
must also be understood that evolution is a broad, active, evolving,
contentious and often noisy science.
That's the way research happens, especially in such a complex field –
remember Albert Einstein and entanglement.
Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker
Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene
Matt Ridley, Genome
James D. Watson, The Double Helix
Matt Young, Taner Edis, eds., Why Intelligent Design
Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism
Francis Crick, What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of
http://www.talkreason.org/ From the homepage:
"This website presents a collection of articles which aim to
defend genuine science from numerous attempts by the new crop of creationists
to replace it with theistic pseudo-science under various disguises and names.
Talk Reason is designed to provide a forum for articles arguing against modern
creationism in all of its forms."