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Intelligent Design, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

In the public schools, higher academia, and the media alike, Darwinian evolution is the dominant explanation for the history and diversity of life on earth. The stranglehold Darwinism exercises over classrooms and universities is stridently defended by scientists and enforced by courts, all of whom have made it abundantly clear that there is no room for alternative theories and explanations based on design and intelligence rather than philosophical materialism. Nonetheless, an organized dissent against Darwinism has long been brewing, through the writings of a number of dissident scientists and researchers. Although both Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design have well-educated proponents, sophisticated arguments, and undergirding philosophical positions, the evidence brought to light by the dissenters from Darwinism reveals a compelling and winsome case for intelligence and purpose in the design of living systems.

First and foremost, Darwinism is not “just” a position on the science pertaining to the history and diversity of life. As eminent thinker and writer Nancy Pearcey explains, Darwinism is, fundamentally, philosophical materialism: a faith-based philosophy that is expressly designed to explain all of the observable cosmos without reference to any kind of intelligent Creator (153-156). Pearcey gives the example of prominent Darwinist philosopher Daniel Dennett, who calls Darwinism a “’universal acid’” because “’it eats through just about every traditional concept and leaves in its wake a revolutionized world-view’” (156). Precisely, Pearcey observes, and this is exactly what happens to children in public schools, where teachers are encouraged to actively challenge students’ beliefs in anything other than the Darwinist dogma (156). And it is dogma, because there is simply no way to scientifically test whether or not “the universe arose from ‘meaningless matter in motion’” (156). And this is precisely the position of philosophical materialism, or naturalism, as Phillip Johnson explains in Darwin on Trial: the starting point for Darwinists is a universe wherein God, if He does exist, is completely unable to affect events in any meaningful way (144-145). Simply put, this is philosophy and it is religion, but it is certainly not science (145).

Moreover, there is cause for serious doubt regarding whether or not the mechanism of natural selection proposed by Darwinism as the means of evolution are in fact capable of what Darwinists claim there. As Johnson explains, Darwin’s famous analogy of artificial selection, the process by which breeders select for new varieties of dogs, pigeons, etc., is a flawed analogy: artificial selection is intelligent, planned selection, while the idea of natural selection is that it is supposed to operate in purely natural form, without any kind of guiding intelligence whatsoever (36-38). This is not to deny that natural selection and even artificial selection can produce significant variety in types of living things, up to and including populations that can be described as distinct, albeit closely related, species (38-39). Nonetheless, Darwin’s famous finches remain finches, dogs remain dogs, and fruit flies, workhorses of genetics research, remain fruit flies: as Johnson explains, it is not simply a function of time that keeps them from changing into another kind of organism, but also the fact that they lack the genetic variation to do so (Johnson 38-39). Moreover, even the changes produced by breeders in domestic animals tend to be lost in feral populations, and researchers in the Galapagos Islands have found that average beak length in Darwin’s finches fluctuates generationally in response to climatic conditions (Johnson 39, Pearcey 159-160).

In fact, there is compelling evidence of design in nature, from biological units as small as single-celled organisms. In his book Darwin’s Black Box, biochemist Michael Behe gives the now-famous example of the bacterial flagellum, which has proven to be a remarkably complex structure, with unique proteins for the filament of the flagellum itself, the attachment where it anchors to the cell, and the ring structures at the base that form the rotary structure (70). Even worse for the Darwinists, the bacterial flagellum “requires about forty other proteins for function” (72). This remarkable and highly complex mechanism is powered by “a flow of acid through the bacterial membrane” (72). Indeed, so complex and designed-looking does the flagellum appear that Professor Behe has dubbed it “irreducibly complex”, meaning that it cannot function without any one of its parts (42, 72). In essence, the bacterial flagellum cannot possibly have evolved one step at a time, since all of its constituent parts are required for it to function in the manner that it does (71-72).

It is indeed ironic that a similar problem of emergent, irreducible complexity confronts the Darwinist in the fossil record: the so-called “’Cambrian explosion’”, dated to about 600 million years ago, which shows almost all of the known animal phyla appearing as if conjured (Johnson 77). Complex animals appear fully-formed, as if they lacked any evolutionary history at all, and the only organisms turned up in the fossil record before this are unicellular organisms and a few very simple multicellular ones (78). This evidence contradicts the Darwinist paradigm; however, it is explained perfectly by the Intelligent Design paradigm.

Despite its pretensions of scientific status, Darwinism is based on a fundamentally dogmatic conviction in naturalism, a position which is unscientific because it simply cannot be tested one way or the other. As such, it is predicated on a materialist universe, a doctrine that it must defend. There is also very good reason to doubt whether natural selection is capable of doing what Darwinists claim, again owing to lack of supporting evidence. What the evidence from cellular biology and the fossil record shows is that in fact, there is a very good case for intelligence, purpose, and design in living systems. The irreducible complexity of these systems defies the explanatory power of the mechanisms proposed by Darwinism.

References

Behe, Michael J. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998. Print.

Johnson, Phillip E. Darwin on Trial. 3rd ed. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010. Print.

Pearcey, Nancy. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity From Its Cultural Captivity. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005. Print.

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