Some years back, the Los Angeles Times newspaper ran an editorial lambasting the concept of “Intelligent Design” as a possible second theory to be taught in schools, alongside the only acceptable theory that should be taught: evolutionism. Appealing to “argument by ridicule,” they failed to include facts or reasoned arguments, relying instead on ideas that “any thinking person would accept without question.” I recently unearthed my response to their editorial (to which they never responded) and present it here for your enlightenment. Some slight changes have been made in its presentation, mostly to clarify my original points. I have also added a section on the living cell.
It is one thing to allow free speech to the extent that the editorial staff of a major newspaper has free reign to elevate a scientific theory to the status of unquestioned “fact” (read, “sacred cow”); it is quite another to require a balanced approach. Of the (at least) three issues involved in the debate concerning the teaching of theories of biological origins, I contend that The Times has missed on all three — unfortunately, this is not the game of baseball we are playing (in which case The Times would have merely struck out); we are in a struggle to maintain a society which enables men and women to hold values which will allow that society to survive.
Issue number 1: Is there an overwhelming scientific basis for the teaching of scientific evolutionism?
Firstly, what of the evidence listed in The Times’ editorial? We see listed: everything that we have learned about genetics, molecular biology and DNA since World War II, specifically the mechanisms of heredity and the genetic code. This, however, is not scientific evidence for evolution, rather it is simply evidence for life as we know it. The fact is, everything listed in the editorial could also be claimed as evidence of the hand of a single Creator; evidence of common design, structures through which each kind of creature could reproduce “after its kind,” use of the same proteins as building blocks in all levels of living organisms, etc. The fact that almost every automobile on the road has doors, tires, and an engine, all essentially of the same design, does not prove that they all evolved out of the same proto-tricycle.
Of course, the use of innuendo might help influence the reader to lean toward evolutionism. “Non-evolutionists are like those who argue the earth is flat.” Non-evolutionists do not believe the earth is flat, but they are not thoroughly convinced the earth is billions of years old, which of course it must be, for that is the only way that a process of evolution would have enough time to get us where we are today. Interestingly, there are other methods of dating the earth (e.g. mineral content of the world’s oceans) besides the circular arguments of “geologic strata plus fossil records indicate long geological ages and evolution, because we know there was evolution that caused the fossils to be deposited over long ages of time and therefore the geologic strata indicate long ages of time.” In reality, however, the issue is moot. An incredibly “old” earth is required for a belief in evolutionism, but it in no way affects its validity. The argument is not about the earth’s age, it is about the scientific basis of origins.
I will just mention here some scientific facts which, at least for me, indicate that the theories of evolutionism are on shaky ground:
The first and second laws of Thermodynamics; essentially the concept of entropy. Left to themselves, things run down. Order degenerates into randomness. Evolutionism claims the opposite: the order and structure we observe today would be the result of millions of years of entropy-resistant accidents.
Chromosome count of organisms “close in evolution.” Except in rare cases, generally fatal, parental chromosomes combine to give children the same number of chromosomes. The reader should, as an exercise, start with a single cell with a given number of chromosomes, split it a few times, mutate it as necessary, generate any number of deviant offspring, here and there throwing in changes of chromosome count, using as much imagination as possible. Then, study the actual chromosome counts of life forms in the so-called evolutionary tree. The magic those mutations must have achieved is simply beyond amazing.
The missing link(s). It is not only between men and apes that there are no links; the gaps exist between every well-defined form of life. Rather than holding to the concept of gradual evolution, many leading theorists in the field are sounding more and more like creationists – “changes in life forms occurred in quantum leaps;” there were no proto-birds or proto-man; one day there were birds from lizards; one day there were men from something-or-other! Fortunately, nay, even miraculously, at the very moment one of these ex-lizards or ex-something-or-others sprang into being, there was at the very least one compatible mate available to facilitate the continuation of the new species!
In point of fact, there are plenty of reasons to think that the theory of evolutionism is flawed, if not completely wrong. The simple truth of the matter is, people believe it because they want to believe it (hopefully, it is not the case that they believe it because someone in authority told them to believe it), not because it has been proven true. That is why biologists, archaeologists and geologists are stumped when asked for proof of macro-evolution.
(I added the following section on the living cell today (1-19-2013) as I was typing in my old letter-to-the-editor. For me, it is probably the most important and telling issue in this ongoing debate.)
Far more incredible than the concept of macro-evolution (which is not just genetic adaptation, but the actual emergence of totally new species), is the argument for the random events that resulted in life itself. I suppose scientists could be forgiven for believing in the random emergence of life when they knew less about genetic and molecular structures, so that “spontaneous generation” became a valid theory until proven wrong by rigid scientific procedures. Yet, believers in evolutionism still cling to a theory of “spontaneous generation” in a new form: that some mysterious combination of atmospheric and climatic and chemical and molecular events resulted in the “creation” of life. That is why the scientists of today are desperate to find, first of all water which supports life, on Mars. And then, if only we can discover the necessary amino acids, voila, life must be possible anywhere!
The problem with all of this is that now we know too much about the cell, the building block of life. But no one seems to go back to the basic issue of the living cell. Yes, some combination of events could easily produce complex amino acids. But a living cell is not just some random conglomeration of amino acids. It is, in fact, a micro-factory. The incredible thing about the living cell is that it is a construct which contains, within itself, the very instructions for building itself. The closest man has come to this concept is with the computer virus, which (surprisingly?) is designed by an intelligent (if malicious) programmer to reproduce itself.
But the cell is far more complex than the most well-designed computer virus. And, unlike a virus, it is able to reproduce within a normal environment, not requiring a host. The amazing way it reproduces is to have a virtual digital data-base reader (RNA) scan the instructions for building a cell (DNA) and, step-by-step, create pre-fabricated components with incredibly complex and complementary shapes, assembling the proper components for a new cell. Once the new cell is complete, it is shoved forth into the world to begin its own unique existence. But here’s the catch: a new cell can only be built inside an existing cell. This is far worse than the chicken-egg conundrum. Here is the question: “Which came first, the living cell, or the instructions for building a living cell?” You see, the instructions would be useless, to the best of our understanding, unless they were carried out inside a cell. But if you started with a cell, it would have to be pre-loaded with the instructions for the next cell!
So the simple concept of the origin of life is infinitely complex. Do you actually believe that some confluence of random events caused the emergence of an entity that contained within itself the instructions for building itself??? If so, I claim that your credulity is beyond that of those who believe in a flat earth. And yet, this is the primary building block on which the theory of evolutionism is based. Without a first cell, there is no hope of genetic modifications that over aeons of time can produce life as we see it today. But how do you get to the first cell? How do you arrive at any entity that contains within itself the precise instructions for building itself? Personally, I think that the scientists who are so enamored with SETI, the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence, are looking in the wrong direction – instead of peering out into deep space, they should be peering with amazement and fascination into the living cell!
(… to return to the original letter…)
Issue number 2: Can any theory of origins be a scientific theory, or is it of necessity a religious position?
The basis of scientific theory is the generation of an hypothesis, definition of a controlled testing environment for that hypothesis, and the support or rejection (either fully or in part) of that hypothesis by repeatable experimental results. When it comes to the issue of origins, we are left with only the ability to hypothesize. Certainly we should like to assume (and indeed we do assume) that the same laws of science which we observe today were operational at the time of chemical, biological and genetic origins (excepting entropy?). But there is no way to define repeatable tests, either of the actions of a “Creator,” or of billions of years of random molecular fluctuations. Thus, regardless of what we now observe as verifiable, we all choose to perceive the origins of the world and of life in terms that fit our basic beliefs. Of course, if we are determined to believe that there is no God, refusing to believe in even the possibility of a Creator, fearful of the possibility that we might have an ultimate responsibility to Him, we find ourselves forced to believe an alternative – evolutionism is, in effect, the only other choice.
Actually, we do acknowledge scientific disciplines which treat doctrines based on revelation as closer to the truth than doctrines based on speculation from stale evidence alone. Most notable among these are the fields of archaeology and history. Original documents written by even the most suspect of eyewitnesses or even descendants of the people involved are used to establish historical perspective. The fact that a document exists which claims to reveal our origins should certainly not be claimed as a reason for rejecting the possibility that it may have happened that way. And the fact that the document is part of a religious heritage should not preclude it from consideration.
Issue number 3: Does the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the “free speech/ free exercise” clause, actually forbid the presentation of a point of view unless it is the State’s point of view?
Note, we are not talking about presenting the theory of creation as the only view; on the contrary, we are in fact being presented with evolutionism as the only view given state support, not only in that it is the only doctrine being taught, but also in terms of funding through public taxes. In fact, one thing is quite clear: the case is “open and shut.” Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof. Any decision to require the teaching of evolutionism without providing another point of view is a clear violation of this clause. I, for one, do not care to see atheistic humanism, with its trust in the god of Random Chance, as the state-established religion. (I have yet to see that Random Chance has done anything consistently right.)
Incidentally, I am a computer programmer; my work consists of imposing intelligence and design onto the basic building blocks of electrons, bits, and bytes. All the evidence of design which I see in my particular field is the result of another intelligence imposing his or her will onto initial chaos in order to obtain a greater complexity and more useful function. We haven’t yet matched the computational complexity of a snail, let alone a man. And when, and if, we do, it will not prove a single thing concerning origins. But it should cause us to wonder which of the two theories is most similar to our accomplishment: Intelligent Design or Random Chance.
The bottom line is, Evolutionism is religion, not science.
Think about it.