Darwin and Intelligent Design

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) is remembered for his theory of evolution. Much controversy surrounds Darwin's theory. Questions abound. Is evolution a four billion year old process, creating life forms primarily at random but each shaped by an ever-changing and complex environment, that has resulted in all of the wondrous life forms that surround us? Or are all of those beautiful elements of our nature, along with the vastness and majesty of the entire universe, a creation of an intellect of vast intelligence and empathy, one far greater than anyone can imagine? Questions are being asked. Did man really evolve from an ape? Or, is it that both man and ape are, along with all of the other flora and fauna, creations of a giant intellect that first perceived an unfathomable spiritual need and created all time, mass, space, light, and life as it is today directly from His thought, and only a few thousand years ago?

Or could it be that these two concepts, though seemingly worlds apart, are merely two different sides of the same coin? Could it be possible that the theory of evolution is not a denial of God, but a description of how God created a system that in turn produced the miracle of life and all of its manifestations? Some say that a belief in evolution will lead to a destruction of rules of moral behavior resulting in a destruction of human culture. But a close look at evolution shows instead a need for a system of personal behavior (ethics, morality) for mankind that is far more strict than any religion, a need so great that if not heeded and soon, the human will be quite likely to quickly become extinct.

To begin with, the sum total of Darwin's theory is considered by the public to be "man descended from the ape" and it is so judged in religious arguments. The fact is that in attempting to judge his theory for religious analysis purposes, they do not consider the vast scientific progress in genetics since Darwin's time. Judging evolution on the basis of the "the man evolved from the ape" is much like evaluating the Sahara Desert on the basis of a grain of sand or judging a large city by looking at a city limits sign at the edge of town.

It was not a new idea with Darwin, that species developed from other species based on competitive survival within the stresses of an environment, but it was Darwin, after a lifetime of study and thought, who wrote the "Origin of the Species" and presented his theoretical argument to the public. At an early age he was able to study the Galapagos Islands, a small and isolated ecosystem, and the life-forms that existed there. He had quickly realized that if evolution as a theory could exist as truth, it would be evident here. His study there was done with that in mind - and a biased study will usually produce a biased and therefore often erroneous result. His theory, then, was based almost entirely on evidence obtained by observation during a short study of a tiny island fragment of the earth that was quite young from a geological standpoint. It was a very limited study of very limited scope of the condition of life on a partially isolated set of very small islands that had existed only a very short time (geologically speaking). Any intelligent person knows that it is dangerous to extrapolate from the specific to the general. Because one may see the moon rise shortly after sunset on a particular night, it is foolish to believe and then try to convince everyone else in the world to also believe that it will do so at the same time every night, everywhere in the world and forever. Yet that is exactly what Darwin claimed.

Darwin's theory, some say and perhaps rightly so, is a flimsy description of a hole-ridden idea full of inconsistences, guesswork and opinion. Fossils offered in evidence have doubtful application and may be explained in other ways that are as plausible as those offered in favor of evolution. Scientists admit that fossil dating is at best only approximate and they even disagree among themselves in determining where a particular fossil fits in the evolutionary chain. Is a particular specimen an early form of man? Or is it another form of life that was created and then fell by the wayside? Or is it an example of a very disease ridden and distorted skeleton from some hapless ancestor of ours?

It is apparent that there are other issues at stake, issues of great importance that must be considered. For all of the time in man's history, his behavior has depended to a large extent on his culture and his culture has been based largely on religious concepts. Human behavior was determined by these religious concepts. People were judged using religious concepts as a basis. If those religious concepts were not true, then the entire culture could collapse. People feared the consequences when something was discovered, or thought to be discovered, that appeared to be contrary to religious thinking and dogma.

But one must realize, even with these objections raised, they have no connection with the truth of the theory. But the implications are vast. The integrity of a number of religions could become suspect. And the cultures based on these religions could be shaken to the core. If accepted, would a culture shock result? Would mankind be better off without such knowledge even if it is true? Or would cultural chaos be the product of such knowledge? Still, as humans, creatures that are intellectual and disciplined, not ones that react through instinct alone, we must know the truth and face its consequences by basing our actions on truth. The lid to Pandora's box (in this case filled with the facts of evolution and its consequences) is open and its contents are scattered to the winds, never to be ignored again. So, the human must look deeper to find truth, one way or the other. It is the nature of mankind.

To properly view the current disagreement between those who do and do not accept Darwin, and to establish a method for approaching a solution to such an argument, it would be wise to look at similar arguments in the past. There have been many but we will only look at two of those for background.

The Spherical Earth Theory
Ancient Egyptians had long known the earth was round. By stationing several observers along a long (hundreds of miles) measured north-south path in the Nile valley, all observing the angle to the sun at high noon on the same day, they were able to determine that the earth was not only not flat but had a curved surface, one that if logically extended would also measure the circumference of the earth.

Aristotle (about 350BC) noted the shape of the earth by observing its shadow on the face of the moon during a lunar eclipse. But the Christian church held firm in its belief that the earth was flat. Not only did they hold that it was flat, they judged as criminal all who held a different view. Almost 1500 years after Aristotle, they jailed Roger Bacon (1214-1294) for 10 years for his views about the spherical earth. The Catholic Encyclopedia of the period lists about Roger Bacon, "He was an author full of heresies and suspected views." The Christian church held the flat earth views into the 16th century AD and no one dared dispute it.

But the telescope had been invented and was becoming common. It became increasingly apparent that either the sky was a gross fabrication by a perverse deity else the earth was spherical. It was not long before no reasonable person believed in the flat earth notion although a definitive proof was yet to be available. Along came Isaac Newton (1643-1727) who provided the mathematical mechanism and physical reasoning to put the last nail in the flat earth coffin. Only the very ignorant or the very stupid believed a flat earth after Newton's work.

It was then found that scientifically determined fact was not detrimental to the church after all.

A description of how God did something is not a denial of God.

The Heliocentric Theory
Did the sun circle the earth? Or was it the earth that circled the sun? The church was adamant! The earth was fixed and if any circling was done it was done by everything else - and the bible seemed to back their position (King James version):

1 Chronicles 16:30: “The world is also established, that it can not be moved.”
Psalm 93:1: “Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm ...”

The idea that the earth circled the sun, not the reverse, first appeared in the western world with early philosophers Pythagoras, Philolaus and Aristarchus. It lay dormant for many centuries. It first intruded on religious theory in Europe with works from Nicholas Copernicus about 1500 AD. Still it lacked authority being based on observations that did not constitute proof. Gallileo Galilei (1564-1642), an early worker with the telescope, became public with his observations and theories. The Catholic church threatened him with excommunication and a possible trip to the church dungeons for a lesson in torture. He was forced to publicly testify that his findings had been given to him by the devil in order to cause God and the church trouble. He lived in poverty and disgrace the remainder of his life.

A rewrite of Psalm 93:1 could well bring known scientific knowledge into harmony. Doing so would have been gibberish to the people of that time, however, and would have been detrimental to the growth of the church. For example, Psalm 93:1 could well have been:

The new Psalm 93:1: He created a vast universe consisting of time, space, matter and energy where all of these dimensions of reality are relative in order to provide an unlimited environmental opportunity in which His people and all other forms of life could grow. He created earth as a birth habitat for life and then provided a life generating mechanism that would allow all living things to be spontaneously created according to His plan. He hast fixed the earth immovable and firm within this magnificent structure.

Nevertheless, even though the proper Psalm 93:1 exists unchanged, it has been found that scientifically determined fact was not detrimental to the church after all.

A description of how God did something is not a denial of God.

Intelligent Design
So the current disagreement between church and science surrounds Darwin and his theory. The same thing that has happened before is now happening again. Bitter words fly back and forth while the scientist is busy in the laboratories making measurement after measurement and the politician is making hay for himself with the controversy.

To believe that the human is an intelligent design is turning a blind eye to the very basic religious beliefs that man is imperfect and therefore needs religion to guide him through life. Using the views of the religion is it not more proper to realize that man is a work in progress, in the process of evolution where evolution is the process designed by God that is capable of producing perfection? And that man still needs a lot of development? Doesn't evolution describe that need? Doesn't it provide for a perfection that has not been realized? Shouldn't we consider the real facts that can be proven through observation and practice to be true? Isn't it wrong to reject measurable and provable fact merely from an uninformed and reactionary stance? Did He endow us with reason only to confuse us?

The fact is that the human is an outstanding example of a very poor design. The study of our DNA is in its infancy yet more than 15000 known defects that cause untold misery, insanity and even death have been cataloged. It is a creature that walks upright but has the spine and sinus design of a creature that walks on all fours, resulting in much human misery especially with age. It was designed with the ability to be logical then blessed with a set of instincts working in adverse directions. It spends much of its time and assets in killing each other. It robs, rapes and murders. A peaceful country requires armies to protect itself. A large percentage of the population must be locked away in jails to protect the welfare of the rest. A large portion of our civil expenditures provide for lawyers, judges and police. Some will murder their own unborn babies. Others will do the same immediately after birth (so-called crib death???). They tend to believe in superstitions and religions that are extremely destructive in some cases and counter productive in others. They build huge monuments to themselves. They teach peace and wage war (Moslems, Nazis, etc.). Even the Christian church once waged war, tortured unbelievers and took slaves. Both sexes waste a sizable portion of their time and assets in the hope of enticing illicit sex. Abortion, lipstick, and condoms are all big businesses. The most advertised medications on television are aphrodisiacs. The modern human raises its young in schools that teach emancipation from personal discipline and relieves them from responsibility by excusing their actions. Then we provide television for their recreation loaded with every imaginable social ill for entertainment. The parents then abandon the child except for transportation between the school and the television sets.

This creature is hardly the design of a vast and superior intelligence - unless, of course, one should believe that the construction of His design is still in progress using a process which we call evolution.

The Darwin Theory

Some people tend to see (perhaps deliberately) only a small part of Darwin's Theory and then ignore the rest. That portion is "man descended from the ape", which of course he didn't say at all in the first place. That phrase when spoken alone tends to upset people and make them defensive. That's why some people tend to keep repeating it over and over, often in a strident voice. Darwin did surmise that man and ape came from a common ancestor. This is an entirely different concept - since he could have used an earthworm instead and been as truthful. In fact the human and a grain of wheat share about 27% of the same DNA structure - the earthworm far more. To make things worse the modern human is characterized by its belief that the sum total of life can be summarized into a bumper sticker making all other knowledge irrelevant.

But then one does not need the Darwin Theory or all of the scientific work done on genetics since Darwin or even an understanding of DNA to understand evolution. Ignore the fossil record! It can never give more than a fragmented record. One need look at only a few facts that are easily verifiable:
  1. All of the elements of the earth may be divided into two classes: inanimate things and living things.
  2. The dividing line between those two classes are that living things can reproduce themselves and inanimate things can not. Reproduction itself is the engine of evolution.
  3. When living things reproduce, they usually do not reproduce perfectly. There will be differences between them and their siblings and parents. Look at two oak trees or two pups from the same litter as compared to each other and to their parents. This is called divergence.
  4. If the difference from the parent is so great that it causes the new living thing to die before it reproduces then its lifeline will cease to exist. Its divergence was excessive and the result to that lifeline was fatal.
  5. If the difference between parent and child is so small that the child may survive as its parent did, then the lifeline carried between its parent through itself and to its offspring has lived through another test between its lifeline and the trials and tribulations of living. The physical characteristics of the lifeline are changing with each reproduction but the lifeline is remaining equipped as well as or better than is required to survive.
  6. Repeat steps 3 , 4 and 5 many billions of times across the earth each year for more than four billion years. Those three steps are called 'evolution'. Imagine the countless directions in form and behavior that would result.
  7. Look around you for the results. Verify this process through your own observation.
  8. Is this all there is to evolution? Of course not. Is this the end of the problem between religion and science? Of course not. In fact the real problem is only starting. What will the rift be, if this battle is allowed to continue, when biological computers are built, ones that can grow, heal themselves, reproduce and think? And how about nanotechnology with its use of biological material embedded in the human body? And what will the reaction be when biological functions specified in the human DNA are added to, subtracted from and modified to enhance health, demeanor, beauty and ability? And when entirely new life forms are created for specific purposes? Or extinct life forms are resurrected for study or display? And medicine is completely changed from disease diagnosis and medicine to one of modifying the DNA to avoid the disease in the first place. Will the result be human? Or will it be a completely new species?

Where did that first living fragment come from, some 4 billion or more years ago? Scientists will call its chance occurrence a singularity, an event with a near zero probability. Religious people could call that a miracle if they wish to do so, an event with zero probability. The difference between these two concepts is itself near zero. To argue over this difference is foolish.

URL: http://www.onelife.com/evolve/darwin.html