In the first part of our series we looked at a definition of science and arguments from science. If you haven’t read it yet, please look at it here.
In the last part of our series we looked at an example of using scientific investigation to determine whether a controversial claim is true or false – specifically the science surrounding abortion.
In this next part of our series, we’ll look at another example of using scientific investigation to determine whether a controversial claim is true or false.
I used to believe in Darwinian evolution. The public school system I attended during the 1950s and 1960s taught it exclusively. There was no other viewpoint taught or even discussed. Darwinian evolution was presented as “settled science.”
I continued to believe in Darwinian evolution until challenged to think about other possibilities – specifically of direct creation by God. I was an atheist at the time, so the idea of God creating anything was absurd. How could something that didn’t exist create anything? However, I took on the challenge of looking at a variety of sciences and changed my mind about Darwinian evolution.
That was in the early 1970s, so the question could be asked whether there have been any new developments in science that would lead us to a more definitive determination about whether Darwinian evolution is settled science. The answer is yes.
The Growth of Knowledge
Scientists work in the field and laboratories day after day, month after month, year after year, on a wide range of projects. Their experiments and findings in their fields of study add to the growth of knowledge at a staggering rate compared to what we knew just a century ago.
Many scientists publish their findings, which helps people who are not scientists stay on top of the latest research on topics they find important to their life: food, health, personal safety, etc. The issue of creation/evolution is a topic of importance to me and many other people, so how has the body of knowledge grown in that area in the last century or so?
Let’s begin toward the end of the 19th century to see what scientists were saying. Keep in mind that Charles Darwin first published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life on November 24, 1859. The book was very popular and had gone through six editions by 1872. Darwin and his book are viewed by most people as the foundation of evolutionary biology.
On the Origin of Species has had many defenders and detractors through the years. The journal Science, which began publishing in 1880, has covered the debate throughout its history. Some of the early articles addressed how theism, atheism and evolution related. John Michels, the first editor of Science, did not see atheism as a requirement for believing in evolution –
It is possible to believe strongly in the theory of evolution and accept every scientific fact that has ever been demonstrated, and yet receive no shock to a belief in a Divine Providence, while the accumulation of scientific facts in our opinion all tend to confirm such belief, and to demonstrate scientifically that an intelligent Creator has designed and pre-arranged the order of both matter and mind…. Lastly, we say emphatically, that there is no real conflict between Science and Religion at this present day. (Michels J, 1882, Science, 3:1-2)
Alfred Russell Wallace, is viewed as a co-discoverer with Darwin of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace made his discovery separate from Darwin, but shared his research which led to a joint presentation at a meeting of the Linnean Society. On the Origin of Species was published the next year.
One difference between Wallace and Darwin was that Wallace did not believe natural selection could explain the human intellect. Wallace believed that a person’s “soul springs from a higher source” (Wallace AR, 1886, Science, 8:560-563).
More than 150 years have gone by since Darwin wrote On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. If you’re interested, you can find many books and websites that explain in detail the findings and debates that have followed Darwin and Wallace’s theory.
A Mind Changed
It’s been almost 50 years since I changed my mind about evolution. What changed my mind initially was the weakness of Darwinian evolution when compared with what was known about life from a scientific perspective. Theism did not impact my change of mind because I was still an atheist when I questioned Darwinian evolution.
A primary issue that impacted my thinking was whether random mutation and natural selection could account for the complexity of life and the appearance of design through the universe. The more I investigated the topic, the less I could accept the case for Darwinian evolution.
So, if Darwinian evolution didn’t explain the origins of the species, what did? That’s where the scientific findings and debates are vital. If Darwinian evolution is not “settled science,” then the scientific community needs to keep digging for the truth.
Here are a couple of examples of the scientific research being done that lead to information contrary to Darwinian evolution.
Institute for Creation Research
ICR, Institute for Creation Research, was founded by Dr. Henry Morris in 1970. I interviewed Dr. Morris a few months after he started ICR (read more about that interview here). He played a vital role in my move from atheism to Christianity, so I’ve followed his work for several decades.
Dr. Morris first wrote about the scientific weaknesses of Darwinian evolution in 1946 (That You Might Believe). He worked with Dr. John Whitcomb to publish The Genesis Flood in 1961. He wrote Scientific Creationism in 1974. Many have called Dr. Morris The Father of Modern Creation Science Movement.
Dr. Morris joined with nine other scientists in 1963 to found the Creation Research Society. He started ICR in 1970 in San Diego and later moved the headquarter to Dallas.
ICR focuses on research, education and communication.
“As a research organization, ICR conducts laboratory, field, theoretical, and library research on projects that seek to understand the science of origins and Earth history. ICR scientists have conducted multi-year research projects at key locations such as Grand Canyon, Mount St. Helens, Yosemite Valley, and Santa Cruz River Valley in Argentina, and on vital issues like Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth (RATE), Flood-activated Sedimentation and Tectonics (FAST), and other topics related to geology, genetics, astro/geophysics, paleoclimatology, and much more.” ICR.org
ICR’s team of scientists works diligently to address questions relating to creation and evolution. It’s obvious from reading their research that evolution is NOT “settled science.” I also appreciate that ICR is committed to peer review.
Dr. Morris was the first person to tell me about the Teleological Argument. It is the argument for the existence of God from the evidence of order and design in our world and the universe. Darwinian evolution proposes that random mutations are sifted by natural selection through a blind and purposeless process. That sounded fine to me as an atheist until I began looking at the world through the lens of order and design.
The Intelligent Design Theory (IDT) is a modern version of the Teleological Argument that proposes many features of the universe and living things are best explained by intelligent design – an intelligent cause. Logical reasoning from the Intelligent Design of the universe is that there is an Intelligent Designer of the universe.
Here are some explanations of Intelligent Design –
- The universe evidences great complexity or design; thus, it must have been designed by a great Designer or God.
- The position that there is positive evidence that life on Earth was created by one or more intelligent agents, but without making any explicit claim as to the identity or divinity of the agent or agents.
- Certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
The scientific support for what many call Intelligent Design is enormous and growing by the day. More and more scientists are writing papers and books about “The Mind” behind the Design of the universe. Some of the scientific fields represented by those who are concluding that a Great Intelligence is behind the design of the universe are physics, astrophysics, astronomy, biology, and biochemistry. Concepts being discussed among scientists include Irreducible Complexity, Specified Complexity, Fine-Tuned Universe, and the Thermodynamic Argument.
Dr. Morris wrote many books about origins from both scientific and biblical perspectives. His final book, Some Call It Science (2006), revealed his view on what he believed was “the religion behind the so-called science of the evolutionary establishment.”
During the past century…the gospel of new life in Christ has been replaced by the Darwinian “gospel of death,” the belief that millions of years of struggle and death has changed pond scum into people and that evolutionary progress will continue inexorably toward heaven on earth.
The faith of the evolutionist…is a splendid faith indeed, a faith not dependent on anything so mundane as evidence or logic, but rather a faith strong in its childlike trust, relying wholly on omniscient Chance and omnipotent Matter to produce the complex systems and mighty energies of the universe. The evolutionist’s faith is not dependent on evidence, but is pure faith–absolute credulity.
Any other gospel is another gospel and is not the true gospel. Without the creation, the gospel has no foundation; without the promised consummation, it offers no hope; without the cross and the empty tomb, it has no saving power.
ICR is unique among scientific research organizations in their commitment to the absolute authority of the Bible. ICR believes that the biblical record of history in Genesis 1-11 is “factual, historical, and clearly understandable” (ICR’s Approach to Scientific Investigation). ICR believes that God created the heavens and the earth, that the biblical Flood was global and the after-effects “explain most of the stratigraphic and fossil evidence found in the earth’s crust.”
You can read more about the tenets of ICR by clicking on this link.
The Discovery Institute was founded by Bruce Chapman and George Gilder in 1990. While sharing similar views with ICR on the intelligent design of the universe, the Discovery Institute does not take a religious perspective on that design.
“Discovery Institute is a secular think tank, and its Board members and Fellows represent a variety of religious traditions, including mainline Protestant, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Jewish, and agnostic.” (Discovery Institute FAQ)
The Discovery Institute is headquartered in Seattle, Washington and has scholars and fellows around the world. They have more than 40 Fellows that include biologists, biochemists, chemists, physicists, philosophers and historians of science. Dr. Stephen Meyer, Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University, is the current director.
“Discovery Institute promotes thoughtful analysis and effective action on local, regional, national and international issues. The Institute is home to an inter-disciplinary community of scholars and policy advocates dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued. Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West.” Discovery Institute
In case you’re wondering if Intelligent Design (ID) and Creationism are the same thing, here’s one answer from the Discovery Institute –
“No. Intelligent design theory is simply an effort to empirically detect whether the ‘apparent design’ in nature acknowledged by virtually all biologists is genuine design (the product of an intelligent cause) or is simply the product of an undirected process such as natural selection acting on random variations. Creationism is focused on defending a literal reading of the Genesis account, usually including the creation of the earth by the Biblical God a few thousand years ago. Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text.”
Who’s Your Daddy?
Another difference between the views of ICR and the Discovery Institute concerns the issue of common ancestry (common descent). Here’s how Discovery Institute Vice President and Senior Fellow Dr. John G. West explains it –
“As those of us at Discovery Institute have emphasized for a long time, intelligent design is not incompatible with the idea that living things share a common ancestor. In other words, one can believe that nature displays evidence of intentional design, and still believe in common descent.
Indeed, I would argue that one of the forebears of the modern intelligent design movement is none other than Alfred Russel Wallace, who is credited with Darwin as co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection. Wallace believed that nature displayed powerful evidence of design by an overruling intelligence. Today, Discovery Institute has a number of affiliated scholars who similarly affirm the idea of common descent, including biologist Michael Behe and geneticist Michael Denton. Denton makes his views clear in his book Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis, which Discovery Institute Press published earlier this year.” Debating Common Descent, Evolution & Science News Today, May 14, 2016
Dr. Randy J. Guliuzza with ICR wrote several years ago that similar features show design, not universal common descent –
“Inconsistent’ is the best word to stress in conversations to describe how evolutionists compare similar features among organisms. This is because similar features are just that—similar—and the myriad of combinations that organisms possess does not necessarily fit branching evolutionary trees. If evolutionists believe a similar feature is from a common ancestor, it is due to “divergent evolution.” And if organisms share a similar feature not due to common ancestry, it is conveniently called ‘convergent evolution.’
Scientific-sounding lingo is substituted for data to explain why organisms with essentially no common ancestry have extraordinarily similar features, like the camera-like eye shared by squids and humans. At the same time, other facts are selectively deemphasized about organisms that are presumed to be very closely related and yet do not share some surprisingly important features, such as humans having a muscle that moves the thumb’s tip that chimpanzees don’t have.
The main point is that explanations for the presence or absence of similar features are totally arbitrary. For example, evolutionists assert that whales’ distinctive body shape evolved from a lineage of land mammals that slowly readapted to aquatic life. Consider how the leading journal Science elected to pick-and-choose between conflicting features, either molecular or shapes of parts (called ‘morphology’), to support this theory:
‘Despite this evidence that cetaceans [whales] evolved from artiodactyls [even-toed mammals like deer, sheep, and pigs], substantial discrepancies remain. If cetaceans belong to artiodactyls, then similarities in the cranial and dental morphologies of mesonychians [extinct carnivorous mammals] and cetaceans must be a result of convergent evolution or must have been lost in artiodactyls. Furthermore, molecular data favor a sister-group relationship between whales and hippopotami. This conflicts with the conventional view based on morphology that hippopotami are closer to other artiodactyls than they are to whales.’ Rose, K. D. 2001. Evolution: The Ancestry of Whales. Science. 293 (5538): 2216-2217.
If features do not conform to preconceived thinking, that is because they could represent “divergence,” “convergence,” “character reversals,” “vestiges,” “rudiments,” “independent losses,” “one-time gains,” “parallel derivatives,” or any of the jargon tagged to subjective evolutionary explanations. Comparing fossils based on similar features suffers from the same trap of circular reasoning, and gene sequence comparisons suffer from the same prejudices, inconsistencies, and excuses. In fact, comparing different sequences from the sameorganism can lead to very different presumed evolutionary relationships. These facts provide a conversational opportunity to highlight the plasticlike attribute of evolutionary theory to absorb all observations—even ones that are totally contradictory.” Similar Features Show Design, Not Universal Common Descent, ICR, Acts & Facts, October 1, 2010
In the next part of our series Arguments From Science we will look at Beginning or Bang.