The laureates insist on evolution as an *unplanned process*
DOES INTELLIGENT DESIGN HAVE TO BE
ADMITTED? Father Thomas Carleton
for hundreds of years, was the theory of the Greek thinker, Empedocles, that
earth, air, fire and water were the basic *roots*. It may be that to
future generations the theory of evolution will sound just as simplistic.
In the meanwhile educators should try not to close the doors on debate but to
allow an open discussion of competing theories.
I admit that I
just find it hard to understand how scientists can be sending signals into
outer space, expecting extra-terrestrials to recognize some intelligent design
in their morse like code, and, at the same time, not see in the genetic code,
intelligent design. An extra-terrestial farmer out there may begin to
discern a design, but if their scientists insist that these signals are purely
random electro-physical phenomena, they are not only going to be denying the
messenger but the message as well. It's one thing to say that
something is just a "S" and an "O" and another
"S"; it's quite another to say that it's "SOS".
And that's the whole point of the intelligent design debate. It's not
about the messenger at all, it's only about the message. Maybe you don't
want to go beyond the intelligent message by the conclusion that there must be
a messenger, but you should not try to insist that there is no message, and
even less should you try to insist that there can't possibly be a
On September 9, 38 Nobel prize winners, joined an "initiative" of the
Elie Wiesel Foundation for Humanity, and signed a statement regarding evolution
which in part reads as follows:
"Logically derived from confirmable evidence, evolution
is understood to be the result of an unguided, unplanned
process of random variation and natural selection."
insist on evolution as an "unplanned process". If evolution is
planned, you may, of course, discover the plan; if, on the other hand,
evolution has no plan, there would be no way of knowing that. So after
making a philosophically pointless statement, the laureates go on to define
what they believe to be the laws of that plan that they claim doesn't
exist. What, at least, they could have politely said, is that: concerning
what might be on the other side of eternity, it is not, according to the limits
of the method we adopt, in our ability to say. Isn't the science that
they presume to be defending, suppose to be, after all, about "falsifiable
On a very
fundamental level, the question of whether or not you must admit intelligent
design has to do with this ability to communicate and what that implies.
Epistemology, which studies the conditions of knowledge (and some would hold to
be the first step in the philosophical journey), recognizes that intelligent
communication presupposes an intelligible reality. If we are able to talk
intelligibly about the world, nature and ourselves, it is in fact because they
actually are intelligible to the human intellect. This intelligibility of
our world is available to our minds as forms or some type of structured
information that can be grasped by the mind. To say that nothing in
the world can be recognized as intelligible, would mean that nothing in our
discourse would be intelligible either. If everything is randomly
happening then we only could be randomly talking about it as well.
Someone may want to argue that man is intelligent randomly, but they can't
question that he is intelligent; that much has to be admitted in order for him
to make his argument, and that is all that the proponents of intelligent design
are insisting on.
which the laureates assert, is not one that can that be mentally
conceived. It's a world where intellects are not intelligent, where
biological systems are not systematic, where gene codes can not be
Systems and systems of systems are continually affirmed in biology: You
have the circulatory system, the respiratory system, the nervous system, the
reproductive system and so forth, and these systems are admitted to form part
of an even larger system, namely, the living organism. You have as well
the eco-system on a macro level and similar systems on the micro or cellular
level. Biologists define the genetic code as "the system that
contains information needed by the cell for proper functioning".
Biology is about living organisms and the major observable characteristic of
living organisms is not mutations, but development unfolding according to an
ordered predictable form, which is the opposite from random variations.
Even a mutation is a mutation of that ordered development which in fact must be
and is recognized and assumed as the basis of our knowledge of mutation
No one would
deny that if the subject of a course were evolutionary theory, then the study
of mutations would be at the center of the course. On the other hand, a
course in biology must study organisms' developmental process without which
these organisms cannot be classified accurately. If the development is
not known, then one might, for example, think that a caterpillar and a
butterfly are two different species. We don't say that a caterpillar evolves
into a butterfly; we say that a caterpillar develops into a butterfly; that is to
say, from a potential that already exists in the caterpillar, its life cycle
unfolds and becomes a butterfly. Yes, with the help of an electron
microscope you could, by a snapshot of the cell, know that as well, but only
because it is a still-picture of that plan that unfolds. A still-photo of
a comet doesn't mean that it is not traveling in its orbit and a sonogram shot
of a baby, doesn't mean that it is not developing in the womb.
Biology is indeed concerned with change, but not the change that is meant by
random mutation or variation. The change in organisms is the change of
growth or development that occurs as a result of an internal principle.
The living things that we observe in experience, do change, but not into other
things. They remain the same thing at different stages of their
development extended over time. The "change" that occurs in a
developmental process cannot be considered "random changes".
These are orderly predictable changes that are following a universal law, a
process defined by the inherent composition of a particular species. When
an organism's growth does not unfold according to the universal rule, it is
usually because of causes, external or internal, that, once identified and
considered in isolation, and known by controlled experimentation, provide the
explanation for the deviation from normal development. These
internal and external causes, sicknesses or traumas, may indeed be considered
accidental or random, but they are not the changing factors supposedly operative
in evolution. The change of a developmental process is change that does
not change, change that is carefully described by biology and makes up the
morphology of a particular species.
The saddest part of this whole debate is the extent to which the position of
the proponents of intelligent design is misunderstood and subjected to
caricatures. It is not a debate on the philosophical question of a
"first cause", nor the theological question of a "creator",
but rather on a rational analysis of organization in biological phenomena based
on an accurate scientific description of that phenomena.
about explaining effects by causes. In a causal chain, the farther back
you go, the more the cause is termed a "remote cause"; the closer to
the present, the more the cause is termed a "proximate cause".
Michelangelo designed the dome of Saint Peter's basilica. Would that mean
that Michelangelo's great-grandparents were the remote cause of his dome
design? Michelangelo's great-grandparents would certainly be a remote
cause of Michelangelo, and, without doubt, a condition of Michelangelo being
able to think and design, but they would not be even a remote cause of
his thoughts, and designs. Causality would not extend to the ideas and
imaginations in his head.
Similarly the causal action of a parent organism does not extend to the new
organism's developmental process which results from causes within the
organism gradually unfolding.
theory ultimately is based entirely on physical causality. Sometimes
time-lines or trees trace up or down the progress of evolution one species
after another. A model of pure physical causality, however, is not what
is happening in reproduction. In physical causality, something of a
cause, whether matter or energy, passes into its effect, otherwise it wouldn't
be the cause of that effect, but the causal input in the reproductive act is
not what is operative in the development of an organism. The development
that unfolds over time occurs, not from the causal force of the reproductive
act which produced the cell but, from the activity of the cell's components
acting unitedly according to a code or plan. In other words what is being
passed on in the reproductive act is not an effect that, in turn, becomes the
cause of the next effect in a causal chain; what is being passed on in the
effect is a complex of horizontal causes. It is not sufficient that the
material components in the cell have been passed on from the parent organism.
This new casual action is not after the prior cause, it is within it. It
is a switch in causal action on a different level. Matter cannot organize
itself by physical causality. What is passed on in reproduction is not
simply organized matter, it is organizing matter.
What happens in
life? One individual arises from another, and the parent organism or
organisms can be considered the physical cause of that individual. But
now what happens? A gradual development over the course of time occurs
and that development results from interacting causes that are dependent not
upon the parent organism but upon each other. What is passed on in
reproduction is not a causal force, but a complex plan, blueprint or design
that, over the course of time, unfolds.
This is all
that the proponents of intelligent design want recognized, nothing about an
intelligent designer. Some may hold that there is no intelligent
designer, some may hold that the intelligent designer is God, some may hold
that the intelligent designer is the original protozoan. That's all
irrelevant to the particular point of intelligent design.
Common experience and
established principles of human psychology recognize in human behavior the
ability to engage in purposeful activity, activity that is directed toward a
goal, a purpose or an end. Acts that are directed towards an end, namely
acts that are undertaken as the means and steps toward that end, are said to be
intelligent, distinctly human acts. There is nothing controversial about this,
and scientists need not accept principles that they don't already accept.
Evolutionists already admit the tests of intelligence. They admit them,
for example, when they examine orangutans or chimpanzees for how much
intelligent behavior they exhibit. In order to be "human" in
this use of the word, the end or goal, in some way, has to be present at the
beginning of the process before the goal is actually present, working or
operational. It is said to be present intentionally or in the
argument is saying that when activity from its beginning is directed toward a
finality, then that activity is purposeful, that activity has a purpose, and
purposeful activity implies intelligence or intelligent design.
biology, these same criteria of directed activity and the relationship of means
to ends, is observed in development. The stomach, for example, when it
starts its development is not digesting food. It is not something growing
until, by chance, it happens to find a use. Its development is directed
toward an absolutely critical and necessary future need. A major theme in
biology is the relating of morphology or structure to function; because,
however, structure is not static but develops, the relationship of morphology
to function already implies the truth of teleology. Often a developing
structure does not function in the early stages, and, moreover, when it does
begin to function, it remains more or less the same, without developing any
further, for the whole rest of the life span of that organism, except perhaps
to grow larger. You can't have a biology book filled with teleological
affirmations and then insist that there is no teleology in biology.
activity per se is not what is in question. Purposeful acts are generally
recognized both by the "common man" as well as by most philosophical
systems. People don't plant an apple seed because they want a maple
tree. What then is at issue here? The question is whether this
recognized type of teleological activity has an application beyond the human
experience; whether, that is, purposeful activity can be projected into
biological development. This is really the heart of the question because
it requires us to see the difference between the laureates' macrocosmic march
onwards of "random variations" with the biological world of plant and
animal kingdoms mutating their way into existence, and, on the other hand, the
actual world of billions of organisms each having their own self-enclosed
programmatic development, and yet, nonetheless, having to interact within their
environment or bio-eco system. The argument for intelligent design does
not necessarily require a speculation regarding an intellect behind the design,
but it does require one to distinguish in biological phenomena, a difference
between random variations and planned and guided development. In
physical causality what is happening in the present, is the result of what
happened in the past; whereas in teleological activity, what is happening in
the present, is the result of what will happen in the future. What is
happening is the result of a form or design that is absolutely distinguishable
from the material elements that it is happening to. This type of activity
is, in fact, already known in what is termed intellectual or, if you will,
from the premise that species produce other species, a close analysis of the
causality in biological phenomena would lead more to the conclusion that a life
principle is causing evolution than that evolution is causing life.
problem of causal switch in evolution, exists not only after the reproductive
act, but in the reproductive act as well.
you analyze it, the biggest "mutation" occurring, would be in a
female giving birth to a male offspring. Other humans do not result
directly or indirectly, in a linear way, from a 46 chromosome cell, the
defining double set of human chromosomes (except in the case of identical twins
with the splitting of a zygote, which itself presupposes meiotic
are not caused by the one defining human cell, but by two 23 chromosome gametes
and these two, in fact, come from two separate sources. Where two
distinct causes are responsible for something, that necessarily implies a third
cause. When two separate causes combine, a third cause must exist to
account for the combining. And one would have to say that this third
cause is at least ontologically prior and superior. The combined material
components in the fertilized egg now make up the necessary human configuration
of 46 chromosomes, but it only arrives at that, by means of a process
which was not the result of any of those material components. There
are then in the meiotic process, three causes, one of which contains highly
contingent factors and another of the causes, moreover, which, at the moment
that the process begins, doesn't even yet exist.
Some scientists criticize the argument from complexity, maintaining that
complexity is not a fact but a judgment and that different observers will judge
it differently, or that complexity is a relative concept. The question of
"intelligent design" in life, however, is not about the chemical
components of life, it is about the activity of life.
We can make a distinction between apparent design and teleological
design. Apparent design may be thought of as a kind of order or
pattern. We know that patterns may result from what is, at least in
appearance, a random force. How complicated does the pattern or design
have to be, before we judge it to require an intelligent agent? To
be accurate the argument for intelligent design based solely on complexity is
qualified as an "irreducible complexity" that is already present in
the most primitive forms of life. This argument may have more obvious
force as a proof against the theory of gradual mutations than as a proof in
itself for intelligent design. The "irreducible complexity"
certainly is meant to include the detailed activity going on at the cellular
level and to that extent is undeniable proof of intelligent design.
Here, however, we are not maintaining that intelligent design is based on a
certain "level of complexity". We are saying that intelligent
design is based on predictable development. The design here is not in an orderly
arrangement of parts, but in an orderly arrangement of means towards
Nor are random
variations relevant to the discussion, to begin with. It matters little
if or whether a random mutation changes one intelligent plan into another intelligent
plan, the fact of the matter is, that there is gradually unfolding a
design. Oddly enough evolutionary theory itself doesn't even claim that
that specific plan, now mutated, does not unfold, it merely maintains
that, at some future point over the long run, it is not likely to be naturally
selected and therefore to survive. It is, nevertheless, a solid enough
plan to exist at least for a time, whatever may be it's long term survival
Ironically intelligent design is the most agreed upon point in this whole
debate. When describing DNA, RNA, chromosomes and the genetic code,
biologists extolling the intricacies, sound more like mystics than
scientists. It is only when logical conclusions start to be made, that
some scientific apologists defensively revert to the language of random
Evolution, according to the laureates' statement, is by "random
variations", that is to say, with variations by chance.
Often the randomness
of the universe (which actually means a unified system) is thought to be based
on the seeming random motion of atomic and sub atomic particles. The fact
of the matter is, that reality at the atomic level is gathered and unified into
things governed by known and knowable regularities, making the world of things,
even by the most narrow interpretation, an ordered randomness or an ordered
disorder, if you must. Likewise it is not accurate to create a picture of
dueling or multiple principles, some random and some organizing, as if equal
aspects of phenomena; when, in fact, the apparent randomness is
Whatever may be
said scientifically for a process of "random variations", the
randomness is not something that science can in any way prove, but arises out
of the belief system of the individuals who signed the manifesto, a personal
judgment super-imposed upon the experimental facts, contradicting the signers'
stated intention of keeping people's religious beliefs out of science class.
To toss into
a general explanation of the universe the word "randomness" is,
in any case, philosophically naive. It breaks into the discussion only in
the middle. An arc of probabilities presumes a realm of
possibilities, and while philosophers are by no means in agreement as to the precise
existential nature of this "realm of possibilities", they are
generally of accord that it has to be assigned at least a logical value, the
lack of which would result in an apparent explanation that does not
explain. Long and deep has been the centuries' old meditation on this
point: the concept of intentionality, the concept of potentiality and the
like. What is certain is that probability implies conditions.
Just how bizarre the debate regarding cosmic evolution or the evolution of the
universe is, can be seen by the number of more or less hastily passed over
assumptions that already have to be made: namely regarding pre-exisitng
material, successive attempts, time, why what happened, didn't happen earlier,
and what or who is doing the triggering? How many "big bangs"
really were there, before an ordered universe resulted? Since the
explosions with which we are familiar, result in greater disorder and chaos,
was a "second chance" even possible? How many planets are there
where nothing is selected? How many things on this planet are quite
chance is never a cause; it is, rather, an unpredictable effect, at least
practically so. We often hear that the positing of a God or an
"intelligent designer" is merely a stop-gap assumption destined to
become unnecessary once the real cause is understood. Actually we have to
say exactly that about "chance". Forces that may be too
complicated to track today may be described as "random", but once all
the elements are able to be mapped out, we realize that it was not
"chance" at all, but the result of perfectly definable laws, and not
ones of statistical probability, but laws of physics yielding certainty and
therefore predictability as well.
There are more than
one aspect of evolutionary theory that run contrary to philosophical truths
which have been analyzed and defended for centuries, such as the principle that
the greater can not arise from the lesser. Presenting evolution as a
fact, it is often advanced as the proof against this principle, but that is to
assume as true, what in fact you must prove.
The most basic and primordial stage in the evolutionary journey, namely the
passage from inorganic matter to organic matter should be the most easily
verifiable and commonly witnessed, and yet that remains unverified. There
is simply no experimental support for such a passage, notwithstanding the
forced evolutionistic interpretation of viruses. This is where the
laureates' claim that evolution is "logically derived from confirmable
evidence" is most factually deceptive.
Notwithstanding the apparent difficulties of evolutionary theory, the spectrum
of organisms lined up, one next to the other from the most simple to the most
complex, remains so impressive as to form, it would seem, almost an argument in
itself. This stepping stone vision of the natural world is not particular
to the Darwinian view. A common medieval maxim, tracing back even further
to at least Dionysius, states that "the highest of a lower order touches
the lowest of a higher order". What can be the interpretation
of this gradual rise from lesser forms to greater forms?
I remember a
murder mystery with a plot something along these lines: A wife becomes
suspicious that her husband is arranging to have her killed. There were
secretive telephone calls. There were the times when the caller hung up
when she would answer the phone. It all sort of climatically worked up,
you might say, with great tension, to an evening when her husband actually lays
a large knife on the counter even though supper was already over.
As it turned out, the husband had planned a surprise birthday party for his
wife and set out the knife to cut the birthday cake!
There is a
possibility that we may be doing the same thing in relation to species
time-lines and "evolutionary trees". Yes, one explanation may
be that one thing evolved into the next thing, but another explanation can very
well be found in the requirements of the food chain. We now recognize (at
least those who eat organic foods), more than in the past, all that has to be
taking place in the soil before healthy plants even sprout, and all that has to
be going on under the sea before there can be a healthy tuna fish. It
might be possible to scavenger for elements in the soil in order to survive,
but instead, all the scavenging is done by plants, and we merely have to
pluck a delectable fruit that could hardly be duplicated by eating a
combination of nutrient elements.
theory has undergone a certain evolution. The premise that some substance
or gas evolved into the human species originally would have been met with an
understandable incredulity. The credibility problem was minimized by the
introduction of gradualism. What may seem to be impossible looked at in
its bare bones outline, was stretched out long enough in small enough steps to
appear plausible. Now, of course, with the idea of evolution being fixed
more firmly in the common psyche, reliance on tiny steps is less important, and
theories such as "punctuated equilibrium" , or the progress of
evolution by bigger steps may be met with less disbelief. This new
approach has the advantage of responding to a difficulty of evolution regarding
fossil evidence. The first principle of evolution, mutations that happen
by chance, results in many species arriving at existence but not surviving
because of the second principle of evolution, natural selection. But
where is the fossil evidence for all these unsuccessful species? Well,
there's your answer: The new theory of evolution doesn't require all these
troublesome intermediate steps. Like a "catch 22", however,
this lessed reliance on gradualism always comes at the expense of the overall
plausibility of the theory for those who are inclined to forgive
inconsistencies so long as they are tiny enough.
declaration the laureates state:
"We, Nobel Laureates, are writing in defense of science.
We reject efforts by the proponents of so-called ³intelligent
design² to politicize scientific inquiry and urge the Kansas
State Board of Education to maintain Darwinian evolution as
the sole curriculum and science standard in the State of Kansas. . . .
We are also concerned by the Board¹s recommendation of August
8, 2005 to allow standards that include greater criticism of evolution. .
impetus for the scientific method began with Francis Bacon rejecting the
dependence of science upon the argument from authority; and now we have come to
this: 38 Nobel laureates demanding that evolution be the only theory presented
in biology class!
The ancients used to affirm that the first principles of a science and a
critique of them, come not from that science, but from a higher science.
We are not maintaining that pupils in biology class have to, first, take a
philosophy course, but it does seem appropriate for students in biology to be
able to distinguish the legitimate scientific evidence for evolution from
philosophical claims about evolution that outstrip or out-run the scientific
Scientists battling the voices of intelligent design should be consoled to know
that there are even people of religion arguing against it. The astronomer
Rev. George Coyne, for example, argues that belief in God requires a leap
outside anything science can describe or prove. In this, Coyne confuses
the theological virtue of faith, whereby we believe all that God has revealed
(especially those mysteries impervious to human reason), and the ability to reason
to "the invisible things of (God) from the creation of the world" as
Saint Paul affirms in his letter to the Romans.
God is truth and can neither deceive or be deceived; so it follows logically
that one must accept and believe by faith all that He has revealed. On
the other hand, to present to students, as frozen dogmas, the controversial
theories of men, obviously would only have the effect of stifling creative
thinking and the proposal of alternate theories, fresh hypotheses and new
models; all to the detriment of intellectual progress. It would, as well,
run counter to current widely held pedagogical thinking.
hundreds of years, was the theory of the Greek thinker, Empedocles, that earth,
air, fire and water were the basic "roots". It may be that to
future generations the theory of evolution will sound just as simplistic.
In the meanwhile educators should try not to close the doors on debate but to
allow an open discussion of competing theories.
of Guadalupe, 2005