22. Intelligent Design
It is so interesting that this subject is at the forefront again. Few people realize that A.R. Wallace received a "revelation" about evolution at the same time as Darwin. He sent a paper describing his theory to Darwin, who was thrown into a panic. Later Darwin stated: "I never saw a more striking coincidence. If Wallace had my M.S. sketch written out in 1842 he could not have made a better short abstract! Even his terms now stand as heads of my chapters." Darwin hurried to get published before Wallace, and has held the attention of the public ever since. There was one main difference, however, between Wallace's theory and that of Darwin. Until his death, Wallace insisted that science was ignoring an organizational intelligence that could not be explained by random processes. And it continues to do so.
One cannot help but think that Darwin's views were influenced by the fact that he was studying to enter the Christian ministry, but became disillusioned by a number of things. He was disgusted by Christians who justified owning slaves from what was written in the Bible. He also did not believe in the simplistic description of the creation and literal interpretations of the Bible. He was deeply troubled by suffering in the world. Was God indifferent to "the suffering of millions of lower animals throughout almost endless time"? 1 On his trip aboard the Beagle, Darwin began to see a potential mechanism for life that acted through natural selection. Obviously, his observations were based on gross anatomical features. Much later, the discovery of DNA gave science the mechanism for mutation and variation. But there is much more to the story.
In his book, "Darwin's Black Box," Biochemistry professor Michael Behe shows how modern electron microscopes have revealed the internal mechanisms of the cell, something Darwin could not have imagined. Behe states: "The cumulative results show with piercing clarity that life is based on machines- machines made of molecules!" 2 He describes molecular hiways, pulleys, cables, and switches. The scientific literature is completely silent on how such machines could evolve by natural selection. Behe goes on to describe a number of specific systems that he describes as being "irreducibly complex". In other words they have inter-dependant parts that must function together. Some are so finely balanced that the odds of producing them randomly are many times greater than the age of the known universe. 3
There have been numerous attempts to explain the complexity of life. There is a journal of molecular evolution which has revealed some interesting relationships, but it has not proposed a model for how a complex biochemical system might develop from a gradual Darwinian process.4 Complexity theory does make an attempt to show elements of self organization, but this has been limited entirely to computer simulations.
Behe offers a modern parable:
In a room, a body lies crushed. Detectives crawl around the floor with magnifying glasses, looking for a clue of the perpetrator. Next to the body stands a large gray elephant. The detectives are careful not to bump into or even glance at the elephant. over time, they become frustrated with their lack of progress, but press on, looking more closely at the floor. You see, the text books say that detectives must "get their man," so they never consider the elephants.
Behe states: "There is an elephant in the roomful of scientists who are trying to explain the development of life. The elephant is labeled "intelligent design." 5
Why does science assume that the hypothesis of intelligent design is unscientific? Does such a hypothesis necessarily lead to a conclusion that there must be a designer as opposed to some type of self-organizing principle? Is it possible that the assumption of a supreme intelligence by the ancients, combined with their science (as primitive as it might have been), enabled them to achieve certain things we cannot adequately explain with our modern science?