Skip to comments.Faith-Based Evolution (a meteorologist looks at ID and "evolutionism")
Posted on 08/09/2005 4:42:44 AM PDT by Nicholas Conradin
Twenty years ago, as a PhD scientist, I intensely studied the evolution versus intelligent design controversy for about two years. And finally, despite my previous acceptance of evolutionary theory as "fact," I came to the realization that intelligent design, as a theory of origins, is no more religious, and no less scientific, than evolutionism.
In the scientific community, I am not alone. There are many fine books out there on the subject. Curiously, most of the books are written by scientists who lost faith in evolution as adults, after they learned how to apply the analytical tools they were taught in college.
You might wonder how scientists who are taught to apply disciplined observation and experimentation and to search for natural explanations for what is observed in nature can come to such a conclusion? For those of you who consider themselves open-minded, I will try to explain.
True evolution, in the macro-sense, has never been observed, only inferred. A population of moths that changes from light to dark based upon environmental pressures is not evolution -- they are still moths. A population of bacteria that become resistant to antibiotics does not illustrate evolution -- they are still bacteria. In the biological realm, natural selection (which is operating in these examples) is supposedly the mechanism by which evolution advances, and intelligent design theory certainly does not deny its existence. While natural selection can indeed preserve the stronger and more resilient members of a gene pool, intelligent design maintains that it cannot explain entirely new kinds of life -- and that is what evolution is.
Possibly the most critical distinction between the two theories (or better, "models") of origins is this: While similarities between different but "related" species have been attributed by evolutionism to common ancestry, intelligent design explains the similarities based upon common design. An Audi and a Ford each have four wheels, a transmission, an engine, a gas tank, fuel injection systems but no one would claim that they both naturally evolved from a common ancestor.
Common ancestry requires transitional forms of life to have existed through the millions of years of supposed biological evolution. Yet the fossil record, our only source of the history of life on Earth, is almost (if not totally) devoid of transitional forms of life that would connect the supposed evolution of amphibians to reptiles, reptiles to birds, etc. This is why Stephen Jay Gould, possibly the leading evolutionist of our time, advanced his "punctuated equilibria" theory. In this theory, evolution leading to new kinds of organisms occurs over such brief periods of time that it was not captured in the fossil record. Upon reflection, one cannot help but notice that this is not arguing based upon the evidence -- but instead from the lack of evidence.
One finally comes to the conclusion that, despite vigorous protests, belief in evolution and intelligent design are matters of faith. Even some evolutionists have admitted as much in their writings. Modern biology does not "fall apart" without evolution, as some will claim. Maybe the theories of the origins of forms of life fall apart, or theories of the origin of capabilities that those life forms exhibit, or the supposed ancestral relationships between them fall apart. But these are merely intellectual curiosities, serving only to stimulate discussion and teach the next generation of students the same beliefs. From a practical point of view, the intelligent design paradigm is just as useful to biology, and I believe, more satisfying from an intellectual point of view.
Intelligent design can be studied and taught without resorting to human creation traditions and beliefs, which in the West are usually traceable to the first book of the Bible, Genesis. Just as someone can recognize and study some machine of unknown purpose built by another company, country (or alien intelligence?), one can also examine the natural world and ask the question: did this machine arise by semi-random natural physical processes, or could it have been designed by a higher power? Indeed, I was convinced of the intelligent design arguments based upon the science alone.
Of course, ultimately, one must confront the origin of that higher power, which will logically lead to the possibility of an original, uncaused, First Cause. But then we would be firmly in the religious realm. All naturalistic cosmological theories of origins must invent physics that have never been observed by science -- because the "Big Bang" can't be explained based upon current physics. A naturalistic origin of the universe violates either the First or Second Laws of thermodynamics -- or both. So, is this science? Or faith?
It is already legal to teach intelligent design in public schools. What is not currently legal is to mandate its teaching. The Supreme Court has ruled that this would violate the First Amendment's establishment of religion clause.
But I have some questions relating to this: Does not classical evolutionism, based almost entirely upon faith, violate the same clause? More importantly, what about the establishment clause of the First Amendment, which states that Congress shall make no law prohibiting the free exercise of religion?
If the public school system insists on teaching evolution as a theory of origins, in the view of many a religious activity, why is it discriminating against the only other theory of origins, intelligent design? (There is, by the way, no third theory of origins that anyone has ever been able to determine.) At the very least, school textbooks should acknowledge that evolution is a theory of origins, it has not been proved, and that many scientists do not accept it.
There are a variety of ideas that try to blend evolution and intelligent design, the most unified one being "pantheism" that sees God and nature as One. This view, which has been held by many peoples throughout recorded history, has also been advanced here at TCS. But more commonly, people subscribe to the notion that a Creator "got things started," and then evolution "took over."
The problem I have with this is that it grants far too much significance to macroevolution, since it has virtually no observational evidence to support it. One wonders: Why do so many people defend it so fervently?
Whether intelligent design is ever taught in school is probably not as important as the freedom that we have in a free society to discuss, and study, such issues. And for that, I am thankful.
Roy Spencer is a principal research scientist for University of Alabama in Huntsville. In the past, he was served as Senior Scientist for Climate Studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where here he directed research into the development and application of satellite passive microwave remote sensing techniques for measuring global temperature, water vapor, and precipitation. He currently is the U.S. Science Team Leader for the Advanced Microwave Scanning Radiometer (AMSR-E) on NASA's Aqua satellite. Dr. Spencer is the recipient of NASA's Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement and the American Meteorological Society's Special Award for his satellite-based temperature monitoring work. He is the author of numerous scientific articles that have appeared in Science, Nature, Journal of Climate, Monthly Weather Review, Journal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology, Journal of Climate and Applied Meteorology, Remote Sensing Reviews, Advances in Space Research, and Climatic Change. Dr. Spencer received his Ph.D. in Meteorology from the University of Wisconsin in 1981
This adds little, I think, to the discussion of ID and/versus evolution, but he is a scientist
Intelligent design can be studied and taught without resorting to human creation traditions and beliefs...
What's there to teach?
Since the fossil record shows a steady and continuous progression from simpler to more complex life over billions of years, the so-called Intelligent Designer must be very actively creating new species after new species over this time.
According to this "theory", every time a new species is created, the Intelligent Designer has done it.
And this is supposed to be more beleivable, or comparably believable, to evolution by natural selection? Not in my brain.
I don't know how anyone can be honest and sweep this under the rug as if it doesn't matter. If we can find fossil evidence from millions of years ago, and of supposedly divergent lines, why do we not have anything to link these divergent lines? It seems improbable that this evidence would be the only stuff that left no sign of itself over the eons. When I bring up the lack of fossil evidence to the pure evolutionists, they go on about retro-virus this and DNA that, but fail to come up with a good explanaition of why there are gaps that would infer that there was no real evolving, but a sudden leap of a mutation from one species to the next. It seems that they take the lack of necessity of this linking evidence with the same faith that I attribute to God. Then, they tend to sneer and look down their noses at me as some kind of bumpkin (much as Dims do to anyone who disagrees with them) while they rant about how I don't understand science. I guess I could use the same argument about them not understanding God, but He prefers I not curl my lip when I try to persuade folks of His existence.
Many years ago I was a practicing scientist and reached the same conclusion -- there HAD to be an architect, designer and project manager behind the origins and processes of life.
I could NOT support, in fact, the 100% naturalist/scientific point of view.
Indeed it IS a matter of substantial faith, not substantial evidence, to believe in the theory of evolution. I don't mind that people do believe in evolution as the '100% of life' but it saddens me to see "scientists" who won't recognize how little real evidence, befitting the scientific method, supports the theory.
Perhaps we should start calling it the hypothesis of evolution ;-)
If there is a God, and I believe there is ... (my faith) then He has the power to speak life into existence, design a dynamic intelligent system or just let it 'evolve'. I susbscribe to the theory of intelligent design and the Book of Genesis as a correct and accurate representation of how God wanted to reveal it to us -- the project kick off meeting if you will. Genesis says exactly what God wants it to say, and we have to respond in faith and obedience.
I welcome your comments.
I am a scientist as well and I happen to agree with him. Adds little? Sniff, if you must.
Reading his pedigree, I predict that all the FR evo-high priests and particularly the evo-space cadets and evo-Trekkies will be writhing in pain on this thread before too much longer.
With all due respect he's a meteorologist. I'm not aware of how much impact evolution has on the weather. But I'll agree that it adds little to the overall discussion.
Great article...thanks for posting it.
A meteorologist commenting on evolution is sort of like a gardener explaining to a chef how to make a soufflé. I can tell you alot about meteorologists just by looking at how often they manage to actually predict the weather, the one thing they are supposed to be able to do. I believe their track record is less than 50%.
When the guy starts out with a flat out incorrect statement like that, it's hard to take the rest of the article seriously.
I don't think that anyone is trying sweep anything under the rug, primarily because science has indentified dozens if not hundreds of fossils that they believe track the transition from amphibian to reptile, and from reptile to mammal or bird. Some of them are detailed here.
I too was a scientists, with several advanced degrees and an interest in geology, astronomy, and geophysics. I also agree with the author. Life, once it appeared on Earth changed, this is recorded in the rocks, but in is impossible to determine how life occurred naturally. ( Recall that the best guess for the age of the Universe is about 10^17 seconds) Consequently, there apparently was not enough time on Earth for life as complex as the eukaryothic cell and DNA to occur randomly. Also recall, that during the time that life was "developing" on Earth the atmosphere supposedly changed from a reducing one to a highly corrosive one containing oxygen.
Mere speculation. From a philosophical point of view it is quite intersting, but from a scientific point of view, it lacks credibility. If we are the product of some grand design, where is the design? How are the creator's blueprints made manifest? What is the physical force or interaction responsible for executing the design? ID has never addressed questins such as these. It merely throws it's hans up and says we cannot figure it out so someone smarter than us did it.
Moreover, ID offers no explanation of where the designer came from, or how this designer does what it does. ID offers more holes and blank spaces than evolution. Also note that the author is a meteorologist, not a biologist.
Michael Behe has quite the pedigree as well, and the first part of this post is pretty much a rehash of his argument (without the emphasis on irreducible complexity). I don't see any "evos" writhing in pain over him, so I can't imagine this guy is gonna leave a mark, either.
Frankly, I'm all for teaching ID, in World Cultures class. Because a theory of origins is touted by some scientists does not necessarily make it a scientific theory.
If "evos" are guilty of extending microevolution into the realm of macroevolution without compelling evidence, there still exists the scientific research that continues. ID injects itself into the fray on a point of logic (what are the odds?), coupled with an inference to a designer.
The book titled 'Chariots of the Gods' suggests a third theory which I call the 'intervention' theory. It postulates that at some point in the evolution process earth was visited by alien beings who caused a quantum leap from primitive man to modern man. It relates details of the theory to the old testament. It's an interesting read even though, like all theories explaining the mystery of the existence of life and the universe, nobody will ever know for certain.
We have lots of transitional fossils. In fact, Darwin's theory predicted they must exist in order for the theory to be correct, although they hadn't been found in his time. One of the hallmarks of a theory is the ability to make predictions. What predictions does ID make?
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