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Scientific Evidence for God The Design of Living Things God and Evolution Prof. Rob Koons Leadership for America.

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Presentation on theme: "Scientific Evidence for God The Design of Living Things God and Evolution Prof. Rob Koons Leadership for America."— Presentation transcript:

1 Scientific Evidence for God The Design of Living Things God and Evolution Prof. Rob Koons Leadership for America

2 Old Man of the Mountain, New Hampshire Detecting Design

3 Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

4 Dawkins R. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton, p. 1 “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”

5 Dawkins R. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton, p. 21 “We may say that a living body or organ is well designed if it has attributes that an intelligent and knowledgeable engineer might have built into it in order to achieve some sensible purpose, such as flying, swimming, seeing … [A]ny engineer can recognize an object that has been designed, even poorly designed, for a purpose, and he can usually work out what that purpose is just by looking at the structure of the object.”

6 Dawkins R. 1986. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton, p. 21 “Yet the living results of natural selection overwhelmingly impress us with the appearance of design as if by a master watchmaker, impress us with the illusion of design and planning.”

7 Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species, p. 158 If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down. But I can find out no such case.

8 IrreducibleComplexity

9 Irreducible Complexity A function is “irreducibly complex” (Michael Behe) if it is realized by a large number of sub- component processes, each of which must be carefully adjusted to the others, and all of which are necessary if the whole system is to serve its characteristic function at all. Examples: a clock, a mousetrap, the Space Shuttle, an enzyme, a molecular “ machine ” (like the flagellum of bacteria).


11 Voet & Voet, 1995 The Bacterial Flagellum


13 Problem for Darwinism “ We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity (Behe 1996); but we must concede that there are presently no detailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful speculations. ” Franklin Harold (2001).

14 Cell (1998) 92, table of contents. The Cell as a Collection of Protein Machines: Preparing the Next Generation of Molecular Biologists, Bruce Alberts Polymerases and the Replisome: Machines within Machines, Tania A Baker and Stephen P Bell Eukaryotic Transcription: An Interlaced Network of Transcription Factors and Chromatin-Modifying Machines, James T Kadonaga Mechanical Devices of the Spliceosome: Motors, Clocks, Springs, and Things, Jonathan P Staley and Christine Guthrie Molecular Movement inside the Translational Engine, Kevin S Wilson and Harry F Noller The Hsp70 and Hsp60 Chaperone Machines, Bernd Bukau and Arthur L Horwich

15 The Origin of Life Very rapid: within 10 million years of liquid water on Earth’s surface. Couldn’t be the result of a lucky series of coincidences. Smallest self-replicator requires 300 genes, 100,000 base pairs. Convinced famous atheist philosopher Anthony Flew.

16 There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind (2007) “Can the origins of a system of coded chemistry be explained in a way that makes no appeal whatever to the kinds of facts that we otherwise invoke to explain codes and languages, systems of communication, the impress of ordinary words on the world of matter?”

17 Functional Proteins The vast majority of randomly generated proteins do not fold in a stable way at all, and so cannot function as enzymes. Let ’ s call these non-functional proteins. Estimate of the ratio of functional to non-functional proteins (with 300 amino acids): 1 in 10 267. Compare: the number of grains of sand in Sahara (10 30 ); the number of atoms in the universe (10 80 ).

18 The problem for Undirected Evolution This means that evolution cannot take us from one functional protein to the next by a series of small, unplanned steps, since the path between two functional proteins must cross a huge number of non-functional intermediaries. Somehow, these supposedly random mutations must make the leap from one functional island to another, across a vast ocean of non-functional space.

19 The origin of the genetic code. One of the greatest weaknesses of the Darwinian idea is that it cannot be extended to the explanation of the origin of life, and in particular, the origin of the genetic code itself. The genetic code is itself an amazing piece of irreducibly complex machinery: out of every million randomly generated codes, only one is likely to be as error-resistant as is our actual code (Hurst, Freeland).

20 New discoveries There is very little, if any, “ junk DNA ” : almost all of the DNA molecule has some function. Genes are not isolated -- in fact, genes overlap each other. The very same segment of DNA could belong to several genes at once, being read from “ left to right ”, or “ right to left ”, and with different starting and stopping points. The DNA molecule is less like a novel and more like a crossword puzzle.

21 “ Gene ” 1 “ Gene ” 2 “ Gene ” 3 “ Gene ” 5 “ Gene ” 4 transcripts Multiple, Overlapping Transcripts

22 Problems for Undirected Darwinism Each mutation now has an effect, simultaneously, on thousands of products. Since harmful effects are much more likely than beneficial ones, the odds that any mutation could be beneficial become incredibly long. (Chung, W.-Y et al., 2007)

23 Evolution and Creation Are they compatible? Yes. God could have used ‘evolution’ to create life: (1) gradual ‘unfolding’ of new forms of life over billions of years, (2) common ancestors for all living forms. God could have used ‘random’ mutations (with occasional nudges) to generate the forms of life He intended.

24 However… None of this makes the evidence from biological function to design at all doubtful, since we have compelling reason to reject “blind chance” as the cause of complex adaptations. Even if God front-loaded the design into the chemistry and geology of the world, this still requires intelligence.

25 What is “Intelligent Design”? What it’s not: Not an alternative to evolution (descent with modifications). Not an alternative to natural selection. Not a matter of religious faith. Not, at this point, a scientific theory.

26 The ID/Darwinism Debate Neither Darwinism nor ID are scientific theories: both are metaphysical frameworks. We can ask which framework is most reasonable as a way of making sense of the phenomena of nature. A philosophical, rather than a scientific, question.

27 The Central Issue Intelligent design can be defined as an approach to biological origins that rejects one of the core commitments of the Darwinian paradigm, namely: –The thesis that new modifications (by mutation, change in gene expression or otherwise) occur with a probability that is independent of their current or future contribution to biological function.

28 The Blind Chance Thesis Let’s call this core Darwinian presupposition the “blind chance thesis”. Is the truth of the chance thesis a scientific question? No, it is a question of fundamental metaphysics that concerns the form of future biological theory.

29 Methodological Naturalism According to MN, it is part of the very definition of science that it make no appeal to “supernatural” agencies or miracles: The supernatural cannot be included in the “data base”. No proposed theory can include reference to God or other supernatural agents. The “evidence base” (anything used to evaluate theories for their plausibility or viability) must be at least agnostic about God.

30 Is Science Based on MN a defeater for belief in God? No, because if a scientific program adopts a method that excludes the very idea of divine agency from the outset, the fact that it doesn’t later discover any need for God’s agency is totally predictable, no evidence against God whatsoever. In order to determine whether biology provides evidence for (or against) God, we must suspend Methodological Naturalism and put divine agency back on the table.

31 Objection: Science can refer only to physical causes Historically, this is false. Many scientists in the past have postulated non-physical forces (chemical, biological, psychic). Not clear what “physical” means here. When Newton introduced gravity,this was rejected as an “occult force”.

32 Intelligent Design in nature = natural teleology Teleology comes from the Greek word “telos” for end or purpose. Historically, teleology has played an important role in the development of science, including biology. In the mid-19th century, the philosophical movement of “materialism” (also called “physicalism”) began to emerge.

33 Can science refer only to physical causes? The progress of science has not been identical to the progress of materialism. Ancient materialism was a scientific dead end. Theism, the idea that the natural universe is an artifact, played a crucial role in the scientific revolution, as documented by Duhem, Jaki and others.

34 Can science refer only to physical causes? The very idea of a law of nature is a non- physical cause. First introduced by a Christian theologian, Basil of Caesarea. In the early modern era -- Kepler, Newton, Boyle -- retained its core, theological meaning.

35 Can science refer only to physical causes? The ancient atomists believed this, and for this reason, they rejected the search for laws of nature and the use of mathematics in science. The introduction of mathematics to science (by Ptolemy, Roger Bacon, da Vinci, Galileo, Kepler, Newton) presupposed a non-materialist philosophy.

36 Can science refer only to physical causes? By restricting science to physical causes only, this philosophy introduces the possibility of scientific blindspots. When MN-based science reports that God is not indicated by the evidence, this is no surprise – His agency has been excluded from the inquiry at the outset.

37 Is Darwinism testable? The core commitment of Darwinism, the Chance Thesis, is not falsifiable or testable. It is always possible that all the past modification involved in evolutionary history occurred with a function-blind, chemically- determined probability. Even if a particular system seems to be irreducibly complex, it is impossible to prove that there is no Darwinian path to it.

38 Is the Blind Chance Thesis a scientific question? It is certainly a question that impinges upon science. Our answer to the question has profound implications for the shape of evolutionary biology. We can evaluate competing scientific programs that take different positions. But, in the end, it is also a philosophical, meta-scientific issue.

39 Objection: ID involves an appeal to miracle, the inscrutable “God did it” is no explanation. True. But neither is “Chance did it”. At this level of generality, the two answers are equally vacuous. At this point, Darwinists have no specific, testable scenarios to offer us, detailing how chance modification at the genetic level produced any of the intricate functions we find in living things. This is true even of simple cases like Finch beaks.

40 Objections: Darwinism explains the Appearance of Design Things in the world, especially living things, look as though they have been designed. Nothing that we know looks designed unless it is designed. Therefore there must have been a designer, and we call him God. Thanks to Darwin, it is no longer true that nothing that we know looks designed unless it is designed. Evolution by natural selection produces an excellent simulacrum of design, mounting prodigious heights of complexity and elegance. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, p. 79

41 Evidence of Evolution Evolution also posits that modern organisms should show a variety of structures from simple to complex, reflecting an evolutionary history rather than an instantaneous creation. The human eye, for example, is the result of a long and complex pathway that goes back hundreds of millions of years. Initially a simple eyespot with a handful of light-sensitive cells that provided information to the organism about an important source of the light; it developed into a recessed eyespot... [which] provided additional data on the direction of light;... then into a pinhole camera eye that is able to focus an image on the back of a deeply-recessed layer...,; then into a pinhole lens eye that is able to focus the image; then into a complex eye found in such modern mammals as humans. Michael Shermer, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design (2006), p. 17.

42 Bad Design? The anatomy of the human eye, in fact, shows anything but “intelligence” in its design. It is built upside down and backwards, requiring photons of light to travel through... blood vessels, ganglion cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells, and bipolar cells before they reach the light-sensitive rods and cones that transduce the light signal into neural impulses... Ospreys have eyes we have calculated to be sixty times more powerful and sophisticated than our own and... blindness, often caused by microscopic parasites that are themselves miracles of ingenuity, is one of the oldest and most tragic disorders known to man. Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great, Twelve, NY, 2007, pp. 82-3

43 Can God use Evolution? Those who have yielded, not without a struggle, to the overwhelming evidence of evolution are now trying to award themselves a medal for their own acceptance of defeat. The very magnificence and variety of the process, they now wish to say, argues for a directing and originating mind. In this way they choose to make a fumbling fool of their pretended god, and make him out to be a tinkerer, an approximator, and a blunderer, who took aeons of time to fashion a few serviceable figures and heaped up a junkyard of scrap and failure meanwhile. Christopher Hitchens, god is not Great, 2007, p. 85

44 Can’t Detect Design on Empirical Grounds...such order is found all over the place where we have as yet no reason to suppose that there is a designer. Paley argued that if we found a watch on the ground we should infer that it had been made by an intelligent being. This is true, because we hardly ever find watches except where the supposition of human manufacture is antecedently plausible -- on people's wrists, in their pockets, in jeweller's shops, and so on. But if watches were found as commonly on the seashore as shellfish, or as commonly on dry ground as insects, this argument would be undermined. J. L. Mackie, The Miracle of Theism, 1982, p. 144.

45 Detecting Design? We would recognize ruins on another planet only insofar as those ruins resembled, at least to some extent, the methods of man. And our ability to recognize man-made characteristics depends on our ability to identify characteristics that are not found in nature.... We see, therefore that the characteristics of design stand in contradistinction to the characteristics of natural objects... Now consider the idea that nature itself is the product of design. How could this be demonstrated? Nature, as we have seen, provides the basis of comparison by which we distinguish between designed objects and natural objects. George H. Smith, Atheism: The Case Against God (Prometheus, 1989), pp. 267-8

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