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Darwin's Theory
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Dr. Michael Behe



Elisabet Sahtouris



Phillip Johnson



Earl Aagaard, PhD



Robert Wright



William Dembski

  
Michael Behe:

It's important to recognize that Darwin's theory came out over a hundred years ago and that scientific theories evolve just like everything in nature does. Physics, for instance, has evolved tremendously in the course of this century. And yet biologists are still doing neo-Darwinism.

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Dwight Nelson:

For some years, scientists have been challenging Darwin's basic theory. The latest evidence only intensifies that challenge. We begin with biologist Elisabet Sahtouris.

Elisabet:

The basic premise of Darwinism is that changes in evolution occur by accident and are then selected by the environment as a kind of template, letting those organisms that have particular accidental changes evolve, live, and reproduce - while other accidents may not be as viable, so that those species die out. Or those individuals die and therefore the species will die out. We, at the same time, have fifty years of laboratory evidence showing scientifically that DNA does not change by accident. If it does, it repairs itself. In other words, our DNA, and that of every creature down to bacteria, are able to sense changes in the environment that demand changes in DNA.

Dwight Nelson:

Experimental evidence of what scientists call "directed change in DNA" was published in the journal, Nature in 1998. Lactose intolerant bacteria were placed in a petri dish where the only food provided was lactose - poison to this type of bacteria. The bacteria could not reproduce without food. According to conventional Darwinian theory, the bacteria should have died, but they didn't. Instead, scientists discovered that the bacteria rearranged their own DNA. They did it specifically, consciously, and quickly - making it possible for them to eat the lactose and begin to reproduce. According to the predictions of Darwin's theory, the outcome of DNA rearrangement should have: one, been random and two, taken place over several generations. The experimental evidence did not support either of those predictions. The results of this simple DNA experiment throw conventional Darwinian theory on its ear.

Phillip Johnson:

The important thing about DNA is not the chemicals that it's made of - it's the letters and how the letters are arranged. The "nucleotides," as they are called, the chemical letters that direct the synthesis of protein, are not in the order that they are because of any chemical bonds between them any more than the letters in a page in Shakespeare's Hamlet are arranged the way they are because of the chemistry between the ink and the paper.

Earl Aagaard:

Everybody agrees when we talk about inanimate objects like computers that this type of complexity can't come about by some natural means. When we move to a living system like the brain, it's as if the rules of evidence change. Science tells us that this came about by law and chance. To me, it seems illegitimate to switch the rules of evidence in comparable situations simply because one is non-living and one is living. It's really this that brought the intelligent design movement into being.

Dwight Nelson:

The concept of purposeful rearrangement of DNA has caused some scientists to alter their views of evolution.

Elisabet:

I've done a 180-degree turn as a scientist. I was taught that consciousness is a later-product of evolution in a non-living universe on a non-living planet on which life evolved through accidents, through accidental changes. I don't believe that story anymore. It seems to me now that it's much more plausible to argue that consciousness comes first as a source for material creation, for material evolution. This consciousness and intelligence was there before material evolution began. I simply can not make sense of the idea that dumb mud should boot strap itself into intelligence. Or that non-consciousness could boot strap itself into consciousness.

Dwight Nelson:

When scientists use terms like "consciousness" and "intelligent design" to explain living systems, it's clear they are taking a new approach to understanding how the life we see around us, got here. If DNA rearranges itself to meet the needs of its environment, does that suggest that there is more purpose in evolution than we originally thought?

Phillip Johnson:

I do think that's the case. I think there's enough directionality in evolution that it at least raises the question of whether it wasn't set in motion to serve some purpose.

Earl Aagaard:

People have been asking for hundreds of years whether the diversity on this earth could be explained reasonably by some natural means. Today, in my opinion, the best evidence is that it can not.

Robert Wright:

The important thing to recognize is evolution does not proceed by accident. Darwin was good in thinking up an evolution theory over a hundred years ago. But theories change in science and we've come way beyond Darwin now.

Dwight Nelson:

We have come way beyond Darwin and when we come back we'll find out why this simple mousetrap challenges the fundamental principle of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

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Dwight Nelson:

Nineteenth century naturalist Charles Darwin developed a theory of evolution that suggests that life evolved step by step from simple to complex. But does the evidence support the theory? Do all organisms evolve one step at a time? Or are some systems like machines so complex that if any part is missing, nothing works at all? Dr. Michael Behe thinks he has an answer.

Michael Behe:

In my opinion the strongest argument against Darwinian evolution is something called "irreducible complexity". It's a fancy phrase but it stands for something simple. It means you've got a system or a machine or something, which has a number of different parts, that all have to fit together to work. A good example of that is a mousetrap. A mousetrap you buy at the store has a spring and a platform and various other parts. If you take one of them away, the mousetrap doesn't work anymore. It turns out that things like that are big problems for Darwinian evolution because natural selection needs to work on something that has a function, that's doing something. With an irreducibly complex system, you only get it working when it's essentially put together.

Dwight Nelson:

But does nature actually assemble working systems as complex as a mousetrap? As it turns out nature's machines can be even more complex.

Michael Behe:

A really startling example of irreducible complexity in the cell that we discovered 25 or so years ago is something called the bacterial flagellum. The flagellum is quite literally an outboard motor that bacteria use to swim. It's got a propeller that spins around and around. It's got a motor. It's got a drive shaft that hooks the motor to the propeller. It's got a stator which keeps it stationary in the plane of the cell while it spins around. It's got bushing material that allows it to poke up through the cell's membrane. Genetic studies have shown that this little tiny machine requires about 40 different protein parts in order to work. If you are missing the propeller, the stator, or if you are missing any one of those forty parts, it's not that it works half as well as it used to. It's broken. It just doesn't work at all. How such a thing could be put together in gradual steps as Darwinian evolution requires is so far unsolved.

Dwight Nelson:

Debate over what Michael Behe calls irreducible complexity continues among scientists. But there's no question that his bacterial motors do exist.

Elisabet:

These actually exist in bacteria with little disks rotating, with ball bearings and stuff, and spinning a little tail that drives it forward. That was a real speed up in locomotion. Those high-energy bacteria were able to invade more sluggish bacteria that made their living by fermenting, and to exploit them from the inside out in a kind of bacterial colonialism. But eventually in that whole course of competition and invasion of each other and invention of technology, they stumbled onto the idea of building much larger cooperative cells, which are the only other kind of cell ever to evolve on this planet. You and I are made of them, as is every tree and mouse and bug that you can think of.

Phillip Johnson:

To me this just shows the reality....it really shows the tremendous complexity beneath what we have long thought to be the simplicity of life.

Elisabet:

In an Eco system, every part, every species is contributing. In fact, the best life insurance for survival in a rain forest for each species is to give quality output to other species - meaning something of use to them. What we would call "waste" may be food for another species. It may be building materials for another species. It may be oxygen or carbon dioxide depending on whether you are a plant or an animal that's useful to those who breed those gasses. So everything is interplaying with everything else. Everything is contributing to the survival of everything else.

Robert Wright:

In my mind, this complexity at the very basis of life bespeaks of design. Something like this could not have come about by the random process, even with the natural selection that Darwinian evolution envisioned.

Elisabet:

Every single species in an Eco system has its part, and we learn that sometimes by taking out one species and finding that an entire Eco system is deteriorating. That makes us aware of how much they are like our own bodies where you can't remove a single organ and have the whole body function. It's only in concert. All of the organs work together so that we have this awesome complexity and beauty of function.

Dwight Nelson:

Complexity and beauty of function appear to be compelling evidence for design in nature, but appearances can be deceiving. At one time scientists thought that the craters in the moon formed a design that indicated intelligence. Will the concept of irreducible complexity or the directed mutation of DNA also prove to be ill founded? How can we tell? A mathematician by the name of William Desmky recently developed an objective set of criteria designed to answer that very question. We'll talk to him right after this.

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Dwight Nelson:

Dr. William Dembski holds a Ph.D. in mathematics from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the recipient of two fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the author of several books, including his latest book, the highly acclaimed, Intelligent Design: A Bridge Between Science and Theology. Bill, it's a delight to have you here.

William Dembski: Thank you very much.
Dwight Nelson:

I am intrigued with this title. In fact, I found this line in your book. I'd like to hear you unpack this single line. You wrote, "intelligent design is one intelligence determining what another intelligence has done."

William Dembski: Right.
Dwight Nelson: What in the world does that mean?
William Dembski:

Well, scientists and inquirers generally are intelligent agents. In the world there are things that are produced by natural, unintelligent causes. But things are also produced by intelligent causes. If you look, for instance at ink on a sheet of paper, natural unintelligent causes can slap the ink there.

Dwight Nelson: Got you.
William Dembski:

So if you are going to have a durable wood cut, or a Shakespearean sonnet, that's going to take an intelligence. So intelligent causes, when they inquire in the world, they'll say, oh, this is the result of an intelligence. This is the result of chance, natural processes, or for all we know, it's the result of these unintelligent causes.

Dwight Nelson:

So you are moving from the realm of philosophy into mathematics. When you come up with - what is this, a theory of information that you design? Explain that.

William Dembski:

Design historically has been an intuition. When people have attributed design often it's been...they've said, "Oh, it's a common sense intuition that something is designed." What we want to do is to nail it down. We want to say that it will ...attribute design that we can do it reliably. We want empirical criteria for design. That's what we have now. We've got some criteria for detecting design. What's crucial there is...these are joint criteria. One is complexity. The other is specification. These are big words and may seem...

Dwight Nelson: Can you break those down a little?
William Dembski:

I think a way of breaking it down is really to look at the movie, Contact, which came out in the summer of '97. There is a key instance in this movie which I think illustrates this beautifully. In that movie, you've got these city researchers that are searching for extra terrestrial intelligence. They are astronomers. They are looking for signs of intelligence from outer space. They hook up their radio observatories out there and are monitoring signals. And what happened? There's a key instance in the movie where contact is established, where they know they are in the presence of an intelligence. And what is that signal? Well it's a long sequence of prime numbers. Prime numbers are numbers divisible only by themselves and one. So it's 2, 3, 5, 7, (not 9 because that's 3 X 3 and so on...all the way up to 101.) That sequence comes in and they say, "This isn't noise, this has structure." So there's a clear design inference that is drawn. You've got a lot of...lots of stuff - a lot of numbers coming in. That's complexity. There's also a pattern. It's an objectively given pattern. You know, if it was just coin flipping that had come in from outer space, like landing sequences of 0's and 1's, there would have been complexity, but it would not have nailed it down that there was any intelligence. So, in addition to the complexity, there's got to be that pattern. But you also need the complexity because what if three prime numbers had come in, like 2, 3, 5 - end of story. Well, you're not going to contact the New York Times science editor and say, "Aliens have mastered the first three prime numbers." You know, we've nailed it down. It's too little. You need complexity and you need the pattern. Once you've got that, then you've nailed it down. So we've got a reliable, empirically based criterion for detecting design. Then the question is, "Well, what happens when we start applying that to various special sciences, to biology, to Michael Behe's irreducible complex systems...?" It turns out that it's giving us positive evidence of design.

Dwight Nelson:

Ok, if it's serious research, then might we conclude that scientists, by the droves, are embracing intelligent design?

William Dembski:

Well, they are willing to do design as long as the big "G" is not implied.

Dwight Nelson: Ok.
William Dembski: The big "G" being God.
Dwight Nelson: All right.
William Dembski:

As long as you know the design that is there can be attributed to something other than some sort of transcendence, they are comfortable with it.

Dwight Nelson:

Well, how could it be transferred to any thing else but the big "G"?

William Dembski:

Well, that's...you know...there aren't too many options. You have somebody like Francis Crick, co-discover of the genetic code with James Watson, who's going to say, "Look, life is just too improbable to have happened here on earth, so it had to be seeded from outer space - you know, by extra terrestrials." So, the design problem is pushed one step further back. But where did these extra terrestrials come from? Well, maybe there's some other place in the universe where they could have evolved more rapidly, you know, with greater success than they could here. That just pushes the problem back.

Dwight Nelson:

A moment ago you mentioned that we determine that there is design. But you are not automatically determining design.

William Dembski: No.
Dwight Nelson:

It's not the presupposition you bring to...to the evidence...the object.

William Dembski:

That's right. What I've done is laid out a formal mathematical apparatus for detecting design. Now the question is when we apply that apparatus to biology or to cosmology, it's an open possibility that there's no design there. That apparatus doesn't detect design. It appears that it is but it's a separate question - the theory from the application.

Dwight Nelson:

What...what kind of affect do you anticipate intelligent design will have on Darwinian naturalism?

William Dembski:

The fundamental insight of Darwin's theory, the mutation selection mechanism or variation selection mechanism, that will still have a valid place. But it's not going to be the whole show. In fact, it's probably going to have a very small part of trying to account for biological complexity. So it's a...I think its scope is going to be radically constricted once intelligent design takes off. When it comes to biological complexity, my view is that biology is just chock full of design. You do have certain natural processes, things where Darwinian mechanisms have an influence. But design is overwhelmingly the testimony of biology.

Dwight Nelson:

Bill Dembski's fascinating, fascinating material. Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science and Theology. Thank you very much for being on The Evidence. What do you think? Let us know your opinion. For more information on intelligent design, visit our website. You can find us online www.theevidence.org. We'll be back in just a moment for some concluding thoughts.

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Dwight Nelson:

Darwin's theory suggests that life evolves through a series of chance adaptations. It suggests that life evolves from the simple to the complex, and that competition advances life better than cooperation. According to the scientists we talked to, all three of these ideas can be called into question. Why does that matter? It matters because who we are as human beings matters a great deal. Are we basically the material in our bodies? That's the worldview Darwin's theory suggests. Life is nothing more than interconnected chemical reactions. An alternative is to believe that there is a spiritual component to life, to human life. It's to believe that there is a purpose for existence. The universe was made for us and vice versa. That worldview comes from seeing a God behind creation. Now it may be a big leap to go from saying that Darwin's theory is incomplete to saying that God exists. But many scientists believe precisely that, because of the powerful evidence of design in nature. When they look at the intricate inter relationships between living creatures and living systems, it's hard for them not to see an intelligent designer at work. I must say I find that very compelling. Faith in God is reasonable. Faith in God is something that holds up under the microscope and out among the galaxies. We have hard evidence from just about every branch of science showing how skillfully and wisely everything has been put together. That's what I think. I'm Dwight Nelson. Join us next time for more of The Evidence.








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