Saturday, December 23, 2006

Intelligent Design a black box?

Does Intelligent Design kill curiosity and inquiry? I found a really nice recording of a debate between skeptic Michael Shermer and Intelligent Design advocate Jonathan Wells (can be downloaded in MP3 format here) on evolution.

I have much to say about the actual debate, but a comment made by a member of the audience (time: 49:39) during the question and answer session got me thinking about the explanatatory power of Intelligent Design. The audience member recounted a personal story of a nanny she had hired to look after her son. The nanny believed in Intelligent Design, and every time the audience member’s son would ask a question like “Why does it rain?” or “Why is the flower red?”, the nanny would answer: “because God made it so”. It was the same answer for all his questions, and soon he stopped asking altogether. Was the answer of “God made it so” killing his curiosity?

Jonathan Wells responded to this comment by saying that evolutionists are just as guilty by answering “Evolution made it so” to questions that kids might have regarding the complexity of life on earth. He might be right, but there is a crucial difference between the explanation of evolution and that of Intelligent Design. The difference is this: evolutionists can, in most cases, easily elaborate by providing an answer to the possible follow up question of “How does evolution make it so?” Intelligent Design advocates don’t seem to have an answer this question.

In fact, in seems to me that Intelligent Design advocates are not even attempting to provide answers for specific questions we have regarding nature. How did the designer create the clear fossil progression that we see in the fossil record? Did the designer create all these organisms separately, or was a form of natural selection used? Why do we observe whales with vestigial feet, human embryos with trails, and flightless penguins with hollow bones? Evolution at least attempts to answer these questions.

As Shermer correctly pointed out in the debate, Intelligent Design advocates are fond of attacking evolution without providing a testable theory of their own. When pressed by an audience member to provide a testable theory for Intelligent Design (time: 40:15), Jonathan Wells responded by saying that he isn’t obligated to propose an alternate theory. Isn’t this comment from Jonathan Wells the clearest indication of why Intelligent Design isn’t science?

So my question today to all who might read this: does Intelligent Design provide a suitable answer to why life is complex? Or is it simply a black box that provides a mysterious and unusable explanation, an explanation that stifles further inquiry into the natural world?

28 comments:

ercatli said...

I am a christian who has thought about intelligent design a bit recently. My conclusion is not all that different to yours, namely, that ID cannot be science because it offers little or no verification and falsification, does not lead to predictions that can be tested, etc.

This of course does not mean that a god may not have interfered with the process of evolution, only that it is (a) unnecessary to postulate that, and (b) it cannot be proven scientifically. Even if all natural explanations of a part of evolution fail, scientists will still reject an alternative hypothesis they cannot test.

There are or course christians who believe God set up the evolutionary process, and some who believe that he interferes, albeit in a way undiscoverable by science. I'm not trying to tout up business, but I discuss some of these issues on my website here if you are interested http://home.exetel.com.au/h2bh/text/chap05.html

scripto said...

I've always wondered how design can be determined without an observed design "event" or at least a plausible mechanism.

*adelaine said...

i think we think too highly of ourselves.. both in science and religion.

Evolution is a well accepted concept now, but it wasn't so just a few decades back and some arguments that Darwin gave was proven wrong today.. although to no fault of his- it was a theory.. we are still trying to find the missing link..

We got the real age of planet earth wrong so many times.. i don't know how sure we are now.

We know so little of so much that we try to make sense of it by saying "God made it".. the mysterious way that god works for me is just another way to say.. "i don't know". If there should be a follow up question.. i think it would be "how did God made it?"

Even things we know.. or things we think we know changes with new discoveries all the time. We just need to keep an open mind.

Science cant explain everything, neither can religion.

mommywindow said...

As a small child I was often given the answer to my questions with "Many things God does can not be explained" I grew to hate that answer. How can a God create in his image and doom us to not understand our world??? Now when my child asks me a question that I do not know we look for the answer and I am as honest as I can be even when I can not answer the question sometimes a simple "wow honey that is a great question I'm not sure" is the best I can do. I have grown to realize the "because God made it so" is a big.... I don't know but will never admit to it cop out!

Cheryl Lim said...

Evolution did happen but only under God's supervision and He did it in less than 7 days =)

Anonymous said...

Kevin: I am new to this blogging thing but I recently came across your blog site and have been thinking deeply about how to best respond to the many issues you have raised. But before I do that I'd like to tell you a bit about myself. I am a scientist with a M.Sc. in Medical Biochemistry. I have also had some serious crises of faith in the course of my life and because of my analytical mind I have never been satisfied with off the cuff pat answers by anyone including well meaning Christians. I am convinced that the issues you raise do merit careful and genuine discussion but I also believe that there are answers "out there". Incidentally, I lived in South Africa for many years although I am a Canadian.
Based on what I have seen by way of respondents so far I would say that you are hearing from a very particular Christian sector, namely the Creationist viewpoint. It may, or may not, come as a surprise to you that there are other positions out there who retain a belief in the authenticity of Scripture but also embrace a view that the facts of nature must be consistent with Scripture. Those who would fall into this camp hold to the following beliefs:
1. The Bible is the inerrant truth revealed to us by God.
2. The God of the Bible created that which we observe in nature and that 1. and 2. speak consistently and coherently about Him.
3. God created the heavens and earth but did so over long periods of time.
4. Mankind did not evolve but is a unique and relatively recent creation.

This is variously known as Progressive Creationism or Day-Age Creationism. It is NOT theistic evolution.

In terms of my own journey I really struggled with Christians who told me that the earth and the heavens were created in 6 literal 24 hr. periods. I struggled because this was inconsistent with what I felt to be true from well establish scientific facts in nature which spoke of much longer ages than would be permitted by the 24 hour view.
It was a breath of fresh air for me when I discovered that there were serious, well-educated, Christians with serious scientific training who held to the view I have laid out above. It set me free to embrace both the Bible and science without violating the "rules of interpretation" in either case.
I also went through a time in my life when I too had a crisis of faith and walked away from God for about 18 mths. My journey back to faith was long and too complex to detail here. I will say that part of that journey involved re-visiting why I believe the Bible to be trustworthy. Again, as a scientist I wasn't prepared to "just believe" though sometimes faith does require us to accpt things that are not necessarily totally rational. I wanted to know that my faith was based in something that I could substantiate from history and other non-Biblical sources.
I'd like to respond specifically to your comments about Intelligent Design. Your assertion is absolutely correct. I have been convinced for some time that the ID "movement" is in danger of having all kinds of people "tag along" and use it to proclaim their own agendas. I don't believe that it is honest to ever try and "slip in" a belief in anything under the guise of ID. I believe it is better to be absolutely upfront about what one believes. If someone should conclude that the Designer is not the Biblical God and has reached that conclusion based on the process of just examining the claims of ID, then I have to agree that that is a fair assertion. I would argue that for other reasons the conclusion is incorrect but I do agree with your comment. I would disagree that ID contains no science. There are a number of strong arguments inherent to ID such as the argument based on complex information contained in biomolecules and its compelling design features but perhaps we can reserve this for another discussion.
I'd like to refer to a website that may contain some helpful information. It is an organisation that has helped me a lot over the years. Check out Reasons to Believe at www.reasons.org. Another good site is Stand to Reason at www.str.org.
If you are interested to pursue a more detailed discussion on science and faith issues I would be happy to converse directly with you. Just let me know. I can also put you in touch with the South African Chapter of Reasons to Believe if you are interested.
I guess in closing I want to encourage you that there are Christians out there who are not willing to just pass off your questions with a quick and easy response. I can see that you have thought deeply about many issues and you deserve a cogent response, not Bible thumping.
All the best.

Lui said...

Adeline, what do you mean by the "missing link"? This supposed missing link has grown to become something of an urban legend. But just look at the fossil record for Australopithecines and Hominids. It's clear that, on average, they were acquiring more and more "modern" character states as time went on. There are many "missing links", and not just in the human lineage.

Some of Darwin's ideas were wrong, but this has no bearing on the validity of Darwinian evolution which is understood to mean "evolution by natural selection." Of course, natural selection is not the only relevant process, but it is a must when it comes to complex adaptations. Darwin was ignorant of genes (as was almost everyone at the time, except for the monk Gregor Mendel) and postulated a theory about pangenesis to account for heredity, which has subsequently been shown to be wrong. But the findings of genetics since then have only served to confirm the underlying validity of Darwinian evolution.

Anonymous said...

Just a quick reply to lui...
Actually, the findings of genetics and specifically of molecular biology are leading more and more serious scientists to argue that there is NO validity to Darwinian evolution. Sure, there are those who remain evangelistic about Darwinism but I would refer you to scientists like Michael Denton, who incidentally makes no claim to any religious notions...he is just one of many who are saying that the informatics being revealed by molecular biology simply cannot be explained by time plus chance and natural selection.
Don aka Anonymous

Lui said...

"Actually, the findings of genetics and specifically of molecular biology are leading more and more serious scientists to argue that there is NO validity to Darwinian evolution."

Nonsense, and it's really galling to see people who come out and say this with confidence for what are clearly religious reasons dressed up as science. The notion that there is no validity to Darwinian evolution is beyond ridiculous; it's a complete joke, and a tiresome, boring and obnoxious one at that. The vast majority (not just a few, as you imply) of serious scientists (like the geneticist Sean B. Carroll) still see Darwinian evolution as the best available explanation, and the findings of developmental biology in particular are helping them to piece together the story of life in unprecedented detail. Having read Carroll's "Endless Forms Most Beautiful", I can tell you that rumours of Darwinism's iminent death have been very much exaggerated.

CyberKitten said...

Well said Lui.

Anonymous said...

It is always interesting when people engage in ad hominem attacks because someone simply dares to question their position. Where did you get the idea that I have some hidden religious basis for my comments? I am a scientist and have been engaged in serious science for most of my life. I am arguing the facts as related by other scientists. I freely acknowledge that many scientists believe in Darwinian evolution but many do not and it is unfair to dismiss the latter every time they dare to question Darwinian evolution and accuse them of being religious. If anything is tiresome, that approach is.
Many believe like Carroll that Darwinianism is the best explanation because they tend to approach the discussion from an a posteriori perspective. In other words, Darwinianism is true so let's look for it in nature. The "apparent" continuity of forms, the argument of homology, etc., are understandable given this context. But the question on the table is whether Darwinianism is true or not based on what we observe in nature. If you take an a posteriori approach then sure you'll likely conclude it's true every time. But if take an a priori approach, i.e., let's assume that we have no theory and use a zero-based discussion of the facts we observe, then what conclusions might we reach. Steven Stanley in his work Macroevolution, stated that "the known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic (gradual) evolution accomplishing a major morphologic transition and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid." Here is a serious scientist who is saying that the standard gradualistic model of Darwinianism is simply not as substantiated as we have been let to believe.

But in my previous note I wasn't talking about developmental biology or the fossil record. I was talking about molecular biology. It is relatively easy to see how one form "could have" changed into another form but the question is OK, how did that happen given what we know about the cell. How could DNA polymerase I and II, RNA polymerase, DNA gyrase, DNA transcriptase, all enzymes and therefore all proteins themselves coded by the very DNA they ultimately work on, have evolved. Darwinianism simply cannot answer the questions posed by the complexity of the cell machinery. Indeed, as Denton points out in his book Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, if what we know about the cell were known at the time of Darwin, it is doubtful that his theory would ever have been developed. When one gets down to the molecular level there are enormous questions as to HOW? It is a universally accepted principle that "complex systems cannot be approached gradually through functional intermediates because of the necessity of perfect coadaptation of their components as a pre-condition of function."
I used to have a copy of Boehringer Mannheims's Biochemical Pathways chart in my office (I worked for them at one point). When one looks at the complexity of just the Kreb's Cycle with all of it's interdependencies, feedback, control mechanisms, etc., the statistical possibility that this system came into existence by pure chance is virtually inconceivable. And the Kreb's Cycle is nothing in comparison to the many other biochemical cascade systems in living systems. Even Jacques Monod and Francis Crick are now questioning whether evolution can account for what we observe in nature given our knowledge now of the cell. With reference to life evolving on earth Monod stated that, "the present structure of the biosphere certainly does not exclude the possibility that...it's a priori probability was virtually zero". Who would dare to believe that Monod, himself a legend in molecular biology, would have religious motives for saying that?

Robin said...

To hop on this discussion.

I thought your question of whether or not ID kills curiousity and inquiring intriguing, especially given the utionistic tendancies of many of those whom comment on here.

Ultimately evolution has rather uninteresting answers to some of the most complicated questoins. Essentially the answers, and therefore the questions become insignificant:

Where did humans come from?
-a random physical phenomenon

Why are people here?
-We just are.

Where are we going?
-Most likely towards extinction, unless we rapidly evolve.

In addtion, all emotions, thoughts, feelings etc. are all simply the product of chemical processes within the brain therefore are meaningless.

So, I realize I'm not answering your question directly, but I think that when the question is applied to evolution, the results are somewhat disappointing.

Lui said...

"But the question on the table is whether Darwinianism is true or not based on what we observe in nature."

That question has been answered ad infinitum in the affirmative. The real question now is not whether it happens by how.

Apparently, Denton's understanding of natural selection is deeply flawed. I haven't read his book, but if these reviews are anything to go by, he might well be a good biochemist but his knowledge of how evolution is supposed to work is severely lacking, and he seems to be making erroneous claims about what we should expect to find if evolution is true.

Sequences and Common Descent - How We Can Trace Ancestry Through Genetics

Review of Michael Denton's
Evolution: A Theory in Crisis


The authors of these articles would appreciate feedback if any of their own claims are erroneous.

"When one looks at the complexity of just the Kreb's Cycle with all of it's interdependencies, feedback, control mechanisms, etc., the statistical possibility that this system came into existence by pure chance is virtually inconceivable."

No one's saying these things came into existence by pure chance, at least as far as I know.

Francis Crick and Jacques Monod aren't now saying anything because they're both dead; the latter passed away in 1976, the former in 2004. Crick speculated about panspermia but later became less interested in that possibility, which stemmed from the difficulty of imagining how natural processes could have produced the first living cell. According to this wikipedia article about him, he became much less interested in that possibility after the discovery of ribozymes.

"So, I realize I'm not answering your question directly, but I think that when the question is applied to evolution, the results are somewhat disappointing."

Which has no bearing on the truth claims of evolutionary theory. What you're looking for is reassurance and comfort. It has nothing to do with science.

"Where did humans come from?
-a random physical phenomenon"

Natural selection is non-random, hence your caricature is invalid. If it really was random, you'd be right, and I'd be the first to agree with you. But natural selection (the part that many creationists always leave out) is the opposite of random, and it has always been seen as such.

"Why are people here?
-We just are."

Well, we are mammals after all. You can begin at any twig on the tree of life and trace it back to a common ancestor with any other twig. There's no reason to suppose that evolution was "aiming" for us, any more than there is any reason to suppose that evolution was aiming towards echolocation in bats. If that’s unsatisfying, then fine, but it’s what you’re getting.

"Where are we going?
-Most likely towards extinction, unless we rapidly evolve."

We likely are heading towards extinction if things keep going the way they are, but avoiding that need have nothing to do with us evolving rapidly enough. It has far more to do with us using common sense and laying down our arms so that we won't see mushroom clouds over every major city.

I find it bemusing that people think that it's somehow self-evident that there "has to be" an "ultimate" reason (as in, a thought-out, conscious reason) for our being, as if wanting something to be true constituted evidence for it. Science tells us that we're the products of a process: an amoral, unconscious process that lacks foresight and is blind to suffering and indifferent to anthropocentric yearnings. The science isn't going to change just because we might find that unsettling, even disturbing. I will say this though: the notion that evolution is "uninteresting" is utterly mistaken. There is more poetry and wonder in the long history of life on this planet than there ever was in a creation myth. To think that we're linked to the rest of the animal kingdom, that many of our genes were in existence for millions of years before we evolved as a species, to imagine the cataclysmic events of the past thrills me to bits. I feel sad that many are missing out on this wonderful tale (which also has the benefit of being true).

CyberKitten said...

Impressive Lui [looks impressed].

Anonymous said...

Hi there Kevin,

I'm not sure if you're the same Kevin Parry I met about 10 years ago..at a summer camp? You look so much like him....

Anyway, either way - please send me your e-mail address or msn account? If you have anything like that..id love to get in touch with you. I still remember you so well :) (If youre the same guy). And yes - you will not remember me.
If its the same kevin, I really need to talk to you.

Namibia.
egs@namibnet.com

Anonymous said...

Lui: I have observed a complete unwillingness on your part to concede that any scientist could actually disagree with Darwinism. Only your position is right and everyone else (if they dare to challenge Darwinism) is completely wrong. That is not scientific debate. You state that the answer (is Darwinism true) has been answered ad infinitum in the affirmative. No, it hasn't. You just believe that it has. If the science was THAT convincing then there would be NO dissenters. But clearly there are dissenters and you can't just dismiss them as idiots.

CyberKitten said...

Scientists disagee on many things. However you will find that the vast majority of scientists in the field recognise Darwinian Evolution as the best answer we have (by a LONG way) to explain the diversity of life on Earth.

There are always dissenting voices. People will dissent on ANY subject and scientists are no different.

Darwinism still rocks though.

Caitlyn said...

I agree with anonymous. It would help others and yourself if you would listen to what they have to say, instead of automatically shutting down their opion.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you dont believe once you are saved you are always saved, huh? However, I do. And since you are denying Christianity and we both know that turning your back on the Holy Spirit is the only unpardonable sin, then it seems you are and were unsaved. I hope that you will rethink your position because science will give you no help when Jesus comes back. Jesus is the only one who holds the answers that you seek. Science will not save you. When Jesus comes back to rapture the church, will you then believe?

Lui said...

Cyberkitten's reply is basically what I wanted to convey.

Those of you who oppose Darwinian evolution should be aware that just because two positions are on offer, does not mean that the chances of either being correct is equi-probable, nor even that the truth lies somewhere in between. So far, I have seen no good reason to regard creationism/ID as anything approaching a viable alternative to Darwinism. Many of you seem to harbour the view that we should automatically "respect" an opinion just by virtue of its being an opinion, and that it should be given as much airtime and attention as the prevailing scientific consensus. This is disingenuous, because it presupposes that Darwinian evolution is in trouble. It presupposes that evolution is a theory in crisis. I have seen no good evidence for this, and none has been presented here. So please, let's not get upset at me for not playing along with the scam.

Anonymous, please don't think that emotional intimidation via threats of damnation scare me. I find them to be quite disgusting and childish. It seems that when people have nothing substantial to say, they resort to scare tactics and moralistic chest thumping, and the propensity to use these tactics seems to be in inverse proportion to the knowledge someone has on the topic at hand.

The Moose said...

Wow what a discussion. As I commented on another post of yours, I do come from a Christian perspective.

As far as the original question goes, I believe that some do stifle the curiosity of those searching for answers by using the standard response for everything "Because God did it." Now do I believe that He did? Yes I do. Do I believe that is a sufficient answer? At times maybe but not always. I look at creation and am amazed at the order and yet unbelievable creativity I see. So I believe that Intelligent Design does offer answers to questions that are raised. Unfortunately, there are many who couldn't recite them for lack of understanding. This is true as well for those who choose to believe in evolution but couldn't tell you what a fossil was to save their life much less anything about DNA, RNA, or whatever other abbreviations a scientist might throw at them.

I am not a scientist and won't even pretend to be as your conversations have expired my knowledge almost completely (that and it's 12:20am). However, I have had the privilege to sit under apologists for Darwinism and Creationism. I do know that the theory of evolution has evolved continually since Darwin penned his words. It has not been proven to be a law, it won't be in my opinion. Regardless if the majority of scientist believe it, it doesn't make it true. When the majority of the world (and yes the church) believed the earth to be flat, it didn't truly make it flat.

Science is about considering all of the options. This has the potential to be a great discussion and I have learned quite a bit. However, the dismissal of a theory simply because it does not agree with yours is not scholarly at all.

Again, compliments on the blog and the open discussion. Marking it in my favorites and sure to return.

Skywolf said...

This is indeed a fascinating discussion, guys.

I think the off-pat response of 'Because God did it' is nothing more than a simple cop-out to prevent people from actually having to think for themselves. I think to give this continual response to a child is damaging, stifling, and hugely unfair to the child's natural curiosity and wonder about the world. I can't imagine how frustrating that must be for a learning youngster.

Of course there are things that we can't explain. But there are other things that we at least have partial explanations for, even if such things are only our own posturing. The question 'Why does it rain?' has dozens of different, highly valid answers, regardless of whether you believe in God. Plants and animals need rain to survive - if you believe in God, then surely you believe he makes it rain so that life can continue, and not just for the random hell of it. It rains because of the water cycle, and the continual evaporation and condensation of the massive amount of water on our planet. A belief in God can surely go hand in hand with this fact? It baffles me that believers in a supreme being can't even equate their God with the wonders of the world he supposedly created. The complex reasons behind the scientific wonders of the world personally give me greater cause for belief in a supreme being than just the blind acceptance that things happen only because God wills them to.

As for Darwin, let's not forget the fact that he was only the beginning of the highly complex theory of evolution. He was the first person to postulate such an idea and to explore the ideas of natural selection and evolutionary theory. That means he is rightfully accredited with uncovering this amazing concept, but the theory does not end with him. It was just the start of what is still a constant process to explore and refine his ideas through the continual use of more and more advanced science. His original theories are not the definitive answers. They just sparked the whole thing off.

Personally, I believe evolution is a fascinating subject, and one that I don't even pretend to fully understand. It's only really in the last couple of years that I've had a chance to start exploring it, because I went to a largely fundamentalist Christian school as a child and was never properly introduced to this hugely important subject as a result. I think stifling discovery just because it contradicts a previously held belief (whether scientific or religious) is a massively damaging and dangerous practice, not to mention the sheer and continued ignorance that is promoted as a result.

Kevin Parry said...

Wow. This has been an intriguing discussion. At the moment I have limited internet access, so I will only respond to two comments:

Anonomys wrote:
"When one looks at the complexity of just the Kreb's Cycle with all of it's interdependencies, feedback, control mechanisms, etc., the statistical possibility that this system came into existence by pure chance is virtually inconceivable."

Is this not an argument from incredulity?

The question is this: how did the Kreb’s Cycle come into being, if it wasn’t through natural selection? Intelligent Design (ID) advocates seem to be providing a half-baked view: they attack Darwinism (e.g., “Darwinism cannot explain this incredibly complex biochemical system”) but they do not – as far as I know – provide their own mechanisms and hypotheses of how biochemical pathways came into being. I can’t speak for Lui or for other believers in evolution, but for me this is the biggest stumbling block to accepting ID as a plausible explanation for the complexity of life. If we asked ID advocates to refrain from mentioning Darwinism in their work, wouldn’t their entire endeavor fall apart? Without Darwinism to attack, and without any independent hypotheses of their own, wouldn’t ID crash and burn? At the moment, it is almost as if ID advocates depend on Darwinism (on the disproof thereof) to effectively advocate their views. I’m not saying that we should refrain from critically assessing Darwinism; I’m just wary of a view that attacks without providing workable alternatives of its own.

Skywolf wrote:
”Plants and animals need rain to survive - if you believe in God, then surely you believe he makes it rain so that life can continue, and not just for the random hell of it.”

This is an interesting comment. I think there is a difference between believing that (1) God used naturalist processes to ‘create’ things (e.g., he put the cycle of evaporation and precipitation into place to create rain), and (2) believing that he creates everything supernaturally all the time. The former belief allows you to find adequate and meaningful answers to questions regarding our universe (I think the early scientists held this belief) while the latter belief is the one that closes the door to any further inquiry (i.e., man is unable to understand the supernatural ways of God). I imagine the problem with the first belief (for some theists) is that it describes God as a sort of hands-off creator who does not interact directly with the universe: he originally set the universe in action, but then he went off on an extended holiday and hasn’t been back since :-)

There have been many anonymous comments here. To Anonymous who lives in Canada and has a MSc in Medical Biochemistry: if possible, can you email me? I think our journeys are quite similar, and I would like to keep in touch. You will find my email address if you click on ‘View my complete profile’ (under my photo).

Thanks again to everyone for another fascinating and thought provoking discussion.

All the best
Kevin

Anonymous said...

Kevin - Thanks. I have sent you an email. One final thought on this subject for anyone interested in hearing from "serious" scientists who have expressed strong opinions on why the scientific evidence does not support evolution. Try this quote...

The late Dr. Richard Smalley, Nobel Prize winning chemist, had this to say after reading "Origins of Life" by H. Ross & F. Rana and "Who Was Adam" by same authors.... "Evolution has just been dealt its death blow. After reading Origins of Life, with my background in chemistry and physics, it is clear evolution could not have occurred. The new book, Who Was Adam, is the silver bullet that puts the evolutionary model to death."

In case anyone would question who Richard Smalley was...

Rice University Professor, Gene and Norman Hackerman Professor of Chemistry and Professor of Physics & Astronomy, 1996 Nobel Prize Winner, and inventor of tubular fullerenes among other things. See http://smalley.rice.edu/index.cfm

I would highly recommend the two books by Ross and Rana to anyone willing to examine the evidence.

Don aka Anonymous

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Don

With regards to your comment above: the quote by Richard Smalley only shows that he didn’t think that evolution was possible. The quote does not provide any indication of why he thought so (other than reading Ross’ book). This is the main reason why I always feel a little uncomfortable with quotes such as this one: it doesn’t provide an argument, it only provides an opinion. I’m sure Smalley was an excellent scientist, and I’m sure he did great work, but I would like to know his actual arguments for rejecting evolution. He made up his mind after reading Hugh Ross’ book. But what were Ross’s arguments? The quote from Smalley doesn’t say.

And another thing I wonder about when I read quotes by scientists who reject evolution: are they biologists? Are they qualified in the relevant field for which they are expressing an opinion? I had a look at the link you provided and I could be wrong, but it seems as if Smalley was a chemist, not a biologist. I’m sure if he wrote something about carbon nanotubes (which I believe was his speciality) it would be safe for us to presume that his comments carry some weight without us having to examine his arguments in detail. But can we really put much credence on his beliefs about evolution? He is free to express his opinions on any subject he chooses, but can we really appeal to his intelligence and esteem (instead of appealing to his arguments) when he is speaking of a field of study of which he is not an expert?

I accept your argument that there are highly respected scientists who believe that the evidence doesn’t support evolution. But we have to ask ourselves: (1) are these scientists biologists, and (2) if not (and even if they are biologists) what are their actual arguments against evolution, and (3) how strong are those arguments?

So when it comes to the whole evolution/creation/ID debate, I prefer actual argument rather than stand-alone quotes from scientists.

Thanks Don for the comment, and thanks for bringing my attention to “Origins of Life” - I’m actually going to order this book from Amazon.

Kevin

Lui said...

I too should read this book, if only to understand where the authors are coming from, and because I need to be familiar with both sides of the argument (to the extent that there can even be said to be two sides to this argument).
Personally, I'm utterly sceptical of claims like "evolution has been dealt its death blow." If it has, most scientists in the field haven't noticed such a world-shaking revelation. Biochemical evolution is probably the most challenging, enigmatic field in evolutionary biology, but the answers are slowly coming in. It'll likely take several decades before we're anywhere near a proper account of how life originated, and perhaps we'll never know for sure.

Steve Hayes said...

"Those who argue that Intelligent Design is Christian do not know what they are talking about. Intelligent Design is a heresy, a blasphemy, a denial of the living God." Elizaphanian

Sarah said...

There is a reason that these are called 'theories'

In theory, anything can sound good. Finding facts to prove your theory is the difficult task.

That being said, I am an evolutionist, although I do find many flaws within most evolutionary theories, namely Darwin's, and definetly many flaws within LeMarc's theory of adaptation.

Yet, at least with the theory of evolution, there are many facts to back up certain points, where it seems that Creationism arguements are all based on hearsay.

But still, don't attack others for their views, if you start shutting down other's opinions then this dicussion will go nowhere fast.