Intelligent Design or Pure Evolution?
It seems to me that there are five basic mysteries which science has not yet answered:
by Fred E. Foldvary, Senior Editor
- The origin of the universe as it exists today.
- The existence of physical constants that makes possible atoms, stars, and the universe.
- The precise size, rotation, and locations of the earth and the moon.
- The existence of programmed living matter.
- The existence of human-level intelligence.
Each mystery has two possible answers. Either it came about by pure evolution, or else it was purposefully designed by a conscious agent. Until one or the other proposition is warranted by logic or evidence, either possibility is a hypothesis for each mystery.
In the first mystery, physicists believe that there was a “big bang.” The universe began with a tiny ball that burst out to create atoms, stars, and galaxies and continues to expand. Recent “string theory” in physics seeks to provide one theory that unifies the explanation for all the physical forces with the proposition that matter is based on vibrating “strings.” String theory also proposes an explanation of the “big bang” with membranes or “branes” of strings which collided. The brane explanation and other hypotheses for a purely evolutionary explanation of the origin of the universe can be labeled PE1. The alternative hypothesis is that PE1 is a conjecture which cannot be warranted by logic or evidence, and no other purely physical explanation can be warranted, so the universe had to have a creator, God.
In the second puzzle, there are specific physical constants such as the speed of light in a vacuum, the Newtonian constant of gravitation, electro-magnetic constants, the electron mass, and those of atomic forces, which, if these were different, would result in a universe without atoms, stars, or galaxies, but just a haze of scattered subatomic particles. PE2 posits that these constants have natural causes, while ID2 claims that the combination of constants that make the universe possible are too much of a coincidence, hence they were purposely created by God.
In the third mystery, life on earth depends on having the right range of temperatures for water as well as an atmosphere with oxygen. The earth is just the right distance from the sun for this, and also has the right rotation and tilt to create seasons, and an unusual moon of just the right mass and distance to create tides that facilitate shore life, and as a bonus, the moon is the exact distance to perfectly eclipse the sun. ID3 claims that this combination is too coordinated to be a coincidence, hence must have been designed, with the eclipses as hint of this, while PE3 claims that the universe has so many stars and planets that such odd combinations could well occur naturally.
Fourth, all life on earth down to viruses are programmed with DNA. Nobody knows how the first DNA got programmed. ID4 claims that just as the parts of clocks are too specifically connected to have evolved, so too DNA genes are too specifically sequenced to have been originally generated by purely chemical processes. There had to be some programmer, although in this case, it was not necessarily God, since some alien beings could have created DNA. PE4 believes that the DNA programming evolved from complex organic molecules.
Fifth, human intelligence is far beyond what is need to hunt and gather in a jungle or savannah. The intelligent design concept is compatible with evolution, since once DNA exists, it can evolve as it mutates while species come and go via natural selection. ID should only claims that some particular mysteries cannot be plausibly answered by pure evolution. ID5 claims that human DNA was deliberately manipulated to create super-intelligence. PE5 claims that this intelligence evolved, although we don’t yet know why evolution created enough intelligence for human beings to be able to solve quadratic equations.
We don't know any of these explanations, so the truly scientific stance is to acknowledge our ignorance. Those who claim that only PE or ID can be true go beyond what is warranted by logic and evidence. It seems to me that the controversy over what to teach can be resolved by admitting ignorance and the possibility of either set of hypotheses.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of all is why human beings have not recognized the universal ethic by which we would live in harmony, equally sharing the bounty of nature while respecting the individual sovereignty of each person. Will pure social evolution lead to peace, or would this require Intelligent Intervention? If II never comes about, is humanity doomed? This is the greatest mystery of all.
-- Fred Foldvary
Copyright 2005 by Fred E. Foldvary. All rights reserved. No part of this material may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, which includes but is not limited to facsimile transmission, photocopying, recording, rekeying, or using any information storage or retrieval system, without giving full credit to Fred Foldvary and The Progress Report.
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