One-hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin transformed science with his theory of natural selection. Today, that theory has evolved into what we know as “Genetics.” It has sparked both discovery and intense debate over the origin of life on Earth. For thousands of years, the most prominent scientists and philosophers (such as Plato, Newton, or Kepler) viewed the world as the product of fate or design. But in the 1800s, a fundamental shift occurred with Darwin’s ideas of natural selection, evolution and the origins of species. A real change in scientific understanding and philosophy was forever set into moion.
Now, Darwin was not the first scientist to propose a theory of evolution. But, he was the first to offer a plausible naturalistic mechanism that could produce biological change over long periods of time. To understand how natural selection works, consider the finch populations Darwin encountered on the Galapagos Islands.
Over a dozen species of finch inhabit the Galapagos Islands, varying subtly in size and shape. According to contemporary Darwinian theory, differences in the sizes and shapes of the bird’s beaks are the direct result of natural selection.
One example, often cited, involves species of seed eating finches. Following seasons of heavy rain - small, soft seeds are plentiful throughout the islands. Birds with short beaks can easily gather food. However, during periods of drought, the only seeds available are encased in hard, tough shells that remain on the ground from the previous year.
In these circumstances, only birds with longer, sharper beaks can crack the shells and eat the seeds. Those birds with the longer beaks survive because they can reach the food source, whereas other birds cannot. That long beak then confers what biologists call a “functional advantage.” The finches with smaller beaks die out from starvation because they cannot reach that food source. If the drought conditions continue, the environment causes a change in the features of the finch population as a whole. Over time, the long beaks are passed on to succeeding generations because those beaks enable those birds to survive.
Natural selection was a powerful idea. Physical variations that proved advantageous would be inherited by succeeding generations. Through this process, populations would be altered. And, over time, fundamentally different organisms would arise, without any form of intelligent guidance.
For Charles Darwin, natural selection explained the appearance of design without a designer. There was no longer any need to invoke an intelligent cause for the complexity of life. Today, Darwinism is generally assumed as being the gold standard throughout science and the academic world. Yet, despite its wide acceptance, a growing number of scientists and scholars have begun challenging key aspects of Darwinian theory. Most notably in 1993, when a group of scientists in California decided to reassess the origins of life based on the findings of modern science. This group became known as the "Behe 7 " and came to one simple conclusion. The more we know about life and the more we know about biology, the more problems Darwinism has.
"For the longest time, I believed that Darwinian evolution explained what we saw in biology. Not because I saw how it could actually explain it, but because I was told that it did explain it. In schools I was taught Darwinian biology." - video quote.
In the 19th Century, when Darwin was alive, scientists thought that the basis of life, the cell, was some simple glob of protoplasm, like a little piece of Jell-O, or something. This perception of the cell didn’t really change until the early 1950’s. But during the last half century, our knowledge about the cell has just exploded.
Today, powerful technologies reveal elaborate microscopic worlds. Worlds so small that a thimble full of cultured liquid can contain more than four billion single-celled bacteria. Each packed with circuits, assembly instructions and miniature machines. The complexity of which Charles Darwin could never have imagined.
At the very basis of life, where molecules and cells run the show. We’ve discovered machines. Literally, molecular machines. There are little molecular trucks that carry supplies from one end of the cell to the other. There are machines which capture the energy from sunlight and turn it into useable energy. There are as many molecular machines in the human body as there are functions that the body has to do. So if you think about hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, feeling... blood clotting, respiratory action, the immune response... all of those require a host of machines.
“I remember the first time I looked in a BIOLOGY textbook and I saw a drawing of something called the bacterial flagellum. It had a propeller and a hook region and a drive shaft and a motor and so I looked at that and I said, that’s an outboard motor. That... that’s designed. That’s no chance assemblage of parts.”
The molecular motors that drive bacteria through liquid each day depend on a system of intricately arranged mechanical parts. These parts come into focus when portions of a cell are magnified 50,000 times their normal size.
Biochemists have used electron microscopes like this one to identify the parts and three dimensional structure of the flagellar motor (pictured below):
In the process, they have revealed a marvel of engineering on a miniaturized scale. Howard Berg at Harvard has labeled it the most efficient machine in the universe. These machines, some of them, are running at 100,000 RPMs. Are hard-wired into a signal transduction or sensory mechanism so that it’s getting feedback from the environment. And even though they are spinning that fast, they can stop on a dime. It only takes a quarter turn for them to stop and shift directions, and start spinning 100,000 rpm in the other direction. Just like outboard motors on motorboats, it has a large number of parts which are necessary for the motor to work. Imagine the complexity of this micro-machine for a second. It has two gears, forward and reverse. It is water cooled, driven by a process known as, “Proton Motive Force” (PMF). It has a stator, a rotor, a u-joint; it has a drive shaft, a propeller. And they function as the parts of machine. It’s not convenient that we give them these names. It’s truly their function.
Since its discovery, scientists have tried to understand how a rotary motor could have arisen through natural selection. As yet, they have failed to offer any detailed Darwinian explanation. To see why, we must understand a feature of molecular machines known as “Irreducible Complexity.”
The idea of irreducible complexity can be illustrated by a familiar, non-biological machine, a mouse trap. The trap is composed of five basic parts. A catch, to hold the bait; a strong spring; a thin bent rod called the hammer; a holding bar to secure the hammer in place; and a platform upon which the entire system is mounted. If any one of these parts is missing or defective, the mechanism will not work. All components of this irreducible complex system must be present for the machine to perform its function.
Irreducible complexity also applies to biological machines including the bacterial flagellar motor. All told, there are about forty different protein parts which are necessary for this machine to work. And if any of those parts are missing. Then either you get a flagellum that doesn’t work because it’s missing the drive shaft, or something, or it doesn’t even get built within the cell.
In evolutionary terms, you have to be able to explain how you can build this system gradually when there’s no function until you have all those parts in place. The irreducible complexity of molecular machines poses a severe challenge to the idea that natural selection explains the origins of life.
According to Darwin’s theory, even very complex biological structures (like an eye, an ear or a heart) can be built gradually over time, in small incremental steps. Yet, as Darwin made clear, natural selection can only succeed if these random genetic changes provide some sort of advantage to the evolving organism in its struggle for survival. So, how could something new, like a bacteria flagellar motor, develop out of a population of bacteria that doesn't have one? When each change, according to Darwin’s theory, has to provide some sort of advantage.
Imagine such a scenario, early in the Earth’s history. An evolving bacterium somehow develops a tail and perhaps even the pieces necessary to attach it to the cell wall. But without a complete motor assembly, this innovation would provide no advantage to the cell. Instead, the tail would lie immobile and useless. Invisible to natural selection, which by definition can only favor changes that aid survival.
The logic of natural selection is very demanding. Unless the flagellum mechanism is completely assembled, and actually works, natural selection simply cannot preserve it. It cannot be passed on to the next generation.
“In most cases, natural selection actually eliminates things...things that have no function, or have a function that harms the organism. So if you had a bacterium with a tail that didn’t function as a flagellum, chances are natural selection would eliminate it.”
The only way you can select for a flagellum is if you have a flagellum that works and that means you have to have all the pieces of the motor in place to begin with. So, natural selection can’t get you the bacterial flagellum. It can only work after the flagellum is there and operating.
Michael Behe published a book in the mid 90’s titled, “Darwin’s Black Box.” In it, he argued that natural selection could not explain the origin of the bacterial flagellum or any other irreducibly complex biological system. Darwin’s Black Box created immediate controversy. Over seventy-five publications reviewed the book. Behe’s critics insisted that he had underestimated the power of natural selection. They argued that the flagellar motor could have been constructed from parts used to build simpler molecular machines. If the components of the flagellar motor already existed, they could have been preserved by natural selection even before the bacterial motor arose. This theory is called, “co-option.”
This theory is essentially saying that evolution or natural selection, at some point, was able to borrow components of one molecular machine and build a new machine with some of these components.” Scott Minnich has studied the flagellar motor for nearly 20 years. His research has led him to challenge the co-option argument.
"With a bacterial flagellum, you're talking about a machine that's got 40 structural parts. Yes, we find 10 of them are involved in another molecular machine, but the other 30 are unique, So where are you going to borrow them from?
Eventually you're going to have to account for the function of every single part that is originally having some other purpose. I mean, you can only follow that argument so far until you run into the problem that you're borrowing from nothing. But, even if you concede that you have all the parts necessary to build one of these machines, that’s only part of the problem. Maybe even more complex, is the assembly instructions. This is never addressed by opponents of the irreducible complexity argument." - video quote
Studies of the bacterial motor have revealed an ever deeper level of complexity. For its construction not only requires specific parts, but also a precise sequence of assembly.
You've got to make things at the right time. You've got to make the right number of components. You've got to assemble them in a sequential manner. You've got to be able to tell if you've assembled it properly so that you don't waste energy building a structure that are not going to be functional.
Building a molecular machine has been compared to the construction of a house. Where workers follow a detailed blueprint or plan for assembly. The foundation of a house is poured before the walls are erected. Plumbing and electrical fixtures are installed prior to enclosing the walls of the structure. Windows must be hung before siding is applied. And shingles are attached only after plywood sheets are nailed to the rafters. So it is with the construction of a flagellar motor.
You build this structure from the inside out. You are counting the number of components in a ring structure of the stator, and once that's assembled, there's feedback that says, “okay, no more of that component. “ Now, a rod is added. A ring is added. Another rod is added. The U-joints added. Once the U-joints are at a certain size, and certain degree of bend (about a quarter turn), that's shut off...and then you start adding components for a propeller. These are all made in a precise sequence, just like you would build a building.
Building the motor correctly requires a complex system of machines that coordinate the timing of the assembly instructions. But how could natural selection construct such a system?
The co-option argument doesn’t explain this. You see, in order to construct that flagellar mechanism—or the tens of thousands of other such mechanisms in the cell—you require other machines to regulate the assembly in those structures. And those mechanisms, themselves, require machines for their assembly.
If even one of these pieces is missing or put in the wrong place, your motor isn’t going to work. So this apparatus to assemble the flagellar motor is, itself, irreducibly complex. In fact, what we have here, is irreducible complexity all the way down.
We know a lot about the bacterial flagellum. We still have a lot to learn, but we know a lot about it and there's no explanation for how this complex molecular machine was ever produced by a Darwinian mechanism.
One-hundred and fifty years ago, scientists did not know about irreducibly complex molecular machines. Yet, Charles Darwin anticipated the difficulty that systems such as these could pose to his theory.
“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.”
- Charles Darwin
There are really two big questions in biology. How do you get new living forms - with new structures like wings and eyes - from life that already exists? And, secondly, how did life on earth originate in the first place?
During the final years of his life, Darwin did little to develop his idea that a primitive cell might have emerged from simple chemicals in the primordial waters of the early Earth. But, later, in the 1920’s and 30’s a Russian scientist named Alexander Oparin, formulated a detailed theory about how this could have happened. It was called “chemical evolution.”
Oparin thought that he could explain the origin of the first life using Darwinian principles. He envisioned simple chemicals combining and recombining to form larger molecules. And then these larger molecules organizing themselves (with the help of chance variations and natural selection) into the first primitive living cell.
Over the next three decades many scientists worked to develop and refine these ideas, as they pondered the questions both Oparin and Darwin had raised. How could life have evolved from simple chemicals?
One man thought he knew.
The problem of biological origins for a very long time I would say, has been a real deep interest to me just because of the scale of the problem. The importance of it. Where did we come from? Why are we here? Questions like these, probed from the perspective of natural science.
During the 1960’s and 70’s Dean Kenyon was one of the leading chemical evolutionary theorists in the world. Like others in his field, he was trying to explain how life on earth began through a purely natural process.
In 1969, Kenyon co-authored an important book on the origin of life.
“Gary Steinman and myself thought that if we were to pull together all of the lines of empirical evidence that had accumulated by the mid to late 60’s into one continuous argument, we were very enthusiastic about the possibilities for explaining the origin of the main life-building elements.” - Dean Kenyon
Despite his optimism, Kenyon faced a significant problem. To explain how life began, he first had to account for the origin of the essential building blocks of every cell that has existed on Earth. Large, complex molecules called proteins.
Proteins have a wide range of functions in the cell. Everything from structural requirements, in terms of scaffolding of the cell... to enzymes where they're actually processing molecules to harvest energy or to build components of the cell.
Proteins do pretty much all of the day to day jobs inside of the cell, such as cleaning up the cell, making energy and the like, it's all proteins.
Kenyon knew that proteins would have been as important to the first life as they are to living cells today. He also recognized the complexity of their construction.
By the 1960’s, scientists had determined that even simple cells are made of thousands of different types of proteins...and the function of these molecules derives from their highly complex three dimensional shapes.
The irregular shapes of some proteins allow them to catalyze, or trigger chemical reactions, because of the hand in glove fit they have with other molecules in the cell while other protein molecules form interlocking structural components.
The individual parts of a bacterial motor, like this ring structure, are each made of either a single protein molecule or an assembly of proteins fitted together into a specific shape. These proteins are, in turn, made of smaller chemical units called amino acids which are linked together in long chains.
There is a very great degree of intricacy of architecture down in these cell units...in these protein forming amino acids.
In nature, twenty different types of amino acids are used to construct protein chains. Biologists have compared them to the letters of the English alphabet.
Alphabetic letters can be arranged in a huge number of possible combinations. Where the sequential arrangement of the letters determines if you have meaningful words and sentences. If the letters are arranged correctly, you will get meaningful text. But if they’re not arranged correctly, then you’ll get gibberish.
The same principle applies for amino acids and proteins. There are at least thirty-thousand distinct types of proteins. Each made of a different combination of the same twenty amino acids. They are arranged, like letters, to form chains often hundreds of units long. If the amino acids are sequenced correctly, then the chain will fold into a functioning protein.
Proteins are arranged with their amino acids in such a way that the amino acids collapse on each other into an architecture that is pre-programmed by the order of the amino acids. It folds into a certain structure and that structure can do a certain function.
So all proteins in the cell have a certain three-dimensional pattern that's based on the arrangement of amino acids in the chain.
This arrangement is critical. For, if the amino acids are incorrectly sequenced, a useless chain forms. And instead of folding into a protein, it will be destroyed by the cell.
Proteins, like written languages, have a high degree of specificity. The function of the whole depends upon the precise arrangement of the individual parts. But what produces the precise sequencing of amino acids that gives rise to the specific shapes and functions of proteins? In his book, “Biochemical predestination,” Kenyon and his co-author, Gary Steinman, proposed an intriguing theory. Life might have been ‘biochemically predestined by the properties of attraction that exist between its chemical parts - particularily between amino acids in proteins.
At the time Biochemical Predestination came out, I and my co-author were totally convinced we had the scientific explanation for origins.
Kenyon proposed that the chemical properties of the amino acids caused them to be attracted to each other forming the long chains that became the first proteins—the most important components in the living cell. And, this meant that life was, effectively, inevitable. Predestined by nothing more than chemistry.
Many scientists embraced kenyon’s ideas and over the next twenty years, “Biochemical Predestination” became a best selling text on the theory of chemical evolution. Yet, five years after the book’s publication, Kenyon quietly began to doubt the plausibility of his own theory.
It was during that whole period of time period that my doubts about certain aspects of the evolutionary camp became apparent when coming into contact with a powerful counter-argument, given to me by one of my students. And I could not refute that counter-argument.
Keynyon was challenged to explain how the first proteins could have been assembled without the help of genetic instructions. In living cells today, chains of amino acids are not formed directly by forces of attraction between their parts. The scenario Kenyon envisioned on the early Earth. Instead, another large molecule within the cell stores instructions for sequencing the amino acids in proteins. These molecules are called DNA.
Initially, Kenyon believed that proteins could have formed directly from amino acids, without any DNA assembly instructions...and that’s why so many scientists were excited about his theory.
But, the more he and others learned about the properties of amino acids and proteins, the more he began to doubt that proteins could self-assemble without DNA.
In DNA, Kenyon encountered a molecule with a property he could not explain through natural processes. For, locked securely within its double helix structure is a wealth of information. In the form of precisely sequenced chemicals that scientists represent with the letters, ‘A,’ ‘C,’ ‘T,’ and ‘G.’
In a written language, information is communicated by a precise arrangement of letters. In the same way, the instructions necessary to assemble amino acids into proteins are conveyed by the sequences of chemicals arranged along the spine of the DNA. This chemical code has been called the “language of life.” And it is the most densely packed and elaborately detailed assembly of information in the known universe.
Like other scientists working on the origin of life, Kenyon realized he had two choices. Either he had to explain where these genetic assembly instructions came from or he had to explain how proteins could have arisen—directly from amino acids—without DNA, in the primordial oceans. And in the end he realized, he could do neither.
It’s an enormous problem how you could get together, in one tiny submicroscopic volume of the primitive ocean, all of the hundreds of different molecular components you would need in order for a self- replicating cycle to be established and so my doubts about whether amino acids could order themselves into meaningful biological sequences on their own, without pre-existing genetic material being present, just reached, for me the intellectual breaking point near the end of the decade of the 70’s.
As Kenyon re-evaluated his theory, new biochemical discoveries further weakened his conviction that amino acids could have organized themselves into proteins.
Further experimental work showed that amino acids do not have the ability to order themselves into any biologically meaningful sequences.
Faced with mounting difficulties in his own theory and a growing body of scientific data about the importance of DNA. Kenyon was forced to confront the absolute necessity of genetic information.
** The more I thought about the alternative that was being presented in the criticism and the enormous problem that all of us in this field had neglected to address the problem of the origin of genetic information, itself. Then I really had to reassess my whole position regarding origins. **
For Dean Kenyon, a new question became the focus of his search for life’s origin. What was the source of the biological information in DNA?
If one could get at the origin of the messages, the encoded messages within the living machinery then you would really be onto something far more intellectually satisfying than this chemical evolution theory.
Yet, Kenyon realized that he faced a narrowing set of options. By the 1970s, most researchers had rejected the idea that the information necessary to build the first cell originated by chance alone.
To understand why, consider the difficulty of generating just two lines of Shakespeare’s play, “Hamlet,” by dropping scrabble letters on to a table top. Then consider that the specific genetic instructions required to build the proteins in even the simplest one-celled organism would fill hundreds of pages of printed text.
Of course, serious origin of life biologists didn’t believe that life had arisen by chance, alone. Instead, they envisioned natural selection acting upon random variations among chemicals to produce the first life. But there was a problem with this proposal.
By definition, natural selection could not have functioned before the existence of the first living cell. For it can only act upon organisms capable of replicating themselves. Cells equipped with DNA that pass on their genetic changes to future generations.
Without DNA, there is no self replication. But without self-replication, there is no natural selection. So you can’t use natural selection to explain the origin of DNA without assuming the existence of the very thing you’re trying to explain.
We have not the slightest chance of a chemical evolutionary origin for even the simplest of cells...so, the concept of the intelligent design of life was immensely attractive to me and made a great deal of sense, as it very closely matched the multiple discoveries of molecular biology.
After entering the heart of the cell, we see the tightly wound strands of DNA -- storehouses for the instructions necessary to build every protein in an organism.
In a process known as, “Transcription,” a molecular machine first unwinds a section of the DNA helix to expose the genetic instructions needed to assemble a specific protein molecule. Another machine then copies these instructions to form a molecule known as “messenger RNA.” When transcription is complete, the slender RNA strand carries the genetic information through the “Nuclear Pore Complex,” the gatekeeper for traffic in and out of the cell nucleus.
The messenger RNA strand is directed to a two-part molecular factory called a ribosome. After attaching itself securely, the process of translation begins. Inside the ribosome, a molecular assembly line builds a specifically sequenced chain of amino acids. These amino acids are transported from another part of the cell and are then linked into chains; often hundreds of units long. Their sequential arrangement determines the type of protein manufactured.
When the chain is finished, it is moved from the ribosome to a barrel shaped machine that helps fold it into the precise shape critical to its function. After the chain is folded into a protein, it is then released and escorted by another molecular machine to the exact location where it is needed.
This is absolutely mind boggling to perceive at this scale of size; such a finely tuned apparatus, a device, that bears the marks of intelligent design and manufacture.
And, we have the details of an immensely complex molecular realm of genetic information processing. And it’s exactly this new realm of molecular genetics where we see the most compelling evidence of design on the earth.
Our understanding of genetics, today, revolves around the principle idea that a specific gene corresponds to a specific protein. Scientists have discovered that genes are grouped together into what is referred to as a chromosome. Genes are separated from one another on the chromosome by DNA that serves as a filler, or a buffer, to protect the information that is actually used for the making of proteins. The region of DNA that actually codes for the protein (the real ‘gene’) is scientifically referred to as the “Intron.”
These Intron regions are so complex, they can control the production of molecules in real time. The first clues of their complexity came in the early twentieth century when scientists began understanding the metabolic pathways used by living organisms.
We now know that molecules are synthesized in a series of steps, with each reaction being catalyzed by an enzyme (which is a type of protein). There are actually little switches in the Intron regions that turn the production of molecules in the pathway on or off. If, for example, a molecule is in abundance in the cell, that molecule will attach itself to the gene during the enzyme production phase and prevent the production of the enzyme responsible for making that molecule. Absolutely amazing. The chart below describes the different chemical reactions that are controlled within the human body:
Since the late 19th century, since the time of Darwin science has excluded the possibility of design as a scientific explanation. And that way of thinking has a name it’s called, ‘methodological naturalism’ which basically means that if you’re going to be scientific, you must limit yourself to explanations that invoke only natural causes. You can’t invoke intelligence as a cause.
And, yet, curiously, we make inferences to intelligence all the time. It’s part of our ordinary reasoning...to recognize the effects of intelligence.
Consider, for example, heiroglyphic messages carved upon the ruins of egyptian monuments. No one would attribute the shapes and arrangements of these symbols to natural causes like sand storms or erosion.
Instead, we recognize them as the work of ancient scribes; intelligent human agents. Nor, do we presume that plants could grow into sculpted shapes without some matter of guidance.
Of course, we make these inferences all the time. And we know they’re correct. But the question is, ‘on what basis do we make these inferences?’ What are the features that enable us to recognize intelligence?
Now if you travel through the west, you’ll see lots of different shapes on the mountainsides, most of which mean nothing at all. They’re just rocks strewn in various patterns. But, what you don’t see are the faces of Lincoln, Jefferson, Teddy Roosevelt, and George Washington on the mountainsides. The only place you see that is in South Dakota. And the reason it’s there is because a sculptor--an eccentric sculptor--decided he wanted to honor these Presidents by spending the larger part of his life chiseling their faces in the side of the mountain.
That pattern is improbable. A random hillside is also improbable. But a random hillside doesn’t specify anything. We do know though, that there were four men who were presidents of the United States, who had particular patterns in their faces...and those patterns on the mountainside in south Dakota match faces elsewhere.
If I look at the faces, I immediately recognize that they match the faces of the four presidents that are known from money or portraits in the National Gallery...or from paintings in books. And so, I realize that when I look at Mt. Rushmore, we not only have a highly improbable configuration of rock...but one which matches an independently given pattern that reliably indicates intelligence.
The heart of intelligent design lies in the code that is embedded in every living being on earth. weather you are a plant or an animal life uses the same triplet code to express the physical features we see in every living organism. we call this code DNA. DNA has a structure that is ideal for carrying information
A full compliment of human DNA has three billion individual characters. Analysis of the DNA molecule’s coding regions show that its chemical characters have a specific arrangement that allows them to convey detailed instructions. Much like the letters in a meaningful sentence or like binary digits in a computer code.
Bill Gates has said that DNA is like a computer program only much more complex than any we’ve been able to devise. And if you reflect on that, for even a minute, it’s a highly suggestive observation. Because we know that Bill Gates does not employ wind and erosion and random number generators to generate software. Rather, he employs intelligent engineers. Software engineers. So, everything we know tells us that information-rich systems arise from intelligent design—
There is, in fact, nothing in the known universe that stores and processes more information, more efficiently, than the DNA molecule.
But, what do we make of the fact that there is information in life? In every living cell of every living organism? That’s the fundamental mystery. Where does that information come from?”
For the past 15 years, philosopher and scientist, Stephen Meyer has worked to answer this question. Meyer has developed an argument to demonstrate how intelligent design provides the best explanation for the origin of information necessary to build the first living cell.
It’s part of our knowledge base that intelligent agents can produce information-rich systems... so the argument is not based on what we don’t know, but its based on what we do know about the cause and effect structure of the world.”
We know, at present, there is no materialistic explanation, no natural cause that produces information. Not natural selection, not self- organizational processes, not pure chance. But we do know of a cause that is capable of producing information and that is intelligence. And so when people infer design from the presence of information in DNA, they’re effectively making what’s called (in the historical sciences) an inference to the best explanation.”
So when we find an information-rich system in the cell, in the DNA molecule specifically, we can infer that intelligence played a role in the origin of that system, even if we weren’t there to observe the system coming into existence.”
Meyer’s work on the origin of genetic information, is now part of a comprehensive scientific case for design that grew out of a meeting of scientists and philosophers on the central coast of California in 1993. Their objective was to reassess an idea that had dominated biology for more than a century. In the process, they gave birth to a theory that has become known as “Intelligent Design.”
To me, the great promise of design is that it gives us a new tool and explanation that belongs in the tool chest of science. Intelligent causes are real. They leave evidence of their existence. And a healthy science is a science that seeks the truth and lets the evidence speak for itself.
The argument for intelligent design is based upon observation of the facts. Now that’s my definition of good science. It’s observation of the facts. And when you observe the facts, as Michael Behe has done, you observe this incredible pattern of interrelated complexity...
And the way we conclude intelligent design for the bacterial flagellum is the same way we conclude intelligent design for an outboard motor. When we see an outboard motor, we see the parts interact, and so on, we know that somebody made that. The reasoning is the same for biological machines, so the idea of design is a completely scientific one. Certainly, it might have religious implications, but it does not depend on religious premises.
When I look at the evidence objectively, without ruling out the possibility of design...design just leaps up as the most likely explanation. And that’s why I believe that it’s true.
I think design is back on the table. We can't explain these systems by natural law and if we're searching for truth and they are in fact designed if we have to be design engineers to understand them, then I say, "What's the problem?" You know you go where the data leads you and the implications, yeah, they have profound metaphysical implications, but so be it.”
So, It’s a powerful idea that the universe is rational and comprehensible, underwritten by a supreme intelligence that meant for this world to be understood, is something that underwrites the program of science because then you can look at the world and the world will make sense.
If it’s all just a chaotic assemblage then there’s no reason to expect any rationality out there. But, if it in fact, it’s the product of a mind ...then you can go out and science becomes this enormous, wonderful puzzle solving project in which you can expect to find rationality and beauty and comprehensibility, right at the foundation of things.”
One-hundred and fifty years ago, Charles Darwin transformed science with his theory of natural selection. Today, that theory faces a formidable challenge. Intelligent design has sparked both discovery and intense debate over the origin of life on Earth. And for a growing number of scientists, it represents a paradigm. An idea with the power to, once again, redefine our understanding of the natural world.
During the 19th century, scientists believed that there were two foundational entities—matter and energy. But as we begin the 21st century, there’s a third fundamental entity that science has had to recognize, and that is information.
And, so as we encounter the biology of the information age, the suspicion is growing that what we’re seeing in the DNA molecule is actually an artifact of mind. An artifact of intelligence. Something that can only be explained by intelligent design.”