Foresight or Blind Evolution?

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Foresight or Blind Evolution?

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This year, 2019, marks the 160th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s famous book On the Origin of Species, which gave us the popular theory of evolution. The theory has now long been taught in nearly all schools and universities around the world, in most even as dogma, yet there is a growing uneasiness and anxiety among many scientists. Evidence against the theory continues to pile up, such as increased understanding of the incredible complexity of life from the molecular level on up.

Currently there are two main theories to explain life on earth. One requires an intelligent Designer and Creator; the other insists the natural laws and undirected forces of the universe, including natural selection and mutation, are sufficient to produce living things that appear designed but are actually the result of a sequence of blind, purposeless chance occurrences.

Darwin, a 19th-century British naturalist, championed the idea that all life evolved from one or a few simple forms. He gave rise to the notion that nature does not need a divine Creator—that instead, all species on earth can readily be accounted for through natural selection and random variation.

Despite its grip on modern academia, there is increasing pushback against the theory. Intelligent design is gaining ground through various avenues, including mounting evidence of foresight in design, as we’ll see.

A mere illusion of design?

Richard Dawkins, a zoologist and famous atheistic evolutionist, has defined biology working through Darwinian evolution as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose” ( The Blind Watchmaker, 1986, p. 1, emphasis added throughout). To this day, he denies that living things are actually designed for a purpose and insists it only appears that way since this is only an illusion. In other words, he rejects the idea that any foresight and planning were involved in the formation of living systems.

Yet more and more scientists are coming to doubt the efficacy of this theory. In fact, in 2016 numerous leading scientists gathered at the Royal Society of London, one of the oldest scientific academies in the world, to discuss “calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution,” recognizing that “the issues involved remain hotly contested” (“New Trends in Evolutionary Biology,” RoyalSociety.org, November 2016). Even having such a meeting was a scientific milestone, showing mounting concern over weaknesses in the theory!

Not only is there stark evidence of design to cope with, but there is growing evidence that various challenges were anticipated in this design. Recently, Marcos Eberlin, one of the world’s leading chemists, has dared to voice the truth about serious flaws in evolutionary theory, pointing out:

“On this view, evolution provided design without a designer. We see evidence of purposive design in the universe and in us, but we are supposed to believe that this is just an illusion, and that, in reality, a process unguided by anything except the laws and constants of nature slowly formed all we know— the universe, the stars, the ocean, the sky and clouds, RNA and DNA, ribosomes, bacteria, fish, birds, chimpanzees, and us. So we are told.

“Sadly, this story has constrained science, narrowed our horizons, and deadened our wonder. But happily, some fresh air has finally slipped onto the scene. The evidence for foresight and design in nature is growing progressively more apparent as we pursue scientific discovery. And unlike materialistic philosophy, an openness to the evidence for intelligent design broadens the horizons of science” ( Foresight: How the Chemistry of Life Reveals Planning and Purpose, 2019, p. 145).

The importance of foresight

One of the discoveries that is revolutionizing the fields of biology and biochemistry is the growing evidence of foresight and planning involved in the makeup of living things.

There must have been foresight—contemplation in advance —to produce the ingenious solutions organisms are equipped with for dealing with all manner of problems. These solutions were already in place when the problems were encountered, or else species would not have survived and been perpetuated.

Consider immune systems and blood clotting, for instance—without which countless creatures would’ve died from infection or injury before they lived long enough to pass on their genes. Yet such foresight in design is also much more fundamental—concerning the very formation of living organisms.

We will note a few other examples of apparent foresight and planning, and you can judge for yourself if this is best explained as an illusion—or as something that points to a Designer!

Chaperones in protein formation

As scientists peer deeper into the cell, they have finally figured out one of the most complicated engineering problems at a fundamental level—how proteins, the building blocks of biological structure, manage to fold into their precisely programmed form to function properly.

Researchers have found a specialized protein called a chaperone, which acts in a sense like a human chaperone—a person entrusted with looking after or supervising others, such as an adult with a group of children or one accompanying a dating couple to make sure everything is aboveboard. A protein chaperone supervises the protein to fold in the right way and assume its three-dimensional shape. This is one of the most complex choreographies in nature.

Professor Eberlin explains: “Many proteins require chaperones to fold rapidly and properly. Instead of spontaneous self-assembly we find assisted assembly. And even after the proteins are folded correctly, chaperones help them maintain their functional states … Such work is indispensable. Misfolded proteins are not merely useless to the cell, but ruinous … Without them [the chaperones], no life. And yet, chaperones are themselves made of proteins that must be properly folded and maintained by other kinds of chaperones. For those committed to origin-of-life scenarios devoid of foresight and planning, this is a devilishly difficult chicken-egg problem

“The probability of hundreds of essential proteins all folding into the correct shape at proper speed on their own without mistakes beggars rational belief … Without chaperones, [there would be] no viable cells” (pp. 72-76).

So what came first, the protein or the chaperone? You need both to exist at the same time for many large proteins to become functional. How could there be proteins without chaperones? And how did chaperone proteins develop without other chaperone proteins to guide them?

And what even is the use of a chaperone without another protein to guide? Why would natural selection select for such chaperones before they were needed? How could any of this have ever evolved through blind chance?

The best explanation—and indeed the only logical one—is that a masterful mind was involved in anticipating the complex folding problem and created both the protein and the chaperone at the same time so both could effectively do their job!

The miraculous eggshell

Speaking of the chicken-and-egg question, another great example of foresight in nature is the humble chicken eggshell. There are so many problems to solve in the first place if the developing chick is to survive the three-week incubation period inside the egg.

One major challenge posed by such development is how to breathe within the egg. If the egg was perfectly sealed, the chick would quickly suffocate. Yet if the eggshell was porous, its contents could seep out.

The answer is a semi-porous eggshell, where oxygen can come in without letting the valuable contents inside leak out. The shell has 7,000 pores of ideal size and location to allow oxygen to enter and carbon dioxide to exit. If the pores were larger or smaller or wrongly spaced, the effectiveness of the whole system deteriorates and the chick dies.

This delicate problem of providing oxygen and eliminating carbon dioxide while maintaining the integrity of the eggshell had to be solved before the first chick developed—of any kind of bird, not just chickens. It took foresight and planning to come up with the thousands of right-sized pores at their precise positioning at the time needed to do their job.

The maligned appendix

The last example we’ll consider, among the many that are available, is the human appendix. Again, it is the ubiquitous Darwin who, in his book The Descent of Man, concluded the human appendix is a vestigial or remnant organ —a body part supposedly left over from evolutionary change that no longer has a functional use.

Yet researchers have discovered the appendix to be quite a useful organ—one revealing foresight in its design. The appendix has two main functions. First, it is a reservoir of antibodies that strengthen the body’s immune system. Second, it is a haven for good bacteria that repopulates the intestinal tract after a bout of diarrhea cleans bacteria out.

Similarly, diarrhea itself is a protective mechanism of the body when harmful substances enter the digestive tract. The problem is that while this watery process removes toxic elements, it also gets rid of good intestinal bacteria that are essential for proper digestion.

So how does the digestive system quickly repopulate the good bacteria? By means of the appendix at the end of the large intestine. It’s a virtual dead-end enclosure positioned so that its store of good bacteria is not flushed out with the bacteria in the rest of the intestinal tract.

As Professor Eberlin points out about the appendix: “Its location is perfect from a hydraulic engineering point of view: placed just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine, it occupies a cul-de-sac and is thus well protected from the disruption due to diarrhea … So the argument that the appendix is a vestigial organ that supports evolutionary theory is itself vestigial, a leftover of nineteenth-century Darwinian biology. We know better now” (p. 121).

Five conclusions about foresight

Everywhere we look, we see evidence of a mind behind the design of all things—a supreme mind that foresaw all the challenges of the vast universe and life on earth at every level and planned out how these challenges would be met.

In pondering the evidence before us, it’s worthwhile to once more quote Dr. Eberlin’s book—which received endorsements from three Nobel Prize winners!—on his five conclusions about foresight:

1. We see many examples of apparent foresight in the natural world—of problems being anticipated before they arose, and ingeniously solved with on-time delivery of multiple, essential, and well-orchestrated parts.

2. We know from our uniform experience that the ability to anticipate and solve such problems is a characteristic of intelligent minds.

3. There are not demonstrated examples of unguided, mindless processes anticipating and solving problems that require a sophisticated orchestration of fine-tuned parts, all brought together on the ground floor of an origin event. Hand-waving references to cases that are assumed rather than demonstrated do not count.

4. Therefore, our uniform experience provides us with only one type of cause with the demonstrated capacity to anticipate and solve such problems—intelligent design.

5. Intelligent design thus represents the best and, indeed, the only causally adequate explanation for the many examples of apparent foresight in the natural world, of situations where problems are ingeniously solved with on-time delivery of multiple, essential, and well-orchestrated parts. The foresight is not merely apparent, but real” (p. 143).

Yes, the faulty idea that complex life forms and components arose and developed from a blind and purposeless process of natural selection and mutation is slowly being discarded as more open-minded scientists follow the evidence to where it truly leads. 

The Bible was ahead of its time in challenging those who would try to teach creation without a Creator, or design without a Designer. It has for many centuries told us to study the ingenious ways living things exist and survive to recognize that something inferior to them could not have made them—that instead only something vastly superior could have done it.

As Job 12:7-10 Job 12:7-10 7 But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach you; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell you: 8 Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach you: and the fishes of the sea shall declare to you. 9 Who knows not in all these that the hand of the LORD has worked this? 10 In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind.
American King James Version×
states in the Good News Translation: “Even birds and animals have much they could teach you; ask the creatures of earth and sea for their wisdom. All of them know that the Lord’s hand made them. It is God who directs the lives of his creatures; everyone’s life is in his power.”

 


 

Respected Yale Professor Renounces Evolution

Earlier this year, David Gelernter, a famous computer scientist at Yale University, renounced his belief in the theory of evolution, causing dismay in the scientific community.

In a carefully written essay in the Spring 2019 issue of The Claremont Review of Books titled “Giving Up Darwin” (posted online May 1), Dr. Gelernter gave his reasons for forsaking a beloved idea due to the evidence pointing another way.

He states: “There’s no reason to doubt that Darwin successfully explained the small adjustments by which an organism adapts to local circumstances: changes to fur density or wing style or beak shape. Yet there are many reasons to doubt whether he can answer the hard questions and explain the big picture—not the fine-tuning of existing species but the emergence of new ones. The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.

“[Cambridge scholar and intelligent design pioneer] Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed. He cannot answer the big question. Two other books are also essential: The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009), by David Berlinski, and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015), an anthology edited by David Klinghoffer, which collects some of the arguments Meyer’s book stirred up. These three form a fateful battle group that most people would rather ignore. Bringing to bear the work of many dozen scientists over many decades, Meyer … disassembles the theory of evolution piece by piece. Darwin’s Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact” (p. 104).

Professor Gelernter agrees with Berlinski that, in contrast to Darwin’s predictions about the fossil record, “in general, ‘most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.’ The incremental development of new species is largely not there” (p. 105).

Gelernter also brings up the difficulty of producing a stable and functional protein if evolution were true, stating: “Proteins are the special ops forces (or maybe the Marines) of living cells, except that they are common instead of rare; they do all the heavy lifting, all the tricky and critical assignments, in a dazzling range of roles. Proteins called enzymes catalyze all sorts of reactions and drive cellular metabolism. Other proteins (such as collagen) give cells shape and structure, like tent poles but in far more shapes. Nerve function, muscle function, and photosynthesis are all driven by proteins. And in doing these jobs and many others, the actual, 3-D shape of the protein molecule is important. So, is the simple neo-Darwinian mechanism up to this task? Are random mutation plus natural selection sufficient to create new protein shapes?” (p. 106).

In answering, he goes on to say that distinguished Cambridge biologist David Axe “estimated that, of all 150-link amino acid sequences, 1 in 1074 will be capable of folding into a stable protein. To say that your chances are 1 in 1074 is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero. [Note: Scientists calculate there are around 1080 atoms in the observable universe.] It’s not surprising that your chances of hitting a stable protein that performs some useful function, and might therefore play a part in evolution, are even smaller. Axe puts them at 1 in 1077.

“In other words: immense is so big, and tiny is so small, that neo-Darwinian evolution is—so far—a dead loss. Try to mutate your way from 150 links of gibberish to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million—you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done” (p. 107).

Gelernter states that he “cannot accept intelligent design as Meyer presents it,” but he notes that “it says aloud what anyone who ponders biology must think, at some point, while sifting possible answers to hard questions” (p. 104). He has difficulty with there being so much extinction of species in the past and with the existence of problems in nature like disease (p. 109)—not understanding that God did not intend the physical realm to be perfect now and that sin has resulted in curses on the world according to God’s plan.

He nevertheless admits that “intelligent design might well be the ultimate answer. But as a theory, it would seem to have a long way to go” (ibid.). However, Scripture makes the matter clearer—if people would just believe it.

Later in June, Gelernter relayed some of what he faced from the academic community. While he was still treated well by his colleagues personally, he goes on to say: “On the other hand, when I look at their intellectual behavior, what they publish, and, much more important, what they tell their students, Darwinism has indeed passed beyond a scientific argument.

“As far as they are concerned, take your life in your hands to challenge it intellectually … They will destroy you if you challenge it” (quoted by Sarah Taylor, “Prolific Yale Professor Turns Against Darwinism, Warns Darwinians ‘Will Destroy You If You Challenge’ the Theory,” The Blaze, Aug. 22, 2019).

He further noted that he hadn’t seen anything “approaching free speech on this topic … It’s a bitter rejection … a sort of bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged, violent rejection, which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion. I’ve seen that happen again and again. ‘I’m a Darwinist, don’t you say a word against it,’ or, ‘I don’t wanna hear it, period’” (ibid.).

“I am attacking their religion,” Gelernter concluded. “It is a big issue for them.”

—Mario Seiglie and Tom Robinson