Some thoughts on Evolution and Intelligent Design

I have discussed and debated the Intelligent Design vs Evolution issues numerous times both online and in person, but I have not felt a need to broach the subject very much on this blog until now.

It is a complex debate and I have no illusions about easily resolving it for anyone else. Those of you who have discussed this issue with me before know that I lean strongly toward the Intelligent Design side of the controversy, though I have some reservations about a number of the political goals of the movement.

I do intend to go see the new documentary film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which opened last Friday, if I can make some time this week.

My thoughts here, however, were prompted by reading this blog post by BYU Professor Steven L. Peck . Brother Peck certainly has impressive credentials, and so I hesitate to respond to what he has written for the honest recognition that the topic may simply be beyond my skill and understanding. However, despite my worries, I will share my thoughts.

First off, let me say that I am disappointed in the derisive tone of his post. If he wants to win over people such as myself, who lean toward Intelligent Design, and especially members of the church, he would do better to afford us the dignity of a fellow Saint.

While brother Peck’s characterization of Intelligent Design proponents may well be an accurate portrayal of some, I think that it is generally unhelpful and largely inaccurate.

I can only speak from my own views of ID, but a number of us who lean toward Intelligent Design over Darwinian Evolution are quite aware that the “Selection” part of the Random Mutation plus Natural Selection equation makes it not purely “random.”

Even as a self-identified believer in Intelligent Design, I do accept the succession of species (the “Fact” of evolution, as it is often called). But the succession of species is not itself proof that the proposed mechanism, random mutation plus natural selection, is really the method by which that succession came to pass.

In science, we have to distinguish between the observable facts and the model used to explain those facts. And it is perfectly acceptable to explore a number of different models that attempt to explain what is observed. As more facts become available through scientific investigation and experimentation, we may choose to discard or revise models that contradict the new information, or to reconsider previously discarded models in light of new facts. If a scientist wants to investigate a new model to see how well it matches the observable facts, she should be allowed to do so without ridicule and harassment.

My own Intelligent Design views allow that evolution (a succession of species) has indeed occurred, but I reject the purely materialistic mechanism for evolution. I accept that some kind of evolution has happened, but I reject the notion that Random Mutation plus Natural Selection alone is capable of producing the kind of complex information we see in living organisms. Instead I favor the front-loading hypothesis of evolution, where all of the information necessary to create the breadth and depth of life was encoded into DNA from the beginning. In my model the process of Random Mutation plus Natural Selection cannot create information. It only activates or deactivates pre-existing information. So I accept the fact of evolution, but I reject the Materialistic, Darwinian mechanism in favor of the Intelligently Designed front-loading mechanism.

I’ve yet to see anything observable that proves that random mutation and natural selection alone are capable of doing what Darwin claimed, even after 150 years of fact gathering and exponentially increasing knowledge of biological systems.

The observable facts, as I have been able to perceive them, are at least as consistent with the front-loading model.

Could I be wrong? Certainly. But I think that I, and others, should be able to investigate and experiment with that model without being branded with propagandist’s epithets like “creationist” intended to imply ignorance, dishonesty, or a theocratic political agenda.

Brother Peck spends a lot of time in his post discussing how monkeys could create the works of Shakespeare by typing on keyboards.

I cannot compare to Brother Peck’s credentials in the mathematics of modeling evolution, However, as someone with both a deal of professional computer programming experience and a BA in English Literature, I can tell you that, in my view, the programs that simulate random mutation plus natural selection like the monkeys on typewriters program he cites from Richard Dawkins are at least of questionable value as evidence for a purely materialist mechanism for evolution.

Because they have to know Shakespeare in the first place in order to determine whether or not “Shakespeare” has been achieved, the selection portions of the equation in such computer models smack of a peculiar kind of “begging the question” fallacy. They bear some resemblance to self-fulfilling prophesies. These programs only produce Shakespeare because some Intelligent Designer (the programmer) copy and pasted Shakespeare’s words from the Project Gutenberg transcription of his Works into a database. Neither the computer program or the monkeys actually produce anything more than a copy of Shakespeare, only Shakespeare and the programmer actually did any “creating.”

My views are open to change on this topic, but I strongly support the idea that scientists should be able to pursue these alternative models without reprisal from or suppression by the Darwinian orthodoxy. If they lead to more knowledge and truth, then we are blessed. If they do not, then they will fade away of their own accord without any artificial aide by the Darwinian Intelligencia.

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