SCIENCE
Darwin Vs Intelligent Design -1
By Dr. Rizwana Rahim
Chicago, IL

Science demands ‘evidence’ first, without any bias, preconception or conflict of interest (objectivity); religion has ‘faith’ as a pre-requisite, with personal preference (subjectivity). Though often at odds, science and religion do still co-exist
Evidence is based on either observation or experiment, with verifiable results that support, confirm or prove/disprove a hypothesis or a theory (empirical), or theories and hypotheses that have not yet been experimentally proven, to be true or not, in an objective manner (theoretical). Science seeks explanations of things that are present or occur in the world (or nature) by following the basic rule: observe, test, replicate/repeat and verify. Experimental evidence, even after confirming it, is not static. Rather, we fine-tune it to modify or solidify our understanding over time, in light of accumulating evidence. That’s how grows our knowledge base.
Regardless of how confident we may be of our evidence and the bedrock understanding, we are asked to keep our mind open for anything new or unexpected that could change or modify our understanding, no matter how slight or remote the possibility. That open-mindedness, along with dispassionate objectivity, is another element of scientific approach and philosophy.
Generally, it’s in the theoretical area that many scientific and other controversies exist. And, it is also in this area that science and religion often collide.
One such area is Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection and random variation. Natural selection is a process by which populations of living organisms adapt and evolve, i.e., those that adapt themselves better to the environment and reproduce more successfully manage to survive ('survival of the fittest'); same applies to the descendants of these better-adapted populations. This process is aptly described by an acronym, VISTA: Variation (no two organisms or individuals are alike), Inheritance (individuals pass their specific traits to their descendants; e.g., color, physical and genetic features), Selection (small variations can help individuals survive and reproduce in an environment better than those that don’t or can’t make such minor adjustments to adapt; mutations), Time and Adaptation (over generations, advantageous traits accumulate in order to better able a population to adapt; or mutations accumulated over time).
What started as an observation of mostly morphological characteristics and supported by some fossil records has now been increasingly and most convincingly supported -- most of it by a stream of genetic information (genomes and DNA sequences of different species and the extent of similarity, DNA sequences and the extent of similarity/’homology’ and inter-connectedness/linkages between and among different species). This led to the concept of commonality in diversity -- an evolution tree with many branches, large and small, and common elements, including roots all the way to some unknown ‘Universal Ancestor’. In essence, Darwinian evolution is a spontaneous, random (undu\irected, not pre-determined) process that grows either in sudden bursts with long periods of stability or continuous over time ranging from minutes in case of bacteria/viruses to millions of years in complex life forms.
Quite apart from the scientific controversies within Darwinism itself, it is true that this theory of evolution (like any other theory) cannot explain every single thing and has many missing or unexplained pieces (gaps in fossil records, etc). But that doesn’t mean that the massive scientific evidence that supports it is invalid or unacceptable in any way, as proponents of ‘creationism’ and ‘intelligent design’ (ID) like to believe.
Creationism is largely a faith-based, religious interpretation of the creation of Universe and life on earth, a literal interpretation of Genesis, with several sub-sects existing under the ‘creationism’ umbrella. Pope John Paul II acknowledged, in his address Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1996): "Evolution in the sense of common ancestry might be true, but evolution in the neo-Darwinian sense - an unguided, unplanned process of random variation and natural selection - is not." And, added that new research “leads to the recognition of the theory of evolution as more than a hypothesis. His successor, Pope Benedict said after he was installed as Pope in April that human beings “are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution,” later calling the creation of the universe an “intelligent project.”
On creation, other major faith-based views also involve a supernatural power. The Qur’an, in several different suras, mentions creation of the universe and everything in it, including human beings and animals [16: 3; 41: 9-12; 24: 59; 30: 8; 39: 5; 56: 57]. On creating humans and animals, the Qur’an says: ‘He created man from a drop of fluid…’ [16: 4]; ‘And livestock – He created them too…’ [16: 5] and ‘and God created each animal out of [its own] fluid: ….God creates whatever HE will; God has power over everything’ [24: 45]. Other religions also have a supernatural element.
ID, on the other hand, is presented as a secular theory. It holds that since living organisms are complex, they must have been created or designed by a higher intelligence. Rather than, as Darwin suggested, evolved on their own by simple natural processes without any direction, over time million of years. The philosophical concept of ID dates back to the Greeks (“Logos” of Heraclitus, a pre-Socratic philosopher). In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas argued that nature is complex, and therefore it must have a designer. William Paley (1802) developed it further, using the ‘Watchmaker’ analogy -- i.e., a complex object like a watch, if found in a field, didn’t develop through natural processes, but was likely designed by some intelligent force.
That was a good half-century before Darwin ID developed into a movement in 1996 [after a book Darwin on Trial, 1991 by Phillip E. Johnson], based in the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (CRSC), sponsored by the Discovery Institute, Seattle, WA, a conservative think tank. The ‘watchmaker’ analogy, still used in ID, now extends the argument. For instance, a complex system like a watch (or, biological features like a bacterial flagellum, cilia, adaptive immune system, or 20 proteins involved in blood clotting, and other biological molecular machines) wouldn’t work if a single part is removed from it (‘irreducible complexity’, a theory championed by an IDer, Michael Behe. Another IDer, William Dembski, suggests that if we find a system in the world (including human beings) that shows a set of unique features and pattern -- a product neither of chance nor of necessity and unmatched by anything randomly created pattern -- that system has what he calls ‘specified complexity’, and therefore, an intelligently designed product. Johnson and Dembski cite the Bible (Book of John) as ID’s foundation. CRSC developed in 1999 what is called the ‘Wedge document’, detailing the Institute’s long-term goals and strategies with the mission: “nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies” [Read: an attack on scientific realism, including evolution; acting as 'wedge' to split it up].
[To be continued]


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