Today’s video is a long one. It is an examination of David Gelernter’s article in the Claremont Review of Books entitled Giving up Darwin.
From the article:
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.
(All quotes are taken from Gelernter’s article unless otherwise specified)
James Mallet at the Galton Laboratory, Department of Genetics, Evolution and Environment at University College London says that many in Darwin’s time understood species to mean “members of real groups related by means of descent: all members of a species were related by descent, whereas no individual was descended from members of another species.” But, many today are disagreed as to what exactly constitutes a species.
Darwin tended to try to explain big things by generalizing small things. Darwin can explain these small things, says Gelernter. Where he disagrees with Darwin is his inference from these small variations to a generalization that is used as an explanation of speciation. In other words, Darwin was arguing that the explanation for small changes in fur density between domesticated sheep and wild sheep, due to selective breeding, explains why a sheep is not a whale. It is this leap with which Gelernter has a contention.
According to Stephen Meyer, the book The Origin of Species is well-argued. However, it is well argued based on a 19th century understanding of archaeology and paleontology. In light of what we have learned in the 20th and 21st centuries, says Meyer, the argument begins to break down.
The following is a list of Gelernter’s issues with the theory of evolution, which lead to his rejecting the idea as laid out in his article Giving Up Darwin.
1. The Fossil Record
Darwinian evolution is gradual, step-by-step. Yet in the “Cambrian explosion” of around half a billion years ago, a striking variety of new organisms—including the first-ever animals—pop up suddenly in the fossil record over a mere 70-odd million years.
From Giving Up Darwin
According to Meyer, in the “Cambrian Explosion,” you get a considerable number of “animal body plans.” Animal body plans are unique configurations of body parts and tissues. Darwin was concerned about such findings but was certain future fossil discoveries would fill in the gaps. This has not been the case. There seems to be no connection between the pre-Cambrian and post-Cambrian body types.
Given the age of the earth and the time at which life began, there does not seem enough time for evolution to have happened by chance, according to Meyer. He mentions a branch of mathematical Darwinian theory called “Population Genetics.” This allows us to calculate how much change we ought to expect in a given amount of time. Seventy million years is the blink of an eye. Meyer says the waiting time we should expect to see is hundreds of millions if not billions of years.
2. Molecular Biology
What does generating new forms of life entail? Many biologists agree that generating a new shape of protein is the essence of it. And inventing a new protein means inventing a new gene.
In other words, if we want to have a new form of life, we need new proteins. In order to get those proteins, we need new genes. New genes entail a new code, a new set of information to code for those proteins. The Cambrian Explosion, in that it is an explosion of new forms of life, is an explosion of new information. Darwin could not have known this as molecular biology, and the concept of genetic coding and information were not known in his time.
Berlinski says the more we learn about the cell, the more complex it becomes. In the time of Darwin, the cell was believed to be quite simple, and it was easy to image simply arranging them in different forms like Lego blocks. However, we now know that is no the case at all, and the more we learn about cells, the more we realize how much we do not know.
They then get into the numbers. In order to code for a protein, you need a specifically ordered string of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids, and these strings can consist of over 100 of them in a row. A short sequence which codes for a protein is 150 amino acids long. So, the chance of stumbling upon that specific useful sequence is 150^20, an exceedingly large number.
Additionally, the number of useful sequences are exceedingly small. Stephen Meyer points out that for a sequence 150 amino acids long (some are far longer) for every one useful sequence you will have 10^77 gibberish ones that will not do anything. The probability of this information happening by chance is vanishingly small.
Gelernter says in his paper concerning this paradox of probabilities:
But neo-Darwinianism understands that mutations are rare, and successful ones even scarcer. To balance that out, there are many organisms and a staggering immensity of time. Your chances of winning might be infinitesimal. But if you play the game often enough, you win in the end, right?
In the 70 million years since life started, have we had enough chances to get this right? Gelernter looked into Biology, and Biologists say no, there has not been enough time. Meyer mentions that it is estimated that there have been 10^40 organisms, or chances of mutations, set against 1/10^77 chances of a useful protein, this has given the possibility of searching only one ten trillion trillion trillionth of the available possibility space. Searching by chance is overwhelmingly expected to fail, even taking into account every living organism which has ever existed.
To help create a brand new form of organism, a mutation must affect a gene that does its job early and controls the expression of other genes that come into play later on as the organism grows. Evidently there are a total of no examples in the literature of mutations that affect early development and the body plan as a whole and are not fatal.
If genetic modifications come late, it doesn’t make a difference as far as what the animal is. A Shetland pony and a Clydesdale are both horses, although one is certainly taller than the other. Genetic modifications which come early enough to change the creature into a different species invariably kills it.
Francis Crick explains the functioning of DNA in terms of code. It is not the chemical makeup of the DNA, which causes it to function as it does. It is the specific sequence which provides the functionality of DNA, much like the ones and zeros of computer code. This is information. When we find information and trace it back to its source, “we always find a mind not a material process,” says Meyer. The Darwinian explanations cannot explain how information arose. This leads Meyer to propose the concept of Intelligent Design (ID) as the answer.
Gelernter, not agreeing with Meyer’s hypothesis, responds in his article:
If there was an intelligent designer what was his purpose? And why did he do such an awfully slipshod job? Why are we so disease prone, heartbreak prone, and so on?
Gelernter seems to be a bit contradictory in his rebuttal of ID in that the idea he rejects in Darwinism is then used to reject ID. He says that life cannot arise by chance, but given life, it appears to be a result of chance. The world is in chaos and, therefore, cannot have been designed by a mind, according to him.
Meyer responds that even when we see things designed by a designer, there is still entropy and decay. Further, from a Judeo-Christian perspective, we expect to see both design and a “fall” of nature. He explains that virulent bacteria that can make people extremely sick are a result of a loss of information in the genetic mutation process. In that way, the evidence for design is also the evidence for decay. These diseases are a result of a corruption of nature as designed by God. The evil of disease does not exist independently of the good of creation. It arises as a result of the corruption of a good thing. This is precisely what we would expect given a Judeo-Christian worldview.
Gelernter says that his argument is not necessarily against Stephen, but against those who dismiss the idea of an intelligent designer as non-scientific. He says it has to be dealt with intelligently and not subjected to the anti-religious bigoty (his words) that pervades academia.
Stephen says his ideas are not necessarily based on a religious text but are an inference from biological data. In that way, they are scientific claims.
From the article:
Darwinism is no longer just a scientific theory but the basis of a worldview, and an emergency replacement religion for the many troubled souls who need one.
Gelernter mentions that the intellectual response, in academia, to any sort of questioning of Darwinism betrays a religious devotion to the theory. He says there is nothing approaching free speech when it comes to evolution. You either agree with it or you are attacked. And the attack does not approach an intellectual discussion. It is a bitter and outraged rejection. If you do not agree with them, they will not listen to you.
The conversation then moves very rapidly through consciousness, to the establishment of a materialist worldview. This materialistic worldview is established on the backs of past thinkers and writers. Meyer very adeptly points out that most scientists equate a scientific materialist worldview with science itself. To question the thinkers who have established this worldview, in their minds, is to question science itself. This leads to a very emotive response from those who subscribe to that worldview.
Meyer goes on to claim that the Darwinian approach of trying to explain life through a bottom-up process is holding science back. As an example, he recounts the former theory that the non-coding sections of DNA were evolutionary left-overs labeled “junk DNA.” It turns out these sections are functionally important. A top-down, or design approach, could have allowed scientists to arrive at this conclusion much sooner. Meyer says, “Looking at life as a designed system is yielding insights into how life works.”
Berlinski says that Darwin was successful at answering the small question of variation in beak sizes and wing length. However, he was unsuccessful in answering the question he thought he was asking, which was the explanation of the complexity of life. “It was a premature question,” says Berlinski. According to him, Darwin was speaking of things about which he could not know. The same goes for us in this century, he says.
Does this cause you to doubt the validity of Darwinian Evolution?
Is evolution and the Biblical account of creation mutual exclusive in your mind?
Do you find the idea that scientific materialism is just as much a religion as Christianity?