CREATIONISM, EVOLUTION, AND INTELLIGENT DESIGN A seminar given to the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of Louisville School of Medicine, Dec. 14, 2005 Revised and updated, March 2006 Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
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Revised and updated, March 2006
Thomas J. Wheeler, PhD
Associate Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Some slides are based on overhead transparencies originally prepared with Frank Lovell.
"More on Creationists and Meteoritic Dust” Creation/Evolution Newsletter 7, No. 4, 14-15 (1987)
In: Reviews of Creationist Books (L.R. Hughes, ed.), pp. 97-102. National Center for Science Education, 1992. Reprinted in Appleman, P. (ed.) Darwin (3rd ed.) (Norton Critical Editions), 2000
Reports of the National Center forScience Education 19(5), 17-19 (1999)
Creation/Evolution 13(2), 25-35 (1993)
Professional organizations in the biological sciences stand firmly behind teaching of evolution, and against teaching of “intelligent design.”
ASBMB President, Aug. 4, 2005:
“Intelligent design" is not a theory in the scientific sense, nor is it a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. The theory of evolution has survived rigorous scientific scrutiny ever since it was promulgated in the mid-19th century, and is now recognized as one of mankind's greatest intellectual achievements. By contrast, "intelligent design" is not science since it is based on a belief that is inherently untestable--that is, that some unknown intelligence created life on earth…
The overwhelming majority of scientists, including many who are people of faith, strongly support teaching the theory of evolution as how life developed on earth. Injecting untestable explanations for this highly complex phenomenon into science classrooms only confuses the distinction between theology and science, to the detriment of both.
Recognizing that the "intelligent design theory" represents a challenge to the quality of science education, the Board of Directors of the AAAS unanimously adopts the following resolution:
Whereas, ID proponents claim that contemporary evolutionary theory is incapable of explaining the origin of the diversity of living organisms;
Whereas, to date, the ID movement has failed to offer credible scientific evidence to support their claim that ID undermines the current scientifically accepted theory of evolution;
Whereas, the ID movement has not proposed a scientific means of testing its claims;
Therefore Be It Resolved, that the lack of scientific warrant for so-called "intelligent design theory" makes it improper to include as a part of science education;
Therefore Be Further It Resolved, that AAAS urges citizens across the nation to oppose the establishment of policies that would permit the teaching of "intelligent design theory" as a part of the science curricula of the public schools…
Policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of "creation science" or related concepts, such as so-called "intelligent design," "abrupt appearance," and "arguments against evolution." Administrators also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.
This position statement reprinted courtesy of the National Science Teacher’s Association, Arlington, VA, http://www.nsta.org/position
But according to presidential science advisor John Marburger: “evolution is the cornerstone of modern biology…intelligent design is not a scientific concept”
View of some religious groups
Some religious groups that have taken positions defending the teaching of evolution and/or attacking inclusion of creationism or intelligent design (from NCSE web site):
American Jewish Congress
Central Conference Of American Rabbis
General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
The General Convention Of The Episcopal Church
Roman Catholic Church
Today, almost half a century after the publication of the Encyclical, fresh knowledge has led to the recognition that evolution is more than a hypothesis. It is indeed remarkable that this theory has been progressively accepted by researchers, following a series of discoveries in various fields of knowledge. The convergence, neither sought nor fabricated, of the results of work that was conducted independently is in itself a significant argument in favour of this theory.
Pope John Paul II
Message to Pontifical Academy of Sciences (1996)
According to an Associated Press story (Nov. 18, 2005), Rev. George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory, said that “’intelligent design’ isn’t science and doesn’t belong in science classrooms.”
Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Project, and an evangelical Christian, said: “From my perspective as a scientist working on the genome, the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming.”
Creationists (and intelligent design advocates) attack evolution for its “materialism” or “naturalism.”
This attack is inappropriate. Science relies on methodological materialism: when doing science, only naturalistic explanations are considered.
There is also philosophical materialism: rejection of the existence of the supernatural. But evolution (like other areas of science) takes no position for or against the supernatural.
These points are not based on scientific evidence, but on religious faith in the literal truth of Genesis.
One leading old-Earth creationist is Dr. Hugh Ross, of the
Reasons To Believe ministry
(Among nearly all experts in the biological sciences, there is no doubt that evolution has occurred.)
“Evo-Devo can trace the modifications of structures through vast periods of evolutionary time – to see how fish fins were modified into limbs in terrestrial vertebrates, how successive rounds of innovation and modification crafted mouthparts, poison claws, swimming and feeding appendages, gills, and wings from a simple tube-like walking leg, and how many kinds of eyes have been constructed beginning with a collection of photosensitive cells.”
--Sean B. Carroll, Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo
“…all complex animals…share a common ‘toolkit’ of ‘master’ genes that govern the formation and patterning of their bodies and body parts…The discovery of the ancient genetic toolkit is irrefutable evidence of the descent and modification of animals, including humans, from common ancestors.”
PHYLOGENY: comparative features show that humans are closely related to the great apes, and, among the great apes, most closely related to the chimpanzees.
In 2005, the sequence of the chimpanzee genome was reported.
“The papers confirm the astonishing molecular similarities between ourselves and chimpanzees. The average protein differs by only two amino acids, and 29% of proteins are identical…The total genetic difference between humans and chimps, in terms of number of bases, sums to about 4% of the genome.”
Science 309, 1468-9 (2005)
The fossil record documents an abundance of forms that, over millions of years, gradually change from more ape-like to more human-like. See, for example, the chart found in Nature422, 849-857 (24 April 2003).
BIOGEOGRAPHY:As Darwin predicted, these fossils are found in Africa, near our closest relatives, the great apes.
(Discussed later with intelligent design)
Scientists have considered the hypotheses proposed by creation science and have rejected them because of a lack of evidence. Furthermore, the claims of creation science do not refer to natural causes and cannot be subject to meaningful tests, so they do not qualify as scientific hypotheses.
National Academy of Sciences, 1999
(Intelligent design, Dover later)
…Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercisethereof …
Antievolution laws 1919-1927
1968 - Epperson vs Arkansas - invalidated Arkansas statute that prohibited teaching of evolution.
“Creation science” 1961-1987
… the evidence is overwhelming that both the purpose and effect of Act 590 is the advancement of religion in the public schools.
Ruled that creation “science” is not science.
1987 – struck down Louisiana law requiring“equal time” for creation science. The law was endorsing a particular religion.
… teaching a variety of scientific theories about the origins of humankind to schoolchildren might be validly done …
The people of Louisiana … are quite entitled, as a secular matter, to have whatever scientific evidence there may be against evolution presented in their schools…
-Justice Scalia (dissenting)
“Scientific alternatives to evolution”
- “abrupt appearance theory”
- “intelligent design theory”
(but these are not scientific)
“Evidence against evolution”
(but there is no evidence that casts
serious doubt on evolution)
“Teach the controversy”
(but evolution is not controversial
1999 – Kansas Board of Education deletes evolution from science curriculum
2001 – changes in Board lead to restoration of evolution
2002 and 2004 – elections lead to more conservative Board
2005 – after months of deliberation, in November the Board votes 6-4 to institute changes that are critical of evolution. The Board also decides to redefine science, so that it would not be limited to natural explanations.
2006 – candidates on both sides prepare for the next round of elections.
This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully, and critically considered.
Cobb County, GA, 2002
Subject of federal court case.
Outcome: stickers ruled unconstitutional, January 2005
(hearing of appeal begins, December 2005)
June 2001 - Sen. Rick Santorum (R, PA) proposes amendment to the No Child Left Behind bill. (Amendment drafted by Phillip Johnson, a leader of the intelligent design movement)
It is the sense of the Senate that–
(1) good science education should prepare students to distinguish the data or testable theories of science from philosophical or religious claims that are made in the name of science; and
(2) where biological evolution is taught, the curriculum should help students to understand why this subject generates so much continuing controversy, and should prepare the students to be informed participants in public discussions regarding the subject.
Evolution of Creationism
Last Common Ancestor
Paul Nelson – Young-Earth creationist
Stephen Meyer – Exec. Dir. Of the C(R)SC
Guillermo Gonzalez – Astronomer at Iowa State
Alvin Plantinga – Theologian at Notre Dame
David DeWolf – Law Professor at Gonzaga U.
John Calvert – Lawyer, Dir of ID Network
Scott Minich – Microbiologist, University of Idaho
Philip Johnson – lawyer
Michael Behe – biochemist
Jonathan Wells – trained in molecular and cell biology
William Dembski – mathematician
Only two of these have trained in relevant areas (one of them only to the postdoc level).
Is this a scientific movement that deserves to be included in high school science classes?
Center for Science and Culture(previously Centerfor the Renewal ofScience and Culture)
CRSC web site, Oct. 1999
Professor of Law (emeritus), Berkeley
Books: Darwin on Trial
The Wedge of Truth
Defeating Darwinism By Opening Minds
Reason in the Balance
Presumed author of the “wedge document”
Role in ID: Tear down the
“evil” that is naturalism
Book: Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth?
PhD from Berkley, Yale
Reverend in the True Parents Organization (Unification Church)
Role in ID: Poke holes in the best known examples of evolution
2. Examples are flawed/misleading or fraudulent
3. Therefore evolution is false/bad science
#3 does not follow from 2;
#2 is not generally true!
“In No Free Lunch I argue that material systems are not capable of organizing themselves into complex specified structures apart from intelligence.”
NFL refers to certain theorems in optimization theory, related to search algorithms and fitness functions.
NFL says that a given algorithm does no better than another when averaged over all fitness landscapes.
Dembski claims that, therefore, evolution can do no better than a random search – which isn’t good enough.
But an algorithm can do better than random in specific fitness landscapes, such as encountered in evolution.
Moreover, evolution does not have a prespecified target.
Lack of peer review:
Dembski claims to have made revolutionary discoveries. “He has even been hailed by one of his allies in the Discovery Institute as ‘the Isaac Newton of information theory.' Yet his work on these subjects has not appeared in any journal of statistics or information theory, and, as far as I can determine, not one professional statistician or information theorist has approved of this work.“ – Richard Wein http://www.talkorigins.org/design/faqs/nfl/
Conclusion of philosopher of science Michael Ruse: “Dembski is ‘just plain wrong.’”
Pennock, Science 301, 1051 (2003)
Book: Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution
Professor at Lehigh University
Popularized “Irreducible Complexity”
(Supports common descent)
“By irreducibly complex I mean a single system composed of several well-matched, interacting parts that contribute to the basic function, wherein the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to effectively cease functioning."
Michael Behe, Darwin’s Black Box
The Bacterial Flagellum: ID’s mascot
Despite his claims in Darwin’s Black Box, there were many papers on the evolution of the systems he discusses. Plausible evolutionary pathways have been proposed, even if all of the steps are not known.
Many flagellar proteins are homologous to proteins in the Type III secretion apparatus.
(colors indicate conserved functions; proteins do not necessarily have homologous sequences)
Blocker, Ariel et al. (2003) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 100, 3027-3030
Copyright 2003 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.
Possible evolutionary scenarios have been proposed in which a primitive export pore changes to an active secretion system; acquires an adhesion function; develops a pilus, which becomes a flagellum; acquires regulatory and switching mechanisms, etc. Function changes from export to secretion to adhesion to motility.
Prothrombin and factors X, IX, XI, and VII are homologous.
A proposed scenario (Miller, Finding Darwin’s God):
A plasma serine protease (zymogen form), when exposed to damaged tissue, can get activated, cutting proteins nonspecifically and producing clot.
Addition of an EGF domain allows cellular binding.
A fibrinogen-like protein is recruited to be the target of the proteolysis.
The original protease is autocatalytic, but by gene duplication an activating protease can be added.
The cascade is extended backward.
Further levels of control are added.
Emergence of the organs, cells, and molecules of the AIS during the evolution of chordates
Black = fully developed
Shaded = ancestral form
Light = not known
Klein, Jan and Nikolaidis, Nikolas (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 169-174
Copyright 2005 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.
Copyright ©2005 by the National Academy of Sciences
Hypothetical scenario for the emergence of the major histocompatibility, T cell receptor, and B cell receptor molecules by gradual evolution, which encompassed modification of preexisting domains, joining together of different domains, and possibly generation of new domain designs
Klein, Jan and Nikolaidis, Nikolas (2005) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102, 169-174
Copyright 2005 National Academy of Sciences, U.S.A. Used with permission.
Copyright ©2005 by the National Academy of Sciences
Reason tells me, that if numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case; if further, the eye ever varies and the variations be inherited, as is likewise certainly the case; and if such variations should be useful to any animal under changing conditions of life, then the difficulty of believing that a perfect and complex eye could be formed by natural selection, though insuperable by our imagination, should not be considered as subversive of the theory.
To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree…
1. C-Opsin found in light-sensitive cells in the brain of Platynereis, a marine worm (Arendt et al. (2004) Science 306, 869-871)
r-opsin = rhabdomeric (invertebrates); c-opsin = ciliary (vertebrates)
2. βγ-Crystallin was found in Ciona, a urochordate (which does not have a lens) (Shimeid et al. (2005) Current Biology 15, 1684-1689). http://eprints.bbk.ac.uk/archive/00000302/
“The conservation of the regulatory hierarchy controlling βγ-crystallin expression between organisms with and without a lens shows that the evolutionary origin of the lens was based on co-option of pre-existing regulatory circuits controlling the expression of a key structural gene in a primitive light-sensing system.”
Examples: the universe is about 14 billion years old and contains about 1076 atoms.
The human body has about 1014 cells.
An estimated 1030 bacteria live on Earth.
Michael Behe in the Dover trial:
In an attempt to pin Professor Behe down, Mr. Rothschild asked, “What is the mechanism that intelligent design is proposing?”
Mr. Behe said: “It does not propose a mechanism in the sense of a step-by-step description of how these structures arose.” He added that “the word ‘mechanism’ can be used broadly” and said the mechanism was “intelligent activity.”
Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, Oct. 19, 2005
“The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses related to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research. ‘They never came in,’ said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president…’From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,’ he said.” – Laurie Goodstein, New York Times, Dec. 4, 2005
“Science is a philosophy of discovery. Intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance. You cannot build a program of discovery on the assumption that nobody is smart enough to figure out the answer to a problem.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of Hayden Planetarium, Natural History, November 2005.
“…once you win the scientific consensus, quite automatically you wind up in the curriculum, college courses, and eventually in high school and grade school classes. Intelligent design has been either unable or unwilling to win the scientific consensus, so what you see now is an end run around the scientific process to use political means, state boards of education, curriculum development to inject this into the classroom without winning the scientific consensus…”
--Kenneth Miller (Brown University), American Enterprise Institute panel discussion on intelligent design, Oct. 21, 2005
"This isn't really, and never has been, a debate about science," said the [Biola]
conference's prime mover, law professor Phillip Johnson of the University of
California at Berkeley. "It's about religion and philosophy." [Jay Grelen, "Witnesses for the Prosecution,“ World, 11-30-96, (11)26]
Goals of the Discovery Institute, Center for Renewal of Science and Culture (leading promoter of intelligent design):--To defeat scientific materialism and its destructive moral, cultural and political legacies. --To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.
Intelligent design is a religious movement
“…intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information technology.”
William Dembski, Touchstone, July/Aug 1999:84.
The Intelligent Design movement starts with the recognition that “In the beginning was the Word,” and “In the beginning God created.” Establishing that point isn't enough, but it is absolutely essential to the rest of the gospel message.
Phillip Johnson (2000). Forward to Creation, Evolution, & Modern Science, Probe Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. p. 5
"Father's words, my studies, and my prayers, convinced me that I should devote my life todestroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. “
Jonathan Wells, Unification Church sermon
In November, 2005, eight of the school board members that had supported intelligent design were up for re-election. All were defeated.
We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are:
As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.
--Judge John Jones, decision in Dover case
Creationism provides the driving force.
Intelligent design provides a superficially intellectual cover, supposedly free of religious content.
Proponents appeal to the idea that it is only fair to admit alternative views.
In many textbooks, evolution is placed in a chapter near the end, where it is often rushed through (or left out entirely) at the end of the school year.
NSTA Survey (March 2005)
When asked if they feel pressured to include creationism, intelligent design, or other nonscientific alternatives to evolution in their science classroom, 31% of teachers responding said they did.
When asked if they feel pushed to de-emphasize or omit evolution or evolution-related topics from their curriculum, 30% agreed.
Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Nov-Dec 2004
Oklahoma HB 2194
Michigan HB 4946, HB 5005
Missouri HB 911
Minnesota HF 2003, SF 1714
Alabama HB 336
Mississippi HB 1288
Alabama HB 352/SB 240
Arkansas HB 2607
Georgia HB 179
Missouri HB 35
Mississippi HB 2886
Montana HB 1199
Oklahoma SB 719
South Carolina SB 114
Texas HB 220 (textbooks)
New York A 3036