Uncommon Descent Serving The Intelligent Design Community

Design Disquisitions: Why the Question of Biological Origins Really Matters


Finally, I’ve managed to publish my first blog article! It’s been a rocky start as I had some technical difficulties. Nevertheless, it feels good to get the ball rolling. In this first article, I’ve chosen to take a step back and reflect upon whether or not intelligent design is an important problem to consider in the first place. I outline what I consider to be five strong reasons why this is a matter of great significance.


In the foreword to the intelligent design text, The Design of Life, biochemist William S. Harris notes:

The scientific community continues to wrestle with the deep and fundamental questions: Where did the universe come from? How did life originate? How did a coded language (i.e., DNA) come to form the basis of life? How could multicellular life have originated from unicellular life? What is the origin of complex molecular machines that are inside every cell and that are necessary for life?(1)

Who cares?

Sometimes we can be too busy arguing with those who hold the opposing view, that we forget why we’re so intellectually and emotionally invested in this area of inquiry. On the other hand, it is lamentably the case that many people don’t even stop to seriously consider these questions. Here I want to pause, take a step back, and consider whether this issue really matters at all. I have always thought it does matter, and I think you should too. Here’s why:

Head over to the blog if you’d like to read more.


rv, So, your answer to the question is ”No, I cannot tell you any of the physical conditions required for evolution to occur” From that, it logically follows that you have no idea if anyone has provided a “remarkable and convincing scenario” by which those conditions can be met. Likewise, you haven’t a clue if you “get good and plausible answers”, because you fail to even consider what is required for such an answer to be good or plausible. Why don't you stop attacking people who are doing, or have already done, exactly those things that you refuse to do? Whatever your motivation, it certainty isn't a respect for science or knowledge. Upright BiPed
Really, do I come off as so arrogant? I hope not, and apologise if that is the impression given, I do not intend that.
You're usually quite genial and you make an effort to keep the conversation going. Among atheists we've seen, you're not as nasty and you avoid name-calling. You don't pretend to be an expert also. All good. However, when you simply point to an unknown scientific majority as having all the answers to questions - assuming that we're not familiar with the majority opinion, then it does come across as dismissive. Also, we are familiar with the latest findings. We get news here every day on a variety of related issues and most of us read science news elsewhere. Here's an interesting example, news just in yesterday: Pores found in 'platypus of microbiology' bacterium push boundaries of evolution http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-02/gemmata-obscuriglobus-bacterium-pushes-boundaries-of-evolution/8228876 On first glance, this is the missing link between eukaryotes and bacteria. Yes, but to build that link we need lots of lucky convergence. So, what seems to be easy-to-find knowledge on the internet does require some interpretive skills to understand correctly. Note: That might be a good story for News to headline with some informed commentary. Silver Asiatic
rvb8: "You do understand that these investigations are seperate from your ‘origins’ questions? Darwin himself made no effort to answer the, ‘how did we begin?’ question, and confined himself to the ‘how did we evolve, and what are life’s relationships?’, questions." and: "However, my point that OOL study, and Evolutionary Biology should not be conflated is the standard approach of Evolutionary Biologists; I think, I may be wrong." And I think you (and standard Evolutionary Biologists) are definitely wrong on that point. The two "problems" (OOL and evolution of life) are obviously related, because the core of the problem is the same in both cases: how to explain the generation of huge quantities of functional information. There is absolutely no reason to believe that two different explanations are necessary. That is a rather obvious application of the Occam razor principle, and a correct one, IMO. If some kind of theory can explain the origin of functional information in the first living beings, it can certainly explain the origin of new information which allows the evolution of existing life, afterwards. The problem is that there is no non-design theory that can explain the generation of huge functional information, both at OOL and afterwards. Let's go to your other "point": "Rather than go off into the world of the spiritual, and esoteric, I strongly suggest you bring yourself up todate with this fascinating research; it is a field gaining in remarkable and convincing scenarios; there are many theories, each very plausible." This is a strange mix of truth and pure imagination. Let's see: "Rather than go off into the world of the spiritual, and esoteric, I strongly suggest you bring yourself up to date with this fascinating research;" Well, while there is nothing intrinsically wrong in one's interest in the spiritual and/or esoteric, I can certainly agree that the suggestion to bring oneself up to date with scientific research is a very good one. And I certainly agree that scientific research is fascinating. Including research about OOL. "it is a field gaining in remarkable and convincing scenarios;" It is certainly gaining scenarios. Many of them. They are often "remarkable", I agree, especially for the huge imagination and faith implied. But convincing? See next point... "there are many theories, each very plausible." OK, here you are definitely optimistic. "There are many theories" True. "each... Each? Did you really say "each"?! "very" Very? Did you really say "very"?! "plausible". This is the part where you are very optimistic. The part of "each" and "very" is simply ridiculous, even for a die hard darwinist! OK, being convinced is a personal choice. You are convinced, good for you. I am not. By any of them. All those "theories" or "scenarios" that you refer to seem anything but plausible to me. But, again, being convinced is a personal choice. gpuccio
UB, 'your level of understanding,'!? Really, do I come off as so arrogant? I hope not, and apologise if that is the impression given, I do not intend that. However, my point that OOL study, and Evolutionary Biology should not be conflated is the standard approach of Evolutionary Biologists; I think, I may be wrong. As to the rest UB, all I can say is, 'don't ask me!' Your question, 'What are the physical conditions....?', can best be answered by the scientists themselves, not by this rank ammateur:) It is telling however, that with the entire inter-net at your fingertips, you find it so difficult to get a rational, evidence based answer to this, and other, frequently asked questions by evolutionary sceptics. I get good, plausible answers to OOL, with a mere one or two clicks, but I refuse to give away my secret inter-net, evlotionary, OOL, handshake; give it a go yourself, it's quite easy. When the Yellow Pages were still popular in the 80s, they would say in their advertising, "Let Your Fingertips Do The Walking", I suggest this is still sound advice in the inter-net age. rvb8
how it evolved the organelles necessary to the kick starting of evolution ... I strongly suggest you bring yourself up todate with this fascinating research
What is physically necessary for evolution to occur has been a part of the scientific record for more than half a century, rv. But since you selectively disregard the thoughtful disciplined work of those men (which by the way, share your view of reality) please please please do expound. The definition of the word "expound" is as follows:
Definition of expound transitive verb 1 a: to set forth: state, b: to defend with argument 2 to explain by setting forth in careful and often elaborate detail.
What are the physical conditions by which evolution can occur, rv? As you admonish others to come up to your level of understanding, I am wondering if you have any idea whatsoever? Do you? Upright BiPed
Joshua G, "The scientific community continues to wrestle with the deep and fundamental questions:" You then go on with the usual list of origins questions. However only certain, clear, and specific areas of science research are interested in these questions. Astro-Physicists attempt the universe origins question. Your next four areas of investigation are predictably specifically ID concerned; I suppose Univers origins could also be included, but it is specifically in the physicist's purview. You do realise Joshua G. that the overwhelming majority of Evolutionary Biologists are concerned only with the clear and obvious interconnection of life: single cell to multi-cellular; fish to amphibian; reptile to bird and mammal? You do understand that these investigations are seperate from your 'origins' questions? Darwin himself made no effort to answer the, 'how did we begin?' question, and confined himself to the 'how did we evolve, and what are life's relationships?', questions. Your conflation of origins, and evolution is an oft used ID non-problem. I will say however, that answers as to what the first cell looked like, and how it came to be, and how it evolved the organelles necessary to the kick starting of evolution, are becoming more evident as research continues. Rather than go off into the world of the spiritual, and esoteric, I strongly suggest you bring yourself up todate with this fascinating research; it is a field gaining in remarkable and convincing scenarios; there are many theories, each very plausible. rvb8
Tommy Hall, it must be terrible to be so oppressed. To be constantly threatened, harassed, and subject to multiple attempts to destroy you. Sounds intense! You're doing it hard! BTW, where did you get the idea that "leftist Darwinists" hate walls? Pindi
Thank you for your considered comments, Silver Asiatic. The complaint that I'm getting from you, Harry, and BA77 is roughly the same, so this is in response to all of you. I recognise the point about me omitting stronger theological reasons for seeing this as a matter of ultimate value. However, this omission was deliberate. The reason why I didn't emphasise this point is that in this blog I'm writing for Christian and non-Christian readers. This isn't a Christian apologetics blog. Given that fact, I'm steering away from the more theological and metaphysical implications in order to focus on ID as a 'big tent' scientific theory. That's not to say that the broader implications aren't important and in fact I have another blog where I do intend to wrestle with more theological ideas and the wider implications of ID. As for me giving too much deference to atheism, I don't see it that way. I didn't even mention atheism once because it is irrelevant to the points I made. Perhaps it's because I didn't come right out and refute that point of view or say why design is best explained by the Christian God, but again I'm not interested in going down that road (on this blog at least). Not explicitly arguing against atheism is not the same of giving it deference. Further, you claim that I seem to take a non-committal stance to ID, but that is not the case. My point in talking about the implications either way was not to say both positions are equivalent. It was to argue that, whatever side of the debate you happen to fall on, the consequences are of vital importance. In any case, as you noted, I did point out, in quoting Stephen Meyer, that it does have implications for materialism and our worldview. Ultimately, your reservations about me not making explicit theological arguments stem from a misunderstanding about what the post was aiming to do. It wasn't a 'Christianity is true and you should be interested in ID because you are denying God's existence'. It was more to appeal to a broader audience (not to pander to atheism), and argue why this issue matters regardless of worldview or whether or not you accept ID. My aim was to encourage people who tire of stale 'creation vs evolution' debates or people who haven't thought hard about this subject before. Having said all this, I'm grateful for your comments and interest and thanks for the encouragement. More to come soon :) Joshua Joshua G
TH @ 11: Well said. Truth Will Set You Free
Gotta love leftist Darwinists. They claim to hate walls that keep people out, but look at the scientific community; they've constructed a virtual wall in every field of science and medicine to keep out any dissenting voices. They are the true bigots in society. They're basically information bigots who threaten, harass, and attempt to destroy anyone who presents information or evidence that doesn't jive with their worldview or paradigm tommy hall
Joshua G @8,
... the origins issue doesn’t get us to atheism or theism.
That is where we really disagree! ;o) Our ultimate origin and the origin of everything else is either in God or it isn't. Let's not depart from basic logic in this discussion. harry
Silver Asiatic @7, An excellent analysis! harry
Harry @5, I didn't say that the origins issue is merely 'interesting', though that is one reason to think about this topic. I listed 4 additional reasons. As I point out in the article, the origins matter speaks to our worldview (and vice verse). However, I must disagree. Logically speaking, from a bottom up approach, the origins issue doesn't get us to atheism or theism. Only in conjunction with other, non-scientific principles, can it get us to such a place. It gets us closer to that issue, but only takes us so far. Joshua G
Joshua I took time to read your essay a second time after reading Harry's critique - I wondered what I missed because I didn't see the atheism the first time. I thought the OP was good but I didn't pay enough attention the first time. On the second reading, I understood harry's point. I can see what he meant - you really gave a lot of deference to the atheistic point of view, without saying that. The point here is why the question of origins really matters. The answer to that needs to be compelling -- and I think you missed the absolutely essential reason. You pointed to historical interest. But that's just what people of ancient times believed - does it really matter? Well, you didn't explain the consequences. Then, science is fun so we can study more. It's interdisciplinary, so we can include origins. But again, these are non-essential. What are the consequences if we don't pursue those? You didn't touch on that, but again it doesn't seem compelling. You came closer here:
If you believe life is a product of design, you will see humans and animals in a much different light. Likewise, if you think that life is purely the result of chance and necessity, that will make you see things differently too. Our beliefs about the nature of nature have huge consequences.
So the question of origins tells us about life, but here you offer equivalency. If you believe in design, you see things one way. If you believe in chance, you see things another way. I guess this is an appeal to those who don't have an opinion. But couldn't you have said also that "if you have no opinion then you'll see things differently also"? In other words, you seem non-committal to the ID view here. Finally, you offered this:
If you’re religious, you should be in awe of God’s creative genius and want to understand it in some measure. I use the word should very deliberately because theologically, I think Christians have a moral and intellectual obligation to at least reflect deeply upon these matters. If you’re not religious, you may think that perhaps its not as much as an objective intellectual obligation, but rather more an expression of human rationality and curiosity.
When you refer to the religious, you're speaking to those who already have an interest in the ID question from an understanding of God. And yes, your stronger words here are what we're looking for. It's a moral and intellectual obligation. However, it's not reserved just for the religious. If you're not religious - you also have this obligation. It's a question of pursuing the truth about things and not living in illusion or lies. We have an obligation to live with meaning and value. So finally, I think you missed the very key point, and BA77 touched on it also. If design exists, then there is a designer. That's why the study of origins really matters. If there is a designer, then everyone - every atheist - has the obligation to come to an understanding of God. It doesn't mean you have to believe that God is the designer, but knowing that there is a designer, it's necessary to recognize that God is the best candidate. To remain in ignorance of God and not to pursue an understanding of who God is, and not to search for revelations of God in various sources -- is to remain willfully ignorant of where the evidence has lead you. In any case, I admire your good work. I understand the culture in which you're working which is extremely hostile to these issues. Perhaps more, as you said, people get bored by the creation vs evolution arguments - so you're trying a different tactic. I think you have an admirable quality of reserve and understatement (British qualities that I am envious of) so you may have hesitated to be as blunt as Americans might expect. But in spite of that, I think that key point is essential: If design exists, then there is a designer. If a designer, then we really need to know about God. Silver Asiatic
as to "Why the Question of Biological Origins Really Matters" Because we, i.e. our material bodies, are all going to die and so knowing where life came from might be a good thing? bornagain77
Joshua G @3, Atheism or theism is at the heart of the question of origins. It is far more than just an interesting topic. It is indeed, as you said, "a matter of great significance." A matter of life and death for millions of innocent human beings, and a matter of the way each person will spend eternity. harry
I appreciate you took that time to read it, gpuccio. We are on the same page. I'll drink to that! Joshua G
Thanks for your thoughts Harry, but I'm not sure where you got the idea that I give atheism too much credence since I barely mention it in the article. Atheism has little to do with the points I outline. Joshua G
Joshua: "But in my view, there is another way of looking at these perennial questions. As I have tried to argue, there’s is much more to this topic than the often stale and unedifying “creation vs evolution” arguments. This is a rich and multifaceted dialogue, with many important implications. It’s also just tremendously fascinating." A very good conclusion! That's why we are here, I suppose, to engage in that "rich and multifaceted dialogue, with many important implications". I am truly fascinated by it. For me, it's not “creation vs evolution” at all. It's about our human search for truth, by science, and reason, and intuition, and philosophy, and all the possible instruments that can help us in that search. I really suffer when it seems that the dialogue seems to go back to a "us against you" pattern. Truth is for all, and of all. gpuccio
I read your blog article. I think you give atheism -- which, regarding the origin of the Universe and the life within it, are of the opinion that both are mindless accidents -- way too much credit, as though their world view is reasonable in some sense. It isn't. The discoveries of modern science have rendered atheism more irrational than ever before. Briefly, we now know the Universe -- time, space, matter and energy -- had a beginning. It is self-evident that that which begins to exist had a cause for its existence. The cause of the natural Universe could not have been anything natural because the natural Universe is what was brought into being. It must have had a cause that transcends time, space, matter and energy, i.e., a supernatural cause. Atheism's denial of this is simply irrational. For atheism, any suggestion that lifeless, dumb matter didn't mindlessly and accidentally assemble itself into that first self-replicating, single-celled life form, and didn't then mindlessly and accidentally transform itself into humanity, isn't science. Never mind that that notion is far more asinine than believing that self-replicating robotic equipment could come about mindlessly and accidentally. Don't think about that. Even though a simple, artistic etching on the archaeologist's clay pot is all the proof anyone needs to conclude that this is an artifact, not an accidental assemblage of matter, and a series of prime numbers received by SETI would be all the proof anyone needs that this received message was composed by intelligent beings, the discovery that life is ultra-sophisticated, digital-information based, self-replicating nanotechnology the functional complexity of which is light years beyond anything modern science knows how to build from scratch doesn't indicate anything except that a freakish mindless accident took place -- at least according to science perverted by atheism. Atheism's irrationality isn't just laughable absurdity, though. There is a deadly serious side to it. If atheism is true, and humanity is no more than some matter accidentally vomited forth by mindless, purposeless, natural processes that didn't have us in mind, and that suffers from the delusion that it has a free will, then there not only is nothing wrong with the "legalization" of the killing of all those not in power by those who are in power, there are no such things as justice and morality; it is all a matter of the survival of the fittest. Nobody owes anybody anything. The powerful use the less powerful while they serve their purposes, and then the powerful might as well kill them. On the other hand, if humanity was brought into being purposefully by God, and our free will is very real, then there can be such things as justice and morality. Life can have meaning: we have an ultimate destiny God intended for us, although through the misuse of our truly free will we can deprive ourselves of that happy destiny. So how we treat each other makes a difference. It is no coincidence that every regime in modern history that has been hostile to theism also murdered innocent humanity by the millions themselves or "legalized" others doing so. So, yeah, the questions of origins really matters. So much so that the rise of a militant theism is desperately needed in our times. harry

Leave a Reply