Three days ago, I posted a 123-word critique of unguided mechanisms for evolution as an explanation for the genes, proteins and different kinds of body plans found in living things. The critique was taken from Dr. Stephen C. Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt (Harper One, 2013), and I invited skeptics to rebut Dr. Meyer’s case, in 200 words or less. When I didn’t get a satisfactory rebuttal, I re-posted it. The critique read as follows:
“This book has presented four separate scientific critiques demonstrating the inadequacy of the neo-Darwinian mechanism, the mechanism that Dawkins assumes can produce the appearance of design without intelligent guidance. It has shown that the neo-Darwinian mechanism fails to account for the origin of genetic information because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functional genes and proteins and, consequently, (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes, are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information necessary to build a body plan.” (2013, pp. 410-411)
In response to an objection from ID skeptic Mark Frank, who wrote that Dr. Meyer “explains perceived weaknesses in his understanding of evolutionary theory but gives no reason why design is a better alternative,” I also quoted another short passage from Darwin’s Doubt, which made a positive case for Intelligent Design:
…[E]ach of the features of the Cambrian animals and the Cambrian fossil record that constitute negative clues – clues that render neo-Darwinism and other materialistic theories inadequate as causal explanations – also happen to be features of systems known from experience to have arisen as the result of intelligent activity. In other words, standard materialistic evolutionary theories have failed to identify an adequate mechanism or cause for precisely those attributes of living forms that we know from experience only intelligence – conscious rational activity – is capable of producing. That suggests, in accord with the method of historical scientific reasoning elucidated in the previous chapter, the possibility of making a strong historical inference to intelligent design as the best explanation for the origin of those attributes. (2013, p. 358)
While Mark Frank answered the first challenge I issued, he and other readers failed to address the second. So let me spell it out.
What I was looking for was a short scientific rebuttal of Dr. Meyer’s arguments, something along these lines (I’m making this stuff up):
Contrary to Dr. Meyer’s claim that the combinatorial sequence space for functional genes and proteins is too large to be searched within the time available, scientists have calculated that functional proteins as short as 50 amino acids could have been generated within the space of 100 million years on the primordial Earth, within proto-cells near hydrothermal vents, and they have recently created artificial life-forms requiring only short amino-acid chains. What’s more, it turns out that the pathways between various proteins domains were in fact much shorter than previously believed, making the origin of the various proteins found in organisms today from a much smaller subset mathematically plausible. Scientists have also created a workable model of a developmentally plastic genome in which early acting mutations are nowhere near as harmful as in modern organisms. Finally, cell biologists have recently sketched a plausible hypothesis as to how the epigenetic information in the cell may have arisen, step-by-step. (Insert references here.)
That is what a proper reply to an Intelligent Design argument looks like. Maybe we’ll see one, in a decade or two. Who knows? But I’m not holding my breath. The case for Intelligent Design is built on cutting-edge science. The case for life having arisen by an unguided natural process is built on conjectures and castles in the air. That’s why we call it “promissory materialism.”