8. Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of the double helix structure of DNA, wrote in 1988: “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved.” On page one of “The Blind Watchmaker” (1986) Richard Dawkins writes: “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose”.
a) If living things look designed–if the empirical evidence suggests purpose–then how do evolutionists know they weren’t designed? b) What is the criteria for “apparent” design?
On Sept. 29, 2009 Richard Dawkins was a guest on CBC’s The Hour. (Watch the interview here.) The host, George Stroumboulopoulos, asked Dawkins: “What is one single thing that you can say that definitively proves that evolution is a fact?”
Dawkins’ response: “Comparing the genes molecularly across all animals and plants. It falls on a precise hierarchical pattern, which is obviously best interpreted as a family tree, and this becomes possible–becomes quantitatively possible–because all living creatures have the same genetic code, which means you have literally reams and reams of textual information, just like a book, in every cell of every body, of every creature, and every plant in the world.”
So…a pattern of highly organized textual information, comparable to books, is evidence there wasn’t any intelligent design involved?
Henry M. Morris wrote: “A number of evolutionists have even argued that DNA itself is evidence for evolution, since it is common to all organisms. More often is the argument used that similar DNA structures in two different organisms proves common evolutionary ancestry.”
“Neither argument is valid. There is no reason whatever why the Creator could not or would not use the same type of genetic code based on DNA for all His created life forms. This is evidence for intelligent design and creation, not evolution.”
David’s item 8 contains a number of statements and two questions. I will deal with the two questions first. Here’s question a):
If living things look designed–if the empirical evidence suggests purpose–then how do evolutionists know they weren’t designed?
This question should not be, “How do evolutionists know they weren’t designed?” but rather “How does any thinking person know they weren’t designed?” A little explanation should clarify this.
First there’s the use of the term design. In all of human history, in the total of human knowledge, the only designing that is done is done by people and apparently by some fairly capable animals. Design by humans, we are familiar with. We also see beavers designing dams and communities with beaver lodges, and we see ants and wasps constructing elaborate nests. We see birds constructing nests with available materials.
We might agree that the beavers, insects and birds have this designing built into their brains at birth—encoded in their DNA. How did it get there? Scientists will say biological evolution. Creationists will say design by a third party. People obviously do original design. The human race was born stupid, lived in caves and crude huts, hunted and grubbed for roots to eat. Now we build computers and send rockets to other planets. In all this time nobody ever witnessed a magical hand coming out of the sky to touch the human brain. There is a more rational explanation for the origin of design. I have discussed this in a review of a creationist book in another post.
The short answer to David’s question a) is that design by a mythical being in the sky has never been observed, neither is it necessary.
David’s question b) is:
What is the criteria for “apparent” design?
After getting past the grammar in the above I would have to reply that the criteria for design would comprise various components of evidence, including:
- Some actual person was involved.
- This person was involved in an activity that we commonly refer to as design.
William Paley is noted for expounding on the idea of Intelligent Design over 200 years ago. His example was a pocket watch found in the wilderness somewhere. Would we guess it was designed? Of course we would, because we know of human activity that involves designing and constructing pocket watches.
A logical extension of that would be something like observing a honey bee with all its complex parts working together. Would we consider that to have been designed? No, because we don’t have any knowledge of somebody designing honey bees. Instead we observe a record in nature of living things, such as honey bees, developing from ancestral creatures, significantly different from them, yet at the same time giving the appearance of ancestry. Biological evolution is the more logical explanation for honey bees than design by a third party.
Neither argument is valid. There is no reason whatever why the Creator could not or would not use the same type of genetic code based on DNA for all His created life forms. This is evidence for intelligent design and creation, not evolution.
Henry Morris was evidently incorrect in believing this is a valid argument. The commonalities as well as the difference in the genomes of extant life forms argue strongly for the case of common descent. Unless Morris had the idea that the Creator used biological evolution to create today’s life forms, his argument doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Creationists have used the combination of differences and similarities in their arguments against common ancestry, apparently not realizing what this actually shows. Take the diagram below. I copied it from the creationist text Of Pandas and People, page 38.
A little explanation: Cytochrome C is a protein:
The cytochrome complex, or cyt c is a small hemeprotein found loosely associated with the inner membrane of the mitochondrion. It belongs to the cytochrome c family of proteins. Cytochrome c is a highly water soluble protein, unlike other cytochromes, with a solubility of about 100 g/L and is an essential component of the electron transport chain, where it carries one electron.
Cytochrome C is not the same in all living organisms. When we examine the sequences of the amino acids that make up cytochrome C we note some differences. As the chart shows, the modern horse is different from the modern carp at 13 locations. As I explained:
Please notice for yourself. All other vertebrates diverged from fish at the time of the emergence of amphibians (the frog), and all show about the same molecular differences from the carp (a fish). Quickly, before your lose consciousness from all this BS, please go back to Table 1 and see for yourself.
The carp is a fish, and it differs from other fish, lamprey, dogfish and tuna by 12, 14 and 8. Evaluate these differences in light of the fact that the carp is a boney fish with a jaw, like the tuna, and the dogfish is a kind of shark, a fish with cartilage instead of bone. Fish with jaws diverged from jawless fish a long time ago, and the carp is a jawed fish while the lamprey is a jawless fish. Assume the table is correct and see for yourself whether it correlates well with the hierarchy of life forms on this planet as explained by the modern theory of evolution.
What I find so amusing is that this argument involving molecular homology is the same one that young-Earth creationist Duane Gish used to make in his debates with scientists decades ago. Gish’s nonsense has been picked apart in public rebuttals all this time, and one debater used the term “bullfrog” instead of a similar word when the topic came up. I even published a review in the July 1998 issue of The North Texas Skeptic. There is more in the October 2001 issue.
Of course, protein sequencing is not exactly DNA sequencing. However, the DNA sequence in the genome of an organism determines the amino acid sequence in the protein produced. Protein sequencing is a reflection of the genome. Real scientists, not creationists, continue to work through the interconnections among currently living organisms, and none of their findings have ever contradicted common ancestry. Readers are invited to read the abundant literature on the Internet. Apparently the creationists do not.
My next post in this series will cover David’s item 10. Keep reading. And may Jesus have mercy on your soul.