People have likely fought ideological battles since people could communicate with each other. We have grown in intellect, our knowledge of the world and made significant technological advances (though men accomplished things millennia ago that we still can’t understand), but has our nature changed much?
Ideological battles seem to be the basic stuff of which culture and society are made. At the lowest level, it’s “us against them”, and “we” protect our turf like our lives depend on it. We pick our turf, and we defend it: new against old; right against left; science against faith; and on and on.
These ideological battles can be, but don’t necessarily have to be, the stuff of racism, bias and ignorance. We need reference points and bases from which to operate and categorize and contextualize the world, but dogmatic, rigid adherence to our reference points block progress, even if we are “progressive”. The inability or unwillingness to remain open-minded limits our opportunities for advancement. Continue reading
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I recently read the book, Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer, a Cambridge University Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Science. The book uses Darwin’s acknowledgment that the Cambrian Explosion was a significant problem to his evolutionary theory of the origin of life as a springboard to explore in detail that problem which Meyer aptly names “Darwin’s doubt”.
I have summarized the first ten chapters of the book on a different Blog, Perspective, starting with a summary of the first four chapters of the book. If you want to read a summary description of the detail that Meyer explores without buying the book, though I strongly suggest buying the book if your are interested.
In this blog, I want to provide an overarching description of the basis for Intelligent Design, which is ultimately the theory that Meyer espouses. For Meyer, the key basis for Intelligent Design is 1) the argument from biological or genetic information and 2) the argument from physics or cosmology. Both arguments can be summed up in the statement that we live in a universe of irreducible complexity that could not have happened by chance or unguided “natural law”.
Meyer focuses on the biological argument, observing that, to build the complex biological machines that we see, there is a need for prior information, and any discussion of that complexity begs the question: where did that information necessary to build the protein parts out of which the complex structures are made come from in the first place? What cause is capable of generating that information? Meyer argues that we can use the same scientific method that Darwin used to infer that the cause had to be conscious mind or intelligence.
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As I work my way through Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer, the pace slows as we go from basic information, concepts and analyses to complex ones. In my first article, I covered four chapters dealing with the fossil record, the Cambrian explosion and addressing some conclusory solutions to the problem it poses to the theory of evolution. In my next two articles, I took on chapters 5 & 6 and chapters 7 & 8 dealing with more complex solutions that, in turn, expose more problems.
Over the course of those chapters, we traversed the fossil record and got progressively deeper into molecular and biological minutia. In Chapter 9, we stood back and looked at the forest in mathematical and probabilistic terms. The problems that we encountered at the microscopic level reveal problems of cosmic proportions as we examined the complexity of DNA and the plausibility of random mutations leading to functional results on which natural selection could work among the dizzying number of possible outcomes. In Chapter 10, we go back in to the deeper evaluation looking at genes and proteins.
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I am deep into the book, Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen C. Meyer, and chronicling my way through it. The title of the book comes from the problem that the Cambrian explosion posed, and still poses, to evolutionary theory. In the first article, the problem that first appears in the fossil record is explained. In the next article, some possible solutions to the problems are explored and discarded. In the third article, we begin to look to genes for possible solutions, and that sets the stage for this article.
The origin of the animals that appeared suddenly in the Cambrian period necessarily required vast amounts of new functional information. Where did it come from and how did it arise? The discovery of DNA as information retaining and building mechanisms seemed to present great hope for a solution, but that is not the story the history of exploring this solution tells. In fact, the study of DNA has only accentuated the problem.
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Attempts to explain away the problem of the Cambrian explosion have continued since Darwin fist recognized the issue. The Cambrian explosion, and the Precambrian mini explosion before it, pose a direct challenge to evolutionary theory because the life forms that appeared in those relatively shorts periods of time arose suddenly and without apparent ancestors, at least as revealed in the fossil record. That they appeared suddenly defies the evolutionary necessity of long periods of time of gradual evolutionary change. That they appeared without apparent prior ancestors, obviously, negates the idea of an evolutionary tree altogether.
Darwin assumed that subsequent discoveries would fill in the gaps. Subsequent archaeology, far from filling in the gaps, has only exposed the gap to be wider than first believed. The gap in the record before the Precambrian period and the much wider gap from the Precambrian period to the Cambrian remains. The “lost” intervening fossils have never been found and are not likely to be found; so, other explanations are needed to sustain Darwinian Theory.
That is the subject of chapters 7-8 of Stephen C. Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt. I lay out the basic problems in the first article in this blog series exploring chapters 1-4, and dig deeper into the problem Meyer explores in chapters 5 & 6 in a subsequent article. In this third article in the series, we dig deeper and wider still looking for possible solutions to the dilemma that still remains.