More Scientists Endorse <em>Darwin's Doubt</em>: Meet Biologist Mark C. Biedebach - Evolution News & Views

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More Scientists Endorse Darwin's Doubt: Meet Biologist Mark C. Biedebach

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Dr. Biedebach is Professor Emeritus, Department of Biological Sciences, California State University, Long Beach. He writes:

Stephen C. Meyer's Darwin's Doubt is a truly remarkable book. Tightly woven in its 413 pages of text are four interrelated arguments. With 753 references, he presents evidence of the serious weaknesses in materialistic theories of biological evolution, and positive evidence for the theory of intelligent design. What are those weaknesses?

First, according to Meyer, no neo-Darwinian (or other alternative materialistic) mechanism has any conceivable way to search the vast number of possible combinations of coded symbols that could generate the complex types of functional genes and proteins found in living organisms. Second, tightly integrated networks of genes, proteins and other complex molecules are required within (and even extending from) cells, which must arrive at the right place at the right time in an embryologically developing organism. For such processes to arise, a materialistic theory of evolution would require vastly more time than has passed on earth since life began.

Third, early-acting mutations that could possibly generate large-scale changes in an organism are invariably deleterious. Fourth, according to Meyer, neo-Darwinian evolution provides no imaginable way to generate (by random mutation) the quantity of epigenetic information that would be required to generate a new body plan.

The focus of Meyer's Part One (Chapters 1-7) is on the many thousands of fossils found in the geologically very short "Cambrian explosion" (530 to 525 million years ago). During this brief period, 16 new animal phyla and 30 new animal classes first appeared in the fossil record. (Only three animal phyla had previously existed in the Precambrian period.)

If one is to believe that each new phylum that suddenly appeared during the Cambrian explosion arrived by the process of neo-Darwinian evolution, then at least some transitional fossils (of the multitude that should have existed from the three Precambrian phyla) ought to have been found by now. According to Meyer, none have been found. Neo-Darwinian evolution works gradually over millions of years. It is a trial-and-error process of mutation and selection through which an organism must obtain and maintain a functional advantage through a series of incremental steps.

Meyer asserts that those who believe neo-Darwinian (or any other conceivable materialistic) processes provide a satisfactory explanation for the existence of life on earth must invariably resort to a metaphysical assertion known as methodological naturalism. This is the view that it is possible to explain all features and events that occur in the natural world by reference to exclusively natural causes. (This has sometimes been called "exclusionary methodological naturalism," because a purposive intelligence, mind, or conscious agency is excluded as a cause.)

But Meyer argues that to restrict methodological naturalism in such a way renders one blind to the possibility that intelligent design is the best, most causally adequate explanation for the origin of the new information necessary for new cellular network circuitry or a new body plan (whenever previous transitional fossils do not exist).

Meyer's attack is really against "macroevolution" (large scale population change). Michael Behe (in The Edge of Evolution) points out that there is abundant evidence for "microevolution" (smaller population change), but there is a boundary at which the evidence for microevolution stops and evidence for macroevolution either doesn't exist, or any clues that do exist are beset with problems so serious that explanatory attempts boil down to "just-so-stories." This leaves macroevolution sitting atop a boundary (or wall) with an outlook no better that that of Humpty Dumpty.


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