1. National Geographic News: “Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: 6 Bones of Contention

It’s the sort of headline that both excites us and worries us: will National Geographic News’s portrayal of “evolution vs. intelligent design” be fair and balanced?

“[T]he theory that new species can arise from old ones through natural selection is still met with some resistance,” the story begins (in understatement). The article then lists six major empirical disagreements between “evolution” and “intelligent design.” (That dichotomy is imperfect, however; many intelligent design advocates [IDers] still accept billions of years of evolution between the hypothesized instances of intelligent design.)

We were pleasantly surprised to see that National Geographic let each side (or, at least, one representative from each) speak for itself, although the evolutionary perspective was given the last word on each debate. On the whole, the six-page article gives not a bad overview of evolution versus bare-bones intelligent design—i.e., a view much more open-ended than young-earth creation.

Here is a summary of the six debates, along with intelligent design and evolutionary perspectives offered by the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin and Occidental College’s Don Prothero, respectively:

  • On the vertebrate eye, IDers note the multiple interacting parts and argue the parts would have to evolve simultaneously to produce a functioning eye. Evolutionists counter that eye could have begun as a simple “spot” that transformed in stepwise fashion into the modern eye.
  • For Luskin, the Cambrian explosion is about “abrupt explosions of mass biological diversity that required huge amounts of information be injected into the biosphere rapidly,” the opposite of Darwinian predictions. Prothero claims soft-bodied organisms from before the Cambrian reduce how “explosive” the event was.
  • IDers claim genes pack “complex specified information,” which can only come from an intelligence. For evolutionists, it’s natural selection to the rescue—starting with the most basic DNA fragment and ratcheting up the complexity over time.
  • Bacteria flagella, like eyes, are complex parts that IDers say reflect design, while evolutionists say they’re due to natural selection hard at work over millions of years.
  • Were whales once land mammals that adapted to an aquatic lifestyle? While Luskin points out problems for evolutionists such as whales’ long generation times, National Geographic News shows its colors and refers to “fossils of ‘archaic’ whales” (which are, of course, contested).
  • The anthropic principle, which posits that various universal constants and astronomical facts are “set” perfectly to enable human life, leaves Prothero with his least scientific response yet. “There’re lots of ways you can imagine a universe that is not finely tuned for us, but might be tuned for something else,” he says. National Geographic News fills in the idea of multiple universes, which physicists have resorted to in the face of arguments about astrophysical design. Of course, all of this is, as Prothero puts it, part of evolutionists’ imagination—taken on faith to protect the naturalistic enterprise.

For those familiar with the creation/evolution debate (including intelligent design perspectives), the back-and-forth is nothing new. We take the intelligent design side in each of the debates above, of course (minus some disagreement on the nature of the Cambrian explosion in the fossil record; we do not consider the fossil layers a continuous record of billions of years of earth history).

What is as important to us is what evolutionists cannot do (at least, not with scientific—as opposed to philosophical—arguments): they cannot show why intelligent design is inferior, as a belief, to evolution. That is, even if we agreed that natural selection was a plausible way to generate the complexity observed in life (and we don’t), such agreement does not reduce the plausibility of an intelligent creator. And evidence from the fossil record merely begs the question, since no fossil can prove either evolution or the lack thereof.

Most evolutionists (and many creationists, we’ll admit) fail to recognize that the debate isn’t ultimately about scientific evidence or interpretation. Instead, the creation/evolution controversy cuts much deeper, pitting two worldviews—one materialist, the other supernaturalist—against each other. For those of us who start with the Bible, the science isn’t where the big debate lies; it’s about God’s Word and its ultimate authority.

2. Live Science: “Bigger Brains Not Always Smarter

Small brains can do big things. Big brains can miss the obvious.

Diminutive insects have tiny brains in comparison to humans, but they can still perform complex feats, such as counting, categorizing, and differentiating between shapes. This led researchers in the latest issue of Current Biology to suggest that it’s not the size of the brain that determines intelligence.

Bigger animals, they argue, have bigger brains because there’s more to control:

they need to move bigger muscles and therefore need more and bigger nerves to move them, the authors say. But that may not equate to higher thought.

Looking through past research initiatives, Lars Chittka of the University of London and his team found many examples of insect intelligence. For instance, honeybees have a brain containing fewer than a million nerve cells—compared to 85 billion for humans—but the amazing pollinators have no trouble finding flowers or making honey.

We’d love to stop right there and marvel at the incredible design inherent in brains of all sizes. But the researchers—perhaps not impressed with what they found—decided to tack on a few materialistic claims:

The authors suggest that “advanced” thinking requires a very limited number of neurons. Computer modeling shows that even consciousness can be generated with tiny neural circuits, which could in theory easily fit into an insect brain, they write.

And there you have it. Slap a few neural circuits together and—voila!—consciousness. Computer modeling says so.

However, this hardly accords with reality. All the elements of life can exist in dead animals, for example—the atoms, the molecules, the biological systems. But just because those elements are there doesn’t mean the animal will spring back to life. There’s something missing beyond mere matter.

Materialists have no choice but to believe that consciousness comes from the brain, which is why they like to bluff about how easy it will be to create one day. The irony, of course, is that these are conscious, self-aware beings willing to deny their own consciousness in favor of a mechanistic universe.

Beyond this, brain size should never be the determining factor in how “smart” or “advanced” something is. Insects having complex reasoning shouldn’t surprise creationists in the least. After all, “advanced” is an evolutionary invention to arbitrarily separate “primitive” life or species from more recent ones—such as “primitive” humans in the past from “wise” humans now (the meaning of sapiens in Homo sapiens).

All life is complex—more complex than anything humans can create. Sure, we can borrow ideas from what we find in nature and perhaps even one day “create” semi-homemade life using cobbled-together parts. But consciousness and life are gifts from a Being far beyond our ability to comprehend. He took great care in designing even the smallest brain to do amazing things.

Materialists would do well to use the one He gave them to see the evidence all around them.

For more information:

3. National Geographic News: “Future Humans: Four Ways We May, or May Not, Evolve

Slow science news week? Try some science fiction instead.

Although we often have the urge to parody evolutionary suppositions, there’s really no need. Evolutionists provide the best self-parodies of their own worldview—rife with self-refutations and bombastic claims.

This week’s example comes from National Geographic News, which wonders what the future of human evolution will be. The four answers—or non-answers—they provide are perhaps more revealing than they intended.

  1. “Human Evolution Is Dead”: Just because we humans got to where we are because of natural selection and mutations—and we have, lest you should doubt (note that emphasis means it must be true)—that doesn’t mean we will continue to do so. Humans travel too much and have overcome “survival of the fittest” because of advances in medical care. Poor evolution can’t keep up. But remember: not happening now means it did happen in the past.
  2. “Humans Will Continue to Evolve”: Sexual selection is alive and kicking, say other evolutionists. As technology advances, intelligence is of utmost importance in becoming a master of the machines. Those with a higher IQ will achieve more success and pass on their genetic information. Couple that with designer babies and genetic manipulation, and Darwin’s idea could kick into high gear to produce a race of perfectly proportioned, muscular, intelligent, energetic people with a strong immune system. (Any similarities to Hitler’s vision of a super race are purely coincidental.)
  3. “Humans to Achieve Electronic Immortality”: Forget designing your own children. Why not just become immortal in cyberspace? The real future of human evolution involves copying your brain atom by atom and uploading it to a computer. Blue screens of death would never be so literal.
  4. “New Era of Evolution Awaits on Off-World Colonies?”: According to evolutionary time scales, humans were isolated for 30,000 years in remote places, including Australia and Papua New Guinea. And nothing happened—except that humans continued to be humans. How disappointing. But fret not; one day humans may colonize distant worlds (if they can fend off all that life that sprouts at the first sign of water). If 30,000 inflated years couldn’t make a new species of humans appear, 60,000 years on another planet should do the trick.

Perhaps our comments are a bit pointed, but we do so only because evolutionists don’t seem to listen to themselves when they make such claims.

If nature is all there is (as these “visions” seem to suggest), then the only hope one can have is in the nebulous “future.” Death is final, after all. Life is meaningless beyond reproduction and helping others live longer to ensure the continuity of the species (i.e., your genes). That’s it. Hope is meaningless if we’re nothing more than bags of carbon and water.

When all people have is the “future” to hang on to, they produce ideas about how the future will be better, how humans will be better. The first prediction’s dour tone suggests the “show’s over,” but it’s quickly drowned out by the optimistic claims that humans will spread throughout the universe or live forever or become superhuman because evolution is our savior.

In truth, the human condition is much more dire than any of these predictions suppose. We will never become better on our own: our genome is degrading; our bodies are dying; and our souls are polluted by sin. No technology or hoped-for escape can ever fix that.

The real “evolution” we need is for Christ to restore us, to make us right with our Creator. Then we have a real future: we’ll live with Him forever in a new heavens and a new earth.

4. The Guardian: “Face to Faith

A Guardian columnist turned her crosshairs toward the Creation Museum this past week. Are her criticisms anything new?

Judith Maltby visited our Creation Museum recently, and she begins her Guardian column by claiming the museum’s mission is “not only to prove the veracity of a literal reading of Genesis but also to present Darwinism as one the most dangerous and corrupting ideologies yet known to humankind.” Maltby continues:

The museum is really the Museum of Biblical Literalism: Darwinism is responsible for war, drug abuse, societal breakdown and racism. . . . But the existence of all these evils, including slavery, before the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859 is strangely absent from the analysis.

We might call this misunderstanding number one. Maltby is right that the existence of societal evils before Darwin disproves the claim that evolutionary beliefs are the cause of societal evils. But that’s not what we argue. Rather, we point out that evolutionary beliefs erode the foundation for morality, and thus erode society’s way of ruling such behaviors as objectively wrong. Social ills have been around since Cain killed Abel; but the church had the moral authority to call them what they are until it accepted (by and large) Darwinian ideas about life’s origin. Ken Ham makes this clear in Chapter 4: The Human Kind of Darwin’s Plantation [now printed under the title One Race One Blood]:

Now, don’t get the idea that evolution is the cause of racism. Sin is the cause of racism. But Darwinian evolution fueled a particular form of racism by giving individuals and the masses a scientific excuse to pursue this godless philosophy by using evolution as justification for discrimination, abuse, and even mass genocide.

The same logic applies to “war, drug abuse, [and] societal breakdown,” of course.

At a few points, it’s difficult to determine if Maltby is being sarcastic, if she misunderstands our points, or if she simply assumes all readers already agree with her. For example, she writes, “The point at which we . . . needed a cup of tea was the short film explaining how legends such as Saint George and the dragon might well be a fragment of collective human memory of dinosaurs, since the flood was less than 4,000 years ago.” We take it that Maltby found this film unconvincing, though she dismisses the St. George argument without reason.

Maltby’s attempts a coup de grâce by offering her “real challenge to biblical literalism and fundamentalism,” apparently thinking young-earth creationists haven’t faced up to this attack before:

The first two chapters of Genesis contain two creation stories, not one. In Genesis 12:3, the earth, the plants, the animals and the first two human beings ("male and female he created them in his own image and likeness") are created in that order. In the rest of Genesis 2, Adam is made first, then all plants and animals, and then Eve. Awkward.

This isn’t a topic presented in the Creation Museum precisely because it isn’t a troubling issue (as Maltby suggests). Rather, it’s a simple mistranslation.

Maltby’s response to our museum is especially frustrating given that she is a chaplain. We wonder, though, if many theistic evolutionists’ familiarity with young-earth creation is equally incomplete. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to fit every young-earth creationist argument, counter-argument, counter-counter-argument, and so on in a museum (especially one designed to be interactive, to-the-point, and focused on evangelism). Rather, our website is the repository of argument, counter-argument, and beyond!

5. Time: “The Dark Side of Darwin’s Legacy

Are creationists the only ones pointing out the “dark side” (the perturbing implications) of Darwin’s view on life’s origins?

Time magazine’s Eben Harrell spoke with journalist Dennis Sewell, the author of The Political Gene: How Darwin’s Ideas Changed Politics who claims that “evolution is scientifically undeniable, but its contribution to human well-being is unclear.” That view is distinct enough from the evolutionary mainstream that we thought it worth a closer look.

Among Sewell’s interesting claims:

  • “Darwin was wrong about certain key issues. He asserted that different races of mankind had traveled different distances along the evolutionary path—white Caucasians were at the top of the racial hierarchy, while black and brown people ranked below. . . . [H]e presented racial hierarchy as a matter of science. He also held that the poor were genetically second-rate—which inspired eugenics.”
  • “[School shooter] Pekka-Eric Auvinen . . . thought through the philosophical implications of Darwin’s work and came to the conclusion that human life is like every other type of animal life: it has no extraordinary value. The Columbine killers made similar arguments. . . . These are examples of how easily Darwin’s writings can lead to very disturbed ways of thinking.”
  • “What has the theory of evolution done for the practical benefit of humanity? It’s helped our understanding of ourselves, yet compared to, say, the discovery of penicillin or the invention of the World Wide Web, I wonder why Darwin occupies this position at the pinnacle of esteem. I can only imagine he has been put there by a vast public relations exercise.”

Sewell’s comments are surprisingly frank considering the usual praise evolutionists heap on Darwin. Indeed, his comments mirror much of what we have written about the consequences of a Darwinian mentality on life.

Sadly, Sewell, while comprehending the moral erosion made possible by Darwin’s ideas, seems unsure of where our morality should come from. “I think we have to decide what status we are going to give to the human race,” Sewell offers. “Most of the world’s religions hold that human life is sacred and special in some way. In teaching our common descent with animals, we also have to examine what is special about human beings, and why they deserve to be treated differently and granted certain rights.”

This week saw increased media coverage of Darwin because it was the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species. To mark the event, New Scientist obtained an “interview” with Darwin. While clearly intended as humor, the interview does deal with numerous topics we’ve addressed before (many times, in the case of most).

6. And Don’t Miss . . .

  • Is the idea of global warming a conspiracy? Emails illegally accessed contain comments that, critics argue, expose global warming as manipulated science. (See more coverage from The Telegraph.) For a biblical perspective on global warming, start with Global Warming in Perspective and Global Warming: A Scientific and Biblical Expose of Climate Change; then continue to our other resources.
  • We frequently report on progress researchers are making obtaining stem cells from sources other than human embryos (which are destroyed in the process). A team at Children’s Hospital Boston has developed a new technique that improves the process of creating stem cells from adult cells—further weakening arguments for embryonic stem cell research.
  • Advocates of euthanasia rights may be inclined to rethink their views after reading of the research of neurologist Steven Laureys, who helped Rom Houben escape (in some ways) a 23-year-long, misdiagnosed “coma.”
  • A reader let us know about the upcoming Global Witnessing Challenge—upcoming in several months, that is—and we pledged to pass a link along. The challenge fits in well with the mission of Answers in Genesis, which includes “obey[ing] God’s call to deliver the message of the gospel, individually and collectively.”
  • Is evangelist (and creationist) Ray Comfort an idiot, as Richard Dawkins claims (in a brief yet sprawling interview)? We’ll leave that for you to decide (you can guess our view), but what seems clear is that the comment was yet another example of unbecoming language from a “public intellectual.”
  • The Large Hadron Collider has been back at work for a week now after more than a year on hiatus. We profiled the device—which is designed to reproduce the big bang on a smaller scale—in A Miniature Big Bang or More Hot Air?
  • We were happy to see that Baptist Press ran a piece authored by Ken Ham to mark the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

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