Evolution - Intelligent Design - neo-Darwinian randomness Just Teach The Facts

In my opinion the proper approach to the Intelligent Design (ID) vs neo-Darwinian debate is to present the data and allow students to debate and draw their own conclusions. Students have brains. They do not need pre-digested conclusions. Those data would include vastly more information than the usual unending speculations of how a fish may or may not have become (evolved into) a frog. There are no absolute answers for this. Only highly charged opinions as to how to interpret the data.

But there are data about which both sides of the debate agree.

I urge that in presenting the ID vs neo-Darwinian debate we first focus on issues about which there is general agreement. Ironically, it is these uncontested data that are fundamental to resolving the entire debate.

We should first ask why is there existence, why is there a world within which this debate can occur?

The fact of existence is perhaps the strongest clue as to whether there is a non-material reality that has interacted with the material world. If the standard model of big bang cosmology is correct (and there are major pieces of data that support its validity) then there was a beginning to our magnificent universe. A non-material essence (call it metaphysical) gave rise to the material world. Since the entire ID debate centers on the possibility of the non-material (metaphysical, spiritual ?) interacting with the material, the significance of the big bang creation of our universe must not be brushed aside. It is a crucial piece of data to include in the discussion.

And then, existence having been brought into being, just what led to life? Most persons are unaware that the standard model for the big bang teaches that the initial creation did not bring forth solid matter as we know it. Not atoms and not subatomic particles. The first creation was energy fields, or in simple terms able to conceptualized, super powerful light beams. This was the only physical creation. And over eons of time those light beams metamorphosed into matter and life. Light beams became alive. They may have changed form, their basis has not changed. Just as water, though it looks and feels vastly different from the gases oxygen and hydrogen of which it is composed, remains oxygen and hydrogen. In parallel, all the material world we see about us, though it may appear differently, is ultimately built of the light of the big bang. That’s not new age guru talk. It is the proven reality of all existence. Light beams learned to live, to love, feel joy, become self aware, sentient. Have the students ponder the likelihood of this happening by chance or by design and we will move a long way toward resolving this conflict of mind or matter.

And then there is the uncontested reality that life started immediately on just-cooled earth and not after billions of years as had been once posited. Elso Barghoorn, while at Harvard University, discovered this fact that changed the entire emphasis in origin of life studies. Barghoorn discovered that the oldest rocks that can bear fossils already have fully formed fossils of one-celled life. And most amazingly, and yet by necessity, those first forms of life already had the ability to reproduce. Reproduction is not something that can gradually evolve. The first cell to survive had to have all the mechanisms for mitosis the first time around since all the attempts at life that came before (if there were other attempts) died without leaving any heritage simply because there was no succeeding generation prior to reproduction.

But think about this fact. Reproduction is purpose driven, the preservation of its kind. Life had purpose within it from its inception. Did the first bacterium “know” that it would die? Why would it “want” to reproduce? Reproduction increases competition for limited resources of food. So reproduction is counter-productive to the individual.

Eons later, the well-known Cambrian explosion of animal life brought “every body plan (phylum) into existence simultaneously” (Scientific American, May 1992, and many other scientific peer-reviewed publications since then). The tree of life has given way to the bush of life. The fossil record reveals that worms and mollusks and chordates (our phylum) and arthropods and etc etc all appear for the first time in the same strata of rock. But there is no explanation for how such divergent body designs (including those with limbs and mouths and eyes!) could have appeared simultaneously. The only fossils that pre-date this stratum have no appendages. Yet those are the data of the fossil record. No wonder Darwin in the Origin of Species urged his readers seven times over, that if you want to believe this theory, don’t look at the fossil record. Use your imagination. Darwin knew very well that the fossil record did not support his theory of gradualism, that “natura non facit saltum.” Yet the record is filled with ‘saltum.’ Niles Eldredge, curator at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City put it perfectly. “The fossil record that we were told to find [since Charles Darwin] does not exist.”

Based on my study and research experience at my alma mater, M.I.T., I certainly suggest teaching that life developed from the simple to the complex, and then present the data. We should as Darwin wrote “use our imagination.” Don’t argue about intelligent design or irreducible complexity. Just consider the overwhelming complexity we see all about us. It’s all made of the light of the big bang creation.

by  Dr. Gerald Schroeder
Posted in: Jewish Beliefs & Philosophy