The writings and theories proposed by Charles Darwin revolutionized how the world considered its existence.  For many, such as Richard Dawkins, Darwin’s teachings made it possible to be an “intellectually fulfilled atheist”[1] as the necessity of God was replaced by Natural Selection; the “blind, unconscious, automatic process” and “explanation for the existence and apparently purposeful form of all life”[2].  Furthermore, while Darwin’s teachings on the evolutionary processes of life and the resultant diversification and classes of species is considered theory, a substantial portion of the scientific and media establishments have adopted his teachings as “scientifically established beyond a reasonable doubt”[3].  Considering Darwinism is taught as the leading explanation for the existence of life in public school science curricula and its adoption by most major mainstream media establishments, it is important to explore supporting arguments for and against Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution to gain an understanding as to whether this theory is as “iron clad” and “beyond reasonable doubt” as it appears to be.

To exhaustively explore Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, including all of the arguments for and all of the counter arguments, is beyond the scope of this paper.  The purpose of this paper is to examine a specific component of his Theory of Evolution, Natural Selection, as it relates to the appearance of design in living organisms and how it attempts to provide a replacement for Creationism.  However, Natural Selection, as the explanation for the appearance of design and being a vital component of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution; does not account for several phenomena observed in nature and thus requires one to ask if there is a “genuine scientific alternative available to explain the origin, nature and development of life”.[4]  Intelligent Design provides a highly reasonable and genuine scientific alternative to Darwinism when considering the foundational importance of Natural Selection to the Theory of Evolution, the consequences that an irreducible complex system would have regarding Natural Selection, and evidence discovered regarding irreducible complexity in biological systems.

Natural Selection as the Blind Designer

According to Richard Dawkins, the eighteenth-century theologian William Paley articulated the most convincing and clearly stated explanation supporting an intelligent designer for the complexity of the living world, considering the available knowledge of his time.[5]  However, in light of Charles Darwin’s publishing of Origin of Species in 1859 and his discovery of Natural Selection, Darwinists would argue that, while William Paley’s argument is made with passionate sincerity, it is “wrong, gloriously and utterly wrong”.[6]

Natural Selection is the process in which evolution of a species occurs based on three necessary principles: variability, heredity, and the struggle for existence contained within all species.[7] In contrast to an intelligent designer, which has a purpose in its design, Natural Selection “has no mind and no mind’s eye, it has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all”.[8]  According to Stephen Jay Gould, Natural Selection, “in concert with random or undirected processes that generate variation, can produce something complex and new”.[9]  However, this is not to say that something complex and new came into existence through a random single act of chance.  As Dawkins explains, complicated things “come into existence as a consequence of gradual, cumulative, step-by-step transformations from simpler things, from primordial objects sufficiently simple to have come into being by chance”.[10] Dawkins further explains that living things are too improbable and complex to have come into existence by chance; thus necessitating the slow, gradual, step-by-step transformations from simple beginnings.[11] By understanding the foundational principles of Natural Selection, one can draw the conclusion that given enough opportunity, time and a delicate boot-strapping process consisting of coordinated and fine-grained chemical actions, complex structures, such as those found in organisms, can be generated and ordered.[12] To summarize the function of Natural Selection, it is stated that it acts as both a destructive and constructive process in evolution based on integrated and coherent purposefulness beneficial to the survival of a species in a given environment.[13]

As one might imagine, if life was in a continuous state of evolution through the process of Natural Selection, then we should be able to observe this phenomena occurring, or at the very least, receive indicators as to where it has occurred in nature.  Some of the most powerful indicators of the evidence of Natural Selection has to do with the imperfection of living things. As David Barash explains, “while natural selection regularly produces marvels of improbability, it is necessarily a blundering, imperfect, and tremendously unintelligent engineer, as compared to any purportedly omniscient and omnipotent creator”.[14]  One could infer from David Barash’s view that his argument would be:

  1. If an omnipotent, omniscient creator exists; then biological imperfections would not exist.
  2. Biological imperfections exist
  3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient creator does not exist[15]

Considering that premise 1 argues that if an all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-knowing (omniscient) creator existed, as recorded in the Christian Bible, then it would be reasonable to believe that biological imperfections would not exist.  For them to exist would mean that either the creator was not powerful enough to create a world free from biological imperfections, or the creator is not all-knowing because he/she does not maintain the knowledge to know how to do so.  David Barash goes one step further to conclude that, in addition to biological imperfections, he considers flaws to exist within the design.  As an example, he observes that when considering the human skeleton, designing the exit point for a fetus to consist of a route that passes through the narrow confines of the pelvic girdle is not only painful, but dangerous and sometimes lethal.[16]

For supporters of Darwinism, Natural Selection presents the best and most reasonable explanation for the appearance of design amongst living organisms.  It doesn’t require the existence of a designer and for the atheist, it provides a reason for rational unbelief in the claims of Creationism.  For Lee Strobel, a former atheist, Darwinism did not leave any meaningful role for God.[17]

Evidence for Intelligent Design

For many who have attended public schools, Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and the process of Natural Selection are considered the only intellectually acceptable explanations for the existence of the human species.  “Many textbooks present Darwinism as an alternative to a Christian account of nature. Skeptics and atheists have employed Darwinism for well over a hundred years as a defeater of Christianity and theism, since they claim that undirected evolution replaces design.”[18] Within the Darwinian establishments, “any challenges to Darwinism are considered to be religiously based and are, therefore, unscientific and irrational”.[19] However, there are numerous scientific gaps within Darwinism that require significant “leaps” of reason (aka faith) in order to reconcile its explanation of life when considering the evidence.  One specific topic that causes a challenge for Darwinism is irreducible complexity in biological systems. When considering the foundational importance of Natural Selection to the Theory of Evolution, the consequences that an irreducible complex system would have regarding Natural Selection and evidence discovered of irreducible complexity in biological systems; significant support of an Intelligent Design versus the blind design of Natural Selection becomes a viable alternative.

Before exploring the first topic for the support of Intelligent Design, it is important to quickly address the formal argument given in the previous section of this paper.  The argument that was formulated from the explanations in David Barash’s book Natural Selections: Selfish Altruists, Honest Liars, and Other Realities of Evolution was expressed as:

  1. If an omnipotent, omniscient creator exists; then biological imperfections would not exist.
  2. Biological Imperfections exist
  3. Therefore, an omnipotent, omniscient creator does not exist[20]

A quick examination of this argument would lead one to agree with premise 2 in that biological imperfections exist in our world today and thus needs no further explanation.  However, from a Christian worldview premise, one would argue this to be false in that there is an omnipotent, omniscient Creator and, in His original creation, there were no biological imperfections.  Through man departing from God’s perfect will and introducing sin into the world, God’s perfect creation became corrupt.  For the atheist, this argument will most likely not be accepted as it is based on religious presuppositions.  A better counter-argument, using the reasoning given by David Barash and removing any religious presuppositions, could resemble the following:

  1. If Natural Selection is a mathematically precise process responsible for all development of “optimal” structures and systems, then all developed biological structures and systems should be optimal
  2. All biological structures and systems are not optimal
  3. Therefore, Natural Selection is not responsible for all development of biological structure and systems

While building formalized arguments help in simplifying the specific premises and conclusions, it is important to remember that very little of Darwinism is taught using formalized arguments, nor are any counter-arguments allowed into the public school systems for consideration.  One such argument that creates a problem for Darwinism is the irreducible complexity observed in many biological systems.

The entire foundation of Darwinism requires that evolution takes place over long periods of time through “numerous, successive and slight modifications” while Natural Selection works out its optimal design.  As Charles Darwin explained, Natural Selection is a “survival of the fittest” process “intently watching each slight alteration…each to be preserved until a better is produced, and then the old ones to be all destroyed”. [21] To put in simpler terms, Natural Selection makes an alteration, watches to make sure the alteration is beneficial to the species’ survival and if it is beneficial, Natural Selection preserves it until a better alteration is made.  If the alteration is not beneficial to the species’ survival or if a better alteration is made, it is destroyed.  This basic understanding and foundational principle of how Natural Selection works is arguably the structure on which the Darwinism “house of cards” is built.  Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between micro and macro evolution.  Microevolution consists of a biological species over time adapting to its environment and then passing those traits through genes to offspring.[22] In contrast, macroevolution says that the complex diversity of all living things in the world are the result of small, incremental and beneficial mutations over extraordinary long periods of time, are the result of one bacterial cell, and all living beings share this common ancestor through the unintelligent forces of Natural Selection.[23]

The problem caused for Darwinism by irreducible complexity is best explained through the words of Charles Darwin in his book On the Origin of Species.  He states “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down”.[24] Considering these statements by Charles Darwin as the existence of a system that is irreducibly complex would result in the breakdown of Darwinism.  Michael Behe, an American biochemist and author, explains irreducible complexity to mean a “single system which is composed of several interacting parts, and where the removal of any one of the parts causes the system to cease functioning”.[25] The existence of such a system would cause a significant contradiction to Darwinism in that any “precursor to an irreducibly complex system that is missing a part is by definition nonfunctional” and “since natural selection can only choose systems that are already working…it would have to arise as an integrated unit, in one fell swoop”.[26] Some of the more controversial Darwinism arguments would claim that Natural Selection has the ability to create, in the example of genes “working coherently towards the same cooperative ends”.[27] However, this causes a contradiction in light of an irreducibly complex system.  If Natural Selection is “the blind, unconscious, automatic process,” then the question begs asking what cooperative ends can genes conceive if the guiding process of Natural Selection “has no mind and no mind’s eye, it does not plan for the future, it has no vision, no foresight, no sight at all”.[28] For an irreducibly complex system to exist by way of Natural Selection, the process must make gradual modifications and creations of separate autonomous parts to create a complete system in which a larger function is performed.  However, Natural Selection has to do this with no plan for the future and any modification that is not considered to function properly is destroyed, yet a given part or modification won’t function properly until all of the other autonomous individual parts are created and those won’t work either without the first parts being created.  The logical result is an infinite loop of creation and destruction by a blind process that can never reach the conclusion of an operational system.  But, does such a system exist?

According to Charles Darwin, if “any complex organ existed,” it would cause the breakdown of his theory of evolution.  However, there are numerous biological systems that are considered to be irreducibly complex.  One specific system is explored by Michael Behe in which he provides examples of irreducible complex systems in the cell to include “aspects of protein transport, bacterial flagellum, Cilium, electron transport, telomeres, photosynthesis, and transcription regulation” along with many others.[29]

One easily recognizable system that is considered to be irreducibly complex is blood clotting.  Behe describes the entirety of the process in great detail in his chapter titled Evidence for Intelligent Design from Biochemistry.  However, the important point of his description is the amount of independent parts (aka proteins), the complexity of changing the state of these proteins and the cohesive interaction of these proteins individually working together in this one biological system.  Behe explains the extreme precision required for when a pressurized blood circulation system is punctured, then a clot must form quickly as to keep the organism from bleeding to death and it must seal the entirety of the wound completely.  Additionally, blood clotting must be confined to the cut because if the blood congeals at the wrong time or place, the clot may block circulation in a similar fashion to heart attacks and strokes. [30] Thus, clotting represents an entire system that is highly complex, requiring clots to form only when and where they are required.[31]

Clearly, Darwinists have a significant challenge when the founder of their Darwinian worldview sets parameters for how his own theory would “breakdown,” and yet those parameters exist on “virtually every page of a biochemistry textbook”.[32]  Understanding the importance of Natural Selection to the Theory of Evolution and considering the implications of irreducible complexity and the evidence of such systems is enough to discredit Darwinism alone.  However, it is not the only rational scientific argument against Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  Other arguments that are equally rational include the Teleological argument which speaks to the fine tuning of the universe out of all the possible configurations that could have existed in order to support the existence of life.  Additionally, William Dembski’s Information Theoretic Design argument shows evidence of an intelligent designer by examining “features of the natural world that exhibit evidence of purpose through the existence and attributes of an intelligent cause”.[33] In light of all that has been discussed in this paper, one might consider it highly disturbing that Darwinism is taught in public schools, starting at the Junior High level, as the very best explanation for life and the teaching of alternative, contradictory theories to Darwinism is prohibited on the grounds that any alternative explanation is seen as promoting a religious or theistic view.

[1] Dawkins, Richard. The Blind Watchmaker. New York: Norton, 1986. 6

[2] Ibid., 5

[3] Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011. 412

[4] Ibid., 461

[5] Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. 4

[6] Ibid., 5

[7] Godfrey-Smith, Peter. Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection. Oxford: OUP Oxford, 2009. 18

[8] Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. 5

[9] Godfrey-Smith, Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection. 43

[10] Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. 14

[11] Ibid., 43

[12] Godfrey-Smith, Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection. 44

[13] Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. 193

[14] Barash, David P. Natural Selections: Selfish Altruists, Honest Liars, and Other Realities of   Evolution. Vol. 1st edition. New York: Bellevue Literary Press, 2008. 17

[15] This formal argument was not created by David Barash nor was it in his book.  The argument was created for illustration purposes based on the interpretations of his writing.

[16] Barash, Natural Selections: Selfish Altruists, Honest Liars, and Other Realities of   Evolution. Vol. 1st edition. 18

[17] Strobel, Lee. The Case for a Creator. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004. 44

[18] Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. 422

[19] Ibid., 412

[20] This formal argument was not created by David Barash nor was it in his book.  The argument was created for illustration purposes based on the interpretations of his writing.

[21] Darwin, Charles. On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection. Vol. 6th ed. Auckland: The Floating Press, 2009. 311

[22] Beckwith, Francis J., Craig, William L., Moreland, J.P. To Everyone an Answer. Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2004. 400

[23] Ibid.

[24] Darwin, On the Origin of Species: By Means of Natural Selection. Vol. 6th ed. 311

[25] Sweis, Khaldoun A., Meister, Chad V. Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012 101

[26] Ibid.

[27] Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker. 193

[28] Ibid.

[29] Sweis & Meister, Christian Apologetics: An Anthology of Primary Sources. 103

[30] Ibid., 102

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., 103

[33] Beckwith, Craig, & Moreland, To Everyone an Answer. 77