Evolution or Intelligent Design?

(Phil) #1

Ran across this book review this morning. Interesting read:

An excerpt from the review:
" Lents makes it clear that the design of the human body is not “intelligent” but is full of errors produced by the constraints and accidents of evolution. Nevertheless, we manage quite well. Our imperfections are a testament to the greatness of our species because we are so good at getting around them."

No real new ground, but it seems to put a lot a information together in a way that those of us who are not professional scientists can understand.


I and many others find that argument to be too subjective. What is intelligent or non-intelligent is in the eye of the beholder. A better way to approach these observations is to recognize why it looks like a product of evolution. This leads to the question of why intelligent design would look like something evolution would produce.

For example, we could argue back and forth about the wisdom of a forward or backwards facing retina. However, the larger point is that each type of retina is restricted to different lineages. Everything with vertebrae has a backwards facing retina. If “created kinds” were separately created it makes no sense to restrict adaptations based on other body features that don’t impact each other. A designer could give a species a forward facing retina and vertebrae, so there is no expectation that completely unrelated body parts would always be found together. The only process where we would expect this type of pattern is evolution.

(Phil) #3

Good point, and one that I am sure the ID adherents will cling to. In reading the full review, the shear number of systems that are cobbled together to make us work makes you think.


I agree. I tend to think of it more as being historically contingent. In other words, evolution works with what it has, and what evolves is dependent on what was found in the ancestral populations. This is why you find different adaptations in different lineages for the same function (e.g. the vertebrate and cephalopod eye). On top of that, evolution can only “see” fitness, so you often end up with convoluted and “cobbled together” adaptations.

(Randy) #5

I like @jpm’s simile in the past to a cigarette lighter–our cars have them still, fashioned in that shape, but nearly no one uses it for that reason any more.

is that was Chris was referring to with regard to pseudogenes–they could sometimes have a function as a spacer or in epigenetic expression, but don’t transcribe?


Right alongside of those power outlets are USB ports which were pulled from other designs. USB slots weren’t restricted to computers just because they started out on computers. This is an example of how designers can mix and match parts from different designs.

Spacers do not have sequence specific function, so they would not be considered functional.

As to epigenetics, I don’t think this would be the case. In my experience, the CpG islands associated with epigenetic gene regulation are located near the transcription start site of the gene they are controlling, not far away in a different gene. More importantly, if the promoter for a pseudogene drove the transcription of genes further downstream then we would expect to see sequence conservation in the promoter region. The rest of the sequence in the pseudogene wouldn’t matter and would not be considered functional.

(Randy) #7

Thanks. That helps. In any case, any function would not indicate it was not a “ruin” or an altered gene which used to have an old function–the old structure would still indicate what it used to be.

(Mark D.) #8

Or perhaps the mechanisms of evolution permit an amazing number of systems to become cobbled together with no thinking required at all, leastwise no poor deity is saddled with counting out the necessary atoms. :wink:

(Haywood Clark) #9

I agree with your first statement and the question to which it leads. I also understand that for laypeople, we can only go through limited cases like the retina.

That being said, it is hard to explain the totality of what practicing biologists observe to laypeople.

The systems we study–particularly given the problems we encounter in studying them–are clearly the products of a highly iterative process, which is not what any of us picture as springing from any sort of intelligence, unless said intelligence simply puts the iterative process in motion.


It is tough to communicate the science to the lay public, and this is why I think we need to focus on the idea of an iterative process instead of our subjective judgments of design. For example, the recurrent laryngeal nerve is a really fascinating feature, especially in giraffes where it travels for tens of feet to wrap around the aorta and then travel back up through the neck. The coolest part about the RLN is not our subjective judgements of how bad the design is. Rather, it’s the evolutionary history that it tells and how it relates to embryonic development.


In general, I think the lay public is much more interested in the evolutionary history of the RLN than arguing over its quality of design.

(George Brooks) #11


If I were spending more time here … I would launch myself into the good ol speel about uniting both Evolution and Design under a single scenario…

I still get “pinged” by skeptics who have heard about my Cosmic Ray scenario … where God could deliver any mutation he wanted for a species or breed, just by zapping the right cells… either in the sex organs or an adult, or the sex organs of an embryo!

Some people express disbelief that I could hold such a view. But more people express more keen disbelief if I even suggest that Adam isn’t real, isn’t historical, isn’t REALLY historical!

So I do continue to recommend that it is easier to simply short-circuit the opposition by saying: “Yes, of course, Design. God designs it all!” - - but ending the thought with: "But science will never be in a position to confirm or even detect the miraculous!"

Romans 5 is far more an impediment than whether or not God designs things…

(Phil) #12

In some respects, George, the poorly designed elements of the human body are a more damaging to a progressive creation view than an intelligent design view, as if design is combined with evolutionary change, as in your cosmic ray mechanism, then it is indistinguishable from evolution and would retain past design constraints. Progressive creation would have no such requirements to keep poor design in a de novo creation.

(George Brooks) #13


I think your paragraph makes a lot of sense! - - unless you are playing a trick on the ol’ Brooksy…

But yes, Progressive Creation has a clean slate every time God wants a new “type”, “kind” or “species”. So why does he pass on the flaws of an earlier model onto a brand new model?

In the world of car manufacturing, this happens when the manufacturer wants to incorporate parts of existing processes into the new model to save on costs… this logic doesn’t apply very well to blank-slate creation of life forms.

Thanks for the insight!


This would mean that God also designs new mutations that give children genetic diseases (e.g. hemophilia, retinoblastoma, muscular dystrophy).

(George Brooks) #15


Yes, it does. Why? As I’ve said many times before, ALL monotheist religions have this problem. And since you are an Atheist, Registered and Certfied, I don’t think you are in a position to appreciate this.

Let’s just say, Abrahamic religions were not constructed with disciplined theological consistency in mind. One part of the Old Testament clearly shows that the sins of the Father are visited upon the Children. And then another part clearly says that the sins of the Father shall NOT be visited upon the Children. Well? Which is it?

Many times I have pointed to the hardening of the Pharaoh’s heart; it is a powerful lesson, because it is discussed in Exodus … and it is discussed by Paul in Romans 9! And no matter how you look at it, whether you are a creationist or not, it’s just something you have to Live With:

[1] Pharaoh is just about to agree to Moses’ terms - - Hallelujah!

[2] But just in the nick of time, God stops him! - - Wha?

[3] He makes Pharaoh’s heart hard, so that he says NO! one last time. - - Uh oh

And why does God do this Wonderful <awful?> thing? So that God can show how powerful he is!

[4] God wipes out all of Egypt’s first born
(slaves, masters, royalty, peasants, and all the animals too!). - - Come on! No. He. didn’t!?

[5] Oh yes… he did. What’s more, he got the same sacrifice that Moloch would have insisted upon!
Did Moloch get the idea of taking the first born from Yahweh? - - Ugh… let’s change the subject.

(Phil) #16

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