Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Evolution: A Theory in Crisis

Michael Denton's book, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis, is yet another book that fits into the Intelligent Design category of thought.  It is a very profitable read to the extent that it gives the reader the opportunity to consider the theory of evolution without the dogma of a Richard Dawkins who pontificates:

"Today the theory of evolution is about as much open to doubt as the theory that the earth goes round the sun..."  Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, p. 1.

What seems to be lacking within the scientific community today is any willingness to debate and contest even the most primitive assumptions of Darwinism.  The prevailing expectation among far too many today is that one must never question the majority view, or else they will be punished with childish ridicule, and thus suffer condemnation from those who pride themselves to be "scientists."  This point is easily verified by just reading the critiques and comments that are often found lurking around much of the Creationist and ID literature.  But works like Denton's should be read, understanding that he lies somewhere between the views of naturalistic evolution and Creationism.  It is apparent in his book that he too is frustrated by the dogmatism of men like Dawkins who would cease all discussions about evolution - simply because Mr. Dawkins said so - and those who disobey will be subject to an inquisition by the new majority:

"The lack of any scientifically acceptable competitor leaves evolutionary biology in a state of crisis analogous to the crisis in medieval astronomy when, although the Ptolemaic system was admitted to be a monstrosity, the lack of any conceivable alternative imprisoned the science for centuries within the same circle of belief (p. 357)...that [Darwinian theory] is neither fully plausible, nor comprehensive, is deeply troubling.  One might have expected that a theory of such cardinal importance, a theory that literally changed the world, would have been something more than metaphysics, something more than a myth." p. 358.

In saying this, Denton does not deny evolution in all its facets.  In fact it is important to note here that most (if not all) Creationists accept the concept of the special theory of evolution (microevolution).  The real problem lies within the realm of the general theory:

"For Darwin, all evolution was merely an extension of microevolutionary processes.  Yet, despite the success of his special theory, despite the reality of microevolution, not all biologists have shared Darwin's confidence and accepted that the major divisions in nature could have been crossed by the same simple sorts of processes."  p. 86.

What Denton is clearly denying is the notion that Darwinism necessarily suffices for all of the facets of the general theory (macroevolution).  Denton advances several arguments in order to expose Darwin's general theory as mere metaphysics.  As evidence of the many problems which plague Darwinism, he discusses the typology of nature (see page 117), incongruities in the fossil record (see chapter 8), complexities relating to the soft anatomy of supposed transitional forms (see p. 177), flight as the product of macroevolution (see chapter 9), the enigma which molecular biology presents to Darwinism (see chapter 11) and in the last few chapters, Denton reveals the fantastic notion of the spontaneous generation of life from an abiotic environment:

"...the possibility of life arising suddenly on earth by chance - is infinitely small.  To get a cell by chance would require at least one hundred functional proteins to appear simultaneously in one place.  That is one hundred simultaneous events each of an independent probability which could hardly be more than 10(-20), giving a maximum combined probability of 10(-2000).  Recently, Hoyle and Wickramasinghe in Evolution in Space provided a similar estimate of...'10(40,000) an outrageously small probability...'"  pp. 323-24.

In view of such odds, Denton then says:

"The Darwinian claim that all the adaptive design of nature has resulted from a random search, a mechanism unable to find the best solution in a game of checkers, is one of the the most daring claims in the history of science.  But it is also one of the least substantiated.  No evolutionary biologist has ever produced any quantitive proof that the designs of nature are in fact within the reach of chance.  There is not the slightest justification for claiming, as did Richard Dawkins recently:  '...Charles Darwin showed how it is possible for blind physical forces to mimic the effects of conscious design, and, by operating as a cumulative filter for chance variations, to lead eventually to organized and adaptive complexity, to mosquitoes and mammoths, to humans and therefore, indirectly, to books and computers.'"p. 324.

Denton's work is quite excellent, and I commend it to you for careful study and consideration.  If you are a dyed in the wool general theory Darwinist - then read this book in order to broaden the spectrum of your analysis of the subject.  As a former atheist and evolutionist, I can assure you that you won't be exposed to any of Denton's important questions within the spectrum of the standard texts on evolution today.  If you are a Christian, I would encourage you to read this work, but do remember that ID books are not a defense of biblical creationism - they are secular critiques of Darwinism.   But the critique is quite clear - Darwinism is more than a scientific hypothesis, as it was in Darwin's day. Now it has become an organized and mostly unchallenged religion. 

(Amazon Review)