Is Darwinism science -- or philosophy?
Question: On the idea of the origin of life from the very beginning… That’s one of the problems ..[unintelligible].. It’s difficult to understand at this point how life got established. But my question would be is that if it was organized , you know, self-organized by proteins or whatever, then the idea that it’s even self-organizing and that life from them on seemed to be self-organizing, you know, through random mutation, however you want to look at it, does not that sound very similar to design, or some form of hand involved in the original that allowed it to unfold?
Answer: Now, since he spoke from the back, I think everyone heard him, so I won’t repeat that.
The answer is Yes, it does. And in a way, the very use of the word “design” to label the current anti-evolution movement is a brilliant piece of public relations. And the reason for that is that any person who sees meaning and purpose and order to the universe — and I certainly do — in a sense believes in a kind of “design,” that things sort of make sense. Einstein told us that the most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it seems to be comprehensible, and that’s an extraordinary statement to make. So that’s a kind of “design.”
But the interesting thing is that in the context of the public debate in the United States today, what you described is actually not what is called “intelligent design,” and here’s the way in which I would put it. I, and I think all other evolutionists, would point to the fact that the capacity for life is inherent in matter. Matter is…. Life is a chemical and physical phenomenon. I think that the universe does have a “design,” and that the design is so grand that it makes the evolution of life not only possible but almost inevitable.
The ironic thing is that the proponents of intelligent design actually don’t think that. Because they don’t think that the universe is well enough designed to make the evolution of life inevitable. They think constant intervention on the part of the creator is required to bring about the first life, the first living cell, the first chordate, the first insect, the first bird. In other words, the designer or the creator had to keep tinkering with it. So, in away, In think most biologists look at the universe and have a grander appreciation for the orderliness of the universe based on what many of us regard as the almost inevitability of the evolution of living things.
Miller's above remarks are philosophical and not scientific. So one question is the following: If Darwinism is based on philosophy, then why should Miller's Darwinist philosophy be taught as scientific fact in the public schools while Michael Behe's philosophy of irreducible complexity is banned from mere mention in public schools on the grounds that it is just a fable inspired by religion?
While I am here, I would like to make a few responses to Ken Miller's above statements:
First, while it is true that the anti-Darwinism movement in often labeled "design," one of the reasons why I think that this label is unfortunate is that there are many criticisms of Darwinism that have little or nothing to do with "design." Such criticisms that I have presented in this blog concern co-evolution, the propagability of beneficial mutations in sexual reproduction, and chromosome counts. Also, the very term "design" has created problems because it implies the existence of a supernatural designer.
Miller said, "I, and I think all other evolutionists, would point to the fact that the capacity for life is inherent in matter." Well, duh. There are many elements and compounds that have properties that are virtually essential for the existence of life as we know it. For example, Wikipedia says the following about water's value to living things:
“From a biological standpoint, water has many distinct properties that are critical for the proliferation of life that set it apart from other substances. It carries out this role by allowing organic compounds to react in ways that ultimately allows replication. All known forms of life depend on water. Water is both vital as a solvent in which many of the bodies solutes dissolve, and an essential part of many metabolic processes within the body (e.g. significant quantities of water are used during the digestion of food).”
Water’s abilities as a solvent are so good that it has been called “the universal solvent.” Its good abilities as a solvent are related to the high polarity of the water molecule -- Wikipedia says, “Strongly polar compounds like inorganic salts (e.g. table salt) or sugars (e.g. sucrose) dissolve only in very polar solvents like water……” It was the belief that water exists on Mars (the “canals”) that led to speculation that life existed on Mars. Carbon and its compounds also have special properties that are virtually essential for life as we know it. There has been speculation about the possibility of living things that are not based on carbon compounds and water — see “Alternative Biochemistry” in Wikipedia – but there appear to be no really good substitutes for carbon compounds and water.
Miller's above statements are also discussed on Uncommon Descent and Panda's Thumb.
(I have introduced post "folding" on this blog -- called "expandable post summaries" by this blog service -- where only an introduction is shown on the main page. It was necessary to add software to my template. To add this feature to your Blogger.com blog, go to Blogger Help for instructions. Now if someone would just show me how to list the most recent comments posted anywhere on the blog. I have created a new blog just to experiment with new features so that I don't risk messing up this blog.)
Labels: Evolution controversy (4 of 4)