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Us vs. Them?

on November 28, 2009
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National Geographic News: “Evolution vs. Intelligent Design: 6 Bones of ContentionIt’s the sort of headline that both excites us and worries us: will National Geographic News’s portrayal of “evolution vs. intelligent design” be fair and balanced?

The article then lists six major empirical disagreements between “evolution” and “intelligent design.”

“[T]he theory that new species can arise from old ones through natural selection is still met with some resistance,” the story begins (in understatement). The article then lists six major empirical disagreements between “evolution” and “intelligent design.” (That dichotomy is imperfect, however; many intelligent design advocates [IDers] still accept billions of years of evolution between the hypothesized instances of intelligent design.)

We were pleasantly surprised to see that National Geographic let each side (or, at least, one representative from each) speak for itself, although the evolutionary perspective was given the last word on each debate. On the whole, the six-page article gives not a bad overview of evolution versus bare-bones intelligent design—i.e., a view much more open-ended than young-earth creation.

Here is a summary of the six debates, along with intelligent design and evolutionary perspectives offered by the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin and Occidental College’s Don Prothero, respectively:

  • On the vertebrate eye, IDers note the multiple interacting parts and argue the parts would have to evolve simultaneously to produce a functioning eye. Evolutionists counter that eye could have begun as a simple “spot” that transformed in stepwise fashion into the modern eye.
  • For Luskin, the Cambrian explosion is about “abrupt explosions of mass biological diversity that required huge amounts of information be injected into the biosphere rapidly,” the opposite of Darwinian predictions. Prothero claims soft-bodied organisms from before the Cambrian reduce how “explosive” the event was.
  • IDers claim genes pack “complex specified information,” which can only come from an intelligence. For evolutionists, it’s natural selection to the rescue—starting with the most basic DNA fragment and ratcheting up the complexity over time.
  • Bacteria flagella, like eyes, are complex parts that IDers say reflect design, while evolutionists say they’re due to natural selection hard at work over millions of years.
  • Were whales once land mammals that adapted to an aquatic lifestyle? While Luskin points out problems for evolutionists such as whales’ long generation times, National Geographic News shows its colors and refers to “fossils of ‘archaic’ whales” (which are, of course, contested).
  • The anthropic principle, which posits that various universal constants and astronomical facts are “set” perfectly to enable human life, leaves Prothero with his least scientific response yet. “There’re lots of ways you can imagine a universe that is not finely tuned for us, but might be tuned for something else,” he says. National Geographic News fills in the idea of multiple universes, which physicists have resorted to in the face of arguments about astrophysical design. Of course, all of this is, as Prothero puts it, part of evolutionists’ imagination—taken on faith to protect the naturalistic enterprise.

For those familiar with the creation/evolution debate (including intelligent design perspectives), the back-and-forth is nothing new. We take the intelligent design side in each of the debates above, of course (minus some disagreement on the nature of the Cambrian explosion in the fossil record; we do not consider the fossil layers a continuous record of billions of years of earth history).

What is as important to us is what evolutionists cannot do (at least, not with scientific—as opposed to philosophical—arguments): they cannot show why intelligent design is inferior, as a belief, to evolution. That is, even if we agreed that natural selection was a plausible way to generate the complexity observed in life (and we don’t), such agreement does not reduce the plausibility of an intelligent creator. And evidence from the fossil record merely begs the question, since no fossil can prove either evolution or the lack thereof.

Most evolutionists (and many creationists, we’ll admit) fail to recognize that the debate isn’t ultimately about scientific evidence or interpretation. Instead, the creation/evolution controversy cuts much deeper, pitting two worldviews—one materialist, the other supernaturalist—against each other. For those of us who start with the Bible, the science isn’t where the big debate lies; it’s about God’s Word and its ultimate authority.


Remember, if you see a news story that might merit some attention, let us know about it! (Note: if the story originates from the Associated Press, Fox News, MSNBC, the New York Times, or another major national media outlet, we will most likely have already heard about it.) And thanks to all of our readers who have submitted great news tips to us.

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