“Intelligent design” has been in the news of late. According to this theory of origins, there is an unnamed “intelligent cause” for life on earth. The theory maintains that life is far too complex to have evolved by chance mutations and/or random natural selections, as the theory of evolution maintains.
Intelligent design theorists do not specify who the intelligent designer might be. They do not identify the designer with the God of any particular religion. They merely maintain that, given the complexity of even the simplest life forms, there must be a designer of immense intelligence responsible for the existence of all life.
In the United States, President George W Bush has said that schools should teach intelligent design alongside evolution. In Australia, Education Minister Brendan Nelson has suggested the same thing.
Predictably, evolutionists are incensed at the possibility of a rival theory being taught to students at schools and universities. The evolutionary theory has enjoyed a monopoly position in our educational institutions for many decades and its champions want to maintain that monopoly.
In the context of the current design-evolution debate, I propose to raise and answer three questions in a three-part article to be published in the current and the next two issues of Life News. The questions are: Firstly, “Is evolution based on science?” Secondly, “Is evolution compatible with creation?” And thirdly, “Is evolution consistent with reality?”
(I should note at the outset that, in my view, if there is an intelligent designer, the God of the Bible is the most plausible candidate. Hence, when I refer in this three-part article to “God” and “Creator” I have the Judaeo-Christian God in mind. This God is not an impersonal principle or cause, but rather is a living Being with personality, intelligence, power and will.)
Is evolution based on science?
The great advantage evolution has over creation is that it is perceived to be scientific. But is it? Certainly, creation is a faith position: it depends on assumptions that cannot be verified by scientific method. But is evolution any different?
To determine whether evolution is based on fact or faith, we must examine its premises to see if they are proven or unproven. A premise is an assumption upon which an argument stands, and the evolutionary theory has two. The first is that life originated from inanimate matter, while the second is that the species originated from a common ancestor.
Evolution’s first fundamental premise is “spontaneous generation”. This term conveys the idea that life generated itself from inorganic substances through a spontaneous process. Or to quote the Australian Academy of Science, “spontaneous generation” is a process by which “pieces of non-living material … somehow become living of their own accord” (Biological Science: the web of life, 1969, p.547).
The decisive thing about this premise is that science cannot show it to be true. There is no empirical evidence (that is, evidence gained on the basis of experimentation) to verify it. On the contrary, since the time of Louis Pasteur, there is overwhelming empirical evidence against it.
Indeed, the Australian Academy of Science says that “There is no reason to believe that spontaneous generation can occur today”. Yet the Academy encourages people to believe that it did occur in the past. Why? Because “the earth of 5000 million years ago was a very different place from what it is today. One most profound difference, of course, was the absence of consumers seeking food” (Biological Science, p.672).
What curious logic! How does the absence of consumers seeking food help non-living material to become living of its own accord? The reason there were no consumers 5000 million years ago is because there was no life! Yet the Academy would have us believe that the absence of life was a useful condition for the spontaneous generation of life. This is hardly the stuff of science, is it? It is hardly objective, verifiable fact.
Spontaneous generation is a fundamental premise of evolutionary theory. Yet it has not been—nor can it ever be—verified by science. It is simply an unsubstantiated conviction, a blind conjecture. It is not scientific fact. Rather, it is pure faith.
Evolution’s second foundational belief is that diverse species developed from a common ancestor. This premise is inherent in the word “evolution” itself, and involves the idea of living things changing from what they were into something altogether different. Simple organisms are said to have changed by chance into creatures much more sophisticated and complex. Some evolutionists argue that these changes were gradual, while others contend that they were sudden. But either way, evolution rests on the belief that all life has a common origin—that groups and species which are quite separate today (horses and hens, giraffes and glow-worms) originally had the same ancestor.
This premise, too, cannot be verified by science. Evolutionists believe that simple-to-complex species-change happened, and they cite circumstantial evidence to justify their belief—but they cannot prove that it happened, nor can they agree on how it might have happened. And while there is evidence that change can occur within a family (rock pigeons have been bred into racing and show pigeons), there is no verifiable evidence that change can (or did) occur across the families (pigeons have not been bred into parrots, let alone penguins or eagles).
If they are to be accepted at all, the two major premises of evolution must be accepted by faith. Of course, anyone is at liberty to believe that life can or did arise of its own volition from lifeless substances, and that simple organisms changed unaided into complex ones. But no one ought to think that science requires such a belief.
Evolution’s major premises are faith assumptions, unproven and unprovable by science. Consequently, those who accept the evolutionary theory are acting on faith, while those who reject it are not rejecting science.