Intelligent  Design:
Scientists' Observations

(Including remarks from prominent scientists such as C.D. Darlington, G.G. Simpson, R. Jastrow,  W. von Braun, T. Dobzhansky, F. Ayala, F. Hoyle, J. Keosian, A.I. Oparin, J.B.S. Haldane, L. Orgel, C. Patterson, K. Popper, E. Mayr, G.L. Stebbins, C.H. Waddington, J.C. Kendrew, E. Chain, L.H. Mathews, D.J. Futuyma, W.R. Thompson, C. Darwin, G. Hardin, and S.J. Gould)

Darlington maintains his pure faith in Omnipotent Matter to the end: So, then, theism is mere "mysticism," but belief in the "inherent capacity" of Matter to form itself by its own (mystical?) power into everything in the universe is somehow "science." This is a classic instance of the danger of the excessive compartmentalism of knowledge which prevails today. Scientists, whose job it is to observe and describe the nature and functions of matter and natural laws, oftentimes deceive themselves into thinking that because they cannot and do not deal in "spirit," therefore, it does not exist; or else, if it does, beliefs concerning it must be irrational and "mystical" and vastly inferior intellectually to scientific thought. But this is clearly a false dichotomy and a double standard. In the final analysis, all belief-systems require axioms, or "faith" in something, and all begin with unproven premises.

When and if scientists look down upon views in other fields of knowledge such as theology and philosophy, they are merely revealing their own radically deficient understanding of epistemology (the study in philosophy of how we know what we know) and the metaphysical roots of science itself. Science is grounded in a philosophy called empiricism: the belief that sensory observation leads to knowledge, which (not at all coincidentally) originated in the explicitly Christian context of Western Europe.

That's why, e.g., the great astronomer Kepler uttered his famous observation that he was "thinking God's thoughts after him," and why the vast majority of the great scientists for centuries were Christians, or at least theists of some sort. Even today, probably the majority of scientists still believe in God, but if so, they are too often reluctant to incorporate this aspect of their beliefs into their scientific work, due to the compartmentalism mentioned above, and a prejudice towards naturalistic explanations in fields of inquiry (such as our present subject) where materialistic explanations leave much to be desired.

The vast majority of scientific observations have little to do with theology, but when it comes to origins, both philosophy and theology come into focus, and the boundaries which we place between intellectual disciplines become quite fuzzy and permeable.

The concept of a Creator-God who creates the universe and life (and He may have used evolution as His method) is one such metaphysical belief. If indeed metaphysics is not completely foreign to scientific eneavor, and if indeed its results can be investigated by means of scientific observation, I fail to see any legitimate reason for excluding God from science altogether -- all the more so in light of the extreme ignorance of science with regard to the evolutionary origins of the universe and life. At least it makes eminently good sense to allow this as a possibility, as Charles Darwin, his compatriot Thomas Henry Huxley and some others have done. The refusal to do this is often based on a prior hostile presupposition that God doesn't exist, and this belief is itself too often emotionally- rather than intellectually-based, and immune from rational argument.
It is absurd for the evolutionist to complain that it is unthinkable for an admittedly unthinkable God to make everything out of nothing, and then pretend that it is more thinkable that nothing should turn itself into anything.

(Catholic writer and social critic G.K. Chesterton)

I am an agnostic in religious matters. However, I am fascinated by strange developments going on in astronomy because of their religious implications. The essential elements in the astronomical and Biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy. Astronomical evidence makes it almost certain that the Big Bang really did occur. A few scientists dared to ask, "What came before the beginning?" The British theorist Edward Milne wrote a mathematical treatise on kinematic relativity, which concluded by saying, "The first cause of the universe is left for the reader to insert. But our picture is incomplete without Him."

Astronomers are currently upset. Their reactions provide an interesting demonstration of the response of the scientific mind- supposedly a very objective mind - when evidence uncovered by science itself leads to a conflict with the articles of faith in our profession. Scientists cannot bear the thought of a natural phenomenon that cannot be explained. There is a kind of religion in science . . . that every event in the universe can be explained in a rational way as the product of some previous event. This faith is violated by the discovery that the world had a beginning under conditions in which the known laws of physics are not valid, and as a product of forces we cannot discover. When that happens, the scientist has lost control. He reacts by ignoring the implications or by trivializing. the scientist's pursuit of the past ends in the moment of creation. This development was unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." But we scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time. Now we would like to pursue that inquiry further back in time, but the barrier seems insurmountable. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.

(Astronomer Robert Jastrow, founder of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, excerpt from God and the Astronomers, from "Have Astronomers Found God?," Reader's Digest, July 1980, 49-53)

[It is as difficult] to understand a scientist who does not accept the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advance of science . . . Astronomy and space exploration are teaching us that the good Lord is a much greater Lord, and master of a greater kingdom . . . Through a closer look at creation, we ought to gain a better knowledge of the Creator, and a greater sense of man's responsibility to God will come into focus.

(Wernher von Braun, the eminent rocket scientist who pioneered lunar flight, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 19 July 1969, 5)

Probability expert Emile Borel states that an event whose probability is less than one in ten to the 50th power, is practically impossible: Whoever has calculated the probability of live evolving naturalistically, has always arrived at a probability much lower than Borel's figure of practical impossibility. Given all of this radically uncertain or nonexistent proof for the origins both of the universe and of life, the hypothesis of a Creator or Designer (wholly apart from the questions of the relationship of science, philosophy and theology, and how God created, which might include macroevolutionary processes) is no more unreasonable than scientific materialism. Most people are familiar with the school book stories of the moths changing color in England due to the soot which was gathering on trees. The dark moths began to have a higher survival capability because they were more camouflaged. But few know that this change in color is considered by some (perhaps many?) evolutionists, as practically the best evidence in favor of a mechanism for evolution:  Note that no structural transformation whatsoever was involved in the moths' change; only a difference of color. For the eye to function, many perfectly coordinated steps must occur simultaneously. It must be clean and moist (tear glands and movable eyelids). The cornea must be transparent and clear, for light to pass through it to the pupil -- a self-adjusting aperture -- to an automatic lens that focuses it on the back of the retina, where 130 million light-sensitive rods and cones cause extraordinary photochemical reactions that transform the light into electrical impulses. Some one billion of these are transmitted every second to the brain, which then takes appropriate action and lets us see an image. The eye either functions as a whole or not at all; it is either perfect or perfectly useless. How then, could it evolve by chance? Is it really possible, let alone plausible, that thousands of random mutations could have coincidentally evolved simultaneously to produce an organ which is a wonder of perfect synchronization? And nature abounds with such examples of amazing, mind-boggling coordination. For instance, the human brain has 12 billion cells with 120 trillion connections. Each neuron itself is marvelously complex, with six billion molecules of protein, 600 billion of RNA, and many unknown substances which somehow produce our "thoughts." The old argument from design (teleology) is now stronger and more compelling than ever. As a passing note of interest, Darwin even tried feebly to defend his views on the eye by resorting to the analogy of men making telescopes. He failed to recognize, however, that a telescope in no way produces vision by itself; it merely amplifies sight which is already present in the person who looks through it. It is farcical to even attempt to compare the complexity of the eye with a telescope, which is structurally fairly simple. We must acknowledge, out of intellectual necessity, the existence of a Master Designer, God.
Darwinian assumptions are not needed for the day-to-day work of science. As I have
shown in my book, if you look in the biochemical literature for scientific papers that try to explain how biochemical systems developed step-by-step in a Darwinian fashion, there aren't any. It's startling.

There's a journal called the Journal of Molecular Evolution which is about 25 years old and has published over 1,000 papers since its inception. The journal publishes a lot about trying to determine which proteins, genes, and nucleic acids are related to which other ones by looking at their protein or nucleotide sequence. That may be interesting, and it may be a legitimate question in its own right, but comparing sequences simply can't tell you how these complex molecular machines came to be step-by-Darwinian-step. So essentially, over its 25- year history, the Journal of
Molecular Evolution has completely avoided the real question of how the heck these extremely complex systems could have been put together.

So most scientists completely ignore evolution in their work, and the ones that think about it simply look for relationships and don't bother with Darwinism. Remarkably it has very little to do with the day-to-day work of science and serves pretty much as a philosophical underpinning which, in my opinion, is only inhibiting real research into how life developed.

(Biochemist Michael J. Behe, author of Darwin's Black Box, "The Evolution of a Skeptic": )

. . . the ability of a theory, here materialistic evolution, to supply "facts" to the true
believer that the mere, neglected, primary data in no way warrant. The believer
looks upon the most innocuous facts and sees in them a stunning confirmation of
his theory, where a person who is not committed to the hypothesis sees                irrelevant or, sometimes, hostile information. Thus the believer builds a great
edifice of pseudo-knowledge which, like cotton candy, is spun from a little bit of
sugar and a lot of air.

(Michael J. Behe, "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy" - Chapter 10a; Response to K. John Morrow, Jr. - )

To respond to a common criticism which objects to quotations of scientists, I cite scientists (and evolutionists, at that) because they carry much more authority on the matter than I do: a mere layman without all the training, technical knowledge and expertise that they have. Why should a scientist care about my opinion? It carries no weight whatever. This is common sense. But the critic of materialistic evolution who is a layman is betwixt and between: if we give our own opinions, it is stated (nicely, but firmly) that we are ignorant, misinformed, unacquainted with the latest findings which prove thus-and-so after all, guided by "extra-scientific" agendas, unfamiliar with the scientific method, and therefore not to be trusted in matters scientific. But if we cite scientists, then we get this accusation that we are quoting them out of context, implying that they disbelieve in evolution, engaging in a fundamentally improper and ultimately dishonest, deceptive methodology, not actually doing science, which we must do to enter into the discussion at all, and so forth. It's a catch-22.

I have always stated that I am engaging in a primarily philosophical (but not religious) critique. I have never said I was a scientist, either. Scientific method, and the methodology of scientists writing monographs are two different things. I am saying that certain collections of propositions -- taken as a whole -- can lead one to certain conclusions, even if the ones who made the statements would deny the conclusions.

The same thing holds in theology and exegesis (and many other fields of study). E.g., Catholics might cite a Protestant Greek scholar or commentator with regard to Peter being the Rock (as opposed to his confession). Certain non-Catholic biblical scholars (in fact, many today) would agree with that. But they would disagree that this helps to establish an institutional papacy, etc. Is it therefore wrong to quote them? Of course not! They are cited with regard to that particular point, not the whole "Catholic ball of wax," so to speak. One builds a case, piece by piece.

Even when a scientist who criticizes current materialistic evolutionary theory, such as Michael Behe, speaks up, it isn't any different (because he is automatically regarded as a "heretic" who denies some of the dogmas): he is pilloried with the same old nonsense: that his true agenda is a desire to make a literal reading of Genesis required in every school (as a note of trivia: Behe is a Catholic, and Catholics virtually never take such a reading of Genesis, in the first place), that he is ignorant of true science, that he is a lackey of the young-earth, flat-earth, snake-handling biblical creationists, and so forth (as he has hilariously recounted some of the scientific "responses" to his research). Dogmatism and hostility to any criticism will prevail every time, which only goes to show that dogmatism and arrogance among materialistic scientists is alive and well.

As many philosophers of science have observed, the research community does not abandon a paradigm in the absence of a suitable replacement. This means that negative criticism of Darwinism, however devastating it may appear to be, is essentially irrelevant to the professional researchers. The critic may point out, for example, that the evidence that natural selection has any creative power is somewhere between weak and non-existent. That is perfectly true, but to Darwinists the more important point is this: If natural selection did not do the creating, what did? "God" is obviously unacceptable, because such a being is unknown to science. "We don't know" is equally unacceptable, because to admit ignorance would be to leave science adrift without a guiding principle. To put the problem in the most practical terms: it is impossible to write or evaluate a grant proposal without a generally accepted theoretical framework.

The paradigm rule explains why Gould's acknowledgment that neo-Darwinism is "effectively dead" had no significant effect on the Darwinist faithful, or even on Gould himself. Gould made that statement in a paper predicting the emergence of a new general theory of evolution, one based on the macromutational speculations of the Berkeley geneticist Richard Goldschmidt. When the new theory did not arrive as anticipated, the alternatives were either to stick with Ernst Mayr's version of neo- Darwinism, or to concede that biologists do not after all know of a naturalistic
mechanism that can produce biological complexity. That was no choice at all. Gould had to beat a hasty retreat back to classical Darwinism to avoid giving aid and comfort to the enemies of scientific naturalism, including those disgusting creationists.

(Phillip Johnson, "What is Darwinism?":

Eight years or so ago I came to the conclusion that Darwinian evolution was
incapable of explaining data from my own field of biochemistry. I reached that conclusion on my own after studying the literature. But I was also isolated; none of my colleagues were talking about this . . .

Over the years I came into contact with other scholars who thought the same way I did. They encouraged me to think my ideas were legitimate; they said my ideas could be defended, and they agreed there was a significant problem that was being ignored. When you're alone, you just might be deluding yourself. But when you have colleagues, then you gain the confidence to really explore your ideas . . .

As a Roman Catholic I was always taught that God made life, and how He made it was up to Him. I was taught that the best scientific answer, so far, for how God made life was Darwinian evolution. That made sense to me, so I never gave evolution much of a thought. I was taught in my undergraduate years and graduate studies in biochemistry that all of these fantastically intricate systems that I was learning about were the result of Darwinian evolution. I had a thesis to complete,
so I didn't think much about it.

However, in 1987 or so, I read Evolution: A Theory in Crisis by Michael Denton. It startled me because he said there were huge and unaddressed problems with evolutionary theory. In fact, there was a very good chance the theory was incorrect; it could not really describe how life came to be. When I read [Denton's] book, I got mad; I was upset because I realized much of my world view was not based on science, but rather on people saying, "Well, yes, this is the way it happened.
Don't worry about it. Maybe you don't know how it happened, but somebody else does."

Well, reading Denton's book made me realize that nobody else knew about the problems. And from then on I became increasingly interested in it. I looked in my own field of biochemistry and in the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Molecular Biology and places like that for research that might say how these biochemical systems were gradually put together. I rapidly found out that there were no such papers. So, over time I developed the idea that in fact these systems
were the result of intelligent design.

I was fairly isolated for a while, but Phil Johnson's book came out and I read it, and liked it very much. Then one week in an issue of Science magazine I saw that there was a review of Johnson's book. I was very excited and thought, "Oh, this is great. They will have to address some of these issues, and we'll see what they have to say about it." I turned to the review, and it wasn't a review, it was simply a warning saying, "Uh oh. There's this anti-evolution book out there. Warn your
students; it's confusing the public." And again I got pretty mad because they didn't address the substance of it. It was not even a dismissal, it was a warning. This is not what science is supposed to be about.

So I wrote a letter to the editor of Science pointing out that they should address the intellectual issues involved and not just dismiss something. Science published the letter and Phil Johnson saw it and wrote to me, and we began corresponding.

(Michael J. Behe, "Darwinism: Science or Philosophy" - Chapter 10a; Response to K. John Morrow, Jr. - )

The critics of my book have a remarkably similar reaction, varying in intensity depending on the personality of the people involved. The first reaction of most critics is to say, "Well, this is just thinly veiled creationism." And in reviews of my book by scientists they often speak about the first chapters of Genesis and the Arkansas Creation Trial, none of which I mention in my book. So they try to damn the book by association. They also do not see that there is a distinction between
arriving at a conclusion simply from observation of the physical world, as a scientist is supposed to do, and arriving at a conclusion based on scripture or religious beliefs.

Additionally, the critics of my book have uniformly agreed that the biochemical systems I describe are enormously complex and currently unexplained, but they differ in their prescriptions. Some of them say, "Well, Darwinism will eventually explain this." Other people say, "Well, we don't know how it will be explained, but we'll come up with something in the near future." My reply is that the something that we can come up with in the near future is intelligent design theory. It is a perfectly
legitimate scientific idea and there is no reason to avoid it.

An analogy I like to draw is to physics: many physicists were unhappy with the idea of a big bang because it seemed to have clear theological implications. Nonetheless, physicists embraced it as a legitimate scientific theory and built on it. I see intelligent design the same way; it may have religious implications but it's a clear scientific theory based solely on observations of biochemical systems that we should embrace and build on . . .

A public TV show named Think Tank was interested in setting up a debate between Dawkins [author of The Blind Watchmaker - Norton: 1986] and myself. They asked if I would be willing to participate, and I happily said yes. And they approached Richard Dawkins, but he refused to appear with me, saying he was insufficiently versed in biochemistry to address the issue. But then the TV show asked Dawkins to appear by himself on the show, which he did. During the interview, which I had an opportunity to see recently, the show host asked him about my book. He seemed to grasp the idea of irreducible complexity pretty well. However, he said it was cowardly and lazy of me to come to a conclusion of intelligent design, and he said that if I thought for myself I would realize that there must be a Darwinian explanation out there somewhere, and I should get off my duff and go out and find it.

Certainly Richard Dawkins is entitled to his strongly held opinions. But, in fact, from the evidence, I think intelligent design is the best explanation. And it's not a matter of whether I like the idea or not, or whether I like to sleep late and am lazy, rather it's that Darwinism is barking up the wrong tree and I think a better scientific explanation is design. I hope to meet with Richard Dawkins in the future, though.


Once we put God into the picture, however, there is no good reason to attribute the creation of biological complexity to random mutation and natural selection. Direct evidence that these mechanisms have substantial creative power is not to be found in nature, the laboratory, or the fossil record. An essential step in the reasoning that establishes that Darwinian selection created the wonders of biology, therefore, is that nothing else was available. Theism is by definition the doctrine that something else was available . . .

Of course, theists can think of evolution as God-guided whether naturalistic Darwinists like it or not. The trouble with having a private definition for theists, however, is that the scientific naturalists have the power to decide what that term "evolution" means in public discourse, including the science classes in the public schools. If theistic evolutionists broadcast the message that evolution as they understand it is harmless to theistic religion, they are misleading their constituents unless they add a clear warning that the version of evolution advocated by the entire body of mainstream science is something else altogether.

(Phillip Johnson, ibid.)

In the summer of 1996 Free Press published my book, Darwin’s Black Box: The
Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, . . . Modern biochemistry has indeed discovered stunning, unexpected complexity at the basis of life. We have learned the cell is literally run by molecular machines. Bacteria propel themselves through liquid with a molecular outboard motor called a ‘flagellum’; molecular supplies are packed
inside tiny trucks that shuttle across the cell, delivering the cargo to specialized compartments; the cell rearranges its DNA to make new antibodies to fight disease. I argued that these systems are irreducibly complex, meaning that they require a number of parts to work. Just as a mechanical mousetrap requires each of its few parts to act as a mousetrap, so too these biochemical systems require each of their parts and so are quite unlikely to have been assembled gradually, as Darwinian
theory would have it.

I surveyed the technical biochemical literature—journals like the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the Journal of Molecular Biology—and showed that no scientist has ever explained how such complex systems could have been put together by natural selection. Based on an examination of the way in which the parts of biochemical systems interact with each other, I argued that the systems were deliberately designed by an intelligent agent . . .

Darwin’s Black Box has been reviewed widely. In particular, a number of prominent evolutionary biologists, strong Darwinists all, have gotten a chance to take a hammer to it in print. Perhaps the best example was a two-page, lead review in Nature, the most prominent science journal in the world. The reviewer was Jerry Coyne, a professor of evolutionary biology at the University of Chicago . . . So what does a leading Darwinist have to say when confronted with a claim that the molecular basis of life strongly indicates design? First, sling a bit of mud:

The goal of creationists has always been to replace the teaching of evolution with the narrative given in the first eleven chapters of Genesis. When the courts stymied this effort, creationists tried a new strategy: cloaking themselves in the mantle of science. This produced the oxymoronic “scientific creationism,” arguing that the very facts of biology and geology show that the Earth is young, all species were created suddenly and simultaneously, and mass extinctions were caused by a great world-wide flood.
That’s the opening. He closes the review by talking about Duane Gish of the young-earth Institute of Creation Research. In between those tone-setting paragraphs he admits in passing that, by the way, “Behe is a genuine scientist,” that I don’t believe in a young earth, and think common descent is a reasonable idea. Guilt-by-association does make a reviewer’s job easier. After more such fun, Coyne finally gets around to addressing the design argument.
The answer to Behe’s argument lies in realizing that biochemical pathways . . . have been rigged up with pieces co-opted from other pathways. . . . Thrombin, for example, is one of the key proteins in blood-clotting, but also acts in cell division, and is related to the digestive enzyme trypsin. Who knows which function came first?
Good question—who knows which came first? No one knows. And no one knows how one function could explain the other. It’s like saying springs are found in both watches and mousetraps, so maybe one explains the other. But the question of how complex biochemical systems came together doesn’t really interest Coyne.
We may forever be unable to envisage the first (biochemical) proto-pathways. It is not valid, however, to assume that, because one man cannot imagine such pathways, they could not have existed.
Coyne’s apparent argument is that we don’t need evidence; life simply had to have arisen by Darwinian principles. Coyne is not alone in his inability to answer biochemical arguments for intelligent design. In the New York Times Book Review, science writer James Shreeve declares, “Mr. Behe may be right that given our current state of knowledge, good old Darwinian evolution cannot explain the origin of blood clotting or cellular transport.” In National Review, microbiologist James Shapiro of the University of Chicago acknowledges, “There are no detailed Darwinian accounts for the evolution of any fundamental biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.” Andrew Pomiankowski, writing in New Scientist, declares “Pick up any biochemistry textbook, and you will find perhaps two or three references to evolution. Turn to one of these and you will be lucky to find anything better than ‘evolution selects the fittest molecules for their biological function.’”

Darwinism is dying of the same affliction that has killed other discarded theories—the progress of science itself. It seems that with each new discovery—especially discoveries about the molecular basis of life—natural selection has a new problem.

(Michael J. Behe, "Dogmatic Darwinism," in Crisis magazine, June 1998 - )

. . .  Dr. Leslie Johnson asserts that "the theory is healthy," but the replies it gives to probing questions are those of a ninety-eight pound weakling . . .  when detailed questions are asked about the origin of biological structures, proponents of the theory all too frequently resort to hand-waving and metaphor . . . Dr. Johnson is not atone in her style of argumentation: no one at this conference has argued the merits of Darwinism by pointing to a complex biological structure and explaining in detail how it arose from a simpler structure through the agency of natural selection. Instead we are implicitly invited to imagine such developments by means of fuzzy mental images, playing horror movie-like transmogrifications in our minds. This is the appeal of much of the "computer evolution" work that Dr. Johnson cites favorably: images can "evolve" like Dr. Jekyll on the computer screen without having to be tested for their ability to function in the real world.

But, then, if no one actually uses Darwin's theory to give plausible, detailed explanations for the origin of complex biological structures, what exactly is it good for? To use as a "framework," Dr. Johnson tells us. "Without evolution" descriptions of nature "would be as exciting as . . . telephone books." That may be true for Dr. Johnson, but it is not true for children visiting a zoo, it is not true for most laypersons, and it wasn't true for pre-Darwinian biologists like Linnaeus and
Cuvier. It is a dangerous intellectual game to confuse one's own mental filing cabinets for the real world.

(Michael J. Behe, Conference: Darwinism: Scientific Inference or Philosophical Preference? Held at  Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, March 26-28,  1992. Reply to Leslie K. Johnson --

Main Index & Search | Scientific Materialism & Intelligent Design | Agnosticism & Atheism

Uploaded by Dave Armstrong on 5 June 2002 from previous materials. Slightly revised on 20 November 2002.