Thursday, November 09, 2006

Darwinism's Central Tenet

'Darwin's Nemesis,' edited by William Dembski and published by Inter-Varsity Press, is a book about Phillip Johnson and intelligent design. The different chapters of the book have different authors. The first chapter is authored by Stephen C. Meyer.

Meyer told how Johnson's doubts about Darwinism were sparked by an incident that occurred at the British Natural History Museum (pp33-35) where a display had described Darwin's theory as one possible explanation for origins. In an ensuing controversy pressure was exerted to get the display removed. Having been denounced by the editors of Nature Magazine, among others, for not being clear that Darwin's theory was the only explanation for origins, the museum took down the display.

Meyers wrote of Johnson explaining that although change (evolution) and common descent were argued, the real substance of Darwinian claims was that change was caused by purely natural mechanisms i.e. without design or intelligent direction. While Johnson acknowledged the operation of science according to methodological naturalism he also pointed out that if Darwinists were to insist on the sufficiency of natural explanations then they could not simultaneously assume the outcome. ID can be denied by definition but at the expense of making it impossible to tell if causality by natural mechanisms is true.

Nowhere is this more evident than the origin of life itself. Beliefs as to how life arose are marked by their speculative nature. There is little evidence of prebiotic pathways to anything other than cellular biochemicals and no understanding as to how a cell would result. Yet rules are rules. Correlating encoding nucleic acids and the code by which they enable the synthesis of proteins to anything other than a chemically determined process, devoid of intelligent influence, is outside the rules.

The rules would allow an admission that a phenomenon lies outside the boundaries of science; an empirical discipline. This avoids having to assume a consequent while at the same time fending off ID. However, it may be philosophically too unappealing. Uappealing too is Darwinian insistence on exclusivity in the matter of origins. They don't have the goods. Those contemplating cellular functions and the specified order of genomes, making both function and inheritance possible, are not about to be deterred by a definition of reality not supported by the empirical discipline to which it is linked.


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