Richard Dawkins, arguably the most famous evolutionary biologist in the world is an intelligent design critic and author of the bestselling book, The God Delusion. He is being interviewed this week at the University of Maryland by my son, Professor Cristian Castillo Davis. Cris has a Harvard PhD in Evolutionary Biology with a specialty in genetics. Being one of two evolutionary biologists in the world named Cristian is not good for career enhancement in that field.
Dawkins came into prominence with his book The Selfish Gene which shifted evolutionary biology emphasis to genes and DNA. My son’s interest in pursuing that field which occurred as a result of reading the book as a teenager. The irony is that, while Dawkins has spent a lot of energy trying to disprove the existence of God, my son is very spiritual and sees no contradiction in evolutionary genetic research and the spirit.
Having seen a lot of debate in the press on evolutionary theory, intelligent design and Creationism, I sent my son the questions below to ask Mr. Dawkins. They concern only evolution and intelligent design, not Creationism.
First some definitions. Darwinian evolutionary theory maintains that life began spontaneously billions of years ago and that all changes since then have happened by chance, without design. Intelligent Design advocates theorize that based on scientific evidence and probability, there appears to be design rather than an unguided process.
Clearly gene frequencies change from one generation to the next. Individuals in the same species are related though descent with modification. Variation and selection of mates produces changes within existing species. Most of us agree on that. But some basic questions that evolutionary biologists need to answer based on the scientific method are:
1) Richard Dawkins defines biology as “the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed.” So in that he agrees with intelligent design advocates who use probability theory to suggest that, yes, the eye could have happened by chance but the probability is highly unlikely that over 200 different evolutionary developments in the eye over millions of years resulted in sight, any one of which, if absent, would result in no vision. How does he explain this highly unlikely result?
2) The fossil record does not support Darwin’s theory of evolution and the tree of life. For example the Cambrian explosion shows an abrupt inexplicable appearance of most of the major animal phyla fully formed with no evidence of innumerable transitional forms as required by Evolutionary theory. After many microbes were found in the same fossils from the Cambrian period USC-LA Paleobiologist Will Schoph wrote in 1994 “The long held notion that Precambrian organisms must have been too small or too delicate to have been preserved in geological materials . . . (is) now recognized as incorrect.” How does one explain that the major phylum differences that Darwin predicted would come last actually showed up first? For example, land animals and mammals appeared long after the Cambrian period, so how did a land animal turn into a whale? There is no fossil evidence.
3) One of the strongest cited pieces of evidence of evolution came when Ernest Haeckel published what we now know were fake vertebrate embryo drawings. We still find them used in textbooks today. Although four of the five classes of animals show some similarities, mammals are radically different. How do evolutionary biologists explain that? No matter what we do with a fruit fly embryo, we have found only three outcomes, a normal fruit fly, a defective fruit fly or a dead fruit fly. No horse flies have evolved.
4) Science has used morphology, or the similarity of animals’ structure, to produce many great medical discoveries. Since 95% of a mouse’s DNA is the same as a human, we have tested new drugs on mice first. If it helps the mice and does not kill them, chances are it will help humans. Similarities in fossils suggested that hippos are evolutionary sisters of pigs and camels, but far removed from whales. Similarities in molecules now suggest that hippos are evolutionarily related to whales but far removed from pigs and camels. How do evolutionary biologists reconcile this contradictory evidence? Also it may be unnerving for some to discover that 35% of a human’s DNA is identical to a head of cabbage.
5) Darwin’s theory depends on new species evolving from existing species. No one has ever observed this happening using the scientific method, but there are some confirmed cases of observed speciation in flowering plants due to an increase in the number of chromosomes. Arne Muntzing used two plant species to make a hybrid that had already been found in nature, but did not create a new species. Micro-evolutionary changes in gene frequencies have not been seen to turn a reptile into a mammal. 150 years of studying bacteria has produced no evidence of one bacteria evolving into another. Scientific fact is something we can observe. Where is the scientific evidence?
6) Dawkins wrote that “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Cornell’s Will Provine called Darwinism “the greatest engine of atheism ever invented.” How so?
7) Evolutionary biologists actively try to suppress alternative theories, claiming science by consensus, similar to what the scientific community said when it was first suggested that the earth revolves around the sun in the 1600s. Harvard geneticist Dick Lewontin said “We take the side of science in SPITE of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs . . . because we have a prior commitment to materialism.” When William Demski organized a conference with defenders as well as critics of Intelligent Design, Darwinists had him removed from his faculty position. When the state of Alabama decided to inform students that Evolution was a theory, Dawkins said it was “a study of ignorance and dishonesty.” Where is the evidence? The ACLU went to court in Kansas and Pennsylvania to prohibit the teaching of alternative theories. Why? Theories become facts once they are predictive and testable. That has not happened yet with Evolutionary theory.
8) The founder of modern genetics, Augustinian Monk Georg Mendel, concluded that heredity involved the transmission of STABLE factors, which remain unchanged from one generation to the next. Has anyone disproved his contention?
9) If it is a survival of the fittest as Darwin claimed, why do bacteria live in communities with other microbes?
10) Dr. Stephen C. Meyer pointed out that subunits of DNA are like a four letter alphabet which carries functional lines of code just like computer software. Does that not suggest design?
11) Only when a pattern cannot plausibly be attributed to either chance or to natural regularity does one infer design. Richard Dawkins devised a computer program to randomly sequence a bunch of letters until it matched a target line from Hamlet, thinking this would prove specified complexity. His program did not produce specified complexity. It had it to begin with. He was unable to prove his point.
12) Physical DNA molecules do not carry the secret to life but rather the information it carries. If a minimal cell needs 250 genes, each several hundred bases long, it suggests that gene sequences are so complex that the universe is not old enough for them to have plausibly originated by chance. Also, to be functional, a protein needs to have a very specific sequence, making them both complex and specified. Does not that suggest intelligent design?
13) In genetic research, sequences that carry biological information are always either purposely synthesized by scientists or copied from existing sequences in living cells. Scientists have yet to see these building blocks spontaneously assemble into large information carrying molecules. Does this not infer intelligent design?
14) Scientific journals regularly publish articles attacking Intelligent Design but refuse to publish articles defending design. The National Center for Science Education (NCSE) made false accusations about Dr. Richard Sternberg when he had the audacious stupidity to publish a peer reviewed pro intelligent design article by Dr. Meyer mentioned above. Careers are destroyed for trying to allow open debate. Why the fear?
15) Things that cannot be made with successive small steps suggest that Darwinism is bunk. Flagellum resembles an outboard motor designed by a human. Remove any one part and it does not work. That is irreducible complexity, the basis of intelligent design. How do evolutionists explain that? Blood clotting consists of a dozen protein molecules that must interact sequentially to produce a clot at only a right time and place. How did that evolve randomly?
16) How did the moon come to stabilize the tilt of the earth’s axis, preventing wild fluctuations in temperature?
17) Universal common ancestry is not testable by fossil or molecular evidence. That is why evolution is a theory, not a scientific fact. But wait, Jerry Coyne, Russell F. Doolittle and Kenneth R Miller claim they can disprove Michael Behe’s intelligent design theory of irreducible complexity. How can a hypothesis be both untestable and tested?
18) Popular textbooks, like that of Futuyma and Mader, suggest that intelligent design is a disguised form of biblical creationism. Why do they allege that, since some of the intelligent design proponents are atheists themselves?
19) Darwinians act like the famous Soviet Ukrainian Stalinist agronomist Lysenko. If you disagree with their theory you will be destroyed. Why are Darwinians against an open discussion of ideas?
20) The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design raises many of the above questions and more.
In the interest of scientific advancement, here is hoping that Dawkins, my son and other evolutionary biologist supporters will answer all of the above with factual information based on research findings.
James F. Davis is the president of Accuracy in Academia.