Intelligent Design

The “Simple” Cell

Ah Lord GOD! behold, thou hast made the heaven and the earth by thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for thee: (Jeremiah 32:17)

The Intelligent Design Movement (IDM) originated around 1987, according to Wikipedia,[1] for the purpose of debunking the theory of evolution from a strictly scientific perspective. Wikipedia says that IDM “is a neo-creationist religious campaign for broad social, academic and political change to promote and support the pseudoscientific idea of intelligent design (ID), which asserts that ‘certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection’” (emphasis mine). One must consider the source! Wikipedia charges that the “movement arose out of the previous Christian fundamentalist and evangelistic creation science movement in the United States, and is driven by a small group of proponents. The overall goal of the intelligent design movement is to overthrow materialism and atheism” (emphasis mine). The author takes a defensive posture against IDM and tends to minimize the scientific research behind the movement.

One of the more familiar IDM organizations is the Discovery Institute founded in 1991 and based in Seattle, Washington. According to their “About” page, the institute is “dedicated to the reinvigoration of traditional Western principles and institutions and the worldview from which they issued.  Discovery Institute has a special concern for the role that science and technology play in our culture and how they can advance free markets, illuminate public policy and support the theistic foundations of the West.”[2] That seems innocuous enough. It certainly does not come across as overly religious unless one harbors a hypersensitivity to theism (which is a very broad and general term).

Through the years, IDM has made great strides in promoting origin of life by intelligent design over random-chance evolutionary processes.[3] Their research demonstrates the impossibility of life springing from non-life. They have shown how even the simplest of life form is so irreducibly complex that it would require an all-or-nothing simultaneous assemblage of all the components to make up a single cell, and not only once, but multiplied billions of times. In an article written for the Institute for Creation Research (ICR), David Rosevear writes:

“… the cell is no longer regarded as simple. The living plasma membrane allows in or out only specific compounds. It is not simply a semi-permeable membrane. Cells contain nucleic acids that carry information about the structure and functions of the organism. They also contain ribosomes where proteins are made using a complex mechanism of nucleic acids and more than a hundred different proteins, each with a specific task. The cell also contains mitochondria where energy (ATP) is produced. The complexity of all these parts of the cell is enormous. Lynn Margulis has suggested that the first proto-cell assimilated these organelles by a process of symbiosis. However, these components cannot now exist independently, nor could the cell exist without their contributions. Moreover, one such type of organelle, known as a lysosome, contains enzymes whose function is to digest foreign bodies. With all the amazingly complex, mutually-dependent components, it seems that the cell had to be complete from the beginning, rather than being assembled piecemeal over years of evolution … Each component of a living cell is breathtakingly complex, yet in isolation it cannot survive nor replicate itself. All the parts of the cell are necessary to its functioning and replication. Nothing works until everything works.”[4] (Emphasis mine)

Recently, the church where I attend invited James M. Tour, Ph.D.,[5] a well-known organic chemist and tenured professor at Rice University, to come and speak on the impossibility of abiogenesis – life from non-life. Dr. Tour began his talk by touting his credentials as a “real” scientist as evidenced by his research and many patents in nano-engineering. He was by no means bragging; he was just stating facts. I spoke to him both before and after his talk, and he is a genuinely humble man, but the fact remains that he is extremely intelligent and gifted. Next, he gave his testimony of how he came to faith in Christ. I was very impressed that before beginning his talk, he took a knee and offered a prayer that God would open the eyes and hearts of the skeptics who might be in the audience. (The church sent to area schools.)

After giving his testimony, he opened the final portion of his talk by stating that from that point on, he would not bring God into the picture. His purposed to disprove evolution by abiogenesis by demonstrating the scientific evidence against it. He read from his “Open Letter to My Colleagues” (not yet published) where he calls the origin of life from non-life a “retarded” theory. “Retarded” because it has not advanced since the Urey-Miller experiments of 1953. He expertly demonstrated how life – even simple life – cannot spontaneously come from random chemical reactions. He pointed out how time is the enemy of slow and gradual evolution. If it is going to happen at all, it must happen all at once.

Tour says he prefers to be “free of that intelligent design label … I have been labeled as an Intelligent Design (sometimes called “ID”) proponent. I am not. I do not know how to use science to prove intelligent design although some others might.”[6] However, like most IDM proponents, he destroys the theory of evolution (life from non-life), but offers nothing substantive to take its place. A public pronouncement of God as the Intelligent Creator is a step too far for him, although on a personal level he may hold and profess that belief. In fact, for Dr. Tour, organizations such as ICR are an embarrassment to both the scientific and Christian community since they rely on Scripture above “science.” Tour wants to maintain a purely “scientific” approach to the question of origins to the exclusion of a supernatural act of creation by Almighty God.

In his 1999 article, David Rosevear said everything Dr. Tour said in his talk.  The difference being that Rosevear attributes the origin of life to God. I suspect that Dr. Tour believes in God as Creator; he is just unwilling to take that stand among his peers.

Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). What one believes concerning the origin of life is not a salvation issue. Dr. Tour professes to be a Christian and his personal testimony is compelling; of course, that confession was made in a friendly venue. Outside of that, how can a Christ-indwelled “believer” question creation by the very One in which he confesses to trust? “All things were made by him [the Word; Jesus]; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). I do not question Dr. Tour’s salvation; only God can judge the heart. I find no flagrant flaw in his testimony. [7] My only issue with him is that he makes a great case for the impossibility of chemical evolution, but then he leaves it at that. If life could not have originated in that way, then how did it originate? If chance randomness cannot account for the precision in the design of even the simplest cell, then how did that design come about? It must have an intelligent source. He will not say, at least not publicly. That is a shame!

IDM makes a great case against evolution and demonstrates how all life shows intelligent design. However, by refusing to proclaim God as the Intelligent Designer, they leave to door open to all kinds of fanciful possibilities. Some in the ID movement go so far as to propose “seeding” of the earth by ancient aliens; but that only pushes the question of origins further out in outer space. All life, indeed all that exists, originated in the mind of One Intelligent Designer – God.[8] “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). The Institute for Creation Research may be an embarrassment to the likes of Dr. James M. Tour, but at least they are not ashamed to proclaim God as Creator, and the Bible as infallible and inerrant in all matters of life including science. I pray that Dr. Tour will soon arrive at that conclusion as well.

Notes:


[1]  “Intelligent Design Movement” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intelligent_design_movement

[2]  Discovery Institute “What We Do” – http://www.discovery.org/about/

[3]  “The Fallacy of Time And Chance” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2012/06/06/the-fallacy-of-time-and-chance-13/

[4]  David Rosevear, “The Myth Of Chemical Evolution” – http://www.icr.org/article/myth-chemical-evolution/

[5]  James M. Tour – https://www.jmtour.com/

[6]  James M. Tour, “Evolution/Creation” – https://www.jmtour.com/personal-topics/evolution-creation/

[7]  James M. Tour, “Personal Statement” – https://www.jmtour.com/personal-topics/personal-statement/

[8]  “Proof of God” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2014/06/22/proof-of-god/

 

3 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Christianity, Creation, Evolution, Origins, Religion, Science

3 responses to “Intelligent Design

  1. Great post Ernie! Only a fool would say in his heart there is no God..

  2. Lee

    Yes, great post and I totally agree with Mary Ann.

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