Either... Or: The Two Basic Origins Choices, Part 1
By Kenneth Poppe
CBN.com Excerpted from Reclaiming Science from Darwinism
Believers in the tenets of Darwinism often state that accepting natural explanations frees one from the necessity of believing in any kind of deity. Conversely, however, religious or spiritual people often incorporate many evolutionary theories in their explanations for how God made the world.
Religious or spiritual people might wonder if God’s power directly intervened in human evolution—or if nature had enough power to accomplish this advance on its own. Meanwhile, the opposing crowd firmly believes nature has the power to make these and all other changes, and God is irrelevant.
I encourage the people who believe in a God to be like the Darwinist believers in one respect—dispense with the fence-sitting. The introduction to this book pointed out that recent mainstream science has endorsed only one view, with no blend of the other: Science is all, and no deity is required.
So if you suspect Divine intervention but are not quite sure, I urge you to get off the wall of indecision or indifference. Go with one of the two choices because when both views are stated in pure form, they cannot be blended.
Either there is a natural explanation for everything, and no type of theology is needed—
- Or a supernatural designing entity of some type gets full credit for bringing into existence that which otherwise would have remained a void.
These two views are based on two mutually exclusive presuppositions:
- Either we are here through a mindless, random set of that made an entire universe and then produced life through time and chance—
- Or any form of life is too complicated and organized to arise spontaneously, and the science we study reveals that this complexity is born out of information that exists by Design.
If you decide now on which side you fall, you will see much more plainly whether the information in this book supports or refutes your position.
Proposing a Test
As a preface to further considerations, and to emphasize the stark difference between the two choices, here’s a review of the two contrasting summaries I gave at the book’s beginning:
Natural evolution: In the beginning, our universe, our galaxy, our solar system, and our planet were produced over immense periods of time by random forces. Following that, cellular life on Earth arose spontaneously by another series of accidental biochemical events, and then was slowly driven forward to become today’s complex multicellular life by yet another unintended process called natural selection. All this was possible by the science existing within the system, and no intelligent involvement was required.
Design: The processes and phenomena currently operating within the universe and on Earth are insufficient to produce themselves. No amount of natural evolutionary theory can account for the complexity and compatibility that are continually observed by science. Therefore, there must be a guiding intelligence repeatedly involved in creating the complexity, but not subjected to it. Such complexity must always be the result of intended information b—ecause there is a mathematical limit to what blind luck can accomplish.
To assess the two stances, I would like to test each through an application in nature. (I’ll pick up the story where we left off in the previous chapter—at the appearance of the chordates.) Specifically, how would natural evolution and Design explain the existence of a unique living organism?
Out of life’s myriad of examples, the male North American wood duck (Aix sponsa) is an appropriate choice because by anyone’s standards, he is one of the most strikingly beautiful birds ever to grace a wetland or an artist’s canvas. Since his extreme beauty seems to go far beyond necessity, does this point to the artistic talent of a Designer? Or can science give a thorough explanation for the beauty of the wood duck through entirely natural means?
If you want to be conversant with Darwinism you need to understand its most highly regarded mechanism: natural selection. It was natural selection, so it is said, that caused that duck to develop. This is how life advanced of its own accord. Though the following explanation is a bit technical, in a nutshell, natural selection involves a good mutation that is favored by environmental factors, which then carries a species forward.
To explain natural selection, Charles Darwin frequently used the phrase descent by modification for how certain species gave rise to advanced relatives. In this method, you assess ancestry and relatedness is through the scientific classification system of taxonomy, and then the simpler relatives give rise to more complex ones. For sufficient detail, the system assigns seven names to all living organisms—according to seven different taxa based on morphology, physiology, and genetic comparisons. Obviously, the closer the seven names match for two species, the more closely they are related.
The seven steps, from broadest to most specific, are kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species, with the last two steps being the exact name of the organism a binomial (two-name) naming system. Using this system, the natural differentiation of the wood duck from related species can be outlined by the numbers below.
In the very early stages of life on Earth, organisms split into two main kingdoms. The first was the kingdom Plantae, which are autotrophs that could make photosynthetic food using solar power. The other was the kingdom Animalia, which are heterotrophs that must capture food. (Ducks would obviously arise from the latter, but not until vast numbers of years passed.)
Simple fish in the ancient Paleozoic seas were probably the first animals in the phylum Chordata, those animals with spinal cords from fish to ducks to humans. These fish later transitioned through amphibians to establish themselves on land as reptiles in the Age of Dinosaurs. Then certain ancient reptiles began adapting feathers for limited flight, and these eventually mutated into all birds in the class Aves, which obviously includes all ducks.
With ancient birds beginning to dominate the land after the extinction of dinosaurs, a separate group of birds developed the necessary adaptations to live on water. In a few million years, these water birds expanded into the order Anseriformes, which includes just the duck waterfowl, as well as geese and swans.
Many thousands of years ago, one branch of these ducks acquired an adaptation allowing them to build their nests in the security of trees rather than on the ground, and close relatives of the wood duck could now be grouped into the duck family Anatidae, just those ducks that nest in trees. Now, all that is left in the last few thousands of years is to produce today’s wood duck, genus and species Aix sponsa, and the final process is easy to explain.
Just as the dictates of survival of the fittest carried life forward from the simplest of animal life to tree-nesting ducks, so can the “nuts and bolts” of natural evolution explain the male Aix sponsa’s dazzling colors—quite a contrast to those of the drab, brown female. As to sexual reproduction, ducks are polygynous, which means one male will mate with as many fertile females as are available. (If you have ten female wood ducks and one male, you can have ten broods of ducklings, but if you have ten males and one female, you still have eleven adult ducks but one brood of ducklings for the next generation.)
Obviously, once the males have done their reproductive duties, they are most certainly expendable. So if a predator like a coyote should happen by, a more easily visible male will likely fall prey, while the camouflaged female hides quietly with her young. The advantage is this. If a duck must die—and predators need to eat as well—the male’s death better serves any duck population, removing the male’s drain on available resources while allowing the female to pass on not only her but his genes to the next generation.
So where did the wood duck get such extraordinary colors beyond most male birds? Somewhere in the past, a random and unexpected mutation, or a series of natural variations during breeding, accidentally caused a new gene combination to produce at least one beautiful male. And his bright colors actually enhanced that new gene’s survivability due to the improved way it attracted predators. Now, suddenly, compared to other ducks, the wood duck species suffers more losses in expendable males and fewer losses in essential females, and that gives the breed a better chance to outcompete other ducks by survival of the fittest. (Some biologists say it is actually the DNA molecules that are in the fight for survival, and they conveniently wrap themselves with the most advantageous organisms in an attempt to outcompete each other.)
With time available (4.6 billion years), a mechanism (random mutations), and a driving force (natural selection), then chance has been able to give us all the diversity of life—from diatoms to daffodils, from dinoflagellates to dinosaurs to ducks, even amazingly gorgeous wood ducks—and all without the aid of an “unseen hand.”
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