See the first Youtube installment of the video on Christianity in Evolution at http://youtu.be/Ects2nwjD6c . Intelligent Design is the second theory of evolution to be discussed, Creationism being the first.
Intelligent Design, the third theory of evolution, might be called “Neo-Creationism;” its proponents accept much of the science of evolution but argue that natural forces, particularly natural selection (NS), are unable to account for the creation of much of Life’s dazzling complexity. Hence, they claim that certain “irreducibly complex objects” had to be created. The movement argues for the presence of design in the universe by positing that complex organs and systems such as cilia and the blood-clotting system are irreducibly complex. That is, because their unassembled component parts could not independently function, such systems must have been created whole cloth. ID has focused on the bacterial flagellum (fig. 0.1.) as a prime example, arguing that individual protein components would have no function unless most or all were in place. Hence, irreducibly complex and therefore created.
However, recent research shows that nearly all the proteins present in the flagellum perform important functions elsewhere in the cell. For example, 10 of the proteins are present in a structure quite similar to the flagellum, the Type III secretion system (shown in fig. 0.1). This structure is a device to inject poison into other cells, making the bacterium virulent.[i] It is evident that diverse bacteria, in the course of their evolution, have built more elaborate flagella through such mechanisms as self-assembly of simple repeating subunits, gene duplication with subsequent modifications, recruitment of elements from other systems, and recombination of genes.[ii] A wide variety of bacteria have appropriated old components and assembled them in novel combinations to produce new structures. Such Lego Block-like rearrangements, or “tinkerings,” underlie the remarkable plasticity of living tissue and appear over and over in the genesis of ever more complex living things.
ID, like Creationism, has tried to defend Christianity from the attacks of a small number of scientists and commentators who insist that Neo-Darwinism (discussed below) invalidates the idea of God as Creator. ID has claimed to be science so that it can be taught in U.S. public schools. However, the courts have ruled against ID’s claims. For example, Judge John Jones, a conservative Christian and George W. Bush appointee, ruled in the Dover trial[iii] that ID was religion and not science, and therefore could not be taught in public schools.[iv] In addition, ID and debates about irreducible complexity are “god-of-the-gaps” arguments. It is common for persons to attribute to the Almighty or the supernatural that which they do not understand. The term explanatory gap expresses the inadequacy of existing data or our knowledge of it to explain an observable fact or happening. People then will often fill the gap by crediting the power of some extraordinary force, be it astrology, fate, vital forces, or the hand of God.
For example, Kandel[v] notes that before the mechanisms of nerve impulses and their translation into muscle contraction were worked out, people assumed that an immaterial vital force was between one’s will to move a finger and its subsequent motion. Scientific inquiry has proven adept at filling in explanatory gaps, thereby falsifying many god-of-the-gaps arguments.
Fig. 0.1. A bacterial flagellum. Found in a variety of bacteria, including E.coli, it rotates like a propeller when the bacterium swims. Each component is composed of complicated proteins, which are in turn derived from specific genes. The Type III secretion system proteins form the base and core of the flagellum complex. Courtesy LadyofHats and Wikimedia Commons.[vi]
In contrast to ID, Creationism, and Theistic Evolution, I am suggesting a rapprochement of orthodox Christianity and evolution with a specific and detailed model that does not claim to be science but is nonetheless based on accurate descriptions and interpretations of the best that present-day science offers and a close reading of the Scriptures.
Like Creationism, ID proposes a top-down and outside-to-in creator. I prefer the Meta-Darwinist perspective, which argues for an inside-to-out self modification approach. In this model, Life is an agent in its adaptations. From a theological perspective, God then has granted to Life the radical freedom to alter itself. This gets God off the hook for my grandson’s autism. Behe, in The Edge of Evolution, argues that Darwin was being squeamish when he expressed his distress over the wasp that lays its eggs inside a caterpillar, there to consume the caterpillar from the inside out. Recall that Darwin wondered how a good God could have created something as brutal as this. I don’t think Darwin was being squeamish; rather, he was calling attention to a contradiction. I agree with Darwin. Both Creationism and ID create this fundamental contradiction, where God is responsible for autism and wasp eggs that consume caterpillars from the inside out.
[i] Miller, Only a Theory: Evolution and the Battle for America’s Soul (New York: Viking Press, 2008).
[ii] Pallen MJ and Gophna U. “Bacterial Flagella and Type III Secretion: Case Studies in the Evolution of Complexity,” Genome Dyn 3 (2007):30–47.
[iii] In the lawsuit Kitzmiller v. Dover, parents of children in the Dover Pennsylvania School District filed suit disputing the teaching of ID in classrooms.
[iv] Miller KR. Only a Theory, p. 211.
[v] Kandel E. In Search of Memory: The Emergence of a New Science of Mind (New York: WW Norton, 2006).
[vi] Image at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flagellum_base_diagram_en.svg