What if Darwinism Were True?

Michael Egnor

I’m a faithful Catholic. I’ve often thought: what if Darwinism were true? I don’t mean all of the philosophical materialism that Darwinists drag along with the science. Materialism is nonsense, because if matter and energy are all that exist, then truth doesn’t exist (it’s neither matter nor energy). If truth doesn’t exist, then materialism can’t be true.
But what about Darwin’s central scientific assertion: that all biological complexity is the result of chance and necessity, at least as well as we humans can discern chance and design. What if experimental evidence demonstrated that we could account for biological information (or whatever we call the astonishing complexity of living things) without inferring design? Would I lose my faith?

No, I wouldn’t. I believe that God created us and all that exists, and that he holds us all in existence. I don’t pretend to understand all his designs, and I have no reason to be confident that I understand any part of his design in biology. We impute randomness where we can’t discern design. My ignorance of God’s design in biology would look to me like randomness, and my failure to discern design in biology would not shake my faith.
I think intelligent design is true because of the science. I believe that some biological complexity — the genetic code, the cellular nanotechnology, the astonishing integration of organs and systems — is best understood as the consequence of intelligent agency. Those who claim that randomness can generate biological complexity seem to lack an understanding of the vastness of what statisticians call “combinatorial space.” A grammatically correct, meaningful twenty-word English sentence cannot be generated by chance without an intelligently designed target that captures grammar and meaning. Did randomness generate the human beings who write English sentences? I have not seen any scientific evidence that would even suggest that it could or that it did.
I have no problem with evolution, understood as change in living things over time. I have no problem with the view that some of the changes were caused by random events. And the evidence that the earth is several billion years old looks good to me. If a “random” origin of biological complexity were shown scientifically to be true, I’d have no problem with it, as a scientist or as a Christian. I’d just figure that it was one more of God’s designs that’s opaque to me.
I’d have some problems, of course, with Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett high-fiving, but I’d see it as my penance. Christians deal with suffering.
What if intelligent design were shown to be right, by scientific evidence? Most atheists would feel their faith in materialism greatly endangered, if not untenable. I suspect that is the cause for all their vitriol. Is Darwinism true? I’ll believe it if I see it. Is intelligent design true? Atheists won’t see it, because they won’t believe it.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.