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Darwin Apologists: “We’ve Got It All Figured Out.” Astronomer Martin Rees: “Not So Fast.”

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Here’s a refreshingly humble statement on the limited extent of current scientific understanding of how life came together. Martin Rees, cosmologist and Britain’s Astronomer Royal, inoculates himself against the implications of what he says by reminding readers that “most educated people” are “fully aware that our biosphere is the outcome of several billion years of Darwinian evolution.” And if by that he merely means that life has been kaleidoscopically shifting forms for that long, of course he’s right.

However, in the same article for Newsweek about the implications of revealing the Higgs boson, Rees gives an apt comparison between science and learning the game of chess:

The very large and the very small — cosmos and microworld — are two great frontiers of science. Twenty-first-century scientists may successfully unify them….

But this unification would not be the end of science; indeed, we could still be near the beginning. Consider an analogy — suppose you’d never seen chess being played, you could, by watching a few games, infer the rules. But in chess, learning how the pieces move is just the entry gate to the absorbing progression from novice to grand master. The beauty of that game lies in the rich variety that the rules allow.

Likewise, the greatest scientific challenges are not to discover nature’s building blocks, but to elucidate how they combine together into an immense variety of materials, and — above all — into the complex structures of life. This is the challenge that engages the 99 percent of scientists who are neither particle physicists nor astronomers.
It may seem incongruous that scientists can make confident statements about remote galaxies, or about exotic subatomic particles, while being baffled about issues close at hand that we all care about — diet and common diseases, for instance. But this is because living things embody intricate structures that render them far more mysterious than atoms or stars.

Will scientists ever fathom all of nature’s complexities? Perhaps they will. However, we should be open to the possibility that we might, far down the line, encounter limits because our brains just don’t have enough conceptual grasp.

His point is that for all the excitement about perhaps finding the Higgs particle, that would be pretty much as nothing compared to the still outstanding and far vaster mystery of how matter’s constituent parts have come together to form the world around us, and in particular the wonder of life.

In considering life’s origin, Darwinists constantly make the mistake of assuming that if you’ve shown how the ingredients of life might have been present in the early Earth, it’s a no brainer to get from there to the formation of information-coding molecules needed to advance creatures from the simple and primitive to the increasingly, mind-bogglingly complex. As Stephen Meyer emphasizes in Signature in the Cell, the real magic lies in this coding, analogous to composing a book or newspaper article, not in the physical components used to convey the code, analogous to the typesetting equipment that used to be employed to print books and newspapers.

Thinking that you understand life’s evolution because you understand all the material ingredients is like watching a few games of chess, inferring the basic rules and then assuming that you’ve got it all figured out and can confidently go and challenge the world’s reigning chess master. There are levels of intelligence, art, and intuition, genius almost beyond comprehension, whose existence you haven’t even sensed.

This is like another analogy that we noted here the other day. Instead of chess, Biologic Institute director Doug Axe drew a comparison to writing. A Darwinian’s approach to understanding life is like someone trying to appreciate the art of writing but instead getting stuck checking the writer’s spelling.

You can think about it in terms of the difference between mastering spelling versus mastering the art of writing. One could be a very good speller and a miserable writer and vice versa. In one case you’re looking at the micromechanics of how you put letters together to make words but in the other you are looking at higher-level principles that allow good writing to take place, the principles you have to master in order to write well.

We feel that biology has been stuck, looking at the mechanics — like spelling — and it really has to move to a higher level where it embraces principles, and these principles are manifestly design principles.

The Darwinist rap has it that evolutionary biologists have got everything all figured out. Their kind of talk is exactly in the spirit of Lord Kelvin who is quoted as summarizing, in 1900, the view of many physicists when he said, “There is nothing new to be discovered in physics now. All that remains is more and more precise measurement.” That was, of course, 15 years before Einstein revealed the theory of general relativity.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.



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