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Denying the Signature in the Brain

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Evolution News recently had a superb post about the elegant design of the brain. Rather than a random tangle of neurons and neuronal processes, the brain at the microscopic level is a remarkable organized system of connections.

The complexity of the brain at the microscopic level — the elegance of the microanatomy and physiology of the brain — is astonishing. There is even clear evidence of irreducible complexity in innervation of agonist and antagonist muscles — for example in muscles that control eye movement.

Rather than remain silent (the wisest strategy for Darwinists when presented with evidence like this for design), biologist P.Z. Myers jumped in with both feet. What he said provides a remarkable insight into what passes for scientific insight — and even logic — in the Darwinist in-group.


Getting axons in the nervous system to their proper destinations actually is a very complex problem: much wires, many connections, wow. If you look at complex systems like the brain, you shouldn’t be surprised that the mechanisms are complex. And further, the functional requirements of those systems, which may require that Neuron A navigate to Target B in order for the pattern to work, it’s easy to say that the purpose of those mechanisms is to hook A up to B. It does not imply the existence of a designer, only the existence of functional constraints.

“[V]ery complex problem… complex systems… mechanisms are complex… functional requirements… purpose of those mechanisms… existence of functional constraints…” Obvious design.

Myers’s conclusion: “It does not imply the existence of a designer…” Well, what exactly would imply a designer, if not this? Is Myers looking for a signature?

Dr. Myers rambles about his own research from decades ago, using the following phrases to describe his findings about brain development:

Neuron A is supposed to… has the function of, has the purpose…there is a hierarchy of interactions.

He describes just how it is that ID scientists have all of this design stuff wrong:

And that’s where the Discovery Institute is so wrong… It’s like how on one level, you can see a car and watch it run and figure out general things like wheels and steering, but when you get out the wrenches and start taking the engine apart, you can really see the mechanistic basis of its operation.

Myers uses an analogy between a living thing and a car to deny intelligent design. (!) After taking the engine apart, he concludes:

Every step deeper into the guts of the problem tends to reinforce our understanding that it’s fully natural, and was built around natural processes.

Doesn’t Dr. Myers know where cars come from? There’s more. He writes:

If the Discovery Institute had looked just a little bit harder (or had not intentionally chosen to ignore all the papers that studied the evolution of axon guidance mechanisms), they might have noticed that there’s a very interesting literature on how these molecules evolved. There are plenty of papers that survey the evolutionary pattern of axon guidance mechanisms.

He goes on to describe similar remarkable complexity in sponges and in the nervous systems of worms and insects.

Of course, human beings haven’t evolved from modern sponges, worms, and animals, and the ostensible ancestors of humans and other animals are not preserved in such a way that permits Myers’s witless evolutionary inferences. All that his comparison between the enormous complexity of the human brain and the similarly remarkable complexity of the nervous systems of modern animals is that living things across the spectrum of species show astonishingly similar functional specified complexity.

Myers’s comparison of the neurological complexity of higher animals to the neurological complexity of other animals is analogous, by his own analogy, to a comparison of complexity of various models of cars, and from this Myers concludes that

… it’s fully natural, and was built around natural processes.

One of the insurmountable problems that Darwinists face is this: There are no analogies to living things that are not intelligently designed.

Image: � adimas / Dollar Photo Club.

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.