I know many other mathematicians and engineers who share my low opinion of Darwinism, but most are reluctant to express their views publicly because they feel that the issue is simply outside their area of expertise and they will not be taken seriously. I also tend to defer to specialists on scientific issues outside my discipline — until those specialists try to tell me something clearly absurd, for example, that unintelligent forces alone could have reorganized the basic particles on Earth into computers and airplanes and Apple iPhones. Then I don’t hesitate to jump into the debate. I have done so, for example, in a 2000 Mathematical Intelligencer opinion piece, “A Mathematician’s View of Evolution,” and in a 2017 Physics Essays article, “On ‘Compensating’ Entropy Decreases.”
A Very Simple Principle
It is really not necessary to be a biochemist or a paleontologist to understand the main issue in the debate between Darwinism and intelligent design. That is because it is a very simple principle, as I keep emphasizing: natural (unintelligent) causes do not create order (or information). They destroy it. That is the main theme of the first half of my video “Why Evolution Is Different.”
While every other natural process tends to turn order into disorder, Darwinists have always believed that natural selection is the one unintelligent process in the universe that can create spectacular order out of disorder. So I feel vindicated by Michael Behe’s new book, Darwin Devolves, which disputes this belief, and argues that despite all the claims about the creative powers of natural selection, it has never actually been observed to produce anything new and complex, only “devolution”:
Darwinian evolution proceeds mainly by damaging or breaking genes, which, counterintuitively, sometimes helps survival. In other words, the mechanism is powerfully devolutionary. It promotes the rapid loss of genetic information. Laboratory experiments, field research, and theoretical studies all forcefully indicate that, as a result, random mutation and natural selection make evolution self-limiting….Darwin’s mechanism works chiefly by squandering genetic information for short-term gain.
And so we conclude that perhaps natural selection of random mutations is like every other unintelligent cause in the universe after all, and tends to create disorder out of order and not vice-versa.
Only Devolution Occurred
As another illustration that selection and mutations can only degrade, in this interview on German TV, geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig recounts (minutes 24:00 to 28:00, turn on English subtitles if you don’t speak German) the well-funded attempts at, among other places, his own Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, to speed up evolution in plants using radiation and advanced artificial selection techniques. Lönnig reports that only devolution occurred: the only progress observed before this effort was given up was that the genes that made some plants toxic were damaged, making these plants more useful as animal fodder.
That it seems even superficially plausible that random mutations could produce major improvements relies completely on the observed but inexplicable fact that while they are awaiting rare favorable mutations, living species are able to preserve their complex structures and pass them on to their descendants without significant degradation, generation after generation.
To appreciate how astonishing this is, imagine that it were possible (though it is far beyond our current technology) to construct a fleet of cars that contained completely automated car-building factories inside, with the ability to construct new cars — and not just normal new cars, but new cars containing automated car-building factories inside them. If we left these cars alone and let them reproduce themselves for many generations, is there any chance we would eventually see major advances arise through natural selection of the resulting duplication errors?
Of course not. We could confidently predict that the whole process would grind to a halt after a few generations without intelligent humans there to fix the mechanical problems that would inevitably arise. And we don’t need to know the details of how these cars work and reproduce to predict this, because there is a simpler principle involved here: devolution is natural, evolution is not.
The Argument Could Not Be Clearer
I am very grateful that there are biologists like Michael Behe and W.E. Lönnig who doubt Darwinism, because doubts expressed by mathematicians like me would otherwise never be taken seriously. But you really do not have to study the biochemical details to understand why the accumulation of genetic accidents cannot produce human brains and human consciousness. And you do not really need to study mutations for thirty years, as Lönnig has done, to predict that bombarding plant chromosomes with radiation would not lead to major agricultural advances.
The argument against Darwinism, or any other attempt to explain what has happened on Earth without intelligent design, could not be simpler or clearer: a few fundamental, unintelligent, forces of physics alone cannot rearrange the fundamental particles of physics into computers and airplanes and Apple iPhones. And any attempt to explain how they can must break down somewhere, because they obviously can’t.