Don't let Darwin make a monkey out of you

Life Just As We Know It

There are plenty of things in this life that we accept as true. Sometimes we grow out of them as we grow up, as in the case of Father Christmas, the tooth fairy and a decent postal service. As we become more aware of the world around us, then some previously accepted truths are discarded. Yet some are not and we go through life believing the same old stuff mainly because nothing else has come along to teach us otherwise. This is fine as long as there's some semblance of truth in what we're believing, but there are some things that we may have been taught that were untrue because the world has moved on and better explanations have been put forward. This can be more important than you think.

Does the term 'primal soup' stir any brain cells? It was an experiment by Stanley Miller in the 1950s that claimed to produce life out of a 'soup' of chemicals placed into a container full of gases and energised with a swift bolt of electricity. The idea was that this combination reproduced the conditions all those millions of years ago on Earth when life first appeared and the experiment attempted to do the same thing in a laboratory. Remember it now? Still believe that it's the best explanation of how life came to be? Think again.

This experiment has, for the last 20 or 30 years, been totally discredited by the scientific community, yet that little gem of information hasn't filtered through to us, or to our education system. Objections include the fact that they made wrong assumptions about the gases and the amount of electricity that would have been needed to make it work. In other words they managed to get most of the experiment wrong. Doesn't fill us with much confidence, does it? Yet some school textbooks still feature the experiment and, although others may feature it with a warning that it's not the best fit for the data, it is included because the scientists haven't found a better fit for the data and they had to provide some explanation that reflected their world view!

But there are deeper questions raised about the theory that life on Earth could have started in such a way. Such questions as where did we come from are answered these days by scientists following principles first proposed in the mid-nineteenth century by Charles Darwin under the all-encompassing umbrella of the Theory of Evolution. It has held sway ever since, with a firm grip on the hearts and minds of scientists the world over. Is that because it was a good theory? Not exactly. The problem is that it has been the only theory that science has come up with and, for many scientists, it has to be the only game in town because, for many of them, the alternative is unthinkable.

Make no mistake, despite its billing as the enemy of organised religion, for most scientists working today in a whole variety of disciplines, the Theory of Evolution has become a religious system of the highest order. With a set of dogmas firmly entrenched in the past, based around the holy book, "The Origin of the Species", Evolution is put forward as a mechanism to explain all the mysteries of life. It even has its priests, self-proclaimed spokesmen such as the biologist Richard Dawkins, to organise its worship. Dawkins has said, "it is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)." If that is not blind faith then I don't know what is! What it does remind you of, though, is the medieval Church, zealous to protect its dogmas by vilifying the slightest deviation from them and burning "heretics" at the stake.

A basic assumption of Evolution is that life appeared by blind chance. The usual process, as already described, is that, given a few million or billion years, a hotch-potch of chemicals, swirling away in the right atmosphere will eventually produce the simplest form of life, from which will evolve, given a few more millions of years, into simple organisms, which will, after a few more million years, modify and change, with succeeding generations, into more complex organisms, eventually producing mankind.

It's the process whereby the "primal soup", given enough time, would eventually produce little old you and me, by way of amoeba, fish, small mammals and a variety of monkeys. It has reigned supreme in the scientific and educational community. The Natural History Museum is a virtual shrine to these ideas and schoolkids are spoon-fed on evolution as the explanation of the origins of life and humankind. Yet it is only a theory and any scientist will tell you that a theory is the best fit of available facts to explain a set of phenomena.

But it has not survived the scrutiny of impartial scientific discovery. The fossil record did seem to offer proof but, despite frantic searching over the last century and a half, vital 'missing links' that bridged species such as humankind and whatever came before us, have failed to emerge. Of course there is no time here to provide a solid, comprehensively reasoned rebuttal of the theory of evolution but the point I wish to make is that, if the theory of evolution had been judged like any other scientific theory, it would have fallen apart by now, its credibility all shot through because of its shaky foundations. But it has stood firm. Why?

To answer this question, we must realise that today, the Theory of Evolution is the scientific worldview, the status quo in the classrooms, the research labs, the libraries and colleges. But the Emperor has no clothes, or, at least, they are full of holes and the one abiding reason for this is a great fear. It's a fear that 'perhaps much of what I base my life's work on is a false foundation'. It's also a fear of peer pressure, of anticipated scorn, rejection and loss of livelihood. But the fear goes deeper than that and can be explained when we consider the 'half way' house proposed by many who have openly doubted the truths of evolution. They argue the case against blind chance and instead introduce the idea of an Intelligent Designer, a controlling presence, creating and guiding life as we know it.

In July 2005 more than 400 scientists put their name to the following statement: "We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged". They have voluntarily "out-ed" themselves, they have "come out of the closet", willing to declare openly what their consciences and scientific integrity have told them is true. One man, Professor Anthony Flew, has gone further. A firm disciple of Charles Darwin for fifty years, he has done an about-turn in his twilight years. Science "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life, that intelligence must have been involved" he says. "The argument for Intelligent Design is enormously stronger than it was when I first met it ... it now seems to me that the findings of more than 50 years of DNA research have provided materials for a new and enormously powerful argument to design."

The Professor is sure that there is an Intelligent Designer, but is not going any further. He stops just short of pondering metaphysical issues, but it doesn't mean we should do the same. Because, If Intelligent Design is a valid alternative to the Theory of Evolution, then who on earth is this Intelligent Designer? CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms.