Intelligent Design Without Tears: a New Video Makes the Controversial Theory More Accessible than Ever
Intelligent design, habitually demonized in the media as “science denial” or “creationism,” may be the most misunderstood scientific idea ever. The phrase itself is certainly well known. Stephen King, ultra-bestselling novelist, has spoken out to endorse intelligent design (or ID) by name (see here and here). Another mega-popular writer, Dean Koontz, wrote a recent novel with ID as a theme.
Still another fantastically popular author, Tom Wolfe, told the The New Yorker that persecution of ID scientists is comparable to the Spanish Inquisition.
Yet Darwinists have done such an energetic job of confusing the public that the scientific alternative to orthodox evolutionary theory remains foggy at best even for many thoughtful people, including some who are instinctively sympathetic to it.
That’s why my colleagues at Discovery Institute, the major hub for ID research, have unveiled an easily accessible 21-minute overview of one of ID’s major arguments, which focuses on the information sequences of DNA. It’s in the form of a beautifully produced video, The Information Enigma.
Information in the form of software underlies much of our ordinary daily experiences. Too much, some would say who worry about the amount of time we spend glued to our screens. We take this state of affairs for granted, but if asked, no one would say that our computerized life is just some product of nature, as authorless as the winds or the tides. Standing behind the software are legions of software writers and computer architects.
Intelligent design takes seriously the fact that information underlies our biological existence, too. A computer program is coded instructions. DNA is much the same, as no less than Microsoft’s Bill Gates has acknowledged. “Human DNA is like a computer program,” he wrote in his futurist book The Road Ahead, “but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”
The Information Enigma poses the question of where that coding came from. I’m proud to have drafted the script, but the stars are philosopher of science Stephen Meyer and molecular biologist Douglas Axe. John West is responsible for the overall production, which is awesome and gives chills.
ID stands out from other scientific ideas in a couple of ways. First, unlike other theories, it asks an ultimate question: Does life bear witness to being the product of intelligence, wisdom, purpose? Is your life, my life, therefore potentially also the object of care, even love on the part of a designer standing outside nature?
Second, while other theories are far more difficult to grasp — general relativity, for example — no one sets out to invert Einstein’s meaning, turning his account of curved spacetime into a sinister parody to scare away independent-minded scientists and thoughtful laypeople.
Even in the absence of disinformation campaigns by Darwin defenders, the technical details behind the argument can be intimidating. Darwinian theory is a far easier idea to hold in the mind. I believe that The Information Enigma comes as close to simplifying this ID argument down to its essentials, while remaining true to the science, as anyone has done before. Now the information argument for ID is on YouTube, instantly available to anyone in the media, in education, in science, or anybody at all with an open mind and a few minutes to spare.
In a nutshell: As Dr. Meyer points out in the video, perhaps the greatest discovery of the second half of the last century is that DNA conveys the information to build proteins — constituents of the molecular machines that make up the cells that make up our bodies — in the form of an alphabetic code.
The coding sequence is demandingly precise. Dr. Axe quantifies the challenge. “Unlocking” a single, simple protein means finding the correct sequence out of 10 to the 77th power possible incorrect sequences. That’s 10 with 77 zeroes after it, dwarfing the number of individual animals that have ever lived on our planet (10 with 40 zeroes), each representing a potential trial of the supposed creative power of Darwinian natural selection.
That figure, 1040, is just a tiny fraction — one ten trillion, trillion, trillionth — of the earlier figure, 1077, the space to be searched to produce a lone functional protein. Sufficient time is just not available for Darwinian evolution to do the job. Not even close. Even in the 3.5 billion years of life’s history, the power to open such a lock is not given over to a random, unguided process but, as with all coded language that we are aware of, to intelligence.
Intelligent design’s simplest and most powerful insight is to show that coded information, whether in a book, an article like the one you’re reading, or a DNA molecule, invariably derives from a purposeful arrangement of characters. Purpose, intention — there is no other plausible explanation available at present — means design.
In the beginning, there was information. How that purpose was instantiated, made material, in life is a separate question. But there can be no progress in contemplating the second mystery without having acknowledged the first — the enigma of biological information. The ultimate question posed by ID is one that everyone owes it to himself to confront. We’ve now made that a lot easier and I invite you to help others by sharing The Information Enigma.