Mt. Rushmore: Nature’s Greatest Wonder
A review of Heretic: One Scientist’s Journey from Darwin to Design, by Matti Leisola and Jonathan Witt.
Poor Sonny Bono. He met and fell in love with the younger, more gifted Cher when she was only 16. And he had to break the news to her: Mt. Rushmore is not a natural formation.
So reports the Chicago Tribune, anyway. I don’t know how hard she pushed back. How long the argument took. Or what evidence she offered that Mt. Rushmore was not designed and carved by Gutzon and Lincoln Borglum between 1927 and 1941. That instead, the random forces of nature had somehow contrived it. Over millions of years of wind and weather, they formed precise portraits of four human beings. Not just any humans, but American politicians. But not just any politicians. Four men who would someday become key U.S. presidents. Imagine the odds of nature happening to pick just those four. Why didn’t the wind and rain slowly carve into the granite the faces (let’s say) of James Buchanan, Warren Harding, William Henry Harrison, and William Jefferson Clinton?
Why didn’t Nature choose James Buchanan, Warren Harding, William Henry Harrison, and Bill Clinton?
Sonny might have said all this. Cher could have answered: “It’s just the power of Natural Erosion. Given enough time, nature might very well carve out more presidents. Or maybe it will switch to Grammy winners. Who’s to say? There’s no design behind all this. It’s just blind chance and mindless forces. Isn’t Nature amazing?”
Alphabet Soup Writes Its Own Cookbook
For those who study deeply the sciences of life Cher might not seem so foolish. Because the odds are much, much better that nature could have carved out Mt. Rushmore on its own than they are that any of the following things happened randomly. (At least not in the amount of time that has elapsed in the history of the universe.)
- Organic chemicals combined to form the immensely complex and fragile structures of enzymes and proteins. (Imagine alphabet soup randomly combining to form sentences. And then the recipe for alphabet soup.)
- Those enzymes combined and learned to cooperate to form the tiny biocomputer facility we call a cell. (The alphabet soup forms a Help Wanted ad for a chef to come cook more soup.)
- Such cells differentiated, and learned to work together to form higher organisms. (The alphabet soup writes the chef’s autobiography.)
- The cells in those organisms underwent major mutations to form whole new physical structures of new species that weren’t unviable mutants, but better adapted organisms. In decades of lab research on microorganisms, scientists have found exactly zero mutations like that. (The alphabet soup forms a series of cookbooks. It lists the chef as the author.)
- The same process of natural selection and random mutations happened often enough, and turned out well enough, to explain how infinitesimal microorganisms “evolved” into plants, then animals, then humans. (The alphabet soup develops into a variety of ethnic cuisines, from Jamaican to Japanese.)
Nice Career You Got There. What a Shame if Something Happened to It …
Finnish bioengineer Matti Leisola can feel Sonny Bono’s pain. He’s a widely published research scientist who has taught at major universities and worked for multinational corporations. But he had a problem. He found the arguments of Darwinism increasingly unpersuasive. That made him deeply nervous. As he recounts in painful anecdote after anecdote, very bad things happen to the careers of scientists who question that theory. They get called “fundamentalists” and prevented from speaking or publishing. Then hounded out of their jobs. They get the full Galileo treatment, in fact — which is ironic, since that astronomer is supposed to be one of their heroes.
The fundamental rule of discourse in the sciences: Absolute soulless materialism. The absence of God or meaning. That is the holy premise which no one may touch, lest he die like the Nazis at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
In his memoir and science brief Heretic (co-written with former Stream managing editor Jonathan Witt, now of the Discovery Institute) Leisola explains the incoherence of Darwinian, unguided evolution. He shows how it fails on its own terms.
It cannot in fact account for “the origin of species.” It cannot account for life itself, much less for its “random” development from protozoa to primates. Nor can materialist science account for why our universe seems fine-tuned to produce live, conscious creatures such as us who can write about it.
Taking Scientific Materialism on Faith
Again and again, when faced with its failure to explain such basic realities, Darwinists take refuge in “fudge” factors, hand-waving, or quasi-religious explanations. My favorite? Those who “explain” that our universe favors life because it’s just one of a countless, infinite number of universes that randomly emerged. Of course, by definition, we can never have any evidence of any of these other universes. We have to take them on faith. Just as we must take on faith that some random process which someone will discover somewhere down the line will fill in all the gaping (and growing) gaps in Darwinism.
Yes it’s true that at every stage of life, what scientists see looks much more like the result of exquisite, fine-tuned Design than the results of countless accidents. It looks more like Mt. Rushmore than the Grand Canyon. In explaining evolution itself, scientists constantly lapse into teleological language. They say that organisms “develop” new organs and functions “in order” to compete more robustly for survival.
But that’s not true for their theory. Their grand claim is that “stuff just happens” at the biomolecular level and then gets preserved by natural selection. Natural randomness and mutation act on our DNA like a spider monkey. With a wrench, inside a shop full of auto parts. But given enough time, that monkey will build a Lamborghini. And a Volkwagen Passat. And maybe a Segway.
Spider Monkeys in an Auto Shop
We can’t find the fossil evidence Darwin predicted of the countless Edsels and Yugos which the spider monkeys got wrong. Instead we find one beautifully designed vehicle after another, each one quite different. That’s a huge problem for Darwinists. Equally troubling: The more we learn about genetics, the less plausible random mutations seem as the means of developing new, healthy species. (Here you have to imagine the spider monkey somehow stumbling into making the car’s radio and computers.)
Why all the mental gymnastics to avoid what is obvious to any six year old? Because the alternative is unthinkable. You aren’t allowed to think it. To do that violates the fundamental rule of discourse in the sciences: Absolute soulless materialism. The absence of God or meaning. That is the holy premise which no one may touch, lest he die like the Nazis at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. (Or at least his career will.) Leisola quotes the admirably candid Harvard Darwinist Richard Lewontin here:
Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between science and the supernatural. We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.
A Mind Opener
Read the absorbing, informative Heretic for a scientist’s first-hand account of how he discovered intelligent design. He shows why it’s a more robust and persuasive heuristic for understanding life. If it’s ever an audio book, Discovery Institute should hire Cher to read it.