Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Junior Thesis: An Intelligently Designed World

In 1919, Sir Arthur Eddington proved Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity by observing the bending of starlight around the sun during an eclipse. Einstein’s theory predicted that “the universe was either expanding or contracting” and Eddington’s observation proved that the universe was not in a constant state (Dooley). Using the proven general theory of relativity, in 1928 Edwin Hubble demonstrated that the universe is expanding (Theory of Relativity). The evidence for this claim “pointed to a rapidly expanding universe that of necessity had a finite past” (Dooley). The universe had a beginning. Science has proven that the universe is not in a constant state and that the universe is expanding and growing. The universe has not always existed, it had a definite beginning of which could not have happened by chance. This belief is called Intelligent Design.

What is Intelligent Design? The Discovery Institute defines it as a theory that proves that “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection” (Meyer). It is supported by groups of scientists, researchers, philosophers and scholars who seek to prove the evidence of design in nature.

The term ‘intelligent design’ has unknown origins, but many scientists have traced the idea back to the natural theology of William Paley and the arguments of philosopher Thomas Aquinas. Some have even traced it back to the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, who both believed that “a mind was required to explain life’s existence” (Meyer). Isaac Newton once said “Was the Eye contrived without Skill in Opticks, and the Ear without Knowledge of Sounds? …And these things being rightly dispatch’d, does it not appear from Phaenomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent, omnipresent…” Many of the world’s greatest thinkers supported the general idea of intelligent design.

Intelligent design most recently came into play in the court case Kitzmiller v. Dover, which argued against the teaching of intelligent design in public schools. The conclusion reached in this case was that intelligent design is not a science and is directly related to creationism and religion. (Matzke). However, I disagree.

Intelligent design is not a religious belief. It is not directly associated with Christianity and should therefore not be challenged as ‘religious dogma.’ (Intelligent Design, Ward). Intelligent design is a scientific theory that is trying to prove the existence of a creator through evidence in the physical world. Many evolutionists, when debating with someone who holds to the intelligent design theory, will eventually turn the argument to a religious war. Intelligent design should not be challenged as a religion during debates. It is true that many religious people agree with intelligent design, but as do many non-religious people. Intelligent design is a scientific theory and therefore should be treated with as much respect as scientists give evolution.

Intelligent design holds to the idea that evidence found in the natural physical world points to a universe created by an intelligent designer and disproves evolution. The main arguments intelligent design holds against evolution involves entropy, the specific complexity of life, and the apparent fact that the universe had a beginning.

Intelligent design, commonly shortened to ‘ID’, directly refutes the theory of evolution or Darwinism. Darwinism, as defined by The New Encyclop√¶dia Britannica, is a “theory of the evolutionary mechanism propounded by Charles Darwin as an explanation of organic change” (“Darwinism”). Neo-Darwinism, which is more commonly believed today, purges Darwinism of the Lamarckian theory. The Lamarckian theory is the belief that an organism can pass on characteristics it acquired during its lifetime to its offspring. Modern scientists quickly realized that the Lamarckian theory was wrong and adjusted Darwinism to be more accurate.

Intelligent design’s main arguments include concepts such as increasing entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The New Encyclop√¶dia Britannica defines ‘entropy’ as a thermodynamic property or state function of matter related to the amount of energy that can be transferred in the form of work (“entropy”). More simply put, it is the measure of how much energy is not able to do work in a system. It can also be defined as the measure of chaos or disorder in the universe.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics, which is also known as the Law of Increased Entropy, states that energy is lost over time and is converted into entropy or unusable energy (“Second Law of Thermodynamics”). At first glance, the Law of Increased Entropy seems to refute evolution perfectly, assuming that it is saying since everything in the universe is descending into a state of chaos, the evolutionary process of organisms becoming more ordered cannot be true. If the Law of Increased Entropy is true, then it does not make sense for the evolutionary process to be true as well. If organisms were to be evolving into a more ordered state, the organism’s surroundings would have to make up for this decrease in entropy by becoming less ordered. With the billions of years of evolutionary process that the Darwinists claim happened, the entropy level of the universe should be much higher than it is now.

There is no such thing as ‘simple life’. Even the smallest cell is more complex than the human mind can even imagine. The human body is composed of over 100 trillion cells alone (Shriver). Within each of these cells is a microscopic virtual city. Each part of the cell has its own function and is essential to keep the cell working properly. Everything from the plasma membrane to the ribosome to the mitochondria has a purpose. However, the nucleus holds the essential information for the cell to function. Found in the nucleus is the DNA, the “genetic code that coordinates protein synthesis” (Carpi). This genetic code can be described as the language of life. The DNA holds such specific coding that it regulates the human’s eye color, hair color, skin color, protein sequence, toenail size, and much more. It manufactures over one hundred thousand different proteins (Carpi). The DNA, a tiny yet extremely important part of the cell, achieves a task that would take a supercomputer to mimic.

There is more to the cell than just DNA, however. The cell membrane, essentially the ‘wall’ of the cell, regulates what goes in and out of the cell. The organelles are like the machines in a factory that carry out all of the daily tasks. The ribosome, one of the organelles, helps in protein synthesis. Transcription for synthesis takes place in the cell nucleus, but the translation process occurs in the ribosomes. Mitochondria are sometimes considered the “power plants” of the cell because they are responsible for producing the energy the cell needs. The lysosomes are organelles that help in the digestion of nutrients and other materials.

Intelligent design uses the cell and DNA as proof for an intelligent creator. Similarly, just as the microscopic cell holds confirmation for intelligent design, the macroscopic universe is abundant in evidence as well. Douglas Adams, a science-fiction author, once wrote the simple yet accurate statement “Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is.” (Adams, 53). At the current moment, scientists do not know the exact size of the universe. It has been estimated to be around 900 Ym, which is equivalent to 9 x 1026 meters or roughly 9.6 x 1010 light years (Huang). Within this vastly immense universe are billions of galaxies that each contains trillions of stars. Edwin Hubble proved that the universe is expanding, a fact that baffled even Einstein. With the knowledge that the universe is expanding comes the assumption that the universe must have been smaller at some point in time. This fact can be argued as supporting evolution, specifically the Big Bang theory, as well as supporting intelligent design. My argument rests in the probability factor of this expanding universe theory.

The probability of the universe as a whole being created from nothing or occurring by chance is so slim that it can be argued as being unscientific. There is no definite number that illustrates the probability of the Big Bang actually occurring or the results of the Big Bang being what they are. The reason for this lack of definite answers is because the only information scientists possess to come up with these numbers are theories. Therefore, they could come up with a theoretical number for the probability of the Big Bang. This theoretical number would no doubt be inconceivably small, due to the massive amount of factors that need to be taken into the ‘theoretical equation’ (Lowell). In order for the Big Bang to have produced the evolutionary process which then would have to achieve the current complexity of life found on Earth, there would have been millions upon trillions of mistakes resulting from natural selection and random mutation and it would have required much more time than the age of the Earth.

Theoretics expert Dr. Harold Morowitz was once hired by NASA to calculate the probability of life. His answer was the probability of life occurring by chance was a one in 10236 chance, which is about the same chance of throwing 4 billion pennies into the air and having them all land heads up. He said “the universe would have to be trillions of years older, and trillions of times larger, for a protein molecule to have occurred by random chance” (Caylor).

Evolutionists who have accepted this low probability of life factor have resorted to looking elsewhere – extra-terrestrial ancestors. This concept is considered a ‘sect’ of intelligent design and is what most evolutionists who accept intelligent design believe. It was determined by those scientists who desire to have everything logical and non-supernatural. Richard Dawkins called the ‘Intelligent Alien Design’ theory an “intriguing possibility” and “that if you look at the details of biochemistry and molecular biology, you might find a signature of some sort of designer, and that designer could well be a higher intelligence from elsewhere in the universe” (Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed). Richard Dawkins admitted to intelligent design being a legitimate theory. Yet he still rejects it wholeheartedly and pushes for Darwinian evolution as the explanation for life, even with all of the very apparent evidence against Darwinism found in the natural world.

Darwinism holds to four main arguments that evolutionists will categorize as the four “patterns in nature”. These arguments are adaption, genetic variation, divergence, and evidence in fossils. Intelligent design addresses each of these arguments and provides reasons for why they do not support evolution.

Adaption is a term used to explain the evolutionary processes visible in organisms. It is how the physical attributes of an organism will change, or alter, in order to survive in their environments. A common example of this can be seen in the hollow bones of a bird, which allow them to fly. Evolution claims that the hollow bones formed when the bird species found it necessary to be able to fly in order to find food or escape from predators. Another example is fruit bats, which are said to have developed echolocation in replacement of sight when they became nocturnal in order to evade predators. Intelligent design would argue that these two species are proof of a designer, not evolutionary processes. The birds and fruit bats did not develop hollow bones or echolocation; they were specifically designed to have hollow bones and echolocation in order to survive.

Genetic variation is the relationship between genes and organisms. Genes directly link back to how organisms appear and how they behave. Genetic diversity within all species is massive – no two genetic makeups are the same. Evolutionists claim that without genetic variation, the basic mechanisms of evolutionary change cannot occur. However, intelligent design will argue that these variations within the species are a result of a designer, and not random mutations. The evolutionists recognize that genetic diversity is largely prominent. To a person who supports intelligent design, this seems illogical. Evolutionists admit to no two genetic compositions being the same, yet claim that all species share a common ancestor.

Divergence is how even though all species differ from one another they all evolved from a common ancestor. This can be proven using Carl Linnaeus’ classification method, which categorizes species into genera, genera into families, families into orders, and so on, ending up with the three kingdoms. This pattern of classification greatly resembles a tree-like pattern that branches out into all the species but can be traced back to one original group. This implies a divergence from a common ancestor. What evolutionists do not take into account is that Carl Linnaeus’ method may actually be incorrect. Evolutionists hold Linnaeus’ classification system on the same standard as Christians hold the Bible. It is one of their main arguments for the common ancestor argument. But Carl Linnaeus was a man, and all men make mistakes. The Linnaeus classification system is not set in stone as an absolute truth. All Linnaeus was doing was observing and recognizing similarities within the species and then classifying them into groups, tracing all the groups back to three kingdoms.

Evolutionists say that all species came from a common ancestor, yet it is still undetermined what that ‘common ancestor’ is. They claim that fossils are the most solid proof of evolution. Fossils are the preserved remains of dead or extinct organisms. They are said to hold the proof of all the above arguments for the evolutionary theory. Many fossils greatly resemble modern species today, and many fossils are species that are long extinct. Earth has been estimated by evolutionists to be around 4.5 billion years old and the earliest bacteria fossil is about 3.5 billion years old (Lenski). Fossils from the Cambrian period show a wide range of multicellular animals. But what these fossils do not show are their ‘evolutionary predecessors’. The fossils found in the Cambrian in 1909 by Charles Walcott were well preserved, unique, and quite unlike anything that had ever been discovered before. Darwin himself admitted that the lack of evidence for the evolution of the Cambrian fossils “may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained” (Luskin). An article in Nature stated that “virtually all animal groups alive today were present in Cambrian seas” (Collins). These fossils challenged the Darwinian thinking because of how they seemed to ‘appear’ abruptly without any record of previous fossils to explain their evolution.

One of the concepts of intelligent design that is most often refuted by evolutionists is the belief that the earth is only a few thousand years old. Evolutionists believe that the earth is millions, if not billions, of years old. They hold this belief because evolution takes time, and with the complex and clearly evolved organisms on the earth today, the earth must have been at least a few million years old in order for those organisms to evolve from amoebas to what they are now. They also bring up the example of how we, on our supposed thousands-year-old Earth, can see light from stars billions of light years away. A light year is the maximum distance light can travel in one year through space. Rounded greatly, one light year is about 6 trillion miles (Lochner). So, evolutionist will ask, if we say the earth is only a few thousand years old, how can we see the light from these stars that are trillions upon trillions of miles away? The answer lies in a substance called ‘ether’.

The New Encyclopedia Britannica defines ‘ether’ as “a theoretical, universal substance believed during the 19th century to act as the medium for transmission of electromagnetic waves (e.g., light and X-rays)” (“ether”). In simpler terms, space is not the empty void as most perceive it to be, this determined by Albert Einstein. Ether is infinitely elastic. Therefore, it can be distorted. The larger amount of mass, the more the ether will be distorted, and therefore distort that which surrounds it. Large masses, like that of stars or planets, with large gravitational fields can form a ‘gravity well’, which act similarly to a black hole. These ‘gravity wells’ will distort ether, light, and even time.

Time is not a constant. One of the theoretical consequences of the Theory of Relativity is called the Gravitational Time Dilation Effect, or GTDE. Physicists Robert Pound and Glen Rebka demonstrated that the farther an object travels into the ‘gravity well’, the slower the time passes (“Distant Starlight”). On a small scale, a clock placed at sea level and a clock placed at the top of Mt Everest will not record time at the same rate. The clock at sea level will record time slower, but only by a miniscule degree. Across the cosmos, the effect of GTDE is much more. According to General Relativity, at the boundary of a black hole, time stands still because of the massive gravitational field. This area is known as an ‘event horizon’ by scientists because the force of gravity is so large that even light cannot escape it.

Hubble’s Law states that the universe is expanding. Stellar redshifts are “doppler effect phenomenon[s] whereby radiation wavelengths (like those of starlight) lengthen as they move farther away from an observer” (“Distant Starlight”). By observing the effects of these redshifts, scientists can prove that the universe is expanding and that the primordial universe was more compact than it is today.

With that in mind, in a “bounded universe” where matter is condensed and has a center and an edge, the compression from the stellar redshifts would deepen the gravity well caused by the mass of the universe. This intensifies the GTDE, which therefore causes time to pass slower in the center of the universe than near the edge. If the universe was created all at one time, which should therefore make it all the same age, some parts of the universe can be younger due to the fickle nature of time. Since time is not a constant, light could travel billions of light years in one part of the universe but here on Earth it would seem to be a much smaller time period. Because the universe is expanding, the gravitational well is evening out and becoming less intense, and light, therefore, can travel over large distances in shorter periods of time than physics would assume.

Perhaps one of the most puzzling arguments evolutionists will pose is that on the origin of life. Darwin wrote a book titled The Origin of Species, yet never addresses the issue of how the life that the species ‘evolved’ from came into existence. It is implied that some life form, supposedly a single-celled organism, formed by chance as the result of the perfect conditions on primordial Earth. However, this is not the case. The atmosphere required for life to form must be exactly precise. The atmosphere present today is composed of 78% nitrogen, 21% molecular oxygen, and 1% other gases such as carbon dioxide and water vapor. While oxygen is necessary for present life to exist, it would be fatal to early life organisms trying to form. “Free oxygen would oxidize and thus destroy all organic molecules required for the origin of life” (Gish). Because of this, evolutionists have declared that there was no oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere at the time of the origin of life. However, this is still fatal to the evolutionary origin of life. With no oxygen, there would be no ozone layer to protect the surface of the earth from the harmful UV rays. Thus, evolutionists have put themselves in a tricky situation – oxygen or no oxygen, life could not have simply formed or evolved.

The scenario which evolutionists paint for the origin of life calls for a large amount of available energy. This available energy would have mainly been found in the forms of radiation from the sun, electrical discharges (lightning), and energy from radioactive decay and heat. However, the problem with this scenario is that “the rates of destruction of biological molecules by all sources of raw energy vastly exceed their rates of formation by such energy” (Gish). The raw energy needed to ‘spark’ life on primordial Earth would have done more harm than good because all raw forms of energy are destructive.

If there was some way for ‘simple’ life to have formed on early Earth, the results would not have been a nice, neat little organism. The result would have also included a massive chaotic mess. Twenty different amino acids have been found in proteins today, but there would have been hundreds of others produced in the attempt to find the perfect combination to form life. Basically, in order to achieve the perfect balance of amino acids, proteins, DNA and RNA, there would have been an immense amount of failed attempts since the probability of life forming is so slim (Gish).

To summarize, intelligent design is a theory describing that the universe and all things in it did not occur from a random event, be that event the Big Bang or a random organization of amino acids, but instead was created by an intelligent Creator. Its main arguments include that of entropy, the nonexistence of “simple” life, the complexity of the cell, and the low probability of life occurring by chance. It refutes the evolutionist views by addressing the Cambrian fossil dilemma, the ‘missing link’ between the common ancestor and living organisms, the age of the earth, and the issue regarding the origin of life. Most importantly, intelligent design is not a religious belief, but a scientific theory held by many scientists who are searching for the truth.