David Gelernter, a leading US academic and Professor of Computer Science at Yale University has changed his mind about Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. In an essay in the Claremont Review of Books, Gelernter wrote: ‘The origin of species is exactly what Darwin cannot explain’.
He knows he is challenging the origins story that is taught as science throughout the world. Gelernter has come to realise that Darwinism has been incorporated into a mindset which goes far beyond science and equates with a religious worldview. As such, he writes: ‘This is one of the most important intellectual issues of modern times, and every thinking person has the right and duty to judge for himself’.
Gelernter acknowledges that he has been greatly influenced by three books. In particular, ‘Stephen Meyer’s thoughtful and meticulous Darwin’s Doubt (2013) convinced me that Darwin has failed’. Whatever Darwin’s mechanism can explain, and he does acknowledge that it is a ‘brilliant and beautiful theory’, ‘he cannot answer the big question’ of the origin of life’s diversity. Stephen Meyer’s book is a game-changer: ‘Darwin’s Doubt is one of the most important books in a generation. Few open-minded people will finish it with their faith in Darwin intact’.
The author, Stephen Meyer, is not only a scientist, a historian of science and Director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (which champions Intelligent Design (ID)), he is also an unashamed theist and Christian. He recognises that Darwin’s legacy has been to undermine the evidence for God’s creative design that is displayed by the natural world.
Atheists routinely tell us that the case for design in nature has been resoundingly demolished by Darwinism. Meyer argues that modern science not only shows the extreme limitations of Darwinism to explain anything of significance, but also that inferences to design are clear and are becoming more compelling with each year that passes.
As might be expected, defenders of Darwin point out that Gelernter is a computer scientist, not a biologist. They suggest he is out of his depth. However, this fails to recognize that the architects of contemporary Darwinism (known as Neo-Darwinism) all made heavy use of mathematics.
Gelernter is in his element when he discusses the mathematics relevant to molecular biology. The evolutionary concepts are not flawed, but they only work when wildly unrealistic numbers are entered into the mathematical models. Gelernter writes, ‘Neo-Darwinianism says that nature simply rolls the dice, and if something useful emerges, great. Otherwise, try again. But useful sequences are so gigantically rare that this answer simply won’t work. Studies of the sort Meyer discusses show that Neo-Darwinism is the quintessence of a bad bet’.
In a video of Gerlernter discussing his changed assessment of Darwinism, he draws attention to the human face of science: it is apparently impossible to get a reasoned response to these challenges. Defenders of Darwin make out that anyone who is not an advocate is not worthy of being called a professional scholar. He said: ‘You take your life in your hands to challenge it intellectually. They will destroy you if you challenge it’.
Being a mathematician is a small advantage: ‘Now, I haven’t been destroyed, I am not a biologist, and I don’t claim to be an authority on this topic, but what I have seen in their behaviour intellectually and at colleges across the West is nothing approaching free speech on this topic. It’s a bitter, fundamental, angry, outraged rejection [of intelligent design], which comes nowhere near scientific or intellectual discussion. I’ve seen that happen again and again… I am attacking their religion and I don’t blame them for being all het up, it is a big issue for them’.
The ID approach is to engage with the scientific community by developing philosophical and scientific arguments for intelligent design. They show that evolutionary literature is completely dominated by natural causes and there is no room for design.
Indeed, most evolutionists argue that all talk of ID springs from an anti-science mentality. This underlies the comment of Gelernter above: Darwinism is an essential part of a religious worldview, and that worldview is scientism. ID is inherently theistic, for God is the source of intelligent agency. The ultimate tension is philosophical, not scientific. We know from Genesis that the origins story in the Bible is quite different from the origins story provided by Darwin, evolutionary science and mainstream media. As individuals, we cannot tackle every intellectual challenge that faces Bible-believers, but the issue of whether there is design in nature is different. On this theme, all of us are capable of making a contribution. Can we read Romans 1:18-20 and think otherwise?
Professor David Tyler is Trustee of the Biblical Creation Trust