ElShamah - Reason & Science: Defending ID and the Christian Worldview
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ElShamah - Reason & Science: Defending ID and the Christian Worldview

Otangelo Grasso: This is my library, where I collect information and present arguments developed by myself that lead, in my view, to the Christian faith, creationism, and Intelligent Design as the best explanation for the origin of the physical world.

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The strength of the argument against chance derives, Paley tells us, from what he names “relation,” a notion akin to what some contemporary authors have named “irreducible complexity” (Behe, 1996). This is how Paley formulates the argument for irreducible complexity: “When several different parts contribute to one effect, or, which is the same thing, when an effect is produced by the joint action of different instruments, the fitness of such parts or instruments to one another for the purpose of producing, by their united action, the effect, is what I call relation; and wherever this is observed in the works of nature or of man, it appears to me to carry along with it decisive evidence of understanding, intention, art” (Paley, 1802a, pp. 175–176). The outcomes of chance do not exhibit relation among the parts or, as we might say, they do not display organized complexity. He writes that “a wen, a wart, a mole, a pimple” could come about by chance, but never an eye; “a clod, a pebble, a liquid drop might be,” but never a watch or a telescope.

Paley notices the “relation” not only among the component parts of an organ, such as the eye, the kidney, or the bladder, but also among the different parts, limbs, and organs that collectively make up an animal and adapt it to its distinctive way of life: “In the swan, the web-foot, the spoon bill, the long neck, the thick down, the graminivorous stomach, bear all a relation to one another. . . . The feet of the mole are made for digging; the neck, nose, eyes, ears, and skin, are peculiarly adapted to an under-ground life. [In a word,] this is what I call relation” (Paley, 1802a, pp. 180, 183).

Throughout Natural Theology, Paley displays extensive and profound biological knowledge. He discusses the fish’s air bladder, the viper’s fang, the heron’s claw, the camel’s stomach, the woodpecker’s tongue, the elephant’s proboscis, the bat’s wing hook, the spider’s web, insects’ compound eyes and metamorphosis, the glowworm, univalve and bivalve mollusks, seed dispersal, and on and on, with accuracy and as much detail as known to the best biologists of his time. The organized complexity and purposeful function reveal, in each case, an intelligent designer, and the diversity, richness, and pervasiveness of the designs show that only the omnipotent Creator could be this Intelligent Designer.

Paley was not the only proponent of the argument from design in the first half of the 19th century. In Britain, a few years after the publication of Natural Theology, the eighth Earl of Bridgewater endowed the publication of treatises that would set forth “the Power, Wisdom and Goodness of God as manifested in the Creation.” Eight treatises were published during 1833–1840, several of which artfully incorporate the best science of the time and had considerable influence on the public and among scientists. One of the treatises, The Hand, Its Mechanisms and Vital Endowments as Evincing Design (1833), was written by Sir Charles Bell, a distinguished anatomist and surgeon, famous for his neurological discoveries, who became professor of surgery in 1836 at the University of Edinburgh. Bell follows Paley’s manner of argument, examining in considerable detail the wondrously useful design of the human hand but also the perfection of design of the forelimb used for different purposes in different animals, serving in each case the particular needs and habits of its owner: the human’s arm for handling objects, the dog’s leg for running, and the bird’s wing for flying. “Nothing less than the Power, which originally created, is equal to the effecting of those changes on animals, which are to adapt them to their conditions.”

Paley and Bell are typical representatives of the intellectual milieu prevailing in the first half of the 19th century in Britain as well as on the Continent. Darwin, while he was an undergraduate student at the University of Cambridge between 1827 and 1831, read Paley’s Natural Theology, which was part of the university’s canon for nearly half a century after Paley’s death. Darwin writes in his Autobiography of the “much delight” and profit that he derived from reading Paley: “To pass the B.A. examination, it was also necessary to get up Paley’s Evidences of Christianity, and his Moral Philosophy. . . . The logic of . . . his Natural Theology gave me as much delight as did Euclid. . . . I did not at that time trouble myself about Paley’s premises; and taking these on trust, I was charmed and convinced by the long line of argumentation” (Darwin, 1887a).

Later, however, after he returned from his 5-year voyage around the world in the HMS Beagle, Darwin would discover a scientific explanation for the design of organisms. Science, thereby, made a quantum leap.

1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK254313/





I am William Paley. My watchmaker argument is fully in line with Socrates' observation that functionality is evidence of design. The several parts of a watch are framed and put together for a purpose. They are so formed and adjusted as to produce motion, and that motion so regulated as to point out the hour of the day; that, if the several parts had been differently shaped from what they are, of a different size from what they are, or placed after any other manner, or in any other order, than that in which they are placed, either no motion at all would have been carried on in the machine, or none which would have answered the use, that is now served by it. The inference, we think, is inevitable; that the watch must have had a maker; that there must have existed, at some time and at some place or other, an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.

Besides my famous watchmaker argument, I made another one against chance, from what I name “relation,” a notion akin to what some authors,  200 years later have named “irreducible complexity”. When several different parts contribute to one effect, or, which is the same thing, when an effect is produced by the joint action of different instruments, the fitness of such parts or instruments to one another for the purpose of producing, by their united action, the effect, is what I call relation; and wherever this is observed in the works of nature or of man, it appears to me to carry along with it decisive evidence of understanding, intention, art.  The outcomes of chance do not exhibit relation among the parts or, as we might say, they do not display organized complexity. An eye or a telescope would never arise by chance.

Darwin's main tenets challenging and opposing the biblical Genesis account was the claim of universal common ancestry.  And the second is that all life forms derived from that ancestor, forming a tree of life. As he wrote:The book changed how people started to approach biology and had fundamental impacts on several scientific fields, religion, and other aspects of society.

Probably all the organic beings which have ever lived on this earth have descended from some one primordial form, into which life was first breathed. I believe the great Tree of Life fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth and covers the surface with its ever-branching and beautiful ramifications.

Soon, staunched defenders of the theory emerged on the scene, like Thomas Huxley, called Darwins Bulldog.

As Darwin noted, Paley’s thesis that the appearance of design must in fact be the outcome of design was refuted by the advent of a workable theory of evolutionary change. Nevertheless, 150 years later, biologists are still awed—but are no longer stunned—by complexity in natural systems. Evolutionary theory provides a means of exploring the origin of complex adaptations using a variety of analytical approaches (e.g., fossil record, genetics, comparative anatomy and physiology, phylogenetics, developmental biology), rather than drawing a conclusion based on the observation of complexity alone.

To me, Thomas Henry Huxley, it has been alleged that I said, in 1860,  at a meeting of the British Association in Oxford, in a pugnacious defense of evolutionary theory, that six monkeys typing randomly for millions of years could produce all of Shakespeare's texts. The meeting, with  Anglican Bishop Samuel Wilberforce present, was an open discussion.  I was “the most popular man in Oxford for a full four & twenty hours afterward.” Wilberforce put forth the classic argument that “a watch implies the existence of a watchmaker”- in other words such a complex system couldn’t have come about by chance. My position has been shared with my colleague, Herbert Spencer, who said:

Those who cavalierly reject the Theory of Evolution, as not adequately supported by facts, seem quite to forget that their own theory is supported by no facts at all.

Like the majority of men who are born to a given belief, they demand the most rigorous proof of any adverse belief, but assume that their own needs none. Must we receive the old Hebrew idea, that God takes clay and moulds a new creature? Should the believers in special creations consider it unfair thus to call upon them to describe how special creations take place, I reply that this is far less than they demand from the supporters of the Development Hypothesis. They are merely asked to point out a conceivable mode. Which, then, is the most rational hypothesis? - that of special creations which has neither a fact to support it; or that of modification, which is not only definitely conceivable, but is countenanced by the habitudes of every existing organism? We have, indeed, in the part taken by many scientific men in this controversy of "Law versus Miracle," a good illustration of the tenacious vitality of superstitions. Ask one of our leading geologists or physiologists whether he believes in the Mosaic account of the creation, and he will take the question as next to an insult. For whence has he got this notion of "special creations," which he thinks so reasonable, and fights for so vigorously? Evidently, he can trace it back to no other source than this myth, which has not a single fact in nature to cite in proof of it; nor is he prepared with any chain of reasoning by which it may be established.

A 150 years have passed since Darwin, Huxley, and Spencer's time. Obviously, a lot of scientific progress has been made. So where has it led us? Who is right? Partial credit has to be given to those folks that are proponents of evolution. The frequencies of alleles in the gene pool of a population change. Particular groups of organisms have descended from a common ancestor. Like a dog from a wolf. The mechanism responsible for the change required to produce limited descent with modification is mainly pre-programmed selection acting on random variations or mutations. Natural selection has limited action for example up to two random mutations as shown in malaria can provide a benefit. But what about the main tenets of evolution? The idea that all organisms have descended from a single common ancestor has not been confirmed. There are significant differences in the three domains of life, and science has unraveled that viruses do definitively not share a common ancestor. Darwin and his follower's belief that biocomplexity can be explained by unguided, unintelligent processes; the idea that natural selection acting on random variation, and other similarly naturalistic mechanisms, completely suffice to explain the origin of novel biological forms and the appearance of design in complex organisms, is a pipe dream, a belief not confirmed by the evidence. Instructional assembly information encoded in 33 genetic, and at least 49 epigenetic codes and languages, and at least 5 signaling networks operating on a structural level in an integrated interlocked fashion are the mechanisms explaining organismal architecture, development, operation, and adaptation, directing/dictating the make and control of complex molecular physiological integrated structures and their development - the making of irreducible complex molecular machines, robotic molecular production lines, protein-protein interactions, metabolic signaling and transcription-regulatory networks, chemical cell factories, and multicellular organisms and organizations. There is a high degree of internal order that governs the cell’s molecular, and extracellular organization. All historical, observational, testable, and repeatable examples have demonstrated that instantiating information and operational functionality dictated by prescribed information come from intelligent sources. On top of that, and that i the worst part for naturalists, evolution supposedly replaced design to explain biodiversity. But what about the origin of the universe, the laws of physics, its fine-tuning, the origin of the finely balanced solar system, and in special, the origin of life, where evolution cannot be invoked? There, the dichotomy still is, and remains Intelligence versus chance.


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