In 2009 atheist biologist Richard Dawkins offered a scientific test to decide between Darwinian evolution and intelligent design (ID). The results are in, and as guest Casey Luskin explains on this ID the Future, the evidence has broken strongly in favor of intelligent design. At the time Dawkins presented the test, he was confident that comparative DNA evidence supported Darwin’s tree of life and its idea of universal common ancestry. He made the point in his 2009 book The Greatest Show on Earth and in two interviews. As he put it, “The single most convincing fact or observation you could point to” in favor of Darwinian evolution over against ID “would be the pattern of resemblances that you see when you compare the genes … of any pair of animals you like … and then plot out the resemblances and they form a perfect hierarchy, a perfect family tree. And the only alternative to it being a family tree is that the intelligent designer deliberately set out to deceive us in the most underhanded and devious manner.” But fourteen years later the picture looks very different. Tune in as Casey Luskin details the various ways that the rapidly developing field of phylogenomics is uncovering data that powerfully fits the ID model of life’s history and strongly undermines the idea of universal common ancestry via mindless evolution. As Luskin says in a recent Evolution News article, “Now, years later, scientists have sequenced a great number of whole genomes. And as a consequence, they know that Dawkins was wrong. Every gene does not deliver ‘approximately the same tree of life.’… On its own terms, the Dawkins test for evolution has come up for ID.” So why haven’t evolutionary biologists given up on universal common ancestry? Luskin says that some have, while others reflexively invoke auxiliary hypotheses and employ question-begging computer models to generate tree-like ancestries in the face of contrary data. Luskin compares the behavior to astronomers who protected the dying geocentric model of the solar system by invoking “epicycles” to explain away contrary astronomical data. Better to let the Dawkins Test speak for itself, Luskin says. Listen in for the full story.
On this ID the Future, geologist Casey Luskin discusses biogeography and the problems it poses for the idea of universal common descent. To make it work, evolutionists have to propose, for instance, that old world monkeys rafted across the Atlantic from Africa to South America on a natural raft. Really? That’s some raft. And how did the monkeys not starve to death? Or die of thirst? They couldn’t drink salty ocean water, after all. And talk about a genetic bottleneck! That’s just one of several problems Luskin raises with the idea that all species gradually evolved from a universal common ancestor. In his conversation with host Emily Reeves, he also touches on the problem of convergence, as when two creatures that are, at best, only very distantly related, nevertheless share a major common feature, such as humans and octopuses both having camera eyes. But evolutionists acknowledge that the putative common ancestor of humans and octopuses didn’t even have eyes, meaning the evolutionists must hold to the view that this very specific marvel of optical engineering just happened to evolve twice. Luskin notes that this example of convergence is just one of countless such instances. In each case, evolutionists find ways to explain the problem away, but Luskin compares these ad hoc patches to the epicycles that Renaissance-era proponents of an Earth-centered model of the solar system kept introducing to explain away the growing body of astronomical evidence that ran contrary to their geocentric theory. When your theory gets messier and messier to account for new data, Luskin argues, maybe it’s time to step back from the theory and consider other possibilities. The alternative he favors: common design. The occasion for this conversation is Luskin’s chapter on biogeography and evolution in the recent anthology from Harvest House Publishers, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions about Life and the Cosmos.
On today’s ID the Future physicist Brian Miller and host Eric Anderson continue their exploration of a recent conversation between origin-of-life investigators Jeremy England and Paul Davies on Justin Brierley’s Unbelievable? radio show. Miller begins with a quick flyover of the many nanotechnologies essential to even to the simplest viable cell. A minimally complex cell is vastly more sophisticated than our best human nanotechnology. What about England’s insistence that real progress has been made in origin-of-life studies since the 1950s? True, Anderson says, but the progress has been principally in better understanding how the simplest cells function, and in figuring out what doesn’t work to blindly evolve life from non-life. That is, the direction of discovery has been to throw cold water on one idea after another for the naturalistic origin of life. Miller then makes an even bolder statement. All the physics for us to have known this were in place more than a hundred years ago. The origin-of-life community just chose to ignore it, perhaps because they were dogmatically wedded to finding a purely materialistic explanation for the origin of the first life. To show why that’s misguided, Miller offers an illustrative story: Imagine that what looks for all the world like an alien spaceship is discovered in the desert. Two groups of scientists decide on radically different approaches to understanding the workings of this mysterious object. Tune in to hear the rest of the story.