On today’s ID the Future, physicist and engineer Brian Miller sits down with host Casey Luskin to survey exciting developments in intelligent design research that are driven by an engineering model for understanding and studying variations in species. ID researchers are pushing this work, but so too are systems biology researchers outside the intelligent design community. Tune in to hear Miller and Luskin discuss everything from fruit flies, finch beaks, and stickleback fish to mutational hotspots, phenotypic plasticity, and the gravity well model of biological adaptation.
Today’s ID the Future is Part 2 of a recent live webinar with Eric Cassell fielding questions about his new book, Animal Algorithms: Evolution and the Mysterious Origin of Ingenious Instincts. He and host Casey Luskin explore the engineering wonders of web-spinning spiders and their extraordinary silk, and the challenge of transforming solitary insects into social insects (with their complex and interdependent caste systems) via a blind step-by-step evolutionary process, and the many thousands of genetic changes required. What does Cassell consider the best explanation? He invokes design theorist William Dembski’s work with No Free Lunch theorems to argue that blind processes are a no-go for explaining their origin. From there Luskin opens the webinar up to questions from the live audience. Have researchers tried to locate these algorithms in the DNA of the animals exhibiting complex programmed behaviors? Do any of the insects Cassell discusses use pheromones and, if so, how? What do biologists make of the apparently purposive nature of all these different kinds of complex programmed behaviors? Cassell fields these and other questions and says that more progress would be possible if not for the fact that so many scientists are infected with what he terms teleophobia — an unwillingness to recognize evidence of teleology and purpose in biology. Another question concerns examples of striking convergence among social insects and gifted animal navigators. Cassell argues that although the evolutionary community waves the term “convergent evolution” at such instances, they actually pose a powerful challenge to evolutionary theory.
On this ID the Future host Casey Luskin interviews science journalist Denyse O’Leary about her recent essay, “Is Evolutionary Psychology a Legitimate Way to Understand Our Humanity,” which appears in the new Harvest House anthology co-edited by Luskin, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. O’Leary, a science journalist and co-author of The Spiritual Brain, offers a withering critique of evolutionary psychology and traces its roots, beginning with The Descent of Man (1871), where Charles Darwin attributed various human behaviors to natural and sexual selection. That fed into what became known as social Darwinism, which fell out of favor after World War II thanks to Hitler and the Nazis’ application of social Darwinist ideas to defend Nordic superiority and genocide. The ideas resurfaced in modified form under the banner of sociobiology, and then later still, as evolutionary psychology. This latter manifestation, O’Leary says, marks the most comprehensive attempt to explain the various facets of human behavior in evolutionary terms, but its comprehensiveness has not won it widespread acceptance. Far from it. The field is quick to offer explanations for why we do what we do, but it has left a train of blunders in its wake. So for instance, evolutionary psychologists claimed that we associate pink with little girls and blue with little boys due to the sex-based division of labor among our primitive ancestors over the course of millions of years of evolutionary development. In primitive societies the girls gathered fruit (pink when ripe), and the boys fished (and blue is associated with water). Mystery solved? But wait. In Victorian England, pink was associated with boys and blue with girls. Do we have an evolutionary explanation for that as well? Give any reasonably creative company of evolutionary psychologists an evening and a twelve-pack, and they’d probably be able to dream up a sure-fire evolutionary explanation. Evolutionary psychology, with its ability to explain everything and its opposite, convincingly explains nothing. According to O’Leary, distaste for the field stretches well beyond the company of Darwin dissenters. Most evolutionists steer clear of evolutionary psychology, and even some who probably count themselves as fully paid-up members of the Darwinian materialist guild openly criticize it. Thus it seems that if we want to effectively explain human behavior in all its messy richness, we would do well to look beyond the box of just-so stories built from Darwin’s toolkit of natural and sexual selection.
Today’s ID the Future again spotlights The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith. Historian Richard Weikart and host Casey Luskin discuss Weikart’s contribution to the new anthology, his essay “How Evil Has Been Done in the Name of Science.” As Weikart explains, over the past century and a half, science has been misused to fuel racist policies and undermine human rights. Darwinian ideas helped lay the groundwork for Nazi ideology in Germany. And we shouldn’t imagine the problem was restricted to Nazi Germany. Scientific racism also reared its head in the United States, including in the long-running and infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment. More broadly, a marriage of scientism and evolutionary thinking continues to undermine the idea of inherent human worth and dignity, Weikart notes, even among thinkers who likely would reject scientific racism.
Today’s ID the Future spotlights a new book, The Comprehensive Guide to Science and Faith: Exploring the Ultimate Questions about Life and the Cosmos, and specifically a chapter by biologist Jonathan Wells titled “What are the Top Scientific Problems with Evolution?” Wells is the guest, and the host is geologist and Center for Science and Culture associate director Casey Luskin, who co-edited the anthology from Harvest House Publishers. In this episode the first problem that Wells highlights concerns homology and convergence. A second problem involves fossils. Darwin anticipated “innumerable transitions” in the fossil record, but such a rainbow of transitional forms has never been found. Not even close. Another problem, molecular phylogenies. Another: the lack of observational evidence that natural selection can help to accumulate many small changes into major new innovations. What about the power of random mutations, with or without natural selection? Wells says that this, too, is a problem for modern evolutionary theory, and he provides laboratory evidence to support his claim. Another problem: evidence pouring in from what are known as molecular phylogenies. As Luskin notes, there is much more in the essay, and it’s only one of many essays in the new anthology, with contributions from many of the leading lights of the intelligent design movement. Each essay is written in a concise and accessible form. Find the new book at Amazon and other online booksellers.
On this ID the Future, Taking Leave of Darwin author Neil Thomas and host Jonathan Witt continue their conversation about Thomas’s journey from Darwinian materialism to theistic humanism and a thorough skepticism of Darwinian theory. Here Thomas links the heroic posturing of modern atheists Richard Dawkins and Bertrand Russell, on the one hand, and on the other, the heroic fatalism of poetry stretching back to the early Middle Ages and, further still, to the ancient Greeks. Thomas also draws a link between the animistic thinking of much ancient pagan thought and the magical powers attributed to the Darwinian mechanism. Thomas explains why he now views the latter as essentially “crypto-animism.” In their wide-ranging conversation, Thomas and Witt also touch on contradictions in Darwin’s treatment of natural selection, the tug-of-war between the paleontologists and the geneticists in the evolutionist community (and how their battle points to a conclusion neither side appears willing to consider), and insights proffered by figures as diverse as British philosopher Antony Flew and celebrated American novelist John Updike. Thomas’s new book is available for purchase here.
On this ID the Future, ID biologist Michael Behe continues fielding tough questions from philosophers Pat Flynn and Jim Madden. Here in Part 3 of 3, Behe responds to the claim that some designs in biology are bad designs and to criticisms leveled at ID from some Thomists. Also in the mix, the issue of academic pressure to distance oneself from ID, even before those involved understand what the theory of intelligent design actually is. Madden also asks Behe what reforms he’d pursue if he suddenly found himself in charge of the National Academy of Sciences. Tune in to hear Behe’s response, and much more. This three-part series is borrowed, with permission, from Flynn’s podcast, which can be found on his YouTube channel.
Today’s ID the Future features Darwin Devolves author and Lehigh University biologist Michael Behe speaking about the logic and evidence of intelligent design with two philosophers, Pat Flynn and Jim Madden. In a friendly, stimulating exchange, Flynn and Madden press Behe with objections — some philosophic, others scientific — to see how well his position stands up to scrutiny from experts who have engaged the subject. Here in Part 1 of a three-part series, Behe counters the charge that ID is an argument from ignorance, and then the three men compare the contemporary design argument to philosopher Thomas Aquinas’s fifth way. For Behe’s newest book, A Mousetrap for Darwin, go here. This discussion is presented here with permission of philosopher and podcaster Pat Flynn.
Today’s ID the Future concludes a debate over the merits of intelligent design and modern evolutionary theory. Günter Bechly is a distinguished German paleoentomologist who was an atheist and Darwinist but became convinced of theism after he finally decided to read some of the books written by leading ID proponents and found their arguments far stronger than he had been led to believe from second-hand accounts. S. Joshua Swamidass is a computational biologist at Washington University in Saint Louis who says ID may or may not be true in some part of what it affirms, but while he believes in a Creator, he doesn’t find the central arguments of intelligent design proponents logical and cogent. He also is more sanguine than Bechly about modern evolutionary theory, specifically when one looks beyond neo-Darwinism to consider additional evolutionary mechanisms from the extended evolutionary synthesis. Bechly counters that none of these additional proposed mechanisms have demonstrated the ability to generate novel biological functions and form. Neutral evolution has been shown to generate Rube Goldberg complexity, he says, but not fundamentally new biological machinery and functions in the first place. And he says, contra Swamidass, that neo-Darwinism’s joint mechanism of random mutation and natural selection remains a prominent feature of the contemporary scientific landscape, so the ID arguments demonstrating its inadequacy are highly apropos. The two met in a dialogue hosted by Justin Brierley on his Unbelievable? podcast, reposted here with Brierley’s permission.
Today’s ID the Future features a debate over the merits of intelligent design. Günter Bechly is a German paleoentomologist heard many times on ID the Future, who says the science convinced him that intelligent design is true. S. Joshua Swamidass is a computational biologist at Washington University in Saint Louis who says ID may or may not be true in some part of what it affirms, but for him, the science doesn’t lead you to it. They met in a dialogue hosted by Justin Brierley on his Unbelievable? podcast, reposted here with Brierley’s permission. This is the first half of the conversation. The second half is coming to IDTF soon.