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Evolution vs. Intelligent Design

Evolution vs Intelligent Design Icon

Posted on July15,2006

Thoughts that just nag at you and beg to be released prompted this article. I will attempt to add thought from a different perspective on the subject, and hopefully the fruits of which will result in realistic thinking about Evolution and Intelligent Design. I am not a strong proponent of either Intelligent Design or Evolution theory because neither idea is helpful to our human culture. Intelligent Design vs. Evolution will explore both theories and will include a scenario that will stimulate some thought about both theories. I will begin with a look at "Evolution theory" and explain what makes me so uneasy with this theory.

Evolution as I see it: There are a lot of scientific papers written to support this theory and it has become the defacto standard bearer to explain modern life. Those who subscribe to evolution can point to a definite trail of life form changes, ending with what we see today. I have no bones to pick with the idea that life forms have changed over the eons. The picky part comes with the advancement in the theory that the changes are somehow random accidents. A randomness that took advantage of coincidences that resulted in the life forms we have today. Changes are a fact, but I do not buy into the notion of 'accidental' changes in DNA molecules to explain the present day biosphere. Such explanations are not only vacant, but cannot, to any sense of satisfaction, explain such a logical structure, and descendant tree.

Instinctive Behavior: The natural world is full of examples of what we refer to as instinctive behavior patterns. For instance; Sea turtles are born with the knowledge of what food to eat and where to go after being born. There are no tutors. Lions instinctively stay in prides and do not follow the migrating herds. Corals' egg release is a tightly timed occasion within a short period. Does just an accident in DNA composition predetermine such rules? Remember, these are rules of behavior passed down from one generation to the next. I believe that rules of behavior have been honed over time, but the absolute choreography of the system does not lend itself to a chaotic accidental orgy. Consider the idea that DNA is 'programmable'. Not only does DNA describe the form of an organism, but also how it is to behave. Then, a follow up question can be asked, what comes first, form or function?

Dinosaurs Anybody? Now take a look at the logical concerns. To believe that accidental DNA aberration was the driving force for evolution is to lose sight of logic. Back in the day when the earth was relatively young, and volcanoes were predominating, vegetation was growing like mad. Vegetation had colonized the land mass in a big way. Volcanoes were ejecting large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere and the vegetation was taking full advantage of it. Vegetation was doing what vegetation does; taking in CO2 and releasing oxygen. The flurry of the activity of the vegetation resulted in enormous amounts of vegetation. But the ecosystem has to have balance, so along came the huge mowers. Big Brontos and a whole host of large grazing animals. These animals were able to control the vegetation, but just to make sure that they didn't over compensate, large predators maintained the numbers of vegetation eaters. Would you call the sequence an accident? It seems that just when the Earth was getting out of balance with vegetation, along came the cavalry. These huge animals stayed until they were no longer needed. A cataclysmic event interfered and changed the food supply that caused the extinction of these large beasts. So these large consumers lost their food source and perished. When they perished, their predators also perished. Throughout the history of the world, living things have made their debut and helped move the living planet along. Accident? Plan?

Balancing Act: Orderliness does not stop. Everywhere there is balance, whether the subjects are plants or animals. The only way the system gets temporarily out of balance, excluding cataclysmic events, is with the introduction of a resource (food) in large quantities, or the introduction of plants or animals from a different ecosystem.

Regaining Balance: The introduction of a food resource into an ecosystem such as the nutrient rich agriculture runoffs into streams and estuaries, generally causes havoc with the biomass in that area. It is like a chain reaction. Among the first to take advantage of this food bonanza is algae. Algae thrives and multiply beyond the balance point. Large quantities of algae can choke and decimate other species, if left unchecked. But creatures that eat algae will follow to take advantage of the excess. The unbalanced state continues only until all entities are either reconfigured into a new balance or the excess resource is no longer excess.

Alien Species: Likewise, the introduction of nonnative plants or animals into an ecosystem can have a devastating effect on the indigenous varieties. The introduction of the common pussycat to the Galapago Islands, was almost a disaster for the local animals. Human interference to control the pussycat was necessary to prevent the extinction of many of the small local animals.

Options for Balance: It is only for the sake of space that I submit only two examples of an orderly balance becoming unbalanced. It is the effect of unbalancing that is important to this discussion of Evolution. Think of the bio-system as a stretched rubber band that is always trying to get to the relaxed position. There is constant pressure to rebalance after any interruption of the status quo. Nature doesn't favor a particular plant or animal over the other, the only requirement from nature is balance. Balance is defined as a system with adequate resources for consumers, but not skewed to favor either the resource or the consumer. The formula is simple. When resources are abundant, users of that resource multiply. Resource scarcity however, presents options to those users and dependents of the users of that resource.

Option 1: When the resource becomes scarce, some of the users, or the dependents of users of the resource decrease to the point that they are sustained by what is available, or perish because they are unable to reproduce fast enough to overcome mortality.

Option 2: When the resource becomes scarce, some of the users, or the dependents of users of the resource will migrate to where they will find more of the same resource, giving time for the current resource to recuperate.

Option 3: When the resource becomes scarce, some of the users, or the dependents of users of the resource adapt to other resources and sometimes mutate to more efficiently take advantage of the new resource or habitat.

Evolution Slowed: Options 1 and 2 are the most common today. Option 3 is a bit more troublesome because the world is no longer an oyster for the taking. Adapting to a different resource will likely find that resource already claimed by some other life form. To have any success at claiming a different resource requires displacing an already entrenched user of that resource. Again, unless a balance is attained, with multiple users of a resource, the resource may not be able to sustain itself, thus eradicating the users as well as itself. It is the scarcity of available unclaimed or weakly held resources that slow the evolutionary process, not the damaged DNA theory proposed by others. It should be noted that because of DNA's ability to change, organisms have the ability to adapt to new resources.

Accidental DNA: That is not to say that accidental DNA damage hasn't caused variation on a random basis, but I think too much importance is accorded this group of variants with respect to the whole of the biomass. If we do not allow for the accidental variant DNA structure, there wouldn't be any history for P.T. Barnum's oddities. Yes, ever now and again, there are mutants including but not limited to; wingless flies, armless humans, and hermaphrodites, just to name a few cases of DNA aberration. These oddities are not part of any species specific change that endures. Indeed, in nature, the odds are very much against survival for these accidental deformations. Animal parents are quick to abandon or kill deformed young, or they don't survive because of the deformation.

Life Explosion: It was during the Precambrian/Cambrian period that multicellular life kicked off their big explosion of diversified entities. One can only speculate the reason for the cells wanting to coordinate their activities. But that's what happened, there was such an explosion of life, a reasonable person might question the randomly damaged DNA theory. This period had all the hallmarks of an orderly process, even in a supervised direction, rather than the result of DNA becoming damaged, thus producing the diversity of life that resulted.

The Third Option: Option 3 was in full bloom during this period. The competition for resources had to be furious. Every time a life form figured out a strategy for survival, another would mutate to prey upon it. This meant that the life form would have to change strategy or fall into the ash heap of history. We will return to this discussion shortly.

Intelligent Design as I see it: The good people supporting this theory are crippled by their attempted inclusion of Creationism. Creationist look to the Bible and the book of Genesis as the story of life. There may well be a Creator, an intelligence that has guided this planet throughout its history, but any realistic examination of Genesis leaves more questions than answers. Clearly, the record of life is older than those accounts we read in Genesis. Egypt had a history that should have been known to Moses, since he was raised in the royal household. Yet he comes up with a chronological record that barely predates the Egyptians. Non-the-less, credit must be given to Moses, the author of Genesis, for such a beautiful account of the story of life, in an era when so little was scientifically known. I've had it told to me that Moses was only giving the accounts of the first Jews. That seems to fit a little better than trying to fill out the whole human history with his accounts. I will leave it to others to sort out the conflicts in Genesis.

Some acceptance: The thoughtful part of Intelligent Design Theory assumes that things are just too logical for there not to have been an intelligence in the captains chair guiding what we know of life and the way all of its parts intertwine. But, there is no proof, or we wouldn't call it a theory. The same can be said for the Theory of Evolution.

Automobile Analogy: I use the Automobile analogy to demonstrate that modern man had to wait before he made an appearance. The biomass had to mature to the point that it could support a modern human. The biomass only produces what is possible in any given time period. Early man looked different from us only because it was the best fit for the period. At the same time is the hint that maybe, just maybe, there was intent with the development of humans.

Real Intelligent Design and Evolution: The automobile is an example of intelligent design, and an excellent model of design improvement (evolution) over the decades. There are plenty of different species of the automobiles that make a pretty full evolutionary tree. All models share kindred basic features. They all have wheels, a method of propulsion that activates one or all of the wheels, and a method for directing where it should go.

Car Development: There were those models which failed and their evolutionary branches were dead-ended. Also, there were those models which continued to progress. Just like life, there was a rudimentary beginning with more sophistication added as technology, over time, is expanded. A modern car was just not possible in the late nineteenth century. All vehicles were a product of the available technology at the time of their manufacture. It is also fair to say that each of the models fit in respect to the physical schema of their times. For instance: Early cars had to be roadway aware, as there were few roads, much less any paved roads. Roadway aware could have included high ground clearance to allow for the muddy roads which were prevalent at the time. Also most early vehicles had a method to physically hand crank, which would have been necessary, as electrical systems were also in their infancy.

Fit for the Times: In other words, each model of vehicles produced fit its time and physical surroundings. A car archaeologist would be able to see those models which did not survive, and make the following deductions as to why. The extinct model failed to find a niche, there wasn't enough food (money) to support it. Or, the model failed because of poor design, so it starved to death. Only the fittest were able to survive in the market, and some of the models were eaten (bought out) by the more successful models.

Only What is Possible: Of course I am just picking on the automobile, but in truth the same scenario is apropos to any of the human inventions. We can only build what is possible at the time we build it. The elements in the story of the automobile are also true for the story of life. In earths early history, the earth was very warm. It is logical to assume that only those life forms capable of surviving were present. The same would hold true for the periods of low oxygen etc. Remember, only that which is possible can exist at any given time. These restrictions are called parameters or limitations. Everything which is in existence has parameters that cannot be violated.

Parameters:Just to illustrate some of the hard parameters, here are just a few: (1) When enough solid bodies in space unite, the resulting shape will be spherical. (2) A life form that is being preyed upon, has to regenerate faster than it is being eaten or it will perish. (3) Humans need approximately 20% oxygen in the air they breathe to thrive.

Evolving Organisms: There are only two sides to natural evolution. A life form is either a predator or it is a resource. Both characteristics are present in all life forms. There is a continual need for the predator to be able to overcome the defenses of a resource. Hence, there will be a good offense which is negated by a good defense, thus creating the need for a different offensive form to crack the defense. The balance of the different ecosystems was and is in continuous flux from the early years to the present, promoting adaption and change.

Survival of plants and animals: Life forms of today can only survive by having roots to the past. Life forms of today could not live without the inheritance of the resistances and toughness honed by their predecessors.

What is God?: Could today's version of life forms be narrowed to accidental changes in DNA for their existence? Or, does the logical presence of all the biomass conform to the idea of an intelligent creation? How do we define God? Do we assign God magical powers? Do you believe that God can just go 'poof' and we have a habitable planet? Do you believe that God just instantly created a habitable planet complete with fossils and a geologic history? Everybody will have to decide that issue for himself, but I see a Creator as a very knowledgeable, intelligent, entity, but, that entity still would have to work within the constraints of real possibilities. I also believe that time would be of no consequence to a Creator .

Future for Man: Our life time is continually expanding. Life expectancy is higher than ever and still going up. One day in the future we will solve the ageing problem and just maybe be able to colonize another solar system. Far fetched? Yes, but not out of the realm of possibility. Wouldn't it be a temptation to find a fledgling planet with possibilities and start life building processes into a place for humans? Already scientists are making plans to do just that to Mars. Some day with a little practice, we will achieve the know how to enable sentiency on other worlds. We humans are heading head long into the role of creators. We will eventually get there, and then we will have to learn to embrace our role in the universal family.



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Robert Gross

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A Physics Major at the University of Texas
Retired from the offshore drilling industry where he worked as an Electrical Supervisor, Licensed Chief Engineer, and Electrical Designer.

Robert Writes for 2 Online Magazines and three private web sites.
Interests include computers, Cosmology, Evolution, and Environmental Research.

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