Two models dominate human evolution thinking today, one is the Neo-Darwinian theory based around progression occurring as a result of random mutations and natural selection. The second model is known as Intelligent Design, which is an argument for clear evidence of an intelligent designer in the origins of living organisms.
The well-known computer scientist and professor at the prodigious Yale University, David Gelernter, has publicly denounced the popular consensus model, which is mainly based on Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Gelernter argues that the well-accepted structure of the argument is, in fact, full of holes and has moved from scientific method to a kind of religious dogma within the atheistic worldview.
Professor Gelernter highlights that Darwin’s theory predicted that all new species evolve from pre-existing organisms over a considerable period. This continually branching away from a supporting trunk has led to ideas of there being a ‘tree of life’. One major problem in the real-world data is the sudden explosion of new lifeforms without apparent ancestors detected in Cambrian era rocks (approx. 500 million years ago). Many of the fossil creatures are astonishingly complex with entirely novel features, some have no discernible relatives even in the Cambrian rocks – they are unique.
“Those brave new Cambrian creatures must, therefore, have had Precambrian predecessors, similar but not quite as fancy and sophisticated. They could not have all blown out suddenly, like a bunch of geysers.” Explains Gelernter, “Each must have had a closely related predecessor, which must have had its own predecessors.”
The Cambrian explosion is such a severe problem for Neo-Darwinist thinking that a 2018 scientific paper, authored by twenty academic scholars, offered the view that it must have involved an external cosmic causal mechanism. In the paper, consideration is given to whether this sudden leap in evolution was brought about by accidental viral contamination arriving from space.
There is no argument presented to suggest that Darwin failed to explain the small modifications through which an organism adapts to environmental changes such as a need for longer legs, more prominent eyes or sharper claws. Darwin’s model is seen as less able to explain hard questions, explaining the fine-tuning of existing species is quite different from modelling a way in which entirely new species can emerge from their ancestors. We might ask how many generations of rat-like creatures would it take for one to end up with functional wings that transform it into a bat-like animal? If there must be an in-between stage, what use is half a wing or a single wing that would overcome the negative impact of having useless flaps of skin dragging along behind the body?
The critical issue is that the ‘origin of species’ in the title of Darwin’s seminal book, is precisely the problem which Darwin’s work cannot well explain.
In his rejection of the currently widely accepted evolutionary model, Gelernter raises his objections to the extraordinary mathematical leaps that are ignored by scientists. Noting that there is an astonishing number of permutations possible for amino acids but the useful arrangements which result on functional proteins are few and would be virtually impossible to simply stumble upon by chance. An example often touted for this problem is that even if you have a million monkeys tapping away on typewriters for a million years, they will not accidentally produce the complete works of Shakespeare.
“Try to mutate your way from 150 links of gibberish to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million — you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done.”
The professor also raises the subject of intelligent design as a worthwhile theory that should not be simply dismissed on anti-religious grounds. He expresses his grave concerns of the lack of free speech when it comes to the scientific discussion of theories existing beyond classical Darwinism, seeing the model as being the basis for a dogmatic worldview held by academics across a great many scientific fields.
Professor Gelernter’s most powerful statement on the apparent dogmatism exhibited by leaders in the field of evolutionary sciences is that “They will destroy you if you challenge it”. This dire warning emerged in a discussion between several prominent Darwinian sceptics, organised by the Hoover Institute.
While the Yale professor remains open to evidence of intelligent design, he doesn’t actively accept that the theory is correct, only that it is an “absolutely serious argument.” It is a matter of the fact that creation through primal intelligence is the most intuitive theory, with the majority of human beings holding some kind of belief in the idea that life began as the product of pre-existing intelligence. The astonishing complexity within the DNA code has proven impossible to explain through entirely materialistic and mundane models, pointing to a likely as yet unknown, more exotic, origin story.
When asked how he has been treated by colleagues since publicly rescinding his Darwinian beliefs, Gelernter explains that he has been treated in a very courteous way. Despite this low level of hostility among those around him, he remained deeply concerned by what he observed in the intellectual behaviour and published works of other academics. Gelernter explains, “Darwinism has indeed passed beyond a scientific argument. As far as they are concerned, take your life in your hands to challenge it intellectually. They will destroy you if you challenge it.”
Several books have played a crucial role in Gelernter’s rejection of the Darwinian paradigm, including Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt (2013), which he states convinced him that Darwin had failed to explain evolution. Two other books highlighted as necessary for his understanding are The Deniable Darwin and Other Essays (2009) and Debating Darwin’s Doubt (2015). These three titles bring to together the work of many dozen of scientists, in total offering enough to cause almost any open-minded reader or pause and question many well-accepted ideas.
Could we see the end of Neo-Darwinism in our lifetimes? If the followers are as aggressive and illogical as Gelernter suggests, we can be sure that this model won’t go down without a vicious fight.