The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis, an alternative to the Intelligent Design Hypothesis

The Fine-Tuning Hypothesis

“Fine Tuners” acknowledge that “accident” may not be the best way to explain the whole cosmos, and they acknowledge “intelligence” in nature. But they also find that the Intelligent Design movement embraces faulty simplistic arguments and “proofs.” Here are some of the shakers and movers among the Fine Tuners:

  1. Michael Denton (one of the “fathers” of the modern day “Intelligent Design” movement) in his second book, Natureʼs Destiny, proposes that evolution is inevitable. See the following in-depth review of Natureʼs Destiny at the “Was Darwin Wrong?” website.

    Even at the ARN website you can read about Denton and Paul Nelson (of the Discovery Institute) going at it on their way to a “Mere Creation” conference: First stop, who gets in but Paul Nelson. Paul and I have known each other. Then Thane Ury (Bethel College) gets in. We start talking and then son-of-a-gun Paul says, “There is Michael Denton”—I couldnʼt believe it. Lean 50-ish guy with a shock of white, close-cropped hair wearing a shirt that looks like the top for a pair of long underwear. I spent two weeks one summer vacation in Montana outlining various chapters from Evolution: A Theory in Crisis just to drive out the Darwinian poisons I imbibed from my motherʼs milk. The biggest shock was finding he is so engaging and approachable! He and Nelson started dukeing it out right away. It was fantastic. Here I was with a bad cold, barely holding on to my name tag, fortunate to have taken all the right turns thus far—and bango, the conference starts en route. Paul says “common ancestry is an assumption.” Denton says, “the such-and-such goes down and around the something else and why doesnʼt it just go straight across?” And Paul says, “But how do you know that the down and around isnʼt optimal?” I remember that point. Then Denton says, “Yeah but when you have delivered as many babies as I have you notice things.” He gestures downward with both hands cupped as though he is about to deliver one. He says “Right after they are born they go like this”—he then does a grasping motion with both hands raised. In my semi-fevered state I saw a new born hominid grasping its mothersʼ fur—right there in the van. He gave a name for the reflex [primate grasp] but even without it I could see that he knew a thing or two about how our kind and kin are born. The conversation in the van was not really a conversation. Denton started talking and gesturing in a very distinctive fashion. He makes his points by jabbing the air with his middle finger—quite unselfconsciously. Possibly this too is a primordial rhetorical reflex with an interesting aeteology. Denton proceeded to develop an evolutionary cosmology, the point of which is that there is abundant evidence for common descent and it is equally clear that evolution is directed and programmed. Indeed Denton affirmed two things—and this is apparently the thesis of his book now under contract at Simon and Schuster—that humankind literally is the point of creation and he is the end product of a divine design. Paul seemed to just let him go, but I sensed Paul was saving up for another time.

  2. Howard Van Till (Christian evolutionist who teaches astronomy at Calvin College). I have exchanged a few brief emails with him and he once allowed me to cite passages from one of his books in an issue of Theistic Evolutionists Forum that I edited in the mid 1980s. Till was one of the contributors to Three Views on Creation and Evolution (Zondervan 1999) in which Till defended theistic evolution while Paul Nelson (of the Discovery Institute) defended young-earth creationism. Till and Nelson also traded barbs on the question of “Intelligent Design” in Zygon magazine: Howard J. Van Till (1999) “Does ‘Intelligent Design’ Have a Chance? An Essay Review” Zygon 34(4): 667 - 675. Paul A. Nelson (1999) “Is ‘Intelligent Design’ Unavoidable - Even By Howard Van Till? A Response” Zygon 34(4): 677- 682.

    Here is my review of Till and Nelsonʼs exchange in Zygon, my review was posted at the ASA website.

    (I also wrote a review of Nelsonʼs contribution in Three Views on Evolution and Creation. Sent on request.) For Tillʼs view of the I.D. movement see his article, “The Creation: Intelligently Designed or Optimally Equipped?” in Intelligent Design Creationism and its Critics, ed. by Robert T. Pennock See also Tillʼs online essay.

    And his exchanges at the American Scientific Affiliation archive.

    Till also wrote a piece concerning I.D. that was published in Darwinism Defeated?

    See 3) below.

  3. Denis O. Lamoureux (a Christian biology Prof., former creationist and co-author of the book-length debate, Darwinism Defeated? by

    Phillip E. Johnson,

    Denis O. Lamoureux,

    J. I. Packer

    Lamoureaux sent me his testimony about his change in viewpoint, and even shared with me a copy of his very first email exchange with Johnson, a letter that later became part of the above book. Lamoureuxʼs articles on “Evolutionary Creationism” and “The Philip Johnson Phenomenon”.

  4. Other Christian Fine Tuners, besides Till and Lamoureux, have their articles at the American Scientific Affiliation website.

    The ASA is an older organization of Christians in science than ICR. The founder of ICR (Henry Morris), used to be a member of the ASA but when some ASA members began to question Morrisʼ young-earth creationism arguments, Morris left to form ICR and made all members of ICR sign a statement of faith concerning the age of the earth that kept out any who questioned Morrisʼ young-earth views.

  5. The Zygon Center for Religion and Science produces a journal named Zygon with articles by many Fine Tuners.

    I already mentioned Van Tillʼs encounter with Paul Nelson in one issue of Zygon above. Zygon also links to other sites of Fine Tuners.

  6. Kenneth Miller (Catholic biology Prof., author of Finding Darwinʼs God) His latest critiques of I.D. arguments.

  7. Frank T. Vertosick, Jr., non-Christian theist, neurosurgeon, and author of The Genius Within: Discovering The Intelligence of Every Living Thing (Harcourt, Inc. 2002). Nice synopsis and review of that book in Smithsonian magazine.

    The Genius Within is only the latest in a series of important and largely ignored books and articles by biologists refuting the widely held presumption that DNA, the cellʼs repository of genetic material, holds the “secret of life.” Remarkably, these challenges to the primacy of DNA-an assumption nearly tantamount to dogma-come from the ranks of the scientific community itself, not from creationists or theologians arguing an “intelligent design” of the universe. Vertosick calls into question the gospel according to double helix decoders Watson and Crick, rooted in the Darwinian idea that life evolves through random events as “a blind process, possessing neither insight nor forethought.” I must admit Iʼve waited more than half a lifetime for this book. As a high school student staring for hours through microscopes, I was filled with wonder about the behavior of single-celled organisms, whose life cycles seemed to encompass both randomness and purpose. I spent summers in the woods, observing spiders and wasps, salamanders and snakes, fascinated by the seemingly intelligent behavior of animals. I perceived sentience in creatures assumed to operate on the basis of instincts and genes alone. But I was taught to dismiss such heresy. The Genius Within has stirred up those youthful notions. Vertosick provides a new framework for understanding the intelligence of all life, from bacteria to cancer cells to brains. There is mind in nature, he argues, and itʼs everywhere. Bacteria may not write sonnets, but they have the capacity for intraspecies communication. “Chemistry is their language,” he says, “and theyʼve been speaking it for millions of years.”

    (An excellent companion to Vertosickʼs book would be the very recently published, Darwin in the Genome, that explains certain genomic properties such at the fact that “jumping genes” do not jump into parts of the genome totally at random, but that there are certain parts of the genome that they apparently “jump” into more readily than others, and “jumping genes” can take unused inactive genetic information, i.e., “junk,” and incorporate that information into the genome again in an active section. The author of Darwin in the Genome makes it point to differentiate between “junk” and “garbage.” There is lots of “junk” in the genome, stuff that is not being used, duplicated pseudogenes with lots of stop codons and not being used by the cell and accumulating mutations at a higher rate than the rest of the used genes in the cell. But that does not make such pseudogenes “garbage,” because garbage is something that just needs to be thrown out, but “junk” is something that can lie around serving no use until a use may later arise, like old crates in the attic that you later build bookshelves out of. In other words there is a certain law and order to evolutionary mutational changes.)

  8. Robert Wright, non-Christian, and author of the bestseller, non-zero, argues that evolution has a direction, as all zero sum games do. He critiques Gouldʼs view of “accidental” evolutionary interpretations.

    (An excellent companion to Wrightʼs book would be the very recently published work In the Blink of an Eye that outlines the latest hypothesis concerning the Cambrian “explosion,” namely that the evolution of “sight” was the main reason why such an “explosion” took place.)

  9. Howard Bloom (author of The Lucifer Principle and Global Mind).

    Argues like Wright for a direction to evolution. (Though neither Wright nor Bloom appear to be theists, I could be wrong about that.)

  10. And of course the authors of the Anthropic Principle, Tippler and Barrow, are also Fine Tuners. Fine Tuners are evolutionists who think that the cosmic constants that lead up to the production of all the elements inside stars (from simple hydrogen), also lead up to the evolution of the first living organisms, such things all being based on those same initially “fine tuned” cosmological constants. They oppose the way the “Intelligent Design / Mere Creation” movement tries to make “theistic evolution” itʼs own idea (ala Beheʼs suggestion that a single “super-cell” was specifically designed in the beginning with a super abundance of genes whose descendants later became less and less abundantly full of each of those genes, until that super stuffed cell slowly “broke down” into every living thing (which was a suggestion that I believe Behe has since dropped). To “Fine tuners,” evolution remains a valid and complex process involving mutations and natural selection.

    P.S. The “evidence for design” (of the sort proposed by the Discovery Institute who lead the “Intelligent Design” campaign in the U.S.) is being formally questioned by scientists who are not members of that Religious Right Think Tank, the Discovery Institute. See the soon to be published book Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh, a physicist and leading critic of Dembskiʼs “proof” of “intelligent design.” Even fellow I.D.er, Del Ratzsch, has subjected Dembskiʼs book, The Design Inference to a thorough critique in the appendix to Ratzschʼs, Nature, Design And Science: The Status Of Design In Natural Science (Suny Series In Philosophy And Biology) A couple of other places on web that discuss “unintelligent design” though not necessarily related to Perakhʼs book: Talk Reason (many of Perakhʼs articles can be found here).

    A Presentation Without Arguments: Dembski Disappoints” by Mark Perakh

    The Unintelligent Design Network, Inc. (no relation to Mark Perakh or his book, though a point made by Kenneth Miller is cited at this website)

    Design Yes, Intelligent No,” by Massimo Pigliucci

    Cool article below, an atheist defends the fine-tuning argument. He accepts the validity of the fine-tunerʼs arguments, and even defends them against atheist attempts to sweep them aside. But he concludes that the question of why the universe “permits life” is not answered by simply proposing that “God designed it that way,” because…“That suggestion just pushes the question another step further back: for why should a God exist with the right characteristics to create a universe? If the theistʼs reply is that God can exist uniquely without the need for any further explanation, then the theist is admitting that Unusual and Significant Things Can Exist Unexplained. But if that is admitted, then we donʼt need to postulate a Designer for the universe after all.”
    An Atheist Defends the Design Argument
    by Toby Wardman

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