Intelligent Design vs. The Questions That Arise After A Purely Scientific Look At The Paleontological Evidence Over the Past 500 Million Years

Scientific Look At The Paleontological Evidence

The “Intelligent Design” hypothesis seems counter-intuitive to me, like a clock maker who builds a clock but has to keep walking back into the room to add parts and keep altering it over billions of years, and move its tiny hands so they keep proper time … by analogy one might call it the “time” of an organismʼs changes in embryological development, and appearance on earth, but the clock maker also has to keep himself busy spending time shooing away any predators, deadly parasites, microbes, or natural events that might delete his specially fiddled-with organisms from the gene pool, otherwise whatʼs the point of making such changes in the first place, unless you can also ensure that the genes are carried forth to the next generation?

Evolutionists work with what they can see in the rocks, they look for evidence where there is light, in the last 500 million years of geologic time. They have the bones, the geologic periods, the comparative anatomies, physiologies, DNA, and behaviors, of fish, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, monkeys, apes, and humans (though the line leading to humans is merely one of many lines in nature).

I would be more impressed “design-wise” if we lived in a cosmos with multiple “highly sentient” species. Maybe if different highly sentient species of humans survived, or even a few highly sentient species of elephants and dolphins. It would make inter-religious dialogue more interesting as well. *smile* So would the visitation of alien species from other worlds.

If an infinite Designer had the last standing species of humanity in mind all along, we canʼt prove via the evidence we possess that that is what such a Designer had in mind. There have been other species, cousin species to humans, including cousin species of upright primates that preceded humans and which had larger brains than any known species of living apes, and they all died out. So if one thinks that the present day human species that survived is what the Designer had in mind, then you have not taken a look at all those dead cousin species along the way, which, to use an analogy is kind of I.D.istʼs claiming that “the Designer hit a bullʼs eye” by shooting a bullet at a blank wall and THEN going over and drawing a bulls eye around the bullet hole (viz., we are the remaining large-brained mammal left standing in the “advanced sentience zone,” even the remaining human species, the rest are extinct). So scientifically speaking we canʼt tell that a Designer had our species in mind all along.

The “design” of the only human species remaining on the planet certainly wasnʼt a very straightforward plan judging by the countless “cousin species” that died out over the past 500 million years of geologic time at every step of the way from the Cambrian till today. If Paleyʼs “Watchmaker” had a definite straightforward plan, the rocks donʼt show it, because what we see is a Mt. Everest of discarded “watches” (cousin species of cousin species all extinct). And sometimes this Watchmaker discards mountains of watches (species) in mass extinction events, several mass extinction events fact. That is the opposite of straightforward aiming at a particular target.

And where is there a testable or provable hypothesis in the world of I.D.? While in the world of non-supernatural genetics (I donʼt even need to say “evolutionary” genetics) we see the natural duplication of genetic material via mutations, and we see changes in gene frequency occur statistically, and we see that genes are carried from generation to generation by the purely natural act of reproduction, not via any supernatural acts of reproduction, and we see that animals produce much more young in general than can survive to pass along their genes to the next generation.

Thus, Stephen Schaffner, statistical geneticist at the Whitehead/MIT Center for Genome Research…points out why he finds the evidence for evolution compelling and the arguments for interpreting genetic changes via I.D., non-existent. Schaffner (who is a Christian) asks:

Where is the creationist or I.D.ist model that explains the following types of observed genetic data? Such a model should produce estimates of the following measurable genetic data for modern humans:

  1. The minor allele frequency spectrum.
  2. The relationship between minor allele frequency and probability that the minor allele is the same as the chimpanzee base at that site.
  3. The ratio of transition (purine<->purine or pyrimidine<->pyrimidine) polymorphisms to transversion (purine<->pyrimidine) polymorphisms.
  4. The ratio of polymorphisms at CpG sites to the overall polymorphism rate.
  5. The distance over which significant linkage disequilibrium extends in a chromosome.
  6. The genetic distance (difference in allele frequencies) between African and non-African populations.
  7. The difference between African and non-African populations in the extent of linkage disequilibrium.
  8. The distance over which significant autocorrelation in heterozygosity extends in a chromosome.
  9. The ratio of fixed transition to transversion differences between humans and chimpanzees.
  10. Same as (9), but for CpG sites. There are other possible questions, but these are a reasonable starting point, since the quantities in question are all ones that I routinely use evolution to predict or interpret. If the claim is true that creationists/I.D.ists look at the same data and just interpret it differently, there should be no difficulty in providing the creationist interpretation of these data.(Note that the answers should be derivable by anyone using the same model.)

Iʼm happy to answer questions about my list (which is deliberately terse … I didnʼt feel like writing a survey of population genetics). Young-earth creationists should have the most trouble meeting my challenge. As you allow more and more time, and more and more evolution, it becomes harder to distinguish special creation from evolution. In the extreme case where all God does is cause a small number of critical mutations in the development of humans, the results will look exactly like evolution (provided the mutations occur in a fairly large population). In that case, of course, you have to wonder why those mutations also couldnʼt have happened on their own, since every other mutation can.
[End of Schaffner quotation]

Intelligent Design might be a philosophical hypothesis, or a religious one, since itʼs something we canʼt prepare a real test for or see, like we can in modern genetics as outlined above.

But thereʼs so little going for I.D. right now that it is like I.D.ists are looking at nature and claiming:

“Those things fit together nicely, must have come together via a miracle instituted by a super intelligent Being who shall remain nameless. Oh, and that dark period of earthʼs history, the pre- and early Cambrian must be where the super intelligent Being hides his most astounding miracles of intervention.”

But if a Designer HAS hidden them there, then they remain, well, “hidden.”


  • Click here for Poems about Science, Evolution, Creation, Intelligent Design, and a short story, The Watchmaker.

  • Click here for Why Arenʼt More Biologists Intelligent Design Advocates? Hereʼs 6 Likely Reasons

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