What have been the prevailing creationist/intelligent design explanations for the origin and development of organic beings and how have these views been challenged by Darwin’s theory of evolution?

Charles Darwin’s publication of the theory of evolution through natural selection is one of the pivotal moments in the history of science. But the theory was unveiled only in the middle of 19th century, by when great strides have already been made in other fields of science. Yet, when compared to the complexity and cumbersomeness of theories in the fields of astronomy, quantum physics or discrete mathematics, Darwin’s theory is remarkable for its simplicity.  Despite this fact the theory has generated a lot of controversy – both among the general public and among intellectuals. Leading the aggression are the religiously orthodox, who see a threat to the tenets of their faith. To overcome their insecurities they adopt one of two approaches. First, they try to reject evolution as valid scientific theory for want of adequate evidence supporting it. When this fails, they co-opt the theory into a religious understanding and project the process of evolution as God’s will in action. Needless to say these defenses are the hubris of the defeated. The rest of this essay will present some prevailing creationist explanations and their successful refutation by Darwin’s theory of evolution.

In the article Designer Thinking by Mark S. Blumberg, the author counters a common rhetorical ploy by creationists.  Creationists find it easy to invoke God for explaining the complex design and functioning of organs such as the eye.  At first it is a seemingly sound argument, for it is difficult to believe that an organ as sophisticated as the eye could have formed through random mutations.  But here is a profound misunderstanding of Darwin’s theory.  The theory never claimed that organs pop into existence out of nowhere.  Rather, when minute random mutations are empowered by the vast expanses of geological time, remarkable transformations occur.  The eye, for all its splendor and sophisticated working, began its journey as a group of light-sensitive cells on the skin of a primitive species.  As Darwin explained in Origin of Species, “numerous gradations from a simple and imperfect eye to one complex and perfect can be shown to exist, each grade being useful to its possessor, as is certainly the case”. (Blumberg) Hence the seemingly robust argument from the ‘intelligent design’ camp is shown to be based upon a miscomprehension of how evolution works.

The members of the school board who decide upon curricula might find the ‘intelligent design’ argument intuitive. They may even find it appealing to common sense. But as Darwin himself and his later disciples like Mark Blumberg have shown there is neither the application of intelligence nor any evidence for design in how complex organs come into being. It is equally reassuring to note that despite the complexity and advanced functionality of organs and organisms, they have numerous imperfections as well – the blind spot being the most glaring one.  Any divine creator for the eye would not have committed such a fundamental design error.  It is these imperfections that decide the debate in favor of evolution. As evolutionary biologist Steven Jay Gould once noted, “Odd arrangements and funny solutions are the proof of evolution – paths that a sensible God would never tread but that a natural process, constrained by history, follows perforce.” (Blumberg)

1 2