“The only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics…the blind unconscious, automatic process which Darwin discovered, and which we now know is the explanation for…life, has no purpose in mind…If it can be said to play the role of watchmaker in nature, it is that of a blind watchmaker.”
— Richard Dawkins
The Blind Watchmaker Thesis says that life has the appearance of design – but it not actually designed. It is the result of millions of years of gradual random unguided biological mutation and change acted upon by natural selection.
Our culture has – on the whole – accepted the Blind Watchmaker Thesis. And it has done so in spite of the despair filled destination to which this thesis leads us to. (Cue wails of…everything is pointless, there’s no real purpose to our lives, etc, etc)
I do not accept the Blind Watchmaker Thesis – I challenge it. I believe that there are good reasons to be skeptical of it. There IS a point to existence – and there’s a God given purpose for you and me THAT IS THERE FOR US…if we want it.
Here are two reasons I’m skeptical of the Blind Watchmaker.
1 – The Fossil Record Does Not Suggest It is True
2 – The Information at the Heart of Life Cannot (by normal human experience) Arrive by Random Processes
Would you give me a few minutes of your time to explain these reasons?
1 – The Fossil Record Does Not Suggest It Is True
This might sound like I’m completely denying the science of Paleontology, the institution of the Natural History Museum in London, etc! Not so – the Fossil record gives us a fascinating snapshot of ancient history. I’m simply repeating an objection that was levelled at Darwin’s Theory by one of his contemporaries.
Darwin looked at the layered fossil record…
older fossils lower down
more recent fossils nearer the surface
…and saw an increase in creature complexity the nearer to the surface he got. Surely a sign of evolutionary development?
The problem with this conclusion is – it ignores an important piece of data. There is a massive jump in complexity and diversity between each layer at various points in the fossil record. This period is usually referred to as the Cambrian Explosion – a period of time in earth’s history which is estimated to have lasted millions of years. But it’s a period where single celled forms of life were eventually joined by plant life…and then joined by small but complex forms of life like Trilobites (armoured beasties who had eyes, mouths, digestive systems, spines, etc).
The fossil record does not suggest that all creatures are descended from a single ancient primordial form. Rather – life appeared and existed for a while in history. Much of it died out – much of it is still living to this day.
If we look at the jumps in creature complexity between the geological layers with a mind that is not already decided about the truth of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution – it looks for all the world like there were periods of time when complex life suddenly appeared on the planet.
Suddenly appeared? Sounds like magic rather than science!
It’s only magic if we decide ahead of time that life WAS NOT created by a designer. If we are open to the possibility of a designer – then doesn’t the fossil record leave the fingerprints of the God who injected life into his creation? This creation is outside of Science – but God’s creative results are study able BY Science. Which is great fun!
Darwin’s critic Agassiz put it this way.
“[Darwinism] contradicts what the animal forms buried in the rocky strata of our earth tell us…Let us hear them – for after all, their testimony is that of the eye witness and the actor in the scene.”
In other words – these creatures lived. Their fossilized remains suggest appearance rather than gradual development. 150 years of Paleontology has not found the fossilized intermediate forms that prove Darwin right. We could hang on to Darwin’s fanciful theory or – we could at least be open to following the available evidence of the fossil record where it leads. Life appeared. And this points to a Life Designer.
Ah – but that’s very closed minded. Isn’t it? Not very scientific. Why can’t I be more open to the possibility that the missing fossilised links will really be completely convincingly found?
Well…because of my second problem with the Blind Watchmaker thesis.
2 – The Information at the Heart of Life Cannot (by normal human experience) Come about By Random Processes
Darwin didn’t realise it – but each of the countless billions of cells in our bodies is an efficient factory. It’s a complex microscopic biological facility for storing and using information to create biological machines – or proteins. Don’t believe me? Just look at this.
Every car or TV production line (and the factory building it sits in) that you have ever seen was designed and built by clever people. Every instruction manual you’ve ever referred to was written by an eloquent author (sometimes Chinese!). Every machine you have ever used – whether it’s your microwave or your iPhone – was intentionally designed by a creative agency.
So why is it when we move from electronics or automotive engineering to Biology – do we suddenly throw away any need of a designer when we reach Biology?
The truth is that life is more complex than ANY man made mechanism. It demands design even more than electronics or automotive engineering.
Consider for a moment the strand of DNA stored in each cell nucleus in your little finger. The DNA contains instructions for creating proteins, and instructions for managing the life of the cell. It’s the software that keeps the system working. The use of the word “software” is not a metaphor – this is an accurate description. Just ask the guys who are building storage devices today that treat DNA molecules as microscopic hard disk drives.
Just consider the way that – whenever a new organism is conceived – the cells that appear are hard wired with Gene Regulatory Networks (GRNs) to create specific body plans. The cells that comprise a fish embryo are hard wired to create the shape of a fish. The cells in a bird embryo know ahead of time how to create a bird shape, and so on.
I have worked in software and electronics for 20 years. My Manager’s expectations have never been met by accident or random chance. I’ve always had to work hard – and use as much insight and learning as I can – to build the circuit that will work, or to write the code that compiles and runs and performs its task correctly. Circuits don’t mutate into other circuits. They either do their job – or they don’t. And we fix them – or we give up on them.
Why should the situation be any different for biological software and circuitry? A creative intelligence was required to start life off. To deny this just doesn’t fit with normal everyday experience!
I find the idea of life arriving on planet Earth by purely natural processes as fascinating. But to my mind it sounds like a fiction book full of cool ideas – without any grounding in the real world. I do not accept the Blind Watchmaker Thesis – I challenge it. I believe that there are good reasons to be skeptical of it.
I’m much more willing to sing along with the ancient psalmist:
“O Lord, what a variety of things you have made! In wisdom you have made them all. The earth is full of your creatures.” Psalm 104:24, New Living Translation