Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Review of

Nature's Destiny

by Michael Denton

This is the text of the review I dashed off to Amazon. - C.S.

It is a tragic demonstration of what Cremo, in "Forbidden Archeology," politely calls the "knowledge filter" of science, that evolutionists can take the time to read the 428 pages of this book and completely miss the whole point. To claim that Denton has been "converted" to evolutionism is either a serious misreading or deliberate misrepresentation. Perhaps the following, from the conclusion of "Nature's Destiny," will suffice to demonstrate:

"All the evidence available in the biological sciences supports the core proposition of traditional natural theology--that the cosmos is a specially designed whole with life and mankind as its fundamental goal and purpose, a whole in which all facets of reality, from the size of galaxies to the thermal capacity of water, have their meaning and explanation in this central fact."(p. 389)

Can Denton's stance be any more clearer than this? Perhaps. He does say that "to get from a single cell to Homo Sapiens has taken about 4 billion years". Likewise, he seems to assume that evolution is responsible for the diversity and complexity of life, albeit directed by information built into the first cell, by whom or what he does not say. However, he offers little to support the notion that the origin of this first cell (and its wondrous DNA) was "in some way programmed into the laws of nature ... it has to be admitted that at present, despite an enormous effort, we still have no idea how this occurred ..."

He goes on to mention the various theories currently offered, unfortunately with a less critical eye than he should. Even the poor example of snowflakes as a highly ordered state analogous to the molecules of life is thrown a bone. This seems strange in light of the still unanswered challenges presented in his previous book, but it is an example of why evolutionism has survived-- the compartmentalization of science, whereby each scientist, assuming evolution to be proven outside his own field of expertise, discards or explains away his own contradictory findings (the "knowledge filter" again). We will have to be content with such excellent volumes on the subject as "Forbidden Archeology","The Origin of Species Revisited", and Lubenow's "Bones of Contention". However, this does not detract from the main thrust: the overwhelming evidence of design, inexplicable by "natural" evolution.

Another flaw is his requiring that "evidence for believing that the world is prefabricated to the end of life" must somehow contradict his own notion of "special creation." Even supposing this were true, he errs in forgetting that the creation of the first cell (to use his evolutionary view) or DNA, or indeed the left-handedness of life's proteins, are in themselves worthy of being considered supernatural acts, in that they do not naturally follow from the (strangely fortituous) laws of nature in the same way as the origin of the heavier elements. He neglects to address the still unresolved (and fatal) problems regarding the early atmosphere, crucial to the origins question. In distancing himself from his perception of "creationism," he exhibits similar forgetfulness when he claims that his argument is consistent with naturalistic science--"that the cosmos ... can be comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason." But surely he does not mean to include abiogenesis and the fitness of the universe for life. Instead, one gets the impression that he is trying to be charitable to his fundamentalist Darwinian colleagues.

What Denton does do well is take us on a marvelous tour of how finely-tuned the universe is to allow us to exist. He does this in far greater detail than most other books of this kind. He covers such "coincidences" as the many fortituous (and anomolous) properties of water, independent yet working together to support life; the fine-tuning of physical constants; suspicious dovetailing of nuclear resonances; the fitness of carbon and other elements for life; the complexity and inexplicability of DNA and proteins; etc. As we read about the ingenuity employed at the molecular level for the sending of nerve signals, manipulation of electrons, conveyance of oxygen, and so on, and the many such contrivances that are essential for life, we are struck by the overwhelming, mind-boggling complexity of it all, and the sneaking suspicion that much is taken on faith in evolutionistic circles. And we see immediately that it cannot be an informed faith based on any scientific evidence, but rather a wishful, forced belief that such nanomachines could have arisen by chance. By the time we have recovered from our revelations about water and carbon, how wonderfully fit they are for our existence, by the time we are finished reading about proteins and the cell, it seems an impossibility that life, being so complex as it is, could have arisen at all, even if it were created by some supernatural being; for this being would have to be possessed of an intellect that beggars our minds. We are used to thinking of cells as simple blobs of protoplasmic jelly, as did Darwin; not so. Now we can understand wny the intricate requirements of life are usually glossed over in popularized treatments on evolution: either the knowledge was not available then, or the inclusion of it would have made evolution impossible, even ridiculous, to defend.

However, details even creationists take for granted are scrutinized, leaving us with a sense of awe (or gnashing of teeth): the fitness of the visual spectrum for vision; the design of the hand; our body dimensions and bipedal gait, allowing us to use fire and thus develop technology; our capacity for language; and so on. In doing so he shows us that the "chance" so casually spoken of in evolutionism quickly diminishes to absurdity upon open-minded examination of our cosmos; and that, indeed, we were meant to discover this fact.

This compilation of smoking guns makes for an always fascinating, always interesting read, bound to raise much ire in evolutionistic circles. Perhaps a better title would have been "Denton's Dangerous Idea." Apologies to many sci-fi writers should be forthcoming, as he demonstrates that many concepts of otherworldly life can be entertained only in our naivete.

Another review posted in response to fundamentalist Darwinist "reviews" of the book.

There are those who need to believe in Darwinism and there are those who do not. The first group will go to any length to misinform and misrepresent (as can be evidenced by the many claims that Denton has "converted" to evolutionism while ignoring his central point: that recent scientific discoveries point to the existence of a Designer), because Darwinism must be true for their worldview to hold. The second group, consisting of openminded theists and nontheists, is free to go wherever the facts may lead.

The attacks are characteristic of fanaticism: claiming that Denton's book is a religious tract and supposing that settles the matter. This is similar to Dawkins' personal attacks on Richard Milton's highly recommended "Shattering the Myths of Evolution," where Dawkins froths at the mouth labeling Milton as a "creationist in disguise." But are Fred Hoyle, Paul Davies, etc. religious creationists? Why such tactics in response to scientific observations? The answer is clear from Denton's book.

Fundamentalist Darwinians have a deep-seated psychological need to see the universe as a mere product of chance, devoid of supernaturalism. Not understanding the implications of quantum physics, they believe that science will someday support their view. All opposing viewpoints and data must therefore be wrong. However, since the opposing views are based on factual data, ad hominem attacks and misinformation are the only available defenses left (see Milton's discussion of the "howler monkeys" of the current dogma).

Denton's book, while flawed, overwhelmingly exposes the narrowmindedness of this view, by showing us how improbable it is. For all the rantings of Darwinists, it is interesting that his factual points that show this are just ignored. Has Denton converted to evolutionism, a faith he showed defunct in his previous book? An objective reading shows that this is not the case. "Evolution: A Theory in Crisis" underlined the ludicrousness of believing that evolution happened by chance, and called for a new theory that explained such developments as the avian lung. Such a theory would incorporate some notion of design, since Darwinism had proved irrelevant. His second book, while not providing that theory, ups the ante, providing more evidence of the "Galileo Effect."

Since his field is molecular biology, "Nature's Destiny" assumes many things about scientific knowledge, many of which are in dispute, such as the geological time scale. (For an excellent nontheist discussion of this problem, and many others, see Milton's book.) But the thrust of his argument is that, even assuming evolution occurs, it must have been directed. He believes, however, that the direction was inevitable given the designed initial conditions; therein lies the flaw. There would, in actuality, have been many points in our alleged history where intelligent intervention was needed: abiogenesis, for one; the origin of species, but another. However, this does not detract from the rest of the argument; it merely confuses those who are "true believers" in Darwinism, and therefore not disposed to consider his views and points more carefully. Why is the universe so hospitable to us, even though the chances of finding a planet like ours is virtually zero (Hugh Ross)? This question is studiously ignored, but that is the heart of the book. If you would be a champion of evolutionism, that is the dragon to be slain. If you already believe that dinosaurs can be buried at the alleged soil deposition rate of 0.1 mm a year, you could believe in such chances, too, I suppose. But I do not have that much faith.

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