Biochemistry and intelligent design

2 minute read

Thanks to a student, I have a link to an opinion in the online edition of the Valley Morning Star from Harlingen, Texas. The column is a long declaration of the ridiculousness of evolution, since life was obviously far too complex to have arisen by chance. The student sent it along because of the surprising claim at the bottom that all fossil hominid remains had been males:

As a side note, isnt it incredible that of all the discovered human skeletons--Neanderthal man, Piltdown man, Orce man and Java man--none of them were women?

For the record, "Java Man" is a sample of skeletal remains from many individuals, around half female. The same is true of "Peking Man." These and others are subject to an unfortunate penchant of pre-1985 English speakers to call the entire human species, "men." As in, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." "Piltdown Man" was about half man (the other half was all orangutan), while "Orce Man" appears to be all horse. But this part of the column wasn't intended seriously anyway (I hope).

The part that concerns me is the long argument about the complexity of human biochemical systems. This is the standard argument from design, dating to William Paley and discussed well by Stephen Jay Gould in his Structure of Evolutionary Theory. The current "Intelligent Design" movement is based on the same argument, applied largely to biochemistry (a subject upon which Paley had little to say). This column uses one of the standard Intelligent Design examples, the mechanism of blood clotting in humans and other vertebrates.

A list of Intelligent Design arguments is treated in depth by the good people who maintain TalkDesign. Normally I wouldn't try to duplicate this effort.

But I think that has become the problem with many of us in the evolution community. Not wanting to take the effort to become expert enough in these issues to address them publicly, and not doing our part as educators to ensure that people do not hear this kind of ignorance without having access to the facts. We cannot make everyone take the time to learn how evolution works, or the full value of its accounts of life. But we can at least spread the facts as widely as we are able, and have answers ready for those who take the effort to question. This is especially easy nowadays, when pretty good answers are available to anybody with the wherewithal to google them.

So I inaugurate my list of links to answers to Intelligent Design arguments. I will add more as I run across them. The first entry is an evolutionary account of the origin of clotting systems in vertebrates. These are discussed in some detail by Kenneth R. Miller in his book, Finding Darwin's God. He has provided an account online of the vertebrate system and its possible origins. This includes references into the primary research on clotting factors and the gene duplications involved in their evolution.