Thursday, February 16, 2012

Discovery Institute’s Metamorphosis: The Case for Intelligent Design in a Nutshell Chrysalis: A Companion Book to the Film

During the latter half of 2011, Discovery Institute and Discovery Institute Press of Seattle, Washington, electronically publish a short book entitled Metamorphosis: The Case for Intelligent Design in a Nutshell Chrysalis: A Companion Book to the Film.  It accompanies the release of Illustra Media’s Metamorphosis: The Beauty & Design of Butterflies.  David Klinghoffer is editor of the book and composes a couple of chapters.  Other contributors are Lad Allen, Bernard d’Abrera, Michael A. Flannery, Ann Gauger, Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Witt.  Each contributor submits a detailed discussion about the development of butterflies and how Darwin’s natural selection fails to explain this process adequately.  Unashamedly utilizing principles of intelligent design, the contributors of the book provide a collective rebuttal to today’s proponents of “methodological materialism” or “Darwinian reductionism” (Witt 78).

Before I begin reviewing this book, I need to mention some background information first.  In 2008, I decided to rent a documentary entitled Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed starring Ben Stein.  I was not quite sure what the documentary would be about particularly, but I expected some satire and humor.  It did have that, but it also showed an appalling trend happening among academic institutions.  Believers or investigators of intelligent design were being discriminated against by administrators supporting atheistic naturalism.  Instead of a professional and cordial debate between these two camps, there were allegations that members of Darwinism were unconstitutionally depriving members of creationism from advancements or funding within their departments.  Darwinists barred, harassed, or ostracized advocates of intelligent design because they saw these scientists as not kowtowing to the more-accepted scientific agenda.  Stein researched the claims and interviewed members on both sides to come to the conclusion that, yes, the majority of Darwinists were attempting to silence the members of the minority.  Stein made some conclusions and ended the movie by asking viewers to sign a petition.  Signers of the petition would help stop the discrimination against scientists who were pursuing research that seriously questioned Darwin’s theory of natural selection.  A website address was given and I logged onto the website to sign the petition asking organizations not to infringe upon scientists’ academic freedom and inquiry in this area.

I subscribed to Discovery Institute’s online newsletter to keep tabs on current lawsuits and events.  One newsletter recommended its subscribers to read Charles Darwin’s The Origin of Species in order to understand natural selection better, which in turn would help those readers participate in debates and discussions about intelligent design and evolution.  I did so.  Although loquaciously boring, The Origin of Species did offer a couple of interesting snippets about the results of certain experiments and observations.  (If I get the time, I plan to post a book review about Darwin’s book.)

One day, I received an email from Discovery Institute informing me that since I was already a subscriber to its newsletter, I could download a recently released electronic publication for free.  I did so and obtained a PDF file which contained a copy of the book I have just read.  The cover instantly attracted my attention and featured the iridescent colors of a blue butterfly wing.  It was an impressive start to an introduction of intelligent design as seen in lepidopterology.  The reading was informative, yet not pedantic.

After reading this collection of essays, I have a better sense of what it means to be a scientist and a believer of God at the same time.  Not all scientists ascribe nature to random forces.  Bernard d’Abrera, the most vociferous opponent of Darwinists in this collection of essays, deconstructs the virtually impossible demand requiring students to have faith in natural selection: “For it to happen in a single species once through chance, is mathematically highly improbable.  But when it occurs so often, in so many species, and we are expected to apply mathematical probability yet again, then either mathematics is a useless tool, or we are being criminally blind” (Bernard d’Abrera 45).

Scientific observation of butterflies also supposes a metaphysical guidance as a caterpillar turns into a butterfly.  Paul Nelson and Ann Gauger state that, “If one wanted an example of a biological system that could never be explained by natural selection, butterfly metamorphosis would stand at the head of the line” (31).  The book then shows why butterfly metamorphosis could not have come about through natural selection.  One striking observation is how the cells of a caterpillar completely disintegrate, or “commit suicide,” and form into a completely different organism (36).  Essentially, the caterpillar dies or turns “into a molecular soup” before developing into a fully formed insect (29).  Natural selection has a difficult time explaining the likelihood of a species taking such an evolutionary risk in the first place.

Witt takes on the philosophical side of the debate.  He targets the fallibility of Darwinian reductionism and explains why only seeing the whole as the sum of its parts leads to error.  Taking such a simplistic view of organisms does not justify the many wonderful achievements a species—or of humans for that matter—has or does.  It does not fully take into account the spiritual side of existence.  Witt discusses the literary side of human existence and natural selection’s difficulty in attributing its exigency.  He writes:

“Think about some of the great poems, paintings or novels.  They probe the world of flesh and blood, but at the same time they draw us into things spiritual: the sublime and the ridiculous; love, heroism, and envy; good and evil.  But if Darwinism is right, some of our ancestors had an evolutionary mutation that caused them to imagine that a spiritual dimension—including things like nobility—actually exist.  Since the illusion made them better at surviving and reproducing, the mutation passed from one generation to the next in a growing population of deluded ancestors, creatures who worked out their delusion in everything from poetry to painting to music.  So goes the story of Darwinian reductionism” (76).

Witt brings up a valid point.  I have never considered the distinguishing element of appreciating beauty that humans have.  Darwin never mentions this, except maybe in regards to sexual attraction, but even then the practice in natural selection is strictly a reproductive one.  Such a trait does not figure prominently or even benignly in the evolutionary system.

Although the debate between Darwinism and intelligent design will never really end, it keeps scientists from falling into complacent thinking and practice.  Intelligent design cannot prove there is a god or higher form of intelligence, yet Darwinism cannot disprove it either.  Time limits both areas: members of either side cannot live long enough to see their experiments play out.  In any case, I am just glad that I have chosen a literary field and not a scientific one.  I will leave the scientific bickering to the biologists.

A copy of the electronic book is available by clicking here and subscribing to one or all of Discovery Institute’s newsletters.  It is suitable for all ages.


1 comment:

  1. Interestingly enough, it is interesting the historical development of the sciences and seeing a similar pattern. Most people believed the earth was the center of the solar system for a long time and Galileo had to fight the Catholic over his assertion that the sun was actually in the center and the planets orbited it. It seems every major scientific breakthrough is preceded by extreme prejudice against the new idea until finally the evidence can get gathered in such quantity that older scientists finally take a look at it and acknowledge that it might have some merit.


Have you read this book? What did you think of it?


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