Friday, July 21, 2006

An Anti-Darwinian Intellectual Journey: Biological Order as an Inherent Property of Matter

Author: Michael John Denton, Senior Research Fellow in Human Genetics - University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

This is probably my favorite article in the entire collection, at least one of my top three. Denton recounts his "fundamentalist" childhood (although his definition of fundamentalist is fairly loose considering he did not believe in a literal six-day creation), his loss of faith during medical school, and his new synthesis later in life using his concept of self-organizing matter. This biographical content only serves to introduce the concepts that impacted his thinking during those life periods.

Denton lost his "fundamentalism" when he encountered "homology" in the anatomy of living creatures. Homology, as he defines it, is the similar fundamental structures shared by many different living creatures regardless of their purpose. The pentadactyl limb is his prime example. A whale, a human, a bat, and a mole can all use the same homologous pentadactyl limb for very different purposes. He states that this knowledge led him forcibly to the conclusion that these creatures must have descended from some distant common ancestor.

As he later explains more fully, such a conclusion wasn't made with all of the data available. Most importantly for him, he later discovered that his "mechanistic" view of nature was unfounded and off base. To view nature and its creatures as contingent beings specifically formed (either created or evolved) for some specific form and function is "mechanistic" in his view. Ironically, this is the view held by both Darwinists and Creationists of most stripes.

What is the alternative, however? If creatures are not either specially created as they are for some specific role in the animal kingdom, or have not evolved to that point for that specific role through millions of years of natural selection and mutation what else could explain their form and existence? Denton reponds: biological order as an inherent property of matter. In other words, matter is intrinsically capable and empowered to self-organize into specific forms just as electrons, protons, and neutrons are intrinsically capable and empowered to self-organize into atoms and molecules.

In addition to this, and perhaps the most shocking and revolutionary aspect of this article, Denton demonstrates that genes do not do the "forming" of living things!
"...the entire mechanistic conception of life...is critically dependent on showing that all or at least the vast majority of organic order is specified in precise detail in the genes.

Yet by the late 1980's it was becoming obvious to most genetic researchers, including myself, since my own main research interest in the '80s and '90s was human genetics, that the heroic effort to find the information specifying life's order in the genes had failed. There was no longer the slightest justification for believing that there exists anything in the genome remotely resembling a program capable of specifying in detail all the complex order of the phenotype...It is true that genes influence every aspect of development, but influencing something is not the same as determining it...genes are now considered to be interactive players in a dynamic two-way dance of almost unfathomable complexity, as described by Keller in The Century of The Gene.

...If the genes do not contain sufficient information to specify organic forms, then only nature can supply the necessary "missing information."...much biological order is lawful and self organizing and "extra-genic."

Over the past decade it has become increasingly obvious that the main role of the genes is to provide the unique material constituents that self-organize, under the direction of natural law, into the basic forms of the organic world."
I like to compare this to the creation and customization of a car. Imagine ordering a brand new BMW from the factory. Imagine, also, that before ordering this car you are given a massive multiple-choice quesionaire detailing every customizable part of the car, and your particular choice in the matter. You turn the questionaire in, the factory creates the car using your specifications, and you then receive your new car.

In this example, the customizable parts (practically every part of the car) can be considered the "genes" of a biological organism. The factory is "nature" in Denton's view but could also be considered God. Notice how the "genes", or parts of the car, essentially form the building blocks of the vehicle but they do not create the car. The factory must create it and it must possess a pre-existing knowledge of how to assemble the parts, in what order, and with what tools. Do you see how this changes the view of things? DNA, or genes, does not create or perpetuate life; an intelligent force (nature/God) does that using the customizable parts specififed by the genes. Not only this but there are certain aspects of organisms that are not specified by genes and thus are obviously not determined by them.

You will have to read Denton's article to learn more and I strongly recommend that you do. I do not agree with everything Denton says, but his insights into the failure of the "gene-centric view of life" are very exciting to me. This could invalidate nearly every evolutionist claim based on genetic comparisons (although they are already frought with dishonesty, bias, and logical fallacies).

For a scientist to claim that a chimpanzee or a neanderthal has x% genetic similiarity or difference with modern H. sapiens is an exercise in irrelevance. Noticing that a BMW has certain tires, glass shapes, motor style, etc... and that a Lexus has a different, though relatively analagous, set of features says nothing about their descent (factory) or species (model). You could have two BMW's with a nearly opposite set of characteristics that are still both the same make and model, and you could have a BMW and Lexus with features so similar that they seem like the same make and model. However, their relationships can obviously not be determined this way!

This is very exciting material; groundbreaking and revolutionary!

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