DID DARWIN GET IT WORNG AFTER ALL? (1) American Scientists Have Come Up with an Amazing New Theory - Known as Intelligent Design - Which May Rewrite Our Ideas about the Origins of Man. It Could Even Bring God Back into the Picture (2) SPECIAL REPORT

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), August 21, 2005 | Go to article overview

DID DARWIN GET IT WORNG AFTER ALL? (1) American Scientists Have Come Up with an Amazing New Theory - Known as Intelligent Design - Which May Rewrite Our Ideas about the Origins of Man. It Could Even Bring God Back into the Picture (2) SPECIAL REPORT


Byline: PETER HITCHENS

Down here, of all places, a huge revolution in human thought may be in the making. Right among the Bible thumpers, where the cornfields stretch to eternity and Dodge City is a real place a few stops down the westbound railroad tracks, the great Charles Darwin's long unquestioned reign and his theory of evolution are threatened for the first time.

Get used to hearing the expression 'Intelligent Design' as an alternative explanation for the origin of species and of Man.

The people who give this revolution its muscle would like to go much further. Those who provide its brains are uneasy about having their help. Yet they are working together. The voting power of America's old-time believers has combined in an uncomfortable alliance with a new wave of rational scientific doubt. The result is a potent challenge to a theory almost everyone thought was safe. What we all believe may not be true. It is as if a previously unshown film had come to light which seemed to show Germany had won the 1966 World Cup. Only it is rather more important.

Yet most people in Britain have never even heard of Intelligent Design and do not know there is a challenge to the view that Man is descended from the apes. Most of us would say evolution was no more open to debate than the view that the Earth is not flat. Actually, there are divisions among those who support evolution about what it involves. And Darwin's theory has had to be revised several times since he first put it forward in 1859.

Supporters of Intelligent Design say evidence is piling up that Darwin's belief - that the huge variety of species can be accounted for by gradual, accidental evolutionary change - simply doesn't fit the facts now available.

Anxious not to be labelled as hillbillies who believe in the literal truth of the Book Of Genesis, they go little further than that. They just say there is strong evidence of intelligent purpose in the fossil record and in the structure of cells and DNA. Make of it, what you like, they shrug. We just thought you might like to know evolution is not proven and may be a duff explanation for the way the world is.

Here are some of their key points: Even among very ancient fossils, there are incredibly complex organisms, including some with eyes, which appear suddenly. In fact, the fossil record shows more in the way of sudden appearances - and disappearances - of species than gradual change.

They do not deny micro-evolution, which is proven by research. But they say minor adaptations are not evidence of the huge transformations alleged by Darwinism, which nobody has ever observed or recorded.

Unlike other scientific theories, which can be shown to work by measurement or experiment, evolution is an idea about things that happened unseen by humans and, therefore, is little better than guesswork with bones.

Perhaps most important of all is the recent theory of 'irreducible complexity' put forward by microbiologist Michael Behe. He says we now know much more about biology than Darwin did, and that things such as blood clotting - which involves at least 20 proteins all acting at once - are too ingenious to have come about by accident.

The quarrel is now smouldering in Britain, too. The passionately pro-Darwin zoology professor Richard Dawkins has dominated the British debate for 20 years. But in May, The Times published a pair of letters from scientists critical of Dawkins.

Andy McIntosh, Professor of Thermodynamics and Combustion Theory at Leeds University, wrote: 'There is no hard evidence for moleculesto-man evolution.'

He added tartly: 'The non-evolutionist side of the argument is growing not because of ignorance but because of the rise of knowledge about the real fact of science without the fairytale additions of evolutionism. …

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