Thank you for your question and my apologies for the delay in finally replying.
[Left: "The Blind Watchmaker," by atheist Darwinist, Richard Dawkins. Note the incongruity between the cover with an designed watch underlying nature, and the sub-title of the book, why the evidence of evolution reveals a universe without design!]
As explained to you in my interim reply, my long-standing policy when I receive a private message on a creation, evolution or design topic, is to answer via my blog, CreationEvolutionDesign, minus the sender's personal identifying information.
Inline references are hyperlinked to the `tagline' quotes below. I have made your words bold to distinguish them from my comments.
>Hi Mr. Jones,
>I was wondering if you can help me with a question I have about Intelligent Design.
I am happy to answer your question, but you should be aware that I have no official standing in the ID movement, so the views here expressed are my own, although I expect they would be endorsed by most, if not all, ID proponents.
According to Casey Luskin over at the Discovery Institute, ID proponents agree with Darwinian evolutionists about random mutations and natural selection, stating:
>"Every ID proponent I know acknowledges that random mutation and blind natural selection are real phenomena that can cause at least some changes within species."
See `tagline' quote below (Luskin,2007) for the context. Specifically, his important qualification was (my emphasis):
"ID proponents simply don't think such random and blind processes can account for the origin of many complex biological features, like irreducible complex molecular machines, or the explosion of new body plans that appear in a geological instant during the Cambrian explosion." (Luskin,2007)
which I agree with. That is, ID proponents acknowledge that the natural selection of random mutations is a real phenomena, that can cause at least some biological change. But ID proponents do not acknowledge, on the basis of the evidence, that the natural selection of random mutations can plausibly account for "many complex biological features," including "irreducible complex molecular machines," "new body plans," and what Dawkins calls:
"... the 'Paley's watch', or 'Organs of extreme Perfection and complication', kind of adaptation that seems to demand a shaping agent at least as powerful as a deity." (Dawkins, 1983, p.108).
I should immediately clarify that what Darwinists mean by "random mutation" is that they are "random" in the sense of unguided or undirected:
"Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random .... It is selection, and only selection, that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom with respect to advantage." (Dawkins, 1986, p.312).
and therefore it can only be natural selection that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom.
That there is no evidence that the natural selection of random mutations did, or even could, direct evolution to produce "complex biological features, like irreducible complex molecular machines" does not matter to Darwinists who assume that natural selection must have been able to create life's complex designs, because it is the only naturalistic mechanism that could have, irrespective of the evidence (my emphasis below):
"I suspect that it may be possible to show that, regardless of evidence, Darwinian natural selection is the only force we know that could, in principle, do the job of explaining the existence of organised and adaptive complexity." (Dawkins, 1982 p.130).
"I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but thatit is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence.." (Dawkins, 1986, p.xiv).
"Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. ... even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory ..." (Dawkins, 1986, pp.287-288).
"The Darwinian theory is in principle capable of explaining life. No other theory that has ever been suggested is in principle capable of explaining life." (Dawkins, 1986, p.288).
"The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity. Even if the evidence did not favour it, it would still be the best theory available!." (Dawkins, 1986, p.317).
>At what point(s) do ID proponents agree or disagree with Darwinian evolutionists when it comes to random mutations and natural selection?
ID proponents can agree that many, or even most, mutations are unguided, at least in a proximate sense (a Christian IDist like me could argue on the basis of Mat 10:29-30 that even what appears undirected, is in fact ultimately directed). But few, if any, ID proponents would agree that all mutations in the ~4 billion-year history of life, have been unguided or undirected.
Yet that is what the Darwinist position is. Note what Dawkins wrote above: "no mechanism is known ... that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random" (my emphasis). That is, all mutations in the history of life, must have been unguided because there is nothing that could have guided them. But as ID theorist Michael Denton pointed out, there is no scientific way of knowing that all mutations in the entire ~4 billion-year history of life on earth have been unguided:
"But the fact that some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous does not necessarily mean that all mutations in all organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution have all been entirely spontaneous. ... ... There is simply no experimental means of demonstrating that they were all spontaneous." (Denton, 1998, pp.285-286. Emphasis original).
So the reason why Darwinists like Dawkins assume that mutations are unguided, is theological, not scientific. They assume that mutations have been unguided because they assume that "no mechanism ... could guide mutation in directions that are non-random." But clearly an Intelligent Designer/God could "guide mutation in directions that are non-random," either by: 1) "front-loading" design into the laws and constants of the Universe, such that life with its complex designs would inevitably emerge (I personally don't think this would be sufficient-see Nelson, 1995); and/or 2) supernaturally intervening at strategic points in life's history to insert new information so as to bring about new designs (my position- see Pearcey, 2000, p.42).
In fact both Darwin and Dawkins admit that God could have supernaturally intervened in natural history, in which case it "would not be evolution at all" (my emphasis):
"Darwin ... wrote ... .I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' ... For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins, 1986, pp.248-249).
but a form of "divine creation" (my emphasis):
"... many theologians ... smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history ... In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins, 1986, pp.316-317).
I might add that it is not only ID proponents who disagree with Darwinian evolutionists that the natural selection of random mutations can account for the origin of many complex biological features. I was reading the other day in a secondhand bookshop a book, "The Essential Samuel Butler" (1950) containing an essay, "The Deadlock in Darwinism," by Darwin's contemporary Samuel Butler (1835-1902) , an early convert to Darwinism and an atheist, but who upon reflection realised that Darwin's mechanism of the natural selection of random mutations, simply would not work, because "Variations ... that are ascribed to mere chance cannot be supposed as likely to be accumulated":
"[Natural selection] must depend on the supply of the variations [but] ... Variations ... that are ascribed to mere chance cannot be supposed as likely to be accumulated, for chance is notoriously inconstant, and would not purvey the variations in sufficiently unbroken succession, or in a sufficient number of individuals, modified similarly in all the necessary correlations at the same time and place to admit of their being accumulated" (Butler, 1890).
There are many other evolutionary theorists who have made the same criticism (too many to include in this post), but the problem is that although the actual overall pattern of the fossil evidence is "hauntingly reminiscent of creation":
"Palaeobiologists ... instead of finding the slow, smooth and progressive changes Lyell and Darwin had expected ... saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere ... patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation." (Pagel, 1999, p.665).
science for over 150 years has been dominated by scientists whose personal religious philosophy is atheism/agnosticism, and therefore they reject in advance creation/intelligent design, irrespective of the evidence.
>Hoping to hear from you,
See `tagline' quotes below (emphasis italics original, emphasis bold mine).
Stephen E. Jones, BSc. (Biology).
My other blogs: TheShroudofTurin & Jesus is Jehovah!
"For it is plain that what Nature can be supposed able to do by way of choice must depend on the supply of the variations from which she is supposed to choose. She cannot take what is not offered to her; and so again she cannot be supposed able to accumulate unless what is gained in one direction in one generation, or series of generations, is little likely to be lost in those that presently succeed. Now variations ascribed mainly to use and disuse can be supposed capable of being accumulated, for use and disuse are fairly constant for long periods among the individuals of the same species, and often over large areas; moreover, conditions of existence involving changes of habit, and thus of organisation, come for the most part gradually; so that time is given during which the organism can endeavour to adapt itself in the requisite respects, instead of being shocked out of existence by too sudden change. Variations, on the other hand, that are ascribed to mere chance cannot be supposed as likely to be accumulated, for chance is notoriously inconstant, and would not purvey the variations in sufficiently unbroken succession, or in a sufficient number of individuals, modified similarly in all the necessary correlations at the same time and place to admit of their being accumulated. It is vital therefore to the theory of evolution, as was early pointed out by the late Professor Fleeming Jenkin and by Mr. Herbert Spencer, that variations should be supposed to have a definite and persistent principle underlying them, which shall tend to engender similar and simultaneous modification, however small, in the vast majority of individuals composing any species. The existence of such a principle and its permanence is the only thing that can be supposed capable of acting as rudder and compass to the accumulation of variations, and of making it hold steadily on one course for each species, till eventually many havens, far remote from one another, are safely reached." (Butler, S., "The Deadlock in Darwinism: Part I," in "Essays on Life, Art and Science," , Chelsea House Publishing: New York NY, 1983) .
"Darwin's theory is now supported by all the available relevant evidence, and its truth is not doubted by any serious modern biologist. But, important as evidence is, in this article I want to explore the possibility of developing a different kind of argument. I suspect that it may be possible to show that, regardless of evidence, Darwinian natural selection is the only force we know that could, in principle, do the job of explaining the existence of organised and adaptive complexity." (Dawkins, R., 1982, "The Necessity of Darwinism," New Scientist, Vol. 94, 15 April, p.130).
"The theory of species selection, growing out of that of punctuated equilibria, is a stimulating idea which may well explain some single dimensions of quantitative change in macroevolution. I would be very surprised if it could be used to explain the sort of complex multidimensional adaptation that I find interesting, the 'Paley's watch', or 'Organs of extreme Perfection and complication', kind of adaptation that seems to demand a shaping agent at least as powerful as a deity." (Dawkins, R., 1983, "The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene," , Oxford University Press: Oxford UK, p.108).
"More, I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence. This makes it a doubly satisfying theory. A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not just on this planet but all over the universe wherever life may be found." (Dawkins, R, 1986, "The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design," W.W Norton & Co: New York NY, p.xiv)
"Darwin ... wrote in a letter to Sir Charles Lyell, the leading geologist of his day: `If I were convinced that I required such additions to the theory of natural selection, I would reject it as rubbish...I would give nothing for the theory of Natural selection, if it requires miraculous additions at any one stage of descent.' [Darwin, C.R., Letter to C. Lyell, October 11, 1859, in Darwin, F., ed., "The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin," , Basic Books: New York NY, Vol. II., 1959, reprint, pp.6-7]. This is no petty matter. In Darwin's view, the whole point of the theory of evolution by natural selection was that it provided a non- miraculous account of the existence of complex adaptations. For what it is worth, it is also the whole point of this book. For Darwin, any evolution that had to be helped over the jumps by God was not evolution at all." (Dawkins., 1986, p.248-249).
"My argument will be that Darwinism is the only known theory that is in principle capable of explaining certain aspects of life. If I am right means that, even if there were no actual evidence in favour of the Darwinian theory (there is, of course) we should still be preferring it over all rival theories. One way in which to dramatize this point is to make a prediction. I predict that, if a form of life is ever discovered in another part of the universe, however outlandish and weirdly alien that form of life may be in detail, it will be found to resemble life on Earth in one key respect: it will have evolved by some kind of Darwinian natural selection." (Dawkins, 1986, pp.287-288).
"The Darwinian theory is in principle capable of explaining life. No other theory that has ever been suggestedis in principle capable of explaining life. I shall demonstrate this by discussing all known rival theories, not the evidence for or against them, but their adequacy, in principle, as explanations for life." (Dawkins, 1986, p.288).
"There is a fifth respect in which mutation might have been nonrandom. We can imagine (just) a form of mutation that was systematically biased in the direction of improving the animal's adaptedness to its life. But although we can imagine it, nobody has ever come close to suggesting any means by which this bias could come about. It is only in this fifth respect, the 'mutationist' respect, that the true, real-life Darwinian insists that mutation is random. Mutation is not systematically biased in the direction of adaptive improvement, and no mechanism is known (to put the point mildly) that could guide mutation in directions that are non-random in this fifth sense. Mutation is random with respect to adaptive advantage, although it is non-random in all sorts of other respects. It is selection, and only selection, that directs evolution in directions that are nonrandom with respect to advantage." (Dawkins, 1986, p.312).
At first sight there is an important distinction to be made between what might be called 'instantaneous creation' and 'guided evolution'. Modern theologians of any sophistication have given up believing in instantaneous creation. ... many theologians ... smuggle God in by the back door: they allow him some sort of supervisory role over the course that evolution has taken, either influencing key moments in evolutionary history (especially, of course, human evolutionary history), or even meddling more comprehensively in the day-to-day events that add up to evolutionary change. ... In short, divine creation, whether instantaneous or in the form of guided evolution, joins the list of other theories we have considered in this chapter." (Dawkins, 1986, pp.316-317).
"The theory of evolution by cumulative natural selection is the only theory we know of that is in principle capable of explaining the existence of organized complexity. Even if the evidence did not favour it, it would still be the best theory available! In fact the evidence does favour it. But that is another story." (Dawkins, 1986, p.317).
"The idea of the spontaneity of mutation is taken as a proven fact by a great many biologists today. And this is the fundamental assumption upon which the whole Darwinian model of nature is based. If it could be shown that some mutations, even a small proportion, are occurring by direction or are adaptive in some sense, then quite literally the whole contingent biology collapses at once. What is very remarkable about this whole issue is that, as is typical of any `unquestioned article of faith,' evidence for the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation is hardly ever presented. Its truth is nearly always assumed. In nearly all the texts on genetics and evolution published over the past four decades, whenever the author attempts to justify the doctrine of the spontaneity of mutation, he refers back to a series of crucial experiments carried out in the late forties and early fifties on the bacterium E. coli that were associated with the names of Salvador Luria, Max Delbruck, and Joshua Lederberg. But the fact that some mutations in bacteria are spontaneous does not necessarily mean that all mutations in all organisms throughout the entire course of 4 billion years of evolution have all been entirely spontaneous. ... During the course of the past 4 billion years of evolution, countless trillions of changes have occurred in the DNA sequences of living organisms. There is simply no experimental means of demonstrating that they were all spontaneous." (Denton, M.J., 1998, "Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe," Free Press: New York NY, pp.285-286. Emphasis original).
"Since the ultras [ultra-Darwinists] are fundamentalists at heart, and since fundamentalists generally try to stigmatize their opponents by depicting them as apostates from the one true way, may I state for the record that I (along with all other Darwinian pluralists) do not deny either the existence and central importance of adaptation, or the production of adaptation by natural selection. Yes, eyes are for seeing and feet are for moving. And, yes again, I know of no scientific mechanism other than natural selection with the proven power to build structures of such eminently workable design." (Gould, S.J., 1997, "Darwinian Fundamentalism," The New York Review of Books, June 12. Parenthesis mine).
"You asked: "Do you think evolution exists at all?" I reply: Yes. Every ID proponent I know acknowledges that random mutation and blind natural selection are real phenomena that can cause at least some changes within species. Moreover, they also acknowledge that species have undergone at least some degree of change in the past. ID proponents simply don't think such random and blind processes can account for the origin of many complex biological features, like irreducible complex molecular machines, or the explosion of new body plans that appear in a geological instant during the Cambrian explosion. Also, you asked about whether I accept anti-biotic resistance (i.e. antibacterial soap) as an example of evolution. Again, every ID-proponent I know agrees that anti-biotic resistance is a real evolutionary phenomenon. But we generally observe that anti-biotic resistance typically involves trivial biochemical changes that do not explain the origin of complex biological systems." (Luskin, C. "Answers to Student's Questions about Evolution and Intelligent Design," Evolution News & Views, December 31, 2007).
"This may be the place to mention Ken [Miller]'s answer to a question from the audience about Ken's own views on God and evolution, because it applies to the question of mechanism. Ken is a Roman Catholic ... In response to the question, `how do you think God acted?' Ken told the following story. `I knew a nun while I was a graduate student in Colorado,' he said, `who was also a biologist. She gave a lecture on evolution, which she fully accepted, and was asked during the question period how she could believe in a God who created through evolution. How did that fit with her theology?' `Well, she replied,' Ken continued, `that it sounded to her like the questioner believed in a God who wasn't a really superlative pool player. Imagine a pool player who says, 'I'm going to sink all the balls on the table,' and he does so - but only one at a time. 'My God,' said the nun, 'is like the pool player who lifts the triangular rack on the 15 balls, lines up the cue ball, and sinks all the balls with one shot.'' `And that's my God, too,' said Ken. Now, one's first intuition, on hearing this story, is to say, hmm, that would be quite a feat: sink all the balls with one shot. Wouldn't that be the greatest design, to build the whole universe so all its design unfolded right from the start - with one shot, so to speak? But there's a very interesting problem buried in the nun's metaphor. No pool player could possibly sink all the balls with one shot. It's impossible. The pool player can't put enough physical information into the head of the cue stick (so to speak), transfer that information to the cue ball, and have the cue ball transfer the information (e.g., vectors) into the fifteen balls in the rack formation to have those balls roll into the pockets of the pool table. Sure, nothing in principle prevents all the balls from rolling into the pockets. After all, after the impact of the cue ball, they have to go somewhere, so why not into the pockets simultaneously? But the pool player can't do it, because he can't foresee (calculate) all the interactions, and even if he could, he couldn't `get the information' (the interactions) into the head of the cue stick, using only his muscles (which are subject to dynamics of their own), eyes, nervous system, etc. Furthermore, as the cue ball interacts with the cue stick and the cloth of the table , even before it contacts the rack formation, some information will be lost. That's why no one will ever lose $ betting against the player who claims to be able to sink all the balls in one shot. Now, could God sink all the balls with one shot? Of course. It's only a problem of mechanics. Presumably there are indefinitely many single shots, which, if only one could make them, would sink all the balls in any pattern one chooses. But scientifically speaking, humans can't `get at' those shots analytically - because we're limited by our finite knowledge and the probabilities we face. Therefore we can safely declare the event impossible (meaning excluded probabilistically). Now, here's why I think this story becomes a problem for the theistic evolutionist who wants to use it to show how great a designer God becomes (when one accepts evolution). As our scientific descriptions of the universe run back to the Big Bang, we lose information: by that, I mean the `specifications' required, for instance, to provide function in even the simplest organisms, will disappear - they can't be expressed by, or reduced to, physical equations. Thus, if the theistic evolutionist starts with God creating `the laws of nature,' he lacks the explanatory resources to generate organisms later. The physical laws and regularities are too information-poor. That is, they won't generate specified functional (or informational) structures. Well, how about giving those laws some help, by rigging the starting conditions? (Trick shots in billiards displays often begin with the shooter arranging the balls in some carefully specified pattern.) Again, I don't think that helps. The information required won't go away: one simply has to encode it at another, lower level. (Mike Behe and I once argued about whether a cosmic ray burst might generate all the mutations necessary for a cilium to arise de novo; I said, sure, it could, but then one has to explain the vastly unlikely event of simultaneous cosmic ray bursts all striking one cell, etc. The information won't go away.) So, when the nun says, `I believe in a God who sinks all the balls with one shot,' she's really describing a created universe that wouldn't work. At least, we can't say how it would work, i.e., bring forth organisms from physical regularities in the fullness of time. What does it mean to say, `we can't say how that universe would work'? Exactly what it means, I think, in the billiards example. Suppose someone said, `it's possible to sink all the balls with one shot.' `Yes, in principle,' we respond. `In reality? Never.' That's equivalent to rejecting naturalistic evolution probabilistically. Then the nun says, `OK, but God could have done it.' Sure, he could have. But, scientifically speaking, we face all the same problems. God's knowledge is not `our' knowledge, and our science is always relativized to our limitations. Thus, to say, `God could have done it' does absolutely nothing to solve the problem of getting enough information out of the Big Bang to build organisms, and so on. That's why most theories of theistic evolution, when one looks at them closely, really involve God acting all along the way." (Nelson, P., 1995, "A Report on the ASA Conference Debate on Pandas and People Textbook," Access Research Network. September 1)
"Palaeobiologists flocked to these scientific visions of a world in a constant state of flux and admixture. But instead of finding the slow, smooth and progressive changes Lyell and Darwin had expected, they saw in the fossil records rapid bursts of change, new species appearing seemingly out of nowhere and then remaining unchanged for millions of years- patterns hauntingly reminiscent of creation." (Pagel, M., "Happy accidents?" Review of "The Pattern of Evolution," by Niles Eldredge, W.H. Freeman, 1999. Nature, Vol. 25 February 1999, pp.664-665, p.665).
"What Is Intelligent Design? The dominant view in science today is naturalistic evolution, which claims that the universe is the result of an unguided, undirected process, explainable strictly in terms of chance and natural law. Design theory proposes a third cause--intelligent design--and claims that evidence for design in the universe can be detected empirically. Here's a summary of the major positions that fall under this category: THEISTIC EVOLUTION: Many versions of theistic evolution reject design, and are identical scientifically to naturalistic evolution. But some versions propose that design was `frontloaded' into the initial conditions of the universe and its laws, so that creation would unfold over time in the way God intended. OLD-AGE or PROGRESSIVE CREATION: God guided the process of development, injecting information at key stages in the development of the universe and life to design new forms of organization. YOUNG-AGE CREATION: God created the universe and the major life forms within a short period of time (some say six literal days), about 10,000 (rather than billions of) years ago." (Pearcey, N.R., 2000, "We're Not in Kansas Anymore," Christianity Today, May 22, Vol. 44, No. 6, p.42).