Review of Undeniable by Douglas Axe

Comment are off

Review of Undeniable by Douglas Axe

Discovery Institute’s Douglas Axe, a molecular biologist, explains the outlandish thinking that the accidental development of life could happen in Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition that Life Is Designed (2016).

One would think that a molecular biologist would get down into the guts of the cell and describe amazing details to be found there and how there is clear evidence of intelligent design and little hope of chance events ever producing a living cell, and to some extent he does, but in the last half of the book he becomes more philosophical.

Axe admires the works of Thomas Nagel, a brilliant atheist philosopher who said:
“I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”

Probability and Noisy Seahawk Fans
Dr. Axe considers probability, linking it to our design intuition. He brings up the idea of a robot that is at-tracted to the loudest nearby sound and compares this behavior to natural selection. He considers the terrific, record-setting 137.6 decibel noise Seahawks fans made two months before the Seahawks’ astounding Super Bowl XLVIII victory, making them the loudest of all football fans (soccer and pigskin). Would a weather-proof, noise-seeking robot dropped by parachute ran-domly to any spot on Earth (maybe somewhere on Madagascar) have found its way to the football stadi-um for that super noisy Seahawks’ game just by seeking loudness?

When the robot lands, it disengages itself from the parachute and begins detecting noise in every direction using a sensitive, directional microphone. Then by whatever means available, it moves to the loudest sound it has detected. With all the noisy locations be-tween CenturyLink Field and Madagascar, there is no reasonable expectation that the robot would end up at the stadium. A noisy air conditioner could keep the robot interminably focused, so could the roar of a waterfall, or the crashing waves at the seashore.

Four Corners USA—the Cuna Search
Axe considers randomly dropping 2,000 pins to hit an indentation in the circular bronze plaque located at the four-corner intersection of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona (hence CUNA) and compares it to the search space of molecules randomly developing into a living cell. At, you can test Axe’s idea by randomly dropping 2,000 pins upon Earth’s surface. A target as large as Australia should get hit by 29 pins, but the indentation on the bronze plaque is the size of a pinhead and covers only one part of a hundred billion billion equal-sized parts of Earth’s surface consisting of 510 million square kilometers. To give you an idea of this, we tried the program dozens of times without hitting the Hawaiian Islands.

The Big Question
Undoubtedly, the big question has to be how life began. Is it the result of a nearly infinite series of fortuitous accidents or of purposeful design? When such a question appears on a final exam, the unspoken remark is that it began by ordinary chemical processes, and that’s how the student better answer it even if they don’t believe it. Axe answered his final exam as expected, but for extra credit he explained what the weaknesses are in the materialistic philosophy underlying the question. I had a similar origin-of-life question on one of my final exams, and like Axe, points were deducted. So, any student who wishes to succeed shouldn’t bring the debate into his answer on an exam. Instead, he debates in the appropriate forum where he can influence more than his professor. Debate in the lecture hall is also unappreciated. Solomon said, “There is a time for every event under heaven…a time to be silent, and a time to speak.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1b, 7b) Axe says, “…we students were expected not only to know current thinking in biology but also to accept it without resistance.” He says he learned his lesson.

Nearly every 19th century scientist rejected Darwin’s thesis until after the fifth edition of On the Origin of Species, then almost inexplicably, their opinion changed, about which Darwin rejoiced. He had hoped America’s Louis Agassiz, the world’s foremost systematist and paleontologist, would accept his theory, but Agassiz perused Darwin’s book and became his life-long chief opponent.

The Universal Design Intuition
Axe says, “Tasks that we would need knowledge to accomplish can be accomplished only by someone who has that knowledge.” If you doubt this, have your neighbor’s 6-year-old rewire your house. We want to know if our intuition that Darwin’s theory is wrong is sound. If it is, Darwin’s theory is in trouble. By the Universal Design Intuition we understand that tasks we need knowledge to accomplish can be accomplished only by someone who has that knowledge. Accidental events can never achieve it.

Design Intuition
The most important concept Dr. Axe discusses is “design intuition,” which he uses 76 times. Everyone’s design intuition is anti-Darwinian. Charles Darwin, David Hume, Francis Crick, and Richard Dawkins (and most scientists) scoffed at intelligent design (ID), which they must argue against since everyone intuitively knows that life was designed.

Crick exhorted fellow scientists: “Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not de-signed, but rather evolved.”2 Concerning Crick’s re-mark, blogger Lawrence Seldon wrote, “Of course, the presumption underlying his exhortation that living things were not designed is philosophical and meta-physical, not scientific.”

Biologist Francisco Ayala said, “The functional design of organisms and their features would therefore seem to argue for the existence of a designer. It was Dar-win’s greatest accomplishment to show that the directive organization of living beings can be explained as the result of natural processes and natural selection, without any need to resort to a Creator or other external agent.”
In The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins said, “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose,” but he believes it is only apparent, and he believes we are stupid, ignorant, insane, or downright wicked for believing that life is the result of purposeful design.

Dawkins “thinks the implausibly complex network of stepping stones that would be needed for life to evolve did line up by accident,” says Axe. Dawkins’ little par-lor trick with his computer program that picks out METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL from 28 randomly rearranged letters of gibberish—WDLTMNLT DTJBSWIRZREZLMQCO P. fools only those who wish to be. Then Axe huffs, “And somehow [Dawkins] thinks his thoroughly unremarkable demonstration should convince us of the thoroughly unbelievable claim” that his program is a fair representation of what took place with mutations and natural selection.

Evolutionists don’t like to defend the origin of life via abiogenesis, that is, the reputed, naturally spontaneous chemical evolution of non-living chemicals to life, claiming that evolution isn’t about that, yet Darwin yearned for the scientific affirmation that “But if (& oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond” where life first spawned.3 Darwin would have rejoiced if evidence of this had been discovered.

When Axe says, “I think the intuition by which we immediately perceive certain things to be the products of purposeful intent is close to the idea that some things are too good to be true,” he means good things don’t just happen. There must be purposeful intent be-hind them. We don’t usually fall for get rich quick schemes, even though we are tempted by them. Some things cannot be attained by accident, but only by hard work and learning the know-how to get some effect.

10 Dover myths ruled true by Judge Jones
The work-around solution for the CO2 scrubber that saved the astronauts aboard Apollo 13 was the result of careful thinking and precise instructions by NASA scientists. The Apollo 13 mailbox was not thrown together haphazardly from available parts aboard the Apollo. It was carefully designed.

Evolutionists like to say the bacterial flagellum was exapted from already existing parts of the Type Three Secretion System (TTSS or T3SS) lethal injector—a needle-like structure in pathogenic bacteria. The TTSS injector has 10 of the 40 proteins that make up the flagellum. Professor of molecular biology at UC San Di-ego, Milton Saier, favors the idea that the flagellum came before the TTSS. IDers and secular scientists say the pathogenic bacteria developed long after bacteria allegedly evolved. Most IDers accept billions of years.
IDer Casey Luskin argues: “…the T3SS is found in a small subset of gram-negative bacteria that have a symbiotic or parasitic association with eukaryotes.

Since eukaryotes evolved over a billion years after bacteria, this suggests that the T3SS arose after eukaryotes. However, flagella are found across the range of bacteria, and the need for chemotaxis and motility (i.e., using the flagellum to find food) precede the need for parasitism. In other words, given the narrow distribution of T3SS-bearing bacteria, and the very wide distribution of bacteria with flagella, phylogenetic analysis would suggest that the flagellum long predates T3SS rather than the reverse….So where did Judge Jones get the idea that ID is a strictly negative argument? He got it from Ken Miller, who testified: ‘I have yet to see any explanation, advanced by any adherent of design that basically says, we have found positive evidence for design. The evidence is always negative, and it basically says, if evolution is incorrect, the answer must be design.’

“Michael Behe directly refuted this testimony — but Judge Jones apparently ignored him: “This argument for design is an entirely positive argument. This is how we recognize design by the purposeful arrangement of parts.”

Concerning the probability of developing such a struc-ture, Axe refers to the 1966 Wistar Institute Symposi-um “Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution.” Upon considering the probability of abiogenesis, stellar, world renowned scientists questioned the validity of Darwinian randomness. Recently, we reported on the successful implantation of a synthesized genome into the cytoplasm of an enucleated bacterial cell. The scientists involved determined that at least 457 different genes were needed to make the simplest cell capable of reproducing.

The probability of the random formation of these genes is fantastically minute—actually impossible—vastly exceeding the universe’s probabilistic resources. William Dembski: “There would have been a vast but limited number of events that could have taken place on the molecular level since the Big Bang. A great but finite number of physical and chemical processes could have taken place every second since the origin of the uni-verse that could have generated many combinations of molecules, but the possibilities for the formation of functional sequences [are] so much greater than this…”