Dennis Venema’s final chapter in Adam and the Genome examines his move from a position of Intelligent Design to Evolutionary Creation. It isn’t that he finds the world a random mess with humans as lucky accidents. Rather, he has come to believe that evolutionary mechanisms are God’s means of intelligently designing and sustaining his creation. This is an important point. All Christians believe that God intelligently designed the earth and that humans are created in his image. The issue is really one of process – does science reveal an accurate evolutionary history or not? If so, this will have consequences for the ways in which we might understand and interpret Scripture – but it does not change the fact that God is the Creator.
The Intelligent Design (ID) movement argues that there are firm limits to the power of natural processes and that the origin and structure of life on earth exhibits features that point unmistakably to a designer. The key point is that these limits provide scientific evidence for the existence of this designer. As Christians we believe the designer to be God, but this isn’t a key tenet of ID.
Two significant design arguments advanced by Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box and The Edge of Evolution) and Stephen Meyer (Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt) center on irreducible complexity and the genesis of new information content. Dennis digs into both of these areas of research. He finds the arguments for ID less than compelling (and I agree completely on this). I am not going to summarize Dennis’s analysis – buy the book and read it. Send questions – or set up a discussion group including biochemists and geneticists in the mix. One key point is that, in addition to the popular single site mutation, a variety of other mechanisms can also result in changes to the genome. These include gene duplication, register slippage and whole genome duplication. Many of the changes are neutral, but provide the working ground for the development of new or modified biochemical systems capable of new function. If a modification is beneficial, it eventually becomes dominant in the population.