During extended discussions concerning life origins with friends, exchanges have often revolved around evolution as a natural process. According to theory, evolution occurs as a mysterious undirected force propelling the appearance of the wondrous multiplicity of life, its astonishing processes, and its magnificence. Whereas random mutation and natural selection formerly held sway in explaining evolutionary processes, James A. Shapiro, University of Chicago microbiologist, is the forefront scientist advocating The Third Way of Evolution, a new movement opposed to Neo-Darwinism. Their website lists many scientists who are either co-founders of the project launched in 2014, or in sympathy with tenets of the innovative “third way” hypothesis. The proposals of the third way group present a serious challenge to the traditional random mutation and natural selection paradigm which has held sway among evolutionists for many years since the time of Darwin. But neither Neo-Darwinists nor proponents of the third way countenance a supernatural Intelligent Mind responsible for the existence of life or its processes.
According to believers in naturalism, only natural laws explain the physical makeup and operation of our world—a supernatural Creator had no role in designing or creating the features of our physical existence. Naturalism and materialism are sometimes conflated. Naturalistic evolution is an unguided process. According to naturalism, an intelligent mind did not guide the process of the creation of life or how life has changed. Neo-Darwinists and third way proponents both believe in unguided evolution.
Naturalism has acquired a very precise meaning. Early 20th century naturalists, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, “…urged that reality is exhausted by nature, containing nothing ‘supernatural’ and that the scientific method should be used to investigate all areas of reality, including the ‘human spirit.’” The Third Way website states, “Many scientists today see the need for a deeper and more complete exploration of the evolutionary process.” Rapid evolutionary processes of The Third Way are characterized by symbiogenesis, horizontal DNA transfer, action of mobile DNA, and epigenetic modification, they state.
Creationists of every stripe and most advocates of Intelligent Design believe God performed miraculous acts beyond ordinary natural events during earth’s history of life. These supernatural acts, according to them, produced the DNA molecule with its complex coding capable of generating countless thousands of different appropriately folded proteins. Multiple cell types composing each individual organism require specific proteins. Various organs require certain cell types to produce appropriate body tissues. Final body plans require specialized arrangements of tissues and organs in order to produce the finished total body plan. Epigenetic modification is the “supervising force” insuring that the living materials are correctly assembled during gestation—the period between conception and birth.
To use a builders analogy for epigenetic modification, building foremen insure that the raw building materials are assembled in a timely fashion and integrated properly. The genetic parallel in our simplified analogy relates to the initial production and acquisition of the proper building materials. When a human baby dwells nine months in the womb, we may focus on (a) the genetic knowledge that DNA has supplied the code for the production of many thousands of “just right” protein building materials, and also (b) the epigenetic knowledge that the proteins were assembled for proper form and function. Broadly, we are speaking about developmental biology which focuses more intently on epigenetic inheritance than genetic inheritance. Both types of inheritance affect an individual’s phenotype (physical and behavioral characteristics).
Where the naturalistic verdict of science concerning origin of life leaves us unsatisfied, perhaps our subjective intuition takes over. Theistic creationists find it inconceivable that living things could have come into existence or developed their startling innovations naturalistically. For starters, creationists are incredulous that inanimate matter could have self-assembled, becoming complex molecular DNA without a working, intelligent mind directing the process. Secular naturalism’s explanations seem woefully inadequate to explain the wonders of Earth’s magnificent multiplicity of functional life—humanity being the crowning pinnacle.
Humanity is gifted with ability to identify evidence of intelligence. The products of intelligence surround us everywhere we look. There is little or no disagreement except perhaps as an ontological or philosophical challenge. Not only is humanity gifted with ability to detect external evidence of intelligence, but also the presence of our own personal intelligence. By our intrinsic intelligence, we are able to identify the work of an Intelligent Creator.
Intelligence is not a concept defined in Scripture. On the other hand, related concepts of mind, knowledge, and wisdom are often referenced in Scripture. The first use of the term intelligence occurred in the 14th century. Various definitions of intelligence involve ability to know, learn, and comprehend general truths together with ability to reason and possess superior understanding. Creativity is often an outcome of intelligence. Let us be thankful for our personal intelligence, for intelligence in others, for our ability to identify intelligence, and for the existence of the ultimate Intelligent Agent—the omnipotent Creator of All Things.