Science in Christian Perspective

Letter to the Editor


Clarification of the Prediction Sets

David F. Siemens, Jr., ASA Fellow
2703 E. Kenwood St.
Mesa, AZ 85213-2384  

From: PSCF 52 (March 2000): 75-76.

Mills response in PSCF 51 (September 1999): 209f to my communication,1 indicates to me that I have not written clearly. He says that I cite experimental results rather than predict. This is the scientist's approach. However, as a philosopher, I note them as examples of what should be either a trend or somewhat isolated observations. These few results have little relevance compared to the next 500 or more. The scientist's work, as he notes, must take into account current results. But the philosopher looks behind and beyond past and current procedures, observations, and theories, asking what they can mean.

To clarify "efficiency," let me suggest an analogy. There are still factory buildings where power shafts run the length of the shops. No longer used, they are left in place when they are expensive to remove. Other shops of similar age have only the holes where pillow blocks were once attached. Either condition reveals that machines were originally driven by a single steam engine or by a water wheel, whereas modern design has electric motors at each machine. So it would be irrational to provide pillow blocks and shafts in a newly constructed factory. But the design may provide extra conduit for anticipated new technology.

The questions then are: Are there organs and genetic material in creatures that are like the shafts, no longer functional? Are some of these items functioning in a new context? Affirmative answers here strongly support a view like Van Till's. On the other hand, are there innovative functions served by new designs, especially if similar problems are solved differently in various organisms? Such would support the view that creatures possessing them came directly from the hand of God, much as single- and three-phase electric motors bear witness to Steinmetz' genius. This is the province of the multiple input views held by Mills and most promoters of intelligent design theories.

I readily grant that Mills formulates his theories to match all the available evidence. But is his espousal of many divine interventions a rear guard action? In 1968 he wrote that rats and mice were independently created because their respective cytochrome c's did not match.2 The discovery of additional cytochrome c's pushed him to allow for a common ancestor for both genera in 1992.3 Will future evidence suggest a common ancestor for the Muridae and other rodent families as it now seems to do for the murine genera Mus and Rattus?4

My original study anticipated two primary possibilities. First, if species, genera, or families came directly from God's hand, then novel structures, genes, proteins, and controls will be encountered more and more often. In addition, an essential function will be found for "junk DNA": Intelligent design does not introduce useless oddments. This fits what was termed multiple input theories. In contrast, if creatures come to be by natural descent according to the divine plan and purpose (functional integrity), such novelty will not be discovered. Emerging structures and operations will be governed by controls modified from earlier ones,5 with at least some retaining their original functions. Genomes will contain unexpressed genes and other accumulated debris.

Will future discoveries support one or the other extreme, or an intermediate position? The answer requires either patience or the gift of prophecy. As a mere philosopher, though I may look for trends in the work of scientists, I have to wait.


1David F. Siemens, Jr.,"Two Prediction Sets and Their Consequences for Applying Intelligent Design Theories," PSCF 51 (June 1999): 108-12.

2Gordon C. Mills, "The Evolutionary Significance of the Species Variation in Cytochrome c Structure," JASA [PSCF] 20 (June 1968): 52-4.

3Ibid., "Structure of Cytochrome c and c-like Modifications and Origin of Genes," PSCF 46 (December 1992): 236-45.

4The genome map and accompanying articles in Science 286, no. 5439 (15 October 1999) are presented from an evolutionary viewpoint. How well can the data be presented within a progressive creation/intelligent design framework?

5Note, for example, the argument that all organisms produce DNA bases by processing RNA in S. J. Freeland, R. D. Knight and L. F. Landweber, "Do Proteins Predate DNA?" ibid., 286 (22 October 1999): 690-2.