Chance, Evolution, or Intelligent Design?

By Louis Markos, Ph.D.

How did humans come to be? Are we just a product of chance and evolution?

But if (and Oh! What a big if!) we could conceive in some warm little pond, with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, lights, heat, electricity, etc., present that a protein compound was chemically formed ready to undergo still more complex changes.Charles Darwin1

In the final episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, Q, an immortal, all-powerful being, takes Captain Jean-Luc Picard on a journey back and forth through time. In the most memorable (and perhaps most troubling), scene, Q transports Picard to the very “warm little pond” where life, as Darwin theorized, first appeared on earth.

To give Picard a lesson in the precariousness and meaninglessness of human life, Q reaches his hand into the pond and stirs the water. Oops, he informs Picard with a boyish grin, it looks like the amino acids won’t form into the first protein. And because that didn’t happen, the entire human species will never evolve.

Well, Picard and the human race win out in the end, but the victory doesn’t take away from the frightening implications of the episode. Do our lives, our hopes, our dreams have origins no more meaningful than random movements of amino acids in a primordial pond?  

Seeming-Random Forms

The dominant voices in academia and the sciences insist that Darwinian evolution can explain everything that currently exists on the earth—from microbes to men, matter to mind. Given enough time, the dual mechanism of natural selection and genetic mutation can account for the vast array of species and the vastly more complex human psyche.

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But what propels this evolution? And what keeps it on track? There are some, often referred to as theistic evolutionists, who accept natural selection but argue that it is driven by a higher, supernatural purpose.

Victorian poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson discerned just such a purpose in the forward movement of evolution. He wrote of the beginnings of earth and mankind in his epic poem “In Memoriam”:

In tracks of fluent heat began,

And grew to seeming-random forms,

The seeming prey of cyclic storms,

Till at the last arose the man.2

For Tennyson and those who share his perspective, natural selection only appears to be random. In reality, it is guided by a higher hand that moves it in the direction of progress. Yes, the process itself lurches forward by chance, but behind that chance, there is greater purpose and meaning.

The Appearance of Design

In sharp contrast, the majority of modern evolutionists insist that evolution is utterly blind: it has no idea where it is going and did not have us (the human race) in mind. It appears to be random because it is. Indeed, as atheist Richard Dawkins often informs his readers, evolution is a mechanism that offers the appearance of design but which operates free of any design or higher purpose…

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