For more than a century, Charles Darwin's theory of evolution has been the theoretical framework - the paradigm - in mainstream biology and related life- sciences. nevertheless, great advances in biochemistry over the past decades have created an Intelligent Design opposition which maintains that the theory of evolution is beset with anomalies.
In Rethinking Darwin, Danish science writer Leif A. Jensen, in Collaboration with leading Intelligent Design proponents such as Dr. Michael behe, Dr. William Dembski, and Dr. Jonathan Wells, points out aws in the Darwinian Paradigm and examines the case for intelligent design. The argument for design is next expanded with further evidence from archaeology, cosmology, and studies of consciousness. Finally based on the irreducible nature of consciousness, the book suggests an alternative paradigm drawn from the Vedic texts of ancient India.
About the Author
Danish Science writer, chairman of the Danish Society for Intelligent Design, and University lecturer on the subject of Darwinism and intelligent design, Leif Asmark Jensen has written numerous papers and articles exploring the convergence between modern science and traditional eastern philosophy. He is associated with the Bhakti vedanta Institute and is the author of Intelligent Design: et nyt syn pa udviklingen (Intelligent Design: A new Look a Evolution), the most popular book on intelligent design in Danish. He has also written a book on sustainable living and self-sufficient farming and is himself an active ecological farmer. Leif lives with his wife, dorte, in Copenhagen, Denmark.
These words were spoken by Harvard professor Ernst Mayr (19°4-2°°5), veteran evolutionary biologist, when on September 23,1999, he received the Crafoord Prize from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm. Or. Mayr made the point that although most groundbreaking scientists, such as Albert Einstein, had a marked influence within their own fields of science, they made little impact on the way the average person apprehends the world, whereas Darwin changed the very fabric of our worldview.
And so this book. As long as the ideas of Darwin are so deeply woven into the lives of almost everyone, they will continue to be explored, explained, and critiqued from different perspectives. This book presents an overall scientific critique of Darwin's theory of evolution in a way that is accessible to laypersons, contains novel material and new perspectives that may interest even insiders within the scientific community, and offers an alternative viewpoint to standard modern evolutionary thinking.
One distinguishing feature of this book is that it is written from the standpoint of someone trained in the thoughts of Eastern philosophy, or, more precisely, in the Vedic tradition of ancient India. This naturally has a bearing on the material selected and the issues discussed in the book, and the last chapter directly outlines a Vedic philosophy of nature as an alternative to Darwinism.
Not only is this book about evolution; it is also, in its own right, the result of an evolution. It started as an idea to present some Vedic perspectives on Darwinism in the form of an easy-to-read booklet, to be published and widely distributed during the Darwin bicentennial in 2009. As the material accumulated, I saw that more than a small publication was taking shape. At one point I contacted three of the world's leading proponents of Intelligent Design, professor of biochemistry Dr. Michael Behe, mathematician and philosopher Dr. William A. Dembski, and biologist Dr. Jonathan Wells. They all found the idea of a book with a Vedic angle an interesting challenge, and each agreed to contribute a chapter. Then historian of archeology Dr. Michael Cremo, co-author of the taboo-breaking book Forbidden Archeology - a work directly inspired by the Vedic account of a human presence in ancient times - also consented to write a chapter. Clearly, a unique publication was unfolding. The result is what you now hold in your hand.
Until Darwin's time, mainstream science had concluded that life was too intricate to have been caused by nature alone. Almost a hundred years before Darwin, when the Swedish botanist Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) revolutionized biology by inventing the system of taxonomy we still use today, he created a nested hierarchy showing all living forms as related, classifying them by species, genus, family (order), class, and kingdom. This didn't mean Linnaeus read natural evolution into his biological hierarchy; like almost any other scientist of his day, he saw the hierarchy as the materialization of a divine plan. This view changed when Darwin, in 1859, published On the Origin of Species. Within Darwin's lifetime - perhaps only two decades after Origin was published - almost the only way a scientist could think and still be respected was as a natural evolutionist. This does not mean Darwin's ideas went uncontested. Many leading scientists of his day found evolution unconvincing. But the tide in favor of the theory was so strong that even Harvard professor Louis Agassiz, one of the nineteenth century's most stalwart natural scientists, fell practically into obscurity because of his opposition to Darwinian thought.
In the words of biologist Francisco Ayala, former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science:
Darwin's greatest accomplishment was to show that the complex order and function in living creatures can be explained as a result of a natural process - natural selection - without having to refer to a Creator or some other external factor.
British zoologist Richard Dawkins put the matter more bluntly:"Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.!
Of course, whether creating atheists was Darwin's actual intent is uncertain, even unlikely. At least in Origin, he only argued that the numerous species of living organisms need not have been created separately but could have emerged naturally, on their own, over eons, from one or a few simple and original life forms (I view all beings not as special creations, but as the lineal descendants of some few beings which lived long before the first bed of the Silurian system was deposited). Nevertheless, after Darwin the role of any intelligent agent such as God was pushed so much into the background that for all practical purposes He ceased to exist for the world of biology and for science in general. It was soon taken for granted that if life could have evolved into complex forms on its own, then life itself could have started with- out any intelligent agent.
Darwin's proposal caught on wildly, and in its wake it ushered in a modern era of materialism, or naturalism - the idea that material nature and the universe are closed, self-contained units and that to explain anything within them, including ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts, and our consciousness, we need refer to nothing beyond the laws that govern matter, the laws of physics and chemistry.
But in spite of the widespread acceptance of Darwinism and its attendant materialism, Darwin's theory has always had its scientific critics, and their number has not decreased. Rather, and to the surprise of many, the criticism has greatly increased. Since the late 1980s, evolution has faced opposition from a growing number of members of the scientific community itself. This opposition has gradually united into an Intelligent Design front and pulled the world of science into what has been called "the Evolution War.
What Intelligent Design (ID) entails will be explained in the chapters to follow. But for now let me give a simple definition: Intelligent Design is the theory that infers signs of intelligence from the workings of nature. What this means becomes clearer if for a moment we turn to the field of archeology. Archaeologists study discovered objects, such as flints, and ask the question whether everything about these objects can be explained naturally or whether, on the contrary, certain traits are the result of intentional work by humans. When archaeologists determine that a discovered object could not have been shaped by natural processes alone, they infer design and regard the object as a human artifact. Similarly, ID is the attempt by scientists to draw a line between what could have been caused by nature working alone and what could not have and must therefore have been caused by an intelligent agent.
What makes ID controversial is not that it tries to discriminate between designed and naturally formed objects per se, since this goes on not only in archeology but in many fields of science, but that contemporary design-theorists look for and claim to have found signs of intelligence in nature and life. Living organisms, they say, have features that cannot be ascribed to the laws of nature alone but are best explained as artifacts of an intelligent cause. Of course, this at once puts ID in opposition to Darwinism and evolutionary theory, which precisely claim that everything about life can be explained materially. This explains why the face-off between evolutionists and proponents of Intelligent Design creates such a stir. Critics accuse ID of being veiled religion, whereas design theorists retort that ID is no more a religion than Darwinism - or perhaps only just as much. ID scientists say that since they demonstrate their conclusions entirely from studies of nature and not by recourse to religious concepts or scripture, ID cannot be called "religion" in any usual sense of the term. But if Intelligent Design should be called religious because it has religious implications - which everyone agrees it has - then Darwinism is also religious. The only difference between the two is that Intelligent Design points to an intelligent cause behind nature whereas Darwinism purports to show that an intelligent cause for life and nature is not necessary. Perhaps the real fact is that, whether one likes it or not, the discussion about the nature of life invariably overlaps both science and religion. agent.
What science has to say about the nature of life has implications for more than just an elite group of experts. The question of life's origin and development influences every human being's self-understanding and indeed lies at the foundation of how we each build ideas of what is true and false, right and wrong, important and unimportant, and about the meaning of existence. This may be one more reason why this issue causes so much stir.
In this book, assisted by Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Michael Cremo, I first offer the reader an understanding of what Darwinism and Intelligent Design are. Next, while agreeing with the basic ideas of Intelligent Design, I go one step further by examining evidence normally not a direct part of the Intelligent Design discussion - in particular, studies of consciousness, parapsychological phenomena, inspiration, and evidence pointing to a conscious self that can exist apart from matter. Some may consider this a risky step, but upon examination one finds much high-quality scientific evidence in this field that opens a window on a nonphysical yet still observable reality. This, of course, can have great implications for how we understand the nature of life.
Finally, in the book's last chapter, I try to weave all these disparate strands of evidence together into a whole. Evidence never stands alone in science; it must be interpreted into a broader theoretical framework, often called a paradigm. For most modern biologists, the guiding paradigm is Darwin's theory of evolution. In the words of evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky (1900-1975), "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution" and "There are no alternatives to evolution as history that can withstand critical examination." In this book's last chapter, I take up Dobzhansky's challenge and propose such an alternative.
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