He’s an internationally known computer scientist at Yale University - the New York Times dubbed him a “rock star” - but he no longer believes in evolution.
David Gelernter - whom the UnaBomber tried to blow up in 1993 - was disabused of Darwin’s theory by science and not religion. “The origin of species,” says Gelernter, “is exactly what Darwin cannot explain.” (Emphasis in original. Quotations, unless otherwise marked, are from Gelernter.)
The first major problem is the utter absence of fossils right where you need them. There are simply no “missing links,” no fossils that are somewhere between one form of life and the next more complex form.
The Cambrian explosion was an “explosion” of new life forms, like umpteen geysers all going off at once. These Cambrian forms should have been preceded by layers and layers of intermediate pre-Cambrian fossils. Instead, “the incremental development of new species is largely not there.”
The total absence of transitional forms is what Harvard’s Stephen Jay Gould, one of the world’s leading paleontologists at the time of his death in 2003, referred to as “the trade secret” of paleontology. What he meant by that is paleontologists know there are no transitional forms and are hoping against hope the rest of the world doesn’t figure it out.
To explain the unlimited gaps in the fossil record, one scientist suggested that at one point a reptile laid an egg and a bird hatched. I arf you not. Gould had his own variation of the “hopeful monster” scheme, suggesting that life on earth has typically existed in a steady state - everything ticking along uneventfully - until this “equilibrium” was “punctuated” by sudden and inexplicable bursts of evolutionary advance that happened so quickly it left no trace.
This is surely an oddity for the ages - a Harvard scientist and scholar arguing for a theory on the grounds that the only evidence for it is an utter and complete lack of evidence.
Gelernter observes that Darwin himself was troubled by the enormous gaps in the fossil record but believed that more digging would solve that problem. Well, here we are, 160 years out from Origin of Species, and there are actually fewer missing links today than there were in Darwin’s day since so many have been debunked. “Those missing pre-Cambrian organisms have still not turned up.”
So rather than an uninterrupted and gradual climb from the primordial ooze to man, there is instead the reality that “most species enter the evolutionary order fully formed and then depart unchanged.” (Almost as if an omnipotent Creator was responsible for the whole thing!)
The fossil record is fatal for evolutionary theory, but so is, Gelernter observes, molecular biology. The problem here is that advances in evolutionary development require genes that must be developed by mutations that occur through the random collision of atoms. But random mutations, the ones that occur in nature, are invariably fatal to the organism. They don’t advance life, they kill it. “Evidently there are a total of no examples in the literature of mutations that affect early development and the body plan as a whole and are not fatal.”
Deliberately trying to engineer these mutations doesn’t work either. “If you tinker with a valid gene, you will almost certainly make it worse -- to the point where its protein misfires and endangers (or kills) its organism.”
Scientists have been doing genetic mutation experiments on Drosophila, the common fruit fly, since 1910. It’s perfect for genetic tinkering - it only has four pairs of chromosomes, breeds quickly lays boatloads of eggs (a hundred a day), and a generation only lasts about 10 days. Over the last 109 years, these fruit fly Mengeles have produced blind flies, flies with red eyes, flies with white eyes, flies with brown eyes, sterile flies, flies with extra wings, flies with miniature wings, and flies with no wings.
What they have never produced is anything but a damaged and non-viable fruit fly. They started with fruit flies, and that’s where they’re going to end.
They’ve inserted foreign genes into the fruit fly genome (they’ve used genetic transformation techniques since 1987). Two German geneticists won a Nobel Prize for “an exhaustive investigation of every observable or inducible mutation of Drosophila melanogaster.” They said, “[W]e think we’ve hit all the genes required to specify the body plan of Drosophila.” But not one, they go on, is “promising as raw materials for macroevolution”—because mutations in them all killed off the fly long before it could mate.
Distinguished scientist Douglas Axe has calculated the chances of getting a single beneficial randomly occurring mutation at only 1 in 1077, “which “is no different, in practice, from saying that they are zero.” (There are only 10 to the 80th power atoms in the entire universe.) Says Gelernter, “Neo-Darwinian evolution is—so far—a dead loss. Try to mutate your way...to a working, useful protein and you are guaranteed to fail. Try it with ten mutations, a thousand, a million—you fail. The odds bury you. It can’t be done.”
The chance that random processes could turn up even one mutation that could push evolution forward is zero. “Zero odds of producing a single promising mutation in the whole history of life. Darwin loses.”
Gelernter reluctantly winds up where the Bible begins. “The exceptional intricacy of living things, and their elaborate mechanisms for fitting precisely into their natural surroundings seemed to cry out for an intelligent designer long before molecular biology and biochemistry...An intelligent designer might seem more necessary than ever now that we understand so much cellular biology, and the impossibly long odds facing any attempt to design proteins by chance.”
So from a scientific point of view, as well as a theological point of view, you can’t do any better than, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” If it’s good enough for a world-renowned scientist from Yale, it ought to be good enough for us.
The author may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org