The theory of evolution developed by Charles Darwin revolutionized science, especially biology, but also affected consistently the contemporary philosophy and had changed the self-perception of humans. In the course of time, Darwinist views became dominant and the contemporary science recognizes the evolution theory as the mainstream theory in regard to the species development and life on the Earth. Nevertheless, the historical domination of the view on all above mentioned as subjects of design still produces a significant impact on scientific views. Traditionally people, including leading scientists, believed in the supernatural origin of life or, at least, they stood on the ground that all living beings and nature are designed either by some supernatural power or unknown intelligence. This view on the origin and development of life and species on the Earth apparently contributed to the emergence of the concept of intelligent design that, due to its popularity, is now viewed as the alternative to Darwin’s concept of natural selection.
The concept of intelligent design implies that species and life are designed, i.e. they are directed, while Darwinists (Fisher, 92) support the idea of the natural selection, which implies that species and the development of life on the planet are undirected and occur in terms of natural processes. Such a conceptual difference between intelligent design and natural selection reveals the scientific strength of the latter and weakness of the former since “science has tools for explaining things in terms of natural causation, while intelligent design implies the intrusion of some unnatural or supernatural power, which has designed species and life on the Earth”ť (Shermer 311).
In fact, the intelligent design concept was basically developed as the alternative to the dominant Darwinist view on the origin and development of species. With knowing that natural selection is one of Charles Darwin’s major points of his backbone theory of evolution, he has demonstrated a relatively simple theory stating that natural processes, namely the process of natural selection, explain the variety of species existing on the planet and their development (Darwin, 117). Along with his followers, Darwin suggests that species naturally evolve in the process of natural selection as only the species that are able to adapt more effectively to their environment can survive (Wilson, 177).
Darwin researched and then concluded that the species diversity may explained by the process of evolution and natural selection, which provided the preservation of useful characteristics and disappearance of useless ones (Darwin, 124). The environment naturally forces species to evolve in order to survive. In such a way, the natural selection implies the close interdependence between species and their environment that are in the constant state of change and which produce a mutual impact on each other.
Natural selection “acts on the phenotype, or the observable characteristics of an organism, such that individuals with favorable phenotypes are more likely to survive and reproduce than those with less favorable phenotypes”ť (Fisher 182). The genetic basis of “phenotype, genotype, associated with the favorable phenotype, will increase in frequency over the following generations”ť (Falconer and Mackay 227).
Darwin lays emphasis on the fact that species, in the process of the development, gradually acquire some new features and characteristics that are useful for them in their existence (Darwin, 126). The characteristics and features that prove to be the most effective and useful are preserved and inherited by the next generations of species and, thus, species evolve to the extent that they can change considerably and have little in common with their ancestors (Fisher, 98). Such evolution contributes to the variety of species, which have unique characteristics and features that perfectly meet their needs.
However, supporters of the concept of intelligent design cannot accept such an explanation of the variety of species and the existence of extremely complex systems in nature (Forrest, 148). They stand on the ground that species could not evolve into extremely complex structure simply in the process of natural selection. For instance, one of the developers, Michael J. Behe underlines that every cell contains many ultra-sophisticated molecular machines, which he believes are constructed by intelligent design (Johnson, 79). According to the scientist, natural selection could not lead to such a complexity of species or, to put it more precisely, it could not “construct”ť so skillfully such a complicated structures, which Behe prefers associate with machines. The major argument is that extremely sophisticated mechanisms are united into solid, perfectly functioning structures and they could not be the product of successive modifications. He underlines that the process of natural selection cannot produce extremely complex systems, which is based on the principle of successive modifications, because “any precursor that was missing a crucial part could not function”ť (Johnson 188). Behe concludes that natural selection can only operate with systems that are already working and, therefore, is unable to produce new species making the process of evolution impossible (Behe).
In respect to B. Forest who describes an example of the flagella of bacteria to reveal the complexity of organism that can hardly be explained by natural selection solely:
“The flagella of bacteria are outboard motors that bacterial cells may use for self-propulsion. They have a long, whip-like propeller that is rotated by a molecular motor. The propeller is attached to the motor by a universal joint. The motor is held in place by proteins that act as a stator. Other proteins act as bushing material to allow the driveshaft to penetrate the bacterial membrane. Dozens of different kinds of proteins are necessary for a working flagellum. In the absence of any of them, the flagellum does not work or cannot even be built by the cell”ť (B. Forest 226).
This example challenges the theory of evolution.
In fact, the concept implies that the idea of natural selection and evolution is inconsistent because they are unable to change the preset structures and principles of functioning of living organisms. At the same time, it tends to reveal substantial limitations of Darwin’s theory and indicate to it inconsistency. Its supporters (Maurer, 192) argue that even if some changes and modifications within species, which have been observed in abundance by scientists since Darwin, are possible, but these modifications are relevant only to existing features and they are unable to develop new features in new species. Consequently, some slight modifications that could be observed in species are unable to lead to the consistent change or the development of absolutely new species with new features (Maurer, 227). For instance, supporters of intelligence design criticize Darwin’s views using his own analysis of the diversity of finches on the Galapagos Islands and they argue that the change of the size of beak (Slack, 251), observed by Darwin, can vary within one and the same species depending on the changes of the environment but they do not bring the consistent change or development of new feature since researches revealed that the size of the beak can enlarge and return to the smaller size depending on the food supply.
In spite of seeming logic and convincing power of arguments of supporters of the concept of intelligent design, the position of Darwinists is still quite strong. The major arguments of their opponents may be criticized and even rejected. Firstly, it is hardly possible to deny the fact that complex and sophisticated structures could not be created in the process of evolution under the impact of natural selection. The former consists of ultra-sophisticated parts do not necessarily function as a solid structure. Some its parts, being taken separately, can function effectively.
Therefore, the process of natural selection simply contributes to the most effective use of particular parts that leads to the evolution of species. For instance, a small group of proteins from the bacterial flagellum can work independently though its function is different (Wilson, 131). Moreover, a small group from flagellum may work without the rest of mechanism, namely many bacteria use this group as “a device for injecting poisons into other cells”ť (Wilson 133).
Furthermore, the observations concerning the reversibility or inconsistency of modifications of certain features of species, such as the size of beak discussed above, are irrelevant because they refer to a short-term perspective, while in the long-term perspective the modifications could very substantial, especially if the environmental changes are significant and lasts for a long period of time (Conway, 85). The position of intelligent design weakens when the achievements of genetics are taken into consideration, which reveal the fact that some species have common features and the difference between them can be explained by natural selection, while the possibility of interference of some intelligence or supernatural power is simply illogical and unconvincing.
Thus, the concept of intelligent design is apparently quite noteworthy, but still this is rather a philosophical concept than a scientifically reliable theory. As the matter of fact, the concept of intelligent design can hardly be viewed as the alternative to natural selection. The position of Darwin’s theory is still quite strong and from the purely scientific point of view it outweighs arguments concerning intelligent design as the major power that constructed species and life on the Earth. In fact, the concept of intelligent design implies that all species are created and directed by some power, while such a position is absolutely irrelevant to a truly scientific approach.