The Half-Truths of Materialist Evolution
COMMENTARY: Scientific study of the brain’s evolution exposes the non sequitur of mind-less evolution.
“The thing from which the world suffers just now more than any other evil,” wrote author and Catholic convert G.K. Chesterton, “is not the assertion of falsehood, but the endless and irrepressible repetition of half-truths.”
Jean-Paul Sartre emphasized freedom, but denied morality. Sigmund Freud stressed instinct, but suppressed the spiritual. Friedrich Nietzsche glorified the individual, but disdained the community. Karl Marx celebrated the community, but rejected the individual. Charles Darwin was enamored of empirical science, but excluded metaphysics.
It is an all-too common theme. Chesterton, himself, I am happy to note, was not speaking in half-truths.
More contemporaneously, Richard Dawkins has joined the throng of those who pitch half-truths to a naive public by separating blind chance from intelligent design. Two sentences from his bestselling book The Blind Watchmaker (1986) capture the author’s view about cosmic evolution, one he has consistently maintained throughout his career:
“In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
There are many holes in this position, but I would like to direct attention to the unsupportable notion that the human brain, to focus on a single phenomenon, could possibly have evolved by sheer chance. One of the great stumbling blocks for Darwin and other chance evolutionists is explaining how a multitude of factors simultaneously coalesce to form a unified, functioning system. The human brain could not have evolved as a result of the addition of one factor at a time. Its unity and phantasmagorical complexity defies any explanation that relies on pure chance. It would be an underestimation of the first magnitude to say that today’s neurophysiologists know more about the structure and workings of the brain than did Darwin and his associates.
Scientists in the field of brain research now inform us that a single human brain contains more molecular-scale switches than all the computers, routers and Internet connections on the entire planet! According to Stephen Smith, a professor of molecular and cellular physiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine, the brain’s complexity is staggering, beyond anything his team of researchers had ever imagined, almost to the point of being beyond belief. In the cerebral cortex alone, each neuron has between 1,000 to 10,000 synapses that result, roughly, in a total of 125 trillion synapses, which is about how many stars fill 1,500 Milky Way galaxies!
A single synapse may contain 1,000 molecular-scale switches. A synapse, simply stated, is the place where a nerve impulse passes from one nerve cell to another.
Phantasmagorical as this level of unified complexity is, it places us merely at the doorway of the brain’s even deeper mind-boggling organization. Glial cells in the brain assist in neuron speed. These cells outnumber neurons 10 times over, with 860 billion cells. All of this activity is monitored by microglia cells that not only clean up damaged cells but also prune dendrites, forming part of the learning process. The cortex alone contains 100,000 miles of myelin-covered, insulated nerve fibers.
The process of mapping the brain would indeed be time-consuming. It would entail identifying every synaptic neuron. If it took a mere second to identify each neuron, it would require four billion years to complete the project. What makes all of this even more astonishing is the fact that the brain is 60% fat. In addition, a person’s brain, in all its unified complexity, evolved from a single, microscopic cell! The human brain is hardly what we would expect “chance” to produce. As we believe, God is behind its amazing creation.
It is supremely ironic that Dawkins relies on his brain to deny the implications of its unified complexity. This is like seeing yourself in the mirror and then denying that you exist. Darwin, as we noted earlier, had a problem with irreducible complexity. He admitted that his theory could not begin to explain how a complex organ could develop in any other way than by numerous successive, slight modifications. The complex structure of the brain could not possibly have developed one factor at a time until it reached trillions of factors that somehow all worked in synchrony and provided its attendant organism with the ability to cogitate and philosophize about the brain itself as well as about the entire cosmos.
The notion of intelligent design is the logical complement of scientific research. It offers a truth that has the salutary merit of not being a half-truth.
Donald DeMarco, Ph.D., is a senior fellow
of Human Life International and an
adjunct professor at Holy Apostles College
and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.
- richard dawkins
- national catholic register
- g.k. chesterton
- donald demarco
- charles darwin