In The Beginning and Other Essays on Intelligent Design
Discovery Institute Press, softback, 147 pp., 2010
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In this wide-ranging collection of essays on origins, mathematician Granville Sewell looks at the big bang, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics, and the evolution of life. He concludes that while there is much in the history of life that seems to suggest natural causes, there is nothing to support Charles Darwin's idea that natural selection of random mutations can explain major evolutionary advances ("easily the dumbest idea ever taken seriously by science," he calls it). Sewell explains why evolution is a fundamentally different and much more difficult problem than others solved by science, and why increasing numbers of scientists are now recognizing what has long been obvious to the layman, that there is no explanation possible without design. This book summarizes many of the traditional arguments for intelligent design, but presents some powerful new arguments as well.
Granville Sewell is Professor of Mathematics at the University of Texas El Paso. He completed his PhD in Mathematics at Purdue University and has worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Purdue University, the University of Texas Center for High Performance Computing (Austin), and Texas A&M University. He also spent one semester teaching at Universidad Nacional de Tucuman in Argentina on a Fullbright Scholarship. Dr. Sewell has written three books on numerical analysis, and is the author of a widely-used finite element computer program.
As the debate over intelligent design grows increasingly heated, with critics engaging in vicious polemics, it is refreshing to find a discussion of the topic that is calm, thoughtful, and far-ranging, with no sense of having to advance an agenda or decimate the opposition. In this regard, Granville Sewell's In the Beginning succeeds brilliantly.
-- William A. Dembski, author of The Design Inference and The End of Christianity
Sewell provides delightful and wide-ranging commentary on the origins debate and intelligent design.
-- Cornelius G. Hunter, author of Science's Blind Spot
Interview with Granville Sewell:
Q. The Darwin debate is usually fought in terms set by biology, chemistry and paleontology. What's special or unique about a mathematician's view on intelligent design that might make his opinion of equal or greater interest compared to a biologist's?
A. I wouldn't argue that a mathematician's view is of greater interest, but I do think we have something to contribute, and that is the broader view that seems to be missed by many biologists, perhaps because they are too close to the details. And although I am not a biologist, I have been reading and writing on topics related to evolution and design for some 30 years now, so I am pretty familiar with the main issues. In any case, my book is not only about biological evolution, it also deals with the Big Bang, the fine-tuning of the laws of physics, quantum mechanics, and even design in mathematics.
Q. Mathematician David Berlinski, among others, has written about a current of distaste among mathematicians for Darwinian evolutionary theory. Do you find that as well?
A. Yes, but not because it requires any advanced mathematics to see the problems with Darwinism. They are really quite simple. In fact, although this may come as a surprise to our students, mathematicians are trained to value simplicity. When we have a simple, clear proof of a theorem, and a long, complicated, counter-argument, full of hotly-debated and unverifiable points, we accept the simple proof, even before we find the errors in the complicated argument. There is a clear, simple, argument against Darwinism -- indeed, against any attempt to explain the development of life without reference to intelligence. It is just that unintelligent forces cannot do intelligent things, and the layman understands this quite well. What I, and some other mathematicians such as Bill Dembski, have tried to do is to express this simple argument in more "scientific" terms.
Q. You express some doubt that "even under the right conditions, the influx of stellar energy into a planet could cause atoms to rearrange themselves into nuclear power plants and spaceships and computers." This, you say, ought to be "considered an open question" at least by scientists and the public alike. Why isn't it?
A. A typical college physics text I read contains the statement "One of the most remarkable simplifications in physics is that only four distinct forces account for all known phenomena." Most people just haven't ever thought about things in this way, that if you don't believe in intelligent design, you must believe this claim, that the four unintelligent forces of physics caused atoms on Earth to rearrange themselves into nuclear power plants, spaceships and computers. When they do think about it, they may start to see things a little differently. This is part of the "broader view" that is often missed by biologists, but noticed by mathematicians and physicists.
Table of Contents
1.0 In the Beginning
1.1 The Expanding Universe
1.2 The Big Bang
1.3 The Finite Age of the Universe
1.4 Philosophical Implications
1.5 Supplement: A Model for the Expanding Universe
2.0 Design in the Laws of Nature
2.1 The "Fine-Tuning" of the Laws of Physics
2.2 Design in Mathematics
2.3 Supplement: The Stability of Planetary Orbits
3.0 A Mathematician's View of Evolution
3.1 Darwin's Black Box
3.2 Irreducible Complexity
3.3 The Second Law of Thermodynamics
4.0 Postscript in 1985 Book
5.0 Can "Anything" Happen in an Open System?
5.1 A Second Look at the Second Law
5.2 Many Types of Order
5.3 Darwin's Order Source
5.4 Human Consciousness
5.6 Supplement: The Equations of Entropy Change
6.0 My Failed Simulation
7.0 How Evolution Will Be Taught Someday
8.0 The Supernatural Element in Nature
8.1 Axioms and Evidence
8.2 The Advent of Quantum Mechanics
8.3 Philosophical Implications
9.0 The Scientific Theory of Intelligent Design