By Dr. John Kluempers
[Numbers in angular brackets and comments below by WEL.]
DEUTSCHE WELLE (DW Radio). The topic was broadcasted in Europe on Saturday, 12 July 2003, 10.05 und 17.05 and in the interim around the Earth.
“Hello and welcome to the programme in Cologne. I am Angelika Ditscheid.
(Lead:) A debate has been sparked within Germany’s biological community surrounding evolutionism. At the prestigious Max-Planck-Institut for Plant Breeding Research, a scientist posted material denouncing neo-Darwinism and promoting the theory of Intelligent Design. This smacked of a new form of creationism to evolutionary biologists who then set out to have such material removed from the institute’s website. The question of man’s, or any creatures, beginnings is by no means simple. What is metaphysical hocus-pocus to one group is to the other a healthy dose of scepticism towards presumed facts. Dr. John Kluempers investigates the controversy: Intelligent Design vs. evolutionism.”
(Genesis 1:27) “God created man in the image of himself, in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.”
For centuries, the creation story in the Book of Genesis was simply taken as fact in the Christian world. Since Charles Darwin published his book, The Origin of Species in 1859, science has been busy putting to rest Biblical creationism. But at the beginning of the 21st century, creationism, albeit in a different guise, is making a comeback. The new theory is called Intelligent Design, ID for short. It has found a small group of adherents in Germany’s scientific community leading to controversy between scholars at universities and research institutes. At the end of April, a turning point in the slow-boiling dispute was reached when the personal homepage of geneticist Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, a researcher at the Max-Planck-Institut for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, was shut down. On the homepage, which could be found on the institute’s server, he posted over 1,000 pages of material supporting ID and refuting neo-Darwinism. Ulrich Kutschera, professor for plant physiology and evolutionary biology at the University of Kassel, found the material inappropriate for the homepage of the renowned institute.
O-Ton Kutschera (track 1, 2:07-2:42; 33 secs.)
“In my point of view, he can promote his religious ideas and concepts on his private homepage …But in my opinion, as a professional evolutionary biologist at the university in Germany, I have to teach the subject, it’s not correct to promote private religious beliefs mixed up with scientific facts on an official homepage of a research institute .”
Kutschera makes it clear, that Biblical and in his words, supernatural forces, have no place in the naturalistic world of science. Religion and science are two separate spheres. The promotion of religious views with missionary zeal damages the business of science according to the Kassel professor.
Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig feels to a certain extent misunderstood. He decries the accusations from evolution believers that his motivations are purely religious. Lönnig in fact claims that his research is like that of all scientists, namely a search for truth and facts. This search started already in school and at university.
O-Ton Lönnig (track 4, 8:28-8:48; 20 secs.)
“From the very beginning, there was a clear scientific motivation to find out what really is behind the origin of species. And I found that the present answers are not the full answers. The present answers cannot explain, for example, complicated systems.”
The failure to explain such complicated systems is the cornerstone of Intelligent Design. In support of this, Lönnig refers to none other than the originator of this debate, Charles Darwin.
O-Ton Lönnig (track 5, 0:06-0:25; 17 secs.)
“Darwin wrote … If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous successive slight modifications my theory would absolutely break down.” [Also, I quoted a definition of irreducible complexity, which was, however, not included in the text; - postscript by WEL.]
Kutschera vehemently rejects the approach Intelligent Design advocates. An attack against Darwin’s Origin of Species does not then necessarily disprove evolutionism. Scientists and biologists, in particular, have not simply rested on the laurels of Darwin’s findings and assumed them to be foolproof.
O-Ton Kutschera (track 1, 8:00-8:37; 37 secs.)
“Today, evolution is no longer a theory. It’s a documented fact supported by almost 300,000 fossils that are dated. And no competent biologist no longer discusses whether or not evolution occurred . Evolution is in action we can even make studies on, for instance, guppies that evolve under the eyes of biologists. Micro-evolution in action.”
Micro-evolution is changes via mutation and natural selection that take place within one species. There are supporters of ID who think that micro-evolution and ID don’t necessarily exclude each other. Yet, there are puzzles as to how certain species ever came to be. For example, the butterwort [correctly: the bladderwort]. For Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig the existence of this unusual marine plant poses immense problems for the evolutionists. The [bladderwort] feeds upon small sea creatures. A marvelous species, yet Lönnig would like to know how this plant could develop a system to attract creatures to its deadly follicles and simultaneously how a digestive tract was produced to nourish the plant. According to Lönnig, whenever he puts the question of how the carniverous plant evolved, evolutionists lack an answer.
O-Ton Lönnig (track 5, 5:40-6:10, 30 secs.)
“I have never heard a satisfying scientifically testable explanation of such a system. And there are some evolutionists who admit that there are really enormous problems to explain by accidental mutations and selection such complex systems which often appear to have, only at the end, a certain biological function.”
Yet, the creation of sound and provable scientific theories is not an easy matter. Ulrich Kutschera stresses that in order to do this you must be a professional in your field of research. None of the adherents of ID in Germany are evolutionary biologists, hence they do not have the expertise to disprove evolution . Yes, he grants them a forum to express these opinions but not on government-financed university or institute websites. In Kutschera’s opinion, they are overstepping the boundaries of their respective fields of research to promote their religious viewpoints .
O-Ton Kutschera (track 1, 10:43-11:17, 34 secs.)
“Man is a metaphysical animal. That’s a very famous sentence and people will always maintain their desire to explain everything on a very simple and popular basis. It’s much, much easier to say this tree was designed by a designer than to investigate the evolution of plants . It’s much more difficult to collect data, to build new theories, than to believe in a simple hypothesis.”
Metaphysics vs. Science. Religion vs. Evolutionary biology. For Ulrich Kutschera, these categories necessarily exclude each other. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig disagrees wholeheartedly. He thinks that science has become a kind of substitute religion for many. A belief in materialism must prohibit, in Lönnig’s words, the idea that a divine foot could be in the door. If scientists ban this possibilty, they then limit mankind’s understanding of reality.
O-Ton Lönnig (track 7, 1:53-2:34, 35 secs.)
“They are not able to explain at the present state of scientific knowledge the diversity of life. And they cannot at the present state of knowledge explain the complexity of life by the evolutionary mechanisms of mutation and selection alone. This is their personal opinion. It is a world view stated in the name of science…This is more than science can prove at present.”
Ulrich Kutschera feels that the controversy surrounding Intelligent Design will wane in the near future. He also believes that the sooner all platforms for its propagation are removed, the better . Heinz Saedler, head of the department Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig works in, supports his colleague’s fight for expressing his opinion. Yet, for him 1,000 pages on the institute’s server are more than excessive, hence, the decision to freeze Lönnig’s homepage is justifiable .
The direct debate surrounding Intelligent Design may quiet down, but some scientists bring up an interesting question: If man can can clone animals and manipulate genetic material to create hybrids, then it just might be possible that some designer was responsible for the origin of species.
Comments by Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig
*I’m especially fond of the title Dr. Kluempers gave to this broadcast: INTELLIGENT DESIGN [a scientific, potentially falsifiable theory] vs. EVOLUTIONISM [a non-falsifiable ideology declared to be a fact beyond any reasonable doubt by its adherents].
“…creationism…is making a comeback.”
WEL: This is not correct. For the fundamental differences between creationism and the ID theory see, for example Synthetische Evolutionstheorie vs. Intelligent Design .
UK: “…he can promote his religious ideas and concepts on his private homepage.”
WEL: ID is not a religious concept. And Ulrich Kutschera knew it, for the answers and explanations on the topic given in the Link above had already been known to him several months before the interview for DWRadio took place.
UK: “…it’s not correct to promote private religious beliefs mixed up with scientific facts on an official homepage of a research institute.”
WEL: ID is not “a private religious belief” but a scientific theory. However, could it be that it is Ulrich Kutschera who promotes private materialistic beliefs mixed up with scientific facts on an official homepage of the University of Kassel? See, for instance, Kutscheras Verbotsversuche and Rezension Kutschera.
UK: An attack against Darwin’s Origin of Species does not then necessarily disprove evolutionism.
WEL: I have never heard any ID theorist assert that ‘An attack against Darwin’s Origin of Species necessarily disproves evolutionism.’ Both – the doubtful religious ideas of Darwin as well as the basically false ideas and extrapolations of the synthetic theory have to be disproved to scientifically reject evolutionism (see, for example, Cornelius G. Hunter, 2003: Darwin’s Proof. The Triumph of Religion over Science).
UK: “Today, evolution is no longer a theory. It’s a documented fact supported by almost 300,000 fossils that are dated.”
WEL: Doesn’t UK promote here a widely circulated misunderstanding about the fossil record? First, not only 300,000 fossils are involved, but literally millions (representing approximately 300,000 species of organisms). In the following paragraphs some of the paleontological problems for the synthetic theory of evolution (gradualism) are mentioned:
“The paleontological point in focus here is the abrupt appearance and stasis (morphological constancy) for the overwhelming majority of life forms in Earth's history (13, 31, 40, 41, 51, 55, 56, 65, 66, 80, 81, 85, 89, 97, 111, 113, 116, 132, 133, 139). Originally proposed by Cuvier in the 1790s (31, 113, 131) and subsequently reworked and reelaborated in the following centuries (40, 41, 55, 56, 96, 116, 133), the phenomenon led in the 1970s to the theory of punctuated equilibrium and in the 1990s, to its consolidation as a widely acknowledged paleontological view of life in the western world (40, 55, 56). This view, which is based on some 200 million catalogued fossils in museums wordwide…is not consistent with the strict neo-Darwinian theory of essentially continuous evolution…” (Lönnig and Saedler (2002): Chromosome rearrangements and transposable Elements, Annu. Rev. Genet. 36, pp. 396/397).
“Particularly apposite here are the following words of "so tough and influential a man" (52) as the German paleontologist Otto H. Schindewolf (116):
According to Darwin's theory, evolution takes place exclusively by way of slow, continuous formation increasing divergence and leads to the formation of genera, families, and higher taxonomic and phylogenetic units.Our experience, gained from the observation of fossil material, directly contradicts this interpretation. We found that the organizing structure of a family or an order did not arise as the result of continuous modification in a long chain of species, but rather by means of a sudden, discontinuous direct refashioning of the type complex from family to family, from order to order, from class to class. The characters that account for the distinctions among species are completely different from those that distinguish one type from another. (Italics by Schindewolf.)
The existence in many animal groups such as foraminifers, brachiopods, corals, and others of an overwhelmingly rich fossil material consisting of literally millions (and generally in micropaleontology, billions) of individual exemplars led many paleontologists to emphasize that the objection most often raised against this view, i.e., the imperfection of the fossil record, is no longer valid [(15, 16, 37, 63, 116, 133, 139); see also discussion in (80, 85)]. Although Schindewolf's causal explanations of evolution from inner compulsion are not accepted by most contemporary paleontologists, there is general agreement on his factual representation of the punctuated mode of appearance of new organisms in the fossil record“ (Lönnig and Saedler, 2002,pp. 401/402)
An excellent discussion of the Cambrian explosion, one of the many further basic problems of evolutionary biology, is presented by Meier et al. 2003.
UK: “And no competent biologist no longer discusses whether or not evolution occurred.”
WEL: There are, indeed, hundreds of very competent biologists around the globe discussing the question whether or not (macro-)evolution occurred. So, why does Kutschera refuse to accept the realities of the situation?
Ulrich Kutschera stresses that in order to do this you must be a professional in your field of research.
WEL: Isn’t that nothing but authoritarianism? Interestingly, the same author recommends some non-biologists to prove evolution. Also, Kutschera himself is a professor of plant physiology (not of evolutionary biology!) at the University of Kassel. However, since there is no chair for evolutionary biology at Kassel, UK was deputized to teach this discipline (“Diese Generaldisziplin wird daher seit 1999 von U. Kutschera im Auftrag des Dekans in der Lehre vertreten”).
None of the adherents of ID in Germany are evolutionary biologists, hence they do not have the expertise to disprove evolution.
WEL: Once again, according to Kutschera's opinion some authors who are neither evolutionary biologists nor biologists at all - yet being committed evolutionsts themselves - are thought to have the expertise to give qualified judgements on these matters and thus are recommended by him to defend and to prove evolution. So, doesn't he use a double standard? Incidentally it seems to be a contradictio in adjecto that only evolutionary biologists (ipso facto already committed to evolution) have the expertise to disprove evolution. Just to illustrate the point without putting the general evolutionist on the same level of the following world views,- how rational would statements like the ensuing ones be: “Only communists have the expertise to disprove communism; or only Nazis have the expertise to disprove Nazism?” Perhaps some such persons could, but neutral (non-committed) researchers could do so at least as well if not better!
Last not least: who is an evolutionary biologist? Any biologist who has deeply delved into that matter and worked and published about it? In that case I am one, too. If, however, only the uncritical evolution believers among biologists are "evolutionary biologists", then, of course, I don't belong to that group.
In Kutschera’s opinion, they are overstepping the boundaries of their respective fields of research to promote their religious viewpoints.
WEL: Is it not rather Kutschera who is overstepping the boundaries of his respective field of research in plant physiology to promote his materialistic viewpoints in the disguise of science?
“It’s much, much easier to say this tree was designed by a designer than to investigate the evolution of plants.”
WEL: No ID theorist would “argue” in this way. Has Kutschera really understood the scientific theory of intelligent design?
JK: “A belief in materialism must prohibit, in Lönnig’s words, the idea that a divine foot could be in the door.”
"We take the side of science
in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs,
in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life,
in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories,
because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.
It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of
the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes
to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations,
no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated.
Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. "
"The rigid commitment to naturalism contains an inherent contradiction:
a preference to do damage to natural laws rather than accept any element of the supernatural.
Naturalism demands that any inconsistency be resolved by altering the theories which gave rise to it, thus causing theorists to despoil the very natural law they profess to be safeguarding. In the name of naturalism, they willingly jettison [aufgeben] our most thoroughly tested natural laws. In this way, naturalism can be downright anti-naturalistic."
Walter James ReMine
"The reluctance of science to embrace the conclusion of intelligent design that its long, hard labors have made manifest has no justifiable foundation. Scientific chauvinism is an understandable emotion, but it should not be allowed to affect serious intellectual issues....The simplicity that was once expected to be the foundation of life has proven to be a phantom; instead, systems of horrendous, irreducible complexity inhabit the cell."
Michael J. Behe
"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Ulrich Kutschera feels that the controversy surrounding Intelligent Design will wane in the near future.
WEL: I am convinced that finally the truth will win.
He also believes that the sooner all platforms for its propagation are removed, the better.
WEL: If Kutschera and his fellow evolutionists are trying to remove all platforms for ID instead of meeting it on the scientific level - isn’t that the expression of the sheer intolerance of an ideology rather than the honest scientific method to decide an open question?
Yet, for him [HS] 1,000 pages on the institute’s server are more than excessive, hence, the decision to freeze Lönnig’s homepage is justifiable.
WEL: There is another (mainly evolutionary) homepage with more than 30,000 pages on the institute’s server.
JK: If man can clone animals and manipulate genetic material to create hybrids, then it just might be possible that some designer was responsible for the origin of species.
Thank you, Dr. John Kluempers. That’s a very fine and logical concluding statement!