I have just finished reading Prof. Matti Leisola’s excellent account of a lifetime in academic research in the field of bio-engineering. Published earlier in 2018, it provides a fascinating insight into molecular biology, and the clear messages this field presents in relation to the subject of Intelligent Design.
Before I turn to consider the book, I wanted to note in passing the way in which this man and his work is presented on the internet. First off, you won’t find him on Wikipedia – at least not at first glance. Given that Wikipedia and its trolls seem to see themselves as the means for validating an individual’s status on the planet, that’s not an insignificant fact. There is a Finnish Wiki page (Leisola is a Finn) and, having run it through Google Translate, one is able to detect the characteristic imprint of the kind of simplistic reductionism employed by this source: Leisola is forced into that convenient box labeled ‘creationist’, because everyone knows that such people are anti-science, anti-rational and believe the world is flat. Creationists are instantly dismissible, with a wave of the hand.
The RationalWiki page does something similar – Leisola is plonked, unceremoniously, on their list of ‘creation scientists’, as if merely appearing there is sufficient evidence of crimes against intellectual endeavour.
And that’s it. One would not know that Prof. Leisola (born 1947) had published 140 peer-reviewed articles in the field, and won a number of awards in 1987, 1997, 2000 and 2003 for research that places him at the forefront of molecular biology. His 2018 book, ‘Heretic’ is a retrospective look at a lifetime in research, reflecting upon the nature of his interactions with the scientific community, as his own work on enzymes began to demonstrate the utter inadequacy of Darwinian evolutionary mechanisms as an explanation for what he was finding at a molecular level. In his conclusions, he is clearly not alone – others, such as James Shapiro, Professor of Microbiology at the University of Chicago, have also understood that the Darwinian paradigm is a busted flush – and actually contributes nothing to the ‘science’ itself.
Leisola realised, quite early in his career, that evolutionary explanations were constructed out of rhetoric and circular reasoning, and – more importantly – provided negligible insight into the fantastically-complex and organised functional components at a cellular level. His book shows, in careful steps, how his own views developed through a synthesis between his research and the fruits from wider projects such as Encode. He demonstrates that it is perfectly possible to be an ‘intellectually fulfilled’ and productive scientist without having to submit one’s thinking processes to Darwinian dogma. Look! No pink unicorns. No incipient tendency towards flat-earthism. No pathological desire to smuggle ‘god’ into every research paper, or present the operation of the natural world as an interminable sequence of supernatural events. These kinds of attribution trot lightly off the tongues of those who view science through the burkha of atheism.
No, what we find is just solid, steady, reliable, reputable science. As the title of his book suggests, Leisola’s very existence within the academy surely should not be possible, if one were to take the rhetoric of Messrs Dawkins, Coyne or Krauss seriously. That thinking Christians can deliver such value in scientific terms, without embarrassing themselves through a superfluity of superstition, must surely irk the high priests of the new atheism. Yet, Leisola pulls it off with consummate ease. And, more importantly, demonstrates that Intelligent Design (ID) has been a better predictor of scientific outcomes than the prevailing Darwinian orthodoxy. ‘Junk DNA’ is a classic case in point. Richard Dawkins’ prediction in 1976 (The Selfish Gene) as well as those of Orgel & Crick (1980), Futuyama (2005), Shermer (2006), Coyne (2009) and Avise (2010) have all been invalidated by our exploration of the genome and we have arrived at an understanding that correlates with the model which has been consistently articulated by ID theorists.
I close with a brief extract, where Leisola employs the analogy of the early theory of phlogiston, a mysterious substance which was supposedly released during the burning process. Despite serious doubts about its viability as an explanatory theory, phlogiston was foundational to chemistry education for one and a half centuries. This, says Leisola, is just like…
The Darwinian theory of evolution (is the phlogiston of our day), festooned with a myriad and growing number of patches. Evolution is slow and gradual, except when it’s fast. It is dynamic and created huge changes over time, except when it keeps everything the same for millions of years. It explains both extreme complexity and elegant simplicity. It tells us how birds learned to fly and how some lost that ability. Evolution made cheetahs fast, and turtles slow. Some creatures it made big and others small; some gloriously beautiful, and some boringly grey. It forced fish to walk and walking animals to return to the sea. It diverges except when it converges; it produces exquisitely fine-tuned designs except when it produces junk. Evolution is random without direction except when it moves towards a target. Life under evolution is a cruel battlefield except when it demonstrates altruism. Evolution explains virtues and vice, love and hate, religion and atheism. And it does all this with a growing number of ancillary hypotheses. Modern evolution is the Rube Goldberg of theoretical constructs. And what is the result of all this speculative ingenuity? Like the defunct theory of phlogiston, it explains everything without explaining anything well.
(Heretic by Prof. Matti Leisola. (Seattle, Discovery Institute Press, 2018), p. 198)