A difference of opinion between intelligent design and evolution is ongoing — anyone who looks into the structure of the cell and sees the myriad of operations occurring has to stop and wonder: How can evolution account for this? And if evolution is a culling process, what generated the initial set of entities to be culled? On the other hand, intelligent design advocates have to answer some questions also: Why does the mitochondria structure in the cell exist? How does one account for adaptations? Where did that pesky reverse transcriptase come from?

Anyone looking at a system as complex as the cell is inclined to make statements that such complexity could never have evolved. One would do well, however, to look into the phase space of a very simple coupled polynomial system. The phase space solution set of these polynomials become chaotic in the mathematical sense of the word. An incredible complexity exists in even the simplest equations. Steven Wolfram has show that simple generators can produce the complex patterns on a mollusk shell. So complexity in itself is not an indicator of intelligent design.

Consider the mitochondria structure in the cell. This is a structure which provides cellular energy. Current thinking is that, at some point, a cellular organism ingested a bacterium of similar structure to the mitochondria, and instead of the bacterium’s proteins being digested, as usually happens, the bacterium instead survived as a symbiote within the cellular organism. The fact that the structure exists indicates a fortuitous occurrence rather than a structured design — unless one wants to argue that this ingestion was part of the design.

Also adaptations clearly occur. Man has been adapting domestic animals and grains for millennia. MRSA is a bacterium which has adapted to the human immune system, much as AIDS has adapted to the human T cell. And clearly these adaptations have passed beyond the somatic. The existence of reverse transcriptase throws a monkey wrench into the orderly intelligent design process. No electrical engineer would design a control system with a pole in the left hand plane, which is what a molecular design with reverse transcriptase amounts to.

So if God exists as an intelligent designer, are we to believe that it is as Woody Allen quips: ” …the worst you can say about Him is that basically He’s an underachiever.”

Evolution theorists have to do a little introspection also. Evolution in its strictest sense is the process by which adaptations make the transition from the somatic to the germ line. That is to say, adaptations that are passed along to offspring. Organisms with the adaptation, in the sense that they are more suited to the environment, survive to procreate. Less well adapted to the environment, they do not survive and eventually they are eliminated (rendered extinct). Thus evolution is a culling process — the fittest are those organisms which survive, with continued existence being the only criteria. But this begs the questions of the adaptations in the first place. Where did they come from and what was the source of the original pool from which viable processes were ‘selected’? Evolution is a backwards acting process, a culling of options. Somewhere in the process there is a need for new adaptations, new structures. There is some support for the hypotheses that radiological mutations provides such a pool. Other thought suggests that matter is endowed with self-organizing properties.

The physical world is described by the laws of thermodynamics. The second law, which states that entropy tends to increase, leads to the ultimate final state being the heat death of the universe. Evolutionists are constrained by this law. There is a preferred direction for processes. Combining things together into a higher energy state seems to violate the second law. If, as Ben Stein notes, life evolved from lightning striking the mud puddle, there are a lot of missing links, most of which violate the second law.

Note that the fact that they are missing is not surprising: Why shouldn’t they be missing. Millions of years could have passed under identical geological conditions which produced our fossils without proteins and amino acids being preserved — they are just too fragile. Only after life adapted and generated shells, bones and mineral inclusions could there be a preserved slice of the process to study.

But life itself seems to violate the second law. The significant factor, the one spark that distinguishes life from all other matter seems to be the ability to self-organize. The question is whether self-organization is another natural law which we have overlooked or the result of some prime mover or intelligent designer. Certain nanostructures are known to self organize — the so-called self-assembly process. So it is conceivable that all that electrified mud self organized into amino acids, complex phosphate chains, proteins and that the sieve of selection gave us the foundations of cellular metabolism.

Is self-organization a result of a process that has been overlooked and is responsible for that initial pool of selectees we evolved from? Or is this process the indicator that there is some higher intelligence guiding the development of life, but in a way that is far more clever and inscrutable than either side in the debate supposes?