Why Intelligent Design Describes the Cambrian Explosion

We know that much of this higher level information that’s required for building new tissues and organs and body plans isn’t found in DNA. That means that you can mutate DNA indefinitely without respect to probabilistic limits, without respect to time and number of trials and you’re never gonna get the kind of form and structure you need to build a new organism. DNA is simply the wrong tool for the job and no amount of time is going to overcome that limitation. That has a really devastating implication for the neo-darwinian mechanism. 

If the Darwinian mechanism cannot explain the origin of the information necessary to produce the Cambrian animals, is there any other cause that can? For more than 20 years, Stephen Meyer has explored this fundamental mystery. In August 2004 Meyer published several of his conclusions in a peer-reviewed journal affiliated with a Smithsonian Institution. He triggered a firestorm of controversy that jeopardized the career of the journal’s editor, evolutionary biologist Richard Sternberg. But why did a technical paper on the origin of animal body plans evoke such heated response? For many people, the problem with my paper was simply the conclusion. I not only argued that the Darwinian mechanism could not explain the origin of the new form and information that arises in the Cambrian but I also argued that there were critical features of that explosion that pointed to the reality of a designing intelligence in the history of life. 

Since his years as a graduate student at Cambridge University, Meyer has worked to develop a scientific case for intelligent design, a case based on a standard method of reasoning used by both Darwin and the famed 19th century geologist Charles Lyell. Lyell insisted that the best explanation for an event in the remote past was a cause known from our experience to produce it, a presently acting cause, one now in operation. The present is the key to the past, that was Lyell’s dictum, it was his standard historical scientific methodology. If you’re trying to reconstruct what happened in the remote past, we should let our present experience of cause and effect guide our search for the best explanation. This reasoning helped focus Meyer’s conclusions about the origin of information.

The light came on for me because I realize it’s not that hard. What you’re looking for are causes which are known to produce the kinds of effects you’re trying to explain. I asked myself the question: What is the cause now in operation that produces new information, whether it’s digital code or whether it’s hierarchical information in the form of a blueprint. Where does that kind of information come from? We know from our experience, from our uniform and repeated experience, which is the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past, that information always comes from an intelligent source. So when we find information in the Cambrian animals, when we realize that large infusions of new information are required to build those animals, the most natural thing, the most logical thing to conclude is that those animals owe their origin to an intelligence source, that the information required to build them in turn must have come from an intelligence.