Getting real about intelligent design

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: Today is Tuesday, February 26th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Megan Basham.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: an intelligent design conversion.

German paleontologist Gunter Bechly is a world-renowned expert on dragonfly fossils. Several years ago he rocked the scientific world when he publicly announced his support for intelligent design theory.

BASHAM: Today Bechly is a Discovery Institute fellow and senior research scientist at the BioLogic Institute.

He’s based in Austria, but WORLD correspondent Jenny Lind Schmitt interviewed Bechly while he was in Seattle to lecture. She’s here now with some highlights. Good morning, Jenny!

SCHMITT: Good morning!

BASHAM: Jenny, tell us what Bechly is known for, besides dragonflies.

SCHMITT: You might recall Marvin Olasky’s recent interview with the BioLogic Institute’s Ann Gauger. She briefly told Bechly’s story. As curator of the Natural History Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, he put together an exhibit for Darwin’s 200th birthday. As part of the display, he ordered some intelligent design books by Michael Behe and William Dembski. He thought he should probably read them. So he did… and realized that contrary to what he’d always heard, the ID arguments were very good ones. They’re good science.

BASHAM: So he became an intelligent design proponent?

SCHMITT: Yes. Unfortunately, Bechly’s case shows the lack of intellectual freedom in science these days. After he “converted”—if you will—to intelligent design, he lost his job as museum curator. Then Wikipedia—that bastion of truth and justice—deleted an entry about him after its volunteer editors decided he was not “notable” enough. But their internal communications showed a bias because he had changed his views on evolution.

BASHAM: So what evidence does Bechly have from his work on dragonflies that supports intelligent design?

SCHMITT: I asked about that. One is their reproductive systems. They all use the same basic structures across different species, but in each species the system is put together in a different way, the way an engineer on an assembly line would use a master plan and reuse the same parts in different ways.

Another thing is that dragonfly larvae have mouths that are partially detachable from their heads. Bechly said it’s difficult to imagine how that detachment could have originated with an adaptive advantage at each intermediate stage in evolution.

BASHAM: That sounds fascinating–if pretty technical. What else did you learn?

SCHMITT: Something I thought was interesting was what Bechly said about the scientists who work on the underpinnings of neo-Darwinian theory who are openly discussing its flaws. He went to conference put on by the Royal Society in London where the opening talk was on the inability of evolutionary theory to explain evidence.

BECHLY: The problem is that of the biologists who reject ID, 98 percent don’t work on the actual underpinnings of the theory. They simply learned the theory at university, accept it as true, and apply the theory to detailed problems: They study whether the East African locust is related more closely to the Asian or Australian locust, but they don’t think about the mathematical feasibility of the neo-Darwinian process. The few theoretical biologists who really work on the underpinnings of the theory have mostly become critical of the neo-Darwinian process.

BASHAM: What is Bechly working on now?

SCHMITT: Through the BioLogic Institute he’s working on a project called the “waiting time problem.” This project will show that the time necessary to produce mutations and then for those mutations to spread throughout a population–even in a single species–just isn’t there. Even though evolutionists talk about changes happening over billions of years, mathematically, it’s not possible. Here’s Bechly:

BECHLY: Usually the fossil record and population genetics of fields are considered to be good confirmation for a darwinian evolution.

But what calculations show is that consistently, if you compare the available window of time in terms of the fossil record, the waiting time necessary to get at least a single coordinated mutations–or where two mutations have to come together to have an adaptive effect, is at least 10 times longer than the time that is available.

We have a mathematician from the University of Stockholm who is working on the mathematical modeling. I’m establishing the fossil dating, the available windows of time. And then we have molecular biologists and biochemists who are working on the genetic underpinnings. And we want to show in different showcases, different organisms from unicellular organisms to plants, invertebrates, vertebrates, over all eras of Earth history that this is not an exception from the rule, but is the general problem everywhere in the history of life and refutes Darwinism. And if then Darwinism is still upheld as ruling paradigm, it is in spite of contradictory conflicting evidence.

BASHAM: So basically that would show mathematically that Darwinian evolution is not feasible. Fascinating. Is there anything else we should know from your interview with Bechly?

SCHMITT: I asked him about interesting areas for someone entering the field of biology. Bechly said there are several that are compelling, especially from an ID perspective. In addition to his own field looking at discontinuities in the fossil record, he talked about the potential in genetics and evolutionary development.

He said young biologists, whatever their background, should be open-minded, read both sides and weigh the evidence themselves. They may want to contact scientists working with the Discovery Institute. They can also read more about his own story on his website. Bechly did advise they should stay “undercover”—as it were—until their career is settled, because the anti-ID bias in biology is very real.

BASHAM: Okay, good advice. Jenny Lind Schmitt is a WORLD correspondent based in Seattle. You can find more of her interview with Gunter Bechly in the March 2nd issue of WORLD Magazine. Thank you for joining me, Jenny.

SCHMITT: You’re welcome, Megan!


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