Photo Credit:
Douglas Axe

“Religion vs. science” conflicts are generally depicted in popular culture as battles between narrow-minded bigots and tolerant truth-seekers. From the Galileo Affair to the Scopes Monkey Trial, religious authoritarians are cast as the force of darkness attempting to stifle the light of science.

In recent decades, though, this narrative has arguably been turned on its head. Instead of religious authorities persecuting free thinkers, today, more often than not, it is “free” thinkers who persecute believers who dare challenge the popular consensus on such hot-button issues as evolution or global warming.

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Douglas Axe, director of the Biologic Institute in Seattle, knows this first-hand. As a post-doctoral researcher at the prestigious Medical Research Council Centre in Cambridge in 2002, he was experimenting on protein structures when his superiors discovered that his research was being funded in part by an intelligent design organization. The science was solid – he later published his findings in a prestigious journal – but his association with intelligent design was considered unacceptable. He was asked to leave.

In his first book, “Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed” (HarperOne) – published two weeks ago – Axe recounts his experiences at the Medical Research Council Centre and presents his objections to the theory of evolution as it currently stands.

Axe holds a PhD from Caltech and has published in such scientific journals as Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and the Journal of Molecular Biology. He recently spoke with The Jewish Press.

The Jewish Press: You write in Undeniable that you harbored doubts about evolution even as a college student. What were those doubts?

Axe: I perceived there to be a deep contradiction between the materialist worldview – which is the idea that everything is matter and energy – and our notion of human free will. If we are nothing but large machines made out of atoms and molecules, all of which are slaves to the laws of physics, how is it that we can decide to do this or do that?

You write that you were convinced at the time that if you could prove the evolutionary theory was flawed, scientists would be forced to agree since they value truth above all. You now say you were naïve to believe this. Please explain.

It’s a utopian view of science. It’s this idea that although scientists have their own personal preferences, when they put on their white lab coats they’re ultimately about the truth – and nothing else – and if their theories are proven wrong they will concede. But scientists are 100 percent human, and all the things that other humans find hard – like admitting you’re wrong – are hard for scientists. Also, scientists survive in their profession by getting the approval of other scientists, so that gives rise to peer pressure.

You write that philosophical hindrances might also be holding scientists back from acknowledging the flaws with evolution.

Yes. I start the book with the question “Where did we come from?” and lay out the two possibilities: Either we’re cosmic accidents or we’re the product of purpose. If we’re cosmic accidents, we basically end up with this nihilistic position – that there is no moral right and wrong and we’re here today and gone tomorrow, so live how you want to live. But if that’s false and instead we’re a product of purpose and intent [conceived by a Creator], then you have a completely different view of who we are as human beings and how we ought to live our lives.

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Elliot Resnick is chief editor of The Jewish Press and the author and editor of several books including, most recently, “Movers & Shakers, Vol. 2.” Follow him on Facebook.

13 COMMENTS

  1. life is the search for the living of eternity.What do you do to live in harmony so the body and spirit survive for ever this is the true quest of a being alive on Earth,we are the creator of our destiny establishing the needs to survive.Ending the carcinogenes that kill the body the planet, to live in harmoney with the created living planet, that makes all of life posssible thru the Star.Sustainability to live eternity.the goal of life to preform in the living Universe of beings traveling thru the expanding Universe flow.What do we meet as this Milky-way galaxie travels thru the dark matter of the Universe our star pulls us one million miles everyday,,,,gjmars

  2. Start with a unshackable conclusion, attempt to prove conclusion, ignore evidence that disproves conclusion, then publish conclusion you started with all the while by-passing peer review. This is not the work of an honest person but a religious inspired lying charlatan.

  3. I came to very similar conclusions on my own. In my own words, there are two answers to this argument that claims that with infinite chances available in multi-verses eventually a world like ours would form. (1) Many, if not most or all, of these improbable situations that we find are actually impossible situations. Along with the stupendously small probabilities like you mention, there is the "undo" factor, which means that while we are waiting for the next improbable step (such as a new, appropriate protein molecule) to join the parade, the first will come apart. A 1/10^77 chance does NOT mean that if you wait that many chances then the event will happen. (2) We have in our world a huge number of fortuitous situations that are not required, such as the fact that the sun and moon are the same apparent size to our eyes. We and animals have abilities that are not necessary for survival, but enhance our enjoyment immensely. There is a great variety of food options that are not needed. In fact, we do not eat them all. There is a strawberry-flavored banana I get in South America whenever I can. How can anyone seriously try to claim that if things were not this way, then we would not be here to observe it?

  4. What I am seeing that peer pressure, and an unwillingness to admit a flaw, a total disreguard of scientific method of the majority. If science is all for truth, then ALL possiblilties, no matter how unlikely, must be proven, by sceintific method and neither side has been able to do this proof. Thus, whithout absolute proof, neither evolution, which BTW is every bit a religion as others are, as it requires faith in things unseen and unproven, and canot be proven as of yet, so, one cannot make any absolute statement as fact because it cannot be reproduced outside of theory. There is no absolute standerd of religion, and no total agreement on evolution, either. Everyone is still guessing, save folks who do choose to have faith, whatever it may be, but as far as absolute truth, no, nobody has this, so it is presumptuoius to assume that an inference is the same as absolute reproducible proof. Also, in no place have you stated HOW this persons writings are incorrect. Both sides of this ignore the premises you state, so your point is actually, you hate religonists, which creates a bias, therefore, your statement will not hold under peer review either.

  5. James Duthsah Martenet See Kitzmiller v Dover (2005). Look up what science is. Look up the "Wedge Document". And please find one relevant peer reviewed document in a relevant journal that suppurts ID. What you will find is NOTHING. ZERO. ZIP. Also, you have no idea what it means to be a scientist. A scientist lives and breathes to discover a paradigm shifting idea. Just like Einstein and Darwin. That's what we live for. If there was real EVIDENCE for anything that Axe wrote about it would be earth shattering. World fame. What any scientist lives fofr. Except that hasn't happended has it? That's because Axe and his collegues are liars, frauds and charlatans. Look it up yourself.

  6. Joe Marcone paradigm shifts don't occur overnight and most (all?) journals have policies against publishing anything remotely resembling ID. As you said, look it up your self. It's probably because most have peer review editorial boards staffed with biased people like yourself who won't take such an affront to their worldview and instead resort to adhominem attacks such as yours; a sure indication you are losing an argument.

  7. Kyle Ramsey Oh yes the worldwide conspracy against Intelligent Design. I say again LOOK IT UP – Axe and his colleagues at the Discovery Instutute are NOT scientists – they are anti-science religious inspired lying dishonest loons. Look up "cdesign proponentsists" yourself. ID is not science it's anti-science religion with NOT one piece of postive empirical evidence in support. Axe is not ignorant – he's a liar and charlatan. The only people he has fooled are those ignorant of the science – that's why he has by-passed peer review. ID has had enough time to come up with something. They have NOTHING. No proposed experiments. No predictions. No publications. No mechanism of action. No proposed way it can be falsified. NOTHING. One big huge dishonest "god of the gaps" and "arguments from ignorance" whose audience is the ignorant public desperate for proof of the wizard in the sky. Honest scientists are not fooled by this fraud.

  8. //Axe: I perceived there to be a deep contradiction between the materialist worldview – which is the idea that everything is matter and energy – and our notion of human free will. //
    Mixing biology with "free will". There is a reason Axe, engineer turned biologist, doesn't have a doctorate in front of his name, and it isn't because of a conspiracy.
    Seriously, why is it that machanical engineers favor creation mythology?

  9. Bravo Dr. Axe. Those who would attack your thesis by arguing that people who believe in G-d can't be taken seriously as scientists, believe instead that atheism is a requirement for one's research to be given credence. Frankly, I don't understand this double standard. Science is about crunching the numbers objectively and letting the truth prevail. It should be clear to any rational mind that a creation as complex as a human being could not possibly have arrived thru a series of "accidents" particularly when you consider that the number of such accidents staggers anyone's imagination.
    Dr. Yaakov Stern
    Brooklyn NY

  10. Even if the the protein is one of 10**74 possibilities, there could be many (billions and billions?) of those possibilities that do something useful. A primitive cell only has to stumble onto a few of those. And there could be billions of primitive cells.

    The exact path from non-life to life is not known, but it wouldn't have required picking the right one choice out of 10**74.

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