Are You Smart Enough to be President?

“Do you believe in evolution?”

There are a number of questions I would ask an aspiring presidential candidate if given the chance, but this is not one of them. In a world where ISIS is on the move in Iraq and Iran is working to develop nuclear capability, where nations in Europe are facing overwhelming debt and Russia has invaded Ukraine, in a nation with so many underemployed or not looking for work and with congress seemingly unable to accomplish anything, a candidate’s views on the origins of life seem rather irrelevant.

Nevertheless this is the question posed to Wisconsin governor Scott Walker by a British journalist during his recent trip to London. Some folks back home were critical of Walker’s dodge of the question and attacked him for being anti-science. The question was a bit of a set-up, for Walker is the son of a Baptist minister and likely to believe that God played a role in the creation of the universe. This belief in God has not hampered his ability to govern the state of Wisconsin so it is silly to make it an issue. That did not stop the journalist from asking it.

So why was the question asked? I believe it was an attempt to find a way to easily discredit Governor Walker. The reasoning seems to be that intelligent people believe in science and since evolution is science believing in it is a measure of one’s intelligence. There is only one problem with this reasoning. It is false.

As a physician I took a LOT of biology courses, including biochemistry, molecular biology and evolutionary biology. I learned the material well enough to graduate Magna Cum Laude. People have accused me of many things over the years but I have never been called unintelligent.

In spite of all of this education I don’t believe the theory of evolution provides a reasonable explanation for the complexity of life we see on earth. While evolution may have appeared reasonable in the time of Darwin advances in molecular biology and genetics have revealed obstacles to the theory that Darwin could not have imagined.

A single gene for a single protein can consist of thousands of units of DNA. The protein can be non-functional if a few units are lost, changed or out of place (sometimes a single mutation can be damaging). This means that for evolution to occur thousands of molecules need to randomly line up in perfect order. Even if that were to occur, the new protein would be useless unless it improved the function of the organism, which means that several thousand other randoms things needed to occur as well. This is a monumental challenge! When we think of the amount of DNA that would have to be correctly assembled to code for such dramatic developments as sight or flight the odds against evolution are, from a molecular perspective, even more astronomical. This makes random evolution statistically impossible.

As impossible as I believe it to be, the point of this post is not to debate evolution. The complexity of such a discussion is beyond the scope of any blog. The point is that intelligent, well-educated and reasonable people, people who are well-versed in the subject, can reach the conclusion that the theory of evolution does not adequately explain the observable world. This conclusion is thoughtful and rational. Because of this, Scott Walker does not need to shy away from his beliefs and neither do any of us who believe in a Creator. 

The manner in which we can confidently assert our faith was illustrated several years ago when I engaged a friend in a discussion about evolution. He initiated the discussion at a baseball game. He considered himself an "Evolution buff" and well-versed on the subject. In spite of this he did not have a basic understanding of molecular biology or genetics or of the remarkable complexity of life. When confronted with the reality of the massive amount of information needed to encode for the simplest life forms he assumed a defensive posture and retorted, “Well, You can’t prove there is a God!” My reply caught him off guard.

“I do not need to,” I responded. “The burden of proof is on the person with the least likely explanation. Say we were walking together on a beach and came across sea shells scattered on the shore. You declared that the shells were carried there by the waves, I disagreed and said a child with a basket had come along and scattered the shells on the sand. In such a case the burden of proof would be on me.

If we came across sea shells that spelled out the words “Have a Nice Day,” and you again declared the work of the ocean and I again argued for the work of a child, the burden of proof would be on you.

The amount of information contained in the simplest life form is infinitely greater that a few words on the beach. You day it is random chance, I say it is a sign of an Intelligent Being. I do not need to prove anything. You have the least likely explanation. The burden of proof is on you.”

With that the discussion ended. He did not walk away convinced of my position but I do believe he walked away knowing that my position was neither naïve or ignorant. Something to think about the next time someone is mocked for believing in a Creator.

-          Bart

If you have an interest in learning more about the subject I encourage you to check out Reasons to Believe, an organization of scientists and researchers who believe in a Creator. Remember you can share this post with friends, subscribe to the blog and receive posts via email, or follow me on twitter @bartbarrettmd