Source: Nature's Destiny. From the impossibility of evolution to the inevitability of evolution: Anti-Evolutionst Michael Denton turns into an 'Evolutionist'. A review by Gert Korthof version 3.1b 23 May 2000
Quote from the book :
"It is important to emphasize at the outset that the argument presented here is entirely consistent with the basic naturalistic assumption of modern science - that the cosmos is a seamless unity which can be comprehended ultimately in its entirety by human reason and in which all phenomena, including life and evolution and the origin of man, are ultimately explicable in terms of natural processes. This is an assumption which is entirely opposed to that of the so-called "special creationist school". According to special creationism, living organisms are not natural forms, whose origin and design were built into the laws of nature from the beginning, but rather contingent forms analogous in essence to human artifacts, the result of a series of supernatural acts, involving the suspension of natural law. Contrary to the creationist position, the whole argument presented here is critically dependent on the presumption of the unbroken continuity of the organic world - that is, on the reality of organic evolution and on the presumption that all living organisms on earth are natural forms in the profoundest sense of the word, no less natural than salt crystals, atoms, waterfalls, or galaxies." (page xvii-xviii).
In Nature's Destiny Denton refers to Kaufmann(1) and deDuve(2), to show that, given the right initial conditions, the origin of life and evolution is inevitable.
Can we find crucial evidence in his book which converted him to evolution ? The key passage, I think, occurs in the paragraph "The Closeness of All Life in DNA Sequence Space" of CH 12 (p276). It must have been the key insight for Denton.
"One of the most surprising discoveries which has arisen from DNA sequencing has been the remarkable finding that the genomes of all organisms are clustered very close together in a tiny region of DNA sequence space forming a tree of related sequences that can all be interconverted via a series of tiny incremental natural steps."
"So the sharp discontinuities, referred to above, between different organs and adaptations and different types of organisms, which have been the bedrock of antievolutionary arguments for the past century (3), have now greatly diminished at the DNA level. Organisms which seem very different at a morphological level can be very close together at the DNA level." [emphasis & note are mine]
1. Stuart Kaufmann: At Home in the Universe (1995). It is instructive to compare what Phillip Johnson wrote about Stuart Kaufmann : "....and some plausible rescuers will invite the officers to take refuge in electronic lifeboats equipped with high-tech gear like autocatalytic sets and computer models of self-organizing systems." (p170, Darwin on Trial, 1993). It is clear that there is now a gap between Johnson and Denton(1998). The most important reason however is that Denton accepts the naturalistic assumption of science, which Johnson rejects. Michael Behe wrote a few 'words of praise' at the back cover of Nature's Destiny, Johnson is absent.
2. de Duve: Vital Dust(1995).
3. Including Denton(1986) himself ! He forgets to mention himself !
Even at the ARN website you can read about Denton and Paul Nelson (of the Discovery Institute) going at it on their way to a "Mere Creation" conference: First stop, who gets in but Paul Nelson. Paul and I have known each other. Then Thane Ury (Bethel College) gets in. We start talking and then son-of-a-gun Paul says, "There is Michael Denton"--I couldn't believe it. Lean 50-ish guy with a shock of white, close-cropped hair wearing a shirt that looks like the top for a pair of long underwear. I spent two weeks one summer vacation in Montana outlining various chapters from Evolution: A Theory in Crisis just to drive out the Darwinian poisons I imbibed from my mother's milk. The biggest shock was finding he is so engaging and approachable! He and Nelson started dukeing it out right away. It was fantastic. Here I was with a bad cold, barely holding on to my name tag, fortunate to have taken all the right turns thus far--and bango, the conference starts en route. Paul says "common ancestry is an assumption." Denton says, "the such-and-such goes down and around the something else and why doesn't it just go straight across?" And Paul says, "But how do you know that the down and around isn't optimal?" I remember that point. Then Denton says, "Yeah but when you have delivered as many babies as I have you notice things." He gestures downward with both hands cupped as though he is about to deliver one. He says "Right after they are born they go like this"--he then does a grasping motion with both hands raised. In my semi-fevered state I saw a new born hominid grasping its mothers' fur--right there in the van. He gave a name for the reflex [primate grasp] but even without it I could see that he knew a thing or two about how our kind and kin are born. The conversation in the van was not really a conversation. Denton started talking and gesturing in a very distinctive fashion. He makes his points by jabbing the air with his middle finger--quite unselfconsciously. Possibly this too is a primordial rhetorical reflex with an interesting aeteology. Denton proceeded to develop an evolutionary cosmology, the point of which is that there is abundant evidence for common descent and it is equally clear that evolution is directed and programmed. Indeed Denton affirmed two things--and this is apparently the thesis of his book now under contract at Simon & Schuster--that humankind literally is the point of creation and he is the end product of a divine design. Paul seemed to just let him go, but I sensed Paul was saving up for another time.