Appendix 1 - From Biochemical Predestination to Design[i]
Professor of biology at San Francisco State University, Dr. Dean Kenyon (who received his PhD in biophysics from Stanford University in 1965 and completed post-doctoral work at UC Berkeley, Oxford, and NASA) used to believe that molecules must have some in-built tendency to form the special complexity of life. He propounded this complexity-by-law view of origins as the co-author of Biochemical Predestination (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1969), one of the two best selling advanced level books on so-called ‘chemical evolution’. However, after being challenged by a student to re-think his position,[ii] by the 1980’s Kenyon had come to the conclusion that since so much human guidance was needed for such small results reached in laboratory experiments on abiogenesis, an intelligent designer must have been necessary for life’s beginning:
Biochemical Predestination. . . supported the orthodox scientific theory that living organisms evolved from non-living chemicals through natural chemical processes. As the years went by, Kenyon’s doubts grew, however, and eventually he concluded that the evidence did not support the assumption that unintelligent material processes are capable of forming living organisms by chemical evolution.[iii] According to Kenyon, ‘the dominant trend in simulation experiments is the formation of non-biological materials.’[iv] Indeed, ‘The more . . . we have learned in recent two or three decades about the chemical details of life, from molecular biology and origin-of-life studies . . . the less likely does a strictly naturalistic explanation of origins become.’[v] Campus Alert, a publication of Christian Leadership Ministries, describes the evolution of Kenyon’s thinking:
Dr. Dean Kenyon literally wrote the book on the chemical evolution of life. He was one of the first who developed a theory on how life began in the thick primordial soup of early earth. He also became the book’s greatest critic. After years of applying the best minds and equipment around the world in pristine laboratory conditions, Kenyon observed, scientists were no closer to recreating that first living cell than when he first put forth his theory. Kenyon reasoned that if the best human minds could not replicate that first random cell, then chance and natural selection couldn’t do it either. The only possibility left standing, he decided, is creation by some higher intelligence.[vi]
Kenyon himself explains:
Anyone familiar with the ultrastructural and biochemical complexity of the genus Mycoplasma, for example, should have serious doubts about the relevance of any of the various laboratory “protocells” to the actual historical origin of cells. In my view, the possibility of closing this gap by laboratory simulation of chemical events likely to have occurred on the primitive earth is extremely remote.[vii]
Advertising his change of mind brought Kenyon the censure of his University:
Kenyon was relieved of his usual teaching duties when he attempted to present evidence for his new view, alongside the traditional view, in the classroom. The dean of the school of science and the department chairman balked at first, but reluctantly reinstated Mr. Kenyon after the SFSU Academic freedom committee ruled in his favor and the full senate unanimously voted to support the committee’s decision.[viii]
Dr. Kenyon remains convinced that life came from: ‘an intelligence capable of generating an enormous amount of complex information rather quickly.’[ix]
The Los Angeles Times recently carried an article noting that ‘other scientists report receiving correspondence from colleagues who confess doubts about Darwin’s theories but are afraid to go public for fear of career setbacks.’[x]
[i] cf. ‘Interview with Dean Kenyon’ @
[ii] cf. Thomas E. Woodward, ‘Intelligently Designed Films’, Christianity Today, March 2003 @
[iii] Phillip E. Johnson, ‘Is God Unconstitutional’ @
[iv] Dean Kenyon, interview with Bible Science Newsletter, September 1989.
[v] Dean Kenyon, ‘Going Beyond the Naturalistic Mindset of Origin-of-Life Research’, paper presented to conference on Christianity and the University, Dallas, February 9-10, 1985, quoted by Stephen C. Meyer, ‘The Methodological Equivalence of Design & Descent’ in J.P. Moreland (ed.), The Creation Hypothesis, (Downers Grove: IVP, 1994), p. 68.
[vi]From the September 1995 issue of Campus Alert, a publication of Christian Leadership Ministries, quoted @
[vii] Dean Kenyon, Foreword, Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley and Roger L. Olsen, The Mystery Of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories, (Lewis and Stanley, 1992), p. vi.
cf. Stephen C. Meyer, ‘A Scopes Trial for the 90’s’ @
John Myers, ‘A Scopes Trial in Reverse’ @
[ix] Dean Kenyon in an interview by Bill Durbin, Jr., for The 700 Club, January, 1985.
cf. Gordon C. Mills and Dean Kenyon, ‘The RNA World: A Critique’ @
& ‘What do Ribozyme Engineering Experiments Really Tell Us About the Origin of Life?’ @
[x] Teresa Wantanabe, ‘Enlisting Science to find the Fingerprints of a Creator’, Los Angeles Times, (March 25, 2001).