BreakPoint | by Stephen Meyer | Sep. 23, 2009
For almost a hundred years after the publication of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin in 1859, the science of biology rested secure in the knowledge that it had explained one of humankind’s most enduring enigmas. From ancient times, observers of living organisms had noted that living things display organized structures that give the appearance of having been deliberately arranged or designed for a purpose, for example, the elegant form and protective covering of the coiled nautilus, the interdependent parts of the eye, the interlocking bones, muscles, and feathers of a bird wing. For the most part, observers took these appearances of design as genuine.
Observations of such structures led thinkers as diverse as Plato and Aristotle, Cicero and Maimonides, Boyle and Newton to conclude that behind the exquisite structures of the living world was a designing intelligence. As Newton wrote in his masterpiece The Opticks: “How came the Bodies of Animals to be contrived with so much Art, and for what ends were their several parts? Was the Eye contrived without Skill in Opticks, and the Ear without Knowledge of Sounds? . . . And these things being rightly dispatch’d, does it not appear from Phænomena that there is a Being incorporeal, living, intelligent . . . ?”