Colorful chrysanthemum flower close-up. Macro shot. Summer and spring multi-color floral background.
Colorful chrysanthemum flower close-up. Macro shot. Summer and spring multi-color floral background.

Design-Assisted Evolution: A Response to Rope Kojonen

ID the Future
Casey Luskin
Steve Dilley
Audio File (42.16M)

Can evolution and design be wedded in a happy marriage? On this ID The Future, host Casey Luskin kicks off a series of interviews responding to theologian Dr. Rope Kojonen’s proposal that front-loaded design and a full-blooded evolutionary process worked together in harmony to produce the diversity of life we find on earth. Here, Luskin interviews Dr. Stephen Dilley, lead author of a comprehensive critique of Kojonen’s model co-authored with Luskin, Brian Miller, and Emily Reeves published in the journal Religions.

In the first half of a conversation, Luskin and Dilley describe Dr. Kojonen’s proposal in a nutshell, providing the philosophical framing needed to grasp Kojonen’s elegant but flawed argument. Kojonen’s idea is the ultimate front-loaded design model, allowing for full-throated evolutionary mechanisms to work themselves out, but within a careful and purposeful arrangement of finely tuned preconditions and laws of form. It’s the best of both worlds: empirically detectable design within a fully natural evolutionary process.

But there’s a problem. Luskin and Dilley point out that the fine-tuning Kojonen claims is baked into evolutionary processes is actually not there. The sequence space for amino acids to come together to form functional proteins has been found to be both exceedingly rare as well as isolated. We don’t find evidence of fine-tuning within the mutation/selection mechanism. Instead, we find a process limited in its creative power that cannot have produced the complexity and information-rich innovation necessary to bring about life’s biological diversity. As Luskin puts it, “He [Kojonen] is arguing that God had to stack the deck in favor of evolution in order to get it to work.” It’s an interesting thesis, and Kojonen is serious and scholarly in his approach to the problem. But in the end, it fails on scientific grounds.

This is Part 1 of a two-part conversation. Look for Part 2 next! Luskin will continue his series with upcoming interviews with Dr. Brian Miller and Emily Reeves.

Dig Deeper

  • Read the comprehensive critique of Dr. Kojonen’s model authored by Casey Luskin, Stephen Dilley, Emily Reeves, and Brian Miller.

Stephen Dilley

Senior Fellow and Academic Mentoring Centers Coordinator
Stephen Dilley (PhD, philosophy) is the Academic Mentoring Centers Coordinator and a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. Prior to joining Discovery, Dr. Dilley was a professor for 14 years at St. Edward’s University (Austin, TX). He is the editor of Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism (Lexington Books) and co-editor of Human Dignity in Bioethics (Routledge). He has published essays in the The British Journal for the History of Science, The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and elsewhere.

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.
amino acid sequence space
Casey Luskin
design hypothesis
evolutionary creation
fine tuning
fine tuning of initial conditions
front-loaded design
Intelligent Design
natural selection
No categories
origin of life
random mutation
Rope Kojonen
Stephen Dilley
theistic evolution