Jack Atkinson fired the first shot ("Particles to man," Crosstalk, Jan. 16, page 30), so a rebuttal is in order. The readers of EE Times are mostly engineers, and we are all used to backing up our claims with test data or verifiable demonstrations. There are no scope traces, voltmeter readings or simulation results that can say anything about the origins of life. So what can we say about this subject that can be verified to a level that we, as engineers, can be confident believing?
Evolution and natural selection are the only theories that we have so far that can be backed up with any kind of proof or evidence. Yes, there are some holes, some missing evidence, so the theory may not be perfect--but it is the best one we have now. I have yet to see even one microscopic shred of evidence in favor of intelligent design.
We all stand in wonderment at the magical beauty and complexity of life on earth. It is very compelling to want to believe that there was an intelligent hand crafting the design. There is, however, no evidence to support this. Just imagine what a 12th-century peasant would have thought if you showed him a Pentium 4 PC playing the latest videogame. He would have had no choice but to believe it the work of a supernatural being, and the poor PC would have been burned at the stake. Just because we don't fully understand something doesn't mean that it was the work of a supernatural force.
Mr. Atkinson says that particle-to-man evolution is an absurd theory, and that we should abandon our dogmatic faith in it. There is, in fact, no dogmatic faith in any theory currently taught in America. Instead, we are teaching the theory that best matches the objective evidence that has been collected and thoroughly verified. The only dogmatic faith I see anywhere on this subject resides with the people who refuse to accept this because they want to believe something else. Mr. Atkinson, I am ready to believe anything that can be proven. Just show me the scope traces.
David Skurnik, Design Engineer
LV Sensors Inc., Bellevue, Wash.
Jack Atkinson asserts the implausibility of one aspect of evolution because he cannot see how it could possibly work. The brilliant and innovative engineers of Victorian England would have assured us that sending preprogrammed machines to inspect Pluto or grab samples from passing comets was impossible, simply because they had no idea how to do so.
J.B.S. Haldane remarked that "the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose." Mr. Atkinson's apparent assumption that our current [sophistication] suffices to qualify us to make such grand judgments as his cannot withstand objective scrutiny.
Fisher Aircraft Corp.
It's fashionable in Creationist circles to offer probabilistic arguments. But probability can only be applied to a system that is well-understood. For example, what is the probability that trillions of atoms in seawater could spontaneously form a perfect cube? Creationist calculations would consider the astronomical number of possible arrangements and conclude it would take a miracle. But this "miracle" actually has a probability near 100 percent and happens continuously as salt crystallizes from brine. The Creationist argument gives results even more absurd than the Statistics 101 wag who claims "The probability of any event happening is 50 percent: Either it will or it won't!"
Chief Executive Officer
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Naturalistic evolution is the antithesis to engineering. Engineers understand that complex structures are intelligently designed, not the product of random variations. Engineers should be the first to recognize that a highly complex optimized structure, like the human eye or ear (not to mention the intricacies of individual cells), is not likely the result of mere time + chance + natural selection.
Senior Project Engineer
CMC Electronics Inc.
Religious issues are off-topic for a newsweekly addressed to electronics engineers. Do not offer yourself as a platform for propaganda of whatever side.
Océ Printing Systems GmbH