'Design' Vs. Darwin

By random mutation — or by design?

Those two different explanations for the diversity of life are in conflict in a court case now under way in Pennsylvania.

And they are in conflict outside the courtroom, too, in many places.

Rita Braver examines the controversy over "intelligent design," on CBS News Sunday Morning.

There are questions, Braver observes, we cannot stop asking: Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? There have never been any easy answers, or universal agreement.

But on a 40-acre spread in northern Kentucky, a new, privately funded, $25 million project is under construction. Called "The Creation Museum," it's dedicated to one premise about how the whole world came to be.

"The real purpose is to say the Bible's true, and it's history. Genesis is true," explains Ken Ham, founder of the Answers in Genesis ministry.

It rejects years of findings by mainstream scientists that different species of creatures came into being over the course of hundreds of millions of years, through the process of evolution.

"You basically say in this museum that dinosaurs and human beings existed at the same time?" Braver asks.

"Oh, absolutely," Ham answers, "because, you know, the Bible teaches that God made land animals on day six, alongside of Adam and Eve."

Ham understands that Supreme Court decisions mandating separation between church and state mean his point of view cannot be taught in public schools.

Still, says Braver, he sees a glimmer on the horizon: a new theory called "intelligent design" is bringing hope to Christians like himself, who don't believe in evolution.

"They see it as a way of, maybe this is how we can try to get the school students to at least hear of another view," Hamm says.

The underlying premise of intelligent design, Braver points out, is that recent advances in molecular biology have enabled scientists for the first time to peer into the inner workings of a single cell, revealing mechanisms so complex that they couldn't possibly have evolved by chance, and must have been deliberately designed, especially when it comes to DNA, the building block of life.

The Seattle-based Discovery Institute, cradle of the intelligent design theory, produced a video saying, "There is, in fact, no entity in the known universe that stores and processes information more efficiently than the DNA molecule. Every DNA has 3 billion individual characteristics."

"In other words," asserts Stephen Meyer, who holds a doctorate in the history of science, and is director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, "we're seeing something that, in any other realm of experience, would trigger an awareness of design. And therefore, we think the best inference is that things were actually designed."

He says that intelligent design is based entirely on observable scientific evidence, and that it's not creationist theory.

But, he acknowledges, "It's consistent with a view that many people in our culture hold, that there is some larger purpose, derived from a creator."

And would that be Christian creator, Braver wondered.

"Well," responded Meyer, "many people have different interpretations of that."

Says Miles Eldridge, a paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, "Nobody buys for a moment that they have in mind the creature from the black lagoon, or any other possible intelligent designer. They're clearly referring to God."