One of the more recent concepts to come out of the creation science movements was the concept of mediated design. This concept has not gained a great deal of popularity as yet in creation circles but only was first proposed back in 2003 by Dr. Todd Charles Wood so it had time to be evaluated. This article will be a brief overview of the mediated design hypothesis and will comment on its validity based on what we can observe in the world around us.
I’ve actually discussed mediated design briefly before, although I didn’t recognize it at the time. In my discussion of venom over a year ago, I proposed the possibility of mediated design, though I referred to it as a simply blocked genetic expression. Surprisingly, I was pretty close to the mild version of mediated design as a possibility. Essentially, mediated design is the idea that information was pre-programmed in the genome in the pre-fall world. However, instead of being unlocked directly after the fall, as I proposed, mediated design postulates that these features remained locked until they are unlocked at some point in response to a change in environment. These unlocked traits are then acted upon by natural selection.
Some advocates of mediated design go even further. They completely reject natural selection as being an affront to God and claim that, for each change in the organisms function and features, God directly reaches down and unlocks hidden traits in an organism’s genome. This idea is even less mainstream than the original mediated design hypothesis proposed by Wood. However, particularly among some theological persuasions, this idea has gained a certain amount of acceptance.
Extreme mediated design, viewing natural selection as an affront to God, is something of a byproduct of hyper-Calvinism. This doctrine views everything as being predestined by God and that man has no free will. This line of thinking also applies to the natural world, meaning that natural selection cannot occur because it is not directly guided by God. I’ve previously written about natural selection before on multiple occasions but for reference, natural selection essentially involves environmental pressures guiding the formation of new species or sub-species. However, since these environmental pressures are natural, rather than God guided, they seem to run afoul of hyper-Calvinism. Of course, I’ve heard stories about such destructive choices as pornography and drug use being accepted by hyper-Calvinists as predestined so I suppose rejecting natural selection is not at all inconsistent with that view.
Obviously, this view of mediated design is patently absurd. We can observe natural selection acting on populations. In fact, it is a major factor in the speciation process. This is why it is important to have a correct doctrinal interpretation of Scripture before attempting to apply it to the world around us. For the record, the purpose of this blog is not to argue over predestination versus free-will, nor is this post an indictment, or endorsement of mainstream Calvinism, so put the pitchforks away. However, it is an indictment of one interpretation of Calvinism which creates the kind of ridiculous situations where pornography use is predestined and natural selection cannot happen because it supposedly is not directly guided by God.
However, hyper-Calvinistic interpretation of mediated design aside, does the idea itself hold merit? I’m somewhat torn on this. I certainly don’t want to dismiss aspects of it, such as locked genetic information in the original genome. That is certainly plausible. It is also plausible that traits remain hidden until a change in the environment causes them to be unlocked, either in a Mendelian or epigenetic fashion. However, this does not appear to be anything new so I’m unsure why a specific title was invented for it. The information was there, either way, something that has been argued by creationists for a long time.
In an effort to understand mediated design, I exchanged emails with Dr. Wood. While it was a pleasant exchange, I was left with a distinct feeling that the mechanisms in place have not been fleshed out completely. Perhaps this was due to Dr. Wood’s busy schedule or my ignorance. Wood does not view natural selection as having any interplay with mediated design, at least from what I could tell from his published writings and my correspondence with him. Instead, he views it as a separate entity, unlocking necessary information when it is needed. Whether this interfaces at all with natural selection seems unclear, as Wood only mentions natural selection once in his lay article proposing mediated design. The term “Mediated design” only appears twice on his own science blog according to its search function and other references seem fairly sparse as well. However, he does explicitly state he does not view this as a divine intervention into creation.
Based on what little I’ve been able to determine based on extensive research, I’m open to listening to mediated design, with a few caveats. The most important caveat is that is must interface in some way with natural selection. Denying natural selection helps no one and only gives the evolutionist more ammunition to mock with, something they do not need encouragement to do. Another caveat is that it does not require the introduction of new information, rather the release of existing information in response to the environment. God made it pretty clear in Genesis He was finished with His creative work so for Him to be continuously creating (outside of miracles noted in Scripture) seems a major stretch.
Is mediated design a real thing? Maybe? I’d like to see the mechanisms get fleshed out more, and see how the proponents fit it with natural selection and speciation before I make up my mind on the issue. Could mediated design work with natural selection? I think so if I’m understanding it properly. It would seem that, once the trait is unlocked in the genome, natural selection could select for or against it in response to environmental pressures, potentially resulting in new species. Mediated design is an interesting proposal, but one that needs significantly more work before I’m willing to accept it as anything more than an intriguing hypothesis.