In the early 1990s, while creationists started touting “intelligent design theory” under the premise that evolution alone couldn’t produce the complexity of living things, a few chemists were moving in the opposite direction. They realized that designers, no matter how intelligent, were limited in producing new molecules, and thus proposed that harnessing the power of evolution might unleash vast innovation. Wonder which group was headed in the right direction? Hint: Their work led to the 2018 Nobel Prize for chemistry.

A few years earlier, biologist Richard Dawkins published a book called The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design. His title was a take-off on the philosophy of English clergyman William Paley, who wrote in 1802 that just as a watch must have been crafted by a watchmaker, so plants and animals must have been crafted by God.

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