"I am skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged."
Neo-Darwinian macroevolution has been decisively refuted by modern science and is demonstrably failing to be a feasible explanation. Furthermore, phenomena like the origin of life and of complex biological novelties, the origin and fine-tuning of the universe, and the origin and nature of consciousness all suggest that mechanistic and materialistic theories fail to explain the evidence, which is better explained by an intelligent cause or at least an influx of information from outside the system. In spite of all attempts for an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, in my humble opinion Neo-Darwinism was the only conceivable option for a materialistic and mechanistic bottom-up explanation of biological origins, which is why a refutation of Neo-Darwinism implies a refutation of materialism as well. I arrived at this conclusion exclusively based on scientific evidence, totally independent from any metaphysical or even religious background beliefs.
Instead of Neo-Darwinism, I endorse a modern version of saltationism, mutationism, and orthogenesis, based on non-random adaptive macro-mutations (analogous to Schindewolf's and Goldschmidt's "hopeful monster" hypothesis, more recently endorsed by Rieppel 2017), correlated with the spatiotemporal instantiation of non-material and eternal templates (platonic forms) that function as attractors ("special transformism" sensu Chaberek 2017). I also consider front-loaded design in terms of process structuralism (fine-tuned laws of form), but this cannot explain complex adaptations (what Dawkins called "apparent design"). I definitely do affirm that every organism (apart from the first living cell) was produced / born from a biological parent organism and thus did not pop into being ex nihilo. I also affirm microevolutionary speciation within biological kinds through Neo-Darwinian processes. However, these never generate new specified complex information, but mostly represent minor variation, devolution and reshuffling of pre-existing information (e.g., homozygosity from heterozygosity, deactivation or detioration of genes, polyploidy, gene duplication, horizontal gene transfer, hybridogenesis). The two above mentioned affirmations may qualify as affirmation of universal common descent in the eyes of most evolutionary biologists, but the difference is that I only affirm common ancestry in terms of an unbroken lineage of individual maternal and paternal relationships (individual common ancestry), but reject the origin of new biological kinds from other biological kinds via transformation lineages of ancestral species (supraindividual common ancestry). The fact that because of the delicate and intricate interdependence of different genes and their products during ontogenesis, any transition necessarily has to include a coordinated major reprogramming of different genes as well as of epigenetic factors in the zygote cell, shows that the apparent distinction between guided evolution and special creation is rather blurry and in either case involves immaterial final causes (coordinated and synchronized in multiple individuals within a population). When the distinctive genetic makeup is not inherited from the parents but largely derived from a source of information from outside the system, the process is rather akin to special creation than common ancestry.
I see neither any scientific nor compelling other reasons to dispute the conventional dating of the age of the universe and Earth, or the conventional explanations for the origin of the geological column and the fossil record. I also consider so-called Flood Geology of Young Earth Creationists as a totally failed endeavor.
As a scientist, who should follow the evidence wherever it leads, I came to doubt the materialistic paradigm of Neo-Darwinian macroevolution via a purely mechanistic process of chance (random mutation, sexual recombination, genetic drift) and necessity (natural and sexual selection), even when supplemented with more modern concepts like symbiogenesis, multilevel (group) selection, epigenetic inheritance, evolvability, natural genetic engineering, phenotypic plasticity, and niche construction, as suggested by the proponents of an extended evolutionary synthesis ("Third Way of Evolution", "Evolution 2.0"). None of these phenomena can sufficiently explain the origin of complex biological novelty, and some of them (e.g., natural genetic engineering, phenotypic plasticity, and evolvability) require finetuning and specified information themselves. Therefore, I signed the "Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" list.
Even before my sympathy for intelligent design theory, I became convinced that only a goal-directed (teleological) process, either with laws of biological form (structuralism) or with non-random adaptive macro-mutations, can explain the evidence. This assumption is also compatible with and supported by the discontinuous fossil record, which contradicts the gradualistic predictions of Neo-Darwinism and strongly suggests saltational origins. Therefore, I largely agree with the views in Stephen C. Meyer's book "Darwin's Doubt".
My rejection of Neo-Darwinian macroevolution was not motivated by religion, but by some very convincing and still unrefuted scientific arguments from intelligent design proponents, based on information theory (William Dembski, Stephen C. Meyer), population genetics (Richard Sternberg), molecular machines (Michael Behe), new proteins (Douglas Axe), and causal circularity (Ann Gauger, Richard Sternberg)). These arguments emphasize the discontinuities of the fossil record, the prohibitive waiting time for coordinated mutations, the problem of new specified complex information in the genetic code and irreducible complexity of molecular machines, the isolated islands of functionality (folding proteins) in the vast search space of possible aminoacid sequences, which all strongly limit the feasibility of Neo-Darwinian processes.
Concerning the origin of life and the first replicator I consider all materialistic explanations as wanting and inadequate, and support the critical arguments and conclusions presented by Stephen C. Meyer in his excellent book "Signature in the Cell". When non-material sources of information are required to get life even started, then I see no reason to exclude such non-material explanations as possible cause for the origin of biological novelties in the subsequent history of life.
Why I sympathize with Intelligent Design Theory and consider it as a legit scientific approach
Since intelligent design theory is not based on scripture or religious faith, but is a purely empirical inference to the best explanation, it is definitely not creationism in a cheap tuxedo. ID theory just provides a scientific method to identify phenomena in nature that cannot be sufficiently explained with chance and necessity (laws of nature), but require either an intelligent cause or at least an introduction of information from outside of the system. I therefore concur with the atheist philosophers Thomas Nagel and Bradley Monton that Intelligent Design is not religion but a valid scientific approach. Other thinkers, who are not ID proponents themselves but still support the approach of ID theory as legit scientific enterprise include David Berlinski and David Gelernter (see here).
Intelligent design theory in principle cannot (and does not have to) elucidate the identity and motivation of the intelligent cause. It is fully compatible with naturalistic designers like space aliens or the matrix hypothesis, which are even acceptable for skeptics like Richard Dawkins or Neil deGrasse Tyson, even though such naturalistic designers would only shift the problem and create an infinite regress. Also, ID does not imply any commitment to special creation rather than universal common descent. Thus, ID makes no claim to supernatural explanations for empirical data, even though it is of courese compatible with theistic interpretations. The derogative propaganda label "ID creationism" is therefore wholly inappropriate.
Personally, I distinguish between three different meanings of intelligent design theory:
I strictly separated all my activities against materialism and Neo-Darwinism from my professional work when I still worked as a museum scientist at SMNS.
My critique of Neo-Darwinism and endorsement of real teleology in nature is exclusively my private point of view and is neither shared by my former colleagues at SMNS nor by the co-authors of my paleontological publications, who to my best knowledge generally subscribe to the mainstream evolutionary paradigm of Neodarwinism (aka Modern Synthesis)!
After resigning from my job at SMNS in December 2016 I am still actively working as a paleontologist and publish my research in peer-reviewed scientific journals. My Darwinism-critical work is published in appropriate media that are open to teleological and design conclusions.