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Signature in the Cell 1 (RJS)

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Stephen C. Meyer has published a (very long, but readable) book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, outlining his argument in favor of intelligent design. This book essentially argues that life is very complex, the origin of life is a puzzle, and the information content in DNA cannot be explained by natural means.  Meyer contends that the evidence supports an idealist not a materialist view of the universe, and more importantly, of life; where idealist means that there is an idea, a mind, behind the observed reality while materialist means that all can be explained without reference to a mind.

All Christians believe that the universe, and life, were created intelligently and for a purpose. This is not the issue. The real question here is whether God’s methods in creation can be explained through natural means or whether there is scientific evidence that demonstrates that a designer was involved. This is a question of interest to many – and I am going to focus several (3 or 4 or so) posts on this book.

In this series of posts we will look at Meyer’s argument and
evidence and try to address one simple question:

Does Meyer make a sound scientific case for intelligent design? Does his argument make sense?

This series will continue – one post a week for several weeks. If you are interested, get the book and join the conversation. (You may also find Darrel Falk’s review interesting – it is located on the BioLogos blog Science and the Sacred – and his follow-up post as well.)

In Ch. 20 Why it Matters (p. 439-440) Meyer relates an
incident, repeating a common pattern, when in 2005 he appeared on an
MSNBC program called The Abrams Report.

But
Abrams was setting a trap, one that, by this time, I knew all too well.
If I answered truthfully (which I did) and told him that neither the
evidence from biology nor the theory of intelligent design could prove
the identity of the designer, he would accuse me of dishonesty … If
on the other hand, I told him – again truthfully – that I thought that
God had designed the universe and life, he would seize upon my words as
proof that the theory of intelligent design was “religion,” thus establishing in his mind that it must lack any scientific basis.

This
incident – and many more like it – demonstrate an important problem.
Most discussions of intelligent design in other forums are derailed from the start by
the underlying culture war at work in our society. The conversation
quickly degenerates to name calling and guilt by association. We have
Darwinists and evolutionists and creationists – uneducated ignoramuses
defending superstition and conniving dishonest scientists fabricating
evidence. I approach this series of posts with some trepidation – as I
want no part of such a discussion.

Meyer continues as he relates his experience …

…But I was on Mr. Abram’s show to to
discuss the theory of intelligent design, and the theory does not make
claims about a deity, nor can it. It makes a more modest claim, based
upon our uniform experience about the kind of cause – namely, an
intelligent cause – that was responsible for the origin of biological
form and information.

… Clearly, his question was legitimate. But I wanted to answer it after I had explained what the theory of intelligent design is and after I had established that there is scientific evidence for it.

OK – let’s take Meyer at his word. In this book Meyer explains what he means by the theory of
intelligent design and outlines his argument for an intelligent
designer. We will look at his argument.

First the ground rules – as always on this site

Any
comment
that resorts to name calling, ridicule, or guilt by association will be
unceremoniously deleted. In particular, in this series consider the
words evolutionist, Darwinist, and creationist off limits – find
another way to make your point.

Any
comment
that attacks persons, whether Meyer, other supporters of ID, opponents
of ID, or other commenters, rather than ideas will be deleted.

View
this as a conversation among friends over coffee – we wish to convince, explain, and
consider, not score points.

I am explicit here because, as noted above, far too many posts elsewhere on this subject in general and this book in particular degenerate rapidly – this sheds no light and helps no one.

Second, I don’t think Meyer proves his case – he doesn’t demonstrate a sound scientific case for design.

To elaborate here we need to look at how Meyer defines intelligent design and the argument he finds persuasive. Perhaps the concluding paragraph of Chapter 20 provides the best summary.

But to detect the presence of mind, to detect the activity of intelligence in the echo of its effects, requires a mode of reasoning – indeed a form of knowledge – that science, or at least official biology, has long excluded. If living things – things we manifestly did not design ourselves – bear the hallmarks of design, if they exhibit a signature that would lead us to recognize intellectual activity in any other realm of existence, then perhaps it is time to rehabilitate this lost way of knowing and to rekindle our wonder in the intelligibility and design of nature that inspired the scientific revolution. (p. 452)

He makes essentially the same argument in other places as well – if it looks like design, the most reasonable conclusion is design. The inference to best explanation leads to intelligent design. Just a paragraph earlier he summarizes what he finds to be a persuasive argument for design:

For one hundred and fifty years many scientists have insisted that “chance and necessity” – happenstance and law – jointly suffice to explain the origin of life on earth. We now find however, that orthodox evolutionary thinking – with its reliance upon these twin pillars of material thought – has failed to explain the origin of the central feature of all living things: information. (p. 451)

Meyer’s proposal is that the information content of the cell – the DNA – and the origin of life  based on this information cannot be explained by scientific reason, natural mechanism, that omits the mind of the maker.

I have read much of the book already and will read all of it as I continue this series. His argument does not convince me.  But this leaves me with an obligation to explain why, and I will attempt to do so in future posts, at least in part. Feel free to disagree and offer reasons why.

But to start:

Do you think that recognition of a mind active in creation is necessary to understand the scientific underpinnings of life or the origin of life? Is this the only alternative to chance and happenstance?

It seems to me that there is a middle ground between the insistence that chance, happenstance, and law (the laws of physics) suffice to explain all and the suggestion that biology – life – can only be explained with reference to a creative mind. Alister McGrath (A Fine-Tuned Universe) and Simon Conway Morris (Life’s Solution) provide some insight into this middle ground. The fabric of the Universe makes life possible and inevitable – not a highly contingent accident. Thinking scientifically we look for the causally connected series of events that resulted in the present reality – as part of God’s method in creation.

On the other hand, science can explain, but not “understand” life. This is where another way of knowing comes into the picture. Human consciousness and purpose may be explained without reference to a creator, but they can only be “understood” with reference to the creator. But this does not impact the science of biology or the study of origins.

Responses and suggestions? What do you think?

If you wish to contact me, you may do so at rjs4mail[at]att.net



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Paul Burnett

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:46 am


The “signature” that Meyer claims to have found in the cell does not say “Jehovah, Creator God of Genesis.” It could every bit as easily be the “signature” of Odin/Wotan, the father god of the Norse pantheon, or Zeus Pater/Jupiter, the father god of the Greco-Roman pantheon, or Brahma, the creator god of the Hindu pantheon, or any other of the various creator gods that humans have imagined over the centuries. I do not understand why this anonymous / invisible / unobservable “designer” is so welcomed by Christians – because he/she/it is not proven to be the Christian’s God.



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:04 am


RJS asks:
“Do you think that recognition of a mind active in creation is necessary to understand the scientific underpinnings of life or the origin of life? Is this the only alternative to chance and happenstance?”
I think this question illustrates the problem. Is “…recognition of a mind active in creation” even allowed at all in the science academy? The point of ID is that it is not. The well known description of science found in Judge Overton’s ruling makes it clear that science can only appeal to natural law and any appeal to anything else is to be rejected as not science. Meyer and others make the case that such a view ignores anything that does not appeal to natural law.
If that is the case, then all miraculous events must be attributable to natural law, including the resurrection. If the resurrection cannot be explained (or explained away) by natural law, then it is inconsistent to reject out of hand the notion that the origin of life or of the universe may have causes that cannot be explained by natural law.
Meyer’s point then, is not to defend the Genesis account, but to say the the “best” explanation for the “apparent” design of the cell is that it was designed and leave it at that. Creationists see this as consistent with Genesis, but do not equate ID with creationism by any means.



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RJS

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:43 am


Dan,
You are right – Meyer’s argument is that the best explanation for apparent design is design. This is the issue I want to focus on as I post on the book.
These arguments say nothing about Genesis or theism for that matter.



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:33 am


My reference to Creationism was only in response to Paul’s first post which raised the question of why creationists see ID as an ally.
I will be very interested in future posts, but suspect there will be an impasse related to the definition of science and the restrictions of “natural law” inherent in certain definitions.
I’d be interested in hearing a definition of science from you, RJS, and how your definition of the term compares to that of Judge Overton on one hand and to ID definitions on the other.



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Your Name

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:54 am


I am way out of my depth here and really have more questions than anything else to contribute to this discussion. But I do like learning more about this stuff in peaceful conversations.
I might be getting ahead of where you are going with your posts RJS but I wonder why it is even controversial for Christians who do not agree with ID to believe we still might see the work of the Creator in creation.
I have read some of Meyer?s book (taking me a long time!) and come away with such a deep appreciation for the vast complexity of the cell. I marvel at all the intricacies of it, and how much goes into the operation of a cell. I am confused how something like the cell could come about by a completely random and unguided process.
Yet I wonder if the most powerful component of ID argument is the origin of life itself. The astronomical odds make it almost an impossibility for the very first biological cell to come into existence given the overwhelming amount of information, precision, and orchestration to takes to build together even the most simple DNA structure and form a cell. The numerous needed amino acids, in just the right sequence in just the right environment boggles my mind.
These realities have always left me wondering if the view that life is random unguided process requires just as much faith to believe as the odds are nearly incalculable to even have the most basic cell form by chance.
For all of you who are much more educated on these topics then me please read my comments with deep humility and an awareness that I have not read widely on these matters. These are simply questions, and ideas that I have observed through a couple of decades of cursory readings on the subject.



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Thomas

posted January 7, 2010 at 9:55 am


That last comment was from me.



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AHH

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:52 am


For a perspective on this book from a well-qualified Christian biologist, a review from Prof. Darrel Falk is on the BioLogos blog:
http://biologos.org/blog/signature-in-the-cell/
And in answer to Thomas #5 who asks about why it is even controversial for Christians who do not agree with ID to believe we still might see the work of the Creator in creation:
Speaking for this Christian who dislikes the ID movement, I have no problem with this idea as long as the word used is “might”. The problem is that, MUCH of the time, the posture of the ID movement is that it replaces “might” with “must”, making it a theological necessity to find scientific evidence of God in natural history (with the corollary that lack of gaps in natural history would imply lack of God). Which is lousy theology for Christians who believe God is sovereign over nature, even over the parts of nature for which we have “natural” explanations.
Since I have not read it, I don’t know if Meyer’s book explicitly or implicitly supports this bad theology, but it is all too common with ID at the popular level where it is often implied that ID is the last bastion preventing atheism from being true.



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Major Ray

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:53 am


The problem is that to prove intelligent design theory you have to ignore labels. I have conducted research at the most elite labs in the country and I can tell you that there is bias throughout the system. If you want grant money and collaborators you have to brown nose you way into a group. If you observe anything in the lab that contradicts the mindset of the group, you will be ostracized. This is especially true if you are racially stereotyped. The way around this problem is to keep good lab notes, shut your face, and wait until you leave the group. If your research can be explained using art, then enter the art field and promote your science as art. Finally, use the Bible to verify the art and science. Only in this way can the truth be put out there. This is what I did to document my discovery of the Genesis molecule and my “biomatrixgenesis” conjecture. The world is not there yet, but when they get there, I will claim rights to my discovery.



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RJS

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:40 am


AHH,
Darrel’s review is a thoughtful one – as is his follow up post. I’ve added links to both to my post above.
The conversation however degenerated – we need to concentrate on the scientific question at hand …



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Curt Cameron

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:40 am


Major Ray (comment #8), your web site reminds me of TimeCube.
Back to the topic, I have not read the book, but I have heard Meyer talk about it, along with other DI wags. It seems that it mostly makes the classic argument from incredulity, but throws in one new twist. Meyer found that Darwin himself made a point that when faced with a new data, the most parsimonious explanation is one that depends on mechanisms that are already known. Meyer labels DNA as a “code,” and takes Darwin’s rule of thumb to say that codes we know from other fields are the result of intelligence, therefore the best explanation for DNA’s information content is that intelligence created it that way. That’s the essence of what this book brings that’s new (from what I’ve heard).
There are a couple of major problems with this, which he seems to ignore. First, it’s not true that we don’t know how information content gets in DNA. We know that understood mechanisms of genetic copying, and the errors in those mechanisms, do in fact result in increases of information content. That’s not controversial to anyone who understands information theory. So we have a natural explanation for how the information content got into our DNA.
Second, you can turn his argument back on itself: one thing we know pretty much for sure is that intelligence requires a physical brain, so where is this physical brain that is responsible for the design of the DNA sequence?



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pds

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:19 pm


RJS,
To discuss this book well, we need to state the design argument in its strongest form. This involves recognizing the 2 key components: 1. the positive case for design based on analogy, and 2. the arguments why naturalistic explanations are not plausible or probable. I elaborate on this here:
http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/the-form-of-design-arguments-from-nature/
Also, even if we end up with “I don’t know,” design arguments are valuable to help us think through the issues. I think ID is part of the “middle ground” since it accepts design and some degree of evolution as part of biological history.



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RJS

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:25 pm


pds,
I could not do justice to his argument or to my response in a single post, so I did not try. This will be at least three more posts.
If, as we go, you think I am missing an important point bring it up in the conversation.



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:35 pm


Curt.
“one thing we know pretty much for sure is that intelligence requires a physical brain…”
Really? How do we know that? Since this site is one that discusses theology and presumably accepts the notion that there is a God who is spirit, then I would think it safe to assume most here believe God has intelligence and has no physical brain. Your statement in essence is a declaration that God cannot exist because God by definition is not physical. Naturalism at its purest.
This illustrates the point that the insistence that all things MUST, without any possibility of exception have a material cause based in natural law is the de facto assumption of modern science and that assumption (unfalsifiable) is at the very heart of this controversy.



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Curt Cameron

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:44 pm


Dan, sorry that I wasn’t clear. I was using Meyers’ own methodology – in all our experience, the only intelligence that we’ve ever seen requires a physical brain. Please pretend I said that instead. I didn’t mean to speculate on what may or may not be possible outside our current set of observations.



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pds

posted January 7, 2010 at 12:45 pm


RJS,
I didn’t mean to imply a failure in this post. I was mainly thinking of your claim in the past that ID is just an argument from ignorance. The positive argument based on analogy (which you note in your post) shows that it is not just a negative argument. Many critics attack only one prong of the argument – as if the other prong doesn’t exist.
I am confident that you will actually read the book and address Meyer’s arguments. This is something that Francisco Ayala seems not to have done in his “review” at Biologos.



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Tracy Fitzgerald

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:20 pm


Curt Cameron writes: “…you can turn his argument back on itself: one thing we know pretty much for sure is that intelligence requires a physical brain, so where is this physical brain that is responsible for the design of the DNA sequence?”
I agree, but come at it from the other end. Science does not have any way to test anything about the non-material realm. So unless the “intelligent designer” is itself part of the material realm, there is simply no way for science to “see” it. God, as understood in the monotheistic faiths is not conceived of as a material being, and so can never show up on any instrument that science and technology cares to create. Jesus, as God incarnate, IS a physical being, so he can be proven to exist, but cannot be proven to be God. In fact, our theologies of the incarnation pretty much insure that science can’t prove a thing one way or the other. If the “intelligent designer” is a part of the material realm, then it would either have to create itself, giving us a circular argument useless to logically prove anything, or leaving us right back where we started, looking for a non-material, scientifically unprovable “intelligent designer” for the material “intelligent designer.” Uh, I hope that makes sense!
Also, RJS’ question “Does [Meyers] argument make sense?” in terms of the science supposedly involved, doesn’t make sense. Science doesn’t care in the least whether or not something makes sense (quantum physics makes sense?), it only cares whether or not there is any (physical) evidence.
Intelligent Design theory is theology plain and simple. And bad theology at that.
I am neither a scientist nor a theologian, so I hope all that makes some kind of sense. Forgive me if I have misunderstood anything.



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:28 pm


Curt. Sorry if I misunderstood your intent.
I think my point would remain. The heart of this whole matter is whether science must be limited to inferences that are purely natural or can include inferences that allow for something beyond nature. And I think the definition of science that has become the assumed norm makes it very hard for ID (or any other view contrary to naturalism) to get a fair hearing.



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:35 pm


Curt – sorry if I misunderstood your intent.
My point remains that I think the insistence on natural law explanations that is the de facto requirement for anything to be considered “science” is the focal point of this controversy.



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Joe W

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:42 pm


I understand that there are several intelligent minds interacting on this blog. I don’t conclude it is chance, time, happenstance(?) And the posts thus far are only a couple pages in length. I hear the pages of intelligible information in the simplest living cell is more than a few pages, more than a few books, in fact something like 20+ books or something like this. I guess I don’t call this blog and explosion in a print shop. But I marvel at babies and sunsets.



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Dan

posted January 7, 2010 at 1:52 pm


Tracy I think your comment illustrates another critical issue – science studies the physical realm – all agree on that. No one disagrees with that, except to say that study of information might be science that is not physical, still it is part of the real world.
But explanations about origins are inferences based on that data and those inferences should not necessarily be bound by natural law.
If we could have be present at a supernatural event, to remove the specifically biblical references, lets say the event is the changing of a potato into an orange by some force “beyond nature” as we know it, we could observe the physical state of the potato before the transformation and the state of the orange after. But we might be at a complete loss as to how the transformation took place because something “beyond nature” effected the change. Modern science would insist that however the change occurred, it had to have been some series of natural causes. Others would be open to the idea that something exists beyond nature and would consider that possibility. Both would see the “effects” of the change, neither would be able to fully explain the cause, both would come to radically different inferences based on the physical data.
That’s where we are. ID looks at the physical natural data and says there could be causes that are natural, there could be causes that point to an intelligent agent not bound strictly by natural law – which alternative is most sensible? Naturalism looks at the same data and insists that there will eventually be an explanation that fits with natural law and refuses to consider even the possibility that something beyond nature might exist.
Meyer’s argument is simply that the best explanation for the massive information present in the cell, based on the recognition that we look at information every day that is universally caused by an intelligent agent, is that the cell has an intelligent cause. His argument may be true, it may be false, but it should not be dismissed based on a narrow philosophical view of science.



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Mike Clawson

posted January 7, 2010 at 2:13 pm


Isn’t this just another “god-of-the-gaps”/deus ex machina type argument? Wherever we reach the limits of current human knowledge, there we’ll try to insert God? Such a strategy is not only bad science, and ultimately doomed to failure as the limits of human knowledge get pushed further out, it’s even worse theology. God, if God exists, is not just the Lord of those areas that go beyond our knowledge; she is the Lord of ALL creation, and thus should be sought in what we can explain, as well as what we can’t – in the natural as well as the “supernatural”. Or as Bonhoeffer put it in his Prison Letters, “I want to speak of God not at the margins of life, but at the center.”



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Glenn

posted January 7, 2010 at 2:18 pm


One point Dallas Willard makes is it was acceptable until very recently for a scientist to believe in a designer as a theory. William Paley’s (for one example) arguments were used as one of many to examine the theory of origins in biology. Now biologists, teachers, etc. are no longer allowed to teach or subscribe to this theory. It simply is not allowed. ID seems to be a reasonable push-back against those who would say design can not be allowed in any way, shape or form in the science classroom. Yet we allow the statement that “life is a random unguided process” as acceptable. In fact, every biology teacher I have had has subscribed to the theory of a random unguided process to explain life.



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dopderbeck

posted January 7, 2010 at 2:59 pm


I think the overarching problem with this entire conversation is theological and epistemological. I talk about this a bit in one of my guest posts on Biologos.
In a nutshell, the ID argument, it seems to me, assumes an excessively optimistic view of natural theology and the power of unaided natural reason. It is an effort to provide a rationalistic pre-apologetic using the positivistic ground rules of scientific materialism. The effort fails, IMHO, because those ground rules represent a false construct.
But, too often, the “theistic evolution” side of the aisle buys into the same ground rules. RJS, for example, you ask “Do you think that recognition of a mind active in creation is necessary to understand the scientific underpinnings of life or the origin of life?” Although I basically reject the ID Movement, I would have to answer “yes” to your question.
“Life” and the “origins of life” cannot be “understood” without reference to God, because “understanding” implicates something more holistic than only the positivistic methods of the natural sciences can provide. From a Christian perspective, I would argue, the “understanding” of life and the origins of life ultimately is irreducibly theological.
Now, I see that you try to parse our the “scientific underpinnings” of life and the origin of life in your question. I understand what you’re driving at, but it’s not quite what folks such as McGrath are trying to do. The “underpinnings” of life and the origin of life are irreducibly theological, because the universe is entirely contingent on God’s creative and sustaining will and power.
Let me rephrase your question this way: is there a level of causation in the created world that can be adequately investigated using analytical tools and methods that do not refer to causation from any intelligent agency?
I think the answer to this question is “yes,” and I think that is in fact the answer of classical Christian theology. Creation possesses its own integrity and as such can be investiged at one level as a self-contained set of processes.
The ID Movement’s answer to this question, it seems to me, is “no”: for them, there are “loose ends” in the created order that must be explained through what essentially are miracles. I think miracles can happen and have happened, the Resurrection being Exhibit A, but I think the Biblical view of creation per se is that it possesses its own general integrity.
Here is where some theological / epistemological divides start to become evident: with respect to natural theology, are you more of a Barthian / neo-Barthian / critical realist (such as McGrath), or more of a strong / neo-scholastic / common sense realist Thomist, such as most of the IDM people (or at least Evangelicals who try to use ID) seem to me to be.
I think the neo-scholastic / common sense realist approach doesn’t survive philosophical or Biblical / theological scrutiny, and therefore I think most of the apologetic program that derives from it (including the IDM), is misguided.



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Thomas

posted January 7, 2010 at 3:08 pm


@ Mike Clawson
I have heard other make these arguments that ID is simply “God of the gaps” but to be honest this simply is not true. I would challenge you to listen a little more carefully to what the ID scientists are saying before just jumping to that conclusion.
We have science of the gaps at this point to, as there is no explanation, only speculation at this point, as to how the first cell, in all its complexity, could come about.
In addition inference is not a gap methodology. Inference is done in historical and cultural sciences all the time. Especially when we find information (think of a drawing on a cave wall) we infer intelligence.
I know when it comes to the advanced scientific matters here I am out of my depth, but I do hope to further the conversation along in the hopes that we all clearly understand as best we can, what each side is saying.
RJS, I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the recent debate Meyer had with Michael Shermer, and Dr. Pothero on this subject. That is if you have listened to it.



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T

posted January 7, 2010 at 3:47 pm


I think dopderbeck gives some important thoughts here regarding which questions are really being asked.
Also, I cannot help but wonder about this argument from Paul as we consider whether the author is “right” in his thesis: “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
So, is Paul right? Are God’s invisible attributes, namely his power and divinity, clearly perceived in the things that have been made, so much so, in fact, as to leave folks without (valid) excuse for failure to worship him in response? Now Paul is obviously not saying that the world, by using the scientific method, is verifiably the result of a divine power. He does appear to be saying, though, that a creator of divine power is not only reasonable, but so obvious (or “plain” or “clearly perceived”) using common human logic that to deny it would make one morally culpable. How do we (Christians) square the logic of Paul with arguments that insist the opposite (that a divine power is not obvious from the creation)? If science cannot perceive what is supposed to be obvious to humans generally, does that reveal a flaw in the approach itself? It makes me think that dopderbeck is right that our problem is about our concepts of “knowledge” that have been completely swallowed by scientific methods and assumptions.



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RJS

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:05 pm


T,
Isn’t there a difference though in saying that divine power is obvious in creation – that “The heavens declare the glory of God;the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.” (Psalm 19:1-3, NIV)
And
There are protein complexes active within cells which are irreducibly complex, i.e. they could not have been produced in a stepwise fashion and must have been produced or encoded by a designer. (This is not exactly Meyer’s argument but is a slimmed down version of Behe’s)
The first requires a different kind of knowing and understanding. The first is part of our relationship with God – on our knees before him.
The second says that scientific knowing demonstrates that there are gaps in the world that can only be filled by supposing the existence of God.
I don’t think science can lay a hand on the first – the different kind of knowing – and that when teachers or others claim that science disproves God or that all life is the result of chance and happenstance we should stand against the claim.
But the second is a scientific argument and if a mechanism is proposed that provides a solid explanation for the structures that were thought to be irreducibly complex – then the evidence for a designer vanishes.



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Curt Cameron

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:08 pm


Tracy Fitzgerald writes: “Science does not have any way to test anything about the non-material realm. So unless the ‘intelligent designer’ is itself part of the material realm, there is simply no way for science to ‘see’ it. God, as understood in the monotheistic faiths is not conceived of as a material being, and so can never show up on any instrument that science and technology cares to create.”
The problem with this argument is that science handles what can be observed in the physical world, and the theists themselves say that God does, in fact, interact with the physical world. Especially the ID proponents.



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Dam

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:13 pm


Dopderbeck
Can you elaborate on why you allow for a miracle like the resurrection and why you do not see room for miracle in the question of the origin of all things?
RJS
It seems like you are saying that as long as faith is in what Francis Schaeffer called the “upper story”, separated from reason, then faith can never be harmed by rational arguments – faith is an intuition.
If that is true, that “the evidence for a designer vanishes” if science finds a reasonable mechanism for apparent design, then would you also say that if someone discovered a tomb with the bones of Jesus that it would be valid to continue to believe in the resurrection?



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RJS

posted January 7, 2010 at 4:42 pm


Dan,
I don’t think faith is intuition – I think faith is relationship. Relationship with God, and more importantly his relationship with his creation.
I also think that beauty, grandeur, and glory are not subject to scientific analysis.
But there are big differences between this faith as relationship, the resurrection, and the scientific theory of intelligent design.
What would I think if the grave and bones were produced with a credible certainty that is was in fact the very same Jesus recorded in the gospels and preached by Paul as Christ crucified and risen? – well, I’d have to go with the flow at that time – I don’t know. But I think that it is a virtual certainty that this will never happen.
But I don’t think evidence for a designer vanishes if someone proposes a reasonable mechanism for casually related steps that produced the structure with “apparent” design. I think that in that case we have uncovered more of the marvel of the mechanism and workings of God. … I think “proof” of a designer in the rationalist structure of the intelligent design movement vanishes – but I don’t think that our faith hinges on this sort of rational proof of a designer.



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Your Name

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:07 pm


RJS,
I’m not sure of your point when you say the first is part of our relationship to God.
On the main question, though, I’m not convinced that the argument of the author and Paul are so different in substance. Yes the former is more specific and the latter general. This author focuses on the cell, but the same arguments could be made from the design of a wing, or virtually anything, but the substance of the argument would be the same: the design of the physical world, such as it is, clearly and obviously implies designer, and a ridiculously powerful one at that.
And I’m not thinking (nor is Paul, though the author may be) so much in terms of “irreducible complexity” as I am in terms of “complexity so vast, intricate and functional as to make a very good designer obvious.” Therefore, discovering additional natural processes supporting known natural processes doesn’t make the inference of a designer less likely, but more so, because the system is actually more complicated than originally thought. The refusal to see God’s invisible qualities in the creation, whether at the surface or cellular level appears to be, according to Paul, a refusal to see the obvious, so obvious as to make the refusal morally wrong. If this is the argument the author is making, even in part, can we deny it and affirm Paul at the same time?



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T

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:09 pm


Sorry, 30 is me.



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RJS

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:16 pm


T,
I don’t think that the argument Meyer is making is that the complexity is so vast, intricate and functional as to make a very good designer obvious. But I have not finished this part of the book yet, so I will avoid being definitive.



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dopderbeck

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:27 pm


Dam (#28) — the question is what you mean by “creation.” “Creation” implies the very regularities that science studies. God brought those regularities into existence and sustains them, but we don’t find God by looking for “holes” in the regularities. The regularities of creation themselves are what point to God’s attributes!
Now, it’s true that if God brought the regularities of creation into existence that we might expect to be able to trace a chain of causation to a “beginning” of those regularities. This is basically what Aquinas does in his “five ways,” drawing on Aristotelian ideas about causation. It’s the basis for arguments that the ascendancy of “big bang” cosmology supports the theistic idea of “creation ex nihlo.” Maybe — the singularity “before” the big bang so far seems to be a true singularity. But OTOH, the ideas of causation underlying these arguments need to be revised in light of relativistic physics, which is essentially probabilistic (I’m sure RJS and AHH could speak more to this than me!). So, even the big bang is something that probably at best is broadly consistent with very basic cosmological / first mover arguments for creation ex nihlo. Thus, again, ultimately, I think the confession that creation is contingent on God is not really an empirical claim.
So T (#25) — I think Paul’s argument is weakened by the IDM. IDM arguments seem to me to suggest that God’s attributes are not evident in the ordinary regularities of nature, but rather are seen only through special empirical “filters.” But according to Paul, it’s not an empirical filter that’s need to open our eyes to God’s attributes in nature: it’s a filter of grace, what Calvin called the “spectacles of faith.”
In contrast, a “miracle” generally is something irregular, something not explainable with reference to the regularities of the material creation, which is usually given as a special kind of sign and/or gift. And the Resurrection is a special kind of miracle because it is a sort of disruption of our present regularities by the eschatological future. In fact the “signs and wonders” referred to in Acts and elsewhere in the NT also are instances of this sort of proleptic in-breaking of the future Kingdom of the new creation into the present. Yet even these instances of proleptic re-creation are not recognized / acknowledged as such without grace and faith! Our “natural” disposition is to deny God’s presence, as Paul also makes abundantly clear.



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pds

posted January 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm


David (#33)
You said:
IDM arguments seem to me to suggest that God’s attributes are not evident in the ordinary regularities of nature, but rather are seen only through special empirical “filters.”
There is nothing in the serious ID literature that says (or suggests) any such thing. ID science is one kind of design argument. It in no way negates other kinds of design arguments, or design intuition.
I would say with Tim Keller that there are lots of design “clues” out there. Let’s consider them all. Put together they have a cumulative force that any one design argument may not have by itself.
I think the Apostle Paul would agree.



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Brett Allen

posted January 7, 2010 at 7:36 pm


“Human consciousness and purpose may be explained without reference to a creator, but they can only be “understood” with reference to the creator”
Human consciousness is an obvious reality, ‘purpose’ is a supposition and in the context of this site a religious one. You can’t jump between science and religion to pretend they are related. I do not know what the above is driving at, except the usual science explains ‘how’ but relgion explains ‘why’. But what does ‘god did it’ actually explain? Since the religious tell us that god’s actions are mysterious and not able to be understood by mere mortals, saying god did anything adds nothing to anyone’s understanding. Also if science does explain consciousness it will do so in terms of reality. Which is exactly the same merry-go-round as the evolution debate. The religious are always going to be dissapionted if they expect science to validate their faith. This is where people who push false science come in to try an relieve that dissapiontment.
Let science be science and religion be religion as they are not alternatives to one another but completely different issues. Science is a tool not a belief system so stop panicking about how some scientific theory is threathening your religion.



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Mike Clawson

posted January 7, 2010 at 8:28 pm


Thomas (#24) – I’m fine with “inference”. That, in fact, is what I am advocating, that we can look at everything we know about the world (i.e. the way it NATURALLY works, as discovered by science) and infer the existence of a God. However, that’s not what I see Meyer, or most other ID guys, saying (and yes, I’m plenty familiar with their work and have been “listening carefully” to them for many years now, so try not to be condescending). Their usual tack is to find something that science can’t explain yet and use that as evidence for a designer. Meyer’s is a perfect case in point. As RJS describes Meyer’s position, “This book essentially argues that life is very complex, the origin of life is a puzzle, and the information content in DNA cannot be explained by natural means.” That last phrase in particular “cannot be explained by natural means” is characteristic “God of the Gaps” reasoning. There’s a big difference between looking at the “natural means”, i.e. the design itself, and inferring the existence of a designer (which would be an approach worthy of the name “intelligent design”), and looking for all the places that “cannot be explained by natural means” and using that to try to prove the necessity of a creator (which is what I typically see most actual ID folks doing, Meyer included).



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Brett Allen

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm


Meyer stuff boils down to this. DNA is like a computer program that encodes information and we all know that computer programs are written\designed by human intelligence so this proves that DNA was designed by some intelligence. That is not science. A metaphor about a thing does not make the metaphor that thing. My child’s smile is like a beautiful sunrise does not mean my child can warm the earth. DNA may look like a computer program but it is not actually a computer program. So whatever attributes you associate with a computer program have no bearing on DNA.
Remember Meyer is the Discovery Institute co-founder and CSC Vice President and as we know through the Wedge Doucument the former’s avowed purpose is push religion into science. It is not to produce actual science. They just write books to try and convince the non-science aware religious public that science validates their belief. When people piont out that their work is not science they just scream atheist and persecution and thus garner more support from the religious public who now find themselves defending thier work because they think their religion is under attack. It is scam.



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Mr. Deity

posted January 7, 2010 at 10:48 pm


I don’t find any of these ID arguments compelling. Ultimately, they’re all just an appeal to our ignorance, and when we find an argument to negate the latest ID argument, they just move to another “gap” in our knowledge. The bottom line is this, our ignorance of how things work implies nothing but our ignorance. One cannot say, we don’t know x, therefore, it must be y. We don’t know means only WE DON’T KNOW!
And the whole complexity argument is not an argument for an intelligent (let alone all-knowing, all-powerful) designer. When something is truly well-designed, complexity and the kind of redundancy we see in our world are the last things we look for. Instead, simplicity and elegance are the marks of good design. We are nothing of the sort. Nor is anything in this Universe.
The most one can logically argue for is an impersonal, creative force which had some role in the origin of things. That is at least an honest, 50/50 proposition. Any notion which suggests more than that (i.e.: a personal being who’s will we can know and understand, etc…) is absurd.



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Paul Burnett

posted January 7, 2010 at 11:35 pm


We’re discussing two completely different things here. One of them, intelligent design, is an intellectual exercise by a designer who dream up a design. The other separate thing is the physical implementation of that design by a possibly separate / different unknown entity – call it an “intelligent creator” for the nonce. Some folks seem to think the intelligent designer is also the intelligent creator, but there is even less proof of that than there is of the intelligent designer.
How do you know that the intelligent designer had anything to do with creation? For all anybody knows the intelligent designer contracted out the actual material creation to a different entity with a completely different skill set.



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Tracy Fitzgerald

posted January 8, 2010 at 1:51 am


Paul Burnett: now that sounds like gnosticism!



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RJS

posted January 8, 2010 at 9:04 am


#38,
I don’t agree that complexity is a sign of a poor design, although we do generally think that simplicity and elegance are features of good designs within the constraints of a problem. Redundancy is often a feature of a good design.
Although you probably don’t mean to – I think you actually make an important point – the most one can logically argue for from ID is an impersonal, creative force which had some role in the origin of things. ID doesn’t and can’t suggest more than that – the force could be a personal God, but need not be a personal God.
It seems to me that the nature of the creation we see, with all of the various “suboptimal” features indicates that if the design is of the sort that ID envisions, it is not a very good design. Francisco Ayala’s comments on Signature in the Cell relate primarily to this one piece of the whole discussion (here: http://biologos.org/blog/on-reading-the-cells-signature/ )
On the other hand the inference of design from the majesty of creation and the sense of awe that we get from looking at it all – that is a whole different topic and gets into this idea of “ways of knowing.” The knowledge of right and wrong is moral law – which can be explained, but not “understood” scientifically. The personal God comes not from a dispassionate study of nature but from relationship and revelation. The most significant piece of this revelation is the life, death,and resurrection of Jesus Christ.



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pds

posted January 8, 2010 at 11:19 am


Kind of funny but really sad. I discussed the two prongs of arguments from design in nature in comment #11, and pointed out that recognizing both prongs is essential to addressing ID in its strongest form. More completely here:
http://thedesignspectrum.wordpress.com/2009/11/18/the-form-of-design-arguments-from-nature/
Mike in #36 takes prong #2 and dismisses it and rejects ID.
Brett in #37 takes prong #1 and dismisses it and rejects ID.
Guys, this is both bad logic, bad argumentation and not charitable.
Mike in #36 is especially saddening:

There’s a big difference between looking at the “natural means”, i.e. the design itself, and inferring the existence of a designer (which would be an approach worthy of the name “intelligent design”) [prong #1], and looking for all the places that “cannot be explained by natural means” and using that to try to prove the necessity of a creator (which is what I typically see most actual ID folks doing, Meyer included)[prong #2](bracketed comments mine).

He does not seem to realize that Meyer does both and makes a special point of doing both.
RJS, I think you and the good folks at Biologos need to point out that critics of ID need to address the arguments in their strongest forms and not straw man versions. Tim Keller made this point recently (wish I could remember where) and I think that it is crucial to Christian charity and civil, productive discourse.



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RJS

posted January 8, 2010 at 11:34 am


pds,
Meyer does make a point of attempting to do both of your prongs:
1. Make a positive case for design based on analogy.
2. Provide arguments why naturalistic explanations are not plausible or probable.
But while one can make a case for design based on analogy (prong 1) – the case only holds up if the design can not be explained naturally (prong 2).
This makes prong 2 the test point — does Meyer’s case for removing naturalistic explanations stand the test?
But I don’t think you are fair to Mike because I don’t think Mike is addressing either of these prongs in the initial part of his comment. There is another inference of design which has nothing to do with analogy to human design or with the feasibility of natural explanation. This is where we really get into “another way of knowing.” This is an intuitive, relationship based, sense of wonder and amazement. The heavens declare the glory of God – not because the heavens cannot be explained without reference to God but because he shows forth his majesty and glory in everything.



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pds

posted January 8, 2010 at 12:13 pm


RJS,
I agree that Mike’s comment is a little ambiguous as to what he means by “looking at the … design itself, and inferring the existence of a designer.” But that does not change the fact that he only addressed one prong of Meyer’s argument and explicitly suggested that that is all Meyer does.
I personally think that both prongs are “test points.” I weigh the plausibility of each prong. Some design arguments are stronger than others, and the strength can vary based on each prong.
By the way, that gets at why we need healthy discussion in community. I need to know what you and others find plausible and why. Your plausibility structures help me to understand and communicate with others not like myself. And hopefully vice versa. :)



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T

posted January 8, 2010 at 12:54 pm


RJS & David,
Is it true that ID only argues “from the gaps” and doesn’t make the more Pauline argument in Romans? I’ve always assumed (maybe heard) this latter argument as part of the mix.
Secondly, I’m skeptical about our ability to keep our “ways of knowing” so neatly and separately maintained (and I question how much we should even keep trying to do so), especially when they refer to the same object, namely the created universe. Do we actually put an asterisk next to all scientific studies or reports that purport to “explain” this or that feature of our world because they assume a purely physical world from start to finish? I don’t think we do, and that’s part of the problem. Before you know it, what we call legitimate “knowledge” becomes the ultimate half-truth. This is inherently misleading and unhelpful.
I guess what I’m saying, in part, is that to me it doesn’t go far enough, does not seem sufficient, to ask if this author’s or someone else’s arguments “make a sound scientific case for intelligent design” or for anything else, even if that is all this particular author is trying to do. At some point (perhaps many more points), we need to be challenging the scientific community’s monopoly on legitimate knowledge as “obviously” insufficient and incomplete to explain our world. It seemed that the author was getting at this. Yes, let’s find the cell in the blood, then find the parts of the cell, then find the DNA arranging the parts of the cell and on and on and on, and let’s use scientific methods to do that and much else. But let’s not think or act like that’s the only dependable way to discover important truths about our world.
I can’t help but sympathize with folks who think there is something deeply wrong (even as a matter of basic human reason) and even dishonest when the scientific community purports again and again to explain our world and every time they fail to see or at least report the forest for the trees, and commit to keep missing the forest as a matter of principle as they build the supposedly only trustworthy body of “knowledge.” I am discouraged when people act as if science is the only legitimate tool for discovering knowledge. We’ve chosen our hammer and won’t put it down, so we have trouble seeing anything in the world but nails. That’s what I mean when I agree with David that the debate is really epistemological (and that debate needs to happen). Scientific methods aren’t the only methods of sound human reasoning or for discovering critical truths about reality. Even for non-Christians, this is fundamental to how we live, and how we should live and think and discuss and reason.



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Mike Clawson

posted January 8, 2010 at 3:51 pm


If Meyer has a “prong 1″, great, but that still doesn’t make his “prong 2″ arguments theologically or scientifically valid.
Of course “prong 1″ might be a worthwhile theological argument, but it’s still not science, and shouldn’t be promoted as such.



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Brett Allen

posted January 8, 2010 at 9:46 pm


RJS It is not a straw argument when that IS your argument. The mere way the computer/DNA theory is framed shows it is playing to the public not to science and scientists. Look part of the problem is that the higher functions of the human brain are always looking for patterns for obvious evolutionary reasons. It is reason people see faces on mars and Jesus in their tacos (no offense). It just not perceiving the pattern but the comforting idea that once spotted you have the world just that the little more under control. Many people who can’t except man made global warming always fall in line with anyone that will tell them it is all part of some natural predictable cycle. So the pattern recognition thing and its-normal-and-thus-all-under-control thing makes one naturally more inclined to agree with ‘design’ arguments. Add the extra dimension of religion and our comfort lies not just in a design but one that matches the narrative of ones religion. The only thing that breaks the spell is scientific method and knowledge. It is not a straw man argument when you are a scientist and you see people framing arguments to the public emotionally (to appeal to our natural tendencies and religion) and not scientifically. The other issue is that people can’t believe people would pose a completely false argument to them. They think it must have some validity if they see repeated enough. But a scientific theory has to explain all the evidence. If it fails on one fact it fails utterly.



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Brett Allen

posted January 8, 2010 at 10:22 pm


Sorry Dan, Science can only deal with verifiable reality. They call it materialism to make it sound like it is an enemy to spiritualism but what it really means is verifiable reality. Science is not a religion, it says specific things about specific problem domains that fit the facts. There ‘could be’ anything: God, men with 100 heads, flying dogs but until such notions have a verifiable reality they can’t be addressed by a method that deals with reality. You can say nothing and everything about such notions but you can’t do science with them. There are no value judgments here. You can say faith is knowledge and science is knowledge and you would be right. But you can’t say one is the other. However, that is the aim of the people who push ID. By claiming they have a design theory which does not name a designer and whose actions and processes are also not stated (i.e supernatural or unknown causality) allows the religious reader to make God the full stop at the end of the sentence. There is a need by some for that narrative, thus it get popularity. Say it is rubbish and automatically, because some have now aligned the design theory with their religion, it is seen as attack on religion. Thus they have dishonestly manipulated you into defending their theory by using your religion against you. The biggest lie is not ID theory but the idea it is valid to have supernatural or unknown causality in a science theory whose whole premise is that it is another explanation for real world phenomena. The specifics of ID theory can’t be discussed scientifically when the causality and the capabilities of that causality are absent.



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Jimpithecus

posted January 10, 2010 at 10:53 pm


As RJS notes in his review, the ID movement has a singular conundrum. When faced with an intractable problem (demonstrating that ID cannot be supported by commonly used scientific methods)there is this retreat to the idea that we have to “expand” the definitions of science and retrieve the areas of science that we have lost, a position that doesn’t have much historical merit. Such a perspective has been advocated by Phillip Johnson and, more recently by Michael Behe who was embarrassed on the witness stand at Dover when he admitted that his definition of science included astrology. Science is what it is. Attempting to expand its definition will only result in turning it into something that it isn’t and isn’t supposed to be. Its usefulness to society will then vanish like a soap bubble.



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RBH

posted January 11, 2010 at 8:25 am


I’ve read a good deal of Meyer’s book, some parts more carefully than others. One of my concerns with intelligent design in general, and Meyer’s book in particular, is that while one sees verbiage like

For one hundred and fifty years many scientists have insisted that “chance and necessity” – happenstance and law – jointly suffice to explain the origin of life on earth. We now find however, that orthodox evolutionary thinking – with its reliance upon these twin pillars of material thought – has failed to explain the origin of the central feature of all living things: information. (p. 451)

But one never actually sees that explanation.
An explanation of a phenomenon, it seems to me, needs to provide a causal story. It should tell us the relevant initial conditions and causal variables that operated to bring about the phenomenon. But one never reads that in ID writing. A scientific explanation, in addition, should provide us with some avenues for testing the explanation — it should indicate what independent evidence we might seek to test the explanation. But again, we never see that in ID writings, including Meyer’s book. There is no indication of what independent evidence we might seek to test whether a design process occurred, nor do I see any indication in Meyer’s book about what independent evidence we might seek to test whether the manufacturing process occurred. Designs have to be manufactured in matter and energy, but we never hear a peep about that in ID writing.
Finally, the analogy from human designed (and manufactured) objects depends on our knowing independently that human designers and manufacturers exist. ID provides no independent evidence of the presence or even the existence of the putative immaterial designing agent(s) to which it attributes an active role in the world.
I’ll be interested to see whether RJS can find an actual explanation in the book.



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RBH

posted January 11, 2010 at 8:28 am


Ugh. The first sentence after the quote box should read
But one never actually sees an explanation of that sort from ID.



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pds

posted January 11, 2010 at 1:15 pm


The Design Spectrum
RJS,
You have been noticed at the Evo News blog. Congratulations.
http://www.evolutionnews.org/2010/01/intelligent_design_frontloadin.html
Maybe you can lure Jay Richards or others to comment here? That would be fun.



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pds

posted January 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm


(But he thinks you are a guy.)



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Howard Motz

posted January 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm


I’ve read less then half the book in question. Which is enough to comment on the above. (who authored above?) 1. That Meyer essentially makes the argument that, “life looks designed, so it must be designed,” ignores 90% of the book. Meyer’s goes to great lengths to demonstrat that I.D. is the best scientific explanation. And that just like all the historical sciences do. That what we observe happening in the present, is the best explanation for the past. “The key to the past is the present”. The code in DNA is specific, functional information. Which contains the plan, “blue print” for the individual life that carries it and protects it. It is translated by the RNA into specific amino acids, proteins and finally metabolic systems. The DNA is in turn kept viable as a memory of the life that carries it; by the life that carries it. Which as Meyer points out; raises the question of the chicken and the egg scenerio. The code in DNA is just as intelligible as any material man has ever authored. As Meyer points out. The only explanation we have for the creation of intelligent code in the present is, intelligent man. The best explanation for the past and the intelligible code of DNA is also there fore an intelligent agent. This is easily falsifiable by showing how DNA code is not (translatable) into a living machine, and that instead, living systems can rise with out a coded memory of themselves. Either in the Lab. or find it happening naturally.
2. Also Meyer does delve deeply into your, “middle ground”. Of natural law as an alternative explanation. Chp.11. “Self Organization and Biochemical Predestination.” I would personally add to what he says. Shifting life’s creative force to the laws of physics or fabric of the Verse, just shifts the design of such intricate pre-disposed to create life laws, to a Intelligent designer them selves.



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RJS

posted January 11, 2010 at 4:08 pm


Howard Motz,
If you look at the title of the post you will see that this is the first in a series.
Give me a break – do you really expect someone to deal with the subtleties of a 624 page book in the equivalent of two pages?



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AJF

posted January 11, 2010 at 9:52 pm


I’m about half way through SITC, and “astounding” is a word that leaps to mind. I’m not a scientist, don’t even play one on TV, but I do have a scientific sensibility. I would wager that many actual scientists, even your average biology major, has no idea of the sublime complexities of the cell. We need a new word. “Complex” is too broad a term. In our vernacular it’s used to describe a recipe for gumbo or health care. It doesn’t mean anything. I thought I understood that a cell was pretty complicated. Actually, not so much. The “complex” processes going on in the cell as Meyer describes are on an order of magnitude WAY beyond what I ever imagined, or can understand.
The reason I say this is because in many ways, the devil (or God rather) is in the details. We arrogantly debate these questions back and forth on the surface without ever really understanding the vastness of the enigma, or our ignorance. Its kind of like the health care bill. I return to that analogy because we’re all aware of the ridiculousness of our legislature debating a document they’ve never read…because its too long and “complex”. So instead they argue from ideaology rather than from understanding. That’s why these discussions ALWAYS degenerate. Is the origin of life any different?
I’d love to think I could weigh in on this, but I’d be kidding myself. Meyer has constructed a magisterial arguement, not easily dismissed (Shallit). “Not convincing”? “Not a sound scientific case”? Those are easy opinions to deliver, just a few taps of the keyboard, but it rings of ideology. To refute Meyer on equal footing, one must delve into the mind-numbing, eye-bleeding details that he has laid out. Good luck!
I suspect this discussion, like health care, will remain on the idealogical level, with conflicting worldviews rather than scientific observation leading the charge.



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NeilBJ

posted January 12, 2010 at 11:05 am


RBH [#50], Your lament that ID provides no independent evidence for the presence or even the existence of the putative immaterial designing agent is problematic.
There is at least one case where independent evidence is not available. I don’t see that independent evidence is available to those working on the SETI project. If an intelligent pattern is observed in a radio signal from outer space, the inference is that an intelligence exists that is responsible for that signal. Would you discount that inference because you cannot get independent evidence for the existence of that intelligence?
Furthermore, you have no idea of the nature of the intelligence. Sure, you assume it?s an evolved intelligence, but strictly speaking you don?t know that for sure. I am somewhat reluctant to bring the ?trickster God? into the picture, but you would have no way to distinguish between the trickster God and an evolved intelligence. (I have always wondered what the reaction would be if the intelligent signal from outer space contained ASCII encoded characters.)
The whole idea of the SETI project is to discover if an intelligence beyond our world exists. If we have or can get independent evidence of that intelligence, we have no need for the SETI project. The ID project has a different goal. It is not out to prove the existence of a “creator” per se; it’s goal is to come up with the best explanation for the specified complexity observed in the cell.



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Howard Motz

posted January 12, 2010 at 12:10 pm


I set your mind at ease a little. There is only about 500 pages of reading. Unless you feel obliged to read the, notes, index and bibliography.
Two quotes in your first installment that I take issue with.
1. “He makes essentially the same argument in other places as well – if it looks like design, the most reasonable conclusion is design.”
The thrust of Meyer’s argument is that the code in DNA is an artifact (my word). That can only be explained by an intelligent cause.
2. “Meyer’s proposal is that the information content of the cell – the DNA – and the origin of life based on this information cannot be explained by scientific reason.”
Where does he say this? Not in the paragraph you have quoted. Meyer goes to great length to show how science has always used a type of reason that can identify I.D. But that, that reason has been excluded from biology.
P.S. IF you tend to prove that the Universe has a set of laws that work together like a super-computer. (that’s what it would take) That would cause life to form automatically and inevitably; then you better start writing your own 650 page book. Because you’ll never prove it with a few post here!



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Brett Allen

posted January 12, 2010 at 7:23 pm


NeilBJ, SETI is looking for an intelligent fact (i.e. intelligent signals) it is not inferring intelligence in a natural process through a design theory. ID is not looking for an intelligent fact but is presupposing an intelligence it never names and whose methods are completely unknown and claims that this is a better explaination for biological diversity than known causes and processes. SETI does not have to find anything to advance what science can say about alien intelligence as if it finds nothing it lends weight to there not being and such intelligence equal or more advanced than ours. Its falsifibility is built in.
Also AJF it is not good enough to have a sceintific sensibility. If you don’t understand the science involved you cannot judge whether Meyer’s work is cherry picking evidence or is explained better by existing reality based theory.



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posted 6:01:52am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Almost Christian 4
Who does well when it comes to passing on the faith to the youth? Studies show two groups do really well: conservative Protestants and Mormons; two groups that don't do well are mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics. Kenda Dean's new book is called Almost Christian: What the Faith of Ou

posted 12:01:53am Aug. 31, 2010 | read full post »

Let's Get Neanderthal!
The Cave Man Diet, or Paleo Diet, is getting attention. (Nothing is said about Culver's at all.) The big omission, I have to admit, is that those folks were hunters -- using spears or smacking some rabbit upside the conk or grabbing a fish or two with their hands ... but that's what makes this diet

posted 2:05:48pm Aug. 30, 2010 | read full post »




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