Signature of Controversy, part 1

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Ok, it is a bit frustrating to get into a conversation that has been going on for years. Intelligent design for me is now less about learning what the theory is, but rather what everyone thinks about it. I’m going to try and reserve opinion and judgement, in general. I think I will just try and chronicle the dialogue as I see it detailed in Signature of Controversy. (And I still need to summarize the notes I took on Signature in the Cell (SitC) and write a post!)

First, there is Franciso Ayala (“one of Biology’s living legends”) who supposedly reviewed SitC. I agree with Meyer and Klinghoffer; it doesn’t appear that Ayala actually read the book. Dr. Darrel Falk had asked Ayala to review the book (Falk’s review is found here). Meyer does respond to both Falk and to Ayala, but Meyer’s response to Ayala is prefaced by Falk, who says Ayala was responding to Falk’s essay, not SitC. But the review by Ayala clearly states that BioLogos sent him a copy of SitC . Huh. And Falk said he asked Meyer to respond only to Ayala’s philosophical and theological concerns. (“We will now take a moment to refrain from the whole purpose of BioLogos… Your handcuffs, sir.”) Double huh. Klinghoffer points out that Ayala opens his salvo on Meyer by claiming his main premise is an argument against chance…which it isn’t…and isn’t mentioned by Falk…whose essay he was supposedly responding to. Triple huh. Jay Richards also agrees that Ayala could not have read Meyer’s book. There was apparently a commentary from Falk on Ayala’s review, but it has been  (perhaps wisely) brought down. Quadruple…oh never mind.

Secondly, there is Jerry Coyne. I have seen his name and his book Why Evolution Is True, and he has a blog where he has written posts attacking Meyer’s book. I would like to peruse his site and see what he writes and stands for. From what I have seen though, just briefly, he is an opinionated militant atheist. From Signature of Controversy, Klinghoffer cites that in one particular post, Coyne accuses Meyer of lying. That particular post has been deleted, though.  Klinghoffer points out some of the things Coyne has gotten wrong about Meyer, yet Meyer is a “lying liar.” Huh.

Next, there was a back and forth attack by Stephen Fletcher against Thomas Nagel for selecting SitC as one of the Times Supplement Books of the Year. Fletcher’s argument is based on evidence data in favor of the RNA world theory of life’s origins. (This is a theory I would like to know more details about.) His claim (and the claim made by Falk, essentially) is that scientific developments have “overtaken Meyer’s book.” 

From one study Flether cites experiments leading to the synthesis of a pyrimidine ribonucleotide (an RNA molecule). Meyer’s criticism of this experiment is the same he has made in his book: it is only a letter and does not explain the origin of the “words” and “sentences” in DNA; and the molecule was synthesized in steps, selecting only R-isomers, purifying intermediates from impurities and cross reactions. Scientists had to intervene, adding “active intelligence” to the “unguided” process. This is the problem I am learning about experiments concerning our origins. A scientist always intervenes, and it doesn’t explain the origin of the code.

David Berlinski also responds to Fletcher.

If experiments conducted in the here and now are to shed light on the there and then, they must meet two conditions: They must demonstrate in the first place the existence of a detailed chemical pathway between RNA precursors and a form of self-replicating RNA; and they must provide in the second place a demonstration that the spontaneous appearance of this pathway is plausible under pre-biotic conditions….

Questions of pre-biotic plausibility remain. Can the results of Powner et al. be reproduced without Powner et al.? It is a question that Powner raises himself: “My ultimate goal,” he has remarked, “is to get a living system (RNA) emerging from a one-pot experiment.”

Let us by all means have that pot, and then we shall see further.

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