Intelligent Design

John Lennox debates Peter Atkins

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This evening my wife and I enjoyed watching this debate with another couple over pizza. It generated a lively and animated discussion. Our teenage daughters watched with us for a while and we were able to discuss some of the points being debated. I highly recommend this video, not only just to watch, but to watch in a group setting and discussion tool. Yes, it is a bit long, but it is well worth it.

As a Christian, I found Lennox’s arguments convincing and I am very much in favor of an evidence-based faith. As Lennox states, a belief in God, a Creator, does indeed make scientific discovery more wonderful, and the rise of science in the Middle Ages was rooted in the Christian faith. Far from being a show stopper, as is stated by Atkins, it was this belief in a rational and ordered universe that inspired scientific investigation. Atkins consistently (i.e. over and over and over…) labels belief in design as laziness. As one commenter to the Youtube link asked, “how many times can one man say ‘Intellectual laziness’?” We were asking the same. Yet it was Atkins who demonstrated laziness in dismissing the conversions of prominent atheists like Anthony Flew, Francis Collins, C.S. Lewis and Alister McGrath as premature senility. This “laziness” is simply a straw man argument, packed from a stereotyped blind-faith anti-intellectualism and used to “prove” that belief in design is this show stopper. Those that fit this description, who fall back on various versions of God of the gaps explanations in place of genuine inquiry, are misled and hopefully few.

Regardless, they do not represent those that do look at the ever accumulating scientific data on our world and universe and decides the evidence points to a Designer. This is the importance of evidence-based faith. Given several examples of designed items (his own book, a 747, Paley’s watch), Atkins is unable to make the connection between these designed items and a designed universe. He is more comfortable attributing creative powers to matter and chance.

Overall, we found Atkins arrogant, a bit fidgety, but with a delightful accent. Ironically, as a scientist, he described himself as deeply humble. We were left to conclude it was so deep as to be unseen. John Lennox was lively and defined his arguments well. As to science, he considers it “thinking God’s thoughts after Him”.

We couldn’t agree more.

Clearly, Without Distortions

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For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. –Romans 1:20 (emphasis mine)

The true scientific model of the origin of species, by design not by chance, can be demonstrated by com­mon sense and the simplest of sci­entific experiments with any species, particularly of butterflies; whereas it is scientifically impossible to sustain the evolutionary model without having to distort objective truth itself. –Bernard d’Abrera, The Concise Atlas of Butterflies of the World (emphasis mine)

I wanted to follow-up on my last two posts in which I was critical toward Answers in Genesis and the RATE Project by ICR. Some may think I may think I was just bashing them. I do not mean to, but there is a reason why I have a deep conviction about this: scientific data should be able to stand as neutral. God makes it clear in nature that he can be understood. We should never have to bend or distort data to fit a philosophy, whether religious or atheist.

In his writings on modern thought and culture, Francis Schaeffer has emphasized going back to the basic and primary question of “Is there a God?” Science and the evidence we uncover are the best way to decide that. All people, whether believers, agnostics, atheists, or whatever, should be able to use the tools of analysis and it will point to God’s handiwork. What truth do we observe?

  • A universe that came out of nothing and had a beginning.
  • The universe’s physical laws are fine-tuned to support life. For instance, if the force of gravity were any stronger or weaker by 1 part in 10100 (a 1 with 100 zeroes behind it) the universe could not support life. For perspective, there are 1080 atoms in the entire universe.
  • The Earth is uniquely situated in our galaxy such that it provides the overall best conditions for scientific discovery of the universe. (refer to The Privileged Planet dvd)

These points are all based on scientifically verified data, and they all seem to point to a Designer behind the universe. Also, this data was not generated by the religious, either. In fact, the Big Bang was a hard pill to swallow for naturalists, who believed that the universe had always existed. The data for the Big Bang forced scientists to accept the view that the universe, at one time, did not exist. And then it existed. The philosophical ramifications were obvious-it pointed to an external cause, namely a creator. Yet scientists, regardless of personal beliefs, accepted the data.

What about the theory of evolution? Does nature proclaim it as truth? Not at all.

  • Fossil evidence: researchers have been looking for over 100 years for missing links between the major species without result.
  • The fossil record of the Cambrian “explosion” demonstrates the exact opposite of what Darwin predicted. Here you have almost all of the basic body plans (phyla), rather than only a few basic types of animals that gradually divide into the phyla.
  • DNA: this discovery has only exacerbated evolutionary theory. As Bill Gates has noted, “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” There is no scientific theory or explanation for the origin of the informational code in DNA.
  • Cells are nano-machines: they read DNA and make small molecular machines that perform specific tasks that are essential for life. There is also no scientific theory or explanation for the origin of cellular functioning.
  • Irreducible complexity: many aspects of cellular functioning require many parts, working together. Removal of any of the parts yields a non-functioning system. To pass on this function to off-spring, all parts must be present, which challenges evolutionary model.
  • Butterflies: the caterpillar spends its life gorging itself. In the chrysalis, the caterpillar literally dies and its body is used as food by a latent set of genes that use the caterpillar’s body to build the butterfly. The big question- how did these butterfly genes evolve?

All these facts are direct challenges to evolution and, as d’Abrera stated above, evolutionary biologists do not accept the data and have to distort truth to fit their philosophy. If it is fair to ask evolutionists to evaluate the data neutrally, outside of their preconceived notions, it is fair to ask Christians to do the same. In my view, since God made it, it is a win-win situation.

Atheist Discusses the Merits of ID

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I ran across this podcast today and thought it was extremely interesting. With the militancy atheists have against intelligent design, I never thought I would hear of one that supports it. He is Bradley Monton, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

I just finished a great book called God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? by John Lennox. One thing this book does well (and it does many things well) is to make a clear distinction between science and naturalistic philosophy. It seems Monton is able to do this as well. He is able to think critically about the evidence for intelligent design and follow where the evidence leads, no matter his philosophy on God. It was really very refreshing to listen to this interview (~16 min) by Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute. Monton says:

I actually find some of the intelligent design arguments somewhat plausible and worth taking seriously within academia, and I’m unhappy with the sort of unfair and false criticisms that a lot of my fellow philosophers and academics have given of intelligent design. I’m also, for the record, unhappy with some of the intelligent design arguments. I think that, even though some of them are wrong, they could actually be given better than current intelligent design proponents are giving them. So I’m trying, really, to elevate the debate on both sides.

While listening to their discussion, Monton struck me as someone who is extremely intellectually honest. He admires those Christians who take their faith seriously and defend their worldview versus the C-E (Christmas-Easter) Christians who go to church twice a year and that is it. He is very interested in the science-based arguments for the existence of God, finds some arguments very convincing, and yet remains an atheist. I find that very interesting.

Luskin: What do you think happens when a person tries to pretend that there is no reason or room for any doubt or self-introspection in their worldview?

Monton: Yeah…I think that leads to dogmatism, in part, and this sort of emotional reaction to the people who are on the other side. Because, if you think the other side is just completely, you know, has nothing going for it, then you’re going to dismiss them and react badly to them. It’s unfortunate and I appreciate the people who aren’t that way. And unfortunately, what I’ve been encountering lately are more atheists who seem to be completely and incredibly dogmatic about their view, and then…encountering Christians who are more sympathetic.

Luskin: …when it turns to dogmatism and name-calling, it just saddens me. The debate could be so much more interesting and so much more life-giving than that.

I don’t know the reasons for Monton’s atheist worldview, but there is something that could bring him to Christ. It is love in the style of 1 Cor 13: patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not dishonoring, not self-seeking, not easily angered, not keeping a record of wrongs. “Love never fails.” The dogmatic and hateful atheists subvert themselves and their humanity, and people seeking truth know there is something woefully wrong with their character. The same can, of course, be said of the religious who are just as hateful.

Monton finishes the interview quoting an email from a prominent ID opponent, whose attitude is that this debate was a cultural war and one must take a side and defend it vigorously. He was disappointed that one had to be on one side or the other, rather than searching for truth.

Give this podcast a listen and let me know what you think.

Re-Post of “Dissecting Darwin” article

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I’m currently on vacation, soaking up the Florida sun…and rain. So, while we are stuck inside, and I have some motivation to do so, I would like to share this article I began reading last week. It is heavily referenced and provides a great source of reading concerning the debate on Neo-Darwinism. It is really a fantastic display of scientific knowledge disputing the validity of random mutation/natural selection with regard to macroevolution and the origin of life.

The article(s) are at times technical, but I found that this particular article represents sort of a “running jump in the pool” in terms of the arguments for and against evolution (unguided, macro), the responses by Neo-Darwinists, and the sort of commentary and in-depth analysis that is going on over at Evolution News & Views, a pro-Intelligent Design website that is continually building an arsenal of information. The logic and evidence discussed here at this website is exactly why the scientific weakness of current “modern synthesis” of evolution should be taught in public schools.

I recommend reading the links as you come to them if you have the time, but this article by Joseph Kuhn in the Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings is a must read. This is a tour de force of the arguments against Neo-Darwinism. Do you disagree? Read the critical comments by other medical professionals here.

Well, the rain has passed and the sun is coming back out…time to get back to the pool! Cheers!

The Origin of Information

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The Nature of Information

Information is central to all living systems, and is responsible for assembling the proteins that are essential to life and reproduction. Being a biochemist and taking many courses in molecular biology as well, I knew this already. But information, in and of itself, is mysterious…and that is something I hadn’t really thought about.

“Evolutionary biologists have failed to realize that they work with two more or less incommensurable domains: that of information and that of matter…the gene is a package of information, not an object. The pattern of base pairs in a DNA molecule specifies the gene. But the DNA molecule is the medium, it’s not the message.” Williams, Natural Selection, 11

Consider: if I fax a form to my bank, what I put into the machine and what comes out on the other end is not the same thing. They are different sheets of paper with different ink—the form can even be stored digitally. The actual information has nothing to do with ink or wood pulp or electrons on a hard drive. Information is completely different from “dust or particles,” and that seems to be the crux of the intelligent design argument.

This is something I had never considered before reading Signature in the Cell. It shows my ignorance of history and philosophy, for this was the dominant worldview for centuries. It was the understanding of Plato, Aristotle, Roman Stoics, Jewish philosophers such as Moses Mainonides, Christian philosophers such as Thomas Aquinas, and most of the founding scientists in the scientific revolution from 1300-1700 that mind was the primary source of reality. Material either issues from or is shaped by (or both) a pre-existing intelligence. This ignorance on my part is not surprising, though, if you think about it, since materialism dominates the modern university.

So, does information have anything to do with the DNA molecule? Or does it have everything to do with the order of the nucleotides? It is such an interesting insight to consider when reviewing data and articles on origin of life—does this experiment or result solve a material problem (producing amino acids or nucleotides in a test tube) or an information problem (the cause or mechanism of specific ordering of nucleotides)? And as I read more about origin of life, the more this delineation should be at the forefront of my mind.

What is Information?

Overall, I was really pleased with the amount of information and definitions on information in this book. What is information? Here are two definitions:

  1. The communication or reception of knowledge or intelligence
  2. The attribute inherent in and communicated by alternative sequences or arrangements of something that produces specific effects.

The first definition is sort of generic and intuitive, and deals with what people do all the time: “Turn right on Oak St.” “I like you a lot.” “I loathe you and all you represent.” Knowledge is passed from one being to another, and the other can take whatever action they see fit. A right turn, a kiss, or a firm uppercut. The second definition gets into more detail of the “language” of information—sequences or arrangements that produce an effect. It’s the arrangements that have an effect, and therefore the arrangements are a cause. This definition seems more applicable to software or DNA code.

Shannon Information Theory

Not only does information communicate knowledge or an effect, there can be a varied amount of information. According the Shannon Information Theory, information and uncertainty are inversely proportional. The more information in a sentence, the more uncertainty it reduces. Consider the following:

“Someone stole my wallet.”

“A tall light-skinned man with blonde hair, pimples on his nose, a tattoo of a mermaid on his left forearm, wearing blue denim jeans and a yellow tee-shirt stole my wallet, and he ran that way…”

In the first sentence, you could be looking for anyone. The second sentence obviously provides more information and reduces the uncertainty of exactly who stole my wallet (because I want it back, I have bills to pay and mouths to feed). Here are the categories of information:

  1. Order redundancy – ABCABCABCABC etc. This kind of information is compressible and, because of its regularity, carries little information.
  2. Mere complexity – ALWIWOCZNVDWIQSAOA. This information is not compressible. It is complex, but not specific to any particular function and conveys no information (assuming no hidden code). An example from the biological world would be random polypeptides or polymers that serve no biological function.
  3. Specific complexity – “TIME AND TIDE WAIT FOR NO MAN”. This information is also complex and not compressible. It clearly serves a function, though, or communicates a message. Biological examples include functional DNA and proteins. This is a synonym for specified information or informational content.

It is this specified complexity that Intelligent Design theorists are most interested in. What qualifies DNA as information-rich is that fact that the code in DNA is translated (via RNA) into a protein that performs a function.

Yes, one can perform experiments to try to imitate what happened in the “primordial soup.” But these experiments have to do with the dust and particles, and have nothing to do with the generation of information. That is what is essential to understanding where intelligent design is coming from. Suppose it can be discerned how nucleotides came together, formed the unfavorable bond at the ribose backbone, and then formed long enough chains—that is still not the same as explaining the origin of the information formed.

Darwin’s Heretic

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I finally found the time to watch this video (at least the 20 minutes provided here) on Alfred Russel Wallace. It is amazing that I have never heard to this guy before. Who really has? How can that be? He was a cofounder with Darwin, and remained an unknown to us today. How can his ideas and life be so buried from the general public?

I found Wallace’s book “The World of Life” in Kindle format on-line, and look forward to reading it this year. It is interesting to note that Wallace was not a theist. He came to his conclusion of intelligent evolution based on observations of the natural world.

 

ID mischaracterized as Ignorance

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http://video.google.com/googleplayer.swf?docid=-102519600994873365&hl=en&fs=true

I was directed to this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson from a post on Jerry Coyne’s blog (which I read from time to time), and was curious… Would I learn anything? Is it just an atheist rant? Time is very precious to me, so I debated on whether I should spend (or waste) the 39 minutes on this guy. The obvious implication from Coyne’s quote below is that the more advanced and educated a scientist becomes, the more silly religion would become. All the serious scientists should be atheists.

“The “strident” part starts at 10:30, when Tyson contrasts the pervasive religiosity of the American public with the pervasive atheism of scientists, showing that more than 90% of the former believe in God but that just 15% of members of the National Academy of Sciences accept the notion of a personal God (actually, I think the figure is closer to 2%).  Referring to the latter figure, though, Tyson says that everyone missed the big story about this disparity: why isn’t the percentage of scientist-believers zero(He mentions this later in the talk, too.) Tyson clearly thinks that science promotes unbelief.”

So, I decided to watch it, and I learn quite a bit—about Tyson and straw men, anyway.

Newton Made of Straw

Tyson uses the examples of Ptolemy, Galileo, Newton, and Huygens as superb scientists who, at some point reached their capacity discover, basically threw up their hands and invoked God (intelligent design). Tyson emphasizes that these were all brilliant men, especially with Newton, and so their use of (or invocation of) intelligent design cannot be just “swept under the rug.” This fact, he says, needs to be acknowledged and dealt with. But the problem is, Tyson mischaracterized them and builds them into straw men.

He portrays them as essentially irreligious during their scientific discoveries, but when it comes to confronting the unknown, then, and seemingly only then, do they give up to “only God knows.” Based on this false presentation, Tyson makes the claim, “Science is a philosophy of discovery; intelligent design is a philosophy of ignorance.”

This is simply not true. As Nancy Pearcey clearly shows in her book The Soul of Science, the flowering of modern science depended upon the Judeo-Christian worldview. Their belief in God drove their discovery, not hindered it. These men may have spoken of the miracle of God concerning the unknown, but that does not mean that their belief in God’s order and design was not interwoven throughout their life of discovery.

For Newton, intelligent design drove him, not hindered him. He was constantly trying to fit God into the universe he observed. For instance, Newton’s discovery and characterization of gravity was described by the Cartesians as being “an occult concept.” To Newton, he had “discovered a new active principle through which God acts through his creation.” Even Wikipedia admits he was highly religious and wrote more on religion than he did on science and mathematics. Sometimes we was wrong—like thinking God needed to tinker with the universe to stabilize it. That certainly does not imply because he “had God on the brain” he couldn’t figure out the stability of the solar system (which Laplace later did). Every person does have their intellectual limit (even Newton) and should not be faulted for it.

But wait, you said religion was a bad thing…

A very interesting example Tyson used was the period of Islam between 800-1100 AD. This was a period of high learning, and Baghdad was its center. I am not very familiar with this period, quite frankly, but according to Tyson it was Imam Hamid al-Ghazali who destroyed it. He taught that math was from the devil–scholarship faltered, declined, and the region never recovered it’s excellence to this day.

Perhaps I missed the point on this one. Isn’t Tyson making a case against religion? How exactly did this period occur within the confines of the religion of Islam? And if we extrapolate to the modern age, is he saying the intelligent design movement is saying math (or science or evolutionary biology) is of the devil? Or just those scoundrel Republicans are saying it? Newton’s theory of gravity was described as of the devil…did science come to a screeching halt then?

Tyson is trying to connect intelligent design to intellectual resignation and the destruction of science itself. If I researched this period in Islam, would I find that the Muslims did not believe God created the universe? Would I really? I just don’t think I would. Was Imam Hamid al-Ghazali an ID advocate? No, he wasn’t. He was a religious zealot.

So, if anything, religious fanaticism is a “show stopper,” not intelligent design.

Stupid Design (a Fast Tirade)

To drive the hammer home and in rapid fire mode, Tyson mocks intelligent design, or I should say the Designer. He goes on and on about how imperfect the universe is, the inefficiency of star formation, etc. He references intelligent design’s insistence that the universe is set up for life (is that just ID or do non-religious people observe that as well?).

No, Tyson says, it set up to kill you (chuckle, chuckle).

Yes, the universe is inhospitable–that’s what is so amazing about the earth. That’s the point. Yep, you got it. (Chuckle, chuckle). In an inhospitable universe, the universal constants, the earth, it is all set up in balance (here on earth) for life.

Tyson also presents a list of imperfections of the earth and human life: extinctions, 3.5 billion years to make multi-cellular life, diseases, birth defects (paused slide for effect), eating/breathing from the same hole (guaranteeing a certain percentage of people will choke to death), etc, etc.

This similar to the claim by Francisco Ayala, insisting to Stephen Meyer that Christians shouldn’t claim intelligent design because we are attributing all this observed imperfection to a perfect God. So, did God screw up? It is a legitimate, hard question.

A patient with multiple sclerosis recently visited my workplace to give a talk, and one of the things that struck me about her was how reflective she was. She did not claim any religion at all, but it was obvious that she preferred Eastern philosophy and yoga. She said, throughout the course of dealing with the disease, she had a lot of dark nights and had to “talk herself off the ledge” at times/ Having MS has helped her to slow down her Type A Go-Go-Go lifestyle and let go of many of her personal milestones. The disease has made her more reflective, gotten her in touch with life, true life, more and more. She said it has brought her to humility and compassion.

So the hard question (for me) is this: can we be spiritual in a perfect world? If we had everything, would we learn anything? Without imperfection, would we understand love and compassion? I am not saying I like adversity or disease or death, or want more of it, or delight in it, but I am saying I believe we need it for our spirits to grow. For the Christian, this life is just temporary and our hope is set on God’s preparations for our eternal home. These questions, I think, fall outside of an atheistic mindset.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

Watch that last step…

Tyson concludes his presentation saying he doesn’t want someone in the lab who believes in intelligent design, because they will give up on trying to find cures for disease like cancer and Alzheimer’s. Here he extrapolated his “philosophy of ignorance” into a realm of absolute fantasy. There is not a Christian alive who believes this or practices it, who would throw up their hands and give up. That is complete hogwash and Tyson should be ashamed of himself for even stating it.

By the way…

Intelligent design is not a god of the gaps theory…this is from Bonhoeffer:

“…how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.”

Intelligent design proponents look at the evidence. DNA is code-like. Evolution provides not mechanism for the generation of this code (let alone the actual assemblage of it sans information). The only known cause for codes or information is intelligence. Therefore, an intelligence agent produced the DNA code. It is a way to interpret the evidence. No one is throwing up their hands and embracing ignorance. You may disagree with intelligent design, but you cannot say it is a god of the gaps theory.

Metamorphosis by Illustra Media

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5.0 out of 5 stars An Excellent Film and Evidence for Intelligent Design, February 16, 2012

This film is beautifully shot and narrated, and is a fascinating look at the amazing life cycle and migration of butterflies. My family and I really enjoyed viewing it. I came home one day and found my kids watching it on their own. The movie also explores the implications for intelligent design as an explanation for the caterpillar/butterfly development.

Francis Crick said in “What Mad Pursuit” that biologists must “constantly keep in mind that what they see is not designed, but rather evolved.” Other evolutionary biologists have made similar statements. Design itself, or at least the appearance of design, doesn’t really seem to be debatable. It is the mechanism of that design that is currently causing argument and controversy. Prior to Darwin, there was a general belief that there was a designer, going all the way back to Greek philosophy of “matter” and “forms.” What Darwin brought to the table was a purely materialistic explanation for the design we observe, through the mechanism of natural selection. In order for natural selection to “design” life, potential biological advantages (via mutations) must be passed on to their offspring through reproduction. The organism must reproduce to explain the evolution of “designed” creature. It is essential for the objective reviewer of this film to keep this in the forefront of their mind.

Why? A caterpillar is a fully functional organism that doesn’t reproduce in its caterpillar form. The only way for this species to reproduce and pass on its genome is to form the chrysalis, trigger the activation of isolated dormant genes, digest the flesh of the caterpillar, and form the highly advanced butterfly structures. Essentially, one insect dies to becomes a totally different and sophisticated insect! For evolution to be true, with respect to natural selection, all of the genes for a butterfly *must be* present, functional and regulated in order for the caterpillar/butterfly to reproduce—in the first generation.

I highly recommend this DVD, as well as the companion book that is available for purchase, or here for free, just for subscribing to the Discovery Institute (http://www.discoveryinstitutepress.com/metamorphosis/download.php)

Review of Signature of Controversy

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Signature of Controversy: Responses to Critics of Signature in the Cell (Signature in the Cell #2)Signature of Controversy: Responses to Critics of Signature in the Cell by David Klinghoffer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Signature in the Cell (SitC) details the history and premises of the intelligent design theory. Signature of Controversy details the reactions to SitC from a culture of science that seems to have no place for it. This book is a collection of articles that critique the reviewers of SitC and answers them clearly. Amazingly, some reviewers of SitC have clearly not even read the book, yet have felt compelled to review it (negatively). Some mischaracterize the argument completely. Some are just plain uncivil and even obnoxious. None are really able to refute the argument of the theory, though, which, simply put, is as follows:

1. There is no materialistic explanation for the origin of biological information (specified complexity) in DNA.
2. The only known cause of information is an intelligent agent.
3. Since there is no materialistic explanation for the origin of biological information, an inference can be made to an intelligent cause

Signature of Controversy is a must read for those who have read SitC. You will learn more details why recent origin of life experiments, that supposedly tag ID as a dead-end, actually supplement the design argument. It will bring you into the dialogue that is going on in the blogosphere. Be prepared to access blog sites to read these SitC reviews first hand. It will position you to look objectively at the communities of scientists that are discussing this theory. This book has also helped to solidify the intelligent design argument for me, and hopefully it will do the same for you.

View all my reviews

Signature of Controversy, part 2

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Dishonesty. And some religion…

David Klinghoffer’s article in this book, titled “Scared to Read Signature in the Cell?”, sums up the Darwinian atheist activism against SitC. He details how Coyne, Fletcher, P.Z. Myer, and even hordes of Amazon.com pseudo-reviewers have not read the book and simply trash it. How can a person of reason truly review or comment on something they have not read??  Not just to comment, but to post comments such as, “religious speculation,” “a stinker,” and “drivel.” It is completely intellectually dishonest.

How am I to respect evolution with disciples such as these? Do I throw out evolution because of this? Or do I learn what the evidence is, how it applies to our observation of nature, and assign it a place. Natural selection does occur, on a limited observable scale. There is hard evidence for common descent. There is no evidence for the generation of biological information by natural means.

But I don’t think they are scared to read the book. I think it is the religion of philosophical naturalism that drives these people. This is not my idea. I have heard Nancy Pearcey speak on this in her book, Total Truth. As british chemist John C. Walton wrote:

It is an amusing irony that while castigating students of religion for believing in the supernatural, [Fletcher] offers in its place an entirely imaginary “RNA world” the only support for which is speculation!

Klinghoffer concludes:

Alas, carelessness and dishonesty are hallmarks of the Darwinian propagandists. Hordes of whom, by the way, have been trying to overwhelm Signature’s Amazon page . They post abusive “reviews” making, again, little pretense of having turned a single page even as they then try to boost their own phony evaluations by gathering in mobs generated by email lists and clicking on the Yes button at the question, “Was this review helpful to you?” Per Amazon’s easily exploited house rules, this has the effect of boosting the “review” to enhanced prominence. It’s a fraudulent tactic, and sadly typical.

Is it really so? Can these people seriously, seriously, not detect their loathsome dishonest behaviour? Can they not see how hate taints their minds and body, degenerating their reasoning, and dehumanizing them into the true products of their theory of evolution, mere animals?

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.

Disrespect and Mischaracterization

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Since I have tried to describe this blog as a “pursuit of self-education,” I am wondering what the purpose of my previous post was (ID on the Abrams Report). I had read about this interview in Signature in the Cell and knew it was an ambush and an argument. I wanted to see it…but why would I want that on my blog? What about this video clip is educational? What did it teach me?

Ok, I agree with intelligent design and think the theory is scientific and correct. One could say that, since I am a Christian, I am “predisposed” to it. Maybe so. But I believe I am open-minded enough to consider both sides of an argument. What I could not stand about the previous video was the disrespect and mischaracterization that went on.

Abrams did not invite Meyer on to have a discussion–it was only to get him to say ID is religion. He insults and trivializes the peers who have reviewed the ID work, even though he doesn’t even know who they are. He also said that ID  “assumes evolution doesn’t exist,” which is ridiculous. ID, in this argument, address the origin of biological information. It is plausible ID explains the origin of this information, and natural selection explains everything after. I personally do not yet know what I believe concerning evolution, other than that obvious observable fact that natural selection exists. Natural selection does not explain the generation of biological information, from what I have read. I am still reading. I have purchased Dawkins book, The Blind Watchmaker, and plan to read that this winter or spring.

What irritates me, and I think I will just have to exercise patience, is that every book or article or video I see on intelligent design has people commenting with both an ignorant and mean spirit. Comments are made in exactly the same spirit of Abrams (biased, close-minded, loud, disrespectful) or that of Eugenie Scott (condescending, superior, ignorant and mischaracterizing).

So, in the context of pursuing a self-education, this video (and the multitude of ignorant comments I have read) provides the negative example, what not to be.

ID on the Abrams Report

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The infamous Abrams Report with Stephen Meyer and Eugenie Scott.

Well, I really don’t want to take the time to comment on this video. It is old and was just after the Dover school court case (or possibly during, I’m not quite sure) where the school district wanted to present ID as an alternative.

I would like to good on Meyer, going on a very hostile show and holding his own. That show is just mosh pit of opinion, and there is no such thing as being “rude,” so get off it Eugenie.

After reading Signature in the Cell, Eugenie’s claim that “Intelligent Design makes the claim that there are things out there in nature that are just categorically unexplainable by natural cause; therefore they were created–designed–by an intelligent agent…” What complete hogwash! Things?? The focus of ID is quite narrow: the origin of biological information. Evolution has been unable to categorically explain the origin of life. That is what ID seeks to address.

Abrams. A mindless bully with some else’s notes.

Review of Signature in the Cell

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Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent DesignSignature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent summary for the case for Intelligent Design (ID). Meyer answers critics who label ID as unscientific, citing Stephen Jay Gould, who described evolutionary biology, geology, paleontology, etc. as “historical sciences.” Meyer explains how the theory of ID fits these parameters.

Clearly, the biological information contained in DNA is code-like, so much so that people like Dawkins and Crick have to remind scientists that it only “appears” that way. In his first premise, Meyer recounts a thorough history of the search for life’s origin and how each theory has yielded no results on how the genetic code evolved. For his second premise, he demonstrates that the only known cause for the generation of information (specified complexity) is an intelligent agent. We look at cave paintings and chipped flint and scientists determine that some sort of intelligence produced this work. SETI searches the galaxies for patterns of information that designate intelligence. Every one of us creates information daily.

The conclusion of Meyer’s argument is an inference that, as the only known cause of information, intelligence was the cause of the rise of DNA. This inference, incidentally, is the same logic used by Darwin himself (the observation of micro-evolution and the inference that chance and natural selection, stretched back over time, determined the origin of species).

One point I found interesting was the discussion of the predictions of evolution and ID concerning “junk DNA.” ID predicts non-protein coding sequences should perform biological functions. It shouldn’t be useless or junk. The model of natural selection predicts a genome “riddled with useless information, mistakes, and broken genes.” Scientists have labeled this area between genes as junk (“gene deserts”) and proof against design, but research coming out of the ENCODE Project (http://www.genome.gov/10005107#al-1) are showing these parts of the genome are in fact highly functional. As Philip Kitcher said, “Intelligent Design has deep roots in the history of cosmology, and in the earth and life sciences.” Kitcher’s argument against ID is this supposed inability to explain “junk DNA,” yet clearly, ID can be a guiding principle and theory.

This is a book for those that truly want to understand the theory of intelligent design. There is a hard break that scientists use (methodological naturalism) which excludes anything supernatural from being considered as scientific. This book explains, step by step (sometimes a bit too slowly, perhaps), why ID is a viable theory that only invokes intelligence as a causal agent. There are, of course, theistic implications, but there are anti-religious implications from evolutionary theory as well. Meyer’s approach, however, is completely evidence based. Meyer quotes Antony Flew, a long time atheist who now accepts ID, asserting, we must “follow the evidence wherever it leads,” regardless of the implications.

View all my reviews

Debate concerning Alfred Russel Wallace

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I am almost finished with reading and taking notes on Signature in the Cell, and have found a great source of information for furthering my knowledge at Evolution News and Views. Already I have seen names quoted in the is book (James Shapiro, William Dembski), and see that there will be an on-line debate  between Michael Shermer (editor of Skeptic magazine and Discovery Institute’s Michael Flannery. The debate is concerning Alfred Russle Wallace. This man apparently shares credit with Darwin for the theory of evolution, but then came to embrace Intelligent Design. There is an movie made about his life by Flannery.

I also saw that there is a discussion going between a number of people, sparked by an aritcle by Dembski that asks, “Is James Shapiro a Design Theorist?” Perhaps here is where one can find links to all those involved.

I want to see the movie and read Shermer’s criticism, but I am trying to work diligently to finish Signature first. I wanted to capture some of the links here for future reference.