Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Stephen C. Meyer and Peter Atkins debate intelligent design

This dialog occurred in 2010 on the Unbelievable radio show.

I made a rough transcript, so please see below for that.

The MP3 file is here. (60 minutes)

Details:

The documentary film “Expelled” is presented by US Actor Ben Stein and makes the case that scientists who question Darwinian orthodoxy and support Intelligent Design are being “expelled” from academia.

As the UK edition of the DVD is released we ask “Is freedom of thought at stake or is Intelligent Design out of bounds when it comes to biological science?”

Stephen C Meyer is co founder of the Discovery Institute in the USA and a major proponent of Intelligent Design.

Peter Atkins is Professor of Chemistry at Oxford University and an outspoken atheist.

They both feature in “Expelled” and join Justin to debate the pros and cons of Intelligent Design theory.

Mark Haville who is bringing the film to the UK also joins the discussion.

Meyer’s PhD is from Cambridge, and he has a wonderful book called “Signature in the Cell”. He explains intelligent design for beginners here in his CNN editorial.

Note: The transcript below is quite snarky and may include paraphrases of Dr. Atkins for the sake of humor.

My rough transcript of the Meyer-Atkins debate

Stephen Meyer:
- started researching on ID while doing his PhD at Cambridge
- the question is whether the information-bearing properties in DNA require a designer
- what cause is adequate to explain the digital code that in the simplest living cell
- alternative explanations like self-organization and RNA-first have failed
- so the best explanation for functional sequences of parts is an intelligent designer
- Darwinists have responded to this argument with insults and suppression of dissent

Peter Atkins:
- intelligent design is creationism
- there is no science at all in it
- information can emerge without an intelligent designer
- structures emerge spontaneously, no agent is needed to generate the structure
- information in DNA is also a structure

Stephen Meyer:
- structure and information are two different things
- many structures emerge spontaneously
- structure may be like the vortex that occurs when water goes down a drain

Peter Atkins:
- the vortex is information

Stephen Meyer:
- structures are different from functionally-specified digital information
- in DNA, there is a 4-digit alphabet that is used to create code sequences
- the thing to be explained is where do the functional sequences come from

Peter Atkins:
- information can grow without an agent
- the second law of thermodynamics
- the universe is falling into disorder
- but there are local abatements of chaos that create information
- evolution can cause the amount of information to grow

Stephen Meyer:
- that’s just an assertion
- I agree that energy flow through a system can produce spontaneous order
- but spontaneous order is not the same thing as information

Peter Atkins:
- spontaneous order is the same as information

Stephen Meyer:
- it’s not order that needs to be explained it’s specified complexity

Peter Atkins:
- what do you mean by specified complexity?

Stephen Meyer:
- the chemical bonds that connect to each letter do not determine the letter
- the chemical bonding sites will accept any letter as easily as any other
- any one of the 4 bases (letters) can attach at any place along the backbone

Peter Atkins:
- the selection of which letter comes next is determined by evolution

Stephen Meyer:
- that is just an assertion
- there is no physical process that sequences the letters to have a function

Peter Atkins:
- do you believe in evolution? YES OR NO!

Mark Haville:
- for him to answer the question you have to define the word
- do you mean macro or micro? biological or stellar? directed or undirected?

Peter Atkins:
- undirected molecules to man evolution by natural processes

Stephen Meyer:
- but even Dawkins doesn’t believe in evolution then
- you’re including the origin of life from non-living matter in evolution
- Dawkins says that there is no known naturalistic explanation for that

Mark Haville:
- you need to define your terms

[They discuss of the movie Expelled and the case of Richard Sternberg]

Stephen Meyer:
- the problem is people don’t want to talk about the science
- they denounce dissent as unscientific
- they will not debate about whther natural causes can explain the information
- I want to talk about the science

Peter Atkins:
- ID people raise interesting questions for naturalists to work on
- but you want to tell us what the answer is (intelligence) before we begin
- you start from the idea that an intelligence was involved

Justin Brierley:
- but you start with the idea that natural mechanisms can explain everything!

Stephen Meyer:
- for Dr. Atkins, only explanations based on material processes are valid

Peter Atkins:
- that is correct

Stephen Meyer:
- but we think that the activities of mind can explain some effects
- e.g. – the best explanation of the Rosetta stone is a mind

Peter Atkins:
- but we naturalists think of minds as material as well

Stephen Meyer:
- that’s a materialist pre-supposition on your part
- we would have to have a debate about mind and body

Mark Haville:
- I think that the materialist position is socially dangerous
- the problem with naturalism is that it is an ideology
- the ideology pushes absurdities, e.g. – the universe came from nothing uncaused
- and naturalists exert power over others to force them to believe nonsense

Stephen Meyer:
- science progresses as the result of scientists disagreeing
- both sides agree to the facts
- the debate is about the interpretation of those facts
- and one side is being ruled out a priori based on the pre-supposition of materialism

Peter Atkins:
- why do you say that an intelligence is involved in DNA but not general relativity

Stephen Meyer:
- it is always logically possible that intelligence can be invlved in any effect
- the main thing is that explanations based on intelligence should not be ruled out

Peter Atkins:
= well you can’t appeal to any non-material process in expaining anything
- those are the rules

Moderator:
- what does intelligent design have to do with religion?

Stephen Meyer:
- creationism is about understanding the istory of life using the Bible
- intelligent design is about using the same method of inquiry as Darwin
- we know that information arises from intelligent causes
- humans create information all the time by using intelligence to sequence parts

Moderator:
- are intelligent design proponents disreputable?

Stephen Meyer:
- what’s disreputable is shutting down debate by setting arbitrary rules

Peter Atkins:
- we are both interested in the same questions

Moderator:
- why won’t you let Stephen publish his papers then?

Peter Atkins:
- because it breaks the pre-suppositions of naturalism and materialism

Stephen Meyer:
- you’re shutting down inquiry by using an arbitrary definition of science

Mark Haville:
- we need to define the word science
- science should be based on what we can observe empirically
- we can observe micro-evolution empirically
- but Darwinism goes beyond what is observable to postulate macro-evolution

Peter Atkins:
- but paleobiology is replete with evidence

Stephen Meyer:
- paleobiology uses a method of inference that I think is valid
- but intelligent design uses the same mode of reasoning which is also valid

Peter Atkins:
= you’re intellectually lazy
- we’re smart, we’re using our brains

Moderator:
- you’re saying that appeals to intelligent causes ends science?
- is ID the view that some things are too complex to be explained with naturalism?

Peter Atkins:
- yes, and to teach children that materialism is false is child abuse

Stephen Meyer:
- let’s drop the insults and the rhetoric and focus on the arguments
- the ID argument is not based on what we don’t know, it’s based on what we DO know
- first, we can ask what undirected natural processes can and cannot do
- second, we can ask what we know about intelligent causes from our own experience
- what we do know seems to me to require an intelligent agent as a cause

Peter Atkins:
- GOD! Do you mean God!? Do you mean God!?

Stephen Meyer:
- I personally mean God, but all that the arguments proves is a generic intelligent cause
- and I am using the same method of investigation that Darwin used to get there
- what we know from our experience is that a mind is needed to create information

Peter Atkins:
- NONSENSE! ABSOLUTE NONSENSE!

Stephen Meyer:
- in my book, I list 10 predictions made by ID, so it’s not a science-stopper
- furthermore, the enterprise of science began with th goal of understanding God
- consider the earliest scientists, people like James Boyler and Johannes Kepler

Peter Atkins:
- that was 300 years ago, we’ve moved on

Mark Haville:
- what about Max Planck then?

Stephen Meyer:
- how about James Clark Maxwell?

Mark Haville:
- we need to focus on the facts

Peter Atkins:
- what do you mean by the facts?

Mark Haville:
- well the fact is that Darwinism has no mechanism to produce new information

Peter Atkins:
- well copying errors introduces beneficial mutations

Stephen Meyer:
- let’s focus on where we get the first information from the simplest organism
- you can’t account for the first organism by appealing to copying errors
- to add functionality to a program, you need new lines codes from an intelligence
- once you have life, you can generate some new information
- but you can’t generate macro-evolution either

Peter Atkins:
- if we give you your explanation for teh origin of life, will you give this up

Stephen Meyer:
- of course! I’m a former theistic evolutionist
- but right now the evidence is not there for it
- we have to decide these questions based on what we see with our own eyes today

Peter Atkins:
- but I pre-suppose materialism as the starting point of all explanations
- you’re just intellectually lazy to abandon my pre-supposition

Stephen Meyer:
- why is it is less intellectually lazy to insist that materialism is true
- we are making plenty of predictions, and isn’t that what science is about?
- consider Junk DNA – you guys said it had no use
- now we know it has a use

Peter Atkins:
- naturalists were open to the idea that junk DNA might have a use before ID

Moderator:
- Dr. Meyer, what about the wall that locks out intelligence as an explanation?

Stephen Meyer:
- if these are interesting questions, then we should allow freedom of inquiry
- that’s how science advances

Peter Atkins:
- for all their science-talk really they are just saying God did it
- people who don’t agree with me are not using their brains, like I do
- to give up on my pre-supposition of materialism is a denial of humanity

Mark Haville:
- there are important issues that are affected by our view of origins
- everyone who hasn’t seen Expelled movie should definitely see it

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Casey Luskin and Stephen C. Meyer discuss the Cambrian explosion

The latest episode of ID the Future is short and sweet – only 7 minutes long.

Details:

On this episode of ID the Future, Casey Luskin sits down with Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, author of Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Dr. Meyer explains his inspiration for writing Darwin’s Doubt and discusses the main piece of evidence that Darwin could not explain in his theory.

Special limited time offer: Save 43% and get 4 free digital books when you pre-order Darwin’s Doubt.

You can grab the MP3 here.

Topics:

  • what evidence caused Darwin to doubt his own theory of evolution?
  • has the progress of science made the problem more, or less, problematic for naturalists?
  • why is the problem of the Cambrian explosion so significant in biology?
  • how many animal body plans are there in total?
  • how many animal body plans emerged suddenly in the Cambrian explosion?

If you haven’t yet read Meyer’s first book, “Signature in the Cell”, you should probably grab that one. It’s the best book on intelligent design that’s out right now. It talks about the origin of the first living cell, surveying all naturalistic explanations for it, and concluding that the best explanation – the one most consistent with what we know now – is intelligent design.

Filed under: Podcasts, , , , , , , , , ,

Mormonism and Christianity: which one is supported by evidence?

The scientific evidence

One area where we can test the two religions is in the area of cosmology. What does each religion claim about cosmology?

First, let’s take a look at what the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, believes about the origin of the universe:

“The elements are eternal. That which had a beggining will surely have an end; take a ring, it is without beggining or end – cut it for a beggining place and at the same time you have an ending place.” (“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 205)

“Now, the word create came from the word baurau which does not mean to create out of nothing; it means to organize; the same as a man would organize materials and build a ship. Hence, we infer that God had materials to organize the world out of chaos – chaotic matter, which is element, and in which dwells all the glory. Element had an existance from the time he had. The pure principles of element are principles which can never be destroyed; they may be organized and re-organized, but not destroyed. They had no beggining, and can have no end.”
(“Scriptural Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith”, p. 395)

A Mormon scholar named Blake Ostler summarizes the Mormon view in a Mormon theological journal:

“In contrast to the self-sufficient and solitary absolute who creates ex nihilo (out of nothing), the Mormon God did not bring into being the ultimate constituents of the cosmos — neither its fundamental matter nor the space/time matrix which defines it. Hence, unlike the Necessary Being of classical theology who alone could not not exist and on which all else is contingent for existence, the personal God of Mormonism confronts uncreated realities which exist of metaphysical necessity. Such realities include inherently self-directing selves (intelligences), primordial elements (mass/energy), the natural laws which structure reality, and moral principles grounded in the intrinsic value of selves and the requirements for growth and happiness.” (Blake Ostler, “The Mormon Concept of God,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 17 (Summer 1984):65-93)

So, Mormons believe in an eternally existing universe, such that matter was never created out of nothing, and will never be destroyed.

What do the best Christian theologians believe about the origin of the universe?

“By what means did you make heaven and earth?  What tool did you use for this vast work? You did not work as a human craftsman does, making one thing out of something else as his mind directs… Nor did you have in your hand any matter from which you could make heaven and earth, for where could you have obtained matter which you had not yet created, in order to use it as material for making something else?  It must therefore be that you spoke and they were made.  In your Word you created them.” (Augustine, Confessions 11.5.7.)

“As said above (Question 44, Article 2), we must consider not only the emanation of a particular being from a particular agent, but also the emanation of all being from the universal cause, which is God; and this emanation we designate by the name of creation. Now what proceeds by particular emanation, is not presupposed to that emanation; as when a man is generated, he was not before, but man is made from “not-man,” and white from “not-white.” Hence if the emanation of the whole universal being from the first principle be considered, it is impossible that any being should be presupposed before this emanation. For nothing is the same as no being. Therefore as the generation of a man is from the “not-being” which is “not-man,” so creation, which is the emanation of all being, is from the “not-being” which is “nothing”.” (Summa Theologica, part 1, question 45)

“Let this, then, be maintained in the first place, that the world is not eternal, but was created by God.” (John Calvin, Genesis)

“We firmly believe and simply confess that there is only one true God … the Creator of all things visible and invisible, spiritual and corporeal; who from the very beginning of time by His omnipotent power created out of nothing both the spiritual beings and the corporeal.” (The Fourth Lateran Council of 1215)

So who is right? Has the universe always existed or did it come into being out of nothing?

Breaking the tie

To break the tie, we must use the ordinary tools of investigation – logic, science, historical methods, and so on. Let’s use science this time.

The Big Bang cosmology is the most widely accepted cosmology of the day. It is based on several lines of evidence, and is broadly compatible with Genesis. It denies the past eternality of the universe. This peer-reviewed paper in an astrophysics journal explains. (full text here)

Excerpt:

The standard Big Bang model thus describes a universe which is not eternal in the past, but which came into being a finite time ago. Moreover,–and this deserves underscoring–the origin it posits is an absolute origin ex nihilo. For not only all matter and energy, but space and time themselves come into being at the initial cosmological singularity. As Barrow and Tipler emphasize, “At this singularity, space and time came into existence; literally nothing existed before the singularity, so, if the Universe originated at such a singularity, we would truly have a creation ex nihilo.

[...]On such a model the universe originates ex nihilo in the sense that at the initial singularity it is true that There is no earlier space-time point or it is false that Something existed prior to the singularity.

Christian cosmology requires such a creation out of nothing, but this is clearly incompatible with what Mormons believe about the universe. The claims about the universe made by the two religions are in disagreement, and we can test empirically to see who is right, using science.

The historical evidence

You can find other disagreements between Christianity and Mormonism, if you are not so busy putting on make-up like politicians and journalists are. For example, Christianity is monotheistic (one God) and Mormonism is polytheistic (many gods). That means Mormonism is more like Hinduism than it is like Christianity – Mormonism and Hinduism even agree on the eternally oscillating universe. You can read all about it, with citations from Mormon scholars, in this article, authored by Baylor University professor Francis J. Beckwith. Or you could take a look at the history of Mormonism, and see if the claims made in the religious texts of Mormonism are historical. Or you could take a look at the prophetic claims of the founder of Mormonism and see if they were accurate.

Here’s an examination of the historical basis for the Mormon Scriptures, for example:

This is how responsible people evaluate religions to see whether they are all the same as the others, and, more importantly, if one is true. The point of religion is not to make people feel good, or to make them have a sense of community. The point of religion is to know how we got here, where we are going, and what we are supposed to be doing – as matters of fact.

As long as you don’t assume, before doing any research, that all religions are the same, and that all of their claims are equally untestable, then you can actually investigate things and come to some conclusions. Investigating is good, but watching debates with different views that feature public, testable evidence is also a good idea. The important thing is that you are serious about evaluating the testable claims of different religions, and that you don’t assume that choosing a religion is just like taste in clothes or taste in food, which varies by time and place and is really not making objective propositional claims about reality, instead of subjective claims about individual tastes and preferences. Just because you were born into a country that believed that the Earth was flat (or round) that wouldn’t take away the obligation on you to test those views and go looking at other views using the tools of logic, science and historical analysis.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. Ben Carson’s story, and hour-long appearance Friday on Hannity

Two articles from the American Spectator about Ben Carson to provide background for his hour-long appearance on Hannity’s TV show Friday night on Fox News Channel.

First article from the American Spectator introduces Ben Carson.

Excerpt:

Dr. Ben Carson is fast becoming America’s Doctor.

And he will make an hour-long house call with Sean Hannity in a Hannity Special on Fox News Friday night.

Along with a handful of guests in an on-set audience, of which I will be privileged to be one.

Dr. Carson, of course, has been in the news lately for this speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. In which, with a surgeon’s precision, the good doctor deftly dissected both Obamanomics and Obamacare — with President Obama seated two seats away.

If you aren’t yet familiar with Dr. Carson you should make the time.

Here is a man whose single mother, one of 24 children — you read that right — married at 13, had two children (Ben and his brother Curtis), eventually finding out that her husband had an entirely different wife and family. Which is to say, he was a bigamist and soon departed from Ben’s family when the discovery was made by Ben’s mother. He was as well a man with an alcohol problem. Mom had a third grade education.

Not exactly an auspicious start for a young African-American kid in Detroit.

But Mom — that would be Sonya Carson — presented with her share of life lessons that every human being walking must face, was paying attention to her two boys. First, she set the example herself. Determined to avoid the welfare system, she worked “constantly,” Carson tells us. Her faith in God having her insist to her son, “Bennie, we’re going to be fine.”

No. she said, you cannot watch television all the time. She laid down a rule — one of many. Young Ben would not be allowed more than two or three TV programs a week. What he must do instead is read two books from the Detroit public library — and write book reports on each.

So began Ben Carson’s lifelong love affair with education — with reading. Dutifully, he would make the trek to the library, read the two books of his choice, write up book reports — and get them back from his mother with a check mark to acknowledge his work.

Did I mention that Sonya Carson couldn’t read? No matter — only much later would young Ben figure this out. In the meantime Ben Carson went from being called “dummy” by his fifth grade friends to a top student at Yale University not to mention the top of his class at the University of Michigan Medical School. And now one of the world’s most accomplished (not to mention famous) physicians, presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush.

Second article from the American Spectator talks about why the left-wing media hates him. This one is by Dr. Paul Kengor of Grove City College. (H/T Ram)

Excerpt:

Liberals continue their hysteria over remarks made by Dr. Ben Carson at the National Prayer Breakfast last week. Carson, a prominent pediatric surgeon from Johns Hopkins University, dared to weigh in on healthcare — something he knows something about, and certainly knows better than Barack Obama. In the liberal mind, Carson committed a grave transgression; he had dared to disagree with Obama, and in Obama’s presence.

In a discussion of Carson’s moral effrontery, Candy Crowley, host of CNN’s State of the Union, asked her panelists whether they were offended by Carson’s comments. “He [Carson] was talking about the idea of, you know, weaving the Bible into some objections he appears to have with the president’s approach,” said Crowley, as if the president would never likewise do anything so outrageous. Count Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky among the offended. She told Crowley: “I think it’s… not really an appropriate place to make this kind of political speech and to invoke God as his [Carson’s] support for that kind of point of view.”

In truth, what the likes of Crowley and Schakowsky object to is the mere fact that someone publicly disagreed with Obama on healthcare, and especially in the context of faith. This was sheer blasphemy. For liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans are never permitted to use their faith to disagree; no, only liberal Democrats enjoy such freedoms. I could give a thousand examples illustrating the point; I’ve written entire books doing so. For now, however, here are some particularly salient examples involving Obama, liberals, and healthcare reform:

From the very first year of Obama’s presidency, the Religious Left (Obama included) incessantly claimed God’s support for their vision of healthcare reform. This was no surprise whatsoever, just as it was no surprise that the liberal press was not only not outraged but silently supportive. There was nary a whimper of protest from liberal journalists, let alone their usual howls (when a Republican cites his faith) of “separation of church and state!”

For instance, in August 2009, Obama addressed a “virtual gathering” of 140,000 Religious Left individuals. It was a huge conference call to liberal Christians, Jews, and other people of faith. Obama told them that he was “going to need your help” in passing healthcare reform. Christ-like, Obama penitently invoked a period of “40 Days,” a trial of deliverance from conservative evildoers. He lifted up the brethren, assuring them, “We are God’s partner in matters of life and death.”

Like a great commissioning, in the 40 Days that followed the Religious Left was filled with the spirit, confidently spreading the word, pushing for — among other things — abortion funding as part of an eternally widening “social justice” agenda. A group called the Religious Institute, which represented 4,800 clergy, urged Congress to include abortion funding in “healthcare” reform. To not help poor women secure their reproductive rights was unjust, declared the progressive pastors. As the Rev. Debra Hafner, executive director of the Religious Institute, complained, federal policy already “unfairly prevents low-income women and federal employees from receiving subsidized” abortions.

Watch him Friday night for the full hour of Hannity.

My previous articles on Dr. Carson: 1) his opposition to Darwinism and his persecution by Emory University, and 2) the National Prayer Breakfast speech that rocketed him to national fame.

Filed under: News, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dr. Ben Carson: a distinguished scientist who doubts Darwinism

I found an interesting post about Dr. Ben Carson on Evolution News. This is the same Ben Carson who lectured Obama on the merits of a flat tax and individual health savings accounts at the National Prayer Breakfast.

Excerpt:

Dr. Ben Carson’s accomplishments, personal and professional, are simply astounding. Although the world now knows him as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at one of the world’s greatest hospitals (Johns Hopkins), a groundbreaking surgeon, best-selling author, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom (phew!), Dr. Carson wasn’t exactly born into his success. Raised in Detroit by his impoverished single mother who could hardly even read, Dr. Carson initially struggled greatly in school; that is, before rising to the top of his class and earning a scholarship to Yale University. To say his life journey is inspiring seems both inadequate and unnecessary.

So why did so many Emory professors and students protest his invitation to deliver the 2012 commencement address? Dogmatists in academia disapproved of, and perhaps were threatened by, Dr. Carson’s rejection of Darwinian evolutionary theory. As he mentions in his interview at IDTF, Dr. Carson has found unavoidable scientific evidence of purpose and design throughout his medical studies, and not just in the human brain:

I think one of the most damning pieces of evidence against evolution is the human genome. You can see that you have very complex, sophisticated coding mechanisms for different amino acids, and various sequences that give you millions of different genetic instructions — very much like computer programming, which uses a series of zeros and ones in different sequences, but gives you very specific information about what that computer is to do.In the end, Dr. Carson gave his address and President Wagner of Emory University promised to perform background checks on future commencement speakers to screen out Darwin-doubters.

Dr. Carson when on the ID the Future podcast to explain his whole ordeal dealing with the Darwinian censors at Emory University. Have a listen. It’s 10 minutes long. Dr. Carson also mentions two areas of the natural world that are at odds with materialist dogma: the origin of the universe and the origin of life (biological information). He also brings up common design as an explanation for similarities between organism, the same re-use that good engineers do when designing software.

I keep everyone to avoid non-quantitative majors in higher education, and to stick with science, technology, math and engineering. One reason to do this is for the money, but another reason is to avoid being persecuted by the high priests of naturalism. Well, it turns out that there are some areas of science to avoid, unless you know what you are doing. Just ask Bill Dembski.

Filed under: News, , , , , , ,

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