Wednesday, 1 June 2011

The Infinite Monkey cage-BBC radio 4

I listened to this piece of jokey atheist triumphalism on radio 4 the other day. Apart from the usual side swipes against theists (none on the panel to give a response, as BBC bias theory would predict) we heard some stuff about dark matter and dark energy, some hope that the famous CERN large hadron collider would come up with some answers as to why the universe was expanding at a very different rate to what big bang theory predicts.

There was also a welcome, if guarded, admission from Steve Jones that new discoveries about DNA revealed more questions than answers. We apparently have fewer genes than might be expected, less than a cabbage, Jones asserted. So how do our extraordinarily complex bodies build themselves and function so well? The obvious response to this is that there is something other than genes at work. The evidence points to a master operating system the complexity of which we cannot begin to fathom. The DNA that codes for proteins is only a small percentage of the whole. We can sequence the gene that codes for collagen, but how is the collagen made into specific tendons to move muscles? It all looks like design, but way beyond anything our best scientists can do.

Regardless of whether or not science will unlock the mysteries of the operating system that assembles the products of the genes into a living being, the question as to how this level of purposeful complexity came to be without mind is not answered. No wonder that Brian Cox and his chums like to rely on humour, what sounded like canned laughter, and side swipes at soft targets like Harold Camping (who was denounced as a false prophet by Christians everywhere before his prophecied end of the world failed to materialise on 22nd May)

The issues of the origin of information in DNA or the validation of intelligent design theory by the discovery that 'junk' DNA is nothing of the kind was not raised except in as much as theism was dismissed as a cop out. Better to trust in Darwin of the gaps than confess the limits of science.

I couldn't help thinking how much more interesting The Infinite Monkey Cage would be if, for example, Stephen Meyer had been asked to join in, but he would have asked some naughty questions and spoiled the atheist materialist consensus. Can't have that can we? There might have been children listening, we can't allow them to hear any doubts about Darwin.

Incidentally, the programme's title relates to an evolutionist myth that an infinite number of monkeys with typewriters would eventually write the works of Shakespeare. This is pure Darwin of the gaps, there is no sound theory or experimental evidence to back it. When someone tried an experiment with a dozen or so monkeys in Paignton zoo, Devon, the results were as intelligent design theory would predict. The monkeys shit and pissed over the typewriter and hammered on it, producing a rather small amount of perfect nonsense. not even a single correctly spelled word emerged.

Meaning only ever comes from mind. That's not an assertion or faith position, but an observation. If meaning were to be observed deriving from a non intelligent source, it would falsify intelligent design theory. But it hasn't been seen yet.

The programme was supposed to be about questions that science could possibly never answer. It came across as materialist self congratulation


  1. Great new blog, I look forward to more articles from you.

    best Wishes


  2. Actually I think the show made an interesting and valid point: We know relatively little about anything, but they try to take that tiny fragment of knowledge and extrapolate all of existence. Wow, that's a big ask.

    Also, I'd like to point out that the "monkey cage" theory that you mentioned has nothing to do with the theory of evolution - it is a statistical theory where the upshot is: If you generate random characters on a keyboard infinitely, then eventually those characters will appear in every possible combination, this would include the complete works of shakespear, or the Bible, or in fact any text ever created past present and future. Also remember that this is hypothetical (good luck trying to find an infinite number of monkeys, let alone the keyboards/typewriters - must cost a fortune in Bananas!)


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