Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Stephen Meyer versus Keith Fox on intelligent design

Last night I listened to a podcast discussion on Premier Christian Radio between Stephen Meyer, author of ‘Signature in the Cell’ and a theistic evolutionist, Professor Keith Fox of Southampton University. The podcast can be found here

I thought Meyer made his case very effectively. He set out the case for the intelligent design hypothesis explaining how it is not religious but derives from what we know about life, and in particular what we know about information, the main subject of his book. When we study, as Meyer has, DNA and the science of information and consider the precise, compact and multi-layered hierarchies of digitally coded information stored on the DNA molecule, we have cause to ask how this information originated. We then, as Meyer explained, infer to the most reasonable explanation. Design, necessity or chance? How can we test this?

We can test it by observing the characteristics of information bearing systems that we know empirically were designed. We have abundant evidence of such information arising from minds, but not a single example of meaningful information arising from mindless processes. Not even an excuse for one. It is therefore entirely rational to imply a designing mind based on what we know from empirical observations about the natural world. As Meyer, whose Cambridge PhD was in the philosophy of science, explained, this is the exact same process of reasoning which Darwin and Lyell applied-look at currently operating causes and effects in the world today and use them to make assumptions about the past.

His opponent Keith Fox in response simply re-stated the traditionalist Dawkinist faith position. ‘Natural selection could have done it…you’re appealing to a God of the gaps…..given enough time it must have happened…science asks how.’ As is so often the case when rationalistic arguments against Darwinianism are put, he did not seem to have grasped what Meyer was saying and had no answers but to appeal to authority and a Darwin of the gaps. ‘OK, we have no idea how life or information originated’ he was forced to admit ‘…but science is working on it and we know that it ‘could have’ happened by evolution.’ (NB I paraphrase, you can listen for yourself to see how fairly I have reported the debate-ED)

At no point, and he was given the opportunity, did Professor Fox explain how his ‘theistic’ version of evolution differed from that of the materialists. He seemed not to want to be labelled as a materialist, but failed to explain how his world view differed from, say P Z Myers or Sam Harris. I have always wanted to ask a professing Christian who laps up the evolutionism of Dawkins what he hopes to gain by distancing themselves from those who challenge that godless view. The interviewer did not ask this question.

I hope that Stephen Meyer will bring out a shorter version of the excellent ‘Signature in the Cell’ for the general reader, there are strong science arguments in it that should be more widely heard in the origins discussion. But sadly I have little hope that it will persuade those who cling to their iconic Darwin of the gaps as they recoil from the idea of the Big Scary God, who if able to create near instantaneously, can also resurrect our dead bodies and bring us into judgment-as Jesus said He will. They will go on denying the clear and positive evidence of design that the whole of existence from the level of the atom to the cosmologic constants, our bodies and especially our brains, shows. We deny this in culpable ignorance.

I hate washing dirty linen in public, but it ill behoves prominent Christians in science to side with the enemies of the faith. People like Fox do not even seem to bring a distinctive version of evolution to the table, not even explaining, if Genesis and John 1 vs1-5 are metaphor, what they are metaphors of. These issues deserve further consideration. For pity's sake, why are so called Christian evolutionists running a mile from the very concept of design? design stares us in the face and has at the very least a respectable minority putting forward reasoned scientific defence for it, why are Christians in Science lining up to do Dawkins' work for him (albeit more politely) against the ID movement? Has he ever heard the phrase 'useful idiot'?

When Meyer was on a book tour in the US, Dawkins refused invitations to debate with him although he was on a US book tour as well, on the grounds that Meyer was a young earth creationist. Meyer denied this and insisted that his arguments were from mathematics and biology, as he clearly showed on this Premier Christian radio interview. Darwin defenders routinely side-step the severe challenge to their beliefs from the intelligent design hypothesis by misprepresenting their opponents as young earth creationists (they are not)and using the demarcation dispute. This is a disgrace and a cop out. If evolutionists refuse to engage with the issue of information as set out by Meyer, they are clinging to a faith position in the teeth of the evidence.

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