Tag Archives: Expelled

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)


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 new 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. Because it is Friday, and he is a fool.

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 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

– 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

– 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

– 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

– 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:

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

– 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

Watch the full “Expelled” movie for free online

Is there a wall of separation between the religion of materialism and the scientific evidence? (H/T The Poached Egg)

What do the Darwinists do when someone tries to cross that wall?

Earlier in the week, I posted a lecture on the origin of life by Stephen C. Meyer, if you are interested in understanding what intelligent design is really about.

Related posts

A MUST-READ interview with Dr. William A. Dembski, author of “The Design Inference”

Who is William Dembski?

Dr. Dembski has taught at Northwestern University, the University of Notre Dame, and the University of Dallas. He has done postdoctoral work in mathematics at MIT, in physics at the University of Chicago, and in computer science at Princeton University. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago where he earned a B.A. in psychology, an M.S. in statistics, and a Ph.D. in philosophy, he also received a doctorate in mathematics from the University of Chicago in 1988 and a master of divinity degree from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1996. He has held National Science Foundation graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

I found this fascinating interview posted at “The Best Schools”. It’s an exceedingly great read. I could not take my eyes off of it until I read the whole thing.


TBS: You have stated that “design theorists oppose Darwinian theory on strictly scientific grounds.” But then why is the ID movement so heavily populated with religious believers? Could we not expect more of the scientific community to support ID if your statement were true? Why do the majority of the world’s leading scientific bodies oppose ID and claim that it does not qualify as science?

WD: The quote needs context. I’ve also written that intelligent design, besides being a scientific program, has a theological dimension, in trying to understand divine action, and a cultural dimension, in trying to overturn naturalism. So intelligent design is a number of things. But at its core, it is a scientific program. Indeed, unless there is good science to back it up, all the cultural and theological superstructures that people build on it will be in vain.

As for why religious believers tend to be associated with design, I could turn the question around. If Darwinian evolution is strictly scientific, then why is that field so heavily populated with atheists? In one survey of around 150 prominent evolutionary biologists, only two were religious believers (as I recall, Will Provine was behind this survey). I see a scientific core to both intelligent design and Darwinian evolution. And I see no merit in questioning their scientific status by the company they keep. The character of the proposals that both approaches make is what really ought to count.

But why, then, have so many scientific bodies turned against ID? I recall speaking at a symposium at Grove City College back in 2007, and University of Wisconsin historian of science Ron Numbers mentioning that over 100 professional scientific societies had issued formal denunciations of intelligent design. It’s probably more by now.

I’ve been unimpressed with these denunciations. In every case, they have seemed to me politically motivated, attempting to ensure that the professional society doesn’t lose face should some of its wayward members be perceived as sympathizing with ID. I recall the AAAS denunciation of ID. I was a member at the time, though I let my membership lapse subsequently. When my colleagues inquired into who was behind their denunciation and what materials they had read that convinced them to issue it, it became clear that the materials were unread and the denouncers didn’t understand what they were denouncing.

As for more scientists coming on board with ID if it were legitimate, I think this question misses the point. The question is not legitimacy, but incentives. There are no incentives for coming on board with ID save that one thinks it offers some interesting ideas and true insights. There is no federal funding for ID research. If it’s known that you accept intelligent design and you’re in the mainstream academy, you can expect your career to be derailed. Support ID and expect some pain.

On the other hand, if you denounce intelligent design, you score points. Think of Judge Jones (right) in the Dover v. Kitzmiller case. After ruling against ID in 2005, he was voted one of 2005’s ten most sexy geeks by Wired magazineTime magazine voted him one of the 100 most important thinkers of 2005. And the last I heard, he had been awarded four honorary doctorates (I’ve confirmed two of them). Jones’s claim to fame prior to Dover was not expertise in the theoretical underpinnings of evolutionary biology, but rather heading the Pennsylvania liquor commission.

I could recount case after case of mediocre academics who have done well for themselves (tenure, named professorships, etc.) by denouncing ID. And I can recount case after case of very bright individuals whose careers have been derailed for supporting, or even showing sympathy toward, ID. The documentary Expelled demonstrates this last point.

And more:

TBS: In 2000, after organizing and hosting a very successful and visible international conference (whose proceedings, coedited by you and Bruce Gordon, are now published as The Nature of Nature[ISI, 2011]), you were first demoted, then essentially fired, by Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. Can you explain how this came about? What were the ramifications of Baylor throwing you under the bus for you personally? What do you think the long-term ramifications of this incident have been for our intellectual culture as a whole?

WD: The short of it is that Baylor hired me to start an intelligent design think-tank, the Michael Polanyi Center, we put on a tremendously successful conference, and three days after the conference the faculty senate voted 27–2 to shut the center down. Not immediately, but a few months later, the Baylor administration acceded to the faculty senate’s wishes.

When I protested the center’s dissolution, I was fired as director from a center that had already ceased to exist. This, at Baylor—an ostensibly Christian institution. But in fact, the science faculty at Baylor were probably more Darwinian than their secular counterparts, having to prove that they were as “reliable” in their science as those outside.

The whole story is available online, arranged chronologically in a series of news articles: “The Rise and Fall of Baylor University’s Michael Polanyi Center.” If I had it to do again, I would never have gone to Baylor. But the past is past. It’s all there. It made national news. And Baylor got a black eye for its failure to respect freedom of thought and expression. But massive institutions like Baylor can handle a bit of battering. Private individuals who get chewed up by them are less fortunate.

The bottom line is that ID remains without the sort of institutional support that could accelerate its research and acceptance. I give the Darwinists credit here for their implacable opposition to ID. The Polanyi Center was the first and remains the last ID center at any college or university. It’s a sad commentary, not just on higher education, but on Christian higher education specifically.

One of the main lessons I’ve drawn from this is that most of the academic world, Christian included, is not so much concerned with truth as with fitting in and looking good. Perhaps I should have known that from the start. After the Polanyi Center closed, so too did much of the sympathy toward and curiosity about ID.  In many people’s minds, ID was no longer a winner, and people like to be associated with a winner. We saw the same phenomenon a few years later with the Dover trial.

But history teaches that truth has little to do with winning and losing. Christ—the one who calls himself “the way, the truth, and the light”— is hardly a picture of victory on the Cross. So, I never lose heart.

For me personally, the Baylor episode has been better in the aftermath than in its unfolding at the time. Lots of people rallied to me. And I gained many valuable conversation partners. I had enough visibility and support so that I could land on my feet. But it could easily have turned out worse.

As for the ramifications of this incident for our culture as a whole, I don’t want to read too much into this. I don’t think it should be read as a decisive battle that changes the course of a war. Rather, I would see it as emblematic of the corruption that had existed in the academy already. This incident merely underscored the degree to which secular ideology was and remains entrenched in the academy.

This interview is fairly long, and well worth the read. William Dembski is someone I admire a great deal. He is probably the toughest Christian I know. How could someone as intelligent as he is – with multiple Masters degrees, Ph.Ds and post-doctoral posts – persist in his Christian faith after having his career ruined by Darwinian fascists and cowardly Christian theistic evolutionists, too? If you ever wondered where my extreme disgust for theistic evolutionists comes from, the answers are in this interview. It is not easy to do what Bill Dembski did and come out the other side. People in evangelical circles seem to fixate on sports heros, musicians, theologians and pastors. But none of these comes close to the level of toughness and defiance of William Dembski. If the world were fair in any way, then Christians would know more about William Dembski and his academic work than they know about Tim Tebow – no offense to Tebow.

Republican lawmaker introduces bill to protect questioners of Darwinism

From the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.


An Arlington lawmaker has filed a bill aimed at protecting Texas college professors and students from discrimination because they question evolution.

The measure from Republican state Rep. Bill Zedler would block higher education institutions from discriminating against or penalizing teachers or students based on their research into intelligent design or other theories that disagree with evolution.

Zedler said he filed the bill because of cases in which colleges had been hostile to those who believe that certain features of life-forms are so complex that they must have originated from a higher power.

“We can have the academic freedom to have all kinds of ideas and philosophies but, lo and behold, even mention intelligent design and there are people that want to run you out of town on a rail,” Zedler said.

Zedler said fear of workplace discrimination is preventing evolution critics in colleges from speaking their minds.

“I do believe there are people that want to say something but … they’re afraid to because there are people around the country that have been discriminated against,” Zedler said.

Secular leftists place a great premium on getting “consensus” for whatever ideas provide maximum autonomy from moral obligations, whether the ideas are true or not. They don’t care whether the consensus is true, just that everyone agrees on it and that it produces good feelings. They just don’t handle differing points of view well… it confuses them and makes them anxious and frustrated. They are uncomfortable with concepts like being judged, or being punished. The don’t want anyone to disagree with their religion of materialism, which allows them to pursue pleasure apart from any objective moral obligations. Since the religion of materialism, which is so popular on the left, does away with morality, we have to be very careful to enshrine into the law protections for those who would dissent from this denial of objective morality. Otherwise you end up with cases like the Guillermo Gonzalez case or the Richard Sternberg case. There are no limits to what a materialist will do in order to keep up the illusion that no one is there to hold them accountable. They’ll believe anything. They’ll do anything. There isn’t anything in their materialism to stop them from committing atrocities. That’s why we need laws to contain their abuse of power.

A quotation from Martin Luther King, Jr. illustrates the point:

“It may be true that the law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”

Until the time where those on the secular left learn to accept dissent, and allow debate, without resorting to insults and personal attacks, laws that protect dissenters will be necessary.

Israeli education minister dismisses chief scientist for asking questions

Scary story from Haaretz.


The Education Ministry’s chief scientist sparked a furor among environmental activists and scholars Saturday with remarks questioning the reliability of evolution and global warming theory. The comments from Dr. Gavriel Avital, the latest in a series of written and oral statements casting doubts on the fundamental tenets of modern science, led several environmentalists to call for his dismissal.

“If textbooks state explicitly that human beings’ origins are to be found with monkeys, I would want students to pursue and grapple with other opinions. There are many people who don’t believe the evolutionary account is correct,” Avital said yesterday.

[…]Avital, who received bachelor’s and advanced degrees from Haifa’s Technion Institute of Technology, previously directed the aeromechanical arm of electronic-systems manufacturer Elbit.

Avital is the ministry’s first chief scientist to be drawn from outside the community of education scholars. A 20-year Likud member, he represented the party in an unsuccessful 2006 Knesset run.

[…]”Why are environmental organizations pressuring the government over alternative energy that is both unattainable and probably very costly? These questions cannot be avoided,” Avital wrote. “The answers to them are likely to surprise and possibly disappoint. But the moment science is enlisted for political ends – that is, in the name of ideology – questions arise as to the scientific basis of environmental organizations.”[…]In an article published last year in the newspaper Israel Hayom and other media outlets, Avital wrote, “There is no scientific proof that the rise in carbon dioxide leads to a rise in temperatures – I would recommend to scientists not to join this intimidation campaign, which is entirely predicated on the basis of dubious science.”

Now, let’s take a look at the “arguments” of the people who are trying to silence him.

Prof. Hava Yablonka of Tel Aviv University said Avital’s statements are tantamount “to saying that space should be given in textbooks to the view that the earth is flat and the sun revolves around it. It’s astonishing that the chief scientist of a government ministry can say such bizarre things.”

“Avital must resign from his position,” said Dr. Lia Ettinger, academic supervisor of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership in Tel Aviv. The chief scientist’s remarks, she said, “are similar to the Health Ministry’s chief scientist declaring that all the research linking cigarettes with cancer are nonsense. …Avital has removed himself from the consensus,” she said.

Notice how they take their questionable theory and say that it is similar to a completely unrelated theory for which we have observational confirmation. And then they say he stupid for not equating the two things, which is the very point under debate – is there evidence for the weaker theories like there is for the stronger theories, which he obviously accepts? Notice that none of the people who are trying to silence him brought up arguments. They just commit the fallacy of begging the question, and then they demand that he agree with them. It really just amounts to insulting him rather than refuting him. Is that science?