Tag Archives: Naturalism

MUST-LISTEN: Audio of debate between Stephen Meyer and Peter Atkins

Justin Brierley has put together an amazingly high-quality debate. 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 new book called “Signature in the Cell”. He explains intelligent design for beginners here in his CNN editorial.

Other stuff

Learn more about intelligent design

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

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
– peope 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

Darwinists present a solution to the Cambrian explosion

Story from Darwin’s God. (H/T ECM)

Excerpt:

Now, thanks to the latest research, we have the answer: calcium. Evolutionists are now saying that a rise in ocean calcium levels triggered the assembly of unicellular organisms into multicellular organisms and the rest, as evolutionists say, is history. What is astonishing is that there is anyone left out there who questions evolution. Can’t they see that these guys are doing the heavy lifting? This is just rock solid investigative research, the kind we’ve come to expect from evolutionists.

From the abstract of the paper:

We propose that stronger cell adhesion allowed the integrity of genetically uniform animals composed only of “self” cells, facilitating genetic constitutions to remain within the metazoan individual and be passed down inheritance lines. The Cambrian explosion might have been triggered by the coincidence in time of primitive animals endowed with self-/non-self-recognition and of a surge in seawater calcium that increased the binding forces between their calcium-dependent cell adhesion molecules.

It seems to me that the thing to be explained in the Cambrian explosion is “where did the NEW information come from for the NEW body plans”. Positing better glue to stick single cells together doesn’t address where the NEW code came from totally NEW body plans and NEW organ types.

Please post challenges on Dr. Hunter’s blog, as biophysics is his area of expertise.

Does Darwinism explain anything?

Dr. Cornelius Hunter answers the question here. (H/T ECM)

Here’s the criterion specified by naturalists to make an explanation scientific:

…in order to qualify as legitimate science a theory must distinguish between different outcomes. Naturalism is needed because otherwise each outcome is equally probable and the theory is not true science.

Deciding what does and does not qualify as legitimate science is notoriously difficult. There seem to be exceptions to every rule. But perhaps Felsenstein’s criterion is reasonable. Shouldn’t a scientific theory say at least something about the probabilities of what we might observe in the data?

Does Darwinism satisfy the criterion? Hunter argues that it does not.

Whatever we find in biology, evolutionists say it must have evolved. Their predictions and expectations are often falsified and they have to patch their theory repeatedly. And there is no distinction between a new, fantastic design and a repeated design–both are equiprobable under evolution.

If a new, fantastic design appears such as the trilobite eye, then evolutionists ascribe it to natural selection. If similar designs are found in different species, then it is ascribed to common descent. If later cousin species are found to lack the design, then common descent can be dropped as an explanation and the design can be said to have evolved independently. The evolutionary explanation is extremely flexible.

If distinguishing between outcomes is the hallmark of true science, then evolution is the theory that doesn’t qualify.

Read the whole thing!

Related posts

Climategate e-mails recall tactics used by Darwinists to stifle dissent

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer, writing in Human Events.

Excerpt:

There have been parallels cases where e-mail traffic was released showing Darwinian scientists displaying the same contempt for fair play and academic openness as we see now in the climate emails. One instance involved a distinguished astrophysicist at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez, who broke ranks with colleagues in his department over the issue of intelligent design in cosmology. Released under the Iowa Open Records Act, e-mails from his fellow scientists at ISU showed how his department conspired against him, denying Dr. Gonzales tenure as retribution for his views.

To me, the most poignant correspondence emerging from CRU e-mails involves discussion about punishing a particular editor at a peer-reviewed journal who was defying the orthodox establishment by publishing skeptical research.

In 2004, a peer-reviewed biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published a technical essay of mine presenting a case for intelligent design. Colleagues of the journal’s editor, an evolutionary biologist, responded by taking away his office, his keys and his access to specimens, placing him under a hostile supervisor and spreading disinformation about him. Ultimately, he was demoted, prompting an investigation of the Smithsonian by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.

Global warming alarmism and Darwinism are two sides of the same coin. The former is embraced to achieve socialism, the later is embraced to achieve secularism, which leads to moral relativism. Neither is true, so neither is interested in authentic scientific inquiry nor open-minded debates with dissenters. Non-theists don’t have a worldview that rationally justifies the moral requirements of scientific inquiry, so for them science is just something to be twisted to support hedonism.

Debating the Kalam argument in a YouTube thread

A new reader to the blog read my article on the Kalam cosmological argument, and he decided to try it out on youtube here. He presented the argument PERFECTLY, and then he got some responses. He asked me to comment, so I will below. But I want you guys to comment, too! (UPDATE: Comment in this post – I don’t recommend commenting in YouTube discussions)

Anyway, here’s the page. (I didn’t watch the video)

And here’s his initial presentation of the argument:

1 Whatever begins to exist requires a cause
2 The universe began to exist
3 Therefore, the universe requires a cause

The cause for the universe (time, space, matter, etc) must be something entirely different (outside the realm of time, space, and matter) since a thing cannot be the cause of itself.

Now I’ll reply to his opponents, but you can reply too in the comments, because he’s reading this post, and we should all try to offer him our thoughts. At the end, I recommend some additional resources, all free online, to help everyone understand the details of this fine argument.

Responses to the Kalam argument

Here’s the first reply:

Just because we don’t know the cause yet doesn’t mean it’s not something scientific. I’m not saying it is, I’m just saying it’s possible.

By “scientific”, I am thinking that this challenger is hoping for a material cause, but the problem is that the origin of the universe is the origin of all space and matter – so no “scientific” cause is possible. So it is not possible that the origin of the universe was caused by something “scientific”, because it’s an absolute origin of all matter, and the physical laws that govern matter, as well. Tell him that there is only one kind of non-material entity capable of causing effects and that is a mind.

Here’s another reply:

What if the universe always existed? We don’t know that it has started to exist, we just know that it exists and that it has existed for very long. So it is possible that it has always existed. So that doesn’t prove anything.

I would ask this person why they hate science so much to deny the good data about the measurements of red-shift in light from distant galaxies, the helium-hydrogen abundance measurements, the cosmic microwave background radiation, the second law of thermodynamics, the star formation cycle, etc. As them what is wrong with science, and why must they push their religion (naturalism) on science?

Here’s another reply:

The same principle can apply to god as well, so this argument doesn’t prove or disprove either it is just pointless.

My response is that the cause of the universe causes the beginning of time as well, and so therefore the cause exists necessarily, outside of time. Things that exist outside of time are eternal, they don’t not exist at time t1 and then begin to exist at time t2. The cause of time’s beginning cannot come into being itself, because there is no t1 and t2 before time is created.

Here’s another reply:

uhm .. no, there is no definition of god like that and even if it is it’s invalid, why ? well mostly because apart from a book “The Bible” there is no real proof he existed, no one has seen him and I’ll wager that no one ever will, henceforth you cannot define something that you really know nothing about, something that might not even exist, it’s like saying that bigfoot is a mammal. you can’t prove that either since you haven’t seen it and don’t even know if it exists

Notice that onlinesid produced an argument for the existence of God, and now this guy is bringing in the Bible (red herring), no proof (red herring), why can’t I see God (red herring), no one knows anything about God (red herring and self-refuting), and bigfoot (red herring). This person is clearly brain-damaged and not one of the things he write is worth a response. Note: I am being mean, but you can’t be mean when you reply to him, you have to tell them to stay focused on your argument and deny premise 1 or premise 2.

And here’s another:

You assume that the universe began to exist.

We currently don’t know if it did or not; the present hypothesis is expansion from a single point that is infinitely small.

You also assume that the cause of the universe doesn’t have a cause. You need to account for the cause of the cause, and the cause of that cause, ad infinitum.

And on “God being outside of” reality, then he shouldn’t be able to affect reality in any observable way. God is untestable.

Again, tell him he is a science-hating flat-earther and ask which of the empirical evidences for the Big Bang he denies. We need to get off of his speculations and evasions and ask him to deny a premise or to deny some scientific data. As soon as he does, ask him for peer-reviewed data that refutes the scientific observations. The cause of the universe doesn’t have a cause because it is outside of time and doesn’t begin to exist. The premise is that only things that begin to exist require a cause. Regarding God not being able to cause effects, you should say that God is a mind and causes effects in time subsequent to creation the same way that humans cause effects using their wills on their bodies.

Here’s another:

It’s called the “Big Bang” hypothesis. Even simple Wikipedia will besufficient for an understanding of it. Or videos on Youtube, if you are that lazy and/or ignorant.

The “evidence” for it is background electromagnetic radiation and the appearance that the universe is expanding. Among other things

The “mind” we perceive is the function of electrochemical impulses between our brain cells. We classify it as a “mind”. And as a physical system of reality, it is affected by physical reality..

Again ask him what is his scientific evidence that the universe is eternal, and ask him what is wrong with your scientific evidence showing that it isn’t eternal. You must make him make a claim and supply evidence for his claim. You need to buy a book called “God and the Astronomers” by agnostic Robert Jastrow and read it. It explains all the discoveries that led to the Big Bang, but get the second edition. Also, if he thinks that mind is biologically determined, then you need to explain that biological determinism makes rationality impossible, since all of our outputs are determined by inputs and DNA programming that has the goal of reproducing, not finding truth.

More challenges:

…The beginning of the universe need not be “God”. Could have been made by a pencil. Or could have always been, like a trigonomic function, repeating and diverging into two dimensions.

I think our boy is beginning to wear him down. He now thinks a pencil caused the entire physical universe to appear out of nothing. But the problem is that a pencil is made of matter and cannot have caused the beginning of all matter. But do go on and make him identify what he thinks the cause is. It can’t be in time, it can’t be matter.

More:

And the theist-point-of-view actually can in no way prove God because there are many OTHER ways it could have happened. A pencil could have been the original cause of the big-bang, or it could repeat like a trig function, eternally epanding, collapsing, expanding in another
dimension, etc.

He’s raising the oscillating model, which is falsified theoretically and observationally. In 1998, the discovery of the year was that the universe would expand forever. The oscillating model also faces theoretical problems with the “bounce” mechanism. Sid, if you still can, try your best in physics class, and take astronomy and physics in university, along with philosophy and logic. It will help you to have more fun in these debates and you’ll know more details.

More:

I did not say that the physical realm is all there is. (Thought there could be two realms, or more.) BUT asuming that an entity exists outside the physical realm and created this universe from that dimension IS illogical.

Ask him for a logical argument that proves that God cannot create matter out of nothing. These assertions need to be backed up with deductive arguments, with premises supported by scientific observations. You can’t just throw around that word “illogical”. It sounds like he is just saying “I don’t like it”. Make sure that you ask him for peer-reviewed papers for anything he says about science, and formal arguments for anything he says is “illogical”.

This time he argues quatum mechanics:

Small particles of matter, at least as I understand it, CAN be “created” from energy. The only real “trouble” is the creation of energy, which “god made it” faces the problem of “what made god?”…

If he wants to argue quantum mechanics, you need to remind him that virtual particles can only appear in a quantum vaccuum, which exists in space. It is not nothing. Also, virtual particles are not as massive as a universe, and those virtual particles only stay in existence for a fraction of a second. So this is not a good analogy for the origin of the entire physical universe.

Further study

You did well, you just need to be meaner in demanding that he bear his share of the burdern of proof. Ask him why you should accept his speculations and assertions, where are his arguments, where is his scientific evidence.

I think that this book would be a good one along with God and the Astronomers, second edition. But read this paper, too, and every William Lane Craig debate you can get your hands on, especially the one with physicist Victor Stenger (video, audio), the follow-up lecture at UC Boulder where Stenger is in the audience, and the second Craig-Dacey debate. When you’re done with that, listen to this lecture and this lecture (I know it’s similar to the first one, but tough!) and this lecture and this lecture. And study more physics if you’re still in school!

God meant for us to enjoy ourselves arguing in his universe. Jesus cured the paralytic to provide evidence for his claims. Similarly, we can use the evidence of nature miracles that science is just now discovering to get the same effect as though we could perform miracles. But we need to understand philosophy and physics down to the details.