The host of the Cross Examined radio show Dr. Frank Turek talks with Stephen C. Meyer and Doug Axe about a recent conference of Royal Society scientists discussing the problems with the theory of macro-evolution.
the main topic was whether naturalistic mechanisms can produce new body plans and new organ types
no one disputes micro-evolution: beaks changing size, antibiotic resistance
many of the naturalistic scientists admitted the problems with current naturalistic theories, but they don’t want to embrace the need for a designer
none of the proposals that were debated solved the real problems with macro-evolution
Problem #1: the sudden origin of body plans in the fossil record
Problem #2: the origin of information (e.g. – in protein molecule)
Problem #3: need for favorable early mutations (for body plans)
Problem #4: the problem of epigenetics
Problem #5: the universality of the design intuition
Some of these problems have actually gotten worse for naturalistic evolution as our scientific knowledge has grown.
If you want the two best books on intelligent design, get Dr. Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell” and “Darwin’s Doubt”. I should note that Dr. Meyer is not a young Earth creationist, and has defended the Big Bang cosmology as a solid evidence for a Creator of the universe. Being in favor of an old universe and an old Earth is compatible with being opposed to evolution – because of scientific reasons.
Evolution News reported on a 27-minute debate featuring Dr. Stephen C. Meyer – probably the best proponent of intelligent design there is.
We often say that Darwinists are reluctant to debate advocates of intelligent design, but here are two who deserve a tip of the hat. Keith Pannell is a chemist at the University of Texas at El Paso who hosts a program, Science Studio, on the NPR station there. He invited Stephen Meyer on to talk about the science of ID, pegged to the Dover anniversary.
Clearly Pannell is an ID critic so he gets kudos for being willing to have a civil and informative conversation. Perhaps feeling insecure about facing the author of Darwin’s Doubt by himself, Dr. Pannell invited a biologist colleague, Ricardo Bernal, to serve as “co-host.”
So it was two against one, but no worries. Meyer is, as always, superb, and the discussion sounds like it was an education for the two Texas scientists. Listen and enjoy.
Critic: but we used the scientific method to disprove the Darwinian predictions, you don’t like the scientific method
intelligent design proponents love science, and the scientific method, and they do work in labs to confirm their hypotheses, (WK:for example, the probability of generating a protein by chance)
Critic: what about the Dover court case that you lost?
the Discovery Institute objected to actions taken by the Dover school board
Critic: what about the molecular machines, how are they related to intelligent design?
even in the simplest living organisms, there are tiny machines that are tightly integrated, and cannot be built up in a stepwise fashion
Critic: I’ve worked with the ATP-synthase and other molecular machines, but “you can kind of begin to tease how some of these molecular machines have come about” – pieces have multiple functions, and they are co-opted into larger systems
the problem with the co-option argument breaks down when you look at the specific details of different machines
for example – the type III secretory system cannot be an precursor to the bacterial flagellum, it is younger, not older than the bacterial flagellum
Critic: what would it take for your view to be falsified?
demonstrable undirected processes that are capable of creating functional information in DNA, or processes that can build up an irreducibly complex molecular machine within the time available with a decent probability
If you like this debate, check out Stephen C. Meyer’s two books: “Signature in the Cell” and “Darwin’s Doubt”. They are now out as audio books, too.
My friend Bruce shared this post from Reasons to Believe about some recent research on DNA.
Naturalists like to argue that DNA somehow came into existence randomly, but it turns out that not only is DNA marvelously improbable for even the simplest living organism, but it also requires a lot of support from other areas of the cell in order to remain stable.
In 2015, three scientists won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for decades of research into DNA—research that reinforces the idea that evolution is mythology and makes the modern evolutionary theory of abiogenesis seem more and more indefensible. It turns out that DNA is inherently unstable, and the preservation of genetic information requires a complex symbiotic relationship between the cell and DNA that is so interdependent that neither could have arisen independently of the other.
DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the giant organic molecule which carries and preserves an organism’s genetic information. DNA is essential to the growth and reproduction of life-forms because precise copying and self-replication of DNA is a critical part of the process of cell division.
Tomas Lindahl, the first Nobel laureate, has demonstrated that the rate at which DNA decays should have made the development of life on Earth impossible.1 The Nobel Committee expresses this on a personal level: “you ought to have been a chemical chaos long before you even developed into a foetus.”2
So why doesn’t our genetic material disintegrate into complete chemical chaos? It is because of molecular repair mechanisms within the cell. The three Nobel laureates “mapped, at a molecular level, how cells repair damaged DNA and safeguard the genetic information.”3 They found that a multitude of molecular systems constantly monitor the genome and repair any damage.
One such mechanism discovered by Lindahl is base excision repair, which explains why our DNA doesn’t collapse. A base of a nucleotide often loses an amino group and becomes unable to form a base pair, thus breaking the DNA chain. But an enzymedetects the error, and other enzymes repair it so that the DNA can replicate properly.
Paul Modrich, the second laureate, discovered another molecular mechanism calledmismatch repair. Replication errors often occur as the DNA is copied, but Modrich found that enzymes continually detect most of these errors, and other enzymes repair them. The Nobel Committee says this “reduces the error frequency during DNA replication by about a thousandfold.”4
One further issue that DNA must contend with is mutations, caused by DNA damage due to radiation and a variety of mutagenic substances. For example, radiation might make two base pairs bind to one another incorrectly. But the third laureate, Aziz Sancar, discovered that through a mechanism called nucleotide excision repair, enzymes will cut out, remove, and replace a damaged DNA strand.
We have long known that the cell could not reproduce without DNA, but we now know that DNA would self-destruct without the cell. It is this complex symbiotic relationship between a cell and its DNA that makes the modern evolutionary theory more difficult to defend.
[…]This research shows that for abiogenesis to occur, undirected, random processes must have anticipated the inherent instability of DNA and assembled the cell with the variety of enzymes necessary to prevent the self-destruction of DNA. Additionally, the cell’s chemistry, the self-preservation instinct, and anticipatory DNA repair mechanisms must have all come together at the same instant in time within only 1 billion years; otherwise, any nascent life could not have survived. If the probability barrier to evolution seemed like climbing Mount Improbable before, it has now become climbing Mount Impossible.
Could simple single-celled life-forms emerge and evolve into more complex life? Single-celled life-forms are not so simple. For example, the genome of an aerobic hyper-thermophilic crenarchaeon (a thermophilic archaea, a type of bacteria) consists of 1.7 billion base pairs, which is almost 60 percent of the 2.9 billion base pairs in thehuman genome.5
So, not only is it fantastically improbably to 1) get the building blocks of life, and 2) build the sequence of base pairs in DNA, but 3) you also have to have supporting systems to maintain the DNA in the cell: even more specified complexity.
It’s not out yet, but the Kindle edition is only $12.99, so I pre-ordered it. That helps to get the book up in the bestseller lists. I’ll add it to my list of books that I am reading for the third quarter later, and maybe feature it in the coveted spot in the right column of the blog.
Anyway, here is the description:
Throughout his distinguished and unconventional career, engineer-turned-molecular-biologist Douglas Axe has been asking the questions that much of the scientific community would rather silence. Now, he presents his conclusions in this brave and pioneering book. Axe argues that the key to understanding our origin is the “design intuition”—the innate belief held by all humans that tasks we would need knowledge to accomplish can only be accomplished by someone who has that knowledge. For the ingenious task of inventing life, this knower can only be God.
Starting with the hallowed halls of academic science, Axe dismantles the widespread belief that Darwin’s theory of evolution is indisputably true, showing instead that a gaping hole has been at its center from the beginning. He then explains in plain English the science that proves our design intuition scientifically valid. Lastly, he uses everyday experience to empower ordinary people to defend their design intuition, giving them the confidence and courage to explain why it has to be true and the vision to imagine what biology will become when people stand up for this truth.
Armed with that confidence, readers will affirm what once seemed obvious to all of us—that living creatures, from single-celled cyanobacteria to orca whales and human beings, are brilliantly conceived, utterly beyond the reach of accident.
Our intuition was right all along.
Trailer is here:
Evolution News has a deal for those who pre-order:
A remarkable thing about evolutionary theory is the way it demands that we deny our intuition at almost every step. Evolutionists then assure us that the science is all figured out, so we needn’t trouble our silly heads about the relevant biology.
In a new book, Douglas Axe of Biologic Institute turns this standard assurance on its head. In Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed, Dr. Axe restores the place of intuition alongside intellect in considering the question of life’s origins.
Undeniable will be published on July 12 by HarperOne, but you can pre-order before then and participate in an exclusive, private conference call with Dr. Axe and talk- show host Michael Medved. You’ll also receive digital versions of three complete books from Discovery Institute Press: Debating Darwin’s Doubt, The Unofficial Guide to Cosmos, and Science & Human Origins. See here for easy instructions.
And now, I have a secret story to tell you. I met Doug Axe face to face way back in the late 1990s. He told me and some other people about the post-doctoral work he was doing at Cambridge University on the probabilities of getting a functional protein by chance. He made me promise not to tell anyone, and I never did. It was from conversations like that with the intelligent design scholars that I decided to start using an alias.
Doug Axe’s research likewise studies genes that it turns out show great evidence of design. Axe studied the sensitivities of protein function to mutations. In these “mutational sensitivity” tests, Dr. Axe mutated certain amino acids in various proteins, or studied the differences between similar proteins, to see how mutations or changes affected their ability to function properly. He found that protein function was highly sensitive to mutation, and that proteins are not very tolerant to changes in their amino acid sequences. In other words, when you mutate, tweak, or change these proteins slightly, they stopped working. In one of his papers, he thus concludes that “functional folds require highly extraordinary sequences,” and that functional protein folds “may be as low as 1 in 10^77.”
The problem of forming DNA by sequencing nucleotides faces similar difficulties. And remember, mutation and selection cannot explain the origin of the first sequence, because mutation and selection require replication, which does not exist until that first living cell is already in place.
He published his findings in four separate publications with the prestigious Journal of Molecular Biology, and got his PhD with it. To get a PhD from Caltech, and then do post-doctoral work at Cambridge, you have to be good. And Dr. Axe is very, very good.
I have used the papers he wrote in many, many conversations with engineers in different companies where I have worked. He hit a home run with that research. You could never look at the evidence for intelligent design the same way again. Christian parents, if you have any children, be sure that you tell them about Doug Axe’s story.
Stephen Meyer is a leading proponent of Intelligent Design who directs the Centre for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. His [first] book “Signature in the Cell” claims to show that the DNA code is the product of intelligent mind, not naturalistic processes. Keith Fox is Professor of Biochemistry at Southampton University. He chairs the UK Christians in Science network but disagrees strongly with ID. They debate how life could have originated and whether design is allowed as an explanation in science.
Summary: (stuff in italics is my snarky paraphrase)
background and how he got interested in intelligent design
his research focus is on the origin of life – the first replicator
summarizes the history of origin of life studies
authored the book “Signature in the Cell”
the DNA enigma: where did the information in DNA come from?
naturalistic explanations of the DNA information have failed
but intelligent agents are known to be able to produce information
the best explanation of the information in DNA is that an intelligent agent authored it
Meyer’s book was named by atheist philosopher of science Thomas Nagel as a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year in 2010
why is design so controversial? Many people think that Darwin explained why nature appears design
the Darwinian view is that nature can create the appearance of design using mutation and selection
however, Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain the origin of the first living cell, it assumes replication, and the origin of life is about where the first replicator comes from
Meyer’s argument is not about the evolution of life after the first cell
Meyer’s case for design is about the origin of life
naturalists do not know a naturalistic explanation for the origin of life
there are a number of naturalistic hypotheses for the origin of life, like the RNA-first hypothesis
maybe in a few years one of them will turn out to be correct
what intelligent design is arguing from a gap in our current naturalistic knowledge to infer that God intervened in nature
that’s not what intelligent design is at all
the approach ID theorists use is the inference to best explanation
you evaluate all explanations, non-intelligent causes and intelligent causes
you prefer the best possible explanation
we know that minds are capable of producing information just like the information we find in DNA
living cells replicate, so they have the ability to introduce mutations as they replicate and then some of those mutations can be selected
so maybe the process of replicating that living cells do created the first living cell
maybe the first living cell created itself, X brought X into being, self-creation, what’s irrational about that?
the issue is the origin of life – where did the first living cell come from?
you cannot appeal to the operations that a living cell can perform to explain the origin of the first living cell
there was no first living cell operating before the first living cell
there was no replication, mutation or selection before the first living cell
in fact, in my book I show that there is no known naturalistic mechanism that is able to produce the information needed for the first living cell
nothing can create itself, that is self-contradictory
Well, you are just saying that because something is complex that God did it
Sadly, no. What I actually said needed to be explained was the information, not complexity
And we know from software engineering that the process of adding information to code is performed by programmers
in the absence of any adequate naturalistic explanation for information, we are justified in taking the explanation that we are familiar with – namely, intelligent agency – based on our uniform, universal experience of what causes information
well, maybe we can appeal to the mutation and selection in existing living cells to explain the origin of the first living cell
maybe there were living cells before the first living cell, and then these other living cells created the first living cell
we can’t keep invoking mutation and selection when those processes are not operating prior to the origin of the first living cell
well maybe some bare-bones self-replication molecule was a precursor to the first living cell
even to generate very limited replicator would require a large amount of information
the argument I am making is – where does the evolution come from?
well, maybe we will think of an explanation for information that is naturalistic in 20 years
we’ve thought of explanations to things that were NOT information before
so maybe we will be able to think of something to explain information based on our ability to explain NOT information before
Moderator: Change topics: the Dover decision
the Discovery Institute opposed the policy that causes the trial
the wording of the statute was poor
the judge was completely wrong in his decision
young earth creationists used the phrase “intelligent design” to cover their agenda
intelligent design is an inference using the normal methods of science
intelligent design is a science stopper because it stops looking for a naturalistic explanation
everything in nature must have a naturalistic explanation
everything has to be explained using matter and time and chance
it just has to be that way!!!!
well, what luck would you have explaining an effect like Mt. Rushmore?
can you explain that using matter,time and chance?
Mt. Rushmore was the product of intelligence, not wind and erosion
similarly, there is information in the cell, and we know that intelligence causes information
So you are saying that we don’t understand and therefore an intelligence is necessary?
no I am saying we DO understand and we are making an inference based on that understanding
you are the one who is insisting on a material explanation because you pre-suppose materialism
we know that minds have causal powers, and we can infer mind as an explanation from information
well nature is a seamless chain of material causes and effects
agents can act without violating the laws of nature
even humans can act as intelligent agents to create information in books, and they don’t violate the laws of nature
intelligent causes are real, and they explain effects in nature
you’re trying to impose on science something to do with meaning and purpose
no that’s not what we’re doing, we’re inferring from from the fact that we ourselves are known causes of information to the fact that an intelligence cause is the best explanation for information in the cell
but I am a materialist, I need a materialist explanation
mind IS an answer to the how question
we infer to mind in many other scientific disciplines, like cryptography, archaeology, etc.
a materialist might accuse an archaeologist of engaging in a “scribe-of-the-gaps” argument, but the best explanation of an artifact with information is a scribe
we are inferring that mind is the cause from the nature of the effect: information
Moderator: is it appropriate to call DNA “information”
well DNA is just a molecular polymer, any reference to information is just by analogy
DNA is a molecular polymer, but it also exhibits the property of specified complexity
the arrangement of bases, which function as machine instructions in a software program, for performings task in the cell
we have observed that the property of specified complexity always comes from an intelligence
well, maybe there are other sequences that would work, so maybe it’s really not uncommon to develop functioning sequences by chance alone, without an intelligence
you can measure how precise the functional specificity is in DNA and proteins
Moderator: is Shannon information the same as functional information
Shannon information refers to the sequences of digits or symbols that do not necessarily have any function, i.e. – a four character string QSZX has as much Shannon information as WORD. However, only the latter is functional against the pattern of the English language. There are arrangements of DNA bases and amino acids that have the same number of symbols/characters as a functional sequence would have, but they have no biological function – they do not exhibit specified complexity
Well, maybe there are lots and lots of sequences of DNA and proteins so that it is fairly easy to get a functional one by chance
DNA sequences that are functional are extremely rare, protein sequences are even more rare
this is not my opinion, this is what the research shows – functional protein sequences are rare
well maybe there are other functional sequences that are occur before the first functional sequence that are precursors to the first functional sequence
maybe there are billions of years of replication, mutation and selection before the first replication, mutation and selection
you can’t get to the first selectable functional sequence by appealing to precursor selectable functional sequences – there are no selectable functional sequences before the FIRST one
you have to get the first selectable functional sequence by chance alone, because there is nothing to mutate or select before the first replicator
the chance hypothesis has been rejected because the minimal amount of information for the simplest replicator is too high to get by chance alone, given the resources, including time, that are available
Moderator: Keith are you confident that naturalism will be able to substantiate these naturalism-of-the-gap speculations that you offer in response to Meyer’s actual science that we have today?
well, it is hard to know for sure because it was just a fluke event
but there’s nothing irrational or unscientific or miraculous about it – the fluke would have a material explanation
there is nothing that we can detect that would implicate God, my speculations about a fluke which I cannot observe or measure or test would all be compatible with an atheistic worldview that omits God as a causal entity
where are those material processes that could account for this fluke then?
the whole point of this argument is that the information in DNA transcends the material components in the sequence
it’s the arrangement of the material parts/letters/characters/symbols/instructions that needs to be explained
Well, I just have a different philosophy of science that rules out intelligent causation a priori
Yes, that’s the difference between us – you pre-suppose that all explanations of natural phenomena must exclude intelligent causes
There is a bit more where Meyer talks about how parts of the cell are implementations of various design patterns (Gang of Four design patterns) that are used by software architects who design software.