Tag Archives: Theism

Video of the Stanford debate between Jay Richards and Christopher Hitchens

Remember this debate?

Atheism vs. Theism and The Scientific Evidence of Intelligent Design
Sunday, January 27, 2008 at 4pm PST, Stanford University

Christopher Hitchens — Contributing editor to Vanity Fair; visiting professor, New School in New York; author of God is Not Great.
Jay W. Richards — Research Fellow and Director of Acton Media at the Acton Institute; co-author, with astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez, of The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos Is Designed for Discovery.

I just found the 10 videos in a youtube playlist. Each video is about 10 minutes.

Part 1 is just introductory, so I skipped it.

Here’s part 2, which is the start Hitchens’ opening speech:

Part 3 is the rest of Hitchens and the start of Richards’ opening speech:

And part 4, which is the rest of Richards’ opening speech:

You can click through to the playlist for the rest. Or you can listen to the full MP3 audio provided by Brian Auten of Apologetics 315.

This is the one where Richards gives his famous line “A sneer is not an argument and insults do not constitute evidence”. Richards has his Ph.D in philosophy from Princeton University, and he is extremely careful with logic and arguments.

Related posts

Phillip E. Johnson lectures on science and the pre-supposition of materialism

Have you all heard of Phillip E. Johnson, the UC Berkeley professor who is the father of the intelligent design movement?

Here is a lecture by Phil in which he explains the relationship with materialist philosophy and the practice of science.

The MP3 file for lecture is here. There is some Q&A at the end.


  • Can the diversity of life be explained by purposeless material processes?
  • What can changes over time have scientists actually observed?
  • What is the difference between micro-evolution and macro-evolution?
  • Has macro-evolution ever been observed?
  • Can observations of micro-evolution be extrapolated to prove unobserved macro-evolution?
  • What causes people to doubt that material processes can account for all of life?
  • Is evolution compatible with Judeo-Christian monotheism?
  • How do scientists respond when you ask them for evidence of macro-evolution?
  • Are observable mutations generally helpful or harmful?
  • How do scientists who pre-suppose materialism deal with dissenting scientists?
  • Why was the theory of Darwinian evolution accepted by early scientists?

Highly recommended. Phil is one of my favorite authors.

The one point you need to take away from this lecture is that if a scientist assumes a philosophy of materialism, then they will never be able to find evidence of intelligent causation in nature. They can look at all the evidence they want, or no evidence at all, and the answer will always be “no-God did it”.

So, consider the Big Bang. No-God did it. The fine-tuning? No-God did it. The origin of life? No-God did it. Molecular machines? No-God did it. Cambrian explosion. No-God did it. Origin of consciousness? No-God did it. Origin of free will? No-God did it. Origin of human rights? No-God did it. Origin of objective morality? No-God did it. Bodily resurrection? No-God did it. Galactic fine-tuning? No-God did it. Planetary fine-tuning? No-God did it. And so on. What else could have done it, once you assume matter is all there is?

The thing to do is to ask them what reasons they have for believing that this pre-supposition of materialism is absolute and undeniable. What is the evidence for it, that does not already assume it?

But many people change their pre-suppositions as evidence piles up that they are wrong. A combined approach is best. Surface their pre-suppositions and make them defend them. Then, stack up evidence against the pre-suppositions, e.g. – how can matter be all there is if science shows us that the entire physical universe came into being out of nothing in the Big Bang?

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)


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

– 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
– 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

Can a meaningful standard of good and evil exist without a Designer?

Check out this post over at Tough Questions Answered.


If you truly believe that there is evil in the world, then you must believe that there is good in the world as well.  We can’t know what is wrong unless we know what is right.  We can’t know a crooked line unless we know a straight line.  We can’t know injustice unless we know justice.

But if there is real good and real evil in the world, then there must be an ultimate standard, a measuring stick by which to judge goodness and badness.  This measuring stick must be perfect, so that all moral activity can be compared to it, just like determining the straightness of any line requires a perfectly straight line by which to compare.

My previous post on this issue is here. The best post I’ve ever done on the problems of evil and suffering is here.

Moral judgments make no sense if the universe is an accident – there is no way we ought to be. The best that atheists can do is personal preferences or cultural conventions. But that’s just taste and fashion, not right and wrong. Atheism is an amoral worldview.

Atheists: please comment in one of my posts that I linked above, and read the post first. I’m not going to debate the TQA post here.

UK’s Chief Rabbi blames atheism and Darwinism for falling birth rates

The article is in the UK Telegraph. (H/T MercatorNet via ECM, Big Blue Wave)


The leader of Britain’s Jewish community claimed the continent’s population is in decline because people care more about shopping than the sacrifice involved in parenthood.

He blamed atheist “neo-Darwinians” for Europe’s low birth rate and said religious people of all denominations are more likely to have large families.

[…]The Chief Rabbi warned that secular Europe is at risk, however, because its moral relativism can easily be defeated by fundamentalists.

And he claimed that its population is also in decline, compared with every other part of the world, because non-believers lack shared values of family and community that religions have.

Lord Sacks said: “Parenthood involves massive sacrifice of money, attention, time and emotional energy.

“Where today in European culture with its consumerism and instant gratification – because you’re worth it – where will you find space for the concept of sacrifice for the sake of generations not yet born?

“Europe, at least the indigenous population of Europe, is dying.”

“That is one of the unsayable truths of our time. We are undergoing the moral equivalent of climate change and no one is talking about it.

I blogged about the UK’s looming demographic crisis previously.

So the Chief Rabbi seems to be in agreement with my views on atheism and morality. Logically speaking, atheism simply doesn’t meet any of the minimum requirements for rational morality. The problem for atheism is that the decision to commit to a marriage for life and to have children involves massive self-sacrifice. But on atheism, life is just about having happy feelings before you die – so they cannot rationally ground the decision to marry and procreate.