Alex Berezow and Stephen Meyer talk about God and Evolution on the Michael Medved Show | The BioLogos Forum


(system) #1

Intro by Brad: Alex Berezow is the editor of Real Clear Science, a popular site that features both daily curated aggregation of news articles and a plethora of original science journalism. He’s also a friend and supporter of BioLogos (as well as a past blog author). We were happy to learn that he mentioned BioLogos during an appearance on Michael Medved’s talk radio show. Medved has generously allowed us to publish the audio clip featuring Berezow, as well as the Discovery Institute’s Stephen Meyer. The focus of the clip was Meyer’s new book Debating Darwin’s Doubt, a follow-up to his popular and controversial book Darwin’s Doubt (which was extensively reviewed on this site). Topics included irreducible complexity, extraterrestrial life, the origin of life, and whether science can be used to demonstrate God’s existence. Below is the audio clip, followed by some brief reflections by Berezow on the conversation.

https://soundcloud.com/ioogos/02-medved-show-7-21-2015-h2-debate-evolution-vs-intelligent-design

Stephen Meyer is incredibly intelligent and personable. It was a delight to meet him in person and to engage in a friendly discussion on the Michael Medved Show.

Though Meyer’s “information challenge” to natural selection raises a valid point worthy of discussion, ultimately I think his argument fails for three major reasons.

First, as Dennis Venema has extensively and excellently discussed on BioLogos (see here and here), evolutionary biologists are beginning to unravel the mechanisms by which new information can arise. The relatively recent advent of whole-genome sequencing has allowed biologists to peer into the molecular mechanisms underpinning the creativity that results from evolution shaped by natural selection. Though it is certainly true that evolutionary biology is far from understanding how all novel genes evolve, it has definitively demonstrated that new information can and does arise from natural processes.

Second, I believe that demonstrating the existence of intelligent agency with the tools of science is impossible. If it was possible, then all biologists would be religious believers. Thus, I find myself in agreement with the philosopher Alvin Plantinga who (forgive me if I’ve misinterpreted him!) believes that though we might perceive design in nature, it is best to base neither our science nor our theology upon this perception. Someday, evolutionary biologists may indeed figure out how all novel information arose via natural selection. That would be bad news for people whose faith is at least partially predicated upon a belief in Intelligent Design (insofar as it involves miraculous divine intervention), not to mention that it would constitute yet another failed “god-of-the-gaps” argument.

Finally, I believe that Intelligent Design misses a larger theological point. There is a very real limit to human knowledge and logic. We have been warned by philosophers such as Søren Kierkegaard against the temptation to learn of God primarily through objective fact: “If I am able to apprehend God objectively, I do not have faith.” Thus, any effort to demonstrate the existence of God primarily through scientific evidence is undermined from the start and doomed to fail.

In conclusion, as Deborah and Loren Haarsma wrote in their book Origins, I wholeheartedly agree that God’s Word and God’s World are never in conflict. Ultimately, that is why I fully embrace the truths we learn from both and find myself in concordance with the philosophy and theology of BioLogos.

The audio file above is published with permission from The Michael Medved Show.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blog/alex-berezow-and-stephen-meyer-talk-about-god-and-evolution-on-the-michael

(Lou Jost) #5

Though Meyer’s “information challenge” to natural selection raises a valid point worthy of discussion…Someday, evolutionary biologists may indeed figure out how all novel information arose via natural selection. That would be bad news for people whose faith is at least partially predicated upon a belief in
Intelligent Design (insofar as it involves miraculous divine intervention), not to mention that it would constitute yet another failed “god-of-the-gaps” argument.

I am surprised that Alex would validate Meyer’s “information challenge” and would imply that biologists still don’t know how “information” gets into the genome by natural selection. The theoretical aspect of that problem was solved already by Darwin. Variation plus natural selection over time automatically leads to genome sequences with higher reproductive success. A genome thus becomes correlated with the environment, ie, it gains “information” (I use “information” here in the sense in which Meyer uses it, not the technical definition as Shannon entropy). We can (and often do) mimic this process in computational genetic algorithms to solve problems that are too complex for analytical solutions.

The gap in our knowledge is that we still don’t know all the sources of variation and all the mechanisms of recombination, etc, which act on the genome. We keep finding more sloppiness in the system, more sources of variation. As far as we can tell, even just the available sources seem to be sufficient to lead to the level of adaptation we see today (at least, the IDers have never been able to find valid evidence to the contrary), and adding more sources of variation will just make it that much harder to argue that divine guidance or intervention is needed.


#6

Hi @BradKramer or Alex Berezow,
If, as you state, demonstrating the existence of intelligent agency with the tools of science is impossible, then do you think that SETI’s research program is ill-conceived? After all, they are searching for signs of intelligent agency with the tools of science. In your opinion, shouldn’t they just stop all that nonsense?


(David Schwartz) #7

A debate between Meyer and Nye would have been much more interesting to have watched than the Ham-Nye debate.


(Lou Jost) #8

I too am skeptical of that claim. I can imagine situations that would lead biologists to accept ID. If nothing else, there could actually be a “signature in the cell”, a DNA fragment in a specific position in all forms of life that said “Jesus” (or “Buddha” or “Allah”–the designer doesn’t have to be the Christian god, of course). That’s an extreme example but it does kill the “impossibility” argument.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #9

@loujost

How do you know that some deity’s signature isn’t there? It could be there, but in some future language ‘X’ that nobody knows yet because our age is too primitive to be worthy of getting any such confirmation directly (which is your implied assumption about all ages previous to us, and other cultures through history not privileged enough to be contemporary English).

Or much more likely yet: It could be that the sought signature is written in a universal language, in every cell, on every mountain, in every rainbow; and all human cultures have been given the capacity to rightly interpret meanings from all those things.


#10

Who else would like to see a debate between Dennis Venema and Stephen Meyer? Either in a face to face format or an exchange of essays like the one between Meyer and Darrell Falk.


(Lou Jost) #11

Sure, it could be there. That’s my point. It is not impossible that science could support ID.

About your second scenario, that everything is evidence of a designer, I guess the vast amount of suffering in the world implies that if there is a designer, he or she has a very sick sense of humor.

And if he had given human cultures the capacity to reason, he would also have realized that the kind of evidence you mention does not rationally lead to conclusions of design, so he’d have added something that really does act like a signature.


#12

This seems a rather shallow view. Is someone who designs an automobile sick, just because a drunk driver gets behind the wheel and drives over a cliff?


(Brad Kramer) #13

I moved 9 posts to an existing topic: The validity (and testability) of Michael Behe’s theories


(Lou Jost) #14

If the designer is omnipotent, and purposely includes bugs in the design (malaria, eye worms, etc), then yes.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #16

@MATT

I would also follow such a debate [as between Venema and Myer] and so forth. And I do think the essay exchange formats (with rebuttals and even responses to rebuttals) for such debates is most informative, if not quite as exciting as verbal debates. To me, verbal debates end up showing who is the most organized / prepared / witty / fastest thinking good speaker, and so forth; which may be entertaining, but is completely irrelevant to the pursuit of truth. Essays where writers have a chance to prepare and really put their best arguments forward without the adrenaline of a microphone in their face are much more effective, I think. So I really do like essay-posting sites like Biologos, and echo your call for more exchanges between thinkers who represent the best of their various overlapping and competing camps.


(Lou Jost) #17

I agree with Merv that well-considered, referenced essays and responses are much more informative than verbal debates. I think such essay-debates are rare on the internet and well worth the effort.


(mike) #18

I think much of this debate misses the deeper implication suggested by ID and, for that matter, evolution, as well. Too much time is spent debating the material and efficient causes of life and consciousness. The formal and final causes are far more important. The brute facts are: life exists and so do minds, minds that have shown the universe to be moving toward deep self awareness. Whatever gave rise to what we see ultimately has to possess these potentialities within itself or such things would have never arisen. This is a staggering implication. Yet, it is almost never discussed. Empiricists, if we are to take them seriously, have to do much better than the multiverse or the anthropic principle to explain these reality structures. They must explain not how, but WHY. The how is interesting but the why is foundational. So much of this debate pinions about the wrong discussion. Scientists may disdain philosophy because they work with brute facts. But a good scientist, I suggest, should be willing to follow the implications to their utter roots when not doing the “how.” One cannot just turn off the mental spigot because it is convenient in preserving one’s world view filter. Scientists often disdain philosophical contemplation because it does not produce lab results. Fine. Then keep your conclusions in the lab as well. Once one goes beyond empirical data collection, one has to begin to grope with far more difficult issues.
Ergo, let’s move to something much more interesting than ID versus evolution. Lets move to WHY the potentialities that find fruition in this universe exist at all. That is a subject really worth discussing.


(Brad Kramer) #19

@Bilbo

The statement you mention was written by Alex, not me. Alex is not available to comment, and I won’t try to unpack what he personally thinks about the matter, any more than he has already written.

However, I do think you’re on to something interesting and important, so here’s my own thoughts.

One of my favorite movies ever is Contact. Ever seen it? Absolutely fascinating movie. I’ve always found the SETI program to be a provocative window into our times, and Contact successfully deconstructs the longing for God behind it. While I personally have no problem with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe, I do think the huge output of resources towards that end in our times is symptomatic of our materialistic outlook. In other words, I think a lot of what drives the search for intelligence in the universe is a loss of ability to see the transcendent all around us. But I don’t think SETI should be shut down or anything.

And yes, I see the links between SETI and the ID movement. In fact, I think the strong resemblance between the movements is good evidence of what I wrote about on a separate thread about how ID unintentionally reinforces the materialistic worldview it seeks to oppose. Put simply, I think trying to find signs of intelligence and design in Nature subtly reinforces the notion that we live in a “purely natural” reality evacuated of essential meaning (in which meaning must be found only by empirically demonstrating the existence of a superior being or beings). I know that’s not how many ID folks see nature, but I think it’s a side consequence of their ideas.

Maybe another way to say this is that, in the modern scientific age, almost everybody subscribes to ID—the difference is simply in whether people think we’ve actually found the intelligent designer. And, as you might have guessed, I’m far more interested personally in deconstructing the entire modern worldview through the lens of Christian faith. Of course I’m with Alex in saying that BioLogos is on the right track.


(Lou Jost) #20

Whatever gave rise to what we see ultimately has to possess these
potentialities within itself or such things would have never arisen.

You are just assuming what you want to prove.


#22

Hi @BradKramer,

Correct me if I’m mistaken, but from the fact that you think that SETI should not be shut down, it appears that you disagree with Alex, and think that it is possible to demonstrate the existence of intelligent agency using scientific tools.


#23

Well, this is certainly an old argument, isn’t it. How could a perfect, all-knowing and all powerful creator God permit evil such as disease, accidents, wars, hatred, persecution, hurricanes, etc. Can’t say there is a good answer for this, other than the fact that Genesis indicates this did not come about until man rejected God. In the book of Job, he had questions for God. And finally came to grips with the fact that since God created him, he had to accept how he did it, and His right to it, however he did it and however he maintains it.

God does give us some choices… and how we choose will establish our relationship with God. So why would a perfect God allow us to reject Him?


#24

@johnZ @BradKramer @loujost

I very much like to verify the consistency of concidences that atheists and ECists have: they blame God for natural tragedies but never attribute them to evolution. Why?


(Christy Hemphill) #25

@piopio
How does an atheist blame God for anything if they don’t acknowledge he exists in the first place? And how is a theist acknowledging evil exists in a world God is ultimately sovereign over “blaming God” for evil?