Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Intelligent Design MP3 Audio by William Dembski and Sean McDowell

William Dembski and Sean McDowell do a seminar on understanding Intelligent Design. This is based on their new book.

Full MP3 Audio here.



bob said...

William Dembski and Sean McDowell do a seminar on understanding MAGIC.

Brian said...

Hey there Bob. Thanks for reading.

I assume you have listened to the seminar then? What specific points did you find objectionable and why?

Remember that ridicule is not an argument.

Mark Lefers said...

Do you really think that Bob is going to waste his time to listen to the seminar? If he’s anything like me, he is tired of “wasting” his time fighting against all the Gish Gallops out there. It is often fruitless to speak the truth about evolution to creationist/IDers like yourself or others on this blog. If people like yourself, really want to talk about the truth, pick up a current science book, or better yet a book that discusses all the problems with creationism and ID. I would recommend “Finding Darwin’s God”. It is written by a Christian who is will known in both the science community and in the creation vs evolution debate. He was a witness in the Dover trial. The trial that showed that ID is NOT science! Come on read the transcript of the trial, pick up a book, or take a basic evolution class. Brian, please I encourage you to stop tying a belief in creationism/ID with a belief in Jesus Christ. Posts like these are a major stumbling block. I myself have been lead astray by this marriage of creationism and the Gospel (i.e. how can I believe what Christians say about Christ, if they are so wrong about science which there is so much evidence for.)
If it would do you good for me to go through that seminar let me know and I can see if I can make time. However if the seminar is a form of a Gish Gallop, I’ll probably only have time to address a couple of items. If that is the case, is there a topic that you think is the strongest for ID? I don’t want to waste time attacking a straw man.

Brian said...

I don't have time to respond fully at the moment, but will get back to you...

By the way, have you watched the movie "Expelled"? And if so, what were your thoughts on it?

Mark Lefers said...

No I haven’t seen Expelled. The typical order I take belief in data is:
Original research > research reviews > books > documentaries > mainstream media (movies)
I would put Expelled even further below what I typically expect from mainstream media. I have seen a couple of reviews of the movie and the jest I got was that it was a joke and not even worth watching. However, if there is anything in that movie you think worth discussing let me know.

Brian said...

The reason I post things such as this audio is simply because it allows for someone to hear the position as presented by those who espouse it. This is in contrast to those who would critique someone's view based upon what others have said about that view, without first-hand examination, which I think is not helpful for anyone.

The reason I bring up Expelled is simply because this would be another view worth examining directly, rather than simply taking the reviews as a fully accurate reflection of those who espouse the position. Of course I don't agree with all the points in everything I am posting - but a wider view is helpful.

In addition, I think it helpful for discussion to look at specific points that the positions take and then talk about those points. This ID audio may provide that opportunity.

Mark Lefers said...

I would still recommend that you separate belief in ID and belief in the gospel. The general audience doesn’t make that distinction. By posting things like this along with post about the Christian faith, you are implying that both are true.
I don’t agree with your comment indicating that it is wrong to critique someone’s view without first-hand examination. I do this all the time when I watch or read the news. I wasn’t there, I don’t have time to get all the details, but I trust to some degree what they report. Why waste 2-3 hours watching a movie that has already been shown to be crap? I wouldn’t get anything done if I had to refute every Gish Gallop out there.
You say a wider view is helpful, but your blog has no theistic evolution posting. No rebuttal against creationism and ID. Not one posting by a scientific expert. Not a “wide view” I think.
I took your challenge and started listening to the seminar to discuss specific points. The first 10min were devoted to the ultimate two choices. One either believes that chance created everything (i.e. evolution) or that a designer designed everything (i.e. God did it). But this is a false dichotomy. There are many other worldviews out there. One I hold to is evolution that appears to be random that may or may not be designed/orchestrated/set into motion/controlled by God. I think it has the best of both worlds. It doesn’t ignore the scientific data for evolution, but still gives the warm fuzzies that God may have done it.
The first speaker than goes into two very typical ID arguments. 1) Fine tuning of the universe and 2) DNA hold information/design I won’t waste my time re-writing what others have already done. I’ll just point you to a couple links that are very informational:
1) Fine Tuning of the Universe
2) Information Theory
I would recommend spending time at Put in your reasons for why you believe creationism/ID and you’ll find out why you shouldn’t. It’s a great resource.
I’ll try to listen to the rest on my way home.

Mark Lefers said...

I finished listening to the seminar. Wow. They both completely don't understand how biochemistry works. One thing that did come across was that they seem to truly believe what they say. The both seem like very nice guys. It just troubles me that people so sincere can be totally misled about something. Unfortunately listening to things like this often make my Christian doubt more sever, because I realize how gullible people are and how they really don’t care about understanding the data. Is the same true for the Christian faith? I don’t know. But when faith and belief in evolution are so tightly connected, it makes it hard to untangle the two.

Brian said...

Here is a talk that might be useful... as you had mentioned wanting to hear something from an expert. How about Alistair McGrath with a doctorate in molecular biophysics?

See here.

Mark Lefers said...

Alistair McGrath might be a good choice for topics on historical, systematic and scientific theology, but not on evolution/creationism/ID. Experts would be someone working in the field like Francis Collins or Kenneth Miller.

Jesrael said...

Dembski has responded to so-called "criticism" of his work on talkorigins (nothing but exercises in obfuscation):

Obsessively Criticized but Scarcely Refuted

Obviously there will be rebuttals and counter-rebuttals in a heated debate. But if you want to know who has the last word, look here

Mark Lefers said...


The problem with Dembski arguments is that he doesn’t understand the science BEHIND all his probability and evidence for design. Probability calculations are worthless without an understanding of the system. We don’t fully understand all the interactions at the body, cellular, molecular, atomic, sub-atomic, etc. level. How can one attach any type of probability to these things? He doesn’t attach feedback loops, attraction/repulsive forces, self assembly, evolutionary forces, etc. to his probability calculations. This IS the problem with Dembski arguments.

I ran into an example in the store the other day. I was looking at a Newman’s Caesar salad dressing and was amazed at the multiple layers that had separated out. The design of the multiple colored layers seemed designed, and technically they were (Newman added these ingredients together). But it was the natural characteristics of those ingredients that over time separated into what appeared to be design. It is the same way with life. Sure there appears to be design. And maybe there is someone who designed it (put all the ingredients together). But it is the naturalistic forces (evolution) that are involved in the processes of life. This doesn’t rule out that God continually is in control of these processes. But similar to the way I feel I’m in control of what I do every day, so it “appears” that nature is left alone to do what nature does.

Christian are better off arguing that God created life and is continuing to create life with the process of evolution that He created and is in charge of. It may look “random” to us, but He is still in control. It’s similar to the relationship of the appearance of free will and the reality of predestination.

Jesrael said...

btw, I'm not a creationist. I accept standard geological and cosmological dating. I also think(non-darwinian) common descent is plausible upto the level of classes and orders. But the various phyla seem to have been created suddenly ~500 million years ago in the Cambrian Explosion.

Mark Lefers said...


Denial of evolution sometimes intrigues me. I’m curious why you accept all the other scientific finds such as geology, cosmology, and certain aspects of evolution (what you would term micro evolution). But when it comes to what is sometimes referred to as macro-evolution you don’t believe the scientific consensus.

You are correct that the various phyla seemed to have been created suddenly ~500 million years ago. But this “suddenly” is on the terms of a geological time scale. This “explosion” is on the range of ~30 million years and at the shortest maybe 5-10 million years.

The following is a good explanation from

It's important to remember that what we call "the fossil record" is only the available fossil record. In order to be available to us, the remains of ancient plants and animals have to be preserved first, and this means that they need to have fossilizable parts and to be buried in an environment that will not destroy them.

It has long been suspected that the sparseness of the pre-Cambrian fossil record reflects these two problems. First, organisms may not have sequestered and secreted much in the way of fossilizable hard parts; and second, the environments in which they lived may have characteristically dissolved those hard parts after death and recycled them. An exception was the mysterious "small shelly fauna" -- minute shelled animals that are hard to categorize -- that left abundant fossils in the early Cambrian. Recently, minute fossil embryos dating to 570 million years ago have also been discovered. Even organisms that hadn't evolved hard parts, and thus didn't leave fossils of their bodies, left fossils of the trails they made as they moved through the Precambrian mud. Life was flourishing long before the Cambrian "explosion".

The best record of the Cambrian diversification is the Burgess Shale in British Columbia. Laid down in the middle-Cambrian, when the "explosion" had already been underway for several million years, this formation contains the first appearance in the fossil record of brachiopods, with clamlike shells, as well as trilobites, mollusks, echinoderms, and many odd animals that probably belong to extinct lineages. They include Opabinia, with five eyes and a nose like a fire hose, and Wiwaxia, an armored slug with two rows of upright scales.

The question of how so many immense changes occurred in such a short time is one that stirs scientists. Why did many fundamentally different body plans evolve so early and in such profusion? Some point to the increase in oxygen that began around 700 million years ago, providing fuel for movement and the evolution of more complex body structures. Others propose that an extinction of life just before the Cambrian opened up ecological roles, or "adaptive space," that the new forms exploited. External, ecological factors like these were undoubtedly important in creating the opportunity for the Cambrian explosion to occur.

Internal, genetic factors were also crucial. Recent research suggests that the period prior to the Cambrian explosion saw the gradual evolution of a "genetic tool kit" of genes that govern developmental processes. Once assembled, this genetic tool kit enabled an unprecedented period of evolutionary experimentation -- and competition. Many forms seen in the fossil record of the Cambrian disappeared without trace. Once the body plans that proved most successful came to dominate the biosphere, evolution never had such a free hand again, and evolutionary change was limited to relatively minor tinkering with the body plans that already existed.

Hope this helps.

Brian said...

I had hoped that Jesrael would have addressed Mark's response; and specifically the example.

I think the example Mark used falls short in a number of ways. First, it shows a lack of understanding of the basic ID detection method. There is a difference between complexity and specified complexity that is completely left out in the example. The example of the salad dressing layers is mere complexity. However, in basic ID literature one of the first things they claim is that you cannot attribute design to something that is complex unless there is an external criterion to judge the complexity by. The standard example is being dealt a full house in a game of poker. The hand is very rare statistically, but no different than any other combination; UNLESS there is an external pattern that you can judge it by. You know that if you have been dealt a full house three times in a row that the probability is very high that it was by design or the product of an intellect -- and this is because that pattern is not just complex, but specifically complex.

Second, Mark's example of the salad dressing also is a tacit admission that detection of design vs. non-design is something we do every day. And it is very easy to determine when something is complex because it was random vs. if it was complex by design (for instance, the salad dressing label.) The salad dressing label was complex in that it carried information with specific meaning. That part was obviously designed.

It would be good to do some reading regarding Dembski's presentation of universal probability bounds. There comes a point when certain things (in particular, the cosmological constants) become very, very improbable. The improbability becomes so great it is considered to be zero. That is the very reason that many try to point to the multiverse (with no evidence) because they have to allow themselves more probabilistic resources... that is to say, this universe doesn't give us the chance to even believe that it was accidental, so they are forced by their denial of God to posit the unseen, no-evidence multiverse hypothesis to give themselves the slightest chance. Why would ANYONE posit a mulitverse?-- because they are admitting that this one is SO "fine-tuned" that it has to be "just one of an infinite amount" (or a very large number of universes).

Regarding the complexity and apparent design of life (which Dawkins admits it looks designed), some non-theists welcomes such ideas such as directed panspermia (maybe life was seeded here) in order to allow themselves some sort of help. There just isn't enough time to do the evolving in the present estimates of the age of the earth. This is the non-theist reason for proposing directed panspermia.

The point is this: you cannot rule out the possibility of a designer a priori.

For specifics, see here.

Jesrael said...


Estimating probabilities is not that hard. In ID we are not calculating exact values-only reasonable upper bounds which are much easier to calculate. Empirical data like mutagenesis tests on enzymes show that there are many more non-functional sequences of amino-acids than functional ones.

Regarding the actual probabilities: look at this paper

The probability of getting a functional sequence of amino-acids is like 1 in 10^77. And thats just for one enzyme. And you need dozens before you get the first life form. Only then can natural selection even begin to operate.

Mark Lefers said...

You’re example of a full house is still missing the point. If by the nature of the cards, cards of the same number stick together (i.e. 10’s stick to 10’s) then the odds of having 3 10’s and 2 7’s becomes more probable. Does this point to a designer? The argument is better if one says a designer designed the nature of the cards. With regards to evolution, it is better to say the designer designed evolution. With regards to the fine tuning of the universe, it is not known why there are specific cosmological constants (i.e. why gravity is what it is). Maybe that is the ONLY way. So making up a probability is worthless, because there could be only a finite number of ways. The problem is that we just don’t know.

Your point about detecting design vs. non-design in every day life is great. Yes we are good at doing that. So when there are thousands of examples (maybe millions, I haven’t counted them) of evolution, I can make a pretty good guess that another example of design came about by evolution.

The multiverse comes out of theory (check out wikipedia). There will never be any evidence as understood by today’s science, because by definition it is outside of our universe. If they were detected they would be in our universe and hence not another universe.

Are you really saying that cosmology is driven by a “forced by their denial of God to posit the unseen, no-evidence multiverse hypothesis to give themselves the slightest chance.”? This is implicating some sort of conspiracy theory that even some Christians are a part of. I don’t think you want to go there.

Panspermia is not a completely crazy idea. That’s one of the things considered when looking for life on Mars. Would there be the same building blocks? Would there be transfer of life between Mars and Earth? The advances in abiogenesis indicate that panspermia is not required for the explanation of life on Earth. Panspermia today is not proposed because there isn’t enough time for evolution. It is held onto because the Earth is bombarded regularly by material from other planets. I think Panspermia is slowly being ruled out because of the amount of radiation life would have to endure in space. But the latest data regarding water bears may help this hypothesis.

I agree you can’t rule out things a priori, but things are better explained by evolution.

You say ID is only calculating upper bounds, is that why they always calculated some fantastic number like 10^77, when in reality it could be anything less, even something like 1.
You say, “Empirical data like mutagenesis tests on enzymes show that there are many more non-functional sequences of amino-acids than functional ones.” But it is the functional ones that get passed on.

I looked at the paper you reference briefly. Dr. Axe calculates the plausibility of amino acid sequence at 10^77 to provide resistance to penicillin. But this is another one of those “whirlwind in a junkyard" calculations. Does he really think that this enzyme had no precurouser? Does he really think this was one of the earliest proteins? I doubt if the earliest life needed the ability to survive treatment with the antibiotic penicillin.

Jesrael, we started talking about evolution, and now you are talking about abiogenesis. Does that mean that you now believe in evolution?

Brian said...

I understand your point about the nature of certain elements having attractions and the like. I think you are trying to make light of the fact that various elements have properties that cause them to bind to one another and that we shouldn't expect complete randomness, but certain "laws of attraction" that make certain outcomes more likely than others.

However I think you are missing MY point on the deck of cards. By the way, I am not EQUATING the deck of cards to biological functions, properties, or origins. My point on that is simply that as a way of detecting design, you must have an sort of external pattern that you are judging the complexity by in order for it to qualify as specified complexity. Then it could be considered a candidate for an intelligent cause. It would be within your epistemic bounds and very reasonable to assume that some person loaded that deck of cards - that it was intended.

I brought up this example because it seemed to me your example of the salad dressing left out the critical element of the complexity conforming to an external independent pattern.

You say that we don't know why the constants are what they are and that maybe that is the ONLY way. Well, it is true we don't know why they are exactly that way, but it seems patently obvious that they don't HAVE to be that way.... in addition, they are tuned to such a high specificity -- as they say, "balanced on a razor's edge" -- that adjusting even one of the hundred or so of them would make no life possible or cause the collapse of the universe. I would want to point you in the direction of "The Privileged Planet" book or documentary for a more detailed treatment. You might also want to check out Hugh Ross's work over at

I know why the multiverse is posited. After 96 lectures in astronomy from Alex Filippenko from Berkeley I can say that it is posited as a reason to explain the anthropic principle. This is also acknowledged by wikipedia. And my additional point on this is that a non-theist seems to be very open to a unseen multiverse while denying any suggestion of God as creator or "fine-tuner".

You have said you are a Christian, and I will assume in that regard that you do accept that God is Creator of the universe. Why must intelligence be withheld from the creation of the universe? This would account for the natural laws we see (the constants, gravitation, the various forces, etc). Doesn't it seem reasonable to say that if God is the ultimate cause, then he is the intelligent cause behind what we see? Of course, I am assuming God up front on this particular point, because it is already a common ground between us. It seems to me that we agree on a lot of things. It's just a matter of "how involved" God is in stuff maybe.

You asked if I was saying that cosmology is "driven" by a denial of God. No. What I am saying is that IF you disallow God as part of your world view, you automatically rule out certain causes a priori. That is to say, if you say there is no intelligent causation possible, then you refuse to accept intelligent design as a possible hypothesis, even if the methods they use are completely scientific. This refusal to allow for certain explanations "forces" other outlandish and more complex theories. That is why I mentioned multiverse and panspermia. These are both not observed. These are both just "the only thing available" because God is ruled out. Even Dawkins in the documentary "Expelled" admitted he was open to intelligent design, just as long as it wasn't God. This is called bias based upon philosophical presuppositions, NOT upon scientific observation or method.

Certain things are explained obviously by evolution. It is where unwarranted extrapolations are made that we run into a problem. In a non-theistic world view, one MUST assume evolution as a full-on theory of origins. I don't think evolution goes that far. I would point you in the direction of Michael Behe's "The Edge of Evolution" for reading about a case for where to draw the line with what we KNOW about evolution, vs. what we ASSUME about evolution. The point here is that it is the philosophy here that is dictating to the science, not vice versa.

As for me, I think real design can be detected.
I think there are scientific ways to detect design.
I think design seems to be a better explanation than chance for some features of the universe.
Because I believe in God, I allow for that design inference to point to God and I am within my proper warrant to do that.
As long as intelligent design doesn't overstep its scientific and epistemic bounds, it is legit. The same goes for evolution. As long as it doesn't assume what it is trying to prove we're on decent footing both scientifically and philosophically.

Mark Lefers said...


Attraction is just one of many forces and elements not accounted for in the ID’s typical probability. Maybe I’m not understanding what you are trying to get across with the deck of cards. How about a biological example. How do you look at biology and say there is design? What is and example of specified complexity? How do you distinguish between something caused by natural forces and those caused by some supernatural force? I’m just confused how you tell the difference. Sorry, I’m not a mathematician, I’m a biologist by training.

You said, “Well, it is true we don't know why they are exactly that way, but it seems patently obvious that they don't HAVE to be that way.... “. Please tell me how it is patently obvious that they don’t have to be that way. Again, I’m not a cosmologist. I believe they are trying to figure out some of these patently obvious stuff at the LHC.

Wow, 96 astronomy lectures. I assume from this you agree with an old earth hypothesis. Correct me if I’m wrong. If so, how do you accept scientific consensus in some fields and then disagree with other fields? Are you more of an expert than the thousands of others who spend their lives studying these things? It seems to be very analogous to other pseudosciences out there.

People who are open to a unseen multiverse while denying any suggestion of God as creator or "fine-tuner" most likely are naturalist. For them it is easier to think of multiverses than to think there is a God.

I am (or was) a Christian with sever doubt. Some days I’m more of an agnostic. I really don’t have a problem with evolution. The problem I have is when Christians deny evolution when there is mountains of evidence for it. This then causes me to doubt that if they are so wrong about something so obvious, could they be wrong about something so hidden in history?

Oh how I wish there could be something in nature that one could point to and say that here is the evidence for God. But the data is just not there. I would have been great if geology, cosmology, evolution, etc would have supported the Biblical account (4000 years, independent creations, independent human genetics, etc).

I don’t think multiverse and panspermia are outlandish. These are possible naturalistic explanations. I also don’t think ruling out supernatural causes a priori is a bad thing. I think the problem that happens is if the hypothesis get so convoluted, and the theorist have to jump to too many hoops to explain something, then one has to maybe reconsider ones hypothesis. Right now, I really don’t think that ID/creationism has any explanatory power over naturalistic explanations. Ruling out things a priori is common. There are thousands of ancient gods that I don’t believe in. I don’t believe in astrology, numerology, homeopathy, etc. I don’t include any of these in any hypothesis.

You said, “Certain things are explained obviously by evolution. It is where unwarranted extrapolations are made that we run into a problem.” Where precisely are the extrapolations? Specifically. How much does science have to prove over scripture, before you accept scientific consensus? You accept geology, chemistry, physics, medicine, etc. but evolution, specifically macro evolution you deny. Seems strange. Is it because of the implications? If so maybe you need to re-think the implications. They are not as bad as they seem.

Jesrael said...


My point is this: if an evolutionist proposes a pathway, the onus is on them to prove that it is not too improbable by doing some actual calculations. Consider the bacterial flagellum, which is "irreducibly complex" according to Behe. There have been evolutionary pathways proposed which might possibly have produced it. But then anything is possible. That doesn't mean it is plausible. For example the theory that a Boeing 747 was put together by tornado in a junkyard. It doesn't violate the laws of physics, but it is so improbable that no-one can believe it. Dembski has done these calculations, and it turns out that the flagellum is improbable on the order of 10^(-1170) : an upper bound. Maybe he's wrong, but atleast he's done a calculation. None of his opponents have even tried. All they have is just-so stories and handwaving.

It seems you don't understand Axe's paper. What he says is that out of all the possible ways of combining amino-acids, only 1 out of 10^77 is likely to produce a functional enzyme. The probability of getting functional sequences out of a random DNA code is 10^(-77). If it had a functional precursor, you have to explain where THAT came from. The point is :to get any function at all, is almost impossible, with only chance. You can't use natural selection to get function from non-functional systems, because natural selection only starts operating after you have a functional system.

I don't buy the spurious distinction between abiogenesis and evolution. The design work has to be done somewhere. If you say the problem of getting functional enzymes is no the job of evolution, you are just pushing all the work to aboigenesis. The same with the Cambrian Explosion: if toolkit genes can explain the apparent exceptional diversity in the Cambrian Explosion, you still have to explain where the toolkit genes came from. Because a genetic toolkit that is as versatile as a Swiss army knife is as "miraculous" as a Cambrian Explosion. You haven't explained the diversity. It was already inbuilt into the toolkit genes. The hard work is simply being pushed further and further back into the past. And ultimately ,you get to abiogenesis and the evolutionist washes his hands off the the problem-a neat trick! But the question still remains: where did the complexity and diversity of life come from?

Jesrael said...


The scientific consensus is not always right. God has given us brains and we have o think through the issues ourselves. The complexity of life has only recently been revealed at the sub cellular level. In the last decade, hundreds of scientists have come to the conclusion that life is designed, on the basis of evidence(see Discovery Institutes's "Dissent from Darwin" list). We are on the brink of a paradigm shift in biology. What do you think convinced atheist Anthony Flew? Or agnostic Dean Kenyon, a leading authority in Origin of Life research? Or five-time Nobel nominee Henry Schaeffer? I haven't heard of a single ID person go over to the other side by being convinced by the likes of Miller and Collins.

Leading IDists are not religiously motivated. Behe has made it clear that he has no theological axe to grind. He was a theistic evolutionist before he he studied cell biology. It was the intricacy and complexity of life that convinced him of design. Same with Dembski.

As a Christian, I was taught evolution in school. I had no problem believing it until I read creationist literature-they convinced me that evolution had problems, but it was obvious that Creationism had even bigger problems. But when finally I came across ID on the internet I "saw the light". There is good evidence for common descent. But not for the Darwinian mechanism. You can't extrapolate from random genetic errors to account for the origin of advanced sub-cellular nanotechnology.

There is a huge difference between ID and creationism. ID simply states that design is scientifically detectable and is seen in biology.As a minimalistic position it is "big tent" that includes everyone from agnostics to YECs.

Mark Lefers said...

I’ll say my point again. Probability calculations at this point in time are close to worthless because the scientific understanding is just not well understood. Heck we still don’t understand how proteins fold! Sure I can come up with a number of the probability of some sequence, but what does that tell me? Only the probability of that sequence. It doesn’t give the probability of that sequence occurring or the probability of that sequence being functional, etc.

Do you really want to pull out Behe’s flagellum? Progress on this is continually occurring. You say, “Maybe he's wrong, but at least he's done a calculation.” Is this supposed to give him credence? Am I supposed to believe it just because he’s done a calculation? With regards to Axe’s paper, yes he did some study showing the probability of a functional enzyme. But that is for a specific and highly evolved enzyme. It is unlikely that THIS enzyme for penicillin resistance was present in the first billion years.

The reason why I make a distinction between abiogenesis and evolution is because there IS one. In addition there is much more known about evolution than abiogenesis. So, if I understand correctly, it sounds that you are ok with evolution. Correct me if I’m wrong. I would rather stay on the topic of evolution. There at present just not enough data, people working on it, hypothesis, and the like with regards to abiogenesis. And I don’t want to get stuck in the “Because it’s not known, I must be right” type of argument (AKA God of the gaps).

There is a BIG difference between getting the first functional enzyme and the toolkit genes for the Cambrian Explosion. Look up Homeobox gene evolution for starters. I’ve worked for years on developmental pathways whose components are similar to other genes.

It’s sounds like your argument can be boiled down to, “Science doesn’t know all the details at present, therefore God did it.” Correct me if I’m wrong.

You said, “The scientific consensus is not always right.” True, but it has a great track record. Much better than creationism and ID. You say that, “hundreds of scientists have come to the conclusion that life is designed, on the basis of evidence (see Discovery Institutes's "Dissent from Darwin" list).” Well I can pull out the “Steve” list, and have you looked at the DI list? Not many working biologist on that list. Coincidence?

You said, “We are on the brink of a paradigm shift in biology.” Really? You got to be kidding! Where are you getting this stuff? There is no paradigm shift.

Some other quick comments:

Anthony Flew: very old, non-biologist. He probably has as much knowledge on the subject as my late grandma had (not much)

Dean Kenyon: He’s NOT a leading authority on origin of life research. Last paper I could track down of his was in 1976!
Henry Schaeffer: He studies molecular quantum mechanics. Yes an expert in evolutionary biology. Also I believe that Nobel Prize nominations remain confidential for fifty years, so were these nominations that old?

Well that’s all for today. I need to get back to address my Christian doubt. As you’ll probably agree a much more important topic. Thanks for the online debate and all.

Jesrael said...

You don't have to know the physical processes in detail to do probability calculations. You can calculate the probability theoretically or empirically. If I toss a fair coin, I can tell that it will land heads up 50% of the time. Do I need to know everything about the wind, drag, elasticity of the coin etc? No! It's not very hard to do these calculations in biology, and ID proponents like Douglas Axe are doing them and getting them published. I suspect that evolutionists are not doing them because they are afraid that the numbers will not come out in their favour.

It is the job of the evolutionist to prove to me that it is plausible by actually DOING some calculations. If you think it's too hard, don't claim that evolution is a proven fact. It's not enough to propose evolutionary scenarios: you need to prove that they are probable. Or atleast put lower bounds on their probability. Anyone can come up with a just-so story.

By paradigm shift, I mean that at the sub-cellular level, it looks more and more like advanced technology. Tha's why DI's list has many engineers. This is their field of expertise. I trust engineers and mathematicians more than biologists in this area. Atleast they don't whine about how hard it is to do probability calculations.

Regarding "Dissent from Darwin", all I'm saying is that there are credentialed scientists who support ID, some are not motivated by religion. This shows that ID is not as absurd as flat-earth theory or YEC. I'm not using it to prove ID. I will not believe something just because the scientists say so-even if every single scientist in the world supported ID, I would not believe it unless I was convinced by the evidence.

Anyway, forgetting ID, what exactly are you doubts regarding Christianity

Mark Lefers said...

You said, “You don't have to know the physical processes in detail to do probability calculations.” Yes you do. Using your analogy of a coin, one can calculated the probability of heads and tails. The problem with biology is that we don’t know all the different sides. It’s not a two sided coin. For instance one can do probability calculation and find out what percentage of amino acids are conserved, but that is for that specific protein. I have knocked out necessary regions of a protein, and by evolution, the protein was modified to not require that region. How can you come up with a probability calculation for that? Sure I can come up with some number about how conserved a region is and how unlikely it would be for all this to come together. But it would be meaningless, because evolution can usually find away around it.

You said, “I suspect that evolutionists are not doing them because they are afraid that the numbers will not come out in their favour.” Do you really mean this? Are you really saying that scientist aren’t doing science because they are afraid of the outcome?

I disagree with your point when you said, “By paradigm shift, I mean that at the sub-cellular level, it looks more and more like advanced technology. That's why DI's list has many engineers.” I think it’s because they don’t know the material. The same reason why many of the biologist on their list are non-practicing. And do you really trust engineers and mathematicians more than biologists in the field of biology? Really?

I think I only agree with you on one point in that ID is not as absurd as flat-earth theory or YEC. It’s still a bad hypothesis, but not as out there as YEC.

Quick comment on my doubt. I doubt whether Christianity is true. Most evangelicals support some ID or creationist view in the face of so much evidence to the contrary. This makes it difficult to believe what they say about other things (not impossible, but difficult because I have to sift through what is true and false). So I’m going through the difficult task of looking for the evidence and weighing both sides of the issues.

Anonymous said...

A quick read over this thread, and especially Mark Lefer's comments, shows that Mark has simply swallowed hook, line and sinker the standard Darwinian line. Mark wants us to believe, on faith, that we should give in and believe a whole lot of unproven assumptions, because he thinks that modern biology is headed in that direction.

Well, I have a hard sciences PhD, and work fairly close to the biological reality. I have seen a reasonable amount of cutting edge biology and listened in person to cutting edge talks by world leading experts in their areas.

So what is my conclusion?

Simply that Mark is living in a dream land. His faith is astounding, and the whole naturalistic dreamland that Mark lives in is only going to get a lot pricklier in coming days.

Nobody has any idea how life could have begun naturalistically. Nobody has any idea how the DNA code could have originated naturalistically. Nobody has any idea about how the universe got here (except for unscientific faith statements such as multiverses and quantum magic). Yet Mark wants us to submit to Darwinism, rather than be skeptical like good scientists. He wants us to believe in the face of evidence (yes, apparently it really does look designed).

I realise that it is very difficult for one side to honestly consider the other side. And it is very difficult for Mark to even consider Dembski's side. I wonder how many PhDs Mark has? How many books has he written, and how many debates against top level opponents has Mark partaken in? Or has he just been sucked in by a Dawkins book (remind me of that Michael Ruse quote please..........)

Mark said...

To "Anonymous", if that is your real name :)
I too have a PhD. And if you are as close to biology as you say, then you understand that there is a big difference between evolution and abiogenesis. I agree with you that there is not much (if any) data or sound theories for abiogenesis or how the universe got here. But these fields are completely different as you know.
As you also probably know most Christian apologetics shy away from debating evolution and stick with abiogenesis and begining of the universe (for instance WLC). The reason is because it is hard to debate against facts. And finally, Christian science associations, which you may know (such as ASA and CIS) don't support ID and print material in support of evolution.

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive