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John Lennox and Paul Davies Discussion at Premier Radio

Premier Radio’s program “Unbelievable?” with Justin Brierley has hosted a discussion with Oxford mathematician John Lennox and astrophysicist Paul Davies concerning topics from Intelligent Design to extra-terrestrial life, and what the broader philosophical and theological implications are for each.

A popular science author, Davies is also the Chair of the SETI post detection task force. His latest book “The Eerie Silence” which marks SETI’s 50th anniversary examines the likelihood of the universe producing life elsewhere. John Lennox is a Christian Mathematician and philosopher. He is the author of “God’s Undertaker: has science buried God?” and has debated Richard Dawkins on several occasions. Davies’ work on the fine tuning of the universe for life has been sympathetic to theism. In this programme Lennox challenges Davies to look to design not just in cosmology but in the cell. They also chat about what the discovery of ET would mean for Christian theology.

Listen to the discussion in its entirety at Premier Radio.

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11 Responses to John Lennox and Paul Davies Discussion at Premier Radio

  1. Though I thought John Lennox did a fine job of defending the Theistic position as far as the origin of life, and origin of the universe is concerned, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that he let Paul Davies get away with far too much unfounded conjecture in regards of the ability of evolution (sifted errors) to produce the absolutely staggering levels of functional information we find in life. A ability that Paul apparently takes for granted once you have a “self-replicator”, but which none-the-less has never been shown to be true for even trivial levels.

  2. semi-off topic
    Clive, here is a video, you may find interesting, that seems to find resonance on many topics of philosophy that have recently discussed here on UD:

    Intelligent Design
    http://www.seraphmedia.org.uk/.....%20New.xml

    Bio of speaker:
    Revd Dr Alistair Donald is Chaplain to Heriot-Watt University. Dr Donald studied Geography at St Andrews University, gained a doctorate in Environmental Science from the University of Wales, and a divinity degree in New Testament from Edinburgh University. He has worked in both Wales and Scotland as an environmental scientist, with involvement in the areas of water pollution and acid rain research. He was most recently minister of New Deer Church of Scotland.

  3. 3
    CannuckianYankee

    So Davies admits much about the inadequacy of chance and necessity accounting for specified complexity from an OOL perspective, thus leaving open the rationality of design, but he just doesn’t like it. Well at least he’s honest.

    But Lennox is effective also in getting Davies to show exactly how irrational a rejection of theism can appear even from a scientific perspective.

    Davies’ argument that a non-material transcendent intelligence cannot rationally interact with a physical universe, is rather weak. There’s quite clearly no substance to the argument, it’s simply a dislike for what he calls ‘supernatural’ interventions.

    He’s more comfortable setting up his obvious strawmen, such as a tinkering supernatural being, taking us down a slippery slope into the gaps beyond which the reach of scientific reasoning can approach, than he is in allowing himself to consider all the evidence and having it to lead where it will.

    He’s more comfortable with the gap of the “one day we will know more scientifically and materialistically” route, than the “well maybe a God makes more sense in light of the evidence route. His gap is far more vast than any design inference ‘gap’ that he imagines can be.

  4. bornagain77: I couldn’t help thinking to myself that he let Paul Davies get away with far too much unfounded conjecture in regards of the ability of evolution (sifted errors) to produce the absolutely staggering levels of functional information we find in life.

    My sentiments exactly. Davies is a clever fellow, and I wonder why he has never applied his intellect to a rigorous statistical or evidential analysis of the claims made for the creative powers of the Darwinian mechanism.

    We see this over and over again. It seems to be an article of blind faith that once a self-replicating system is in place, pure chance and throwing out failed experiments can accomplish anything, even though simple logic renders this claim absurd on its face.

  5. GilDodgen:

    We see this over and over again. It seems to be an article of blind faith that once a self-replicating system is in place, pure chance and throwing out failed experiments can accomplish anything, even though simple logic renders this claim absurd on its face.

    Gil,

    Could you explain in detail the “simple logic” that “renders this claim absurd on its face”?

    Thanks.

  6. Could you explain in detail the “simple logic” that “renders this claim absurd on its face”?

    http://www.uncommondescent.com.....selection/

  7. Gil,

    The post you linked to doesn’t deliver the goods.

    1. It’s not about self-replicators.

    2. It’s about C programs, not biology.

    3. You’ve assumed a predetermined goal, which is not how evolution works.

    4. Most importantly, there’s no argument in your post, simple or otherwise:

    What is the probability of arriving at our Hello World program by random mutation and natural selection? How many simpler precursors are functional, what gaps must be crossed to arrive at those islands of function, and how many simultaneous random changes must be made to cross those gaps? How many random variants of these 66 characters will compile? How many will link and execute at all, or execute without fatal errors? Assuming that our program has already been written, what is the chance of evolving it into another, more complex program that will compile, link, execute and produce meaningful output?

    I can’t answer these questions, but this example should give you a feel for the unfathomable probabilistic hurdles that must be overcome to produce the simplest of all computer programs by Darwinian mechanisms.

    [Emphasis mine]

    Why would you link to a post in which you yourself admit that you can’t answer the questions you raise?

    I was hoping for something more like an actual argument, perhaps of this form:

    1. You state your assumptions.
    2. You derive your conclusion step by step from your assumptions, stating your intermediate results so that readers can follow your “simple logic”.

    How about it? What “simple logic” is it that “renders this claim absurd on its face”?

  8. For anyone interested in the theological implications of finding alien life, this essay from C.S. Lewis is a must-read:

    Religion and Rocketry” from The World’s Last Night.

  9. pelagius,
    the reason why self replication does not solve the problem of functional information generation for material processes is that the integrated complexity of each “kind” of organism only permits limited variety within a “kind” of organism but will simply not allow the generation of functional information greater than what was present in the originally created kind. This principle is clearly illustrated by the fact that the fitness test has never been violated:

    Is Antibiotic Resistance evidence for evolution? – “The Fitness Test” – video
    http://www.metacafe.com/watch/3995248

    Testing the Biological Fitness of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria – 2008
    http://www.answersingenesis.or.....-drugstore

    Thank Goodness the NCSE Is Wrong: Fitness Costs Are Important to Evolutionary Microbiology
    Excerpt: it (an antibiotic resistant bacterium) reproduces slower than it did before it was changed. This effect is widely recognized, and is called the fitness cost of antibiotic resistance. It is the existence of these costs and other examples of the limits of evolution that call into question the neo-Darwinian story of macroevolution.
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2.....s_wro.html

    List Of Degraded Molecular Abilities Of Antibiotic Resistant Bacteria:
    http://www.trueorigin.org/bacteria01.asp

    Michael Behe on Falsifying Intelligent Design – video
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N8jXXJN4o_A

    This “fitness test” fairly conclusively demonstrates “optimal information” was originally encoded within a “parent” bacteria/bacterium by God, and has not been added to by any “teleological” methods in the beneficial adaptations of the sub-species of bacteria. Thus the inference to Genetic Entropy, i.e. that God has not specifically moved within nature in a teleological manner, to gradually increase the functional information of a genome, still holds as true for the principle of Genetic Entropy.

    It seems readily apparent that to conclusively demonstrate God has moved within nature, in a teleological manner, to provide the sub-species bacteria with additional functional information over the “optimal” genome of its parent species, the “fitness test” must be passed by the sub-species against the parent species. If the fitness test is shown to be passed then the new molecular function, which provides the more robust survivability for the sub-species, must be calculated to its additional Functional Information Bits (Fits) it gained in the beneficial adaptation, and then be found to be greater than 140 Fits. 140 Fits is what has now been generously set by Kirk Durston as the maximum limit of Functional Information which can reasonably be expected to be generated by the natural processes of the universe over the entire age of the universe (The actual limit is most likely to be around 40 Fits)(Of note: I have not seen any evidence to suggest that purely material processes can exceed the much more constrained “2 protein-protein binding site” limit, for functional information generation, found by Michael Behe in his book “The Edge Of Evolution”). This fitness test, and calculation, must be done to rigorously establish materialistic processes did not generate the functional information (Fits), and to rigorously establish teleological, within nature, processes were indeed involved in the increase of Functional Complexity of the beneficially adapted sub-species. The second and final phase of Genetic Entropy, outlined by John Sanford in his book Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome, is when “slightly detrimental” mutations, which are far below the power of natural selection to remove from a genome, slowly build up in a species/kind over long periods of time and lead to Genetic Meltdown.
    The first effect to be obviously noticed, for the Genetic Entropy principle, is the loss of potential for morphological variability of individual sub-species of a kind. This loss of potential for morphological variability first takes place for the extended lineages of sub-species within a kind, and increases with time, and then gradually works in to the more ancient lineages of the kind, as the “mutational load” slowly builds up over time (A Cambrian Peak in Morphological Variation Within Trilobite Species; Webster). The final effect of Genetic Entropy is when the entire spectrum of the species of a kind slowly start to succumb to “Genetic Meltdown”, and to go extinct in the fossil record. The occurs because the mutational load, of the slowly accumulating “slightly detrimental mutations” in the genomes, becomes too great for each individual species of the kind to bear. From repeated radiations from ancient lineages in the fossil record, and from current adaptive radiation studies which show strong favor for ancient lineages radiating, the ancient lineages of a kind appear to have the most “robust genomes” and are thus most resistant to “Genetic Meltdown”. All this consistent evidence makes perfect sense from the Genetic Entropy standpoint, in that Genetic Entropy holds God created each parent kind with a “optimal genome” for all future sub-speciation events. My overwhelming intuition, from all the evidence I’ve seen so far, and from Theology, is this; Once God creates a parent kind, the parent kind is encoded with “optimal information” for the specific purpose to which God has created the kind to exist, and God has chosen, in His infinite wisdom, to strictly limit the extent to which He will act within nature to “evolve” the sub-species of the parent kind to greater heights of functional complexity. Thus the Biblically compatible principle of Genetic Entropy is found to be in harmony with the second law of thermodynamics and with the strict limit found for “nature” ever generating any meaningful amount of functional information on its own (LCI: Dembski – Marks)(Abel; Null Hypothesis).

    It should be clearly pointed out that we know, for 100% certainty, that Intelligence can generate functional information i.e. irreducible complexity. We generate a large amount of functional information, which is well beyond the reach of the random processes of the universe, every time we write a single page of a letter (+700 Fits average). The true question we should be asking is this, “Can totally natural processes ever generate functional information?”, especially since totally natural processes have never been observed generating functional information from scratch (Durston).

  10. How about it? What “simple logic” is it that “renders this claim absurd on its face”?

    Massive combinatorial explosion, with probabilistic resources that are so inadequate that the inadequacy must be measured in orders of magnitude raised to powers measured in orders of magnitude.

    The same applies to the fine-tuning of the universe. Roger Penrose (no friend of ID) calculates the fine-tuning of the laws of physics to one part in 10^(10^123). That’s 1 followed by 10^123 zeros. There are 10^80 elementary particles in the known universe, so just do the math.

    Self-replication and natural selection are mathematically completely irrelevant as a solution to the probabilistic hurdles that must be surmounted in even the genesis of the most simple protein.

    How could this not be obvious to anyone with a junior high school education in basic math?

  11. GilDodgen:

    Massive combinatorial explosion, with probabilistic resources that are so inadequate that the inadequacy must be measured in orders of magnitude raised to powers measured in orders of magnitude.

    Gil,

    Exactly what step in the evolutionary process leading from simple self-replicators to modern lifeforms presents a “massive combinatorial explosion”, and why?

    Please be specific.

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