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The Design Premise: A Foundational ‘Cross Beam’ For Contemporary Science

Review Of The Sixth Chapter Of Signature In The Cell, by Stephen Meyer

Robert Deyes

A sound approach to scientific investigation does not necessarily bring with it a mandatory requirement to be a ‘nose to the grindstone’ experimentalist. Indeed scientists can and often do take data that others have amassed and interpret it in light of their own understanding of the matter at hand. Therein lies a lesson that, as science historians will note, is backed by an impressive list of prominent cases. In fact Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and even Charles Darwin challenged the viewpoints of their day through their own theoretical interpretations of reality. For Darwin this meant for the most part collecting data from botanists, breeders, ecologists, and paleontologists and constructing a paradigm-shifting synthesis on the evolution of life that did not necessarily hinge on his own data. Both Einstein’s two papers on relativity and Newton’s opus Principia were theoretical manifestos that at the time they were published had little experimental support.

In recent years followers of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement have been called to task over their own perceived lack of direct involvement in experimentation. Stephen Meyer observes that ID’s fiercest critics dismiss these same followers as being less than qualified to engage in scientific debate because of their presumed absence from experimental science. And yet in light of what we know about the influences of Einstein, Newton and Darwin one might be excused for countering that such criticisms hardly seem justifiable. Truth be told the Discovery Institute, a key ID nerve center, today supports a facility where scientists are actively involved in laboratory-based research.

As the director of the Center for Science & Culture at the Discovery Institute, Meyer has been personally exposed to a barrage of anti-ID hostility, evidenced for example in his televised encounters with prominent self-asserting secularists such as Eugenie Scott and Michael Shermer. But as Meyer makes clear, his own exposure to anti-ID sentiments extends back much further to his days as a graduate at Cambridge. With the exception of a handful of notable scientists, few at the time were willing to acknowledge ID as a serious alternative to the deeply-entrenched Darwinian orthodoxy.

One might be excused for feeling somewhat baffled by such a reluctance to embrace design in light of the Judeo-Christian framework upon which modern science owes its origins. Others before Meyer have made this point (1). Two years ago, for example, zoologist and biophysicist Jeff Hardin brought the Judeo-Christian influence on science to the attention of his audience during the Science And Christianity conference in Madison, WI (2). According to Hardin historical icons such as Robert Boyle, Johannes Kepler and Newton himself saw the reliability and intelligibility of nature as “testifying to God’s glory”. Quoting from Nobel Laureate Melvin Calvin’s Chemical Evolution, Hardin concluded that “[the Hebrew] monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science” (2).

But it is in citing the relevance of a non-religious form of these foundations to ID that Meyer supplies a fresh and unparryable case against those who out of hand wish to exclude ID from scientific circles. His closing remarks on how the singular actions of intelligent agents parallel sudden events in biology, notably the origin of life, draw on inferences made by Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen in their exemplary text The Mystery Of Life’s Origins (3). In short, one can no longer deny that the design premise represents a foundational ‘cross beam’ for contemporary science.

Literature Cited
1.Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton (1994), The Soul of Science- Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, pp.17-42

2.Jeff Hardin (2007), Thinking Bibically About Nature And The Nature Of Science, in Science And Christianity: Friends Or Foes?; Conference held on the 24th March, 2007, Blackhawk Church, Madison, WI

3.Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen (1984), The Mystery of Life’s Origin Reassessing Current Theories, Published by Lewis and Stanley, Dallas, Texas

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15 Responses to The Design Premise: A Foundational ‘Cross Beam’ For Contemporary Science

  1. Mr Deyes,

    There is a vast gulf between a “might be” parallel of one event in biology and a fundamental crossbeam to all of contemporary science. If you are a publicist or ad copywriter, you are definitely earning your pay! How would you rate the design premise against falsifiability in importance to contemporary science?

  2. the Discovery Institute … supports a facility where scientists are actively involved in laboratory-based research.

    Oh? Could you expand on this a little ?

  3. Nakashima,

    Could you be a little more specific; what claims are made based on the evidence for design that you conclude are non-falsifiable?

  4. Hi Mr BiPed,

    It is a pleasure to talk with you again.

    I raised falsifiability because I wanted to contrast the design premise with some other concept which is generally accepted as a fundamental crossbeam of all contemporary science. I think that most people, the vast majority, would agree that making falsifiable predictions is fundamental. (Maybe some “science is a social construct” types would disagree, we’ll have to ask Dr. Fuller.)

    So I was merely asking Mr Deyes to speculate on whether the design premise was as fundamental, in his opinion, to science as falsifiability.

    BTW, have you read any of the new Zinc World articles? Some very interesting material about the chemical (but not information coding) uses of stacked nucleobases such as RNA.

  5. “Graham1″ (#2) asked: “the Discovery Institute … supports a facility where scientists are actively involved in laboratory-based research. Oh? Could you expand on this a little?

    See http://biologicinstitute.org – but then see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biologic_Institute for a slightly different perspective.

  6. “The scientific community remains skeptical and commentators note that no publications containing results which support intelligent design have yet appeared.”

    False. I wonder if Wikipedia would allow anybody to change that and reference Dembski’s article?

  7. “tragic mishap” (#6) replied to ““The scientific community remains skeptical and commentators note that no publications containing results which support intelligent design have yet appeared.” with “False. I wonder if Wikipedia would allow anybody to change that and reference Dembski’s article?

    Which Dembski article? I’m a Wikipedia editor – let’s find out.

    (If you’re referring to the recent Dembski & Marks article in an obscure IEEE journal, the article does not even mention intelligent design, much less scientifically “support” it. The “Metropolis Sampler” commented “The fundamental lesson here is that the Dembski-Marks approach to evaluating model assumptions is both arbitrary and a poor reflection of scientific reasoning.” – http://msampler.wordpress.com/.....sentation/)

  8. PaulBurnett,

    “The fundamental lesson here is that the Dembski-Marks approach to evaluating model assumptions is both arbitrary and a poor reflection of scientific reasoning.” – http://msampler.wordpress.com/…..entation/)

    Did you make that up? because the link doesn’t work.

    You’re a Wiki editor? That explains a lot!

  9. Clive Hayden (#9) wrote: “Did you make that up? because the link doesn’t work.

    Odd – I lifted it directly off the article’s address – trying again:

    http://msampler.wordpress.com/.....sentation/

    Clive also wrote: “You’re a Wiki editor? That explains a lot!

    I am also a Conservapedia editor. What would that prove? See http://www.conservapedia.com/S.....aulBurnett

  10. tragic mishap: False. I wonder if Wikipedia would allow anybody to change that and reference Dembski’s article?

    There are a group of pockmarked basement dwellers who have seemingly made guarding any and every Wikipedia I.D. article their life’s mission. Anyone who supports I.D. gets a fact-free hatchet job; any attempted correction will be quickly erased.

    Personally, I’d like to see some defamation lawsuits, if possible.

  11. 11

    PaulBurnett,

    You are often a stickler for Peer review. Tell me, was that Wiki article peer reviewed?

  12. “CannuckianYankee” (#11) asked: “You are often a stickler for Peer review. Tell me, was that Wiki article peer reviewed?

    All Wikipedia (and Conservapedia) articles undergo a continuous (and sometimes vigorous) peer review – click on “discussion” in Wikipedia (“talk page” in Conservapedia) and “history” above any article to see the “peer review” in action.

  13. “ShawnBoy” (#10) complained “There are a group of pockmarked basement dwellers who have seemingly made guarding any and every Wikipedia I.D. article their life’s mission. … Personally, I’d like to see some defamation lawsuits, if possible.

    Fine – let’s start with your calling persons you’re never met or seen “pockmarked basement dwellers” – whatever that’s a code-phrase for, it’s probably easily demonstrably false, and having been communicated to someone other than the person defamed, easily meets the criteria for “defamation.”

  14. One might be excused for feeling somewhat baffled by such a reluctance to embrace design in light of the Judeo-Christian framework upon which modern science owes its origins.

    Sorry – what? The fact that some scientists were also believers in God does not lead to the conclusion that science owes its origins to a “Judeo-Christian framework”. How would you explain the considerable impact of Islamic science during the Middle Ages? How about China India? No science going on there?

    Is there more than one citation to support this claim?

  15. mikev6

    Sorry – what? The fact that some scientists were also believers in God does not lead to the conclusion that science owes its origins to a “Judeo-Christian framework”. How would you explain the considerable impact of Islamic science during the Middle Ages? How about China India? No science going on there?

    Refer to Rodney Stark, particularly “The Victory of Reason.” His conclusion is that science owes its origins to a Judeo-Christian framework.

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