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Archive for the ‘Signature in the Cell’ Category

The highly regarded philosopher Thomas Nagel received an honorary degree from Harvard University, despite saying very nice things about Stephen Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell and writing very unconventional things about intelligent design and public education.

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Steve Matheson has published an open letter to Stephen Meyer here.  It is remarkable for the number of hateful insults and name-calling contained in it.  Is this the kind of role model for civil discourse that Calvin College provides its students?

It would be one thing if Matheson gave specific and significant examples of where Meyer got his science wrong and why design is not the best explanation for the origin of life.  However, as far as I can see, Matheson has largely nit-picked secondary issues in Meyer’s book and spent most of his time hurling general insults.  All this is directed at a book that the highly regarded philosopher Thomas Nagel selected as one of his books of the year in the Times Literary Supplement.  Matheson may understand biology, but he seems quite limited in his understanding of the larger issues, including the philosophy of science and the methodology for the historical sciences.

With all the insults, Matheson has the arrogance to offer this advice:

Get out more. And find some new friends. It is without sarcasm or guile that I say that you are welcome to contact me anytime to ask questions or discuss ideas.

In another post, Matheson misrepresented Owen Gingerich in order to make one of his many ad hominem attacks on Meyer.   I plan to discuss this in another post.  [Update:  My post on this is here.]

The bottom line is that Matheson has not shown why design is not the best explanation for the origin of life.  He has put forward no better explanation.  He has not even put forward a plausible alternative.  Given this, it seems that he should spend more time working on substantive evidence and arguments, and less time on mean-spirited personal insults.

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Dr. Francisco Ayala now claims to have read the book Signature in the Cell.  On the Biologos blog he defends his assertion that “the keystone argument of Signature of the Cell [sic] is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms.”

This is amazing. Everyone knows that this is not the keystone argument of the book. Everyone, that is, who has read it with any degree of comprehension.

I think Stephen Meyer said it best in his response published on the same Biologos blog:

Ayala begins his review by attempting to trivialize the argument of Signature in the Cell. But he does so by misrepresenting its thesis. According to Ayala, “The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell [sic] is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms.” He notes—as I do in the book—that all evolutionary biologists already accept that conclusion. He asks: “Why, then, spend chapter after chapter and hundreds of pages of elegant prose to argue the point?” But, of course, the book does not spend hundreds of pages arguing that point. In fact, it spends only 55 pages out of 613 explaining why origin-of-life researchers have—since the 1960s—almost universally come to reject the chance hypothesis. It does so, not because the central purpose of the book is to refute the chance hypothesis per se, but for several other reasons intrinsic to the actual thesis of the book.

Ayala’s resort to index reference counting is embarrassing.   He can claim to have read the book, but then this means that he has terrible reading comprehension skills.  The decision by Biologos to publish this is an embarrassment for it and its leadership as well.

My previous comments on his pseudo-review of the book are here.

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I previously discussed a paper by Bruce Waltke (posted on the Biologos website) in which he stated:

The organizations seeking to refute evolution and/or to narrow the gap between creation and evolution must address one another with respect and openness to be optimally effective. The gap between BioLogos and ID, I suggest, can best be narrowed by open dialogue, not by entrenched confrontation.

In a footnote to that, he added:

In a personal correspondence, one highly respected scholar—were it otherwise, I would not cite him– wrote that it is alleged that Collins will not publicly engage an adherent of anti-evolution ID; he further suggested that if this is not so, Collins should make this clear.

Ironically, Waltke’s paper was published in connection with a Biologos conference to which no prominent ID proponents were apparently invited.

Stephen Meyer and his colleagues invited Francisco Ayala to a debate.  Maybe this would be a good first start?

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