Posts tagged ‘Stephen Meyer’

July 17th, 2013

How “Sudden” Was the Cambrian Explosion?

by Max Andrews

Original post by Casey Luskin.

On June 19, the day after Darwin’s Doubt was first available for purchase, Nick Matzke published a 9400-word “review” of the book in which it appears that he tried to anticipate many of Stephen Meyer’s arguments. Unfortunately, he often either guessed wrong as to what Meyer would say or — assuming he actually read the book as he claims — misread many of Meyer’s specific claims. As I showed in a previous response to Matzke, Matzke repeatedly misquoted Meyer, at one point claiming he referred to the Cambrian explosion as “instantaneous,” when Meyer nowhere makes that claim. Indeed, Matzke faulted Meyer for not recognizing that the Cambrian explosion “was not really ‘instantaneous’ nor particularly ‘sudden.’”

May 24th, 2012

Stephen Meyer’s 2011 Lecture on Signature in the Cell

by Max Andrews

This lecture was delivered by Dr Stephen Meyer, Discovery Institute, Seattle and hosted by Lord McKay of Clashfern. The theme of the lecture is Dr Meyer’s recent book, ‘Signature in the Cell’ (HarperOne, 2009). The lecture gives a clear exposition of the problem of the origin of life and how the existence of biological information provides compelling scientific evidence for intelligent design (ID). The content of the lecture also demonstrates, incidentally, that the dismissal of ID as religion is shallow and uninformed.

October 2nd, 2011

The Method Behind the Design Argument

by Max Andrews

The argument from design is modest in what it purports.  The final claim and conclusion is that there is an extremely intelligent and personal mind, which is responsible for the design in the universe.[1]  The Greek word, telos, is an end goal or purpose.  The design argument was first developed by the ancient Greeks and popularized by William Paley (1743-1805).  The objections to Paley, which served as a catalyst for the arguments popularity among science and philosophy, were purported by David Hume (1711-1776).

The current state of the argument has gained considerable advances in interest in philosophy, theology, science, and even culture.  Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking purported in his recent [paradoxically titled] book, The Grand Design, that the universe no longer needs intervention or a supernatural being to account for the design and creation of the universe.[2]  Most of the interests in the design argument are advances in the scientific account for the beginning of the universe, which are used to argue against the fine-tuning, which will be evaluated.

It is paramount to explicate from the beginning that this is philosophy of science.  This practice is not theological.[3]  The argument is a posteriori gathered from the natural sciences.  The method by which design will be inferred is a historical science.  There are four differences between a historical science and a laboratory science.  First, repeatability is not applicable in the historical sciences; it is a metacriterion for laboratory science.  Second, historical science assumes uniformitarianism, that is, there are presently known causes to phenomena, which can be inferred by perceived effects.[4]  Third, the theories and explanatory hypotheses must lay in empirical harms way.  The conclusions must be falsifiable.  It should be noted that the type of scientific inquiry will be that of an Augustinian science as opposed to a Duhemian science.  Augustinian science permits and carries open metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Duhemian science strips science of all metaphysical imports.  This point yields to the final distinction, which is the understanding that historical science must use non-controversial reasoning.  The controversial claim for the design proponent is simply the introduction of intelligent causation.  However, this is not as controversial as much of the scientific community makes it out to be.  Agency is publicly accepted evidence by experience.[5]

Such methods are derived from the use of abductive reasoning.  The American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce first described abduction.  He noted that, unlike inductive reasoning, in which a universal law or principle is established from repeated observations of the same phenomena, and unlike deductive reasoning, in which a particular fact is deduced by applying a general law to another particular fact or case, abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present.[6] Consider the following syllogism:

If it rains, the streets will get wet.

The streets are wet.

Therefore, it rained.

The use of abductive reasoning may seem fallacious at first take.  This syllogism commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  One cannot deduce from the data, that the streets are wet, that it rained because there are many other explanations for why the streets are wet.  It could have been the case that a fire hydrant was allowed to flow, a street cleaner came through, a concerned citizen who wanted to clean the chalk off of the streets from the little children drawing pictures or writing words, there are many possibilities that could explain why the road was wet.  This was the problem that posed Peirce:  How was it that despite the logical problem of affirming the consequent, one nevertheless frequently makes conclusive inferences about the past?  The key point is the explanatory scope and power of the explanation.  Abductive reasoning does not derive a certain conclusion (for one would then be guilty of affirming the consequent), but it makes an inference to the best explanation.  Peirce’s example was whether anyone should believe in the existence of Napoleon.  He claimed that the past may be inferred from the study of present effects, namely, artifacts and records.  Peirce concluded, “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without the hypothesis of his existence.”[7]  Despite the apparent fallacy, W.P. Alston, W.B. Gallie, and Michael Scriven have observed, such arguments can be restated in a logically acceptable form if it can be shown that Y has only one cause (i.e. X) or that X is a necessary condition (or cause) of Y.  Thus, arguments of the form:

X is antecedently necessary to Y,

Y exists,

Therefore, X existed

are logically valid by philosophers and persuasive by historical and forensic scientists.[8]

The suggestion was that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the “manifest effects” in question.[9]  The only causally adequate explanation of the life-permitting data is intelligent causation.  Minds, by experience, are capable of presenting and originating specified complex information.


            [1] The most modest claims of the argument are for an intelligent cause.  I choose to add a “personal mind” to the argument due to metaphysical implications of an intelligent causation that will be examined later.  I will be using design, teleology, and fine-tuning interchangeably.

            [2] Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York:  Random House, 2010), 8.  Hawking and Mlodinow base their positions on a model-dependent realism approach.  This ultimately voids all objective claims and their objections to design, primarily their confidence in M-Theory, will be covered with the multiverse objection.

            [3] The argument, when combined with a cumulative case, may then be exported as philosophy of religion, but for now, the methods and data that will be examined will be done so from a scientific and philosophical perspective.

            [4] The method of uniformitarianism is currently understood in the scientific community as an assumption of the regular course of events as well as catastrophism (which would be implied by the presently known cause and effect relationships).

            [5] This is not based on religious explanations or religious experience.

            [6] In the words of Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York:  Harper Collins, 2009), 153.  Charles Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375; “Abduction and Induction.”

            [7] Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375.

            [8] Stephen C. Meyer, “A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.” W. P. Alston, “The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science,” Philosophy of Science 38 (1971):  13-34.  W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences” in Theories of History:  Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959), 386-402. Michael Scriven, “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory,” Science 130 (1959):  477-482.

             [9] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 154.

August 2nd, 2011

Inferring Design From Data

by Max Andrews

The data presented must be evaluated as either being the result of necessity, chance, a combination thereof, or design (intelligent causation).  How may one infer design?  As William Dembski advocates in his work, The Design Inference, there must be a relay of specified complex information.[1]  In the 1940’s, Claude Shannon at Bell Laboratories developed a mathematical theory of information.  The information-carrying capacity of a sequence of a specific length can then be calculated using the expression I=-log2p.[2]  When this formula is applied to genetic sequence probability formulas the information being conveyed is more than mere Shannon information.  The word information in this theory is used in a special mathematical sense that must not be confused with its ordinary usage.  In particular, information must not be confused with meaning.[3]

Since the late 1950’s, biologists have equated the “precise determination of sequence” with the property “specificity” or “specification.”  Biologists have defined specificity tacitly as “necessary to achieving or maintaining function.”  They have determined that DNA base sequences are specified, not by applying information theory, but my making experimental assessments of the function of those sequences within the overall apparatus of gene expression.[4]  The same application of specificity would be applied to complexity.  Given the complexity of the components need for and to sustain life, the complexity is that which maintains function, a specified complexity.[5]

When arguing for design, the argument cannot take one to Christianity or even God.  All one can purport is an intelligent cause.[6]  The evidence cannot identify who or what the cause is.  This is constructive empiricism.  Constructive empiricism states that one can only refer to the aspects of that being, in this case, the intelligence of the cause, respective to the issue and evidence at hand.  It is only be a cumulative case argument can one infer that the intelligent cause is God.

By experience, it can be deduced that mind originates information (as previously described) and that the other competing hypotheses do not have the explanatory scope and power as design does.  It is by the means of abduction one can infer that design, or intelligent causation, is the best explanation for the data.  Chance and randomness cannot substantially account for the data.  The improbability alone is infinitesimally improbable.  The necessity explanation has no support and the physical variations of the cosmic landscape place the explanation at implausible.


            [1] William A. Dembski, The Design Inference (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 1998).

            [2] This equated the amount of information transmitted with the amount of uncertainty reduced or eliminated by a series of symbols or characters.  Claude Shannon, “A Mathematical Theory of Communication,” Bell System Technical Journal 27 (1948):  379-423; 623-656.

            [3] Claude Shannon, W. Weaver, The Mathematical Theory of Communication (Champaign, IL:  University of Illinois Press, 1998), 8.

            [4] Stephen C. Meyer, “ A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.”

            [5] Ibid. To avoid equivocation, it is necessary to distinguish “information content” from mere “information carrying capacity,” “specified information” from mere “Shannon information,” “specified complexity” form mere “complexity.”

            [6] Intelligent causation is entirely consistent with the scientific method.  For example:  The design inference begins with the observation that intelligent agents produce complex specified information.  The hypothesis would follow with predictions of design.  For experiments, one would one need to test whether scientific data has complex specified information.  The conclusion may follow as:  Because X exhibits high levels of complex specified information, a quality known to be a product of intelligence, therefore, life was designed.

August 2nd, 2011

The Methodology Behind the Teleological Argument

by Max Andrews

The argument from design is modest in what it purports.  The final claim and conclusion is that there is an extremely intelligent and personal mind, which is responsible for the design in the universe.[1]  The Greek word, telos, is an end goal or purpose.  The design argument was first developed by the ancient Greeks and popularized by William Paley (1743-1805).  The objections to Paley, which served as a catalyst for the arguments popularity among science and philosophy, were purported by David Hume (1711-1776).

The current state of the argument has gained considerable advances in interest in philosophy, theology, science, and even culture.  Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking purported in his recent [paradoxically titled] book, The Grand Design, that the universe no longer needs intervention or a supernatural being to account for the design and creation of the universe.[2]  Most of the interests in the design argument are advances in the scientific account for the beginning of the universe, which are used to argue against the fine-tuning, which will be evaluated.

It is paramount to explicate from the beginning that this is philosophy of science.  This practice is not theological.[3]  The argument is a posteriori gathered from the natural sciences.  The method by which design will be inferred is a historical science.  There are four differences between a historical science and a laboratory science.  First, repeatability is not applicable in the historical sciences; it is a metacriterion for laboratory science.  Second, historical science assumes uniformitarianism, that is, there are presently known causes to phenomena, which can be inferred by perceived effects.[4]  Third, the theories and explanatory hypotheses must lay in empirical harms way.  The conclusions must be falsifiable.  It should be noted that the type of scientific inquiry will be that of an Augustinian science as opposed to a Duhemian science.  Augustinian science permits and carries open metaphysical presuppositions with science.  Duhemian science strips science of all metaphysical imports.  This point yields to the final distinction, which is the understanding that historical science must use non-controversial reasoning.  The controversial claim for the design proponent is simply the introduction of intelligent causation.  However, this is not as controversial as much of the scientific community makes it out to be.  Agency is publically accepted evidence by experience.[5]

Such methods are derived from the use of abductive reasoning.  The American philosopher and logician Charles Sanders Peirce first described abduction.  He noted that, unlike inductive reasoning, in which a universal law or principle is established from repeated observations of the same phenomena, and unlike deductive reasoning, in which a particular fact is deduced by applying a general law to another particular fact or case, abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present.[6] Consider the following syllogism:

If it rains, the streets will get wet.

The streets are wet.

Therefore, it rained.

The use of abductive reasoning may seem fallacious at first take.  This syllogism commits the fallacy of affirming the consequent.  One cannot deduce from the data, that the streets are wet, that it rained because there are many other explanations for why the streets are wet.  It could have been the case that a fire hydrant was allowed to flow, a street cleaner came through, a concerned citizen who wanted to clean the chalk off of the streets from the little children drawing pictures or writing words, there are many possibilities that could explain why the road was wet.  This was the problem that posed Peirce:  How was it that despite the logical problem of affirming the consequent, one nevertheless frequently makes conclusive inferences about the past?  The key point is the explanatory scope and power of the explanation.  Abductive reasoning does not derive a certain conclusion (for one would then be guilty of affirming the consequent), but it makes an inference to the best explanation.  Peirce’s example was whether anyone should believe in the existence of Napoleon.  He claimed that the past may be inferred from the study of present effects, namely, artifacts and records.  Peirce concluded, “Though we have not seen the man [Napoleon], yet we cannot explain what we have seen without the hypothesis of his existence.”[7]  Despite the apparent fallacy, W.P. Alston, W.B. Gallie, and Michael Scriven have observed, such arguments can be restated in a logically acceptable form if it can be shown that Y has only one cause (i.e. X) or that X is a necessary condition (or cause) of Y.  Thus, arguments of the form:

X is antecedently necessary to Y,

Y exists,

Therefore, X existed

are logically valid by philosophers and persuasive by historical and forensic scientists.[8]

The suggestion was that a particular abductive hypothesis can be firmly established if it can be shown that it represents the best or only explanation of the “manifest effects” in question.[9]  The only causally adequate explanation of the life-permitting data is intelligent causation.  Minds, by experience, are capable of presenting and originating specified complex information.


            [1] The most modest claims of the argument are for an intelligent cause.  I choose to add a “personal mind” to the argument due to metaphysical implications of an intelligent causation.

            [2] Stephen Hawking, Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design (New York:  Random House, 2010), 8.  Hawking and Mlodinow base their positions on a model-dependent realism approach.  This ultimately voids all objective claims and their objections to design, primarily due to their confidence in M-Theory.

            [3] The argument, when combined with a cumulative case, may then be exported as philosophy of religion, but for now, the methods and data that will be examined will be done so from a scientific and philosophical perspective.

             [4] The method of uniformitarianism is currently understood in the scientific community as an assumption of the regular course of events as well as catastrophism (which would be implied by the presently known cause and effect relationships).

            [5] This is not based on religious explanations or religious experience.

            [6] In the words of Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell (New York:  Harper Collins, 2009), 153.  Charles Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375; “Abduction and Induction.”

            [7] Peirce, Collected Papers, 2:375.

            [8] Stephen C. Meyer, “A Scientific History—and Philosophical Defense—of the Theory of Intelligent Design.” W. P. Alston, “The Place of the Explanation of Particular Facts in Science,” Philosophy of Science 38 (1971):  13-34.  W. B. Gallie, “Explanations in History and the Genetic Sciences” in Theories of History:  Readings from Classical and Contemporary Sources (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1959), 386-402. Michael Scriven, “Explanation and Prediction in Evolutionary Theory,” Science 130 (1959):  477-482.

            [9] Meyer, Signature in the Cell, 154.

June 18th, 2011

Gravity: The Theory of Intelligent Falling

by Max Andrews

I’ve heard gravity used as an example as a means of mocking intelligent design by its equivocation to Darwinism.  I’ve dialogued with Darwinists and when I refer to their position on evolution as Darwinism some have retorted with, “I believe in gravity, does that make me a Newtonian?”  There are so many fallacious equivocations with comparing Darwinism to gravity that it’s a bit embarrassing for the mocker to make such a claim.  What spurned this post was question asked by a skeptic at the Glasgow Skeptics at the Pub talk with the University of Minnesota Biology Professor PZ Myers.  After a question by Jonathan McLatchie, an intelligent design proponent, Dr. Myers proceeded to ridicule McLatchie (I’ll comment on this in another post, you can read more on Dr. Myers’ reaction here).  The following question was asked by a skeptic right after McLatchie’s debacle with Dr. Myers.

Why do you think evolutionary biology is such a target for creationists? I mean, if you had been talking about general relativity you wouldn’t expect people to be here advocating intelligent falling [inaudible... "spaghetti monster"]. So why do you think it is that evolutionary biology is such a target?

Dr. Myers proceeded to answer the question by stating that physics and cosmology has been criticized by creationists.  This is true, many creationists (despite the categorical breadth of the term), do challenge the standard model of particle physics and big bang cosmology (among many other models).  Dr. Myers was correct in that but he failed to note the equivocation in the question and in his own response.  The equivocation is categorical, attempting to compare the strength of explanatory power and scope of Darwinism with gravity.  General relativity is, perhaps, the most well established scientific theory that sufficiently explains the relationship between two massive bodies.  Darwinism is the theory that all living things descended from an original common ancestor through natural selection and random variation, without the aid of intelligence or nonmaterial forces.  Here are my main contentions:

  1. Darwinism attempts to explain the origin of life in a prescriptive manner for the organization of information whereas gravity is a descriptive and is a means of transmitting information.
  2. Gravity could be an information component when aggregated with other constants and initial conditions to bring about a finely-tuned universe for the essential building blocks of life and environments required for life (at best to make Darwinism possible).  (See PCW Davies’ paper “How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?”).  When gravity is being used as an equivocation for being an information component the equivocation falls short because it is merely a part of a series of necessary components.  Again, Darwinism is a theory that takes information and organizes it to create life; gravity transmits information and has no ability to self-organize in a mechanistic manner to create information.
  3. There is information displacement in appealing to gravity as an equivocation.  Because of the descriptive and prescriptive differences between Darwinism and gravity the appeal to gravity does not sufficiently explain the aggregate information.  A sufficient equivocation would be the presence information fine-tuning of the universe’s initial conditions, laws, etc. with the information present in the Darwinian mechanism.  The only comparison that can be made is the presence of information (which is still debatable).  The origin and transmission of information cannot be appropriately equivocated.  Even so, if one wants to advocate a mere presence of information in the initial conditions then that information is, again, not self-producing and must have been caused by intelligence since no physical effect could self-produce information from the initial conditions. It creates a causal circularity.  (See Stephen Meyer on information in the physics and how this falls short in front-loading evolution from a theistic perspective).
In fairness, I suspect that the equivocation is supposed to correlate the sufficiency in explanatory power and scope of the data and how widely accepted or established the theories are.  Even so, one of two fallacies rest with this appeal (depending on intent).  Either’s it’s a slippery slope by suggesting that doubting Darwinism leads to doubting gravity or it’s an argumentum ad populum by appealing to its wide acceptance.  Either way, the attempt to intentionally correlate the two theories falls prey to fallacious reasoning.  All that one is left with at this point is fallacious mockery.  Dare I equivocate it to shooting oneself in the foot?
February 12th, 2011

The Discovery Institute’s Seminar on Intelligent Design

by Max Andrews

I attended the Discovery Institute’s Summer Seminar on Intelligent Design (Social Science) in 2010.  My thoughts and comments will be general since we were asked not release specifics concerning information being shared (some of it was yet-to-be published and I don’t know if it has been published yet so I’ll remain silent) and I do not want to “out” any other attendees in their academic endeavors.  Once you’re labeled as an ID proponent your academic career is potentially slowed down or halted.  I’ve already outed myself and I’m pretty vocal about my advocacy of design (I’m a philosopher so it’s not as academically persecuted).

I have no negative comments concerning the DI’s seminar.  In fact, I have more respect for the institute and fellows.  There were two concurrent seminars (natural and social sciences) that interacted with each other on a regular basis and combined on many occasions.  I participated in the social science seminar and being philosophy graduate student I’m not as adept in biology, chemistry, and physics as many others are.  I certainly received a welcoming abundance of science in presentations, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  Some of the lecturers included Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, William Dembski, Doug Axe, Jay Richards, Jonathan Wells, Richard Sternberg, Ann Gauger, Bruce Gordon, Jonathan Witt, John West, and Casey Luskin.

Lecture topics included:

  1. The role and origin of information in DNA
  2. History of intelligent design
  3. The scientific basis of intelligent design
  4. Science and education policy
  5. Science and education law
  6. Evolution and academic freedom
  7. The media and evolution
  8. The Privileged Planet
  9. Neo-Darwinism
  10. Population genetics
  11. Natural theology in cosmology
  12. The multiverse
  13. Obstacles to unguided evolution
  14. Junk DNA
  15. Biological information and development
  16. The Edge of Evolution
  17. The Social Darwinian Evolution
  18. Theistic evolution
  19. ID and the origins of modern science
  20. The role of genius, beauty, and the aesthetics in design
  21. The metaphysical implications of ID

The schedule is demanding since it requires to fit so much material into a time span just over a week-long.  You’ll interact with the scholars on a one-on-one basis and even enjoy meals together.  They’re not distanced like some professors at the university may be like since there’s only about thirty participants.  I still keep in touch with many of the other participants and have made great friendships.  What’s beautiful about the seminar is that not everyone believes the same thing.  Every participant’s credentials were different ranging from philosophy, theology, law, journalism, biology, medicine, biochemistry, and nuclear physics with only a couple of undergraduates, mostly graduates, and a couple Ph.D.’s.  Religious affiliation was irrelevant, views on evolution and origins vary, and friendly/fruitful debate sparked throughout the seminar.  The DI accepted participants from around the world:  Africa, Norway, Scotland, Wales, California, Texas, and the East Coast.

I left Seattle with 59 pages of notes on my computer.  I’ve referred to my notes on several occasions and have gained valuable and beneficial knowledge.  They provided nearly two-dozen books for me to read in preparation and for studying while there (and of course post-seminar studies).  I spent a total of $50 on my ten day endeavor and that was only for a snack in the airport, an over weight suit case, and another snack at a 7-11 down the street from the campus.  I highly recommend the seminar to anyone who is friendly and open to the ID hypothesis.  I’m doing my graduate research on the multiverse as it pertains to the fine-tuning argument and this seminar has certainly been a valuable asset for me.  Thank you Discovery Institute for sharing this knowledge and granting me the opportunity to briefly study under these scholars.