Larry Moran, Intelligent Design, and the Three Martini Lunch

First, a confession: I am no fan of Larry Moran. He’s an evangelist of old-school Darwinism, which is rapidly being plowed under by Systems Biology.

Moran’s strident promotion of the now-discredited “Junk DNA” theory alone should give all of us pause. The man is still trying to save Junk DNA from extinction. (The ENCODE project killed it dead three years ago.)

PREDICTION: Ten years from now, when we understand twice as much about the genome as we do now, most scientists will be reluctant to admit they ever entertained such anti-scientific superstitions.

Well lately Moran is in a gladiator fight with Ann Gauger of the Discovery Institute. And he makes a valid point.

Moran fires a missive:

Take Stephen Meyer, for example, you can read his books from cover to cover and still not know what he thinks about the history of life. It’s clear that the Cambrian Explosion is a big deal for him and it’s clear that he thinks god is behind it all but he’s remarkably noncommittal about what actually happened according to his interpretation of the evidence.

Ann Gauger replies:

Meyer believes no such thing. He thinks that the appearance of most of the animal phyla over 10 million years represents a considerable increase in biological information. Ten million years is nothing on the geologic time scale, and information isn’t had for free. New body plans and new ways of living require new cell types, new organs, new nervous systems — at a minimum, new ways of using existing genes and the acquisition of new ones. This represents an incredible increase in biological information.

… I have already said Meyer does not think that all these animals poofed into existence over the span of days, weeks or years. He acknowledges the existence of the fossil record and the time span of ten million years over which animal life made its appearance.

Moran volleys back:

Damn! We’re no further ahead than we were before. Apparently the gods inserted all this new information into existing evolving species gradually over the course of 10 million years instead of just a few days, weeks or years. That’s not very helpful in understanding what the Intelligent Design Creationists are proposing.

Perhaps Ann Gauger can expand on this a little more? Did the gods nudge some of the species toward being arthropods in the first million years but waited until the last few years to create the information required to make chordates and vertebrates? What kind of information did they insert? What did they insert it into?

Most folks side with either Moran or Gauger and cheer for their team. But both sides have made valid observations – and both have missed a golden opportunity.

Let’s begin by acknowledging Moran has scored a serious point. ID people are notoriously vague about where this information came from, and how.

ID people say “Inference to the best explanation clearly points to design.” Yes, I agree… sort of… because I’m a communications engineer and I know this only too well. But how can you claim to know where, when and how the design event took place?

When you say “God caused the Cambrian explosion” you have given the scientist or engineer nothing to work with or do. And you’ve been remarkably unspecific about what actually happened 540 million years ago.

No scientist earning a paycheck gets to say “Hey, I know how what caused the Cambrian explosion – God caused the Cambrian explosion!!!” and take a three-martini lunch. Any more than Newton could say “God caused the apple to fall out of the tree” and head for the nearest pub.

Had Newton done that, nobody would know his name today.

I believe in God. And yes, God is an ultimate explanation – a beginning point and a rational source of order. But God is unhelpful as an immediate, physical, pragmatic, empirical explanation. You don’t need a degree in theology to know God is not repeatable. Not testable in the lab. Can’t be subjected to mathematical models.

Most ID people struggle to see why this is a problem.

Well, it’s a problem because when you use science in that particular way, science stops.

If you solve problems that way, how are you going to fund your research project? How are you going to get a job? How are you going to get a grant? The only thing a working scientist can do is peel another layer of the onion, discover something useful, and get paid for it.

Moran is likewise not without guilt. His obsolete Neo-Darwinian model neither explains where information originally came from, nor how it continues to increase during the history of life.

Natural Selection can only decrease information, since it causes things to die. (Which is subtraction of information.) And random mutation is noise, and noise destroys (because of information entropy). So you have two subtractions and zero additions of information with Neo-Darwinism.

Natural Selection explains survival of the fittest, but not arrival of the fittest. You need post-Darwinian mechanisms like transposition, horizontal gene transfer, symbiogenesis etc. in order to increase information.

Ultimately, we need to understand how organisms make these programming choices. We see the outlines of what they do. We do not actually know how they do it. Barbara McClintock put it this way: “What does a cell know about itself?”

Notice that Moran’s “Junk DNA” agenda is ALSO a three-martini lunch. “Our DNA is 90% useless, we don’t have to study it. So let’s close the office early and enjoy an extended weekend.” That is just as lazy as a “God did it, I believe it, that settles it” bumper sticker.

Junk DNA presumes disorder where we have consistently found order. “Junk DNA” has done more damage to mankind than the sacking of Rome. 40 years of genetic vandalism.

When you solve problems by declaring them “Junk” – or by saying, in Jerry Coyne’s words, “Move along folks, nothing more to see here” – how are you going to fund your research project? How are you going to get a job? How are you going to get a grant?

The only thing any working scientist can do is peel another layer of the onion, discover something useful, and get paid for it. And before you can even do that, you have to assume there’s something orderly to discover in the first place.

BOTH Larry Moran and his ID opponents make valid points, yet at the end of the day, abdicate some part of science.

This is precisely why I wrote Evolution 2.0: Breaking the Deadlock Between Darwin and Design. Even though I agree we see breathtaking order, engineering and information in biology, the model that ID is currently using will never get accepted by the scientific community. And the model Moran advocates is fast heading for the slag heap.

I wrote Evolution 2.0 because “Junk DNA” is junk science; because cells DO execute fantastically amazing processes that increase information; because the Cambrian is explainable via natural systems; and because all hard-working scientists and engineers who do their jobs deserve to get a paycheck.

33 Responses

  1. nurideen says:

    Hi Perry Marshall,

    I’ve been following your submissions keenly and am very much impressed with the impact and enlightenment this is giving to me and others across the globe. 

    Moreover,  I would recommend a book equally good for your perusal on Darwinism and Dawkinism. A whole chapter of this book has been dedicated do thus cause and salient and strong arguments are made against orthodox evolution.  The title of the book is ‘REVELATIONS, RATIONALITY,  KNOWLEDGE AND TRUTH’ by the Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmed. Please refer to www . alislam.org and visit the online library or search for a soft copy online.

    Kind regards

    Nurideen A. 

  2. David Cudney says:

    Please add paypal to your donation list. This would make it easier and perceived safer. Dave

  3. nkendall says:

    I don’t think Moran’s point it is a good one at all. The burden of explanation between the two theories–neo-darwinism and intelligent design–is asymmetric. Moran, as a materialist, does have to explain how complex features could have arisen through material mechanisms. That is what science is suppose to do. However an adherent of Intelligent Design has not such obligation especially if they acknowledge that the information has been infused by the divine or some surrogate empowered by the divine. How can any human understand or have any clue how supernatural infusions of information could be affected? All intelligent design advocates have to do is point out that material mechanism are insufficient. The two, at least in my mind, constitute a binary proposition and therefore by law of excluded middle, if one is deemed false, the other is true. But the mechanism will forever remain a mystery just as the mind’s interaction with brain for a dualist will remain a mystery.

    • Ten years ago I would have been content with your explanation. For Origin of Life, what you just described seems to be as good as we can do, seeing that almost no current model for origin of life properly qualifies as science. When you get right down to it, it’s a big giant mystery with few clues.

      On the subject of evolution, however, I see it a little differently. Most ID people are unaware that empirical evolution happens before our eyes on a constant basis. And though this is generally “micro evolution” it follows discernible pathways and has mechanisms. Furthermore, there is a significant amount of macro-evolutionary events, like new species etc that we have also observed and understand to some extent. So evolution is not a black box. It’s empirical and there is much to study and understand.

      So yes, I know that from within the ID view it seems one should be content with a metaphysical mechanism but reality is, we are already doing much better than that. And what we do know about evolution empirically is “post-Darwinian.”

      Use Amazon “look inside” my book “Evolution 2.0” and see pages 127, 141 and 82, just to name 3. Evolution of new adaptations and species in real time. http://www.amazon.com/Evolution-2-0-Breaking-Deadlock-between/dp/1940363802/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

      • nkendall says:

        Hi Perry,

        I understand all those mechanisms to the extent they have been described throughout current research. However I would make two points. 1) If these cybernetic mechanisms, as Shapiro would refer to them, produce especially complex, novel adaptions, then mechanisms “with discernible pathways”, no matter how sophisticated, cannot account for them. There has to be something else going on. This is similar to the mind/brain problem where, there is no known way or even, no conceivable way, that the putative processes in the brain could align themselves in such a way to produce complex,abstract and novel thoughts, Godel’s theorem among a vast collection of others. 2) According to materialism, nature is transparent to human reason; according to Intelligent Design adherents, nature is opaque to human reason. Therefore, there will never be need for me or any other ID proponent to offer a hypothesis–and in fact it is beyond the capabilities of human reason. We can speculate based on what we see and if you are really interested, I could speculate. But for now, I will leave it at that.

        Thanks for the book and this site. Doing a great service my friend.

        • Neal,

          I can largely agree with you, but there are some really important nuances here.

          First of all, you may very well be right that as soon as we recognize what cells REALLY do, we find ourselves in the middle of the entire philosophical question of consciousness and cognition. In my opinion that’s exactly where it takes us. But I hold that opinion provisionally. It’s just my opinion.

          But even if that is so – even if cells are conscious and self aware sort of like your dog is – or even if cells are in some sense smarter than we are – that does not mean they are completely inscrutable. This doesn’t mean it’s necessarily impossible for us to ever figure out what consciousness is or where it comes from. I admit that the question has been pretty opaque up to this point, but it doesn’t mean we can’t understand it more.

          Secondly, even if consciousness itself is completely opaque, we can still characterize the activity of conscious beings in many useful ways. I’m in marketing and almost all my experiments involve conscious, unpredictable human beings. Nevertheless marketing can be a VERY rigorous subject and it can be practiced using the scientific method (as defined by the book “Scientific Advertising” in 1918), and people in large numbers are remarkably predictable.

          If the next 25 years of evolutionary biology assumed that cells are conscious agents and we decided to treat cells the way economists and marketers treat large numbers of people, we would be light years ahead of Dawkins and his “happy chemical accidents.” Neo-Darwinism is a nearly useless theory from the standpoint of teaching engineers how to do anything practical.

          What I’m really trying to say is that there is no need for ID to assume that nature is opaque at all. Many theists would disagree that it’s opaque and in fact would argue that the existence of God means it’s discoverable and rational and NOT opaque.

          I would like you to consider that a more productive assumption might be “we do not know how many layers there are in nature; the layers may be for all practical purposes infinite; it could even be “turtles all the way down” – however we can always peel the layer that is sitting right in front of us right now.”

          That is undoubtedly the case with Shapiro and McClintock and everything they have done. There is SO much we don’t understand about what is going on, yet clearly we can understand it better. Meanwhile the presumption of intelligence IN nature (and not only from a force outside of nature) is actually quite helpful because it takes assumptions like “Junk DNA” off the table and replaces them with “this is here for a reason and you can figure it out.”

          • nkendall says:

            Perry,

            When I say nature is opaque to human reason I am specifically referring to ultimate causation. Regarding the central question of this thread, Mr. Moran has challenged Intelligent Design proponents to offer an explanation as to how a divine agent could infuse information into the biosphere in such a way to effect purpose. I don’t know and I don’t feel we should feel compelled to answer with any specifics. Whether this infusion of intelligence is achieved transcendentally through episodic interactions or continuously through immanence–an embedded intelligence endowed by our Creator or someone empowered by our Creator is beyond me, but I am guessing the answer is lurking within quantum theory somewhere, somehow.

      • I appreciate all you are doing, and especially with giving strong reminders to the scientific community that settling for “random” and “chance” explanations are actually a copout and science stoppers equal if not worse than “God of the gaps” arguments. I think you are a bit hard on the ID guys. I have attended a series by Stephen Meyer and I think that we need to appreciate the diplomatic minefield, chaotic mess that the church is currently in. When you have staunch advocates of everything from YEC to an absolute embrace of Darwinism and naturalistic explanations for it all within the Church and trying not to unnecessarily alienate anyone it is a huge consideration. I think this is where a question of loyalty and motive comes in. You are no doubt doing a great service to science with this pursuit, keeping people honest, and along with that truth is always going to promote the Kindom of God but also feel people need time and grace to overcome their anachronisms. My 2cents…

        • I am friends with a lot of the ID guys and I have said the same things to them as I’m saying right here. Frankly I’m just calling the elephant out in the room. I gave a talk at the Discovery Institute a couple of months ago which should hopefully be posted by the Christian Scientific Society at some point, where I go more into this.

          Frankly I think ALL the people at the table in this debate sometimes have very useful things to say – from the atheists to the YECs and everybody in between. And I call a spade a spade.

          What I find at various Christian venues is that people are very civil even though their views are ALL OVER THE MAP and I hope to bring civility and truth telling to this debate. Seriously, I want to shift the culture of how these conversations are handled.

          People are free to express whatever views they want here, and we will be cordial to everyone. But we will also pound assertions and statements on the anvil to see if they are true. And we will respect the scientific method and the scientist.

          Thank you for posting, please continue the conversation.

  4. Dave Reardon says:

    I think Moran, like most opponents to Intelligent Design (ID) theory, are unfairly pigeonholing ID as a hypothesis that requires God to be the source of the information used in the design of life on Earth. That’s a very anti-intellectual viewpoint.

    Even if Meyer and many other ID proponents admit, when questioned, that they that God is the most likely source of design, the whole point of ID is to be agnostic about the source of information. It is simply the proposal that design, by any source, divine or by extraterrestrial aliens, may be discoverable and subject to scientific investigation and verification.

    Perhaps the Cambrian explosion followed the “second” biomanipulation of Earth by an alien species using our planet for an experiment. The first “injection” of life may have allowed for numerous trajectories to respond to planetary conditions, and the second injection may have been a modification of the “evolved” winners during the Cambrian period to launch Earth life toward higher order life forms, including intelligent life.

    In short, ID cannot prove the source of design. But certainly it is reasonable to believe that if intelligent life “must exist somewhere on the billions and billions of other planets in the universe,” that their genetic engineers would conceive of experiments to introduce life on other planets and to MODIFY the trajectory of those life forms using their intelligence . . . not just random environmental noise.

    But ID opponents are so opposed the theory simply because it does not definitively exclude the possibility that an extra-dimensional “God” may be the source of this information that they are blocking broader consideration of the hypothesis: “If life on earth is designed by some extraterrestrial process/species/deity, can we identify evidence of design and how it works and perhaps how it was introduced?”

    Instead of worrying about the conclusions of deists about the source of the information, why not simply get on board with the effort to test whether there is evidence of design.

    If a rock falls off a cliff and crushes a car, forensic science can be employed to look for evidence of whether it started to fall as a result of natural causes or whether a crowbar wielding person in size 12 workbooks left traces at where the rock initially rested.

    By analogy, ID opponents insist that it is ridiculous to investigate the possibility that the rocks motion was not triggered by anything other than natural causes. But it they who are limiting the range of legitimate scientific investigation.

  5. Dave Reardon says:

    Perry, I appreciate your emphasis on addressing these issues from the perspective of information theory. However, I think you’re missing the most powerful argument of all.

    The encoder/decoder diagram you utilize actually addresses just one layer of information. What we are looking at, both in terms of biological evolution and cosmology, are many layers of information.

    Just as in linguistics, no word can define itself, so it is true that no layer of information can define itself. There are always additional layers of information needed to compose/create/sustain/operate the encoders and decoders used at other levels.

    Very relevant to this are the proofs of Kurt Gödel which convincingly demonstrate (to those with the logic and mathematical skills to appreciate such proofs) that any consistent system of logic that can be reduced to mathematical logic must rest on axioms that are not provable by that system of logic. In other words, there must pre-exist, outside that system of logic, other ways to identify truths upon which to base that system.

    Applying this principle to information theory, no layer of information encoding and decoding is completely self defining.

    In biology, we see layers of information and communication: RNA, DNA, epigenetics, cell processing (DNA code is read by a pre-existing cell which has its own info system dictating how to translate DNA), multicellular communicationsm, with neighboring cells influence behavior and development of their neighbors . . . and all of this is built upon layers of information (rules, fields, attractions, what ever you may call it) related to chemical bonds, atomic forces, and basic laws of physics which are also additional layers of information and rules that must be interpreted and processed by other layers.

    In computers, we have layers of information in program languages, assembly languages, and multiple layers of hardware, extending all the way down to quantum effects which though “random” are actually highly reliable enough “on average” that electron tunneling can be harnessed to create material junctions, circuits, ICs, circuit boards, computers, networks and systems that allow me to enter information in my home which you can then read and process as information in your home. Neither of us can even count all the layers of information through which this transaction must be processed, but they include both quantum, macro, biological and psychological layers of information that are distinct from each other yet also communicate with each other.

    As you say, it is difficult to imagine any “natural process” for the development of a naturally occurring encoding and decoding system. It is even more difficult to imagine how multiple levels of “randomly” occurring encoder/decoder systems could be integrated with higher and lower levels of encoder and decoder systems.

    As engineers, we know how to conceive and build layers of information (and energy) exchanging systems. But it always be design. Even if someone could win your Evolution 2.0 prize by showing a single layer of code that was undesigned . . . imagine how much harder it would be to demonstrate multiple layers that know perfectly well how to interpret each other.

    • Absolutely spot on. (Are you familiar with my article at http://www.perrymarshall.com/godel ?) In my new book I discuss layers of encoders, encoders, followed by layers of decoders, decoders. Engineers can especially appreciate the intricacy of this.

      • Dave Reardon says:

        I enjoyed your article on Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem.

        Are you aware of Godel’s proof that God must exist? The rigor of his logic has even been verified by computer algorithms. Search “Holy Logic: Computer Scientists ‘Prove’ God Exists” for details.

        Here’s another very important implication from the Godel’s Incompleteness theorem and core idea that every layer of information needs another “higher” layer . . .

        1. No word can define itself. Therefore, no language can define itself. Every word, language, code, et cetera relies on some previous information. For example, a baby only associates “mama” with the outside experience or observation.

        2. One of the classical proofs for God’s existence is that there must be a uncaused first cause.

        3. It follows, looking at it from an information perspective, that there must be an uninformed first information. Put another way, information that did not get “started” with information from outside itself.

        4. When Moses asked God His name, the answer was “I am who I am.” Sounds a little mysterious. But if interpreted from the insight of #3 above, it is very much akin to “I have no definition outside myself; I am the first definition on which all information is based.”

        Ponder that! It is just a curious accident that some ancient authors “making up a religious story,” just happened to describe this God defining Himself as “I am who I am” in a way that so perfectly fits with the necessity (I would claim) of information theory that requires there must be a first, undefined, self-defining knowledge, which is also an uncaused cause.

        • Agreed. Thus far I’m not convinced by the Ontological argument but maybe somebody will present it in a way that does make sense at some point in the future.

          Meanwhile you are entirely correct about your four points.

  6. Mark says:

    Perry, I do not think you have presented the views of ID fairly. ID proponents do not stop doing science because they may believe God is behind everything. There may or may not be secondary information generating mechanisms other than genetic mistakes and rearrangements and Natural Selection. ID is very happy to find such secondary causes. It is just that they have not been identified. There is still a lot of clear evidence of the activity of Mind, which unfortunately does not always leave artefacts. When I was at grade school and the Math teacher insisted that I show the working to get full marks, but I said “why show the working if I get the right answer?” Working may be invisible unless the worker decides to show it.

    • ID has a WIDE range of people, from young earth creationists to all kinds of varieties of evolutionists. Certainly I am unfairly representing SOME. However I do think I am accurately characterizing the majority, and the Discovery Institute. There are quite a few causes that don’t get nearly the attention they deserve. Stephen Meyer’s books only give scant attention to transposition, horizontal gene transfer, epigenetics etc and you would never get a clear idea of how powerful these tools are just from reading Meyer’s material.

    • Frank Morris says:

      Why should you show your work as long as you get the right answer? Because we don’t know you’re right until you show why you think you are, and you don’t honestly know either.

      Is it possible that something is happening that there is no evidence of? Sure, but it is a wild guess, at best, and very poor science. I accept mathematical models, uniformitarianism and even a reasonable process of elimination to an extent, but there needs to be some reason to accept a claim.

      If genetic errors and selection can cause what we see in the biosphere (it can’t), and there is evidence for it (there isn’t) but no evidence to the contrary (there is), then I would be a Darwinist (I’m not).

      Your comment actually reminds me of why I can agree with Perry’s comments about ID. It is way too wide an umbrella theory because it accepts everything from YEC to mostly Darwinism with an occasional intervention from God. I can’t accept a theory that includes either Darwinism or Creationism because clearly neither of those are true. The true story of how life came to be is nothing like either extreme.

      Another reason to reject ID is their history of duplicity and thinly veiled agendas. I think what irks me the most about ID and the Disco Institute, however, is the fact that, because of their own dishonesty, they are giving any non-materialist Biologist a bad name. Because of their lies, all you have to do is to suggest the I-word (intelligence) and you are suspected of being a Creationist and ridiculed for things you don’t accept.

      I aligned with ID for a short time, because I agree with their central tenet: that some things are best explained by intelligent cause and that life is one of those things. But they had all the facts on their side during the Dover court sham and they still lost so badly that science has not yet recovered. They lost because of sheer dishonesty / duplicity, and even seemed to concede that science was against them, which is not true.

      Biology is finally making a comeback a decade after Dover, as Darwinism is failing the test of the scientific method again and again, but the turnaround is to be credited to the Shapiro’s, McClintock’s and Margulis’ of the world, while ID has been nothing but a disgrace and a burden to the cause.

      • Frank,

        I am not close enough to the politics of it to agree or disagree with your accusations of duplicity. But I will say they have over-politicized this whole issue and bravo for your comment:

        ID…. is way too wide an umbrella theory because it accepts everything from YEC to mostly Darwinism with an occasional intervention from God. I can’t accept a theory that includes either Darwinism or Creationism because clearly neither of those are true. The true story of how life came to be is nothing like either extreme.

        That’s the problem.

  7. Frank Morris says:

    I am also no fan of Moran. I got into a debate with him once on his website and he lost so badly he deleted almost all of the conversation and banned me from the site even though I was quite polite. He left undeleted just one of my statements with his response, which out of context made me look silly. It was a cheap, dishonest and cowardly move and I have no respect for the man.

    As to his debate with ID proponents, it is like a foot race between a tortoise and a snail. Not a word of either side’s arguments has any value to science.

    Life is clearly intelligent. One of the more clear signs of intelligence is the genetic code. It isn’t just a matter of guessing about what happened millions of years ago. We see the genetic changes by the trillions going on in somatic cells on a daily basis. If there were frequent errors in these changes we would be doomed. Genetic codes are languages, used by cells. They change constantly in highly functional ways within our lifetimes, both epigenetically and in mobile genetic elements. Glial cells in the brain alter RNA in functional ways constantly to enhance thought processes. Antibodies alter themselves genetically to bind to a pathogen. In a case of clear reverse selection, those that die are the antibodies that proliferate, all for the good of the larger organism.

    We know far too much about genetics to go back to the dark ages of Darwinians like Moran, Coyne and Dawkins, who are both really just atheism evangelists. Science does not agree with these ideologues.

  8. Ladies and gentlemen:

    A commenter on Facebook insisted today that Larry Moran DOES talk about Transposition, the mechanism for mobile genetic elements that Barbara McClintock discovered in the 1940s. I did a search. Sure enough, he does. And guess what he says?

    http://sandwalk.blogspot.com/2007/10/transposons-part-i.html

    “They don’t usually have any function other than replicating themselves and jumping around in the genome.”

    “Genomes that contain lots of non-essential DNA (junk) are likely to carry many transposons.”

    WOW. Unbelievable. As though he thinks these things just move around, willy-nilly, for no particular reason at all.

    I would like to suggest that Mr. Moran sit himself down and read a modern biology book so he can find out what Transposons actually do and what they are for. A number of excellent choices come up when you search “transposition biology” on Amazon:

    http://smile.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=transposition+biology

    I continue to be amazed at the anti-scientific tripe that evangelistic atheists broadcast in their efforts to twist science to fit their agenda.

    My friends, sleep with one eye open.

  9. frans says:

    If it was not for my very own experience, i would not have considered
    the existence of ‘previous life’ experiences to be true.

    I would therefore postulate that the so-called junk DNA (or at least
    some of it) consist of ‘memories’ we inherit(ed) from our ancestors.

    These memories will differ from people depending on their ancestral
    reality experiences causing us to assume it is ‘junk’.

    After all, what use is information without processing and/or storage.

    Regards.

  10. Mayuram V. Sankaran says:

    A joke goes like this:
    When God made man, man sat up, looked all around and, with a puzzled look, asked God: “What is the purpose of all this?”
    God looked at him quizzically and asked him: “Should there necessarily be a purpose?”
    And man said: “Of course!”
    Then God retorted:
    “Well then, I shall leave it to you to find one!”

    • Dave Reardon says:

      I love that joke . . . or shall we say, more accurately, paradoxical insight.

      A similar point is made in Matthew West Song, “Do Something” in which the protagonist is upset at the evils in the world, and so sings…. “I shook my fist at Heaven / Said, ‘God, why don’t You do something?’ / He said, ‘I did, I created you'”

      God is the source and answer to all the great paradoxes of life. On that wonderful topic, I cannot highly recommend enough Dale Ahlquist’s exploration of G.K. Chesterton’s love of God’s paradoxical nature in the episode “The Riddles of God” which you can find here: https://www.ewtn.com/v/ondemand/audio/file_index.asp?SeriesId=6703&pgnu=

  11. Todd Moody says:

    I agree that Moran has a point about the vagueness of (some versions) of the ID argument. In part, this is because ID is seemingly stuck at the “proof of concept” point. This also happens to be the most “inclusive” point, as you commented above, since believers in special creation (those who reject “minimal evolution”, or the common ancestry thesis) are a proper subset of IDers.

    The politics of anti-Darwinism tends to make some IDers skittish about openly accepting minimal evolution, although I believe Michael Behe (certainly a pillar of the ID movement) has stated he has no quarrel with it. But at times the Discovery Institute seems to be as much about opposing even minimal evolution as it is about making the case for ID, and they don’t give much attention to the point that ID doesn’t entail that minimal evolution is false. Indeed, once ID is in play, the possibility of minimal evolution is strengthened. Some IDers complain that their critics don’t bother to distinguish ID from young-Earth creationism, but some IDers also don’t bother to distinguish neo-Darwinism from minimal evolution.

    If we can imagine that the first life, or first evolvable proto-life, was engineered, then there is absolutely no reason to imagine that it had to be “simple”, in terms of its genetic resources.

  12. Dave Reardon says:

    I think it is a mistake for both sides to get distracted by a premature effort to narrow the possible origin of the new information to “God.” I don’t rule out that possibility, because I believe there is a reality outside the physical universe, but for those who don’t, the prospect that this information was added, even over 10 million years, by extraterrestrial genetic engineers is a very real option.

    It’s actually startling. Materialists believe intelligent live likely exists in numerous star systems. They, and everyone paying attention, also believe that intelligent beings can figure out DNA enough to guide our own evolution.

    I don’t personally believe in extraterrestrial intelligent life. But neither do I exclude the possibility. And if materialists are right, if there are hundreds of thousands of planets in our galaxy alone with intelligent life, it seems likely that all or most would be interested in shaping new life forms once they had the technology to do so.

    Therefore, isn’t it likely that those with interstellar travel would deliberately seed life on other planets and “guide” the evolution of life forms . . . if only to get better at manipulating life. How hard would it be to find scientists on our own planet willing to embark on such an endeavor if it were within the reach of our technology?

    For that reason, I’m perfectly content with being agnostic about “the extraterritorial” source of the coding and increase of information in DNA over time. Maybe it’s God. Maybe it’s a silicon or photon based life form from another galaxy whose own origin has nothing to do with amino acids.

    The source of outside information that might be embedded in our planets DNA library is a secondary question. There is no point in even asking that question until we determine that life, at least on Earth, is not the result of a fortuitous random accident: time+random bumping=life.

    By analogy, if a car is crushed by a falling rock off a mountain side, there is no point looking for a murderer until one investigates whether the rock could have fallen by accident or whether the evidence points to their being some design, effort, plan behind the rock falling. Footprints and a jackhammer at the origination point of the rock might suggest, to the unbiased observer, that it wasn’t an accident.

    I’m content to let those who object to metaphysical explanations believe that the source of any signs of intelligence that might be found in DNA is from extraterrestrial life forms. Why? Because I don’t believe arguments over the cause of evolution are the key way to convince people to believe in God, or gods, much less Christianity.

    On the other hand, I believe it is ridiculous for non-believers to take the position that randomness is the only possible explanation for life when the evidence, as Perry and numerous others has presented, is much stronger on the side of this not being an accident. Maybe we can’t track whose “footprints” lie behind this “designed accident,” but we won’t make much progress on that front until we admit it isn’t an accident and that it is rationale and reasonable to speak, investigate, and form hypotheses based on the premise that there is, or most likely is, or at least may be intelligent design underlying genetic code which appears to have so many features of “artificial intelligence” we see in our software systems which is precisely “designed” to modify life forms in response to environmental pressures.

    If speciation is a sign of good “artificial intelligence” baked into the genetic code, that’s something we can and should investigate without scientists fearing ridicule and censure for “siding with Creationists.”

    I want to see both scientists, and our children, freed from the dogmatic shackles which atheists are trying to place on discussion of biology, in which they are trying to force down our throats the conclusion that “this is all random,” when in fact there is plenty of evidence, even overwhelming evidence, that “life on earth could not have originated without outside help.”

  13. Gunneswara Rao Satyavolu says:

    Mr.Perry Marshall
    I went through many of you articles and discussions. Very interesting.Why dont you search if you dont have inhibitions kindly go through hindu philosophical literature on god creation intelligent design etc.You definitely find better or even the best logical and scientific answers for the ID. In the process of knowing the Intelligent Designer ,you can come to know your own identity and then every thing is revealed to you.You are seeing things only from the Holy Bible window,take a bigger and broader outlook by converging all faiths.

  14. Rip Snow says:

    As a fascinated reader of this long argument, (years to be sure), I am completely flummoxed by the fact that those on the purely materialistic side of this discussion fail to see that their own hypotheses all rest upon metaphysical assumptions that Science cannot explain because it doesn’t have the tools to do so. Just as Science cannot define itself by scientific means, neither can the deep information within living systems and the coding necessary for replication, much less change, could possibly be self defining. I will continue to read your work and will obtain your book. This is the first I have heard of you or your work although some of the names mentioned from the scientific community I have heard. Thank you also for stating the true conviction that belief cannot solely rest upon confirmations from the material sciences. They at their limits can function well however, as pointers and though provokers. It seems awfully prejudicial to equate science with anti-theism. It seems to me that science, at least in the field of biology has moved past the rift.

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