Book Review: Signature in the Cell

SignatureIncellby Brad Nelson   8/25/14
This book covers much the same area as Stephen Meyer’s other book, Darwin’s Doubt. But the first half of it or so is extraordinarily engaging as it looks at the mystery of life and the various attempts to explain it.

No science fiction novel ever written can complete with the truly bizarre reality of the mechanisms of the cell and the existence of the information in DNA. We are literally living in a nano-machine world. The original Star Trek series has an episode titled “Shore Leave” in which all the flora and fauna were manufactured below the planet. The trees were not real. They were constructed. They were tiny machines themselves.

And that is the fascinating aspect of all life. It is a complex micro-machine. That is not to say that life is nothing but a machine. One of subjects that Meyer takes on is the idea that the information in DNA was the result of some natural cause — as the cubical lattice structure of sodium chloride (salt) is. But there is an inherent problem with this idea. Meyer writes:

Thus, to say that scientific laws generate complex informational patterns is essentially a contradiction in terms. If a process is orderly enough to be described by a law, it does not, by definition, produce events complex enough to convey information.

Anyone familiar with even the most modest aspects of computer programming can understand that a simply “law,” while powerful for creating repeating patterns, are not good at generating new information (which, as far as we know, requires a conscious entity). It is easy to write a BASIC program that looks like this:

20: GOTO 10

Run this program and you will get an endless stream that looks like this: ABCABCABCABCABCABCABCABCABC…on into infinity. It’s an impressive show, but there is almost no information in it.

That is the inherent problem facing the understanding of how all that non-random (and useful) information became encoded into DNA. Not only that, DNA itself (along with its information) is useless without the machinery to translate the information and then construct proteins with it. Adding to the quandary is that the instructions for building the translation devices and protein manufacturing machinery are in DNA itself. One then inherently confronts a chicken-and-egg scenario. Which came first? And yet you can’t have one without the other.

Meyer takes you on a journey of the various attempts to get around this problem. Meyer points out the seemingly fatal flaws in all of them. He also makes the extraordinarily provocative point that life itself cannot be explained merely in terms of material processes. That is, as complex as the cellular machinery is, and given that the machinery itself does run via natural law, this can no more explain the system itself than you can explain the headlines on a newspaper by explaining the machinery of the printing press. What makes either a newspaper or a cell different is that they are the product of information. A newspaper can no more be explained by the properties of ink than a cell can be explained by the properties of chemistry. There was information content that went in on the front end.

This is all fascinating stuff. And although the explanations of the cellular machinery become quite technical in places, you will renew your fascination for the miracle of life. But as in Darwin’s Doubt, when all of the possible physical explanations are dispensed with, you come to “Intelligent Design” as the only remaining conclusion. And this could indeed be the case. But then that is pretty much all that is said about it. It’s a very incomplete and hollow conclusion after the riveting journey through the history of attempts to explain life. This entire book, thoughtful as it is, is left begging the question: What designer? Why? How?

Given how open-ended the conclusion is, it’s as if you’ve taken this journey through the fascinating landscape of the cell only to end up nowhere. I have no problem saying that Richard Dawkins is simplistic, even disingenuous, in his stubborn insistence on radical materialism. But to then say “All of your theories have holes, therefore Intelligent Design is the answer” seems to leap across at least a few gaps of reasoning.

For the religious, this book will likely be satisfying in that it basically says “God created life.” And that may well be so. But what we have in the fossil record is a curious creator, at the very least. For a billion years or so, all that we had on earth was a simple single-celled life form (blue-green algae). And then there was the Cambrian explosion where, I guess, the Intelligent Designer (having come back from a vacation in the Gamma Quadrant or something) seeded the oceans with the 24 or so primary phylum, many of which have since become extinct, but all life that exists today use those original phylum as a template.

We have to basically write our own conclusion to this book because Meyer does not. We might suppose this Intelligent Designer is the one and only God Almighty. But this designer (or designers) might well be an alien species who once visited earth. And the latter would make more sense. The earth as a kind of ant farm — with the basic seeds of life being planted and then allowed to grow, via micro evolution, as it will — would seem to be more consistent with aliens with an ad hoc plan than God Almighty with a divine plan.

Whatever the case may be, the mystery of life is evoked by this book and certainly not in any way solved. And jumping to the idea of an “Intelligent Designer” is a rational possibility. But it’s too bad that Meyer doesn’t explore some of the implications of this. If this Designer can design as he likes, then why genetic diseases? Why viruses? Why the inherent brutal nature of “survival of the fittest”? He makes no attempt to delve further than just a nondescript “Intelligent Designer.”

This book is, in places, a good critique of the often fatuous ideology of the scientific community. They are committed to radical materialism. But as Meyer points out, science did not start out that way. There was the assumption that we were looking at the work of some kind of Cosmic designer. However, the book, in some of its critiques, is overkill and becomes quite ponderous. There is a fair amount of padding involved for once you have poked enough holes in existing theories on the emergence of life, there really isn’t all that much to say. And all Meyer has to say is “Intelligent Designer.”

Still, I would urge you to pick up this book for that first 1/3 to 1/2 that is utterly fascinating.

Brad is editor and chief disorganizer of StubbornThings.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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35 Responses to Book Review: Signature in the Cell

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    This certainly sounds interesting (I have a very large collection of books on biological topics). But one correction: as I recall (I’m sure I have it around here somewhere, but I don’t feel like hunting it down just for a blog post), Darwin’s Black Box is by Michael Behe.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Thanks, Timothy. It’s a bitch getting all the details right. It was “Darwin’s Doubt” I was thinking of. And I’ve changed that.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        It’s very rare that I don’t find the occasional error in a book on something I know a good bit about. (For example, The Devil in the White City refers to the Borden murders as happening in 1891, not the correct date of August 4, 1892 — exactly 70 years before Barackula was born.) Usually these are minor and ancillary; if too many aren’t, I may give up on the book entirely.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          The damnedest thing is that even DNA cellular machinery has error detection and correction techniques. And I’ll be God-darned if I know how that works. But apparently such things are an absolute must or any genetic information would quickly degrade.

          And that adds yet another seeming barrier to any kind of “gradual” evolution of this machinery. Without error-correcting techniques, one would presumably get nothing at all. The sharks in the primordial soup would analogously predominate. Without some impetus, all those fancy-schmancy amino acids would be like so many out-of-work Obama voters. Good for nothing.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            This is getting into the topic Behe deals with in Darwin’s Black Box. His concern is with “irreducible complexity”. Basically, there are many biochemical processes that involve a large number of interdependent processes. This means that you have to have all of them developed at the same time, or at least that multiple steps would have to be added simultaneously. (Blood clotting, for example, involves various stages that are stopped and started by chemical signals. Add the starters without the stoppers, and blood clots when it shouldn’t and doesn’t stop. Add the stoppers without the starters and blood never clots at all.) But adding at least paired complex steps simultaneously is rather hard to believe from a purely mechanistic process of random changes.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I haven’t read Behe’s book (although I may have glanced at a chapter or two).

              The double-edged sword of “irreducible complexity” is that something may be or may not be. It gets back to that quote by Arthur C. Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” It’s easy to declare something inexplicable (like a magician’s trick) and then once you see how it’s done, it seems obvious and easy.

              I don’t have any ideological problem with saying that God assembled the initial parts like some union-scale assembly-line worker. That could be how it happened. It does not offend my sensibilities to think so. And if it happened via chance and necessity through the known laws of nature, then fine too. I don’t particularly care.

              And although it sounds groovy to say that there is an Intelligent Designer, that notion doesn’t come for free. There are all kinds of moral implications (good and bad) for an Intelligent Designer using the methods that he does.

              Whatever the case may be, we live in an extremely magical universe. Only the hardened ideological minds of the radical (typically leftist) materialists excise this aspect.

              The wonder of our minds and consciousness, our ability to think and create, and even the very existence of the humble atom, are all quite magical, for only the poorly adulterated and hardened mind of the cranky secular types insist they are mere nothings, that they are, and can only be, bland matter and nothing else.

              After all, such things are declared mundane because they are “natural” — but “natural” compared to exactly what? This is never answered by those who have willfully tried to wring the stupendous out of reality to fit their own constrained and often wounded psychology.

              • Timothy Lane says:

                Behe’s point is that you can’t have just 1 added step, you have to have at least 2 or 3, and that’s a bit much to expect from Darwinian processes. My own view is that, at least with regard to blood clotting, one can compare it in different animals. How (if at all) do fish, frogs, snakes, birds, dogs, and apes clot as compared to humans? (When we read Moby Dick in high school, the teacher pointed out that whales had very poor clotting, which is why harpooning gradually wore them down. On the other hand, he taught English, not biology.)

  2. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Here’s what one negative one-star reviewer at Amazon said — and I have to agree:

    The book is too long for its stated purpose. For its unstated purpose, it is about right. The stated purpose is to review the history of DNA science, and Meyer’s own life, as a framework to explain the inadequacy of naturalistic explanations of the genetic code. The unstated purpose is to throw a lot of basic history and science at the reader so that when the science becomes merely ‘sciencey’ most will not notice the transition. The result is that three small books (DNA for Dummies, My Life, and ID, the Theory That Couldn’t) have been woven together and sold as one.

    Fair enough. But then this same reviewer says:

    Sequence independence means random sequences can acquire meaning slowly and stochastically, not that the entire code was graven on tablets of stone before the world’s creation, and then delivered from heaven by a choir of angels.

    If Meyer does anything in his two books on the subject, it’s explaining the difficulty of trying to increment your way to useful proteins. At minimum, useful proteins are made up of a chain of 150 amino acids (with 20 types of amino acids to choose from in its alphabet, not counting their left-handed and right-handed versions). Other proteins have a thousand or more amino acids in a chain.

    So we see from the above how a mere linguistic trick is used to try to explain evolution. You can just “increment” your way to it, as if you had bricks and were building a wall. The small garden fence you started with could, if you kept adding to it, turn into the Great Wall of China given time.

    The problem is, regarding constructing proteins, that partial proteins (lower walls, if you will) do no good and are of no use. There is no obvious way to “step” your way to a finished protein that actually performs a function. And natural selection cannot work to solve this problem, for a non-functional protein in the preceding steps will not be selected to survive.

    I think it is still quite possible that some method of incrementing is possible. If so (and if an Intelligent Designer was not involved), those methods are almost certainly lost to time. But we don’t really know. I like that Meyer has kept an open mind and has connected back with the traditional conception of the universe as held by the founding scientists such as Newton. What we have today in science is a hardened and cranky fundamentalist ideology that is resistant to any explanation other than what they have already decided upon. And when hasn’t that been an impediment to discovery?

    • Timothy Lane says:

      My high school biology text had a nice explanation of the scientific method by contrasting how it would apply to a mechanistic explanation for what causes the heart to beat (a particular nerve going to the heart) with how it would be impossible to apply it to a supernatural explanation (such as “a vital force”). It’s this inability to test what might be called the God Hypothesis that causes science to ignore it. But just because you have to look for other explanations doesn’t mean that God really doesn’t exist.

      In fact, my high school physics teacher had an interesting piece on this topic. It involved some mice who lived in a piano, and wondered where the music came from (which of course happened whenever its owner played the piano). One found one mechanism, another went further — and they were right, these were parts of the means by which the player hitting the keys got sound as a result. But the sound ultimately came from the player, not the mechanism.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        It’s this inability to test what might be called the God Hypothesis that causes science to ignore it. But just because you have to look for other explanations doesn’t mean that God really doesn’t exist.

        It would likely be Stephen Meyer’s assertion that the information content in DNA cannot be ignored or explained away. He may be right, or he may be premature in jumping to an Intelligent Designer as an explanation. I suspect there is a remarkable answer, and one that neither side has thought of.

        But for the typical scientist, he is committed to the metaphysics of ultimate meaninglessness. They have to view everything that exists as due to a “random process” or that is a product of “necessity” such as necessitated by a predictable law of physics.

        By the way, Meyer does what I think is an expert evaluation of what “randomness” really is in his book. He is correct that “random” is typically used by scientists in place of “I don’t know.” And he shows how randomness itself isn’t a good way (or perhaps even a possible way) to construct information such as that contained in DNA.

        I suspect that DNA shows us that there is indeed some intelligent process, entity, or law that rides alongside the other physical laws of nature. This could be somewhat indicative of Plato’s “Forms,” the Élan vital, the Holy Spirit, or some such thing. What if there is some input we do not see? Even science agrees that 96% of the universe we do not see or know what it is made of.

        In many ways, the idea of Intelligent Design is a sort of “back to the future” moment for scientists who may well find that their radical materialistic view of the universe was necessarily a narrow dead-end. I think time will show this to be true. How we get there, who can say?

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          We hear about the God of the Gaps fallacy that is attributed to those advocates of ID. I suppose we could coin a Science of the Gaps as fair play. If ID people are guilty of invoking God in the gaps of our understanding, are not Scientistic materialists also guilty of holding that science will one day redeem the materialist claims of Science? It depends, I suppose, on whose Ox is being gored.

          We ID advocates live in a most interesting time, since the neo-darwinist paradigm is crumbling and more and more skeptical voices that are not beholden to dead orthodoxies are speaking out. The truth will win out. We shall see where the truth lies.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            If ID people are guilty of invoking God in the gaps of our understanding, are not Scientistic materialists also guilty of holding that science will one day redeem the materialist claims of Science?

            Absolutely. And they fall prey to the truism that if all you have is a hammer, every problem will look like a nail.

            However, I would fully expect that the method of scientific physical inquiry will continue to produce fruits. There is no reason to believe otherwise.

            But given the immaterial and quite “spooky” aspects of reality that we know of for sure (such as our minds), there is every reason to believe that one will need more than a hammer in one’s utility belt.

  3. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    One of the aspects of this entire question is how easily rhetoric and language are used to replace thought and evidence. And given the complexity and obscurity of the subject, it is easy to do so with honest or dishonest intent. Here is one exchange on Amazon:

    Comment: Starting from an assertion that we need 150 amino acids for functionality, and old and often refuted argument follows that the universe doesn’t have the resources to find even one such protein.

    Rebuttal: You claim this has been “refuted.” Again, this is misleading. More accurate to say it has been simply “ignored.” You write [Meyer ignores all evidence that vastly smaller fragments of protein have useful function.] But how small? And to what end? You complain about lack of calculation, but you fail to specify what function a 15-length protein could perform and replicate, what experiments show this, and how perhaps a collection of such could eventually create a living cell. It’s rope-a-dope.

    It may well be that life started using small proteins that randomly evolved. But which proteins? How many were needed to evolve together (just one isn’t likely to do it)? Did DNA (the information archive for how to build these proteins) evolve concurrently by chance or later? If later, how? And given that there are proteins made up of a fairly precise chains of amino acids (that is, you can’t substitute on amino acid for another in almost all instances), how did this come about? How did evolution “discover” such long chains (that perform very complex and specific functions) if you can’t increment your way there?

    To ask difficult questions that someone is not able to answer does not prove Intelligent Design or anything else. But my point is that when you delve into this subject matter, you will have to pick your way through the thick weeds of language tricks where something scientific-sounding is stated (even by eminent scientists) but nothing practical or that aligns with nature is said.

    And sheer nasty intransigence abounds. It is a common practice by the radical materialists to state that every objection of those who propose intelligent design have been “refuted.”

    The fact is, no one really knows how life started or how it evolved. It’s a highly interesting question. But hiding behind what are often superficial arguments are mere clashes of world views. And that’s not science.

    I think it’s reasonable for Meyer to say that only via a conscious mind have we ever seen information created and arranged (in a quite complex and amazing triplet code, by the way) as we see in DNA. And as one reviewer astutely observes:

    If you have studied quantum mechanics, you will have run into the inescapable conclusion that nothing really exists an a determinate state unless it is observed by a conscious observer. Furthermore, you probably have run into Bell’s theorem which concludes that locality is something of a myth and that there is no logical connection between the reality we live in every day and quantum reality upon which our material world is based. The theory of quantum mechanics frankly states that consciousness is (and probably was) a primordial property of the universe.

    Therefore to assert the primacy of mind is not the realm of kooks or anti-science types. Meyer is regrettably quite conservative in his assertions about an Intelligent Designer. I guess he doesn’t want to turn into an Art Bell by speculating how that would work or what it means. But the entire idea itself deserves more thought than just asserting a possible designer. Perhaps he will address that in another book.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Back in the 1950s, an experiment led by Harold Urey found that the type of atmosphere then believed to be the primordial terran atmosphere could lead to the creation of simple organic molecules (such as amino acids). Eventually they decided that the primordial atmosphere was different, but no one ever tried (as far as I know, and it’s a safe bet we’d know if they tried and succeeded) — and no one ever tried (again, as far as I know) to form those basic organic molecules into even simple chains. They merely assume this will happen. Until such chaining is actually demonstrated, of course, this is merely an unsupported hypothesis.

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        They merely assume this will happen.

        I have to admit, Timothy, that I also assume a “naturalistic” answer (with that word in quotes because I don’t think we have a firm grasp on the bounds of “naturalistic”).

        I’m going to assume, as a default position, that “random” or “essentialist” processes are the cause of DNA and life. And because I don’t presume that the universe created itself, I’m going to assume that a deist-like God wound it up (gave it its initial properties) and then let ‘er rip. That does seem to comport with what we see. After all, why should an Intelligent Designer capable of constructing DNA and all the protein micro-machinery leave us to just guess at what the hell is going on? Even college professors still (at least some of them) teach their students what they know rather than making them guess.

        And according to Meyer, the “primordial soup,” full of rich and nutritious amino acids and such, never existed. If it had existed for any worthwhile length of time (for even staunch evolutionists do not suppose life evolved overnight), there would be a tell-tale sign of deposits on the floor of the ocean. And, according to Meyer, rather than the atmosphere being full of groovy, life-giving gasses, most of the gases were inert. And there was supposedly just enough trace oxygen in the atmosphere to be very hostile to the formation of life.

        We get these fancy, almost voodoo-esque, experiments where they zap a beaker full of chemicals and — voila! — an amino acid. But that’s hardly creating life. But it does supply the necessary “voodoo” for the radical materialists to hold onto their dogma.

        Silly me, I thought science was about keeping an open mind and going where the evidence takes you.

        • Glenn Fairman says:

          It is argued that the universe is an open system and that cosmic energy supplies heat to start the cycle of life in the primordial soup. But if I turn up the broiler I am adding energy but its effects are undirected and will be harmful to the emergence of life. Some unseen hand is directing this symphony. To think otherwise takes more faith than I am capable of.

          • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

            The information encoded in DNA could not have arose materially. It is software. Information software of any order of magnitude requires design.

            Glenn, Meyer makes the point in his book that the often used (2nd?) law of thermodynamics — adding energy into a system and thus reversing the trend toward increasing entropy — is of little use to creating information. Such an infusion of energy can, as he shows by example (with a pop bottle and a vortex) create order. But that order is not the same as information.

            • Glenn Fairman says:

              I saw a 90 minute presentation with him speaking at Eric Metaxas’ “Socrates in the City” gathering. Here it is:

              • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

                Thanks, Glenn. I’m watching that now.

                Jeepers, he has more patience than I do. But he really got to the heart of the matter that there is a secular materialist religion underneath the “science” that is the real emotional issue surrounding much of this.

              • Kung Fu Zu Kung Fu Zu says:

                That was an excellent recommendation Glenn. I had never heard of Berlinski, but will now look into his work.

  4. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    The current materialist world view was summed up by Meyer:

    With vitalism in decline, Virchow boldly asserted his version of the materialist credo: “Everywhere there is mechanistic processes only, with unbreakable necessity of cause and effect.” Life processes could now be explained by various physical or chemical mechanisms. Since, in our experience, mechanisms—like cogged wheels turning axles—involve material parts in motion and nothing more, this meant that the current function of organisms could be explained by reference to matter and energy alone.

    The information content of DNA, as well as the incredibly clever code that is used (as well as the method to translate the code), are testament to the “cleverness” of random processes, if random processes could create such a thing. And if they could, I would say we would have to redefine the very meaning of “random” for then we would have to declare that there is some innate intelligence ability in the mere “random.”

    The section in the book that (frustratingly, because of a lack of good pictures or animations) deals with the translation of the code, and then the manufacturing of proteins, will give you some sense of the remarkable machinery involved in this. The DNA code itself consists of 4 letters (as opposed to a binary computer’s 2 letters — zero and one). It uses A, U, G, and C (in the form of physical nucleotide molecules). Not only that, the code itself is in triplet form: Every three “letters” in DNA encodes for one of twenty enzymes (which are the constituents of proteins, the very machinery of cells). That is, there is a code within the code.

    If that weren’t clever enough (bypassing the various descriptions of the types of RNA and their functions), you have various “pronged” proteins that (roughly speaking) are like Poseidon’s trident. The three “prongs” on one end match up to one, and only one, of the three-letter DNA triplets (after having been copied onto RNA). And on the other end of this whole trident is a receptacle that (with the help of other proteins) accepts only one of the 20 amino acids. And even this explanation is simplistic in regards to the whole process.

    So give “chance” its due if it can create something as remarkably clever as that. Meyer’s web site has a small animation on the front page which shows this process in overall detail. It’s important to view that lest we forget how truly remarkable a thing this is. It is not awe or simply religious sentiment that sees difficulty in this complex machine having self-assembled itself.

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Actually, the U nucleotide (I’m sure of its actual name) is used in RNA as a substitute for the T (thymine) in DNA. If Meyer identified it as a component of DNA, then he slipped up (and an error like that in an important basic element of his topic would be very disturbing).

      • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

        No, that’s not Meyer’s fault. That’s me skimming Wiki. And it wouldn’t be particularly disturbing to me if he did make that error seeing how awfully easy it is to make such errors. I expect his arguments to be sound. But typos slip in. That’s normal, although not desirable.

  5. Glenn Fairman says:

    The information encoded in DNA could not have arose materially. It is software. Information software of any order of magnitude requires design. Since Mind and information owe their origins to something other than Scientism, then DNA is the spawn of a consciousness of infinite complexity and scope that must lie outside of the material strictures of space and time which is finite. The origin must be timeless, spaceless, having the properties of mind and without beginning. Moreover, it must have some quality of personality to cause life to be willed into a finite material universe, because abstract entities like numbers cannot create.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The information encoded in DNA could not have arose materially. It is software. Information software of any order of magnitude requires design.

      That may well be so, Glenn. My quibble, as I mentioned to Timothy, is how far down or upstream the Divine mind comes into play. Is Deism a more proper model for how the universe works or does God get his hands into the works of the machine and tinker like a mad (but benevolent) scientist?

      Plus, although all software that we know of has been produced by an intentional mind, we can’t say for sure that all instances of software-like things are the result of intentional minds. Our intuition would suggest so, but a certain humility regarding our intuitions is necessary if only to take into account the bizarre quantum physics. I’m happy to say that such amazing software and hardware (for the entire problem is that one needs the other and is of no use by itself) could be, and perhaps very likely are, the product of a mind.

      But what mind? God’s mind? Some other mind? Some latent aspect of the universe that is of a type of mind? And what is the method of this mind? Surely the software created for primitive (relatively speaking) blue-green algae is not the finished product we see in man (or even slugs, for that matter). Are we talking various upgrades of software as God decided to play Bill Gates and go from Windows 3 to XP?

      God as software engineer is an intriguing proposition.

  6. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    Behe’s point is that you can’t have just 1 added step, you have to have at least 2 or 3, and that’s a bit much to expect from Darwinian processes.

    Timothy, Part of the problem with Behe’s thinking, or that of Meyer, is that it is infused with a lot of speculation. Granted, much of it may be quite logical. But as Meyer astutely points out in his book, the scientific process has long gone past the constraints of the Greeks who, more or less, thought they could deduce the nature of the universe via pure logic. A more empirical hands-on approach was required to make progress in our understanding.

    Being a philosopher myself, I have no problem with Behe and Meyer making pronouncements from their armchairs. They might even be right. But short of God coming down from Heaven and informing us — or centuries going by where the problem of DNA remains completely impervious to all attempts to solve it — such speculations remain just that.

    And that is not to say that the scientific method is the only way of knowing. It is not. But we will have a somewhat difficult time declaring that DNA is the work of a software engineer until we see his patent, so to speak. And I think that’s a fair point. If I’m a scientist involved in work on DNA and evolution, I’m going to have Meyer’s and Behe’s ideas in the back of my mind. But I’m not going to stop my research because they think that an Intelligent Designer is the reason for the software in DNA. And even if this was the case (especially perhaps if this was the case), there should be implications to this whose effects might be seen in other aspects of the cell.

  7. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    This was a very interesting talk (brought to our attention by Glenn) and Q&A session that Stephen Meyer did with Eric Metaxas Aretoohigh (made up that last name).

    Meyer is extremely poised, reasonable, and quick on his feet. He gave some terrific and clear answers to some complex questions. And his patience for the hostile materialist goes beyond anything I am yet capable of. (I love my grenades.)

    I’ll have to delve into the appendix of his book (rarely do I spelunk there) and find the predictions of his Intelligent Design theory. I would think one of them would be:

    Noted atheistic Neo-Darwinian is turned into a pillar of salt in the middle of one of his speeches.

    By the way, have I mentioned that the Kindle app is a POS book reader almost devoid of sensible features (such as a table of contents)?

    Really, the Kindle reader is a POS. It took me forever to find the Appendix. But here’s one prediction of ID that is interesting:

    • Investigation of the logic of regulatory and information-processing systems in cells will reveal the use of design strategies and logic that mirrors (though possibly exceeds in complexity) those used in systems designed by engineers. Cell biologists will find regulatory systems that function in accord with logic that can be expressed as an algorithm.

    I wonder if there will be any “GOSUB” statements or if the programming isn’t quite so messy.

    Here’s another interesting prediction:

    • If intelligent design played a role in the origin of life, but not subsequently, prokaryotic cells [more primitive cells without a nucleus] should carry amounts of genetic information that exceed their own needs or retain vestiges of having done so, and molecular biology should provide evidence of information-rich structures that exceed the causal powers of chance, necessity, or the combination of the two.

    Here’s an interesting one:

    If an intelligent (and benevolent) agent designed life, then studies of putatively bad designs in life—such as the vertebrate retina and virulent bacteria—should reveal either (a) reasons for the designs that show a hidden functional logic or (b) evidence of decay of originally good designs.


    • The functional sequences of amino acids within amino acid-sequence space should be extremely rare rather than common.

    • Glenn Fairman says:

      If you watched this clip, you will have realized that Eric Metaxas is a very funny fellow. In addition, he has written some very important books, in particular, his biography of Bonhoeffer. If you subscribe to Direct TV, you can find his Socrates in the City forums on the NRB network (378). They are well worth the time and stimulating. If not, they are on Youtube. Metaxas skewered Obama to his face at a national prayer breakfast a few years ago, and for that he has earned my undying devotion.

      On one of the forums, he had an intellectual named David Berlinski–a man that has more erudition in his little finger than the entire circular thinking crowd of neo-atheists he has flummoxed since his book “The Devil’s Delusion” was released. Berlinski is a scientist of the old school and is agnostic on the God Question. But in his book he sets fire to the crumbling house of Scientism with wit and aplomb. Few books were so juicy and informative on subjects that ranged from physics, chemistry, biology and astronomy. I list it here for those of you who are interested in objective inquiry.

      and the youtube Socrates in the City forum with Berlinski

    • Timothy Lane says:

      Poor designs like the retina might be indications against creationism or some form of continuing design. But it’s irrelevant if you assume that the Designer only intervened very rarely, perhaps just to get things going.

  8. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    That was an excellent recommendation Glenn. I had never heard of Berlinski, but will now look into his work.

    Yes, Mr. Kung. I quite agree. And this is what is great about this place. You get such excellent recommendations…stuff I likely would never have run into.

    The downside is that Glenn just cost me ten bucks. I bought the book, Kindle edition (even though the reader sucks, sucks, sucks…I’m going to see if I can find a way to convert it to Mobi so that I can use a better reader. I don’t know if Calibri will do that or not).

  9. Glenn Fairman says:

    You and your Kindle. When the grid goes down, my considerable library of real books is going to make me a celebrity—-all the classics. Men that look like they could be extras on Road Warrior will give me their daughters, just so that they can borrow a copy of Pride and Prejudice……..

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      I know. It’s somewhat pathetic. I’m not otherwise a technology junkie. I’m usually the guy who waits for the third generation or more of a technology. But electronic book readers have made it so much easier and more enjoyable to read. Plus there are just oodles of public domain books. I like being able to carry a virtual library with me wherever I go.

  10. Glenn Fairman says:

    Berlinski on Evolution Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions

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