Do you know in what sense DNA functions as an Enigma Machine, and did you that Stephen Meyer used Darwin's own method of doing historical science to reach his conclusion of intelligent design?
This is a report from the recent Science & Faith: Friend or Foes? Conference held at Westminster Theological Seminary and sponsored by the Discovery Institute. Square brackets indicate my comments.
Francisco Ayala [Meyer’s Moriarity -- or is the situation reversed?!] talks of: “the functional design of organisms...” Darwin’s greatest accomplishment... Natural selection provides us with a Designer Substitute.
19th cc. biologists affirmed design because of adaptation of species -- breeding woolier sheep -- can be done -- choose wooliest male/female -- Darwin’s greatest insight -- nature can do the same thing -- survival of the wooliest! -- nature mimicking mind
Question: Is adaptation the only appearance of design? If not, has natural selection explained all the others?
Neo-darwinism = natural selection plus mutation
I’m conceding Darwinian scenario this morning (for sake of argument). The fundamental remaining question -- origin of first life -- is there evidence of design in the origin of life? Is there an explanation for it?
T.H. Huxley -- the cell is a simple homogenous globule of plasm, called “protoplasm” -- a mere gob of goo. [Evolution is the the history of from goo to you.]
1890s -- proteins large molecules
1950s -- Watson and Crick -- structure and function of DNA molecule (1953)
Crick -- the sequence hypothesis -- arrangement of chemicals which are functioning as letters -- results in molecular biological revolution -- information encoded in digital form
If animo acids line up “properly”, we call them proteins. Proteins are enzymes, they process information. A short protein -- a sequence of 150, intricate, 300. Animo acids must be in the “right” sequence -- how do they know what sequence they need to be in?
The DNA Enigma:
Not the structure of DNA molecule
Not where biological information resides
Not what the information does
The enigma is: where does the information in the DNA molecule come from?
“The problem of the origin of life is clearly basically equivalent” Function requires information
Complexity vs. Specified Complexity
I = -log, p (Claude Shannon - information theory) Information complexity is correlated to carrying capacity. We are not talking about this. By information I mean, following Crick, specification of sequence, a precise determination of sequence
Specified = Improbable.
Charles B. Thaxton The Mystery of Life's Origin: Reassessing Current Theories by Charles B. Thaxton, Walter L. Bradley, Roger L. Olsen, and Dean H. Kenyon (Paperback - 1992). Concerning chemical evolution -- all leading theories are inadequate
Dawkins -- the machine code of the genes is computer-like
Chance and Necessity: An Essay on the Natural Philosophy of Modern Biology
Jacques Monod. natural laws = necessity. Could the DNA enigma be explained by this?
Time is the hero of the plot [given enough time the improbable becomes probable, nay even inevitable]. But the chance hypothesis is now rejected; chance alone will not get the job done.
Bike lock -- four dials, each with 10 possibilities 10*10*10*10 = 10 trillion possibilities.
Not chance alone. Chance + Necessity. Complexity necessitates that natural selection was operating before life arose [before the survival criteria makes any sense]
Pre-biotic natural selection.
Natural selection presupposed self-replication, but self-replication depends on the pre-existence of functional proteins.
Vital Dust: The Origin And Evolution Of Life On Earth by Christian De Duve (Paperback - Dec. 22, 1995). Theories of pre-biotic natural selection fail. Become a contradiction in terms.
Self-organization - pure necessity. Natural laws -- on its face, sensible. Crystal of salt - self-organizing. 1960s hypothesis - information along spine of DNA molecules subject to law-like forces of attraction -- this was discredited as well.
Metallic board -- attracts letters to metal [Dr. Meyer illustrated], however, can you explain the order, the sequence of the letters by the forces of attraction? No.
Bottom line: The information content of DNA cannot be explained by the forces of physics or chemistry -- suggesting an extrinsic source
Could the design hypothesis be made into a rigorous scientific argument?
Darwin pioneered the scientific method of investigating events in the remote past -- inference to the best explanation in the face of multiple, competing explanations.
Charles Lyell -- the best explanation proposes a cause uniquely able to explain the effect in question by reference to causes now in operation. [Note: argument from sufficient cause]
Well, what produces digital code? information? Information theorist, Henry Quastler asserts, “the creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Bill Gates states that DNA functions as a computer program, just vastly more complex than anything humans have managed to achieve. When information is tracked back to its source, you always come to a mind.
Dr. Meyer formed the case for intelligent design using Darwin’s own method, derived from Lyell.
Darwin’s main contribution is this historical scientific method.
Stephen Meyer is the author of Signature of the Cell.