Is Intelligent Design a Science Stopper?

Is intelligent design more of a science stopper than the evolutionary paradigm?

I listened to an episode of the Unbelievable! podcast from 2011 that was rebroadcast recently. Stephen C. Meyer was on with Keith R. Fox MA, MPhil, PhD, professor of Biochemistry, Principal Investigator (Nucleic Acids) at University of Southampton in the UK and Associate Director of the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion, Cambridge. The topic was Meyer’s groundbreaking book, Signature in the Cell, and the origin of life.

Keith Fox and Stephen Meyer are both professing Christians. Fox holds dogmatically to the evolutionary paradigm and does not believe intelligent design is an appropriate framework for scientific inquiry. Meyer maintains that intelligent design is a better explanation and is warranted by the science.

I will not attempt to explain everything they discussed, as I would require much more space than a blog article and more time than my schedule might allow at the moment. I encourage you to listen to the whole discussion if this article piques your interest. (You could also read the book.)

I want to focus on one point Steven Fox made about the intelligent design argument. Fox objected that intelligent design is a “science stopper”.

He explained that he believes the promotion of intelligent design as an explanation for the origin of life would stop further scientific inquiry and frustrate science. It will effectively inhibit further inquiry as to how the origin life occurred, says Fox, if we conclude that “intelligence did it”. (A kind of God of the gaps argument)

Meyer didn’t address the point immediately or directly. The discussion went off in a different direction, but I found myself unwilling to let it go.

“Why would intelligent design be a science stopper?” The statement begs for a response.

Fox claims that invoking the intelligent design explanation stops the process of asking questions, but he didn’t explain why. I have heard the statement before, but the statement is conclusory. Does it really follow?

I understand the anecdotal evidence of certain people who have advocated a kind of blind faith approach to Bible and science issues, but that’s only a segment of the population of people who call themselves Christians. It’s not the majority, and they don’t have any influence over people who do science (Christian or non-Christian).

Implicit in that response is, perhaps, the thinking that we have done biological science very well on the evolutionary paradigm for about 150 years. It works. Let’s not mess it up. I can appreciate that.

A person might also observe, correctly, that the focus of science narrowed many years ago purely on natural processes, eliminating divine agency from consideration in science. Let theologians think about God, but the scientists should focus on the science (the “non-overlapping magisterium” approach).

I understand that science is limited to the study of nature and natural processes. Science has nothing to do with theology (though theology was once considered the Queen of the sciences). Science has nothing to do with philosophy (though many scientists don’t appear to know the difference).

I am only speculating that these kinds of thoughts are behind the resistance against considering intelligent design as a competing paradigm to evolution. I understand them, but I would like to push back.

The objection to intelligent design seems to be an extension of the “God of the gaps” argument.

It incorporates the same assumption – that belief in God stifles and stymies science, but I don’t believe it’s a good assumption, and I don’t believe that the evidence warrants that conclusion.

Continue reading “Is Intelligent Design a Science Stopper?”

Is the Darwinian Paradigm Exploding?

The Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms.

Alright, I admit the title of this short article is a bit provocative, but I got your attention. I would actually say the Darwinian paradigm is going through something more like an evolution. The explosions are not in the paradigm, but in the facts that have been slowly uncovered in the fossil record since Darwin championed the evolutionary paradigm.

The short video at the end of this article produced by Science Uprising alludes to a number of “explosions” that elude a Darwinian explanation. Paleontologist Günter Bechly, summarizes,

“The phenomenon of sudden appearances in the fossil record is not just an exceptional case, but actually is a pattern that is found everywhere.”

The obvious example is the Cambrian explosion in which most of the phyla that exist today appeared in the blink of geological time, in a mere five to ten million year window. Charles Darwin, himself, acknowledged the problem the Cambrian Explosion posed for evolutionary theory, but he expressed confidence that future fossil discoveries would fill in the gaps and provide evidence of the precursors to the Cambrian life forms.

Since Darwin’s day, the gaps have not been filled by subsequent discoveries. Rather, the gaps have widened, as Stephen Meyer recounts in his book, Darwin’s Doubt. To make matters worse for the Darwinian paradigm, the Cambrian Explosion isn’t the only evidence of the sudden appearance of life forms. Other examples are numerous, including:

Technical scholarship is replete with the recognition of explosions (radiations or revolutions) of insects, fish, birds, dinosaurs, mammals, and the “big bang theory of human evolution” with no credible transitions in the fossil record. Many scientists, though continue to look for the precursors and clues to plug in the evolutionary gaps.

It seems that the evolutionary paradigm, which arose abruptly and transformed science overnight, is very slow in adapting to new information as it is uncovered. Not that we should be overly critical of the painstakingly slow progress. Science is slow and methodical with intention.

Explosions, though, such as the relatively sudden rise of Darwinian theory, may give way to equally sudden corrections, kind of like the mass extinction events that give way to new “radiations” or “revolutions'” in life forms. For more on the “time crunch” facing evolution, watch the short video that follows.

Science and Faith Wrestle with Nothing over the Big Bang

The creator of the YouTube Channel, Science Uprising, does a good job with the production of Big Bang: Something from Nothing, both in the technical aspects of the video and its content. The mask is a nice, dramatic touch.

The mask has taken on a the meaning of standing up to tyranny in countercultural circles, and that meaning is not lost in the video. Popular science promoters of the atheist stripe in the last 20 years have been aggressive in trying to squelch the idea that faith and science can live together. This YouTuber is having none of it!

Indeed, the effort seems to have awoken and inspired many believing scientists in recent years like some of the people who appear in this video, pushing back against the New Atheist mantra. Not only do science and faith fit together like a hand in a glove; non-theism seems to be pulling at the fringes of credibility to walk back the determination that the universe had a beginning a finite time ago.

The so-called “Big Bang” or “singularity”, as Hawking called it, has proven problematic for the scientist who wants to remain a materialist. The implication of a Beginning from the fact that there was a beginning to matter, space, energy and time is a conclusion that Einstein didn’t want to face, though his theory of relativity suggested it.

He came around, and so have almost all scientists today, albeit reluctantly for many who thought that science buried God years ago. Hawking, who proved singularity mathematically, spent much of the rest of his life trying to avoid the inevitable conclusion that his math confirmed. Multiverses would be his answer, though they are no more provable by science than a creator.

Science, though, didn’t bury God. Science is increasingly being seen as the study of the universe God created. I know a handful of atheists who became believers through science. The dogma of the New Atheists is turning brittle as time wears on.

These are just some of the things I think about as I view this short, but well done, video:

The Paths that Diverge at the Crossroads of Existential Angst

Why do I wonder? Why am I conscious of my wondering, and why does my wondering create in me such terrifying angst?

Stephen Meyer describes the existential angst he experienced in his early teens in an interview with Sean McDowell that is embedded in its entirety at end of this article. Meyer majored in physics and geology, but he accumulated a minor in philosophy on his way to an undergraduate degree. His interest in philosophy was driven by the existential angst he felt as a young man.

Stephen would become a geophysicist and college professor. Then he would go on to obtain a Masters n Philosophy and a Ph.D in the philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge.

Meyer explained that he wanted to be popular and good at sports, like most teenager’s, but that wasn’t going well for him. A couple of nights before a planned ski trip with his father, some “weird questions” started “popping” into his mind, like: “What’s it going to matter in a hundred years?”

He was initially troubled by those questions, but anticipation for the ski trip distracted him for the time being. On the skiing trip, however, he broke his leg badly.

He woke up from an operation with a full leg cast. Several days in the hospital and limitations on his mobility stirred his active teenage brain to dwell on the questions that haunted him before the trip.

While he was in the hospital, his father brought him a book on the history of baseball. As he read the book, he began to notice the stories all ended the same way. The great prospects were scouted. They came up to the majors with budding promise. They had a fantastic career. They accumulated records, and they retired….

…. and, “Then what?”, He wondered.

In his 14-year old mind, baseball was the greatest thing a person could do. Now, he wondered, “In a hundred years, would anyone remember those accomplishments?”

The mundane routines of his life – getting up in the morning, taking the bus to school, coming home, doing his homework and chores, and getting up in the morning to do it all again – led him to fear “that nothing I was doing was going to amount to anything”.

The routine of hobbling to the mailbox each day to get the newspaper to read the baseball box scores added to the existential weight. As days went by, he became conscious of the dates on the newspapers. Each day a new date, one after the other, with each one passing into memory.

Snap your finger one moment, he realized, and the next moment you are remembering the moment you snapped your finger. Each moment is passing even as you dwell on the moment, and then it is gone. An endless reminder of his finitude.

He became aware of the ephemeral nature of time, and began to wonder, “What is it that is the same all the time and is the basis for binding all these passing sense impressions together?”

This question led to the conclusion, “Unless there is something that doesn’t change, everything that is constantly changing has no lasting reality, let alone meaning.”

He had no reason to believe there was an answer to this angst. There was no reason to believe there was anything that was always the same, that there was anything that was unchanging. There was nothing evident to him to anchor the ever changing world of his experience to anything solid.

This reminds me of an early realization in my own life. I was maybe around 5-7 years old, when we watched a reel of home movies of my father and grandparents and me as a younger child. This was, perhaps, my first self-conscious awareness of the passage of time.

I don’t know if I dreamt this, or imagined it, or whether it was a “vision”, but what I recall was real. I still remember it, though the immediacy of the feelings that went with it have faded. I experienced the sensation of floating in the unimaginably vast emptiness and expanse of space – alone – not connected to anyone or anything.

The feeling that accompanied the dream was utter and terrifying emptiness and disconnectedness. Words don’t do it justice. I imagine now that the Yawning, gnawing feeling utterly terrifying feeling I had is similar to what Meyer experienced as he wrestled with the questions whirling in his young mind.

Meyer realized one day, when he had a strong urge to ask his parents, that his parents could offer him no better solution. He realized there was no sense even asking. They were finite creatures like him. They could not provide salve for what bothered him.

Stephen Meyer remembers looking at his windowsill in his leg cast and staring at the pattern in the wood. He wondered, “How do I know that what I am seeing is really there and not just something that is going on in my brain?”

In his next thought he wondered, “Is this what it means to be insane?” Then arose the fear that led to a new fear that the questions meant there was something wrong with him. Meyer speculates that a psychologist might have diagnosed him with anxiety leading to a panic attack.

In college, though, Meyer was able to find some clarity and context for his experience in the study of existentialism: “Without an infinite reference point, nothing finite has any ultimate meaning or value.” (Paraphrasing John Paul Sartre). Meyer realized, “That was what was bothering me!”

Everything is in flux from our human vantage point. Everything is passing, passing, passing….. Nothing has any lasting meaning or value from the position of a finite being. The anxiety he felt was a “metaphysical anxiety”.

Stephen Meyer’s journey is somewhat similar to mine, except for the details. This journey is also common to human experience, and it has ancient roots. Anyone who has spent any time reading Ecclesiastes knows what I am talking about.

Continue reading “The Paths that Diverge at the Crossroads of Existential Angst”

Doubts About the Viability of Darwinian Theory Increase

sad chimpanzee

I am reblogging this post as I have the distinct impression that most of the world, including most of the academic world, don’t realize that the Theory of Evolution, which seems to be accepted more like a fact in modern society, is still not completely settled. While the official face of the scientific world continues to bow in homage to Darwinian Theory, doubts of its ultimate viability and explanatory scope are increasing.

This is not to say that doubts about evolution, generically, are increasing. Evolution can mean any number of things, including the adaption of species over long periods of time. Garden variety evolution is not seriously in question (to put a layman’s spin on it).

Rather, evolution as an explanation of the origin of life and which defines the entirety of the biological process, from beginning to end, is still in some flux. If you don’t believe me, listen to Stephen Meyer and Perry Marshall debrief the Royal Society meeting of eminent biologists last November. (See Unbelievable? What happened to evolution at the Royal Society? Stephen Meyer & Perry Marshall)

Their report (as well as others) reveals a Neo-Darwinian theory in crisis. Many scientists are finding it increasingly difficult to maintain the old paradigm, even with a face lift, in light of ongoing research and discovery. The old model is straining under the pressure.

It isn’t any wonder, then, I suppose, that the number of scientists willing to sign a petition expressing skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution has risen ten times since 2001.

Skepticism About Darwinian Evolution Grows as Over 1000 Scientists From Around the World Declare Their Doubts About Darwinism WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Over 1000 doctoral scientists from around the world have signed a statement publicly expressing their skepticism about the contemporary theory of Darwinian evolution, according to Discovery Institute. The statement, located online at, reads: “We are […]

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