Return of the God Hypothesis

I attended a seminar recently with Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute. He’s a good speaker who talked mostly about his book Darwin’s Doubt and anthropic fine tuning. Here are some highlights and things I hadn’t heard before from an ID speaker:

  • He spoke not only about design but also about “a designing mind”. There was a willingness to talk about the designer.
  • He contrasted Darwin’s modest rhetoric with his popular defenders, then and now, who engage in overstatement.
  • He emphasized that evolutionary biologists are questioning the mechanism for evolution (not just Darwin critics).
  • He critiqued the Artifact Hypothesis, which blames the Cambrian explosion on the incomplete preservation of fossils.
  • He emphasized that the Burgess Shale and other finds have, instead of filling in gaps, increased the number of gaps in the fossil record. The more we’ve looked, the more the discontinuities we find.
  • He said the discontinuities go down to about the family level. There is common ancestry only within limits.
  • He emphasized that the number of ways that mutations can go wrong is very much more than the number of ways they can go right. And mutations early in development are the most fatal.
  • He was favorable toward ‘natural genetic engineering’ — that mutations aren’t random.
  • He explained why he uses Inference to the Best Explanation and how Darwin used it, too (and called it vera causa).
  • He noted that Lyell’s principle of using only causes now in operation applies to intelligence as a cause.
  • His main argument is that intelligence is ‘causally adequate’ to explain the origin of biological information (and others aren’t).
  • He summarized the fine tuning argument, that ‘the fabric of the universe is designed (for life) from the beginning’. “Fine tuning implies a fine tuner.”
  • He pointed out that biological information is needed after the beginning of the universe, so deism is wrong. Since we know that created agents affect nature, there’s no reason to deny divine affects/miracles.
  • In response to questions, he said that the Cambrian explosion was a creation event.
  • I asked if he or his colleagues have addressed Sober’s likelihood argument and he said his ‘causal adequacy’ argument is immune to Bayesian attack and that others are addressing Bayesianism.
  • In response to a question about YEC, he noted that some IDers are YECers, but he said he starts from evidence instead of authority (the Bible) and has confidence that ultimately the books of nature and scripture will be seen to agree.