Sunday, February 05, 2006

Pete and Bill Debate Science

The discussion with Pete Hansen, one of my Starbucks buddies, began about the validity of Intelligent Design but soon became an argument about the philosophy of science. (See Pete’s comments after my last post.) Whether or not one believes in a "Creator" of the universe, science is the discipline that searches for the truth about the physical universe. The truth may be that it was "designed" in some way, or not.

Intelligent Design proponents like Michael Behe (biology) and Steven Barr (physics) search for evidence of the “design” option. As such they are working in the grand tradition of the large majority of Western scientists since Descartes, Newton, Maxwell and Einstein who all wanted to explore nature in order to understand God's design, to know the “mind of God.”

The ultimate goal of biological science should be to understand how life was created, then how molecular machines were created, then how animals .... and man "evolved." Those are also the goals of Intelligent Design. It may be that God created the first cells and then let Darwinian evolution take over from there. Or He may have made it possible for the first cells to be created by chance or through some mechanism. Or He may have interceded more often. We want to know the truth of the matter.

A new article by David Berlinski in the Feb'06 issue of Commentary magazine looks at the molecular biology of life. After reviewing DNA replication, the transcription of genetic messages from DNA to RNA, and the translation of the messages to the amino acids, Berlinski lists the assumptions underlying the entire theory:

1. The pre-biotic atmosphere was reductive.

2. Nature found a way to synthesize cytosine.

3. Nature found a way to synthesize ribose.

4. Nature found the means to assemble nucleotides into polynucleotides.

5. Nature discovered a self-replicating molecule.

6. Having done all that, nature promoted a self-replicating molecule into a full system of coded chemistry.

Berlinski makes quite clear how very unlikely are these assumptions. He quotes Francis Crick: "An honest man armed with all the knowledge available to us now could only state that, in some sense, the origin of life appears to be almost a miracle." (I’ll explain further in another post.)

The noted biophysicist Harold Morowitz spoke of abandoning strict Darwinian evolution in the New Scientist: "It is part of a quiet paradigm revolution going on in biology in which the radical randomness of Darwinism is being replaced by a much more scientific law-regulated emergence of life."

Ultimately we are left with the God Coin: "Is there a Creator, or not?" You take your choice, or should I say, take your chance?

Reference: "For the Glory of God" by Rodney Stark. See the Roster of Scientific Stars on p 198.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


It's amazing what can be done in ten billion years with an (effectively) limitless supply of matter and energy to play with.

Given these resources it's perhaps surprising that something more complex than a human hasn't occurred (with or without God's help).....maybe it has and we just haven't met it yet.


1:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bill,

I am neither a physicist or philosopher. However, if I arrived on a deserted island and found a the neat figure of a perfect triangle in the sand, I would assume that it did not arrive there by chance. I would conclude instead that the island was not quite so deserted as it looked. My reasoning would be simple, and well understood. If the design itself is intelligent, the odds are overwhelming that it was created by something intelligent. If the design is wholly random, well, then it in fact is not a design, and my island is desserted. If a triangle in the sand was put there by someone who appreciates symmetry, if not geometry, a universe that can be best explained and understood by mathematics is one that was created by a mathematician.

Some call it intelligent design. I call it God.


4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe everyone is trying to prove the existance of "God" using the theory of Design when they should look to the Principle of Causuality.


4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What 'ungodly' hours you keep...
Pardon the sacrilegious pun!


12:55 PM  

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