Q: Which Steve said design is an excellent and irrefutable explanation?
Hint: He didn’t write Signature in the Cell.
This incredible interaction came at last Friday night’s presentation of Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer at Biola University in front of 1,400 attendees and hundreds more watching the event streamed live on the internet. In a panel discussion after his lecture, Meyer met two of his critics head-on, one of whom essentially conceded that intelligent design is a better explanation than an unguided process like Darwinian evolution.
The critics were Steve Matheson, a theistic evolutionist from Calvin College, and Arthur Hunt a Darwinist and biologist from the University of Kentucky. Both have written critically of SITC and intelligent design and were clearly not very enamored of the thesis of Meyer’s book, that the best explanation for the origins of biological information is that it comes from an intelligent source, a mind.
At least they started out seemingly unimpressed. I am certain Hunt remained so, but I’m not so sure about Matheson. He was critical to be sure, but in an amazingly candid and very revealing moment, he exposed his own presupposition that keeps him from accepting intelligent design theory.
Matheson basically conceded that ID is the best explanation currently on the table, but not one that he likes. Yes, he agreed, codes are produced by minds. Yes, there is digital code in DNA. Yes, design is a good explanation for that code. So, Meyer responded, you are admitting that the explanation I’ve offered, intelligent design, is currently best? The point wasn’t lost on the audience, or on Matheson I suspect. Here’s a transcript of the amazing exchange (emphases added by me):
Matheson: I don’t find the argument convincing, I really don’t, but I think I know why. And the reason why is, I just figured out tonight, you said that we reason backwards from what we know works, which is that intelligence makes codes. I’ll agree with that. Can I see the hands of people that don’t agree? Of course not. Okay, well we reason back and say, therefore, this is the one explanation we know that can do this. I buy that, I get it, it’s, it’s obvious. But I see the world differently than you do. And so here’s the thing. I haven’t yet [pause] well, you said intelligence always creates information. And my view is a little different. Everywhere I look, and every time I look, if I wait long enough, there is a natural and even materialistic explanation to things. Now, don’t I have the right to say, you know, I’m going to go ahead and extrapolate that back, like Steve’s book, not because I’m an obnoxious Calvinist–maybe that’s true–but because, well that’s just kinda my preference? And so what I want all of us to agree on is that it’s fruitless, it’s pointless to say, Steve, don’t be stupid, design doesn’t explain what you want it to. Well, of course it does–how could it not? But wouldn’t it be reasonable for some of the Christians in this room to say, You know–
Meyer: You’re comfortable waiting for another explanation.
Matheson: I am.
Meyer: Which, in a strict sense, concedes that the one I offer is currently best–[The audience erupts into applause. Unintelligible between Meyer and Matheson]–and we have a different philosophy of science, which is where the locus of our disagreement probably lies, and where we should continue to converse.
Matheson: I’ll offer the acknowledgment: [pause] Design will always be an excellent and irrefutable explanation. How can it [pause] I just don’t see how it couldn’t be. I’m just saying it doesn’t look designed to me. He’s right, and there’s some stuff that goes on in the cell, I don’t know how you get design into there. But it’s easy to simply say, Well, and maybe you [referring to Arthur Hunt] do say this, let’s wait, maybe there’s a good reason why the cell, those proteins, billions of day, go straight into the wood-chipper. Maybe there’s a good reason for that. You said that. There’s nothing wrong with talking like that. There’s also nothing wrong with saying, Wow, man, I don’t know.
Matheson can’t endorse intelligent design because he, like Hunt, is committed to waiting to see if there is ever a natural, materialistic answer for the origins of biological information. My hunch is that he’s going to be waiting an awfully long time indeed.
I’m hoping that we can get a good quality recording of the event produced and posted on signatureinthecell.com later this week.