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Larry Moran — Voice of Reason

Ann Gauger

Krauss Moran.jpg

We weren’t the only ones to notice Krauss’s “shenanigans” during Saturday’s debate with Meyer and Lamoureux. Over at his blog Sandwalk, biochemist Larry Moran of the University of Toronto (where the event took place) posted a straightforward commentary, without innuendo or name-calling (aside from his usual label of “intelligent design creationists”).

The main point that he picked up from Stephen Meyer’s presentation was the argument that ID predicted the functionality of most of the genome, rather than its being mostly junk. ID proponent Richard Sternberg made this claim in the 1990s, and it is being confirmed by ongoing research and the ENCODE project. Moran argues that ENCODE doesn’t demonstrate what ID proponents claim, and that the genome still is full of junk. But that’s an argument that time and more research will answer.

The really interesting thing is what happened in the comments section after the post. He acknowledged that some ID proponents do science in good faith (in contrast to Krauss’s repeated assertions during the debate):

I believe that there are ID proponents who are attempting to perform science in good faith.

Let’s not quibble over when ID proponents made a prediction and whether it counts as a true predication [sic]. Right now, they are staking the reputation of ID on the claim (= prediction) that most of our genome is functional.

We’ll see what happens when they realize the truth.

Then further on, in response to an attack on ID by a poster he says,

Bill says,

But the point is moot. ID is not a scientific endeavor. Never has been. It’s a political movement with a social agenda to inject religion into American public schools. Simple as that.

The debate took place in Canada where we allow the teaching of religion in public schools. None of us give a damn about the American Constitution. We’re interest[ed] in knowing whether the science is valid or not.

If the Intelligent Design proponents have legitimate complaints about evolution and if they have good scientific arguments in favor of design then those ideas should be taught in Canadian schools in spite of what some judge in Pennsylvania said ten years ago.

Lawrence Krauss tried to show that ID was not science but he did a horrible job. Meyer countered by presenting a lot of science forcing Krauss to deal with the very science that he said ID doesn’t do!

Bill, you are being dangerously naive if you think you can simply dismiss the ID movement because it’s not science (according to your definition). The general public doesn’t care. All they see is serious attacks on evolution that look a lot like science.

Yes, ID is a movement and so are the desires to do something about climate change or GMO’s. There are lots of “movements” with social and political agenda[s]. Many of them deal with science in one way [or] another. It’s the role of scientists to evaluate the scientific arguments in spite of the agenda. We have to show that the goal of the movement is either compatible or incompatible with the scientific facts.

Yes. That’s the level at which the debate should be held.

It doesn’t mean that Moran agrees with us. He’s just being fair. He even granted Meyer some points in the debate, before expressing his own view:

During the debate, Stephen Meyer emphasized [the] random nature of evolution and its inability — according to him — to come up with new protein folds and new information in a reasonable amount of time.

Krauss misunderstood the argument, which was based on the frequency of mutations, and tried to dismiss it by pointing out that evolution is not random — it’s directed and guided by natural selection.

Meyer corrected him by pointing out that the issue was the probability of mutations and not the probability of fixation once the mutation occurred. (This was when he was struggling with a migraine so he didn’t do as good a job as he could have.)

Krauss stumbled on for a bit emphasizing natural selection and the fact that evolution is not random.

That was embarrassing. I think Krauss gets most of his information about evolution from Richard Dawkins so he (Krauss) probably doesn’t know about random genetic drift or historical contingency or any of the other features of the history of life that make it “random” (in the colloquial sense).

I suspect that Krauss still holds on to the Dawkins view that life has the appearance of design. Truth is, in the big picture, life really doesn’t have the appearance of design. Certainly our genome doesn’t look designed and my back was not designed for walking upright as it let’s me know every morning when I get out of bed.

Designed or not, Professor Larry Moran has distinguished himself as someone even-handed in his assessment of this debate. Thanks for the voice of reason, Dr. Moran.

Image: Lawrence Krauss, via YouTube.

Ann Gauger

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Dr. Ann Gauger is Director of Science Communication and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture, and Senior Research Scientist at the Biologic Institute in Seattle, Washington. She received her Bachelor's degree from MIT and her Ph.D. from the University of Washington Department of Zoology. She held a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University, where her work was on the molecular motor kinesin.



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