Commuting by bus to the downtown core of intensely progressive Seattle is never less than thought-provoking, in many ways. The sidewalks, for one thing, are crowded with the homeless and mentally ill, attracted by city services. Yesterday, getting off the bus, I had to dodge to avoid colliding with a man whose eyes rolled in his head as he staggered past, his pants falling off and wearing socks, no shoes, in the rain.
Above in the splendid high towers, business people gaze at a stunning view of Elliot Bay. You rarely see them, though, since being prudent, they avoid the sidewalks.
On the buses themselves is a more diverse demographic, and sometimes I wonder how they’d react if I struck up a conversation and started explaining about intelligent design. Today on the ride home I didn’t have to wonder. A ginger-haired man seated across from me had a messenger bag festooned with Social Justice Warrior-type buttons. The largest of them said, “I SUPPORT SCIENCE.” What an interesting message.
Looking up from my phone and catching sight of the button, I was particularly fascinated. I was fascinated because I had just that moment finished reading a very unusual and refreshing article at PJ Media by Tyler O’Neil. And I knew, with absolute confidence, that the man with the button would not like Tyler O’Neil’s article one bit.
The button would have been a popular item at the March for Science. Translated, it encapsulates the basic progressive message of the Marchers, embraced by most of the mainstream media as well, which is, “I DISMISS CONTROVERSIAL OR MINORITY SCIENTIFIC VIEWS WITHOUT A HEARING.” The article would upset the button man because O’Neil writes about one of the most common and facile dismissals of intelligent design, the “god of the gaps” challenge. And he reports, in some detail, what a leading ID proponent says in response. In our current media culture, that is remarkable.
To be accurate, “god of the gaps” is not really a challenge, not a serious one. It’s a four-word shut-down and defense maneuver against any consideration of the evidence for biological design. O’Neil writes about the recent book Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design, with contributors including Discover Institute’s Stephen Meyer and theistic evolutionist Deborah Haarsma of BioLogos.
Just listen to how he allows Meyer to respond in his own words! It’s shocking.
Meyer explained that “god of the gaps” arguments fail to convince because they are arguments from ignorance. Such arguments “occur when evidence against a proposition is offered as the sole grounds for accepting an alternative position.” For instance: Evolution cannot explain this part of life, ergo there must be a designer.
Intelligent design does not work like this, the author argued. “Proponents of intelligent design infer design because we know that intelligent agents can and do produce specified information-rich systems,” Meyer wrote. “Indeed, we have positive, experience-based knowledge of an alternative cause sufficient to have produced the effect in question — and that cause is intelligence or mind.”
ID proponents like Meyer point out that even the most basic forms of life are remarkably complex. Each organism’s genetic code carries digital information remarkably similar to the kind of computer code humans invented using their minds.
Furthermore, Meyer pointed to the work of Douglas Axe, a biologist whose experiments revealed “that for every one DNA sequence that generates a short functional protein of just 150 amino acids in length, there are 1077 non-functional combinations — that is, 1077 amino acid arrangements that will not fold into a stable three-dimensional protein structure capable of performing a biological function.”
Random chance acting through the laws of nature has not been demonstrated to create this kind of complexity.
O’Neil also quotes Dr. Haarsma of BioLogos, who thinks ID “is not a ‘god of the gaps’ argument per se, but it shares the risks of such arguments.” And he permits Meyer to respond in turn! Read the rest there. Or here is a brief video highlighting the same point as it appears in another new book, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique:
Imagine. Tyler O’Neil, like the Four Views book itself, gives scholars and scientists an opportunity to interact with each other and debate ideas that might be right or wrong, but that bear on profound questions that any thoughtful person should want to reflect on. He doesn’t shut anyone up with a mindless four-word putdown like “god of the gaps.”
He likes debate. He likes a fair comparison of views. Clearly, he doesn’t “support science.” He must hate science!
Photo: Stephen Meyer, in “The Problem with Theistic Evolution,” via Crossway.