Last week, scientists from several different countries — Israel, Germany, Russia, Japan, the U.K., and the U.S. — converged in Jerusalem to share their research findings and to discuss the status of biological theories of life and diversity. It was an exciting and unique meeting. It was also my first time in the Middle East and my first time meeting with many of these scientists. It was a lot to take in and yet one thing is quite clear…
This sort of gathering isn’t supposed to happen.
In a part of the world too familiar with cultural, political, and religious conflict, I watched as Ultra-Orthodox Jews, Modern Orthodox Jews, Secular Jews, Messianic Jews, Arab Christians, Roman Catholics, Evangelical Christians, and Agnostics came together in civil, indeed warm dialogue about competing scientific theories. For these to sit side-by-side in the same room is unusual enough. So to embrace open discourse about scientific ideas that arguably bear theological implications — that is a truly wonderful anomaly.
Familiar and Unfamiliar Names
Additionally, this was a remarkably cross-disciplinary dialogue among physicists, chemists, biologists, neuroscientists, machine learning researchers, as well as philosophers and historians of science. Some in attendance would likely be familiar to readers of Evolution News, including Stephen Meyer, Michael Behe, Günter Bechly, Paul Nelson, Siegfried Scherer, and Gerald Schroeder. Others, as always with intelligent design, are keeping their thinking private for the moment.
In addition to many established names in each in their fields, there were a number of doctoral students and postdoctoral researchers — all eager to consider the presentations and to pose critical questions and challenges. One of the most common questions was, “How can I apply these ideas in my own research?” Thus, an emphasis on testability and methodology emerged from an originally theoretical focus.
So, why did these scientists of diverse backgrounds defy the odds and gather in Jerusalem?
Not Just Intelligent but Ingenious
The truth is — despite their varying dispositions and current religious or secular affiliations — every one of these researchers has come to the conclusion that the neo-Darwinian framework is both outdated and in conflict with the evidence now available. From each field, reports were brought that suggest an undeniable teleology in the physical systems studied. From lipid bilayers carrying multi-dimensional information, and genetic sequences encoded in both opposite and overlapping orientations, to whole organisms exhibiting extravagant coloration, patterns, or form — life consistently bears the fingerprints of an intelligent (or ingenious, as one presenter put it) engineer and artist.
Supplementing the empirical studies, historians and philosophers of science at the meeting agreed that the materialist approach dominating the sciences since Darwin fails to capture the complexity and beauty we constantly observe in nature. Unconstrained by this methodological straightjacket, scientists throughout history have allowed the evidence to lead to the most reasonable explanation available — whether naturalistic or otherwise. In fact, many of the great discoveries celebrated in the history of science are credited to scientists of theistic belief, expressly motivated by their worldview.
The Same Question
Similarly, this meeting was a refreshing rendezvous for those who are motivated by their theistic view, those who were brought to a theistic perspective through the evidence itself, and those who have not accepted a theistic view but admit that a purely naturalistic explanatory approach falls short. This convergence brought much interest and excitement to the conversation about intelligent design, so that by the end, the attendees were all asking each other the same question:
See you next year in Jerusalem?
Photo credit: Daniel Reeves.