As a kick-off for the founding of a new German-speaking scientific society (Zentrum für BioKomplexität & NaturTeleologie), dedicated to the study of teleology and design in nature, we held a large conference in Austria this past May. Evolution News reported on the event (Klinghoffer 2019, Gauger 2019, Bechly 2019). Several prominent members of the ID movement presented talks at the conference, including Stephen Meyer, Ann Gauger, Michael Denton, and Brian Miller. Siegfried Scherer and I initiated this new association.
Now, video recordings of most of the talks presented at the conference have been made available at the YouTube channel of the new society. Only a few talks could not be uploaded due to copyright issues or career concerns.
Abstracts and Links
Here is a list of these presentations with abstracts and direct links to the videos:
- Prof. Dr. Siegfried SCHERER, “Welcome Address” (May 29, 2019).
- Dr. Günter BECHLY, “Discontinuities in the Fossil Record” (May 29, 2019).
Abstract: “The neo-Darwinian theory of evolution predicts a gradual bottom-up pattern of appearances of new biological kinds in the fossil record. The actual fossil record strongly contradicts this prediction and consistently shows discontinuities and abrupt appearances in all groups and all geological eras. To show that this is not restricted to the famous Cambrian explosion, 18 more examples are provided from the origin of life to the ‘Big Bang’ of the genus Homo. This accumulation of conflicting evidence can no longer be explained away as an artifact of undersampling of an incomplete fossil record, as demonstrated by statistical analyses (collector’s curve). The evidence is better explained by pulses of infusion of information from outside of the system than with a purely mechanistic process.”
- Dr. Stephen C. MEYER, “The Explanatory Power and Heuristic Value of Intelligent Design” (May 29, 2019).
Abstract: “The theory of intelligent design has been formulated as the best explanation of several classes of evidence in biology, biochemistry, physics. For example, proponents of the theory have proposed mind (or intelligence or agent causation) as the best explanation for (i) the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics and the initial conditions of the universe, (ii) the irreducible complexity of molecular machines and circuits found in living cells, (iii) the hierarchical top-down pattern of appearance of animal form in the fossil record, and (iv) the origin of the functional or specified information present in DNA, RNA, and proteins. These evidentially based arguments for intelligent design have a common logical structure utilizing a standard method of historical scientific reasoning known as the method of multiple competing hypotheses or inference to the best explanation. This talk will show how this method of reasoning has been used to advance intelligent design as a positive explanation for certain classes of physical and biological evidence. It will also show how the postulation of intelligent design can help generate testable predictions and new hypotheses, thus showing intelligent design’s heuristic value as well as its explanatory power.”
- Prof. Dr. Siegfried SCHERER, “Evolutionary Biology, Intelligent Design and Naturalism” (May 30, 2019).
Abstract: “In empirical and empirical-historical evolutionary biology, the following three major and quite reasonable null hypotheses are investigated using various sets of empirical data: (i) observed microevolutionary processes can be explained by natural causes and effects, (ii) all organisms share a common ancestor (macroevolution), and (iii) inferred macroevolutionary transitions in the past can be explained by natural causes and effects. In the process of testing these hypotheses, evolutionary biology as a truly scientific enterprise will follow the evidence wherever this evidence may lead. It will be discussed how a naturalistic world view might change the investigation of these three hypotheses and whether intelligent design is a potential alternative to evolutionary biology.”
- Dr. Brian MILLER, “A Thermodynamic Analysis of the Rarity of Protein Folds” (May 30, 2019).
Abstract: “Research by Douglas Axe demonstrated that amino acid sequences that correspond to a functional beta-lactamase protein fold are extremely rare. In response, critics have raised questions related to the accuracy of his analysis. This presentation describes how more recent research on the effects of mutations on the thermodynamic stability of protein folds has confirmed Axe’s result and its general relevance to most proteins. The presentation also applies the results of an evolutionary time-scale study by Chatterjee, Pavlogiannis, Adlam, and Nowak, and discusses the implications for the argument that co-option can explain the appearance of irreducibly complex molecular machines.”
- Prof. Dr. Ola HÖSSJER, “A Mathematical Model for the Waiting Time of Coordinated Mutations to Appear” (May 30, 2019).
Abstract: “If a neo-Darwinian model is used for complex adaptation of species, it is necessary that several genes are modified in a coordinated way, either through changes in the coding regions of these genes, or through changed gene expression. In this talk I will focus on the waiting time until a number of genes change expression through coordinated mutations in their regulatory sequences, so that new binding sites can attach to these sequences. The waiting time will depend on a number of parameters, such as the population size, the point mutation rate, the number of genes, the length of the regulatory sequences and binding sites of all genes, and finally the selective fitness of all intermediate steps towards the final target. It turns out that the waiting time crucially depends on fitness, and whether back mutations are allowed or not. For many systems, the waiting time is too large to warrant a neo-Darwinian explanation of the gaps in the fossil record. The talk is based on joint work with Günter Bechly and Ann Gauger.”
- Dr. Sigrid HARTWIG-SCHERER, “Non-linear and Patchy Trait Distribution in the Hominin Fossil Record” (May 30, 2019).
Abstract: “Until the 1980s, the relatively scarce hominin fossil record was — more or less — compatible with the Darwinian model of gradual human evolution. However, the increasing number of partial skeletons discovered within the last decades challenge this gradual view. These hominin skeletons display an (unexpected) combination of morphological traits, which point in different phylogenetic directions. Traits relevant for human emergence (such as bipedal locomotion and brain organization) appear disconnected and distributed across time and space in a patchy manner. Especially disturbing are skeletons of relatively young geological age (50,000 years) such as the Hobbit (Homo floresiensis) or Luzon-Man (Homo luzonensis) from the Far East displaying a mixture of human- and australopithecine-like features. Both fossils, as well as genetic findings, reveal extensive inbreeding between various fossil Homo species, to a much higher degree than previously allowed. These findings hamper both the reconstruction of consistent phylogenetic trees as well as a clear demarcation of the current genus Homo. A completely new approach has to be developed to explain these findings and the emergence of our genus.”
- Dr. Michael DENTON, “The Fine-Tuning of Nature for the Major Innovations in the History of Life” (May 31, 2019).
Abstract: “Several remarkable examples of fine-tuning in nature are described for some of the major evolutionary advances in the history of life including some of those that were vital for the existence of complex terrestrial air-breathing organisms like ourselves. With reference to the hydrological cycle, oxygenic photosynthesis, aerobic metabolism, and human respiratory physiology, warm-blooded homeothermy, high-acuity vision, and fire-making by beings of our anatomical design.”
- Dr. Ann GAUGER, “Causal Circularity in Biology” (May 31, 2019).
Abstract: “Solving the problem of the origin of the first cell is not limited to assembling the necessary organic materials, nor even to restricting them only to those of the appropriate chirality. The problem goes much deeper than a parts list, because everything in the cell functions in relation to everything else. This is seen most clearly in the relationship between DNA, RNA, and protein. But it goes beyond this. Perhaps surprisingly to some, even if an entire genome, all proteins, lipids, sugars, ribosomes, and organelles were present in their proper places, the cell would be a dead husk without the necessary addition of a few compounds, which are themselves dependent on the presence of each other. This leads to a kind of causal knot, or circularity, that the sword of Darwin cannot cleave. We will discuss possible reasons for this and its implications.”
- Prof. Dr. Hans-Dieter MUTSCHLER, “Are There Teleological Agents and Structures in Nature?” (May 31, 2019).
Abstract: “We might distinguish structural teleology and agent teleology. Structural teleology is treated in the intelligent design movement. Agent teleology takes human action as a starting point. You can hardly deny that human beings are teleological agents, otherwise our social life would break down. Now if this is so, why shouldn’t great apes lack this faculty, or other mammals? This is also widely presupposed in ethology.”
- Prof. Dr. Dr. Daniel von WACHTER, “Probability and the Inference to the Best Explanation in Design Arguments” (May 31, 2019).
Abstract: “Design arguments are best construed as (i) arguments for the existence of a good omnipotent God; (ii) arguments that use inference to the best explanation as well as probability; (iii) arguments whose premises are uncontroversial.”
- Fr. Dr. Michael CHABEREK “Thomas Aquinas and Intelligent Design” (May 31, 2019).
Abstract: “A majority of contemporary Thomists criticize intelligent design, assuming that this scientific theory is not compatible with the philosophical principles of Thomas Aquinas. In our opinion, however, this critique stems from a misunderstanding of different levels of discourse involved in the debate over the origins. Intelligent design is a new theory in science that can’t be found in Aquinas. Nevertheless, it is fully compatible with Aquinas’ philosophical arguments for God’s existence. As such it does not create any danger for classically minded philosophers of nature.”
- Dr. Wolfgang ECKSTEIN, “Questioning Naturalism from a Mathematical and Computer Science Perspective” (May 31, 2019).
Abstract: “Naturalism is based on the thesis that all processes and relationships in nature can be modeled by mathematics and logic, and that these models are adequate and sufficient to describe and predict the behavior of physical (including biological) systems. This kind of modeling is crucial because it is the basis for developing theories and for either supporting or to falsifying them with experiments. Research in the last century showed that there are fundamental restrictions for complex mathematical systems. The question is whether these restrictions could significantly weaken the foundations of naturalism. This talk gives an overview of these mathematical, logical, and physical restrictions, and provides relevant examples of the complexity of nature, to derive a catalog of criteria, upon which the theoretical basis of naturalism can be judged.”
Photo at the top: Mathematician Dr. Ola Hössjer speaking at the recent meeting of the Zentrum für BioKomplexität & NaturTeleologie.