BioLogos’ Falk on Disco’s Meyer

| 243 Comments

Darrel Falk is co-president of the BioLogos Foundation and a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He offers a calm review of Signature in the Cell by Stephen Meyer, Director and Senior Fellow of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute (Disco). Signature in the Cell seems to be Disco’s main statement of late, but it fails to convince biologist Falk.

Falk begins:

I believe there is a Mind who was before all things and through whom all things are held together (Colossians 1:17): I believe that Mind is the intelligence behind all that exists in the universe. Hence, I believe in intelligent design. Does that by definition then, place me in the Intelligent Design (ID) movement?

No.

The recent book, Signature in the Cell , by ID movement leader Stephen C. Meyer, illustrates why.

… the middle …

and ends:

The science of origins is not the failure it is purported [by Meyer] to be. It is just science moving along as science does–one step at a time. Let it be.

243 Comments

IIRC, Darrel Falk was a Drosophila geneticist working at Syracuse. He did have some serious bona fides in genetics research at one time.

Signature in the Cell is just the latest piece of anti-science propaganda from the Dishonesty Institute. It was published by HarperOne, a well-known publisher of religious - not science - books.

Stephen Meyer has recently been named “Person of the Year” by World Magazine - see http://www.uncommondescent.com/inte[…]of-the-year/. World Magazine is a “Christian news magazine,” with a declared perspective of conservative evangelical Protestantism. Its mission statement is “To report, interpret, and illustrate the news…from a perspective committed to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God.

This award illustrates once again that intelligent design creationism is all about religion, and has nothing to do with science - except a strong desire to destroy it.

Falk, oh-so-delicately, spends his review repeating that Meyer states his philosophical (essentially theological) conclusions, shows that some carefully selected bits of science haven’t proved him wrong, repeats his conclusions, and circles back.

Then Falk very delicately concludes that Meyer’s book may be strong on philosophy, may do a good job capturing public opinion and the hopes and dreams of the theologians, but unfortunately there’s no science there.

So someone told Meyer, 20 years ago, that “origins research” was full of cranks. After 20 years of highly productive research, Meyer sees no reason to change that assessment - and no reason to discuss any of that research! One experiment performed while the book was being produced flatly disproved one of Meyer’s key arguments. When Meyer disagrees with one of the leading population geneticists, he simply waves him away. Falk writes

What experiment or calculation has Stephen Meyer done to put himself in a position to tell Michael Lynch which of two possible scenarios is more likely? Yet he does this in a single sentence.

Along these same lines, Falk says

I must consider whether this philosopher, this Christian brother, this best-selling author, and this leading debater has been successful at analyzing the data of the world’s leading scientists—people who have given their careers full time for many years to asking (and answering) very sophisticated questions about whether material causes have created information.

There is no question that large amounts information have been created by materialistic forces over the past several hundred million years. Meyer dismisses this without discussing it.

It’s a bit discouraging that having pointed such things out, Falk seems reluctant to draw the conclusion his review has clearly been supporting - that Meyer has written a tract in support of a political and religious policy position, for which there simply is no scientific support. He’s made it as sciency-sounding as he can, but at the core, he has marshaled no evidence supporting his position while ignoring all the evidence that undermines it.

It seems all these “intellectual giants” of the ID/creationist community (Dembski, Wells, Behe, Abel, Meyer, and the rest) are hell-bent on twisting the public perception of what scientists actually do and know.

The Greeks (e.g., Democritus, Lucretius) already recognized that the many properties of matter seen in nature were probably due to the interactions of a few underlying constituents they dubbed atoms.

We now know they were on the right track, and modern physics and chemistry has elucidated many of the kinds of interactions among atoms and molecules that produce all the billions of emergent properties and behaviors of matter we easily observe around us.

Yet these “geniuses” of the ID/creationist community blatantly deny the existence of these interactions while asserting instead that matter cannot do these things. These assertions come in the form of pseudo-scientific and pseudo-philosophical terms like “spontaneous molecular chaos”, “genetic entropy”, “entropy barriers”, “gulfs between ‘micro-evolution’ and ‘macro-evolution’, “irreducible complexity”, “conservation of information”, “complex specified information”, and a host of other concepts that misrepresent everything we already know from science.

ID/creationists have everything backwards; they deny what anyone can observe about material interactions by just looking; and they attempt to replace this with a “philosophical perspective” that has nothing to do with how nature works and that has absolutely no traction in doing real research.

Then, by writing huge pseudo-philosophical tombs, they attempt to leave the impression that they have some deeper insights about science and nature than does the entire science community.

These people live inside their own heads and not in any real universe.

I am surprised that Falk finds anything praiseworthy about Meyer’s “philosophy.” Wrong conclusions from wrong premises is simply not good philosophy no matter how many words Meyer generates to make it look impressive.

When I read that review the first word that came to mind was “fawning.”

My lack of respect for Meyer is swiftly coming to a middle.

RBH said:

When I read that review the first word that came to mind was “fawning.”

Falk that book, man!

Alex H said:

My lack of respect for Meyer is swiftly coming to a middle.

But not to an end.

Hang in there. The chads need you.

RBH said:

When I read that review the first word that came to mind was “fawning.”

Have to agree. He went out of his way to praise Meyer’s philosophy background and writing on the subject in the book, which was apparently very recommendable except for that pesky “lack of science” thing. There was more than one mention of the fact that an atheist philosopher put it on a list of the year’s best books (and no mention of the controversy it brought up in the philosophical community).
Nothing about Meyer’s long career as a professional flim-flam man who has used up hundreds of thousands of dollars peddling pseudoscience since the early 1990s. Nothing about his breach of peer-review in the Sternberg affair. Nothing about Meyer’s personal leadership in the “Teach the Controversy” bait-and-switch.

I suppose on one level it’s useful to emphasize that, whatever else you think about ID, it ain’t science; on the other hand there comes a point where it’s also useful to call the quacking, waddling, swimming bird a duck.

The Greeks (e.g., Democritus, Lucretius) already recognized that the many properties of matter seen in nature were probably due to the interactions of a few underlying constituents they dubbed atoms.

But seriously now.

Mike, so the ancients recognized the properties inherent in matter.

Did they investigate where those properties came from? Are scientists today investigating the properties of force and energy that give atoms their properties? Etc, etc, etc.

Or is it that they just are?

IMO, design denial seems a philosophical hang-up.

Merry Christmas and happy new year to Good guys and bad guys in the origins troubles of thinking people.

I don’t know this Falk guy but he’s wrong that origin research is just science one step at a time. NOPE. Origin subjects make GREAT conclusions about great matters of reality. Biology, geology, etc. In media, schoolbooks, and so on there are great conclusions loudly pronounced about everything . Its not just adding fact upon fact. There is a claim that old ideas of God and Genesis being accurate witnesses of creation are plain wrong. Origin subjects are not just dealing with steps of science. They deal with religion and contention in substantial public opinion.

Origin subjects, creationists accuse, have always had a hostility to the historic framework of the universe that was inherited since the fall of the Roman empire. There has been too much haste in conclusions and I notice in my areas that i study that there is much incompetence and nonsense paraded as thoughtful research or even as “science”. In fact origin subjects in their great or near great conclusions don’t do science. Past and gone events that created results that today don’t have evidence of the these processes are simply not open to the scientific method. You can’t test what ain’t happening today, Evolution is just another one like this.

By the way. These I.D guys are the important agents of change/influence in origin subjects. Rightly they are famous and the talk of the time. They are making a difference. Those in disagreement with them may just be those characters in many stories who missed the progressive change in human thinking.

Robert Byers Wrote:

By the way. These I.D guys are the important agents of change/influence in origin subjects. Rightly they are famous and the talk of the time. They are making a difference.

Heck, Astrologers “make a difference” too, in that they keep people believing their comfortable fantasies. The point - and a huge problem for “YECs” like you running for cover in the big tent - is that the ID scam, and the “scientific” creationism scam that begat it, can’t even fool someone who says:

I believe there is a Mind who was before all things and through whom all things are held together (Colossians 1:17): I believe that Mind is the intelligence behind all that exists in the universe. Hence, I believe in intelligent design.

You could be the first to prove me wrong, though. Try ignoring your obsession with “Darwinism” for a year, and spend that year thoroughly refuting all those creationist/ID positions that contradict yours, and supporting your “theory” on its own merits without any references to “weaknesses” of others.

Steve P. Wrote:

IMO, design denial seems a philosophical hang-up.

Falk makes it clear that he does not deny design. But apparently that’s not enough for you and Robert. Maybe your faith in God is not strong enough that you need someone to catch him in an irreducibly complex mousetrap to be fully convinced that He exists.

In any case, I have no interest in going off on that tangent, because we have a rare opportunity - a thread with an old-life-common-descent accepting evolution-denier (you) and a young-earther (Robert) participating. What better way to show that your “theories” are truly scientific, and that you don’t merely have a philosophical objection to science, than to have a good old-fashioned debate among yourselves? Start with the basics of “what happened when, and omit any objections you have to “Darwinism,” “naturalism,” or how real scientists behave.

Calling Poe on Robert Byers. It seemed like a sure thing after the BC/BCE complaint–we didn’t hear the rattle of religious sensibility being shaken, just a variety of vague claims about stealing history.

Frank J said:

In any case, I have no interest in going off on that tangent, because we have a rare opportunity - a thread with an old-life-common-descent accepting evolution-denier (you) and a young-earther (Robert) participating. What better way to show that your “theories” are truly scientific, and that you don’t merely have a philosophical objection to science, than to have a good old-fashioned debate among yourselves? Start with the basics of “what happened when, and omit any objections you have to “Darwinism,” “naturalism,” or how real scientists behave.

Hear, hear!

Maybe we could help with the scientific discussion about “what happened and when” if we didn’t raise too many other issues. Let’s give a forum to those who have “alternatives” to “darwinism” so they can clearly describe those alternatives.

Steve P. said: Are scientists today investigating the properties of force and energy that give atoms their properties? Etc, etc, etc.

Yes, they are. Whether gravity is quantized and what particle (if any) carries it is probably one of the hottest research topics in cosmology & physics right now.

Tell me Steve P., do you judge design proponents using the same standard? No IDer is doing research “investigating the properties of force and energy.” Using your own logic, I guess it is fair to say they must have a philosophical hang-up about it.

Robert Byers said: You can’t test what ain’t happening today

Yes you can. We look at light coming from distant objects and - knowing that light does not travel at infinite velocity - we see what happened in the past.

Next.

Are scientists today investigating the properties of force and energy that give atoms their properties?

Yes, they are.

Steve wrote:

“Mike, so the ancients recognized the properties inherent in matter.”

Sure, they even recognized that lions have competition. How about you Steve, have you read those papers about lions yet? Are you ready to admit that lions have competition? Are you ready to admit that competition is not teleological in any meaningful sense? Are you willing to admit that you have no idea what you are talking about?

How about those papers on endosymbiosis that you promised to read months ago? Have you read them yet? Are you willing to admit that you were completely wrong about that as well?

I will keep asking these questions every time you show up here to spout your nonsense. Why don’t you make a New Year’s resolution to keep your mouth shut about things you know nothing about?

Robert wrote;

“By the way. These I.D guys are the important agents of change/influence in origin subjects. Rightly they are famous and the talk of the time. They are making a difference. Those in disagreement with them may just be those characters in many stories who missed the progressive change in human thinking.”

And those who cling to an ancient mythology without ever doing any real science missed the progressive change in human thinking that occurred one hundred and fifty years ago. Get with the program dipstick, you are one hundred and fifty years behind the times.

Robert, why don’t you make a New Year’s resolution to learn how to write proper English sentences? Or maybe just keep your mouth shut about things you know nothing about.

Robert Byers said:

Merry Christmas and happy new year to Good guys and bad guys in the origins troubles of thinking people.

This sentence no verb.

Darrel Falk has just made another post, apparently to address the heated reaction he got to the preceding one.

Robert Byers said: You can’t test what ain’t happening today

So much for Biblical archaeology. Maybe one day, the walls surrounding Robert’s mind will come tumbling down.

Three letters for you Robert: CSI. Look it up, you might be surprised.

TomS said:

Maybe we could help with the scientific discussion about “what happened and when” if we didn’t raise too many other issues. Let’s give a forum to those who have “alternatives” to “darwinism” so they can clearly describe those alternatives.

There is such a forum. It’s called the real world. In the real world, no ID promoter has yet proposed a logically valid, scientifically testable hypothesis of intelligent design. For some reason they do not feel that this fact should constrain them from constantly referring to “ID theory” as though such a thing actually exists.

From BioLogos:

“Dr. Meyer says with near certainty that the science has now reached a dead end and since there is nothing else left, he says, the only other possibility is that there is a mind behind the code of life.”

Great. I guess we can all throw up our hands and stop doing science now! Fine for Meyer, but the rest of us will be out of jobs.

Is this guy serious? There is nothing else left? Has he ever studied the history of science? People were sure that the was no way that we would ever understand inheritance and that was BEFORE Mendel! Way is it that know-nothing loud-mouths with bad cases of science envy always want to declare the limits of human understanding? Can’t they learn from history if not from science?

Perhaps this guy should read some of the stuff coming out about the RNA World hypothesis. Then let him claim that there is nothing left to discover. Oh wait,that was in a scientific journal… never mind.

Robert Byers said: Origin subjects are not just dealing with steps of science. They deal with religion and contention in substantial public opinion.

…I notice in my areas that i study that there is much incompetence and nonsense paraded as thoughtful research or even as “science”. …

By the way. These I.D guys are the important agents of change/influence in origin subjects. Rightly they are famous and the talk of the time. They are making a difference. Those in disagreement with them may just be those characters in many stories who missed the progressive change in human thinking.

Please tell us about the “areas that you study.”

Also please tell us how we can use ID in biology and medicine. What is the theory, what are its implications for studies of nature? How can you know anything about ID - in your own words, you can’t test what ain’t happening today?

Steve P. said:

The Greeks (e.g., Democritus, Lucretius) already recognized that the many properties of matter seen in nature were probably due to the interactions of a few underlying constituents they dubbed atoms.

But seriously now.

Mike, so the ancients recognized the properties inherent in matter.

Did they investigate where those properties came from? Are scientists today investigating the properties of force and energy that give atoms their properties? Etc, etc, etc.

Or is it that they just are?

IMO, design denial seems a philosophical hang-up.

At the moment, scientists today are not investigating whether or not the forces and energies that give atoms their specific properties are designed or not, or whether or not atoms derive their special abilities from God because of two problems

A) No one has demonstrated to scientists how proclaiming “GOD/DESIGNERDIDIT” will help them understand the origins of atomic properties

and

B) No scientist has found evidence that suggests atomic properties are the direct result of some super intelligence.

So, Steve P, why don’t you go out and find evidence that atomic properties are the direct result of an intelligent designer, and show scientists how that will enhance their study and understanding of atomic physics? After all, you boasted of having the finances to do your own experiments.

Oh wait, you can’t.

clerihew said:

Calling Poe on Robert Byers. It seemed like a sure thing after the BC/BCE complaint–we didn’t hear the rattle of religious sensibility being shaken, just a variety of vague claims about stealing history.

No, he really is that brain-brokenly stupid. It’s why he got banned from Pharyngula.

Rolf Aalberg said:

Please tell us about the “areas that (Robert Byers) study.”

Jesusology, and how BC/BCE is destroying the world on behalf of Satan.

My reply to Darrel’s latest post, which I just posted over at his website:

Darrel -

You are defending the indefensible. Meyer has engaged in a twenty year-old campaign of ample lies, omissions and gross distortions of published scientific work. Not once has he or his Dishonesty Institute colleagues done any meaningful scientific research to support their spurious Intelligent Design claims. Instead, we have them bearing false witness against real scientists (e. g. Dembski’s absurd accusation made to the Federal Department of Homeland Security in 2006, stating that University of Texas ecologist Eric Pianka was a “bioterrorist”), steal (which is what Dembski did over a year later in “borrowing” a Harvard University cell animation video), attack their critics, and engaging in other, morally dubious behavior that is contrary to the teachings of Jesus Christ. Meyer doesn’t deserve our respect, but our condemnation, period.

Thanks for the link Karen. From Falk’s new post:

All of that, however, is beside the point. We can just focus on the science. Dr. Meyer makes a simple proposition. Is he right or is he wrong? It is my opinion that he has been so engagingly clear, everyone with a four year degree in biology should be able to see that there is no dead end.

That is still annoyingly obsequeous. If Meyer is wrong, just say he’s wrong up front. Recommend the book to people who want an “engagingly clear” description of Meyer’s wrong idea if you want to. But to be intellectually honest in a review, the reviewer should place the emphasis where it properly belongs - on Meyer being wrong, not on him being clear.

I hope you are mistaken, especially since BioLogos was founded by Francis Collins. That is why I have been urging both Karl and Darrel to refrain from giving any support - explicit or implicit - to the Discovery Institute and emphasizing that there are notable critics like Paul Gross and Barbara Forrest who contend that it is crypto-Fascist in its orientation (The Discovery Institute, that is.).

Am glad Glen Davidson has stopped by too (And of course I do appreciate that you’re a member of my friendly “choir” as well.):

Karen S. said:

I agree that nothing good has come from the DI. And I think that BioLogos should distance themselves from the DI, politely but firmly (if indeed they truly disagree with them). But I do think that BioLogos is moving in the direction of the DI.

I wonder if they are aware of what the DI thinks of BioLogos? Nitwit Denyse O’Leary has called Francis Collins an intellectual lightweight because she doesn’t like his book!

As for Gregory, it’s like enduring a combination of the inquisition and a 3-hour rectal exam with a rusty crowbar. Now he’s pretending to be oh-so-polite.

FYI, I just got this, and am not surprised. Was wasting my time posting over there anyway. IMHO, BioLogos is really not much different or better than either the Dishonesty Institute or Uncommonly Dense:

Dear Mr. Kwok Due to your failure to adhere to our Commenting Guidelines, as well as earlier warnings, we have revoked your commenting privileges on “Science and the Sacred.” Your earlier comments have been removed for the following reason(s): OFFENSIVE/ACCUSATORY TONE ATTACK AGAINST ANOTHER COMMENTER OFF-TOPIC/IRRELEVANT COMPLAINTS FROM OTHER VISITORS

You may continue to post on our blog provided you contact the Webmaster, issue an apology in the comment section upon returning, and adhere to our Commenting Guidelines. Any further need for moderation will result in a permanent ban. Thank you, Webmaster, BioLogos.org

Of course I greatly appreciate these comments from AusAdrian over at the “Footprints in the Sand” blog entry (http://biologos.org/blog/footprints-in-the-sand/):

AusAdrian - #2423

January 12th 2010

@ John Kwok In any other forum, I would say, “John Kwok, you are god”. That wouldn’t be appropriate in this forum, but in Australia it would just mean that you are to be applauded on your intellect. I found your writings so refreshing and reinforcing.

I have always been worried about how so called “Christians” can be so dishonest and deceitful in their writings. DI constantly misrepresents “The Theory of Evolution”. To say it is just a “theory”, is to display an ignorance of the status of scientific theory.

Secondly, why should we waste time in schools teaching ID? Do we waste time with the “flat earthers” in Geology classes? What about the “geocentric” in astronomy classes? Do they deserve equal time?

Thanks again John.

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This page contains a single entry by Pete Dunkelberg published on December 28, 2009 7:58 PM.

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