Well that was interesting

It’s a closely-guarded secret that can now be revealed - on Friday, May 14, Steve Matheson and I served as the critics for an event at Biola University the focus of which Stephen Meyer and his book “Signature in the Cell”. (Well, actually, this was the lead-in to some big hoopla about the release of a new Illustra DVD entitled “Darwin’s Dilemma”. But that will have to be the subject of someone else’s writing, since I didn’t go to the screening, nor did I bother to scarf up a DVD.) The format for this was a bit different from your usual debate - thus, after the glitzy Meyer presentation, a panel of hand-selected critics (chosen by the event organizers) would be given opportunities to grill Meyer. In other words, there would be no tit-for-tat here, but rather a one-way exchange of Q&A. This is roughly what transpired, but in a shorter period of time than I had expected.

I have posted a longer essay on my blog, where comments may also be made. I’ll summarize the most important points here, focusing just on the questions I was able to ask. Due to the time constraints, I only got to ask three questions. The answers and discussion that followed these included some interesting (and perhaps important) concessions. Briefly, Meyer did not offer to disagree with the notion that there are in some senses a disconnect between the quantity of specified information (in whatever sense he uses the term in his book - please refrain from rehashing this issue in the comments) and biological function. He also granted that some of the analogies he uses in his book were not really strong selling points for the design argument. (My question focused on the analogy with computers and engineered objects.) Finally, he intimated that high specified information content was not a feature of all proteins. This latter point may seem obvious, but I think it important to have ID advocates backing down from claims or even hints that all (or even most) proteins have high specified information contents.

That’s my experience in a very small nutshell. I would have liked more time for questions, to be sure. But in general the format that was proposed to me was followed. To be sure, Meyer danced around many of the issues, but in retrospect this may have been because I pressed him on things that he was not familiar with.

I haven’t tried to sum up Steve Matheson’s questions or impressions. I suspect that he will give his these on his blog. Stay tuned.