Wednesday, September 30, 2009
We have had the privilege over the last two evenings to have, on Monday evening, Dr Stephen Meyer join us on the nearby university campus to lecture on his book Signature in the Cell and take Q&A, and then last night Dr Jonathan Wells and Meyer showed the here pictured DVD, Darwin's Dilemma, and then took Q&A from the audience again.
Overall, one might say it was a pivotal moment for ID at this university. True, there's a long way to go, but whereas it seemed like a pack of wild dogs was barely restraining themselves from cussing William Dembski out the first time he came here, though he acquitted himself well in the exchanges despite being one-on-alot and suffering from a cold and from the lack of a moderator, this time around the Darwinians in attendance mustered little of any substance in response to the points made by Meyer, Wells, and the DVD.
Now, this time around, the IDEA Club (who invited the ID guys) was wiser and had assigned moderators to make sure that the pandemonium surrounding Dembski the 1st time would not be repeated during the Q&A sessions. So, what should any reasonable and smart scientific-type person conclude from the fact that each questioner would get limited time to ask a question and probably only one follow-up? Well, you've gotta make your question count! So, did our Darwinian friends do so?
Eh, not so much.
Let's take last night's DVD showing Q&A for a great example of Darwinian futility.
Question 1: Professor Vic Hutchison was the first to raise his hand (beat everyone else by a few minutes, literally) and asked why the DVD quoted Valentine and Morris in support of their position. Um, that's your question, really? If I were Meyer and Wells, I would have smiled broadly. (In fact, Meyer told me later that he was more or less chuckling on the inside.)
Question 2: One of those guys who's always showing up for these kinds of events (you know the type) (oh wait, I'm one of those guys! Crud. Except he's in his 50s) asked about the ID answer to the presence of ERVs in mammalian evolution (which is, for the uninitiated, AFTER the Cambrian explosion) (oh yeah, the DVD was about nothing but the Cambrian explosion). He was allowed far too many followups by the moderator, and acted offended and squelched when he was told no más, to the point that he got up, gesticulated wildly for a moment, then walked out. Good riddance to irrelevant questions and their questioners.
M&W's answer was, among other things: How do you build the new proteins, new protein folds and higher body structure; we don’t think viruses can account for that.
Question 3, my favorite, was asked by one Ola F (unless I misunderstood) who is apparently a prof of behavioral ecology at the university: Why did the DVD neglect to mention Hox genes and the fact that tons of organisms share the same genes, aka housekeeping genes?
I've noticed this about Darwinians, especially around here - they have some favorite buzzword/catch-all answers they like to throw out, and whenever someone mentions them, they dissolve into laughter and booyah pwn3d!-type reactions. It's sad and funny at the same time.
Anyway, I was laughing -again- b/c the presence of such genes doesn't give evidence for Darwinism over ID at all - the Designer put them there!
Further, why would anyone think it's a challenge to ID that many organisms share similar genes? Don't Windows 98, 2000, XP, and Vista share a lot of similar code?
On top of that, the DVD addressed that very question, comparing it to the similar form of automobiles since their invention 100 yrs ago.
Meyer correctly pointed out she's begging the question.
Wells steps up and says:
-Without those genes, we're not alive. There's a reason organisms share them.
-Hox genes' effect kicks in AFTER the formation of the body plan (I'll take his word for it on this one).
-And they're just on/off switches, telling the body whether to insert an eye/leg/antenna at a given part of the body.
The questioner then whined about "Why should humans share genes with other organisms like an oak, a bird, other more primitive organisms?" That question cracked me up b/c she was implying some sort of arrogant species-ism. And she's acting, again, like she or anyone else can access the mind or motives of the Designer, which ID has taken pains to say that they can't do. So, overwhelming evidence is...where?
I later asked her what she thought was so strong about her citing the presence of Hox genes, and her response was precisely that - why would a Designer put them there? I patiently explained that the Christian position explains their presence just as well. She sort of lost her composure at that moment, started literally snapping her fingers near my face (which I did find sort of distracting, to be honest) and began ranting about how God couldn't possibly be the answer b/c He just poofs things, or how she could posit a Flying Spaghetti Monster, etc. Then "so I guess your God loves prokaryotes far more than you since they were around for billions of years!" and "if God loves these organisms, why do they go extinct so often? Huh? HUH?" Amazing.
I knew when she mentioned the FSM that she had nothing, and pressed her - that's irrelevant, and how do you know anything about the FSM? She then gave me a mini-lecture about how she has faith in God, but not THAT God, and then escaped. A professor of behavioral ecology at a major state(-funded) university.
Ironically, these were the most challenging questions of the entire session. A massive opportunity for the Darwinians to bring an intellectual beatdown of two pillars of ID, missed and missed badly.
Briefly, questions 5 and 6 were from acquaintances of mine, both solid and frequent attenders of these kinds of events, one a solid member of the local atheist club.
Question 5: The DVD said "designers" and "designer". Which is it?
While that's a technically relevant question, how is that any challenge?
Question 6: Your DVD assumes the normally-accepted geological time scale. Was this an intentional jab at YEC?
As if YEC-ists don't know what's what with respect to the ID movement. I, as a YEC-ist, simply see ID as a useful internal critique of evolutionary naturalism. ID grants naturalism and Old Earth and the usefulness and interpretability of the fossil record and all sorts of other freebies to Darwinism, then is still able to spank it soundly as a viable viewpoint. Tells me quite a lot about the internal strength of the worldview, and it's why I take an interest in this topic despite the fact that I differ with ID on age of the Earth and the utility of the fossil record.
After the formal Q&A and after Professor Ola F suffered her meltdown at my hands, my friend Biggs and I engaged Prof Hutchison in convo. He went on for some time about irrelevant topics - whether he believes in God (he does, for reasons we can't figure out), whether there are religious ppl who support Darwinism (which we know, obviously), and why ID gets so much support from Christian churches (irrelevant ad hominem). I later asked him how he knows what is true and he responded that he knows that which he accesses thru his 5 senses and thru experiments on material in the lab. I asked him how he knows, then, that it's true that one accesses truth successfully thru one's senses. He simply repeated himself. I tried to ask the question a different way, and he begged the same question the same way. Wow. And he'd had the gall to say "I've read your arguments, and they're not any good". Reading is not the same as understanding, Prof Hutchison.
Meyer's closing point was strong and trenchant - Darwinians have long been relying strongly on the "it's not science" argument to bolster its case. When the question turns away from "is it true?" to "is it in conformity with our ad hoc strongarming the rules to suit us?" it's a sign the Darwinian club is in trouble.
(HT: CharlesRansom at the IDEAClub for live-blogging the event and jogging my memory in certain places)
(Many thanks to Dr Meyer for giving me a copy of his book when I told him I was interested in this topic partly b/c I'm a Godblogger. He said "well, you're a member of the media!" Haha, right, sure I am. But I'll enjoy the book, for sure. He was a very nice and enthusiastic guy, and after an exhausting day still went out to eat with a bunch of us afterward.)