Welcome to the DMZ: The Creation-Evolution De-Militarized Zone

Between North and South Korea there’s a “DMZ,” a De-Militarized Zone. A strip of land a couple of miles wide. A buffer between the two sides. A place where people from both sides can go… and not get shot.dmz_myllissa_2

The DMZ has a number of buildings for peace talks between the two sides.

Evolution 2.0 is a De-Militarized Zone for the evolution debate.

We need this desperately. Why?

Because it doesn’t exist anywhere else!

You cannot go to university and have a frank, open, civilized debate about Naturalism vs. Design. Not without getting apprehended by the Political Correctness Police. Some universities will fire professors for suggesting that the universe appears to be planned or fine-tuned for life.

The “pro-Darwin” websites and conferences are boiling with rage and vitriol. Zero tolerance for dissent.

The average church won’t touch it with a ten foot pole.

The creationist websites are offended at the very thought of evolution. Some churches and schools will throw you out in a hot second if you admit you’re an “evolutionist.”

The Discovery Institute, the Intelligent Design think tank, routinely equates “evolution = atheism” in their articles, books and blog posts. Even though the two are not at all the same.

The two main camps – ID and the Darwinists – both omit or downplay the significance of evolution’s “Swiss Army Knife” – the cell’s astonishing ability to re-program itself. Systems like transposition and symbiogenesis.

Richard Dawkins’ and Jerry Coyne’s pro-Darwin books say almost nothing about this stuff. Most ID books say just as little little.

The name-calling, back-biting, snark and vitriol are not even the worst part of the problem.

The WORST part of the problem is:

Both sides are completely talking PAST each other!

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, the Intelligent Design guys raise VALID questions. Their books contain large amounts of competent scholarship.

Their questions deserve to be heard. And yes, answered.

Admire ‘em or distrust ‘em, the secular scientists who publish thousands of papers about evolutionary theory are only doing their job. Their job – their livelihood – is to hunt for naturalistic explanations for how things work.

Neither camp is listening to the other.

That needs to change.

Yes, I know. I heard the guy who just said, “There is no debate. Those guys are idiots!!!”

People from BOTH sides say that.

Statements like that are “exhibit A” of bigotry and prejudice. Because any honest objective assessment shows that both sides raise valid questions. Valid questions deserve respect.

If you’re saying the ‘other guys’ are “idiots” – then we do not have room in the DMZ for you. You will have to lay down your weapons first and agree to a peaceful discussion before you can come in.

But if you want a vigorous but peaceful discussion, this is your place.

Are you with me?

Perry Marshall

P.S.: The DMZ is not a haven for anonymous cowards. Many come here (often lacking manners) and attempt to post their opinions, commentary etc. while hiding behind screen names. That is not what a DMZ is for, and those people get banned. If you will not sign your name your opinion is worthless. The DMZ is for people who relish the clash of ideas and have the courage to be right or wrong in public.

Photo by Flickr/myllissa.

56 Responses

  1. John Lyster says:

    1) I have explained that I am more focused on “how a scientist thinks” rather than this tiresome “atheist/scientist-faith” divide that percolates through your entire web site and otherwise no thanks to Richard Dawkins himself. In particular, the shoutfest in the comments sections for whom “scientists = nasty Atheists” as part of the incessant strawmanning and battles among the ignorant. Yes, the stats reveal that higher levels of Atheism get reported among the scientific community (“scientific elite”? give me a break zzzzzz), could it be that they are drawing the wrong philosophical inference from our studies of the natural world? Beats me? Who decides whose belief/unbelief system is “correct” anyway? Perhaps these scientists are more concerned with the epistemology, logical fallacies and socio-political-culture of religion, than any philosophical God as such. Yes, I would suggest that any good scientist wear his “A-theist” hat on when “in the lab”, but again I quote Steven Weinberg who suggested that “most scientists don’t think enough about God to know if they are atheists or not”. However, if any scientist is inclined to bring “God into the lab” then he had better be able to abduce explanatory mechanisms to test for. I think not. Inference to the untestable supernatural is philosophy at best, otherwise mere unsubstantiated and untestable personal bias.

    2) My syllogism; -Science does the natural, -God is supernatural, -therefore Science doesn’t do God. At one level, Science really is a prosaic exercise, the job of science is not to find ways to “prove” one’s belief system/God, but simply to find “best” explanations of natural phenomena that we observe. Implications drawn are up to individuals “outside of the lab”. Now I suspect that the Richard Dawkins’ of this world, in a quiet moment of reflection, have a bigger problem with religion than with “God” per se. Even he has said he is a 6.9 on the 7.0 “Atheism scale” and that his “strident” use of “Atheism” has a lot do with political push through. I think even he adopts the “soft” position of “no reason to believe”, rather than a “hard” position of disbelief. But you’d probably have to get him in a quiet, late night moment, outside the glare of the publicity machine, quote mining and non contextual manipulation. Actually, in public, I wonder whether he has boxed himself into a philosophical corner from which he can not escape?

    3) Irrespective of this, there can be no room for supernatural teleology in the lab, not because this is eschewed by the “nasty materialists”, but because this is not what works. I notice “proof” and “truth” bandied about on this site as if this is a meaningful concept in naturalistic science, let alone in the supernatural. Proofs only apply to mathematical abstracts, logic and definitions, not to scientific explanations of the phenomena that we observe. In the natural world there are three types of “knowledge”; a) We know what’s wrong, natural explanations that have been falsified b) We think we know what’s “right”, our best and latest natural explanations….for now and, most importantly c) “we don’t know”. All else is conjecture, beliefs and proposals. I suspect/presume a lot of what I’ve written here is not lost on your good self, however it doesn’t seem to get any traction on this site. If I am stating the “bleeding obvious” then might I suggest that you make an effort to improve the understanding of how science works and what it can claim among the commentariat, instead of this inane polarised “side taking” that appears to go on, to the level of hysteria and abject ignorance. Your call.

    4) I notice your criticisms of the “primordial soup” proposal of abiogenesis AS IF this is some sort of failed project that deserves to be dismissed before it has even got off the ground. As far as Science is concerned, abiogenesis is still only in bootcamp stage, no one claims anything has been “decided” upon…….yet……if ever? So why all the rubbishing at this early stage? My view is that you are looking for a competing hypothesis, fantastic, all inputs gratefully received, may the best man “win”. Your comments come across to me as having made up your mind already because of the dreaded “randomness/chance”. The job of science is not to eschew any proposal before it gets off the ground, unless it is not in-principle testable, ie non natural. In any case, I’ve discussed elsewhere how “randomness” is not quite what it seems. Stochasticism is not irrational and lawless chance, behind the apparent individual capriciousness of the micro are laws and rules that allow for the examination of the macro, be it the statistical mechanics of thermodynamics or the very sophisticated population statistics of neoDarwinism. Pure random lawlessness would not have allowed the sciences of Thermodynamics or neoDarwinism. A word I’ve recently seen used in relation to the genetic mutations is “indifference” to the natural environment. If there is an eventual “best” naturalistic explanation of abiogenesis along the “primordial soup” line, then I’m sure it could still be plausibly argued that this is all a part of “God’s plan” and “how God works”. When “God set up the rules bound universe with its intelligible and rational laws, it became a statistical certainty that life would form”. For some these are theological explanations, for others this is mere religious sophistry and reverse justification. Please take your tickets and argue among yourselves, but in the meantime, science just rolls on relentlessly pursuing “best natural explanations” as this is what it does without fear or favour. There may’ve been some level of uncertainty about the time and place of abiogenesis but the laws of nature might’ve meant that it would inevitably be that the conditions would arise. In a deterministic universe, the conditions for abiogenesis were set in train from the outset of the natural universe. This is all conjecture, the role science is to simply find a set of conditions for a naturalistic explanation, if they exist

    5) I must again reflect on your discussion of Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem. This is about a formal mathematical proof and as such it is, at best, a nice illustration of how you think about the Natural Universe and the relationship with an external supernatural essential cause. A prop to be used as a communication device, indeed, an analogy. It would be as wrong to think of this as some sort of formal “proof” of a theological position as it was for me to think of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle as “proof” of the inherent uncertainty of the universe, free from religious certainty, as I incorrectly inferred at high school days. But I got over that error in thinking a long time ago (the belief in mathematical “proofs” of personal beliefs).

    6) My last word goes back to David Hume and his “Is-Ought” fork and the broken link between statements of ideas and statements about the world. No matter what we find in the observed natural world, the best we might be able to “prove” is the statement, “God exists,” however it doesn’t really tell us anything about the world, it is just playing with words. This does not mean that God definitely does or does not exist, only that it would imply that the existence of God cannot be proven as a matter of fact. Respects to William Lane Craig but science, logic and reason do not “Do God”.

    7) Science has been such a successful enterprise that everyone wants a piece of the pie. All sides tear away at it for validation of world views but for God or not, all we have is faith, belief and unbelief.

  2. John Lyster says:

    Perry, I have spent hours pouring over your web site, not to mention web based citations, and doing my level best to respond and challenge DIRECTLY in a thoughtful and civilised, indeed might I suggest, learned way to what you have put up. Is all of this not worthy of consideration? Google definition, “Inference: a conclusion reached on the basis of evidence and reasoning.” Perry, where’s the testable explanation? This is EXACTLY the fallacy of the ID people. Ten people see two dots on the graph and are asked to suggest what links them. Owing to personal bias, there will likely be ten different suggestions. The ones that that stand out are the ones that provide a way to predict where the next dot will likely appear, a testable explanation, abduction. If multiple suggestions predict where the next dot falls then they remain as viable competing “best explanations” and the others are falsified. After repeated cycles of abduction/induction and deduction, one hypothesis is left standing, to be further refined or possibly itself falsified and the process re established. The only way this can be done is by inferring a natural explanation, INFERENCE TO THE BEST EXPLANATION. Perry, please look up abduction and have a chat with Francis Collins or perhaps Professor Ken Miller of Brown University, both highly esteemed life scientists who share your faith orientation. In science, abduction is a special class of inference.

  3. John Lyster says:

    Perry, after the reception I have received from you, I can assure you that this is the last time you’ll read (??) a comment from me. So here goes, can I make it a good one? I found your last comment to me to be patronising, dismissive, ignorant, aggressive even. Please allow me to elaborate. “ALL scientific theories are based on inference. No exceptions. The fact that you do not know this……..”. Sir, inference is about drawing conclusions based on evidence and reasoning but there is nothing said here about the validity of that inference. There is nothing in what you wrote here that is “newsworthy” in how science works unless you presume that I think of scientists as being office clerks, filling in forms like mindless automatrons. I wrote above that mere inference is not enough. Get ten people to assess two dots on a graph and to explain what links them and you will likely get ten different conclusions……ten different inferences. So whose on the money? Ten different inferences is the result of our internal biases, how we perceive the observations we make and how we think they are linked. Inference is merely the starting point of science, the job of which is to tease out which inference provides the best explanation of the phenomenon that links the dots. Well there’s lots of arcane discussion and philosophy behind all this, suffice to say that it is considered that there are three types of inference; abduction, induction and deduction and science works as an endless cycle of the rational (inference beginning with abduction, followed by deduction then induction) and empiricism (observation, tests, evidence) to refine or falsify suggested inferences. Science does not begin and end with someone’s inference. It begins with a testable hypothesis (abduction….. inference to the best explanation…….yes, abduction IS inference) which makes the predictions that form the basis of the follow up tests for further inferential deduction and induction. If your inference (analogy actually) is to a supernatural agency, then where is the testable explanation? At best you have made a philosophical claim. It is not the job of science to accept an inference (no matter how plausible to the proponent) at face value, to validate one’s belief system without testing it. If, per chance, you are somehow “correct” (yes, a supernatural intelligence created the DNA code) then how is this to be assessed? Science needs a mechanism to test, science does not accept untestable, biased, inference…………this is mere assertion.

  4. John Lyster says:

    Final quote from the man who came up with this term Abduction, Charles Sanders Peirce.

    “Peirce knew that hypotheses need not be arrived at by induction. They could be just intuitions or lucky guesses or, as Einstein later called them, “free creations of the human mind.” Their origin does not matter (genetic fallacy). The “truth” of a hypothesis lies in its experimental verification and explanatory power.” By definition, the supernatural can not be experimentally verified, nor does not provide explanatory power.

  5. John Lyster says:

    Please excuse me Perry, but one last and final observation if I may. The way science (not politics and personal advocacy) works is by the in-house peer review towards a professional consensus. Science progresses by the gradual build up of consensus among the peers who communicate with each other by reputable scientific meetings, held by reputable scientific bodies and published in reputable scientific journals etc. Of course I understand the “bash the science” strategy that would have it that this is some sort of conspiratorial plot by a putative “scientific establishment” to contain the consensus within some sort of biased agenda, the same strategy that would have the general public believe that science is a vox pop, that government schools should “teach the controversy” in science class or that the consensus on anthropomorphic climate change is some sort of leftist anti development plot. The strategy that would have the public misinformed that science works by making appeals to common sense notions of “fairness and right to be heard”, that it is some sort of offshoot of the way politics works, that “all opinions are equally valid in the open and fair exchange of ideas”. Science is none of this, science is not a democracy. Of course “outsiders” (what ever that is, who ever they are?) can put up proposals, who could deny what brilliance may crop up? But the progress to consensus is still the same rigorous process of in-house peer review, not spruiking in the popular-sphere, advocacy in the opinion-osphere. Science loves a challenge but it’s not about instant, gratifying pendulum swings. Albert Einstein can attest to the slowness of the acceptance of his ideas.

    Personally I am not a person who is qualified to peer review evolutionary biology, however I am tertiary qualified in the life sciences, I have a professional career in this area and I have a keen interest in what may be termed “the Philosophy of Science” or what I would paraphrase, “how a scientist thinks”. In this way, I would describe myself as a layman of science, perhaps even a hobby interest in how it operates, however I feel this would also apply to your good self as we both share a similar LEVEL of scientific training (undergraduate science) but in different fields. Indeed, I think “layman of science” would be the “at-best” description that could be applied to the readers, commentators and bloggers on your web site. Yes, the meeting at the Royal Society that you referenced looks to have been a professional scientific meeting, however I think that you have way over interpreted its findings within the science and are way off the mark in interpreting the work of the likes of James Shapiro as in any way validating your own particular proposal. I base this opinion on having looked at this conference and extensively read up on your site and some other background work you cite from the web. To be very honest, I consider much of what you have written to be over the top, to the point of being unbalanced. Not just “the science” (I comment in scientific generalities, but not the futile endless tit for tat of this fact or that data) but all the gigantic claims about the significance of NGE (not to mention your own self described CGE) in bringing about the downfall, indeed “death”, of the neoDarwinian synthesis. Then all this talk comparing yourself with other “successful mavericks” of history. This is just boastful gibberish, lots of ooh ah and wow factor to impress the impressionable, completely lacking in objectivity and substance. Science this is not. And not an ad hominen in what I have just written here.

    Perry, I have done the leg work on your proposal but alas it seems you won’t engage me on the technicality of not reading what is not a scientific document but is actually a personal advocacy that, conceptually speaking, I can shoot holes in even at my level. I know that if I read through your book and attempted to “take you on” then you would be able to “blind me with science”. Good for your ego, but completely irrelevant beyond the vox pop of us relatively anonymous bloggers on the net. This is NOT how science gets done. The point I am making is that it is actually not for me to say “yeh or ney” to the specifics in your book and what you propose, it is up to the serious professional peer review and contributing to the professional scientific consensus. This is why I prefer to discuss the generalities of science, what I call, “thinking like a scientist”. The fact that you prefer to promote your ideas outside of the mainstream science and instead engage ONLY with this vox pop on your web site is reason enough for me to doubt your sincerity. This project has all the hallmarks of an agenda driven personal ego trip, particularly as it is about a one way monologue of what you have to say and that’s all. You prefer “broadcasting” your own ideas and agenda to engaging in sincere challenge.You may well be sincere in promoting your ideas, instead of just promoting a book, but as a “true scientist” (is this how you view yourself here?) you are either deluded or just gravely mistaken. You may well find it to be interesting and fun to be bleating on the periphery, in your own vox pop, but until you get serious about SCIENCE and how it works, then this proposal of yours is just an agenda driven personal advocacy, exactly like ID, but from a slightly different angle. Lots of plausible arguments, strictly the stuff of personal advocacy and politics, but not the way science works. I’ve seen plenty of similar things, such as the non scientific advocacies in climate science and “alternative medicine”, where “arguments from authority” bypass the peer review and make direct appeals to the naïve general public, often “blinding them with science” and plausible arguments, but actually only succeeding in affirming personal bias and winning over the gullible. Hence the meaningless “shoutfest’ that you encounter on your blogs. zzzzzzz. In some ways Richard Dawkins is the same when he appears to present himself as the unofficial spokesperson of science to the general public when promoting what merely amounts to a personal advocacy. In another life, he has contributed to the scientific mainstream, however when he speaks in the way that he does in the popular sphere then he merely becomes an advocate of his personal world view. He knows that he would not be able to present a lot of this at a formal scientific meeting. At scientific meetings and “in the lab”, scientists don’t think enough about socio-political agendas to know whether they are religious or not, but of course there are or can be implications “outside the lab”. Dawkins’ public commentaries would have no place within “the science”, just as yours don’t…….well not when presented in this way. The difference is that I’m sure that Dawkins would know the difference between personal advocacy (what he does now) and mainstream science to consensus (what he used do to) whereas you don’t appear to. Science is not about people self promoting their ideas through personal books and web sites, it is about contributing to the overall consensus via the peer review.

    Perry, I question your motivations and in all sincerity, I would ask you to reflect on this and all that I’ve written. I make the final suggestion that, as a starting point, you get people like Francis Collins (NIH) and Prof Ken Miller (Brown Uni), fellow Christian travellers, to appraise your book with a view to presenting it to the peer review and stop wasting your time brow beating the vox pop (including myself) to read it, as if this has ANYTHING to do with real science.

    Perry, I do appreciate that you have left my commentaries and challenges up on your site for others to see. I do hope that you view this as sincere challenge, neither insincere sycophancy, nor unnecessary ad-hominen.

  6. John Lyster says:

    http://www.thethirdwayofevolution.com/

    OK, so I just had another look at this link from your web site. Please excuse me Perry, I wasn’t expecting to write this until I had another look at this link just now. Quote: “It has come to our attention that THE THIRD WAY web site is wrongly being referenced by proponents of Intelligent Design and creationist ideas as support for their arguments. We intend to make it clear that the website and scientists listed on the web site do not support or subscribe to any proposals that resort to inscrutable divine forces or supernatural intervention, whether they are called Creationism, Intelligent Design, or anything else.” Wow, I confess to being slow on the uptake. I came across all this via your web site and it simply confused my thinking into believing that you actually had something to do with all this, phew, I am embarrassed to admit to being so confused. I can now see how this is a legitimate scientific proposal, albeit still on the peripheral of the mainstream consensus. OK, this is how science works, these guys have a proposal and they are presenting to the science and let us watch how their peers attend to this. Over time they may well get some push through on the mainstream consensus, they may help refine the present consensus, their proposals may bring about a new consensus or fall away to irrelevance. Who knows, it is not for us “hobby scientists” on the blogosphere to be quite so sure as you so emphatically are, but I will follow the evolving consensus with interest, this is how science works. What I do know is that the mechanisms described are very much a part of the mainstream consensus, they are in the mainstream text books, as I cited to you (Bruce Alberts). Of course these “third way” people draw a different inference (yes, inference) about the explanation and they are possibly providing interesting and potentially valuable pushback on the mainstream PRESENT consensus of neoDarwinism. Only time and the mainstream peer review will tell and we should all be interested in this tussle between two competing naturalistic mechanisms. This is science at work. My problem is that I came to this through your web site and this caused me to believe that you had something, anything, to do with this. How wrong, stupid and totally confused of me. Instead I can now clearly see how you have piggy backed onto this legitimate scientific proposal and used it to push your own idiotic, religious inspired agenda, presumably energised by your cherry picked obsession with “randomness”. You have used and abused this legitimate proposal by mis characterising its significance within the scientific mainstream, rebadging these mechanisms as your own, over the top, “Swisse Army Knife”, renaming the legitimate naturalistic “Natural Genetic Engineering” with your own ,”Cellular Genetic Engineering”, while yet claiming it as an implied support for your own ideas……unsubstantiated ideas being all they are. I think what really fooled me was the association with this, possibly legitimate, proposal regarding abiogenesis and the people on your “Committee”. I’m sure they are happy to be involved with your competition for an alternative naturalistic explanation for abiogenesis, but I can’t imagine what they must think of your other project and the way you are going about it. Perry, I came onto your web site and engaged with you in the spirit of open, fair and reasonable challenge but I can now see that I was entirely mistaken, you have no interest in the legitimate search for naturalistic explanations of our world, God created or not. Instead you have managed to invent a nonsensical justification for your own religious agenda using and abusing a legitimate scientific proposal as a cover. This process has not been a complete waste of time for me however, I have learnt a little more about how legitimate science gets twisted in order to push ideological agendas. Of course I knew this already, in a very distant and academic sense (esp with these ID people) but now it is much more clear to me in a personal and even visceral sense. Perry, it’s one thing for the ID people to dishonestly promote their socio-cultural agenda as their own “scientific proposal”, but it’s another to push one’s own fake believe “scientific project” on the back of an otherwise unrelated, yet legitimate scientific project. I was fooled by your trompe l’oeil for a while but no longer.

    • Denis Noble of Oxford, the co-founder of The Third Way movement (2nd guy down on the page), is one of my prize judges. His endorsement also appears on the back of my book (which you have not read, which is why you don’t understand my aims) as does an endorsement by John Torday of UCLA. As does Peter Saunders of King’s College London. You seem to believe that Evolution 2.0 is pushing some veiled creationist agenda. It is not. It is a pursuit of truthful empirical experimental science very much in keeping with the Third Way movement. Numerous of these scientists are my friends and colleagues. Your analysis is shallow and your accusations are thin.

  7. John Lyster says:

    My project: Science is such a successful project, why is this so, what makes it so successful, what will make it more so, what might make it less so?

    Your project: Science is such a successful project, how can we use it to validate our own philosophical, ideological agenda, even at the risk of ruining its integrity?

    Science works because it deals with natural explanations without fear or favour. Using it as a play thing to further personal ideologies, especially regarding the supernatural, is a sure fire way to ruin it.

  8. John Lyster says:

    Please excuse me if I have already put this comment up, however I can’t see it up and I forgot if I have already put it up………so here goes…
    Perry, thanks for responding to my stinging rebuke, you are a good sport. I sense that you are a good person who has the level of science understanding that I have, undergraduate level. I have friends and acquaintances who have a similar level of education in scientific based professions and they have come at me with piffle regarding matters such as climate change and especially ” alternative medicine”. Initially I didn’t really know how to counter their nonsense, I just knew it was nonsense. I have now come to the conclusion that 1) undergraduate level science gives us some sort of “basic 101” level of understanding that is essentially grounded in the geeky, science and technology “bunsen burner” level of how science works but not the historical/epistemological/philosophical grounding of how the scientific enterprise seeks out an understanding of the universe, what it claims to know, what it CAN claim to know, what makes it work, what will make it fail. Because it works so well then everyone wants a piece of the action, everyone wants to redefine, indeed redesign, science to suit their agenda, often to the detriment of its success. Even now, how science works is still under the scrutiny of sophisticated thinkers, even the process of science itself is “permanently provisional”. I presume that one Michael Ruse would have a lot to say on this matter. 2) My friends are a smaller version of what I have discovered going on out there. You can have all the training in the world in the sciences, including PhD level, but there’s just no accounting for emotional hot buttons that override true scientific objectivity. People generally know how successful science is, it’s there for all to see and enjoy the fruits thereof, so they often “leave it to the experts” without much question, until its findings hit a hot button issue. An entrepreneurial friend of mine with an engineering based training (sounds familiar?) is red hot on the climate change issue, as far as he is concerned it’s all a left wing anti development plot. For him, the “scientific ascendency” have got it all wrong, he knows this because it’s all there in the science bashing right wing political literature that he cites. For him the science academies are all a part of this agenda, the Royal Society is not to be believed. It’s up to the vox pop to decide on the actual science as well as the policy response. Politics trumps science. Another friend with an undergraduate level qualification in information technology, also has no problem with accepting the science in all manner of subject matters, until it comes to his personal hot button issue of health. All of a sudden, he’s antivax and government health departments and the vast epidemiological framework of modern health care is to be eschewed in favour of mavericks, “alternative gurus” and various assortments of snake oil salesmen on a “personal journey of discovery”. Personal health trumps science. Perry, I have the same sense of religion being your emotional hot button. Otherwise you likely accept the scientific mainstream without much question but, like a lot of these highly qualified and otherwise competent scientists, evolution just strikes a raw nerve and that’s that. Personally, I have no particular skin in the game of the politics of climate change, health issues or strongly held religious views, I’m just interested in how we examine and interpret the natural world that we live in. OK so by now your blood pressure is up, perhaps I sound arrogant, but this is just a headline of what I am on about and I will just leave it at that as I have challenged you enough.

    Suffice to finish off with some replies, specific to your last comment. I have read articles that you cited for me, written by James Shapiro and the, presumably brothers?, Nobles. My assessment remains, you have hijacked their naturalistic, and therefor in-principle scientific, proposal and rebadged it as your very own overtly non naturalistic, and therefor not in-principle scientific, proposal. I also feel that you have vastly overplayed the status of their proposal within the mainstream consensus to the point of “unbalanced”. Enough said on that one. You cite Denis Noble as one of your book’s endorsees. Well I understand that he is on your “Committee” looking into this natural explanation for Abiogenesis and I have already written that this looks to be an in-principle valid project. However, you now claim that he is endorsing your other project, this “pet hypothesis” about the IMPLIED (or overtly stated, depending on which part of your web site I read) supernaturally sourced DNA code. I simply can not take what you have stated here at face value. Short of sitting down with the man and having him explain himself I am just more inclined to assess this as either a poorly contextualised boastful claim or perhaps even a direct mis-characterisation that he might not appreciate. Who knows? What ever? I had a quick look around your other two “arguments from authority” (it’s been a long time since I genuflected at the name of highly qualified scientists who have strange pet projects on the side). I notice that John Torday runs some sort of blog discussing what looks like a decidedly “Deepak Chopra” esque style “Quantum Consciousness” pet theory of his. Phew. I have cited an evolutionary biologist from Brown University, Ken Miller. He has very ably fought the ID people in his professional capacity and appears to be a very decent person, I understand that he is a devout Catholic, no qualms about his religious beliefs and neoDarwinism. However, I understand he has some “aside” theory re “Quantum Indeterminism” that might be how the supernatural Catholic God gets involved in evolution while maintaining that all important mystique. I don’t think he believes this could be anything more than personal, philosophical conjecture, I don’t imagine he presents such thoughts at a scientific conference. Not because he is afraid of being shouted down by “nasty materialists” but because he knows that science only works because it seeks out testable naturalistic explanations. Outside the lab, he is fully entitled to philosophical conjecture as much as he likes…….perhaps he could be “right”????? But science has no way to test for this. If science did find a way to test for this (what ever that means?) then it would have to be a naturalistic explanation, so we would be left with i) Godless, nasty materialism (phew) or ii) “this is how God works, through his natural laws” (I presume this is how the Catholic Church explains/rationalises it…..take your pick. Either way, whether one believes that God is behind these naturalistic laws or not is beyond the scope of science). I also checked out one Peter Saunders of King’s College London. If I am not mistaken, he is involved in a group called “Institute of Science in Society” (ISIS, phew). I took the opportunity to check this mob out. Lot’s of whacko pseudo science, regurgitating the old MMR nonsense, homeopathy gets a gig, blah blah blah. Oh dear, if this is the chap then he is a normal functioning scientist by day, but gets into serious woo woo and pet hobbies by night. I’ve seen this sort of “mainstream scientist by day, strange pet project by night” stuff going on a lot. I’ve learnt to NOT be besotted by their mainstream qualifications and to downgrade them on my ratings scale accordingly. I understand that you are not a “hidden creationist” however I can not see that you are “very much in keeping with the Third Way movement”. I commenced my commentaries with you by labelling your project “ID, 2.0”, and I stand by that. I don’t know enough about this “Third Way” mob to critique it properly, it’s why I’ve kept a reasonably open mind about it all. Physiological/chemical, intra-cellular, real time feedback loops that cause adaptive mutations in the base pairs as opposed to the dreaded random mutations? Sounds plausible, perhaps the “truth” is a bit of both. At least this is a naturalistic proposal. Replacing the already moribund neoDarwinian Synthesis? No, I’ll let the experts down at “peer review central” sort through that one and, as a discerning “scientific layman”, keep an eye on the progress. I thank you for drawing this interesting matter to my attention. In any case, claiming you are “very much in keeping with the Third Way movement” with this supernaturally derived code by a poor analogy with human world IT code, that you assert is a scientific inference? No, not in my book. I’ve already discussed elsewhere, your proposal is a poor analogy with a weak inductive inference, it fails as formal deduction (false premise) and it certainly fails as abduction (that all important starting point for scientific inference). Otherwise, I am quite sure that you have become “too friendly” and attached to this coterie within the science and vastly overstated their case, while at the same time hijacking its potential to push your own, very unscientific, personal agenda. My brief check around of your two recent sources merely confirms my devaluation of this entire project but it’s not for me to outright condemn “the Third Way”. It’s up to the science and its processes to sort through this proposal on the way to the “permanently provisional” consensus. May I suggest you try swinging your book by the likes of Ken Miller and even Francis Collins for some “outgroup” balance. I think you’ve heard enough from me and I have had enough. All the best, jl

  9. Neil Caithness says:

    @John Lyster, don’t expect the reader to do all the work. Posting such long diatribes shows little respect for the reader. Do the work to make it much, much, much shorter, perhaps you could impose a strict word limit (say 250 words) on yourself and write an abstract. It takes work to write a concise and accurate account. SJG was superb at this in his early days, but he too lost it when he also lost respect for the reader.

  10. Stephanie Zhou says:

    So this is not so much of a new point, as it is a question to clarify the argument made in Evolution 2.0

    The argument is that DNA is code, and that code requires intention (a mind). So to my understanding, the argument is implying the following:

    Lets grant that looking at a living organism from the outside shows no indication of design. So it is just like looking at a crystal. However, if we found near the crystal there was a hidden box underground that had a code written in it that is code written to render the exact crystal (just like in the latest video game consoles, code is written to render the exact graphics). Then, we know someone must have written that code.

    That is how I understand the argument. Is this correct. Please let me know. Thank you!

    • Crystals don’t have code and they don’t need code to form. So it’s a shaky analogy.

      You do have the right idea, though: All codes imply intentionality, and in fact all people instinctively know this. So either life is a product of divine intentionality; or intentionality itself can be an emergent property of physics in some way that we have not discovered; or the laws of physics make it possible for codes to emerge without intentionality, and then intentionality comes from those codes.

      I am open to any of the above possibilities and this is why I created the prize at http://www.naturalcode.org.

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