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Sunday, 31 July 2011

Dishonesty of Michael Ruse

I watched a YouTube debate on the subject of Intelligent Design between Stephen Meyer and Michael Ruse today and was appalled by the dishonesty of the latter.

Ruse accused Meyer of being motivated by "faith" and of hiding his theological/philosophical position. This in spite of Meyer's frank declaration of a Christian faith and in spite of his patient explanation that his methodology was inspired by that of Darwin himself and his mentor, the geologist Lyell.

Lyell and Meyer's argument is that when we seek to explain past events, our best recourse is to causes known to explain present events. Thus, if we dig down and discover a layer of ash and pumice which seems to have been laid down thousands of years ago, our best recourse is to postulate a volcano. Why? Because modern volcanoes produce layers of ash and pumice. It would be absurd to account for the prehistoric ash and pumice by postulating a prehistoric barbecue. This example is not my own but I can't remember where it comes from.

When we discover information in DNA, the question of where it comes from is best answered by saying, "Well, whenever we encounter information in the present, it is always the result of intelligence and intention." If it looks designed then the most obvious explanation is that it was designed.

Meyer and his colleagues freely admit that this sensible hypothesis has theological implications. They further admit that the hypothesis can tell us nothing about the designer. Ruse and his ilk simply rule out the possibility of a designer and think that they have disproved the design hypothesis. This is like ruling out the existence of architects and then concluding that the Taj Mahal came into being by chance. Stupid and dishonest!

The thing about DNA is that it doesn't just look like a digital code: it is a digital code which is interpreted by nano-machines in the cell, which then build proteins. The code is highly abstract. We can conceive of the instructions in DNA being encoded differently – just as different computer languages can encode one outcome differently; and two programmers using the same language can produce the same outcome by using radically different routines.

It would be bizarre for a thinking person to deny the existence of architects. It is just as bizarre for someone who claims to be a thinker to rule out the existence of a designer in biology. Their "argument" boils down to: "You believe there is a God and you believe that you can detect strong design hints in biology of a God. But we know there is no God. So, your design hints are an illusion. QED!" Pathetic and dishonest.

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