Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Meyer's Signature

We are back from vacation to Ohio and Baltimore, MD. We had a nice time visiting relatives and friends. It’s good to be back.

While we were away, Stephen Meyer’s new book, Signature in the Cell, came out. I bought it and have read it. I know I said I am moving onto other subjects beside Intelligent Design Theory, but this book will probably be one of the classics of ID and I want to make some comments about it. It is long (about 500 pages), but very readable and includes many previous points made about ID. Meyer goes through the history of discoveries made in biology. He provides pictures of the important elements of the cell that lead to the conclusions of the theory and is very readable. Therefore, it is a very good book to read if you want to learn about the theory.

This book is closely related to the work of another ID proponent, William Dembski, but Meyer does it in a much more understandable manner than Dembski did in his book, The Design Inference. Meyer focuses on the code of DNA and the origin of the cell, a good strategy. He demonstrates the fact that this code is incompatible with the laws of physics and chemistry as we now know them. He analyzes DNA by way of Information Theory, a mathematical approach to communication channels shown by Claude Shannon in the late 1940’s. Meyer modifies this theory to reveal functional information in the cell. He shows that the recent discoveries about DNA point to computer program-like actions, such as operators acting on other areas of gene code in a hierarchy. These operators have been found in the parts of DNA that were previously thought to be "junk." Meyer points out that the only way we know that computer-like programming can be formed is by design by an intelligent agent.

I think Meyer’s book is very exciting. However, one problem is his insistence that ID Theory has nothing to do with religion. He is only partially right. It is correct that a person does not have to be religious to see that the code of DNA is better understood as a conveyor of information than an accident of evolution. However, Meyer wants to compartmentalize that understanding to allow for further scientific questioning but not the questions which come from philosophical logic. Though he says the theory is not a “science-stopper” as critics claim, he wants us to stop short of asking who the designer is. This is not a fair, or even possible, rule. Any theory should and does bring on the logical next questions. If only intelligence could create DNA, and humans were not around at the time, who had this intelligence? The only alternatives are God, aliens, or some other “force.” And when a person is a believer, the answer is ultimately God.

So, Meyer wants non-ID proponents to see his side, but does not see theirs. This is one of the main problems with the ID movement today. The thing is, in my opinion, the ID Theory is scientifically correct. If the non-ID people refuse to accept it, as is currently the case on the grounds that it is “not science,” they will never really understand the origin of the cell. For a long time people have wanted to keep religion out of scientific thinking. This separation goes back to the time when alchemy and myth detracted from science. But keeping the Whole Truth out of science is now showing itself to also be a hindrance to understanding. The factual evidence points to the major possibility that God supernaturally created the cell on Earth.

Many people today want to keep reason concerning nature (natural philosophy) and that concerning religion (theology) separate. But when Thomas Aquinas tried to prove the existence of God from material things (Summa Theologica, First Part, Question 2, Article 3), he went from one domain to another. The discoveries about the cell lead us on the same path.

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