The video below, in which Intelligent Design creationist Stephen Meyer explains ID to conservative writer and speaker Ben Shapiro, accomplishes two things—beyond demonstrating that Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, continues, despite withering criticism from scientists, to bang on about supposedly unevolvable “complex specified information” and the Cambrian Explosion as evidence for the Great Designer.
First, the video has eliminated any trace of respect I had for Ben Shapiro. Although I’m opposed to nearly all (well, let’s just make that all) of Shapiro’s political opinions, I thought his rhetoric was useful in challenging Woke college students who hadn’t thought through their views.
But now Shapiro has cast his lot with creationism, albeit the “sophisticated” form of creationism adumbrated by Meyer and his cronies. Shapiro is now beyond hope; it’s never not a good move for someone who pretends to be an intellectual to ally himself with thoroughly debunked pseudoscience.
Shapiro is, of course, an Orthodox Jew, but I thought that, contra Orthodox creationists, he had at least some respect for science. But he’s been moving towards ID creationism for some time, and now he’s clearly bought the whole hog. You can argue whether babies have souls (Shapiro thinks “yes”), but it’s a different issue to say that evolutionary theory is deeply flawed, for that’s a matter of empiricism.
Second, the video nakedly reveals the ultimate goal of the ID movement revealed: to sneak God back into the science classroom. I discuss that below, showing that Meyer reveals what we knew all along: IDers conceive of the Designer as the Christian God. That, of course, was part of the Discovery Institute’s secret (but leaked) Wedge Document that, back in 1999, outlined a strategy to attack materialism in science and replace it, in both professional science and the science classroom, with Jesus. I quote from that document; emphasis is mine.
The very beginning of this [Wedge] strategy, the “thin edge of the wedge,” was Phillip Johnson’s critique of Darwinism begun in 1991 in Darwinism on Trial, and continued in Reason in the Balance and Defeating Darwinism by Opening Minds. Michael Behe’s highly successful Darwin’s Black Box followed Johnson’s work. We are building on this momentum, broadening the wedge with a positive scientific alternative to materialistic scientific theories, which has come to be called the theory of intelligent design (ID). Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.
To get their creationism taught in the schools, IDers had the clever strategy of taking God out of the theory, at least explicitly. They then pretended that there was just some unspecified “mind” behind evolution, and that mind could be God, but it could also belong to space aliens or any overweening intelligence. But that was a lie: IDers wanted all along for the Judeo-Christian God to be the Designer. And you didn’t have to be a scientist to see this, for that was the decision of Judge Jones when he rejected the teaching of ID in Dover, Pennsylvania schools as a form of disguised religion. The replacement of “God” with “Designer” was clearly a duplicitous tactical strategy.
Those familiar with Meyer’s “theories” of ID, contained in his two books Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, will see them trotted out in the video below. I won’t waste time showing how they’ve been rebutted, but will just give you some links to read (you can see other criticisms in the Wikipedia entry for Meyer). Some good rebuttals of Meyer’s creationism can be found here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.
At 47:44, Shapiro asks Meyer how he connects ID theory to God. Meyer explains that “it takes a mind with conscious awareness to generate information in a digital form”, and that such a conclusion is at least “theistic friendly.” Meyer then says he’s writing another book about cosmology and physics—The Return of the God Hypothesis—using as evidence for God “anthropic fine tuning” and the idea of the “Goldilocks Universe”. And that evidence of design, as well as the origin of the Universe itself, cannot, says Meyer, cannot be explained by “an agent within the cosmos”, so space aliens are out. Meyer concludes that theism itself is the best explanation of all the evidence from biology, cosmology, and physics.
So there we have it. Meyer is trotting out the same shopworn arguments—fine-tuning, the anthropic principle, and the Cosmological Argument—claiming that together they show that the designer is a theistic God. There’s nothing new in what he says, but I guess the ID people decided it’s time to bring God out from behind the screen to complete the Wedge Strategy.
Over at Evolution News, the flaccid house organ of the Discovery Institute, David Klinghoffer extols the video below, showing Meyer in discussion with author and speaker Eric Metaxas. Klinghoffer osculates Meyer’s tuchas copiously:
Meyer, a philosopher of science, talks about the move to the next frontier in the argument for intelligent design. His forthcoming book, which is going to be huge, is The Return of the God Hypothesis. [JAC: the book’s subtitle is Compelling Scientific Evidence for the Existence of God]. With Metaxas, who imperfectly disguises his own brilliance behind a hilarious comic persona, Meyer explains the origins of his thinking about design in cosmology and biology, tracing those back to a 1985 conference he just happened to attend in, yes, Dallas.
The YouTube notes say that this talk was “taped at the 2019 Dallas Science and Faith Conference at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas sponsored by Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture.” You’ll hear some of the stuff that pushed Meyer towards his new book, including our supposed impotence to understand the origin of life, the existence of “complex specified information” (again), our failure to understand consciousness, and so on.
Starting at about 42 minutes in, Meyer starts making the case for God as “the designing intelligence.” The evidence is pretty much the same as above: the supposed fine-tuning of the laws of physics, the existence of a “Goldilocks Universe”, and so on. These things, argues Meyer, are “built into the cosmos from the very beginning”, and so can’t be created by some within-the-Universe being like a space alien. Ergo, the designer is God.
Very clever, but physicists don’t accept the cosmological data as evidence for God. They remain solidly atheistic.
Seriously, if God wants us to accept Him, why can’t he just come down to Earth and do a few irrefutable miracles that can be witnessed, photographed, and so on? (On pp. 118-119 of Faith Versus Fact, I lay out evidence that would provisionally convince me that there is a God, and I believe Carl Sagan also sketched the kind of evidence that would convince him that God existed.) Why, then, is God invisible? Is He testing our faith by denying us evidence of His existence, so that only those who are able believe without evidence get saved?
But now I venture into theology, and that’s the realm of Meyer and his colleagues. I’ll merely quote the philosopher Delos McKown: “The invisible and the nonexistent look very much alike. ”