Creationism is back: a pro-ID bill passes the West Virginia Senate

February 27, 2023 • 11:00 am

CORRECTION:  This article mistakenly said the bill was in Wyoming. It’s really in West Virginia.


It’s always been my fear, since the U.S. Supreme Court became hyperconservative, that they would rule to allow creationism to be taught in the public schools. It’s been effectively outlawed, but there’s one loophole to be closed: a Supreme Court ruling about whether Intelligent Design (“ID,” sometimes described as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”) can be taught in the schools along with evolution.

There are three relevant court cases, two of which involved the Supreme Court.

Epperson v. Arkansas (1968). In this landmark case, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that an Arkansas state law prohibiting the teaching of evolution was unconstitutional, for it violated the First Amendment by advancing religion.

Edwards v. Aguillard (1987). Another landmark case. This time the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 (Scalia and Rehnquist dissented) that a Louisiana “equal time” law, requiring that creationism be taught whenever evolution was, was unconstitutional. The majority again cited First Amendment grounds: creationism promoted a particular religious view.

Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005). Many of us remember this one. A federal judge in Pennsylvania, the late John E. Jones III, ruled on a case in which 11 parents in the city of Dover objected to a Dover School District policy requiring that whenever evolution was taught, Intelligent Design must also be taught, and stipulated the odious textbook Of Pandas and People as the ID text. I wrote my first article for The New Republic about this case, ostensibly a review of the ID text but really a critique of ID. It’s nearly disappeared online but is archived here, and I’ll be glad to send anyone a lovely pdf of the original article.

At any rate, after a six-week bench trial in which scientists and philosophers like Ken Miller, Barbara Forrest, and Robert Pennock appeared, while ID advocates like Michael Behe crumpled on the stand, Jones (a George W Bush appointee) issued a 139-page ruling asserting that ID was “not science” and forbidding the district’s new proposal. Judge Jones also chastised the school district for wasting time and money on an unwinnable case (I believe the school district, which had to pay court costs and attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs, was out over a million dollars).  Two notable statements from Jones’s decision. The bolding is mine, but those four words were the headlines in many newspapers:

After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

. . . To be sure, Darwin’s theory of evolution is imperfect. However, the fact that a scientific theory cannot yet render an explanation on every point should not be used as a pretext to thrust an untestable alternative hypothesis grounded in religion into the science classroom or to misrepresent well-established scientific propositions.

Since the Kitzmiller case, no state or school district has dared pass a “teach ID” law, knowing that it would likely be overturned and cost the state/school a lot of dosh.  But note that this federal case wasn’t appealed to the Supreme Court. Had it been at that time, Jones’s decision would have been affirmed. But times have changed now, and it’s possible that the new right-wing court could allow the teaching of ID on two grounds:

a. It could imply nullify Edwards v. Aguillard as it nullified Roe v. Wade, or

b. It could decide that ID is not creationism (or a form of religion) but actual science, and thus could be taught in schools.

Of course any fool who has studied ID knows that it is gussied-up creationism. It has not permeated the biology community (despite their promises it would), and clearly grew from religious roots. But who knows that this Supreme Court will do?

And so we come to the latest nightmare: the passing of a pro-ID bill by the West Virginia Senate. The link in the previous sentence goes to our old friend The Sensuous Curmudgeon, but you can also read an account at the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). Here’s the bill that was proposed, which doesn’t require teachers to teach ID but allows them to do so if they wish (red rectangle is mine):

The bill passed by a vote of 27-6, which shows you how ignorant West Virginia lawmakers are (or, perhaps, savvy but disdainful of science). It hasn’t yet been

Here’s the NCSE’s take:

West Virginia’s Senate Bill 619 — which would, if enacted, allow “[t]eachers in public schools, including public charter schools, that include any one or more of grades Kindergarten through 12, [to] teach intelligent design as a theory of how the universe and/or humanity came to exist” — passed the Senate on a 27 to 6 vote on February 25, 2023, according (PDF) to the legislature’s website.

Before the bill passed, Dale Lee, President of the West Virginia Education Association, described it as a “solution in search of a problem,” according to the Bluefield Daily Telegraph (February 25, 2023). He added, “We teach WV College and Career readiness standards” — which, like all state science standards across the country, include evolution but not creationism (including “intelligent design”).

A columnist in Charleston’s MetroNews (February 24, 2023) previously, if unsuccessfully, reminded the legislature about the case law establishing the unconstitutionality of teaching creationism in the public schools, including Kitzmiller v. Dover and Edwards v. Aguillard, explaining that the government is not allowed “to instruct school children on a faith-based creation story and pass it off as science.”

The bill still hasn’t passed the state House, and even then must be signed by the governor to become law. If it does, there should be an appeal to the federal courts, which could wind up in the Supreme Court. And that could become biology’s biggest setback since John Scopes was convicted in 1925.

h/t: Steve

A crazed creationist tries to take down evolution because it’s atheistic

January 15, 2023 • 10:45 am

I’m not sure who John B. Andelin is, but he appears to be a pathologist in North Dakota. Certainly his 16-minute anti-evolution video below is pathological, for it simply takes quotes out of context, cherry-picks quotes, omits all the really good evidence for evolution, and mocks those Christians, like Ken Miller, who accept evolution. He also uses video clips of me to makes his points, but in the clip he shows (from the British Humanist meetings), I do note that the supernatural was once part of science, but was discarded. In other words, I contest the quote from Lewontin that Andelin uses to open this video.

Now I could go into detail refuting the stuff in the quotes or the data he cites, but why waste my time? I presume that most readers here have read Why Evolution is True, accept evolution, and are smart enough to realize that evolution doesn’t (as Lewontin implied) come from an a priori commitment to atheism. (Darwin, after all, began his studies as someone who accepted the Biblical view of life.) We don’t invoke God in evolutionary studies for two reasons: there is no empirical evidence for a creator God, and because we no longer need God to explain anything. The history of science is one of discarding one God-based explanation after another (e.g., lightning and infectious disease) as we discovered the true, naturalistic causes. Yet there could have been empirical evidence for God, and in Faith Versus Fact I give some evidence that would have convinced me that the Christian God existed. Needless to say, no such evidence has appeared.

The lighting is not good here, as it makes Andelin look somewhat Beelzebub-ish, and his angry demeanor doesn’t help. Oh, and, Dr. Andelin, the name of evolutionist Ernst Mayr is pronounced “Ernst MIRE”, not “Ernst MAYr” with a long “a”.

How many errors or deliberately misleading claims can you see in this 16-minute video? I disagree, however with John van Wyhe’s claim that Darwin’s Origin “didn’t have that much evidence” for evolution. It sure did: read the book for yourself!

To rebut this nonsense, I decided to just leave a comment on the YouTube video site, which I’ve put below (click to enlarge it).  I hope that Andelin is better at diagnosing diseases than he is at understanding scientific data.

h/t: Mark

Intelligent Design nearly down the drain

January 8, 2023 • 9:15 am

The Wedge Document, the manifesto written by the Discovery Institute (DI) to outline the future proliferation of Intelligent Design (ID), was composed in 1998. It was leaked a long time ago, and you can see it here. If you read it, you’ll find that they’ve missed their temporal “goals” by a long shot. Below are the document’s goals for five years after the document (2003) and for twenty years after (2018). We’re  now five years past their twenty-year mark, and, as you see, nothing much has happened. (Bolding is mine.)

Five Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as an accepted alternative in the sciences and scientific research being done from the perspective of design theory
  • To see the beginning of the influence of design theory in spheres other than natural science.
  • To see major new debates in education, life issues, legal and personal responsibility pushed to the front of the national agenda.

Twenty Year Goals

  • To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science
  • To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
  • To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

Ooops! We’re now 25 years in, and they haven’t even reached their five-year goals! In fact, Intelligent design has been discredited, and in the 2005 Kitzmiller decision in Pennsylvania, Judge Jones declared ID “not science” so that teaching it in public schools was prohibited as an incursion of religion into government. ID pretty much died after that, and there have been no further judicial decisions, so banning ID from public schools is the law. (Fingers crossed that the new, religiously conservative Supreme Court doesn’t change that.) ID sure as hell isn’t “the dominant perspective in science.”

I often wonder if ID’s proponents, like Wells, Behe, Dembski, and Meyer, who still act as if they triumphed, ever lie awake at night and think about how badly theyt failed. For this is science, and the truth will out. But they’re still at it, like a cow walking in circles forever even after it’s been disconnected from the water mill.

Over at The Panda’s Thumb site, ID opponent and biology professor Nathan Lents summarizes a year of dismal failure for ID and the Discovery Institute. If you’ve followed the DI, you’ll know that they founded a “Biologic Institute” to do “research” on ID, but to get their work publicized they not only had to found their own journal, BIO-Complexity, but they hardly published anything. (Most of the articles were written by the editors.)

Lents announces in the article below (click on screenshot), and Matt Young in another Panda’s Thumb post (click on screenshot), that the Biologic Institute was more or less a nothingburger, and has finally closed down (see my post on its fakery here). No more ID research! Oh no—how will they make it the “dominant paradigm in science without research?

First, their “impressive year”, in which the journal BIO-Complexity published a total of three—count them, three—articles

Lents describes a new paper in the journal about how the human ankle is so complex that it must have been designed (ergo Jesus), and makes a few point about that paper and the journal itself. I’ve left out some points, but the indented ones below are in Lents’s words:


1). This is just the third and final article published in in the journal in all of 2022. Their original ambitious goal was one article per month (lol), but they have yet to exceed four articles in any calendar year. In 2017, they published just one manuscript in the “research article” category and one “critical review.” This year, the three published articles are in the “critical focus” category, meaning they did not publish a single “research article” in 2022.

2). The article above was written by someone who is also on the editorial board of the journal. In fact, nearly all of the contributing authors in the history of the journal are also editors and most are also Discovery Institute fellows or contributors. In 2010-2011, the journal published a total of seven articles across all article types, four of them co-authored by editor-in-chief Douglas Axe. Of course, it is not unheard of that a journal occasionally publishes original work by someone on the editorial board, but this practice is usually kept to a minimum for obvious reasons.

3). 2022 was exceptional, however, because the three articles published in BIO-Complexity [sic] are all by different authors! In most years, to reach the impressive feat of 3 or 4 articles, they publish multiple articles from the same author or team of authors, essentially by cutting articles into pieces. For example, the entire published work of the journal in 2021 is three articles, all by the same author, with titles ending in “part 1,” “part 2,” and “part 3.” In the year before that, two of the four published articles were by the same trio of authors and cover the same topic. The exact same was true for 2016.

4.)  The article above was written by someone who is also on the editorial board of the journal. In fact, nearly all of the contributing authors in the history of the journal are also editors and most are also Discovery Institute fellows or contributors. In 2010-2011, the journal published a total of seven articles across all article types, four of them co-authored by editor-in-chief Douglas Axe. Of course, it is not unheard of that a journal occasionally publishes original work by someone on the editorial board, but this practice is usually kept to a minimum for obvious reasons.

It’s hilarious that ID “research” is coming out in only one to four articles per year, but also that there were seven articles in 2020-2011, four of which were couthored by the “journal’s” editor Douglas Axe, who, as you see below, was the only employee of the Biologic Institute. Most of the other articles were written by journal editors, which of course shows that ID research is not taking over the field, but is limited to a small band of God-fearing zealots.

The second post, put up in May of 2021 by Matt Young, announces the closing of the Biologic Institute, and also gives some interesting info from its tax returns. (The last paper they list under their published research came out in 2014.) This is from Young’s piece:

The blogger known as the Sensuous Curmudgeon reported yesterday that the Biologic Institute, supposedly the research arm of the Discovery Institute, is closing:

Appears the Biologic Institute [An enterprise of the Discovery Institute] is history, green screen and all. On their 2019 990, Director Axe will no longer draw a salary, but will be a prof at Biola “Univ.” Office space is for rent. Location is listed as “permanently closed.” Their final 990 showed a loss of $133,000. [Emendation in original.]

I checked Guidestar for their latest IRS Form 990-EZ, which is dated 2019 and covers the fiscal year 2018 (Charity Navigator is a year behind). Sure enough, it contains the following statement on line 28:


The “Dr. Axe” in question is Douglas Axe, the president of the Biologic Institute. His salary of $133,333 in 2018 was the bulk of the total expenses of $201,873. Revenue was $68,600, leaving a deficit almost exactly equal to Dr. Axe’s salary. Inasmuch as Dr. Axe “no longer draws a salary from Biologic Institute,” it seems safe to say that they are effectively out of business, even though he “is exploring ways in which Biologic can partner with Biola.”

Biola University,” of course, used to be known as the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and is an evangelical Christian school. It’s also the Elephant Burying Ground for all moribund IDers, including Eric Hedin, who left Ball State after they refused to let him teach religious ID in his science class.

In view of this, I feel that I can declare that the Wedge Strategy has failed, that Intelligent Design’s influence in the scientific community, rather than having become the “dominant paradigm”, has shrunk to a nearly invisible nubbin, and that the Discovery Institute no longer produces research but spends its time attacking evolutionists like me (Michael Egnor seems to be obsessed with me).  Since Egnor and his confrères are reading this, I’m going to give them a big fat raspberry and ask them “Where’s the beef?”

I get email from creationists

December 19, 2022 • 8:15 am

There will be no readers’ wildlife feature this morning because I have a doctor’s appointment. In its place I’ll post an email from a creationist who wrote me today using his name. I easily found the person on the website of, the website of Creation Ministries International, an international organization partnered with the American Answers in Genesis, headed by Ken Ham, but there’s apparently a rift between them. The guy didn’t say no when I asked later if I could give his name, so I’ve now included it. It’s Matthew Cserhati, and you can read his creation bio here.

Wikipedia says this about the group:

Creation Ministries International (CMI) is a non-profit organisation that promotes the pseudoscience of young earth creationism. It has branches in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States.

And a bit about them from their own page (have a look at their Q&A page, which is a hoot, and gives evidence that the Earth, as the Bible implies, is only about 6,000 years old).

The email I woke up to this morning:


I am reading your book, Why Evolution is True.

You write about how different kinds of models show how evolution could have happened, but you skip the question, did evolution happen? That’s the thesis of your book: evolution is a fact and did indeed happen, but you never prove this. I find Voltaire’s quote about certitude being ridiculous itself ridiculous because science is knowledge. Not doubt.

Some questions:

You mention some corals which are allegedly billions of years old because they have 400 day-rings within an annual ring. Do you have corals from each epoch of evolution showing how this number decreases to our modern number of 365? This is essential because you need to demonstrate a linearly decreasing trend.

You also mentioned the number of ribs increasing for trilobites or the number of chambers increasing for bacteria. Are there any fossils that are half-trilobite, half something else? That’s what evolution needs to prove. Humans range between 2 feet and 8 feet, yet we are one species. I think your bacteria and trilobite examples prove nothing.


Thanks, Dr. Matthew Cserhati


First, I don’t mention “chambers” in bacteria, which shows how closely he read.

It’s the same old palaver: one can document a fossil sequence (as I do for many organisms, ranging from foraminiferans to whales to humans), but unless you can show fossil evidence of every step in the pathway, you haven’t “proven” anything. Yet these people regard a made-up story implying a young Earth as “proof” powerful enough to stake their lives on! Is it not sufficient that we have intermediate or transitional fossils appearing right at the time they should: intermediates between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals on one branch, reptiles and birds on another, and, of course, between early apelike hominins and modern hominins? What better evidence of human evolution can we have than fossils of H. erectus or the australopithecines? Oh, I forgot, they’re either fully “apes” or fully “human”!

Well, if this creationism bought my book, at least I made a buck or so.

I’d like to ask Cserhti this question: “What, to you, would prove that the Earth was several billion years old and that evolution actually occurred?”  Dr. Creationist of course neglects the rest of the fossil evidence I gave, as well as evidence from biogeography, development, molecular biology, vestigial organs, and so on. The fact is that nothing will convince these poor saps that evolution occurred because they’ve sworn on the blood of Jesus that every word of the Bible is true.

Feel free to respond to this person, as I have their name and email and can forward this post and the comments to Cserhati.  Here’s his bio from the Creation Ministries website (a longer bio is here):

Dr Cserhati (pronounced Chair-hat-tea) came to Christ after high school in Hungary. But after studying biology at university, he struggled with harmonizing the book of Genesis with evolutionary theory he was being taught. After a few years of this struggle, and being exposed to information on creation, he came to understand that the evolutionary worldview and the Gospel are in opposition to one another, in that evolution uses death as a natural process, but according to the Bible, death is the last enemy, and a consequence of man’s sin.

After seeing how creation supports the biblical worldview and with it, the Gospel, he felt called to help the cause of creation ministry. After buying and reading material from the creation science movement, it only reinforced his view on how ‘real science’ supports the Bible, and that the Bible can be fully trusted in all areas of our life. He was active in establishing a creation science group in Hungary called the Protestant Creation Research Group in 2001.

Matthew has a Ph.D. in biology and has been an active creationist for 18 years and takes a great interest in molecular biology. He has published a number of articles in Journal of Creation.

He received a M.Sc. from the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest in biology in 2003, and went on to receive a B.Sc. in software development and a Ph.D. in biology from the University of Szeged in 2010 and 2011. His doctoral thesis was about the development and application of a transcription factor dyad prediction algorithm. He is currently studying for an M.A. in religion from Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He also has certificates in five languages, and has done over 200 translation and interpreting jobs.

Queen Mary University professor rejects evolution and promotes the New Testament in his inaugural lecture

December 12, 2022 • 9:15 am

Here we have an hourlong talk by Richard Buggs, Senior Research Leader (Plant Health & Adaptation) at Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and Professor of Evolutionary Genomics at Queen Mary University of London. We met Dr. Buggs on this site in 2021 as “a creationist professor of evolutionary biology in England,” where he touted Intelligent Design;  I included a shorter video in which Buggs mixed his God with his science. Now he’s doing it again in his Inaugural Lecture at Queen Mary University (below).

His personal webpage gives his bona fides:

Professor Richard Buggs is an evolutionary biologist and molecular ecologist. His research group analyses DNA sequences to understand how plants, especially trees, adapt in response to climate change and new pests and pathogens. Richard has published on a variety of evolutionary processes including: natural selection, speciation, hybridisation and whole genome duplication. The birch species Betula buggsii is named after him. Richard is a Christian, and sometimes blogs on issues where biology and Christianity intersect.

He’s also author of the 2007 Guardian article below (click if you want to read):

A quote from the article:

But, whatever the limitations of Darwinism, isn’t the intelligent design alternative an “intellectual dead end”? No. If true, ID is a profound insight into the natural world and a motivator to scientific inquiry. The pioneers of modern science, who were convinced that nature is designed, consequently held that it could be understood by human intellects. This confidence helped to drive the scientific revolution. More recently, proponents of ID predicted that some “junk” DNA must have a function well before this view became mainstream among Darwinists.

But, according to Randerson, ID is not a science because “there is no evidence that could in principle disprove ID”. Remind me, what is claimed of Darwinism? If, as an explanation for organised complexity, Darwinism had a more convincing evidential basis, then many of us would give up on ID

Back to the talk. This is a very bizarre lecture. In the first half he denies the existence of branching evolutionary trees, arguing that this invalidates both Darwinism and natural selection (note: although evolution is required for such trees, natural selection is not).

To do this, he cherry-picks data in which a few independent trees, derived from both morphological and DNA data, are not concordant. But that does happen under evolution, for sometimes genes are transferred horizontally, or via hybridization, or we have “incomplete lineage sorting”, in which segregating ancestral genetic variation is distributed among descendants. Further, if you use only a few genes—and note that Buggs’s trees are based on only a few genes—you may get a “gene tree” that’s discordant with the “species tree”—the actual history of new lineage formation via splitting. Allen Orr and I discuss this discordance in the Appendix of our book Speciation. The upshot is that you don’t expect every gene to give the same tree, but if evolution and evolutionary splitting occurred, you would expect the preponderance of genes to give the same tree. And they do, save in the rare case when there’s been pervasive hybridization between groups, and the species involved are fairly closely related.

Buggs also dwells at length on the relatively sudden appearance of angiosperms, almost implying that it supports sudden creation, though he ignores the fact that monocot plants appear far earlier than angiospemrs in the fossil record, so the data don’t support the evidence of any creation. (Note: Buggs implies that the fossil record and molecular data support a religious scenario rather than an evolutionary one, but is very canny about mentioning Biblical creationism or Intelligent Design.)

Buggs’s denigration of evolutionary trees constitutes, he claims, evidence for a Designer (aka God/Jesus). AT 30:00. for example, he argues that the NON-existence of evolutionary trees supports a Designer, for if a system were designed rather than evolved, you wouldn’t expect concordant trees; you’d get “a bit of a mess”.)

At 39:38, Buggs shifts gears and tells the baffled audience (listen to the tepid applause is at the end!) that well, maybe the evolutionary “tree of life” doesn’t exist, but the BIBLICAL tree of life does! This “tree of life” stands for eternity and all the claims of Christianity, for the words “tree of life” appears in Revelation (2:7 and 22:1-3).  Here’s a summary of Buggs’s “evidence” for the Bible:

In other words, because many people believed in Christianity, and John had a revelation, Christianity must be true (his words are “we should not lightly dismiss John’s claims”).  How little it takes to convince Buggs of the New Testament’s truth, and how much it would take to convince him of evolution! (Remember, he concentrates ONLY on the existence of trees as evidence for evolution, ignoring things like development, the fossil record, biogeography, observations of natural selection in action, and all the stuff I adduce in Why Evolution is True.)

I’d urge you to at least listen to the last 20 minutes so you can see how a scientist can be so credulous that he’s persuaded that Christianity is true based on the thinnest evidence you can imagine.

Finally, BUGGS goes woke at the end, promoting “inclusion” in STEM, but he apparently does as a way to promote religion. For, as the sweating Dr. Buggs shows, Christianity is most pervasive in “countries of color”: those in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America (also the U.S., but he ignores that). His conclusion? We need to include RELIGION more in the sciences, and be nicer to believers, because that will attract more “non diverse” people into STEM. This is a very weaselly proposal for sneaking religion into the sciences!

In the end, Buggs distorts and misrepresents what science has told us, ignores the pervasive evidence for evolution besides evolutionary trees, and gives an embarrassingly thin account of “evidence” for Christianity.

Yet this man is a professor of evolutionary biology and molecular ecology! His presence at Queen Mary University of London, much less his promotion to Professor, reflects very poorly on his university. I’m not urging his dismissal, though if he were teaching this guff at a public university in America he’d be violating the First Amendment and should be told to leave the religion out of his teaching. Now it’s possible that Buggs doesn’t mention Jesus or the Bible in his classes, and that would be great. But I truly doubt that he gives a good account of the evidence for evolution, either. (After all, he accept Intelligent Design, not evolution.) That is, I suspect Buggs’s students are being shortchanged, and if that’s the case, I feel sorry for them. As for Queen Mary University, I’d merely suggest that they check if Buggs is dragging religion into his teachings.

h/t: Gerdien

An ID advocate writes in, claiming that the designer is behind every adaptation

September 13, 2022 • 9:15 am

I didn’t post on my website the comment you see below. For one thing, it had nothing to do with the post it was supposed to be under (“Mencken on nonexistent gods“). The name the reader wanted used was “Midhun”.  And he has a theory that is his (see my bolded bit below). The commenter’s writing is indented, while mine is flush right. Spacing is as in the original.

(This comment isn’t directly related to the thread. Sorry for that)I’m a college student studying biology. I became interested in the Evolution v/s ID debate during the pandemic lockdown & have been reading the publications from both sides of the debate. Found this blog in that process.

Now comes Midhun’s theory that is his. Here is his theory:

Finally I settled in a ‘hybrid’ model (that incorporates both Evolution & ID) as the most rational position.Sir, I know you are an ID critic. Thats why I’m describing my model here. I welcome healthy criticisms from you so that I can change my model accordingly.

If Midhun thinks I’m going to write a long response, he’s sorely mistaken. I’d normally respond, “Read my book” and add “there are plenty of criticisms of ID and your views already on the Internet and in papers. Do your homework.” But I see that my neurons are driving me to say a bit more.

Midhun goes on, limning the theory which is his and nobody else’s:

This is the brief summary of my model: The origin of life and other major innovations happened in the history of life (such as origin of photosynthesis, origin of eukaryotic cell, eyespot, origin of animal phylas during cambrian etc) had the direct involvement of Intelligent Designer. The reason I infer so is summarized in two points

(1)those events were accompanied with quantum leap in biological information.(2) In agreement with ID theory, I believe that Intelligent Design is the most rational explanation for the origin of large amount of biological information in a geologically short time period.

Unfortunately, Midhun doesn’t define what he means—I’ll assume Midhun is a male—by “a quantum leap in biological information”. If he means ONE HONKING BIG MUTATION THAT CHANGES EVERYTHING, that’s very unlikely, but if he means mutations themselves are “quanta”: one DNA base changes at a time (or, in some cases, we have an insertion or hybridization event which can change many bases in the genome) then that’s okay. But this isn’t what he means.  So his first premise is unevidenced and most likely wrong.  The concept of “macromutations” disappeared around 1940 for good reason: lack of evidence.

As for #2, we have explanations for all those phenomena in naturalistic terms. If he thinks that Intelligent Design, which involves a creator, is the most “rational” explanation for stuff like phyla and eyespots, then he’s obliged to tell us where the Designer came from. Was the Designer’s origin also through a quantum leap? And the answer, “The Designer was just there” is not sufficient.

Midhun goes on:

That being said, I do not think all traits that originated in life’s history need the direct involvement of designer.The explanation I have for the origin of those traits is:Organisms directly designed by designer have the built-in ability to evolve w.r.t changing environments. In other words, organisms are designed to evolve.The reason I say so is: Increasing number of scientific papers points to the active role of organisms’ pre-existing informational systems in the process of evolution.This is in contrast to the idea of passive role of organism in evolution that was implied by the classical darwinian mechanism of accidentally generated variation plus fixation.The informational systems within organisms have the potential to generate variations in an active way. In short, organisms have the built-in ability to generate variations.Examples are: Mutations generated by regulated biochemical processes during the time of non-lethal stress, stress induced gene amplification, stress induced transposition, recombination, epigenetic modifications, HGT, releasing cryptic variations during stress, alternative splicing during stress and other cell-mediated genomic rearrangements.In addition to that, variations generated by phenotypic plasticity- which is an intrinsic property of the developmental systems.A 2021 Bioessays paper calls the active role of organism in evolution as “biological agency”.This doesn’t mean organisms are intentionally or consciously generating variations. Rather, its a property of developmental and other cellular systems to respond to changing environments or stress.

The idea of “evolvability”, that organisms were designed to evolve by natural selection when the time was appropriate, is appealing to some, but there’s virtually no evidence for it, especially in non-microbial species. It is true that, in some mathematical theories, an organism can evolve to have a higher mutation rate during times of environmental change, but this happens only when environmental change is rapid and recurrent. There are two further problems:  most mutations are at best neutral and often maladaptive; very few are advantageous. A gene designed to jack up the mutation rate in bad times will, in general, be LESS fit than its alternatives unless the “mutator” gene somehow acts specifically on the genes “needed” to meet the environmental challenge.  We know of no such mutators. Further, the mutator gene, unless it is tightly physically linked on the DNA to the genes “needed” to change during environmental stress, will be separated from it, and then will be a generalized allele making errors all over the genome. That would also be maladaptive, and the mutator would be eliminated by natural selection.  Notice that Midhun adduces no evidence for the theory, because there is none, at least not in eukaryotes. (There is disputed evidence that a higher mutation rate has evolved under stress in bacteria, but it’s not widely agreed that this happens. Further, in bacteria a new mutation doesn’t often recombine away from other genes, as there is virtually no recombination.)

I don’t know why people like Midhun have to postulate a complicated and unevidenced mechanism for natural selection that requires an undescribed Designer. Not only is the Darwinian mechanism of variation plus selection more parsimonious, but we can actually see it happen in both the lab and the wild. When we map adaptations that have evolved in real time (either in flies or humans as in lactose tolerance), we find that they are based on simple DNA changes in structural or regulatory genes. They are not quantum leaps, nor are they generalized mutator genes. The last sentences that Midhun proffers, “This doesn’t mean organisms are intentionally or consciously generating variations. Rather, its a property of developmental and other cellular systems to respond to changing environments or stress”, are wrong.  We have no evidence of a generalized property of ability to respond to stress by increasing the mutation rate. (They can respond to stress via evolved responses, like rotifers growing spines when they detect the presence of fish in their lake. But that’s due to evolved plasticity, not a sudden increase in mutations.) While some factors, like exposure to mutagens or high temperatures, can increase the mutation rate, they do so only by passively increasing the error rate of DNA replication; there are no signs that these are anything other than the unavoidable effects of chemicals on nucleotides.

Midhun continues to expound the theory that is his:

Although the authors of all papers that describe the aforementioned mechanisms believe that the ability to evolve itself was evolved, they do not offer an explanation. In fact how can they?If evolution we observe today are actively mediated by various biomolecules, one cannot invoke the same process to explain the origin of those biomolecules in the first place. Doing so would be a logical contradiction.

But I thought Midhun was offering a non-Designer (i.e., straight neo-Darwinian) mechanism for some traits. Instead, he drags in the Great Designer to explain evolvability!  In fact, it’s God all the way down! And it has to be, for Midhun cannot see adaptation as a process that can occur naturally, even though we’ve seen it happen. Rather, to him it looks teleological and purposeful.

I believe that Intelligence is the most rational explanation for the origin of the informational systems that actively facilitates this mode of evolution.

This raises the question of what he means by “most rational”. I won’t make any disparaging remarks here, but will note that it’s not rational to posit a designer for which there’s no evidence whatever, and plenty of evidence for the classic evolutionary process of natural selection (or other evolutionary forces) acting on mutations that happen to be around, but which originate at “random”: through accidents of DNA replication that have nothing to do with natural selection.

Finally, coming to the classical darwinian mechanism, I believe that a strictly darwinian mechanism is incomplete and it alone cannot generate evolutionary novelties. As far as I know, no complex novelties have emerged through strictly darwinian mechanism.(By the term darwinian evolution, I mean the standard textbook theory)

Of course, he doesn’t define “complex”, which I’m sure he means “adaptations for which nobody can or has offered a Darwinian, gradualistic step-by-step process, which makes his claim tautological. We certainly know of fairly adaptations (e.g., antifreeze proteins in Antarctic fish) that have arisen this way, and we can also model the evolution of complex traits like the camera eye of molluscs and vertebrates by a Darwinian process with conservative assumptions. Such models create complex adaptations remarkably quickly. For one example using the eye, see here (or ask for a pdf) and here. Fortunately, Midhun is coming this his Big Finish:

Quoting the aforementioned 2021 Bioessays paper:“…key evolutionary innovations such as the vertebrate eye, the insect wing, and the mammalian placenta cannot be explained by selection on random genetic mutations per se.”(

That paper, though in a scientific journal, is simply an ID screed whose tenor is “anything whose evolution we don’t understand constitutes evidence for a designer.” But people used to say that about all manner of phenomena, like lightning, infectious disease, and earthquakes. If we didn’t know how they came about, it must have been God. Then, one by one, science provided the correct explanation. The BioEssays paper is dreck. 

As for complex adaptations like eyes and wings, I could explain Darwinian scenarios for their origin, but many others have already done so in print: Dawkins goes over the eye and the wing in previous books (see his latest, Flights of Fancy), and Googling will give you theories about how the placenta evolved via natural selection (i.e., see here and here).

Why do I waste my time refuting creationist nonsense like this, all of which is contradicted by the scientific literature? Don’t ask me—it’s the laws of physics, which have vouchsafed me a neuronal configuration that automatically responds to ID nonsense. Now I’ve wasted an hour.

Shoot me again—more creationists adduce evidence for God.

July 18, 2022 • 9:20 am

For some reason I don’t comprehend, my critique of Stephen Meyer’s Newsweek article, “Stephen Meyer in Newsweek: Three scientific discoveries point to God. As usual, his claims are misleading” prompted a fair number of emails and comments, some of which, like the submitted comment below, I didn’t deem fit to put in the comments section but did find worth a standalone post because of what it says about the thought process of some humans.

First, reader Coel corrected me when I said the Big Bang was the “beginning” of the Universe, and Coel was right. He also corrects Arno Penzias (a Nobel Laureate!), whom Meyer quoted with approbation:

Evidence for what scientists call the Big Bang has instead confirmed the expectations of traditional theists. Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, who helped make a key discovery supporting the Big Bang theory, has noted the obvious connection between its affirmation of a cosmic beginning and the concept of divine creation. “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses…[and] the Bible as a whole,” writes Penzias.

Here’s a comment by Coel:

“If the Big Bang did occur, which seems likely since we have tons of evidence for it, then that shows only that the Universe began, not how it began.” {From my post]

The Big Bang doesn’t even establish that the universe “began”. Most cosmologists would say something along the lines that the observable universe came from a quantum-gravity fluctuation around the Planck time, where that fluctuation occurred within a pre-existing state.

Thus “our universe” only had a beginning if one uses the term to refer narrowly to the products of that quantum fluctuation, not to “everything”.

By the way, if one checks what that Penzias quote was actually about (see here), it wasn’t about the universe having an origin, it was about how many “universes” there are. But since the time of that quote, the best data today do favour an “eternal inflation” multiverse, and thus now dis-favour Penzias’s argument.

Lastly, the fine-tuning argument has to start with the axiom that there would be something wrong if the universe did not contain human-like life. The conclusion (that the universe started with human-like life in the form of a god) is thus entirely circular.

Okay, and that’s a good and substantial comment. But then someone called Aeiutuz responded to Coel, and here’s the unposted comment I’m highlighting:


In reply to Coel.

I’d go a step further. I think modern cosmology gives at least a 50% chance God exists. Nearly all cosmologists believe the big bang began after a period of cosmic inflation. We know absolutely nothing about what the universe was like before inflation. But we do know, it was incredibly hot. So hot that all of our laws of physics break. There existed a state of mass/energy we can’t describe. The mass/energy was imaginably large, possibly/probably infinite. Inflation could have been going on for an infinite amount of time. Or maybe not.

Modern cosmology tells use, before the big bang, there was an unimaginably large, possibly infinite state of mass/energy that we can’t describe. Some part of that mass/energy broke off creating the cosmic inflation and when the inflation ended, it created the big bang. There was no intelligence in that mass/energy.

Most western religions tell us that before the universe we know today began, there was God. A state of something, maybe mass/energy beyond our description that was unimaginably large. Probably infinite. With intelligence. Some part of the broke off to create the universe, perhaps in a big bang.

Modern cosmology says the universe began from a state of mass/energy that we can’t describe that was unimaginably large, possibly infinite. But there was no intelligence behind it.

Modern religion tells us the universe began from God, as state of spirit, or possibly mass/energy we can’t describe that was unimaginably large, probably infinite. But had intelligence.

The difference between cosmology and religion is this: before our universe began, was there intelligence in the mass/energy that existed before the big bang or not? Religion says yes. Cosmology says no. But if you have an infinitely large amount of energy, or an unimaginably large amount of energy almost indistinguishable from infinity, is it so hard to imagine there wasn’t intelligence behind it? I say the chance is at least 50-50.

Now the state of the universe before the Big Bang is above my pay grade, but not far enough that I can’t criticize a bizarre analogy between what physicists think and what “most Western religions tell us.” For example, I can’t find any hint of this in Genesis:

Most western religions tell us that before the universe we know today began, there was God. A state of something, maybe mass/energy beyond our description that was unimaginably large. Probably infinite. With intelligence. Some part of the broke off to create the universe, perhaps in a big bang.

God was “infinite”? In what sense? Was he also “incredibly hot”? (He must have been a looker!). And where does it say that “some part of God broke off to create the universe, perhaps in a big bang”? You have to have a pretty loose interpretation of Genesis to see that!

Further, where does modern religion tell us that God was either a “state of spirit” (whatever that is) or “possibly mass/energy that was large, probably infinite”? Again, Aeiutuz is tailoring his view of God to what physics says. (I doubt that this was his a priori conception of a deity.) He might as well just go the Einstein route and say that the laws of physics and history of the Universe are God, cutting out the anthropomorphic middleman.

The part I find weirdest, and somewhat humorous, is that after these labored analogies, Aeiutuz says that if we can’t determine if there is a God or not since his God comports with what physicists tell us, then the chance that there was a divine intelligence is “at least 50-50”.

Let’s leave the analogies aside: the real fallacy is this: “If we have two hypotheses and we can’t distinguish between them, then the chance of each being true is roughly 50%. Is there a name for this fallacy?

In fact, the chance that there’s an intelligence seems less than 50% since we’ve never seen any evidence for it, yet we have plenty of evidence that naturalistic physics, which ignores an idea of a Big Intelligence, still leads us to the truth about the Universe. You could obtain the same probability for any imaginary being, like leprechauns (after all, who makes the rainbows?)

Come to think of it, I think I saw this fallacy highlighted by my late Ph.D. advisor Dick Lewontin in a form like “If you have two explanations for something, that implies that the truth lies somewhere near the middle.” For lack of a formal name, I’ll call this The Centrist Fallacy.

There’s another fallacy here as well: “If we don’t understand a physical phenomenon, then God is one explanation worth considering.” The problem is that that hypothesis has been used for centuries, explaining things like the “design” of organisms, lightning, the Black Death, and so on, and one by one these unexplained phenomena got explained—not by invoking a god but by using the tools of science. You’d think that people would have become wary about equating “unexplained scientific question” with the assertion “God exists.”

But now my craw is full of these people and their weird arguments for God. I will stop and move on.


The faithful write in about my post on Intelligent Design

July 17, 2022 • 9:30 am

Nothing gets me more angry comments or emails than when I write about transgender women in women’s sports or take apart creationism or intelligent design. In the latter case, the faithful are out there in droves, and of course 81% of Americans believe in God. If you attack their arguments for God, they see it as you attacking both them and God Himself.

It’s not surprising, then, that when I critiqued the intelligent-design creationist Stephen Meyer in a recent post, “Stephen Meyer in Newsweek: Three scientific discoveries point to God. As usual, his claims are misleading.” the faithful came for me—this time in the comments. Here are three that you won’t see on the post but that I’m highlighting here. I’ll let the writers know that this post is up, and you can reply below if you wish. (But please be courteous.)

Oh, and remember that Meyer’s three arguments for God from science are not new; they are the old chestnuts of the Big Bang, the “fine-tuning” of the laws of physics, and “intelligently designed features of organisms”—the old Behe argument—whose appearance apparently requires a miracle to explain.

Misspellings, poor grammar, and so on are from the original emails and aren’t typos.

Comment #1 from “Mike Cohen”:

Hmm. I wonder what caused these atheists to find it a life ambition to argue against the existence of G-d against the absence of an explanation of what caused the Big Bang. When they can prove that it is not G-d that caused the Big Bang, I will take them more seriously.

I have a Ph.D. In science and engineering, mastered thermodynamics, theoretical physical and the depth of mathematics from tensors to matrixes, to abstract mathematics. I believe in a power that causes the Big Bang. We are still in the process of reaching an equilibrium and life as G-d has designed is a transient of the process. Even people like Albert Einstein who is much smarter and more intelligent than I am by orders of magnitude believed in G-d.

To the atheists, please donate to Tom Cruises nonsense, or maybe you do belong to his church pimping a young and attractive money grabber.

My response:

Dear Mr. Cohen,

You are exaggerating when you think that atheists make it a “life ambition to argue against God and about what caused the Big Bang”. Sure, I spend time arguing about that, but only because creationists like you try to delude people with bogus arguments. Turning your words back on you, I will take you more seriously when you prove that it is God (why are you leaving out the “o”?) who caused the Big Bang? And, you know, we don’t prove anything in science; we make the best inference that we can from the evidence. That’s in contrast to religious people like you, who think God is proven because somewhere along the line they were either taught it or find the idea of God irresistible. As for your Ph.D. and lists of your studies, that don’t impress me much; they make you no more credible as a witness for God.

As for Einstein, he believed in God as a metaphor for the laws of the universe. As I show in my book Faith Versus Fact, he didn’t believe in a personal god at all, and certainly not the Yahweh you are touting above. Einstein said as much. Do a bit of research!

Finally, Scientology. It’s just another form of unevidenced delusion, like Judaism. And the beliefs of Scientologists, from Xenu on down, are just as ludicrous as the claims of the Old Testament. I’m not sure what you mean by “pimping a young and attractive money grabber,” but it’s a gratuitous remark—even a rude one if you’re implying that any atheists here belong to the Church of Scientology. I sure don’t. I’m assuming you’re a Jew, and my belief is that your own religion’s tenets are no more credible than those of Scientology.

Jerry Coyne



Comment #2 from “Constance”:

I found the smug responses illogical. I’m not a churchgoer, but since science can’t explain where the anti-matter is (and it’s the scientists that insist it has to exist) that opens the door for alternative explanations. Waxing poetic about how Genisis (a book written by a bunch of guys a couple thousand years ago) doesn’t perfectly match the Big Bang as evidence of no God is beyond silly.. First, that asserts that God is Christianity or bust, second it assumes humans having any concept of God has to match what God really is.

Pro & Anti based on this kind of illogical tripe may win a published article, but serve no one.

My response:

Dear Constance,

The responses were not “illogical” (where are the violations of logic?); I simply gave alternative and plausible naturalistic explanations for observations that Meyer says are irrefutable evidence for God. The mistake you’re making is arguing that when scientists don’t understand something, our ignorance must be evidence for God. That’s not a good argument, for the history of science shows, starting with evolution, that many once-enigmatic phenomena or processes that were once seen as evidence for God were found to have plausible (and, in the case of evolution, true) scientific explanations.  (Look at lightning, microbial infections like Black Death, and so on.) So I’m not particularly bothered by not knowing “where the dark matter is”. I trust that some day the physicists will figure it out.

As for the Designer being identified with the Abrahamic God or Christian God in particular, you obviously aren’t aware that I was responding to Meyer’s claim in his article that it’s not an “intelligent designer” but God himself who made the flagella spin and the blood clot. And Meyer, being a Christian, is clarly touting the Christian God. Further, As I noted in the post, Meyer mentions one scientist saying that the Big Bang and a “divine creation” matches the Bible as a whole:

Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, who helped make a key discovery supporting the Big Bang theory, has noted the obvious connection between its affirmation of a cosmic beginning and the concept of divine creation. “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses…[and] the Bible as a whole,” writes Penzias.

Finally, you say we don’t know what God really is. You are correct, but I’d go further. We don’t have any evidence that God exists. Until we do, I prefer to group him with leprechauns and Santa Claus as appealing myths supported by—nothing. As Wittgenstein said, “Whereof one cannot speak thereof one must be silent.” Meyer can’t say anything about the nature of God, and he should have kept his gob shut in Newsweek. Because he didn’t, I replied to his fatuous arguments.

By the way, “Genesis” is spelled with one “i”, not two. Have you read your Bible lately?

Jerry Coyne


Comment #3 from “Lars”:

I am a fan of vigorous debate and I enjoyed reading the article. I am not a fan of name calling. When the author called the other side “wing nuts”, I truly thought that his name calling hurt his argument, as individuals from the other side would be alienated immediately by his words, and truly if the author is trying to make a point, one would hope he would try to convince the other side rather than insulting them.

My reply to Lars:

Dear Lars,

First of all, I did not call Meyer a wingnut. Here’s what I said:

Meyer has managed to con the right-wingnuts at Newsweek into publishing the article below. . .

I was referring to the editors at Newsweek who were conned, not to the “other side”, i.e., ID creationists. Can you read? Second, I made a number of arguments against Meyer’s claims, not calling him names at all. The people I was writing for are not those on “the other side,” as IDers and creationists don’t usually change their minds. I was writing for those on the fence, or those who need to know how Meyer’s arguments for God can be refuted by science. Those are the people for whom I wrote Why Evolution is True.

Finally, you’re clearly looking for any excuse to dismiss my article. Saying that I hurt my argument by calling the editors of Newsweek “right wing nuts” is a pathetic attempt to dismiss the many naturalistic arguments I advance in my post.  People who say, “His argument is bad/worthless/loses force because of name calling” are people looking for an easy way to dismiss something. I am sorry I hurt your tender feelings by using a bit of sarcasm, but you got its object of that sarcasm wrong anyway. And does our withholding of sarcasm also include Donald Trump, too, when people are attacking his policies? If so, then nearly every liberal op-ed columnist in America should get a letter from you. Get busy writing them!

Jerry Coyne

Stephen Meyer in Newsweek: Three scientific discoveries point to God. As usual, his claims are misleading.

July 15, 2022 • 9:30 am

Stephen Meyer is an intelligent-design creationist who has spent his career trying to squelch the teaching of evolution in the U.S. and advancing the big mission of his employer, the Discovery Institute (he’s director of the Center for Science and Culture): debunking naturalism and materialism in favor of religion, preferably Christianity.

Meyer has managed to con the right-wingnuts at Newsweek into publishing the article below, which list three scientific discoveries that, says Meyer, point directly to God. They’re apparently the subject of his new book (published by HarperOne, the religious wing of Harper), Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Discoveries that Reveal the MInd Behind the Universe. If you go to its Amazon site, you find it highly lauded by those looking for any reason to believe in God. Since that is most Americans, these books usually get high ratings and sell respectably.

But,in truth, Meyer’s “Discoveries” have been long known, and have been debunked insofar as there are more plausible, naturalistic, and non-Goddy explanations for all of them.

Moreover, before we start accepting the God hypothesis—note that Meyer explicitly calls the Intelligent Designer “God”—he has (as Hitchens used to say) “all his work before him.”  For even if the three examples pointed to an intelligence operating in the Universe, that doesn’t mean it’s God, much less the Christian God. As the Discovery Institute used to say before its mask slipped, the Designer could be any form of  unknown cosmic intelligence, including space aliens.  Before you decide that an observation confirms the God Hypothesis instead of the Science (naturalistic) Hypothesis, you better show us that there’s a God that conforms to traditional belief. Otherwise it could confirm yet another supposition: the Xenu Hypothesis.

I’ll deal below with the features of the Universe, not mentioned by Meyer, that show how the Universe fails to conform to what we’d expect if there were a God.

Click to read.

Meyer begins by bemoaning the well-known decline in belief in God in America, which, as I noted recently, has fallen to 81% from 92% just 11 years ago. Meyer blames this on atheistic scientists:

Perhaps surprisingly, our survey discovered that the perceived message of science has played a leading role in the loss of faith. We found that scientific theories about the unguided evolution of life have, in particular, led more people to reject belief in God than worries about suffering, disease, or death. It also showed that 65 percent of self-described atheists and 43 percent of agnostics believe “the findings of science [generally] make the existence of God less probable.”

It’s easy to see why this perception has proliferated. In recent years, many scientists have emerged as celebrity spokesmen for atheism. Richard Dawkins, Lawrence Krauss, Bill Nye, Michael Shermer, the late Stephen Hawking, and others have published popular books arguing that science renders belief in God unnecessary or implausible. “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if, at bottom, there is no purpose, no design… nothing but blind, pitiless indifference,” Dawkins famously wrote.

This cannot  be allowed to stand, and so Meyer goes back and recycles three old chestnuts that, he argues, points to a designer who just happens to be God. They tell, Meyer says, “a decidedly God-friendly story”. (He’s totally unbiased here!)

I’ll give alternative naturalistic explanations for each of the three “proofs of God”. We don’t know the materialistic answers for sure, but at least the scientific explanations are in principle testable, and there is some evidence behind them.

Meyer’s words are indented.

1.) The Big Bang. 

First, scientists have discovered that the physical universe had a beginning. This finding, supported by observational astronomy and theoretical physics, contradicts the expectations of scientific atheists, who long portrayed the universe as eternal and self-existent—and, therefore, in no need of an external creator.

Evidence for what scientists call the Big Bang has instead confirmed the expectations of traditional theists. Nobel laureate Arno Penzias, who helped make a key discovery supporting the Big Bang theory, has noted the obvious connection between its affirmation of a cosmic beginning and the concept of divine creation. “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted, had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses…[and] the Bible as a whole,” writes Penzias.

Before we get to the alternate explanations, let’s look at what Genesis I says about the creation (King James version):

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.

And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.

And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

It’s a stretch to harmonize this with what we know of the Big Bang, since there appears to have been water, Earth was created before light, and light was created before the “firmament” (presumably stars like the sun), and, importantly, before the Night and the Day, which are caused by the rotation of the earth. And that water deeply disturbs me. Is it metaphorical water or real water? The only thing that harmonizes with the Big Bang here is light (presumably accompanying the Big Bang) followed by the firmament. (And yet earth was created before the light and the Big Bang!) And later on, we see that the plants are created before the stars and the Sun. It’s a big mess. There are actually several sequences of creation here, and they don’t harmonize.

As for Penzias, he apparently never read the “five books of Moses”, because the creation story is absolutely contradicted by evolution, for which we have tons of evidence. (I wrote a book about that.). That’s why creationists and their subspecies Intelligent Design advocates fight against evolution. If Penzias’s statement is correct, he was a theological ignoramus.

The naturalistic alternatives to the Big Bang for the origin of the Universe involve a number of theories that you can find here, here, here, and in other places.  Now there’s little doubt that the Big Bang occurred; the question is whether this is how our present Universe began, and whether there are other universes originating in similar (or other) ways. The alternatives include a pure quantum fluctuation (“nothing is unstable” as Krauss noted), Brane models, and eternal inflation, in which different universes are created at intervals (the “multiverse”). If you ask most cosmologists, they’d sign on to the Big Bang, but whether that completely describes the origin of our universe, or is an incomplete description of our universe (and there could be other universes), is something we don’t know. If the Big Bang did occur, which seems likely since we have tons of evidence for it, then that shows only that the Universe began, not how it began. If you say, “God did it,” that stops all research on how the Universe began, and it’s not an answer, just a fill in for “we don’t know” based on people who want to believe in God. Finally, the Bible is a really lousy description of how the Universe, the Earth, and then life on Earth came to be.

2.) Fine tuning:

Second, discoveries from physics about the structure of the universe reinforce this theistic conclusion. Since the 1960s, physicists have determined that the fundamental physical laws and parameters of our universe are finely tuned, against all odds, to make our universe capable of hosting life. Even slight alterations of many independent factors—such as the strength of gravitational or electromagnetic attraction, or the initial arrangement of matter and energy in the universe—would have rendered life impossible. Scientists have discovered that we live in a kind of “Goldilocks Universe,” or what Australian physicist Luke Barnes calls an extremely “Fortunate Universe.”

Not surprisingly, many physicists have concluded that this improbable fine-tuning points to a cosmic “fine-tuner.” As former Cambridge astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle argued, “A common-sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics” to make life possible.

First, we do not know how “fine-tuned” the Universe is, and whether other parameters might also allow a kind if life to exist. Second, if there is a multiverse, alternative universes may have different physical properties, and we happen to live in one that permits life.

In the 8.5-minute debate video below, Sean Carroll gives five arguments in favor of naturalism and against the theistic argument for God from fine-tuning (the latter he calls a “terrible argument”). In fact, he shows that only naturalism supports the idea that life is permitted by certain physical parameters, for God could have done anything that he wanted regardless of the laws of physics. Finally, Carroll argues that the physical properties of the Universe are not those predicted by an a priori theistic theory, but comport better with the predictions of naturalism. (One of these is that theism predicts that “God should be easy to find.”) That is an important argument against Meyer’s thesis!

3.) Intelligently designed features of organisms.  This is just the same old ID argument reprised:

Third, molecular biology has revealed the presence in living cells of an exquisite world of informational nanotechnology. These include digital code in DNA and RNA—tiny, intricately constructed molecular machines which vastly exceed our own digital high technology in their storage and transmission capabilities. And even Richard Dawkins has acknowledged that “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like” — implying, it would seem, the activity of a master programmer at work the origin of life. At the very least, the discoveries of modern biology are not what anyone would have expected from blind materialistic processes.

Saying that the “machine code of genes” has features of computer code is not, as Meyer argues, evidence for a designer, and Dawkins would be the last to argue that.  In fact, the discoveries of modern biology, in particular the jury-rigged features of life (just taking humans, the recurrent laryngeal nerve, the swelling of the male prostate, and so on), show that the designer was not intelligent. But features like the recurrent laryngeal nerve, which in giraffes is about 15 feet longer than it should be if it were intelligently designed, support the evolutionary origin of these features, for they make sense under the theory of evolution. I cannot think of a single feature of organisms, nor can other non-ID biologists, that could not in any way have evolved by naturalistic processes. Behe and his DI friends have suggested several in the past, like blood-clotting and the bacterial flagellum, but all of these have been shown to have possible origins through naturalistic processes including natural selection. True, we don’t understand the origin of some features, but the most parsimonious explanation for these is that we don’t have the historical evidence (we weren’t there when they evolved), not that we should give up trying to explain them scientifically, go to church, and thank the Lord God for his Intelligent Design.

I reiterate Carroll’s thesis that there are many aspects of the Universe that testify against the existence of a Biblical God, including His absence when we should have been able to detect his presence (Stenger’s argument), the unexplained existence of physical evil—evidence for naturalism and against theism—and the arrogant view that the whole universe was created as a stage for the dramas one of millions of species on one of a gazillion planets in our Universe.

Wail about the secularism of America as he does, Meyer is not going to stop the relentless rise of unbelief in the West.  And he doesn’t mention that one reason people are leaving churches and giving up God is simply what I said in the above paragraph: there are many more ways that the God hypothesis doesn’t make sense than that it does make sense. People simply have grown up and stopped believing fairy tales. Science is one reason for this, but there are also others, like the fact that people in the world are generally better off, both morally and materially, than they were in the past, and religion depends on people’s lack of well-being, the sense that no human or human state cares about them.

The unresolved question that I have is why Newsweek purveys this palaver to its audience. It is scientifically irresponsible to mislead readers this way without giving the naturalistic counterarguments.

h/t: Steve

Jason Rosenhouse’s new anti-ID book

June 28, 2022 • 11:00 am

I may have mentioned Jason Rosenhouse‘s new book before, but I just finished it and wanted to give it two thumbs up. The image below links to the Amazon site:

This book is a withering critique of the so-called “probabilistic” arguments against evolution promoted by Intelligent Design advocates like Michael Behe and William Dembski. Jason is ideally equipped to write about them as he’s both a professor of mathematics at James Madison University and a diligent reader of creationist and ID literature. An earlier book of his, Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line, describes his many visits to creationist meetings and gatherings and his attempt to suss out the psychology of anti-evolutionists without being judgmental.

In this book, though, Jason pulls no punches, analyzing and destroying the arguments the evolution simply could not have occurred because the probability of getting organisms, proteins, or “complex specified information” is too low to be explained by materialistic processes. Ergo, the ID arguments supposedly point to the existence of the Intelligent Designer, who we all know is God. (IDers like to pretend that it could be a space alien or the like, but it doesn’t take much digging to descry the religious roots of ID, sometimes described as “creationism in a cheap tuxedo”.) The real target of ID is not just evolution, but naturalism or “materialism”, as they sometimes call it. Their ultimate goal is to sneak religion into public schools and into mainstream science. But they’ve already lost.

Still, the religious motivations aren’t important when the calculations are wrong—or rather, can’t be made. Jason’s main point in this book is that although complex-looking mathematics is often invoked to show the improbability of naturalistic evolution, IDers lack information about probability space to plug into their equations, so they can’t come to any mathematically-based conclusions. (And when we do have information, like that bearing on the claim that evolution violates The Second Law of Thermodynamics, or that the evolution of chloroquine resistance to malaria is impossible, that evidence doesn’t support the IDers’ and creationists’ claims.)

In the end, all IDers do, argues Jason, is throw sand in the layperson’s eyes with fancy equations, and then simply assert, without actually making valid calculations, that evolution by natural selection is too improbable to have occurred.

Other arguments that are less mathematical, for example that bacterial flagella could not have evolved in an adaptive, step-by-step process, are also discussed, and Jason shows how they’ve been refuted.

Another admirable aspect of the book is that Jason writes very clearly and elegantly, so it’s easy to read. Here are two specimens of his prose that also make his main point:

What about specificity? Dembski’s theoretical development of this concept essentially required graduate-level training in mathematics. He helped himself to copious amounts of notation, jargon, Greek letters, and equations. Anyone unaccustomed to wading through prose of this sort could easily come away thinking it represented work of depth and profundity just from the level of technical detail in its presentation.

However, when it came time to discuss the specificity of an actual biological system, the flagellum in this case, all of the technical minutiae went clean out the window. For all the use Dembski made of his elaborate theoretical musings, they might as well never have existed at all. He just declared it obvious that the flagellum was specified and quickly moved on to other dubious claims. At no point did he attempt to relate anything in reality to the numerous variables and parameters he included in his mathematical modeling.

As Jason shows, the lack of parameters needed to show that evolution is too improbable to have happened in a Darwinian way is a ubiquitous problem for iD. One more quote:

This pattern, of introducing difficult mathematical concepts without ever really using them for any serious purpose, is ubiquitous in anti-evolution discourse, and this fact goes a long way to explaining why mathematicians an scientists are so disdainful of it. Professionals in these areas strive for the utmost clarity when presenting their work. Used properly, the jargon and notation permit a level of precision that simply cannot be achieved with more natural language. This might seem hard to believe, since a modern scientific research paper will be unreadable for anyone without significant training in the relevant discipline. But the problem is not a lack of clarity in the writing. Rather, it is just that the concepts involved are difficult, and experience is needed to become comfortable with them.

. . . In section 2.6, I remarked that anti-evolutionist arguments play well in front of friendly audiences because in that environment the speakers never pay a price for being wrong. The response would be a lot chillier if they tried the same arguments in front of audiences with the relevant expertise. Try telling a roomful of mathematicians that you can refute evolutionary theory with a few back-of-the-envelope probability calculations, and see how far you get. Tell a roomful of physicists that the second law of thermodynamics conflicts with evolutionary theory, or a roomful of computer scientists that obscure theorems from combinatorial search have profound relevance to biology.

You will be lucky to make it ten minutes before the audience stops being polite.

If you want a clear and convincing response to IDers’ (and earlier creationists’) claims that evolution could not have happened without God or a Designer because it’s simply improbable via naturalism, read this book.

It will convince you, as Laplace supposedly tried to convince Napoleon about astronomy, that science—in this case, evolution—has no need of the God hypothesis.