The Four Great Discoveries of Modern Science That Prove God Exists/Program 4
|By: Dr. Stephen Meyer; ©2011|
|In recent years, research of the human cell has unearthed some of the enormous complexity found within the basic unit that composes our bodies. Increasingly, the evidence points toward an outside intelligence as the only sufficient source to explain the cell’s existence. Dr. Stephen Meyer joins Dr. John Ankerberg.|
Announcer: Today what are the four great discoveries of modern science that prove God exists? The first great discovery of modern science is that the universe had a beginning. Where did it come from? Historian of science Fred Burnham has written, “The God Hypothesis is now a more persuasive and respectable hypothesis than at any time in the last 100 years.” The second great scientific discovery is that space and time also had a beginning. This discovery demands an explanation. It calls for a transcendent cause beyond the universe itself. The third great discovery of modern science is that the laws and constants of the universe have been fine tuned for human life to exist. As physicist Fred Hoyle has written, “A commonsense interpretation of the evidence suggests a super intellect has monkeyed with physics and chemistry as well as biology to make life possible.” The fourth great discovery of modern science is the digital code embedded in the DNA molecule in every human cell. The 3 billion characters of precise information in the digital code instruct the cell how build complex molecules to do the work so the cell can stay alive. Where did this specified information come from? It is compelling evidence of an intelligent designer for the origin of human life. My guest today who will explain these four great scientific discoveries is Dr. Stephen Meyer, who received his PhD in the Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University. He is co-founder of the intelligent design movement in the world and a Senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. We invite you to join us for this special edition of the John Ankerberg Show.
- Ankerberg: Welcome to our program. We’re going to talk today about the question, do you believe that the scientific evidence from biology and cosmology actually points to an intelligent cause of the universe and of life itself? And if you’ve been with us for the last series of programs, we first of all took biology and then we went into cosmology. And today Steve is going to summarize both of those and put them together and then talk about which worldview, in the end, it’s pointing to. So, Stephen, start us off.
- Meyer: Well, you bet. We’ve looked at evidence of design in biology. We’ve seen that there’s evidence of design in physics built into the very fabric of the universe. We’ve looked at evidence for a definite beginning to the universe. And I’ve been fascinated with this for years. I first encountered this kind of new perspective on science at a conference in 1985. And so I’ve been thinking for years about which worldview makes best sense of the experience that we have of nature, of these big discoveries about the origin of the universe, the fine tuning of the universe, the origin of life, and other evidences of design that I will want to talk about today. So maybe a good place to start is just by talking about the competing worldviews. A worldview, first of all, is a coherent set of answers to some basic questions, questions about, for example, ultimate reality: what’s the thing from which everything else came; what’s the entity from which everything else came? As you look at the evidence from nature, there are a number of different worldviews that you might posit to try to explain what we see in the natural world. And we can summarize those briefly. Materialism is the idea that matter and energy are the entity from which everything else comes. And you can kind of represent that graphically: if you represent the universe as a big circle, as I’ve done here with these cartoons, and the pendulum there represents the laws of nature. The people, and the planets, and the trees, and the mountains, that represents all the physical stuff in the universe. And the key tenet of the materialistic worldview is there is nothing beyond the physical world that exists. There’s no God; there’s no purpose or entity that could provide a purpose for the universe. The fundamental entity from which everything else comes is matter and energy. Now, there’s another contrary worldview that is kind of on the other end of the spectrum, and that’s theism. Theism holds that there is an orderly concourse of nature; thus there are laws of nature, again represented by the pendulum going back and forth, but that the universe is not autonomous and self-existent; that beyond the universe there’s a God and that God acted to bring the universe into existence. That’s the middle arrow in the little diagram. That God underwrites the order of nature, God sustains the universe in its orderly concourse. And, in fact, what we call the laws of nature are nothing more than a mode of God’s action, a mode of divine action. Thirdly, there’s an arrow that suggests that God periodically enters into the creation that he otherwise… ordinarily sustains and upholds. So God acts as an agent within the created order from time to time as well. That’s the theistic worldview. Now, there are two other worldviews that have been very dominant in the thinking of our civilization from time to time. One is the deistic worldview that holds that there is a God that’s separate from the universe, but that that God never acts within the cosmos. This was the clockwork-maker idea of the 18th century, that God in a sense wound up the universe, designed it in the beginning, but then let it on its own, and never had anything more to do with God. It was all a set-up job from the beginning and nothing was done beyond that. Then there’s the great Eastern worldview called pantheism. And that worldview says that there is a God, but God is impersonal. God is not a mind or a personal agent, is not conscious, is not someone to whom you can communicate through prayer or any other means. Instead, God is the mystical unity that binds all things together. All matter is in God; all God is in matter. And that’s the pantheistic perspective. So you’ve got these four great systems of thought. And what I’ve been curious about for years is, which one best explains the evidence that we have in the natural world? You can treat a worldview also as a kind of metaphysical hypothesis, an explanatory system. So which one accounts best for these amazing discoveries that have been revealed by 20th century science? And so let’s just quickly review those discoveries, the very things we’ve been talking about in the preceding programs. One is the discovery that the universe has a definite beginning. This was first discovered as a result of Hubble’s observation that the universe is expanding in all directions. The galaxies are expanding, and if you wind the time clock backwards, you ultimately get to a beginning of the expansion and the beginning of the universe. That was something that Einstein came to realize, somewhat reluctantly, as we discussed. Another great discovery is the realization that not only is there a beginning to time, but there is a beginning to space itself; that as you go back far enough in time, the curvature of space becomes infinitely tight, corresponding to zero spatial volume. And thus you have a true singularity at the beginning, in the words of the astronomers. And that also cries out for explanation. It seems to point to the need for some kind of cause beyond the universe itself for the universe as a whole, because you can’t put much matter in zero spatial volume, in fact, none at all. So a materialistic explanation would seem to be kind of off the table. So that’s one of the great discoveries. The other thing we talked about is the fine tuning of the laws and constants of physics, and the fine tuning of the configuration of matter at the very beginning of the universe. And what physicists have realized since the 1960s is that the universe is finely tuned to allow for the possibility of life, such that one famous physicist, Fred Hoyle, said that a commonsense interpretation of the data suggests that “a super intellect has monkeyed with physics and chemistry and biology to make life possible.” The universe looks like a set-up job. So that’s the second huge discovery. So as I looked at the competing worldviews and asked which one of the four great worldviews could account for this evidence, I realized, kind of through a process of deliberation, that both materialism, scientific materialism, and pantheism have a hard time accounting for both of these two classes of evidence because they don’t posit the existence of anything beyond the universe and still less anything intelligent beyond the universe. And yet the fine tuning cries out for intelligence, and the cosmological singularity cries out for a cause beyond the universe, a transcendent cause. So when you take those two pieces of evidence together, looks to me like only theism and deism provide an adequate explanation, because they posit an entity beyond the universe itself which can act to bring the universe into existence.
- Ankerberg: Stephen, in adjudicating between theism and deism, what other evidence do you have? Let’s go back to biology and summarize that for a moment, too.
- Meyer: Well, that’s really where the key evidence lies, because we realize that the origin of life took place sometime after the origin of the universe. We’re talking about evidence … If we see evidence of design in biology, that would point to not a deistic creator, which confined its activity to the very beginning of the universe and then had nothing to do with the universe ever thereafter, that would imply some kind of agent that is acting after the universe has come into existence: either a theistic designer or some kind of immanent designer, a space alien or something. I think we’ve already provided evidence that it …
- Ankerberg: Can’t be a space alien.
- Meyer: …can’t be a space alien, because we’ve got evidence built into the fabric of the universe of design. That can’t be explained. So if you want a hypothesis that explains all the classes of evidence, I think you need to invoke a theistic design hypothesis. But you can’t see that until you realize that there’s strong evidence of design in biology as well as physics and cosmology.
- Ankerberg: And what is it?
- Meyer: Well, that’s what we talked about in the first series of programs that you brought me to here earlier, and that’s the evidence of design that you find because of the information that’s embedded in the DNA molecule. Francis Crick, 1957, he proposes what’s called the sequence hypothesis. He proposes that along the spine of the DNA molecule, the four chemicals that are present there, the so-called bases, are functioning just like alphabetic characters in a written language or digital characters in machine code. His hypothesis is eventually confirmed, and biologists today now realize that it’s information that is running the show inside life. The digital code in the DNA molecule is essential to living functions. And to get life going in the first place, you’ve got to account for the origin of that information. Now in my book, Signature in the Cell, I discuss this at great length, but I develop a positive …
- Ankerberg: 600 pages worth.
- Meyer: Yeah, it went on for a bit, I’m afraid. But I develop a basic case for intelligent design.
- Ankerberg: It was excellent, by the way. Excellent. Good book.
- Meyer: Thank you very much. What I tried to do in the book was to show that there’s a positive case for intelligent design based on this critical discovery. And I actually developed this case using the method of reasoning that Darwin himself used in his book The Origin of Species. It’s a scientific method for investigating events in the remote past. If we want to find out what caused something to happen a long time ago, you need to identify a cause which is capable of producing the event you’re trying to explain. And the key thing we’re trying to explain in the origin of life is the origin of the information that’s necessary to make life possible. And Darwin’s principle, which he got from his mentor, Charles Lyell, was simply that you’ve got to find a cause which is capable of producing what you’re trying to explain. Lyell put it this way. He said we should be looking for “a cause that’s now in operation.” And when I saw that phrase in Lyell’s… on the frontispiece of his book, I realized, wow, it’s possible to make a scientific case for intelligent design, because the cause that we know, that is in operation, that produces information, is intelligence. In fact, the only known cause of information is intelligent design.
- Ankerberg: I think that’s so important. It’s the only cause that we know.
- Meyer: Right. And in a way, you know, in this short summary segment that we are doing, we can’t reprise all the evidence we offered in service to that. But that’s what I develop in Signature in the Cell. I analyze the various different approaches that have been proposed to explain the origin of information and show that they all fail, except for the idea of intelligent design. Because what we know from experience, which is the basis of all scientific reasoning, is that information always arises from intelligence. In fact, one information scientist put it this way. He said, “The creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Well, now, step back for just a minute. What do we have in the history of life but an infusion of new information that is necessary to get life going? And most scientists date that occurrence, the origin of the first life, at about 3.85 billion years ago. Well, that’s 10 billion years after the big bang. So if it’s not a space alien who is the designer, it’s clearly not a deistic creator either, because a deistic creator confines its activity to the beginning of the universe and no other time. So what we’re looking at is evidence of design which, when coupled with the evidence that we’ve seen from physics of design that’s built into the very fabric of the universe, is pointing in the decidedly theistic direction towards a designer who not only acted at the beginning of the universe, but who is also capable of acting after “T = 0 [zero]” – after the beginning of the universe, and within the history of the cosmos. Because that’s what we see in biology, is evidence of design that arose in the history of the cosmos, well after the beginning.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re going to take a break. When we come back we are going to talk about more evidence. We’ve talked about chemical evolution, actually, how did that first cell start. Okay, you’ve just nailed that one down. But you also have a whole series of bits of information about biological evolution. And we want the folks to see that and we’re going to talk about that next. So stick with us.
- Ankerberg: Alright, we’re back. We’re talking with Stephen Meyer, philosopher of science. And we’re talking now about biological evolution, alright. We’ve shown that chemical evolution can’t occur by chance, alright? But what about the development later? It seems like there’s a problem over there, too. You’ve got a great illustration, and it goes back to helping us decide, adjudicate, between theism and deism. What is that?
- Meyer: Well, right. I think the crucial question is, again, design, and where do we find design in the universe. I’ve got a little timeline on the screen that I think helps. Think of a locus, or a loci, of design, places where design is evident. And if design is only evident at the origin of the universe, then you could invoke a deistic kind of conception of the designer, a deistic God as an adequate metaphysical hypothesis.If design is only evident in life but not in the universe, then you might invoke a space alien or something. But if you’ve got evidence in both places, I think you really need a concept of a theistic designer to account for the evidence: a designer capable of building design into the very fabric of the universe and then acting after the universe has been created to implement other design, to bring that into existence. And that’s what we see in case of the origin of the first life. I think there’s compelling evidence of design there at the point of the origin of the first cell, and that’s what my book Signature in the Cell is about.
- Meyer: In addition to the evidence for design at the beginning of the first life, at the point of the origin of the first cell, I think there’s compelling evidence of design in the origin of the major animal body plans, an event that’s known to paleontologists as the Cambrian explosion. This event is dated about 530 million years ago, well after, again, the beginning of the universe. So we’ve got evidence of design arising sometime well after the beginning of the universe. Let’s have a look at what biologists are discovering there. This event is called the Cambrian explosion. And basically what happens is that in a very narrow window of geologic time – between about three and six million years – the major new anatomical novelties arise in the history of life. here’s a group of about 19 to maybe 30, depending on how you count, new body plans, new body architectures that come. They are the first animals, and they come into the Cambrian fossil record all around the world at roughly the same time in this very narrow window of time. This presents a tremendous problem if you are trying to explain this from the Darwinian point of view, for a number of reasons. First of all, it doesn’t match the Darwinian picture of the history of life. Darwin’s idea was that there was a beautiful tree that described the history of life; that one form of life morphed gradually into another one. But when we’re talking about these first animal forms, they arise suddenly, without any ancestral precursors that, in a sense, announce their coming. There’s no gradual morphing evident in the fossil record at all.
- Ankerberg: That’s what Stephen Jay Gould called the punctuated equilibrium, that all of a sudden, “boom!” it was there.
- Meyer: Well, essentially, that’s true. I mean, there’s a narrow window, but the window is three to six million years. It’s in the Maotianshan formation in Chengjiang China. What’s going on there is, people date the Cambrian explosion in various lengths of time, but this formation is critical because they’re what are called evolutionary novelties, or anatomical novelties. All the new structures arise in this very narrow window. And whereas you may have other Cambrian animals coming later, you may have had things that were anticipating that before, you’ve got to account for all that new form in a very narrow window of time. And it turns out that you don’t have the population sizes, the mutation rates, any of the key factors that you would need to generate that amount of form, that amount of structure, that amount of information from mutations within that window. So it’s a huge problem; one, because it doesn’t match Darwin’s picture of the history of life; and there’s no mechanism that can produce form that quickly, no undirected evolution mechanism that can produce all that form and information so quickly.
- Ankerberg: You’ve got a blast of new information.
- Meyer: You have a blast of new form, which requires information. So that, again, is the big question: where did that information come from? If mutation and selection can’t account for it, and I’m convinced and many other scientists are convinced that it can’t, well, what other explanation is on offer? Well, again, I think this is where intelligent design has something to offer, because we know from experience that large infusions of information are the product of mind. We know of a cause which is capable of producing the effect which is on display in this Cambrian event, this Cambrian explosion. So I think it’s another evidence of intelligence; because you’ve got new form which requires new information; you’ve got a lot of it coming into the fossil record very suddenly. I think that’s pointing to intelligence.
- Ankerberg: Stephen, isn’t it true that that’s the case all the way up the line?
- Meyer: Well, there are many other examples of large innovations and new biological form arising in the history of life. And every time you have a new innovation in form, you need new arrangements of cell types, you need new cell types, new dedicated proteins, and therefore at least a lot of new information in DNA, and maybe even information that’s expressed at higher levels in the biological hierarchy. So, new form requires new information. And we have many events where you have a sudden emergence of new form. For example, the mammalian radiation. You get between 13 and 15 new orders of mammals about 50-55 million years ago. You have the origin of flowering plants, what’s called the “big bloom,” in the Cretaceous. You have other… origins of different groups of insects come very suddenly into the fossil record, and the origin of marine reptiles. Many other groups come into the fossil record very suddenly. In each case, they require a lot of new form, a lot of new structure, and therefore a lot of new information. I’m increasingly convinced that the Darwinian mechanism of mutation and selection does not ccount for that. And instead we are seeing a feature that we know intelligent design does readily account for. Therefore, I think we’re seeing evidence of intelligent design at multiple instances along the cosmic timeline.
- Ankerberg: Stephen, is there any other evidence from biology that shows design?
- Meyer: There’s another whole class of evidence, and it’s the nanotechnology that we’re finding inside cells. My colleague, Michael Behe, has made some of this famous in his book Darwin’s Black Box. But there are many examples of these exquisite molecular machines inside living organisms. For example, this is what’s called an ATP synthase. It’s the machine that makes the battery packs that provide the energy that keep all of our cells alive. We have these in the membrane of our mitochondrial cells. There’s a beautiful rotor, which creates a torque on a shaft, which creates a conformational change in proteins, which opens up a beautiful pocket into which two molecules fit exactly right. The pocket closes, they combine, and then they’re released. And there you’ve got an energy source for the cell. There’s machinery like this rotary engine, sliding clamps, little robotic walking proteins. The cell is chock-full of nanotechnology that gives every appearance of having been designed. And I personally don’t think that this has been explained well by mutation and selection either.
- Ankerberg: Where does this leave us in terms of worldviews?
- Meyer: If you realize that we’re seeing evidence of design at several places along the cosmological timeline in the living world – the origin of the first life, the origin the Cambrian animals, the origin of other major groups of animals, the origin of these miniature machines – what you’re seeing, then, is evidence of design that’s not just confined to the very beginning of the universe, with the fine tuning of the laws and constants of physics. But you’re seeing design that is infused in the cosmos at episodic intervals throughout the history of the cosmos. And therefore we’re not seeing evidence of design that can be explained by a deistic creator. We’re not seeing evidence that can be explained by any worldview that denies there is an intelligent cause. Instead, we’re looking at evidence that requires a designer who acts at the beginning of the universe, and who also acts after the beginning of the universe. And that sounds to me a lot like a theistic designer, a designer who has the attributes that religious believers have typically associated with God – transcendent, intelligent, and active in history. I think that’s one of the reasons that you’re seeing many people moving away from the so-called “new atheism,” which I think is really the old atheism. For example, Antony Flew, who was a long-time atheist who came to realize that there was compelling evidence of a creator in the physical world, both in cosmology and biology. The historian Fred Burnham has said that the God hypothesis is now a more persuasive and respectable hypothesis than at any time in the last hundred years. I agree. I think it’s not only more respectable, I think it’s the best explanation of this ensemble of critical evidence from cosmology, physics, and biology that we’ve been able to discuss on your program.