Thursday, February 01, 2007

Meyer vs. Ward

Talk of the Times: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution, shows the debate which recently took place between Stephen Meyer and Peter Ward. Part of it appears in italics followed by my comments.

MEYER: The key test is this: show me a process that generates information, and large amounts of specified information, without the guidance of an intelligent agent. These ribozyme-engineering work that I know you’re so interested in, as am I, is guided by intelligence. Such benefits, improvements in the efficiency of replication, for example, that are achieved—and so far they’re fairly minimal—are achieved because of an intelligent agent is guiding that. That’s a – I say these experiments are actually simulating the power of intelligence, and everything we know is that only intelligence produces information. So test our theories against our knowledge of the cause and effect structure of the world.

WARD: All right—one follow-up piece. Do you believe that intelligent design has faced as rigorous a scientific test as Darwinian evolution? I mean are they equal in terms of being put to the test?

MEYER: I think, first of all, there are many things that Darwinian evolution can explain, okay? But there are some very key things that Darwinian evolution, and in particular chemical evolutionary theory of the origin of first life, cannot and has not explained. And I used to ask my students: if you want to give your computer a new functionality, what do you have to give it? And the answer is you have to give it new lines of code. The same thing is true in life, and so the fact that these evolutionary theories have not been able to explain the origin of the first information is not a minor anomaly. This is a fundamental theoretical problem, a fundamental lacuna. Any theory that can’t account for the origin of information when we now understand that information runs the show in biology is a theory that has a serious theoretical gap.

Well said Meyer. It is one thing to tweak a system already in place. It is quite another to generate one from scratch. Scientific anomalies often indicate that something is not quite right with our perception of a process. This offers opportunities to look at an old problem from a different perspective. Meyer goes right to the heart of the problem in focusing on the origin of information. It is fundamental to biology. To put a twist on a familiar phrase nothing makes sense in biology without a plausible account of how information originated and subsequently increased. Creating a new theoretical framework and subjecting it to testing could resolve this glaring anomaly.


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