Michael Behe, John Lennox, and Steven Meyer are three of the leading voices in science and academia on the case for an intelligent designer of the universe and everything in it (including us). In this wide-ranging conversation, they point out the flaws in Darwin’s theory and the increasing amount of evidence uncovered by a rigorous application of the scientific method that points to an intentional design and creation of the physical world.
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Peter Robinson: Who's dead, God or Charles Darwin? Michael Behe, a biochemist. John Lennox, a mathematician. Steven Meyer, a geophysicist. Filming today in Fiesole, Italy. "Uncommon Knowledge" now.
Peter Robinson: Welcome to "Uncommon Knowledge," I'm Peter Robinson. A professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University, Michael Behe holds an undergraduate degree from Drexel and a doctorate in biochemistry from Penn. He's the author of a number of books, including "Darwin's Black Box." Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at Oxford, John Lennox, grew up in Northern Ireland, earned his undergraduate degree from Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and then went on to earn not one and not two, but three doctorates in an academic career of astounding distinction. Dr. Lennox is the author of many books, including the 2019 volume "Can Science Explain Everything?" A former professor of geophysics at Whitworth College, Steven Meyer, is now a fellow at the Discovery Institute. He holds a doctorate of the philosophy of science from Cambridge. Dr. Meyer has published, again, many books, including his 2013 volume on the fossil record, "Darwin's Doubt." Michael, John and Steve, welcome. First question: Darwin versus Einstein. Einstein publishes the special theory of relativity in 1905, and in the 12-ish decades since that publication, one observation after another has tended to confirm his work. Just a decade ago, scientists found clocks on satellites and elliptical orbits kept time just about as Einstein would've predicted. Over time, to put it crudely, Einstein has become easier and easier to believe. Darwin publishes "On the Origin of the Species" in 1859. Briefly, as was true of Einstein, also of Darwin, has he become easier and easier to believe? Michael?
Michael Behe: The opposite.
Peter Robinson: The opposite. John.
John Lennox: The exact opposite.
Peter Robinson: Stephen.
Stephen Meyer: His theory has been progressively disconfirmed by multiple observations in multiple subdisciplines of biology.
Peter Robinson: All right, all three of you come out swinging. Gentlemen, you're about to take a layman through three problems with Darwin that the last few decades have turned up. Problem one: Stephen, this is for you, feel free to join in, but this one for Stephen, particularly, the fossil record. The Cambrian? How is it pronounced.
Stephen Meyer: Either way? Yeah.
Peter Robinson: All right. The Cambrian or the Cambrian Explosion. What was it and why is it a problem for Darwin?
Stephen Meyer: It was a problem that Darwin himself knew about in 1859. The Cambrian Explosion refers to an event in the history of life in which the major groups of animal forms, the new body plans that are exemplified by the largest categories of different types of animals, appear very abruptly in the fossil record with no discernible connection to ancestral precursors or intermediates in the lower pre-Cambrian strata. And this pattern of abrupt appearance of the major groups of organisms of biological or morphological innovation, as it's called, recurs up and down the sedimentary rock column, the first winged insects, the first dinosaurs, the first birds, the first mammals, the first flowering plants. There are multiple instances of this type of abrupt appearance, and so the fossil record looks very different than Darwin anticipated that it would look. He depicted the history of life as a great branching tree where the forms of life we see today emerged gradually from one or very few simple forms at the base of the tree, at the trunk of the tree. But instead, what we see, it looks more like a lawn or perhaps an orchard of separate trees where the major groups of organisms appear abruptly without connections to those ancestral precursor forms.
Peter Robinson: So the Cambrian Explosion was the first that got noticed. As you say, Darwin himself noticed that this was a problem. But this is from my reading, add to it or correct me. As I've got it, the record shows one abrupt, abrupt meaning a few million years, but in the geologic time that's the blink of an eye, one abrupt event after another. Photosynthesis; just all of a sudden it's there. The Avalon Explosion, the Great Ordovician Biodiversification Event, whatever that may have been, the Silurian-Devonian Terrestrial Revolution. Fish appear, birds appear, dinosaurs appear, mammals appear. Okay, so the obvious objection to this is, well, we've only really been digging since about Darwin's time. The Earth is big, geologic time is essentially endless, there are fossils there, we just haven't found the intermediate forms.
Stephen Meyer: Right, that's an objection to the claims about fossil discontinuity that's known as the Artifact Hypothesis. The idea is that the missing ancestral forms are an artifact either of incomplete sampling.
Stephen Meyer: Or incomplete preservation.
Peter Robinson: Right.
Stephen Meyer: The Cambrian Explosion itself presents a very nice test of that Artifact Hypothesis. The claim with respect to sampling is that we haven't looked long enough. Well, we're 160 years on now from the Cambrian, or from the publication of "The Origin of Species." And the Cambrian Explosion, from our point of view, has become even more explosive. There are more new forms of life, more new animal forms known now in that Cambrian Explosion event than there were in Darwin's time. And yet, with that passage of time, we've found no more of the intermediate. So there are more new forms, all of which are still lacking intermediate forms.
Peter Robinson: So instead of our findings regressing to some sort of Darwinian mean, they're departing from Darwin more and more and more.
Stephen Meyer: Right.
Peter Robinson: Quickly, one last notion here, one last question on this before I turn to my big problem in life, maths with John Lennox. Punctuated Equilibrium, Stephen J. Gould, the late, and by all accounts, great, he seems to have been a dynamic teacher, he was certainly prolific, the great biologist, Stephen J. Gould, who held, well, you tell me what Punctuated Equilibrium held and why it doesn't answer the problem as far as you're concerned.
Stephen Meyer: Well, it was a wonderful new idea. Gould and another paleontologist, Niles Eldredge, formulated this theory in the late 1970s. And what they were trying to do is describe the fossil record more accurately; and what they saw and what paleontologists saw then and see now even more distinctly, is this pattern of abrupt appearance and what they called stasis. That the basic form of an animal, the basic body plan will remain constant through long periods of time, either going extinct or continuing to the present day. There would be variation within the constraints of a body plan, but limited variation.
Peter Robinson: The crocodile appears.
Steven Meyer: Appears.
Peter Robinson: And remains.
Steven Meyer: And remains.
Peter Robinson: All right.
Stephen Meyer: And so, what they suggested was that there are these punctuation events where you have this sudden appearance, and then this long period of equilibrium, of stasis. But they wanted to maintain-
Peter Robinson: That evolution takes place in fits and starts.
Stephen Meyer: Exactly. Evolution takes place in in fits and starts. And so it was a wonderful improvement in our description of the fossil record. But the problem was that Gould and Eldredge never came up with a mechanism that convinced their colleagues in evolutionary biology that evolution could occur so quickly. It was a good description of the fossil record; without a mechanism to explain how that amount of change could occur in those short bursts of times.
Peter Robinson: The meteor smacks the Earth, wipes out the dinosaurs and creates-
Stephen Meyer: An ecological niche.
Peter Robinson: Yes! It creates space for new species to emerge, and so suddenly they do.
Stephen Meyer: Well, except-
Peter Robinson: The two are chuckling.
Stephen Meyer: The problem is you have to build the animal. And this is the second part. When I wrote the book "Darwin's Doubt," I talked about two big mysteries: one is the mystery of the missing fossils, but the second is the mystery of how the evolutionary process generates the new biological form. Because what we know now, as in our computer world, if you want to generate a new form of life, you have to have a lot of new information. In the computer world, want to get a new program, got to have a new code. Same thing is true in life. Where's the code come from? Just opening up the niche doesn't explain the origin of the information necessary to build the new animal form to fill it.
Peter Robinson: All right. Now we come to maths. The mathematical problem. Maths was always my weakest subject, and I'm extremely conscious that I'm speaking to the emeritus professor of mathematics at Oxford University. All right, so let me just put in layman's terms as best I can, and I have worked on it, what I take to be the mathematical problem that has emerged in recent decades with Darwin. We know now something about when life seems to have emerged. Something between 4 and 5 billion years ago. We now know quite a lot about the rate at which random genetic mutations take place. Darwin's theory suggests that evolution arises because random genetic mutations take place and natural selection acts on them. We also know quite a lot about how complicated it is to create proteins that function. Proteins, chains of amino acids a couple of hundred and longer. And the math simply doesn't work. From the beginning of time, to the present, there is some number of mutations that had to have taken place to create the life that we see around us. And it just doesn't add up. Is that right, roughly?
John Lennox: Oh, it's much worse than that. Because I think one of the very important things, and I'm not a biologist, but I do study the biologists as carefully as I can, is that Darwin's theory, whatever it does or doesn't do, says zero about the origin of life. He didn't claim to speak about the origin of life.
Peter Robinson: He always presumes that the preexistence of a form from which other form evolved.
John Lennox: That's right. But unfortunately, for many years, Richard Dawkins obscured everything, obfuscated the whole situation.
Peter Robinson: Dawkins the Oxford biologist.
John Lennox: That's right. Because he said that natural selection, which Darwin discovered, and he describes it as a blind, automatic process, is responsible for the existence and variation of all of life. Now, he later admitted, took far too long to do it, that evolution in the Darwinian sense cannot be responsible for the origin of life for the simple reason is that evolution, whatever it does or doesn't do, presupposes the existence of life.
Peter Robinson: Right.
John Lennox: So you've two separate problems here. One is the origin of life, which goes back-
Peter Robinson: We'll come to that one, I promise. We'll come to that one.
John Lenox: Goes to that one goes back to the origin of information as Steven has mentioned. But the second is just this sheer calculation. Now you mentioned things in your questioning-
Peter Robinson: Yes, stumbled through them.
John Lenox: That have to do with with the origin of life, proteins and so on. One of my examiners at Cambridge was Sir Fred Hoyle, and he came to Cardiff, where I was a lecturer many years ago, and he shocked everybody. He just stood up and said to an absolutely packed crowd because he was famous, he said, "Life cannot have originated on earth," and there was a collective gasp. And he said, "I've done the calculations, and mathematically it is simply impossible. There isn't enough time. And I actually have a copy of those calculations at home. And he just said it's quite obvious if you do the calculations, and he puts it very simply and pregnantly. Rabbits produce rabbits and very little else. And what his mathematics, I think, showed him was that the innocent aspect of evolution, which we can all accept, that is you get minor variations on a theme, which Michael here has dealt with so successfully in his booked "The Edge of Evolution." That's non-controversial. But once you go beyond that and think of new animals, new body plans, all of that kind of thing-
Peter Robinson: Darwin's book is "The Origin of Species," it's not minor variations within species, it's "The Origin of Species."
John Lennox: But I think what cuts all this from me now is not what the mathematicians are saying, but what the mathematically conscious biologists are saying. Now one of my friends in Oxford is a very distinguished biologist, professor Dennis Noble, and he has just made absolutely clear, he said Neo-Darwinism, that is the modern synthesis-
Stephen Meyer: Standard textbook theory that we all learned-
John Lennox: Natural selection and mutation doesn't need to be improved, it needs to be replaced. And he almost was quoting someone like Lynn Margulies, another very distinguished person who said, "It's dead." So these are people who know about the calculations, who know about the complexity, and saying, from that perspective, it's dead.
Peter Robinson: All right. Fred Hoyle, we should add, was a very famous mid-century, mid-last century astronomer.
John Lennox: Yes, that's right.
Peter Robinson: All right. Michael, problem three for this little layman. Cellular Biology. Can you just tell us about irreducible, this is your sort of signal concept, irreducible complexity and the story of the mouse trap?
Michael Behe: Sure. Might be good to start by saying that Darwin and folks in his day didn't know much about the cell. They had crummy microscopes. It looked like a little piece of jelly. And they knew nothing about molecules. And we now know that light-
Peter Robinson: Tiny and elementary also meant simple to them. So it's biologically simple.
Michael Behe: Yes, that's correct. So like jello or a jelly, they thought it might just bubble up from the sea. But modern science, in the past 70 or so years, has shown that the cell is run by molecular machines, real machines made of molecules, and really sophisticated ones. There are machines that act as propellers, machines that act as trucks to bring supplies from one side of the cell to the other side of the cell.
Peter Robinson: So when you magnified these days, we know enough about cells to know that they're not little blobs of jello.
Michael Behe: That's right.
Peter Robinson: You get inside a cell and you're looking at a city.
Michael Behe: Yeah, pretty much, yeah, that's right. It's got electrical apparatus, it's got vehicles, it's got information, it's got all sorts of things. And the problem with irreducible complexity is, if you think about it, machines are made of different parts. Say a lawnmower, it's got a blade, it's got a motor, wheels, stuff like that. But Darwin always insisted that his theory had to work by numerous, successive, slight modifications. Had to be very, very gradual. But if you try to build a machine like a lawnmower or a mouse trap-
Peter Robinson: I like the mouse trap because that's so simple, even I can get it in my head.
Michale Behe: Yeah, yeah, just think of a mechanical mouse trap; it's got a number of different pieces. Now if you wanted to build something like that slowly and have each part or each intermediate work, you've got a big problem, cause it needs all of the parts to work. It needs a spring, a wooden base, a couple other metal parts. Just to capture that concept, I invented the phrase irreducible complexity, because it's complex, can't reduce it or else-
Peter Robinson: Take away one piece and it just doesn't work.
Michael Behe: And the mouse trap doesn't work.
Peter Robinson: Therefore, it could not, the mouse trap, take away one piece from one of these fantastically complicated machines in a cell, it doesn't function and therefore could not have conferred an adaptive advantage.
Michael Behe: Right, and it could not be built gradually and improving each step of the way.
Stephen Meyer: Intermediate stages confer no functional advantage, therefore there's nothing for natural selection to select on the way from the simple to the complex.
John Lennox: Michael, does that, what interests me greatly about that is the gradual building up, is a stepwise ascent. Whereas, am I right in saying that contemporary biologists like Dennis Noble, whom I've mentioned, are saying, "But look, you have to take the wholesale into consideration; that this is top down causation and that would frustrate any concept of building things up anyway by numerous slight accretion." Is that fair to say that?
Michael Behe: If you go that way, then you have left Darwin far behind. And you've left randomness far behind.
John Lennox: But they are doing that, they're leaving it far behind.
Stephen Meyer: But top down is actually a metaphor for the action of an agent in arranging things with a plan in mind.
John Lennox: That's dangerous
Michael Behe: Yeah. Right.
Peter Robinson: You see, John Lennox just swats Darwin aside, For the two of you, it's a much more agonizing process. You try very hard to be fair to the man. There's two quotations, Michael, two quotations. Charles Darwin in "The Origin," Darwin himself writes this, "If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down," close quote. That's Darwin. He puts the test right there in 1859. Here's Michael Behe. "The question then becomes, are there irreducibly complex systems in the cell? Yes, there are many."
Michael Behe: Absolutely. As I said, the cell is chock full of machines. Machines need many parts. They can't be built by numerous, successive, slight modifications. But let me draw attention to one little sneaky trick that Darwin put into that quotation. He says, "If it could be demonstrated," that something couldn't possibly happen. So he's putting a burden on his opponents to prove a negative, which science cannot do and never has. No theory has ruled out all rival theories to be accepted. But we have great evidence that it can't, and we have absolutely no evidence that natural selection acting on random mutation could build much of anything.
Peter Robinson: So here's the objection, the objection, I say this is if I know enough to be authoritative. Here's an objection, and the objection runs, all right, it's very hard to see how you evolve a mouse trap beginning with a little wooden platform. True. It can't work until all the pieces are in place. On the other hand, suppose you do evolve it in two or three pieces, and they sit around for centuries. They don't confer any advantage on the organism, but they don't harm it either. So they're these strange accretions on which natural selection is neutral. It doesn't select for them, but it doesn't select against them. And then after eons and eons, we worry about the maths later, after eons and eons, the final piece drops into place and suddenly it functions. Plausible?
Michael Behe: No. That's ridiculous. Realistically, would you-
Peter Robinson: He's being very careful with Darwin, but he's swatting me aside. Go ahead.
Michael Behe: No, suppose you didn't have a mouse trap. So you say, "Well, what can I do? I'll just go into my garage and pick out a few pieces that would function as a mouse trap." And you say, "Well, I need a spring. Well, here's one in this grandfather clock I have," you know you wind up, I'll just use that. And I need a hammer to squash the mouse. I'll use this crowbar over here. But the pieces aren't adjusted to each other. You can't just take random pieces and put them together. And natural selection, which as Darwin said is constantly scrutinizing life, would not be expected to make things in the shape that they would need to be for some future use. They would hone them for what they were doing right now.
Peter Robinson: All right.
Stephen Meyer: Can I weigh in on this?
Peter Robinson: Sure. Or course.
Stephen Meyer: Because there's a connection between what Mike's talking about and the mathematical problems that John was alluding to. And that is that in these actual systems, these nano machines that Mike has made famous through his work. For example, the bacterial flagellar motor, or the ATP synthase, one's a rotary.
Peter Robinson: This man has made the flagellar motor a rockstar.
Stephen Meyer: Well, he kind of has, he kind of has. But it's a 30 part rotary engine. The ATP synthase is a turbine with multiple parts. But the parts are made of proteins. And proteins are in essence the toolbox of the cell. They perform specific functions in view of their three-dimensional shapes. So they make the parts of molecular machines, they function as enzymes to catalyze reactions at super fast rates, they help process information. But if you were to build a system like the flagellar motor, you need 30 proteins that fit together in an integrated fashion. But that requires genetic code. Each one of those proteins requires a long stretch of genetic information to build the protein. And so, what you're talking about is not just some bent hammer or something sitting around doing nothing, you're talking about a need for genetic information that is sufficient to overcome these long odds against building the protein in the first place. So it'd be like, to change the metaphor slightly, a gigantic haystack the size of the North American continent, and you're only allowed to search 1 37th of the continent, maybe a tiny little square of southern California. If that's the case, are you more likely or less likely to-
Peter Robinson: To find the needle?
Stephen Meyer: To find the needle. And the answer is you're overwhelmingly more likely not to find the needle than to find it, which is to say the mutation selection mechanism lacks the creative power to generate new biological information.
Peter Robinson: Lacks anything close.
Stephen Meyer: Exactly. And that's for one protein.
Peter Robinson: That's one protein out of 13 proteins necessary to make the waving little tail, which is only one machine.
John Lennox: But that in a sense is, before you said anything about the fact that the information required is linguistic. And linguistic language is not produced by random processes. And this is a hugely important thing.
Peter Robinson: Linguistic. You've got to explain what you mean by that.
John Lennox: Well-
Peter Robinson: It's linguistic in the way the DNA, go ahead. Code.
John Lennox: Exactly. Yes.
Peter Robinson: Ah, code, all right.
John Lennox: The human genome is the longest word we've ever discovered. And we can call it a word because it's written in a chemical language of four letters. And all those letters, strung out like a computer program, have got to be in the right order, otherwise it breaks down. Most programs, if you change a letter, that's the end of the program. So we're dealing with something absolutely gigantic in terms of probabilities before we even think of the extra complexity that arises through the folding of the proteins and all the epigenetic information that's been discovered in recent years.
Stephen Meyer: That's information beyond DNA that controls how the lower level information is used.
John Lennox: Bewildering in its complexity. And therefore, it becomes a huge stress. And my own simplistic view is to say, I prefer an explanation that makes sense to one that doesn't make sense.
Peter Robinson: All right.
Michael Behe: If I could add just a little something. We're talking about this ultra complex machine, the bacterial flagellum and saying that Darwinian processes are laughably inadequate to explain it. But I want to point out that it can't explain things a whole lot more simple than a bacterial flagellum. We talked about how many amino acids these things have, and there's 30 proteins and 400 amino acids; 12,000-ish or so. But in order to develop resistance to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine, it took trillions and trillions of malarial cells, plasmodium falciparum, to get two crummy mutations. Two, and we're talking about 12,000 for the flagellum. Now trillions. And for each extra mutation, it goes up exponentially. Steve was talking in exponential language, but that's another factor of a trillion for another one, and another factor of a trillion for the next one too. So this is truly, truly, even much, much simpler things than we've been talking about are beyond Darwinian processes. I just want to add one little cute thing is that these days scientists can do evolution in the laboratory, grow bacterial cultures for a long time and see what happens. And a man named Richard Lenski, a biologist at Michigan, did this for a bacterium called E Coli, and one of the first mutations that he saw that really helped the bacteria grow faster was when it deleted the genes, got rid of the genes for the bacterial flagellum.
Peter Robinson: Instead of adding information, it's dropping it.
Michael Behe: Exactly. And that's something we haven't touched on yet, but it's oftentimes a whole lot faster and easier to get rid of stuff and improve a species' chance to survive and prosper than to-
Peter Robinson: But you can't get a new species by dropping out information, by becoming stupider.
Michael Behe: That's correct.
Stephen Meyer: But adding new capabilities requires new proteins, which requires solving this combinatorial problem, this search for those exceedingly rare sequences among the vast number of gibberish sequences that don't do anything useful. So again, you're back to the needle in haystack problem.
Peter Robinson: This is the layman struggling to understand this again. Copernicus says the earth revolves around the sun. Had he had access to telescopes that would be developed not that many decades later, let alone to the instruments we have for searching the heavens today, he would've understood immediately that that suggestion was ridiculous, right? And so what we are talking about here is-
Michael Behe: You mean vice versa.
Peter Robinson: Excuse me. I've got it the other way around. I've got it the other way around. Copernicus is the one, the old Telemaic System.
Michael Behe: Right.
Peter Robinson: Okay, so the Telemaic System, which persists until what? I don't want to get Galileo mixed in with all of this-
Stephen Meyer: 1543 or something like that.
Peter Robinson: But we get this into the 16th Century, telescope, which Copernicus figures out that that's partly because of the technology. He can see what they couldn't see before. All right. So Darwin's 170 some years ago, and it was plausible that the little tiny cell was a blob of jello in the old days. But now, thanks to Behe here, we can look into that cell and we have the same experience going into smaller and smaller dimensions that telescopes had going into the larger and larger dimension, which is every time we look, it becomes more complicated, deeper, richer, more mind boggling. Is that roughly correct?
Stephen Meyer: That's roughly right.
John Lennox: It's importantly correct.
Stephen Meyer: Yeah, it starts back in the 1950s with Watson and Crick and what historians of science now call the Molecular Biological Revolution. They, of course, elucidated the double helix structure of the molecule.
Peter Robinson: They discovered the language.
Stephen Meyer: Exactly. They discovered the structure of the molecule in 1953, but it's Crick who makes the important breakthrough in 1958. He was a code breaker in World War II, and he formulates something called the Sequence Hypothesis. And he proposes that the four chemical subunits that run along the interior of the DNA molecule, they're called nucleotide bases or just bases, he proposes that they are functioning like alphabetic characters in a written text, or like, for example, the zeros and ones in a section of software today. That is to say, they perform a function as a group, not in virtue of any of their physical properties, but in virtue of their sequential arrangement in accord with an independent symbol convention, later discovered in now known as the genetic code. And over the ensuing seven or eight years, Crick's Sequence Hypothesis was confirmed by a series of experiments on both sides of the Atlantic, and that gave us this new informational understanding. The information revolution came to biology, because what we realized is that in inside the cell we have a complex information storage, transmission and processing system. And to explain the origin of life, you've got to explain that, and to explain any new form of life, you've got to explain how you can take a section of code, randomly change it and hope to come up with another section of code without destroying the function of the code you started with.
Peter Robinson: So, the three of you, I want to get to the way Science, capital S, is responding to people such as the three of you. But the three of you are not some sort of throwbacks saying, "You're attacking all that civilization stood for." What you're saying is, "Wait, we know more than they did. Look at the newest information." You are champions for the latest science, not for some sort of retrograde worldview. Is that fair?
John Lennox: I think it is fair. I think it's worth saying, you accused me of swiping Darwin aside. I don't swipe him aside. He observed some very interesting and useful things.
Peter Robinson: He was a good writer too.
John Lennox: He was. But he was limited by his time. And we also have an addition, something that we haven't discussed at all, and that is that ideas that were perhaps crystallized by Darwin had existed a long time before, where there was nothing of what is called science. Lucretius had them. In fact, if you read "De Rerum Natura," Lucretius' book on the nature of life, he gets almost everything Darwin does, except for the transmutation of species, and he deduces it from materialistic philosophy. Because one of the things-
Peter Robinson: Lucretius, what century is Lucretius?
John Lennox: Oh, he's in the back of the first century. But he was building on stuff even earlier. Going back to the early Greeks of Democritus. And the point of that is important; there's a worldview dimension to all of this. You see, if I put on my atheist hat, which I do with some difficulty, but I try to do it, and you say to me, "Write me an account of the origin of life." I will come up with an evolutionary theory immediately because that is the only possibility allowed by the naturalistic worldview. So we're competing with that as well. And of course, Darwinism has such appealed massively to the atheists, and increasingly so as we know through Richard Dawkins. So you have to remember that once you start raising the kind of question these two gentlemen have been raising, and that is that there's information, there's code, and the looming specter of the possibility of a coder; that raises a crucial problem.
Peter Robinson: That's out of bounds.
John Lennox: That's out of bounds.
Michael Behe: That's not science.
John Lennox: Yes. That means that we have to broaden the discussion as to how science is defined.
Stephen Meyer: And of course-
Peter Robinson: Can I?
Stephen Meyer: Go ahead.
Peter Robinson: I just want to go to, because I promised John that we would come to this. And that is the origin of life itself. As I understand it, from your work, Steven, life emerges pretty quickly after the conditions for the emergence of life themselves emerge. It's there from the get-go, geologically speaking.
Stephen Meyer: 3.85 billion years is the accepted time. The cessation of a meteorite bombardment of the Earth occurred at most, 50 million years before that. A blink of the eye geologically, we get from simple chemicals to a complex functionally integrated cell with information processing systems and miniature machines.
Peter Robinson: Okay, so here's what I was taught when I was going through school: there was the famous Urey Experiment, 1952, I looked it up, where if you put in a chamber all the chemicals that were supposed to have been present when Earth was at the moment when life arose and introduced, I seem to remember from textbooks the idea that there was some terrible thunderstorm. So you mix it all up with electricity and a couple of scientists, Urey at the University of Chicago tried this, and lo and behold, somehow or other they managed to form a few amino acids. They didn't form life, but that's because you have to run the experiment a lot of times. And as I understand it, again, to the extent that we understand, the more we try to run better experiments than Urey was able to in 1952, the farther we are from actually creating anything that could be recognized as life. Is that roughly correct?
Stephen Meyer: Yes.
Peter Robinson: So once again we have this understanding which is receding from us rather than finding ourselves approaching it. What does that mean?
John Lennox: Well, it means that we're understanding more the complexity that was not realized at the time. They thought, I think, that it was just enough to get a few amino acids and, hey, presto, it would would happen. They knew nothing of the linguistic structure. And so, what has happened subsequently is it has receded as you say, because we've discovered more and more about the sheer sophistication about what life is. And by the way, nobody really knows what life is.
Stephen Meyer: Huge irony is that 1953 you have the Miller/Urey Experiment, big splash in the media, but you also have the Watson and Crick discovery. And the two things have run counter to each other ever since. Miller and Urey produced two or maybe three protein forming amino acids out of the ensemble of 20 that you would need to build a whole protein. But more importantly, they didn't show how you could sequence the amino acids properly to get them to fold into proteins. To do that you need instructions. And those instructions were found on the DNA molecule. And it's the origin of the code that has presented the most acute problem for origin of life research because chemistry simply doesn't move in the direction of informational complexity, it moves in other directions.
Peter Robinson: One other origin-
Stephen Meyer: You can't get from chemistry to code, that's the problem.
Michael Behe: If I could just hop in just for a sec.
Peter Robinson: Yes, yes, yes.
Michael Behe: I just add that the process you described, that people were hopeful in the early 50s, and the more they worked, the more difficult they saw the problem to be. That means you're barking up the wrong tree. That's the signature of a wrong idea. Because if you have the right idea, you expect future results to support it.
Peter Robinson: Again, like Einstein.
Michael Behe: Exactly. But on the other hand, Darwin thought the cell was a little glob of jello. But the more and more we find, the more and more and more sophisticated genetic code, splicing of DNA, molecular machinery and so on, for an intelligent design proponent, that looks like you're barking up the right tree.
Peter Robinson: All right.
John Lennox: There's another irony about all this, because much more recently, I think it's Jeremy England, dug out the test tubes that were used in the Miller/Urey Experiment, and discovered, on examination, that there were more amino acids in them than Miller and Urey had originally discovered. And Dan Brown, the novelists of that time.
Peter Robinson: The Da Vinci Code man, right?
John Lennox: Picked this up in a book that he entitles "Origin." And he used this to develop his theory of the origin of life to which the scientist, Jeremy England who'd done this work, took great exception. And I think Steven being the historian, you'd probably explained exactly what happened.
Stephen Meyer: Again, the big problem is not making amino acids, it's sequencing them properly. It's like getting a bag of Scrabble letters and thinking you've got a triple word score. You've got to arrange the letters in the right way and put them on the board in the right place for them to actually convey information.
Peter Robinson: One more sudden emergence. Man. The anthropologist John Hawks, I can't remember whose work I read this in, maybe yours, maybe yours. Anyway.
Michael Behe: Probably not mine.
Peter Robinson: John Hawks is an anthropologist, and he argues that about 2 million years ago, our genius, homo, just appears. Quoting Hawks: "No gradual series of changes in earlier australopithecine populations clearly leads to the new species, and no australopithecine species is obviously transitional." Close quote. Well, we don't seem to have descended from apes. Or at least if we did, it ain't in the fossil record. What does that tell us? It's one thing to say, "Well, where did the dinosaurs come from?" But we have this notion from textbooks and school on, humankind rising from-
Stephen Meyer: We've all seen the artwork, right?
Peter Robinson: We've all seen the artwork. So what does this tell us?
Stephen Meyer: Well, it's another example of an abrupt appearance of morphological innovation in the history of life. And there are two such big bursts of innovation in the history of mankind. The first is the sudden an emergence of the genus homo. The second is what's sometimes called the cultural big bang. The evidence of higher cognitive capabilities that occurred within the last roughly 40,000 years.
Peter Robinson: Homo is 2 million years ago.
Stephen Meyer: Right, you get homo erectus, but in the last place-
Peter Robinson: Homo would include Neanderthal and-
Stephen Meyer: Sure.
Peter Robinson: Okay.
Stephen Meyer: Yeah. But within the last 40,000 years, you get the first agriculture, you get the first cities, you get the first written language, you get the first representational art. This is another big bang of innovation. The cultural revolution is also occurs very suddenly.
Peter Robinson: Okay. Is it a problem for Darwin that Bach lived? What series of adaptative advantages could possibly have produced all those cantatas?
John Lennox: Or mathematics.
Stephen Meyer: Or language. The origin of language. Completely unexplained under Darwinian grounds. Noam Chomsky, the great linguist-
Peter Robinson: Okay, we're getting to this subject, which I've been trying to hold off, because we're now getting close to this notion of intelligent design. I want to show you two images. Serious question: which image is more scientific? Which image contains more information? Which image contains more reality? Here's image one. And there's image two. Serious question. Which contains more information?
Stephen Meyer: I'll take a stab at that.
John Lennox: Yeah, sure.
Stephen Meyer: We've been mainly offering criticism of Darwinism so far in this interview, but all of us are sympathetic to the idea that there is evidence in the natural world of the activity of a mind. John puts it one way, he talks about a top-down infusion of information at the biosphere, Mike and I talk about the concept of intelligent design. But there is, I think, a powerful scientific case for intelligent design. And this was the question that seized me when I went off to do my PhD. We've seen this problem of the origin of information, but could that-
Peter Robinson: Watch him carefully because this is tricky material.
John Lennox: Oh, I know it is.
Peter Robinson: Go ahead. Go ahead.
Stephen Meyer: Could this mystery of the origin of information actually be a positive indicator of a different type of cause at work altogether? And the person who helped me most think this through is actually Darwin himself. Because Darwin pioneered a method of historical scientific reasoning where he realized that if you were wanting to explain an event in the remote past, you should try to explain it by causes that you see now in operation. And he got this principle from the great geologist Charles Lyell. So in eastern Washington where I live, there are little patches of white powdery stuff still on the ground from an event that happened in May of 1980. And if you don't know what caused that white powdery stuff, you'd use a standard historical method of reasoning known as the method of multiple competing hypotheses. So you'd formulate some hypotheses; maybe it was a flood, maybe it was an earthquake, maybe it was a volcanic eruption. Which of those explanations is best according to Darwin and Lyell's principle? Well, it's the volcanic eruption because we have seen volcanoes produce white powdery stuff and floods and earthquakes don't do that. So if you apply this principle of reasoning, if you look for a cause now in operation and ask yourself what is the cause now an operation that produces digital information? You come to one, and only one type of cause. And that's a mind. Bill Gates says that DNA is like a software program, but much more complex than any we've ever created. What does it take to produce software? It takes a programmer. So what we think we're seeing with the digital information that's in DNA is not just a problem for Darwinian evolution, but it's a positive indicator of the activity of a mind or an intelligent agent acting in the history and the origin of life.
Peter Robinson: I'm coming to you with, I'm going to set this up with a quotation. Listen to this, and then the question goes to you. Bill Clinton. "If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know it didn't get there by itself." All of creation, all this complex world we see around us is a turtle on a fence post. Behe looks at complicated subcellular biology and says, "This couldn't have happened randomly." Meyer looks at the fossil record and says, "Too many things just appear." And John Lennox runs the math and says, "If there's a code, maybe there's a coder." Now, it's one thing to observe certain limits to what Darwin and others may have been able to explain. The explanation stops here. That's as far as we can get. And it's something quite different to cross that line and say, "Oh, I think I see what's on the other side." Are you in for intelligent design?
John Lennox: I'm in for answering your question about the two pictures, first of all.
Peter Robinson: Ah!
John Lennox: You asked me how much information is contained in those two pictures.
Peter Robinson: Yes I did.
John Lennox: I suspect it's almost equal. I think the question you should have asked is how much truth is contained in those two pictures. Now, to come back to your precise question; the first picture shows what people commonly call the ascent of man.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
John Lennox: From lower animals.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
John Lennox: Now here's where Darwin helped me massively, by expressing, in a letter, a profound doubt. He said, and I'm only paraphrasing cause I haven't got the quote in my head, he said, "I'm troubled by the fact that if my explanation is correct, then how do we account for the human capacity for rational thought?" He said, "After all, if we started with lower animals and a monkey's mind," he said, "Well, is there any thinking in a monkey's mind?" Now hold that just for a moment because I have lots of fun with my scientific friends. I sometimes ask them, "What do you do science with?" And of course they name some expensive machine. And I say, "No, no." "Oh!" they say, "You mean your," and they're about to say mind when they realize that's not politically correct, and they say your brain. And I say, "Okay, I believe the brain and the mind are separate, but what about your brain? Give me the brief history of the brain. I ask them, and I've done this many times. It's fascinating. And they say, "Well, the brain in the end is the end product of a mindless, unguided process." And I smile at them and I say, "And you trust it?" I say, "Now tell me honesty, that computer you use every day, if you knew that it was the end product of a mindless, unguided process, would you trust it?" Now here's the thing, I have spoken with dozens of leading scientists and pushed them on this and every single one has said no. I said, "You have a problem. Because you are giving me an argument that undermines rationality." And they turn to me in and they say, "Where did you get that argument?" I said, "Well, firstly from Charles Darwin." They say, "I don't believe you." And then I quote Darwin. Darwin's doubt.
Stephen Meyer: This is his other doubt.
John Lennox: That's his other doubt.
Stephen Meyer: Yep.
John Lennox: Darwin's doubt about the reliability of human rationality. Now this, to my mind, goes to the heart of the implication of the whole business. And it's why I believe that there is an intelligence behind the universe. I'm a mathematician. All mathematicians and scientists are people of faith, not necessarily in God, but they believe in the rational intelligibility of the universe.
Stephen Meyer: And the reliability of the mind to conceive it.
John Lennox: Yes. Exactly. And therefore, what do they base that on? If you base that on a mindless, unguided evolutionary process, you're destroying rationality. CS Lewis saw that in the 1940s. He said, "Any theory that undermines rationality cannot be true because you're using your rationality to get to it." Alvin Plantinga has worked on it, but the most interesting person who brings it now to the fore is Thomas Nagel, the philosopher in New York. And he says there's something wrong here, because if you follow evolutionary naturalism, it undermines the very rationality you need to believe, not only in evolutionary naturalism, but in any theory at all. So my major problem, Peter, in all of this, is not the mathematics, that's just an interesting bit of evidence, it's that here I am engaged in a rational discipline of mathematics. That all dissolves if the evolutionary naturalistic account is true. In other words, I often say to people, shooting yourself and the foot is painful, but shooting yourself and the brain is fatal.
Peter Robinson: By the way, Darwin actually, even though this discussion is tending to discount heavily, if not to dismiss his theories, Darwin is emerging as a fine writer, a wise man, and in all kinds of ways an honest man. He recognized the problem with the Cambrian record and then he recognized this huge question of where does the mind come from?
John Lennox: Yes.
Peter Robinson: All right, Michael, I'm quoting you to yourself. "Intelligent design can happily coexist with a large degree of natural selection. Antibiotic and pesticide resistance, antifreeze proteins and fish and plants, and more may indeed be explained by the Darwinian mechanism. The critical claim of intelligent design is not that natural selection doesn't explain anything, but that it doesn't explain everything." Explain.
Michael Behe: That's exactly right, because if you posit that natural selection produced all of life, then it has to have produced not only trivia but the profound molecular machines that are found in the cell, the genetic code, the wings of a bird and much more, and we don't see that. And yet, it can work on DNA. For example, it can break genes. A random mutation can break a gene and say, cause a brown bear to lose its coloration and become a white polar bear, and eventually a new species. And it can break-
Peter Robinson: But that's baby stuff by comparison with the original aims.
Michael Behe: That's exactly right. So, just like you driving down the road, there can be nicks, stones can bump up and nick your car and you can get a scratch on it and so on. You can recognize that the car is designed, there are random nicks and, and bumps and so on, so random things can happen. But can they explain this elegant machinery that has been discovered by science at the foundation of life? And of course the answer is no.
Peter Robinson: Now I'm going to quote you one more time. Listen carefully, because this one comes back to the two of you. Michael Behe continues. Take a deep breath here. This is big. There could be, quote, "A route open for a subtle God to design life without overriding natural law. If quantum events such as radioactive decay are not governed by causal laws, then it breaks no law of nature to influence such events. Further, although we may not be able to detect quantum manipulations, we may nevertheless be able to conclude confidently that the final structure was designed." So, here we start, all three of you, there are very serious problems with Darwin. Then we go to step two, which is if there's a code, maybe there's a coder. I see that everybody recognizes we're on tricky territory, but you all three are still there. And now being here goes to step three. Actually, I think I see a mechanism by which the coder may have operated in this material world. Am I being fair to you?
Michael Behe: Yes, that's true.
Peter Robinson: Okay, boys, do you go for that?
Stephen Meyer: I don't.
Peter Robinson: Steve? You don't?
Stephen Meyer: No. I think that when we invoke the action of a mind, we're invoking a non-material cause. And we don't need to play by the rules of scientific materialism to invent a mechanism to explain the origin of information. Because we know from our uniform and repeated experience that information always arises from a mind. We don't understand the interface, the mind-body interface in the case of human intelligence.
Peter Robinson: As John just pointed.
Stephen Meyer: We know that we can affect the material world by the choices we make and by the thoughts that we have. I'm going to choose to move this water glass right now. But I don't know how my volitional act of my mind to initiate that act affected the material world. That interface is unknowable to us at this point. But we can infer from certain sorts of effects back to the activity of a mind. We know that a distinctive artifact or effective intelligent activity is the production of information. Whenever we see information and we trace it back to its source, whether we're talking about computer code or a hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or information embedded in a radio signal, we always come back to a mind.
Michael Behe: If I can interrupt Steve for a second. I think we're talking across purposes here. I wasn't saying that radioactive decay is responsible for, because it's a random event. The quotation that Peter read was saying, could a clever God, or clever mind, use something that was undetectable to scientific instrumentation to affect the results that he wanted? So it's not a mechanism, it's a tool rather, and it's a tool wielded by a mind.
Stephen Meyer: I'm not so much disagreement with Mike Behe, I'm disagreeing with the requirement that many of our evolutionary colleagues wanted to place on the theory of intelligent design, that it formulates its alternative explanation as a mechanistic cause. We're proposing a different kind of cause, a mental cause, which is something we recognize from our ordinary experience, but somehow when we get into the science lab, we want to say, "Well, everything has to be explained materialistically, even information," which we know doesn't come about by undirected material processes.
Peter Robinson: I'm going to go to John Lennox as the referee here. Isn't it in the nature of science, perhaps even especially among believers, Newton was a, I think it's fair to say he was a Christian. He was a Christian. Of course he was.
John Lenox: All the pioneers of mathematics were believers in God.
Peter Robinson: So Newton understands himself to be exploring the mind of God.
John Lennox: Yes, that's right.
Peter Robinson: And at some basic level, Newton, faithful Christian, is saying, "How did he do it?"
John Lenox: Yeah.
Peter Robinson: How did he do this? How did he do that? He's not saying, "Well, it's the mind of God, therefore no more questions to follow." He's in search of specific mechanisms. And that's a good and noble thing which endows us with nine tenths of what we know about physics in some basic way. So here's the question that presents itself to me, layman, that I hear stand in for baffled people the world over. The question in science, how does it happen? Charles Darwin says, "Here's how it happened." Okay, and if you guys want to say, "Well, Charles Darwin was wrong," then I say, "Okay, if it didn't happen that way, how did it happen?" And the answer can't just be God, or it can't just be designer. There's some sort of human impulse in us to say, "Well, how? How? What's the mechanism?" And that's a fair question, and Behe's taking a shot at it. And Steven's trying to say no.
Stephen Meyer: No, I will come back at you in a minute.
Peter Robinson: Go ahead.
John Lennox: When Newton discovered his law of gravitation, he didn't say, "Now I've got a scientific explanation. I don't need God." What he did was to write "Principia Mathematica," the most famous book in the history of science, and expressed in it the hope that his research would lead thinking people to believe in God. In other words, he believed his science was showing evidence of an intelligent input into the universe.
Peter Robinson: Beauty, design, predictability.
John Lennox: Yes. But the important thing here is that a huge confusion comes up through Richard Dawkins suggesting that the God explanation is the same as the scientific explanation. That's like saying that the Henry Ford explanation for a motor car is the same as the explanation in terms of physics and automobile engineering. There are different kinds of explanation. And we need both to give a full explanation.
Stephen Meyer: And they're different kinds of questions, Peter, the question of how the internal combustion engine operates can be answered using principles of mechanical and electrical engineering. But the question of the origin of the car can't be answered apart from invoking activity of an intelligence. In the "Principia," a Newton developed, he described the ongoing, regular process of gravity and used a law, mathematical law to describe that process. But he also believed that the fine-tuning of the solar system gave direct evidence of the activity of a designing intelligence. He said, "This most beautiful system of sun, planet and comets could only be the product of an intelligent and powerful being." So he actually made a direct design argument. When we're talking about the origin of life or the origin of the universe or the origin of the Cambrian animals, there's another way of framing the question, it is, what type of cause best explains the origin of these things? An undirected material process or an intelligent cause? And science-
Peter Robinson: Yeah, but why do you object to Michael's attempt to find a mechanism?
Michael Behe: Let me just-
John Lennox: Yes, Michael.
Peter Robinson: Let, Michael come in.
Michael Behe: Yes, absolutely.
Peter Robinson: I feel I've set things up so that the two of you have been able to beat him about the head and shoulders.
Michael Behe: When Isaac Newton developed his wonderful law of gravity, he was asked, "What the heck is gravity?" And he said, "Hypotheses non fingo." I have feigned no hypothesis." I don't know.
Stephen Meyer: He had no mechanism.
Michael Behe: He didn't have a mechanism. What's the mechanism for the Big Bang? I don't know. What's the mechanism for radioactive decay? I don't know. So there's lots of things that happen, people don't know what the mechanism is. But we see patterns and we can deduce explanations from the patterns.
Peter Robinson: I'm going to quote you, and I begin by quoting someone you quote. This is more Behe here. Biochemist Franklin Harold is 2001 book "The Way of the Cell." Quote: "We should reject, as a matter of principle, the substitution of intelligent design for the dialogue of chance and necessity; but we must concede that there are presently no detailed accounts of the evolution of any biochemical system, only a variety of wishful explanations." Close quote. And Michael says, "Well, to begin with, that's quite a breathtaking concession, and congratulations, the science has moved along enough to recognize the limits to Darwin." And then Michael continues. "Harold never spells out his reasoning," that is to say, why we should reject intelligent design in principle, "but I think the principle probably boils down to this: design appears to point strongly beyond nature." Everybody's down for that. "It has philosophical and theological implications because some think that science should avoid a theory that points so strongly beyond nature, they want to rule out intelligent design from the start." Close quote. This is the question of drawing lines. And I pose the question to Michael Behe, what the heck is wrong with that? We just say science goes as far as it goes with our five senses and what we can reason there from. And when it hits a dead end, it says dead end. Haven't got it. Radioactive decay, gravity. Don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know. Go ahead. So what's wrong with drawing these very sharp lines? Why do you want to include intelligent design in the scientific enterprise?
Michael Behe: Well, for a couple reasons. First, if scientists claim that they did not know how life developed, that would be good with me, that would be a step in the right direction, because they don't. Unfortunately, people pretend that they do. On the other hand, we can tell, we conclude design, we infer design from physical evidence. It's not from some vision or anything that people have. If you look at a mouse trap, if you look at a mouse trap you can tell it was designed and you can tell because you see how the parts are arranged, what the relationship of the parts with respect of each other to perform a function. When you look at an outboard motor on a boat, you see the same thing; you see a purposeful arrangement of parts. Now we see that in the machinery of the cell. We see outboard motors in the cell, we see trucks in the cell and so on.
Peter Robinson: But your life would be so much easier if at the end of your article you said-
Michael Behe: But less fun.
Peter Robinson: You said, "If you would like to pursue this further, go to the Department of Philosophy. Go to the Department of Theology. Here, the science ends."
Michael Behe: I say that after we conclude design. I do not infer to God. And as I write, some people have approached me and said, "Yeah, I'm with you. I think it's intelligent. But I think it's space aliens have visited us."
Peter Robinson: Fred Hoyle's explanations. Go ahead, John.
John Lennox: I think the basic question here is, there are several and they're very important, is what is an explanation? That's a crucial question. And Michael cited Newton. Hypotheses non fingo. When I was taught in school, I thought the law of gravity explained gravity. And I was an adult before I discovered it explains no such thing. So that even a scientific explanation, within its own terms, is rarely full. It's almost never full. That's the first thing. Secondly, we admit at all kinds of levels, explanations in terms of agent, like if we want a complete description of the motor car. Now, your earlier question to Michael, "Could God have done this?" There is a sense in which God can do things anyway he likes. But the issue is how does God do it? And secondly, is his activity detectable scientifically? Now I'm putting those words together very carefully, not, is his involvement detectable, but is it detectable in terms of science? In other words, if you set up your definition of science as restricted to the five senses.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
John Lennox: So that you're not, and here comes the principle, the Socratic principle, that is often violated. The Antony Flew saw that when he came to conclude that there was an intelligent designer behind the universe on the basis of DNA. And they said, "Oh, but you can't do that." He said, "I follow the evidence where it leads." And this is the clash that arises. You can either say, "Well, science has come to an end. It cannot answer this question." There are very few people who want to say that. Or you say, "Science is limited. We must open the field to other kinds of questions like the why questions of purpose," like teleology and all this kind of thing. And the underlying mistake that we're forced to think is that science and rationality are coextensive when they're not.
Peter Robinson: That is to say, science does not cover the full field of rationality?
John Lennox: No. History is a rational discipline. So is philosophy.
Stephen Meyer: There are kinds of sciences. And this is what my PhD was about. There's historical scientific reasoning, which is all about abduction. Inferring back to explain causal origins. Imagine that you walk into the British Museum and you look at the Rosetta Stone, and someone says, "Well, how did those inscriptions come about?" If the archeologist is governed by a principle that you alluded to indirectly, it's called methodological naturalism. We may only infer materialistic causes, whatever the evidence. The scientists would miss the obvious explanation. This was produced by scribes. By intelligent agents. There are distinctive indicators of the activity of intelligence and therefore that allows us to-
Peter Robinson: It's language.
John Lennox: It's language.
Stephen Meyer: One of the early pioneers in the information sciences, named Henry Quastler said that creation of new information is habitually associated with conscious activity. In other words, our uniform and repeated experience affirms that there's only one type of cause that produces information. But uniform and repeated experience is the basis of all historical scientific reasoning. So there is a basis in historical scientific reasoning to infer intelligent design. There's no need or reason to limit the conclusions that we can consider in that branch of science because-
John Lennox: Unless, and here's the bottom line for all of this; unless you presume a naturalistic worldview and imprison yourself within its confines.
Stephen Meyer: That's the key issue.
Peter Robinson: That's not fair. If the evidence leads beyond a naturalistic view, you must pursue it, correct?
John Lennox: Yes, but why shouldn't you? That's exactly what I'm saying. Otherwise, you're closing yourself within a prison.
Peter Robinson: All right. All three of you strike me as, well, of course, you're rather argumentative, but you all three of you strike me as rational men, and yet look at the lives you lead. Steve Meyer wrote an article on the Cambrian Explosion for the Proceedings of the Biological Society at the Smithsonian Institution. And his editor was harassed and finally left the institution. Michael Behe has evoked from his colleagues at Lehigh University, which is a great university and especially strong in the sciences, a statement on their website that Dr. Behe is entitled to express his views, but we, his colleagues in the Biology Department do not view them as science.
Stephen Meyer: He's been disclaimed.
Peter Robinson: He's been disclaimed. Why? Academics espouse all kinds of crazy ideas. Why should these ideas, why should the challenge to Darwin and the suggestion that if there's a code, there's a coder, the suggestion of an intelligent design, evoke such singular hostility? What is going on? I'll start with John because I didn't give you a shot.
John Lennox: What is going on as the domination of naturalism and materialism in the academy, which is so ironical. I'm from Oxford University. It's motto, and it's been there for a long time, is "Dominus illuminatio mea." The people that founded the great universities of the world had no problem with the idea of an intelligent designer of the universe. But now, somehow in the academy, anybody who espouses the idea that was the foundation of modern science in the 16th and 17th centuries, arguably as a historical thesis, is out. That strikes me as-
Peter Robinson: And the idea is, the founding idea is?
John Lennox: The founding idea is, well let we quote CS Lewis, "Men became scientific." Why? "Because they expected law in nature, and they expected law in nature because they believed in a legislator." There it is encapsulated. That's Whitehead's thesis if you want it. North Whitehead. And the point is, these gentlemen here tragically have been subject to an anti-intellectualism that has lost the spirit that lies behind the modern science that these universities claim to teach.
Peter Robinson: Two quotations, and then I'm going to ask each of you to comment. Here's quotation number one, Oxford biologist, Richard Dawkins, your sometime debating opponent, Richard Dawkins. Quote: "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pointless indifference." Here's the second quotation, from a man who, at the time he wrote this, was known as Cardinal Ratzinger. He would later become Pope Benedict XVI. Quote: "Let us go directly to the question of evolution and its mechanisms. Microbiology and biochemistry have brought revolutionary insights here. We must have the audacity to say that the great projects of living creation are not the products of chance and error. They show us a creating intelligence, and they do so more luminously and radiantly today than ever before." Who's the better scientist? Who has a better grasp?
John Lennox: Well, the first statement is not a statement of science at all. Dawkins is giving his own atheistic belief, and doing a spin on morality, which he contradicts in his own life, so it's of no consequence I think.
Peter Robinson: Remind me never to cross you, John.
Michael Behe: I sometimes quote the same quote from Dawkins that you just read previously and follow it up by saying he must be a lot of fun at parties, cause he has such a gloomy view. But he supports nothing, and Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict, is talking science. He wasn't talking about how-
Peter Robinson: He really is. He's not overshooting.
Michel Behe: No. Yeah! I should say he's talking the latest science. He's talking about what has been discovered by molecular biology and biochemistry and cell biology. He's not talking about how squirrels are so cute or things like that. He's saying, holy moly, these are machines.
Peter Robinson: Holy moly is a technical term for I'm sure-
Michael Behe: Well, that's Latin, that's Latin, that's Latin.
John Lennox: Ratzinger's voice was very important. He was in a school of very interesting German philosophers led by a man called Spaemann. And one of the best deconstructions of Dawkins was written by one of Spaemann's pupils, a man called Reinhardt Luff. Unfortunately, it's only in German, not in English, but it is absolutely brilliant. But Ratzinger really, before he became Pope, he wrote a lot on this kind of stuff, and influenced the present Cardinal and Vienna, Schönborn a great deal.
Stephen Meyer: Can I say something in favor of the Dawkins quote? I like the framing. He says, "The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should observe if, at bottom, there's no purpose, no design, nothing but blind pitiless indifference." I love the way he frames the issue. Question is, is he right?
Peter Robinson: He makes a testable assertion.
Stephen Meyer: He makes a testable assertion about his materialistic philosophy. But then last summer, interestingly, he confessed to being knocked sideways by the digital information processing system of the cell. There was a new animation that was put up about it by an Australian group, and he said he was shocked by the intricate complexity. There's something extremely surprising. The universe doesn't look as it should from a strictly materialistic point of view. We should not expect the fine tuning of the laws and constants of physics. We shouldn't expect a beginning to the universe. And from a materialistic point of view, we certainly shouldn't have expected to find the intricate nanotechnology and information technology that is evident in the living cell.
Michael Behe: He's concluding from physical evidence whether he thinks there's purpose or not in the universe, and he's got his opinion, but that means that that's a legitimate thing that one can ask. Is there physical evidence for purpose in life in the universe?
Stephen Meyer: It actually implies that it's legitimate to consider the question of design.
Michael Behe: Yes.
John Lennox: But it's worse than that. He's denying the existence of good and evil, and that destroys morality and he does believe in the problem of evil because he rails against it. So there's a total disconnect at the moral level.
Peter Robinson: Gentlemen, last question. Last question. I'm going to set it up one more time with two quotations. Quotation one, Michael Behe. "The strength of intelligent design derives mainly from the work-a-day progress of science. The cell is not getting any simpler, it is getting much more complex. Progress in 20th century science has led us to the design hypothesis. I expect progress in the 21st century to confirm and extend it." Close quote. Here's quotation number two from a colleague of many of you. Mathematician David Berlinski. "The theory of evolution is unique among scientific instruments in being cherished not for what it contains, but for what it lacks. There are in Darwin's scheme, no special creation, no divine guidance or transcendental forces. 'Darwin,' the Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins has remarked with evident gratitude," Berlinski continues, "'made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.' No doubt," David Berlinski concludes, "The theory of evolution will continue to play the singular role in the life of our secular culture that it has always played" Close quote. It's not a question of the science. What you're up against is a worldview. And Michael, very cheerfully says, "No, no, no, no. Science is science. They'll come around." In this century the hypothesis of design will be extended and confirmed. And Berlinski says, "Oh, you silly boy." What do you think? Who's more likely right? The optimist or David Berlinski?
John Lennox: I'm not a prophet. But I'll tell you what Dawkins has done for me. He's made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled Christian.
Peter Robinson: Stephen?
Stephen Meyer: I love what Mike said about the way the hypothesis of intelligent design is being confirmed and extended by 21st century science. We're seeing that with many important experimental results and new discoveries. For example, a few years ago, the discovery that only a certain portion of the DNA codes for proteins and the rest doesn't lead many Neo-Darwinists do develop the concept of junk DNA.
Peter Robinson: Yes.
Stephen Meyer: The 97% that doesn't code for proteins they said is just the leftover the flotsam and jetsam of the random trial and error process of natural selection and random mutation. Several of our leading ID proponents in the 1990s and early 2000s said, "Well, we agree that there should be some evidence of those random mutations accumulating, but not 97%, so we're going to predict, based on our theory, that those non-coding regions of the DNA aren't junk DNA, but rather they are importantly functional." And that prediction has now been confirmed by the Encode Project and a number of other interesting developments in bioinformatics. And we now know that the non-coding regions of the DNA are functioning roughly like an operating system in a computer. They're controlling the timing and expression of the coding files. This is a prediction that was made by proponents of intelligent design that's been confirmed by new discoveries.
John Lenox: I didn't answer your question. I'm an optimist. Actually, I am. Not a biologist, but reading the stuff from the so-called third wave of biology really does make me quite an optimist, that there will be an intellectual breakthrough. There was a meeting at the Royal Society-
Peter Robinson: Under the weight of accumulating scientific work.
John Lennox: Under the weight of evidence. It's a very heavy ship, but it's beginning to turn, I think. And there was evidence at the Royal Society meeting-
Stephen Meyer: John's referring to meeting in 2016 that was convened by members of the Royal Society and evolutionary biologists who doubt the standard Neo-Darwinian model, and who were saying we need a new theory of evolution. And they called the meeting to explore new evolutionary mechanisms that could either replace or supplement natural selection because of its lack of creative power.
Peter Robinson: I said that was the last question, but here's the last question.
Michael Behe: Too much fun.
Peter Robinson: Three of you, lovely, cheerful, splendid men. And you say, if there's a code, there's a coder, and you say, well, there're mechanisms by which one could imagine a mind participating or intervening, participating, let's say that, in the material world. All right, here's the objection. Haven't you ever heard of the inquisition? Haven't you ever heard of the religious wars? Don't you understand the importance of the American settlement, whereby we had the puritans in New England and the Episcopalians in the south and the Catholics in Maryland, and the settlement was to each his own. But there's going to be a public space here in which we can work together. This is what gives us the modern American, the university, the modern research, let's put it that way, the modern research institution. And it's the way you three are going. Maybe the three of you don't intend it. But the people who come right after you are going to be right back to put them in stocks, old fashioned morality. Religion is a very tricky and quite often in human history, baneful influence, and the three of you are kicking open the door to this dragon that we had very carefully locked up. Michael?
Michael Behe: Well, opinions differ on that, I think.
Peter Robinson: You're undermining the enlightenment.
Michael Behe: This is science. And science doesn't care about your particular worldview. We have, throughout history, scientific discoveries such as the microbial world and relativity and other things have upset our very notion of what reality is. And now it's the turn of molecular biology and biochemistry to make us sit up and take notice. I can't stop science from discovering complexity and elegance in the cell. It's there. What people do with it is a different question.
Peter Robinson: I'm saving the last word for John because he's the senior man at this table. Steven.
Stephen Meyer: As well you should. have a friendly debating partner named Michael Ruse, he's a British professor of philosophy of biology, Florida State. We've done a number of debates. And Michael's written an important book in which he explains that Darwinism has functioned as a kind of secular religion for many people in the sciences. People from different worldviews can, at any time, initiate inquisitions and cancellations of people they disagree with. I think we all have to be careful not to in indulge in that. Cancellations have not just come from one side or the other in the debates in human history. And so, I think one of the reasons that intelligent design has been silenced, that Michael's been been disclaimed and Richard Sternberg was persecuted at the Smithsonian Institute.
Peter Robinson: I'm sitting a little too close to you myself, come to think of it.
Stephen Meyer: Yeah, absolutely. Is that, when you challenge Darwinism, you are challenging not just a scientific theory, but a deeply held worldview or something that's functioning as a kind of secular religion, and people on that side of the aisle have been guilty of indulging in cancel culture. And I think we just all need to disclaim that and follow the evidence where it leads. And one final thought, and that is that in the history of science, a belief in a designer, a creator, inspired scientific innovation and development. You look at Newton, for example, he developed the calculus, the binomial theory, developed the theory of gravitation, the laws of motion. His "Principia" was meant to reveal the principles of creation that had come from the mind of God. So a belief in a creator doesn't stifle scientific innovation, it can inspire it. And we think our modern theory of intelligent design is also going to lead to new discoveries such as the one I mentioned a minute ago, that junk DNA isn't junk.
Peter Robinson: John Lennox, professor emeritus of Mathematics, a noble and pure expression of the mind of man, at one of the greatest universities that has ever existed, the University of Oxford. Professor Lennox, you are complicit in rolling back the enlightenment.
John Lennox: Absolutely. I'm delighted to do it. Because the enlightenment discovered that the best way to deal with opponents was to cut their heads off. And the historians, particularly John Gray, who's an atheist actually, one of the top historians-
Peter Robinson: At Oxford, your colleague at Oxford.
John Lennox: Yes, in Europe, points out that there's a direct line from the enlightenment to the persecutions of Stalin and the horrific destruction of life in the 20th century. So you'll get nowhere with the enlightenment. Second point, coming from Northern Ireland, I'm acutely aware of the reputation of religions, particularly Christianity, for causing war. And that has led me to do a lot of investigating. And I've come to the conclusion about which I've written, so I'm not going to in much detail, but what has happened there is that people have failed to go to the heart of the issue. Now, some religions may generate wars, I'm not denying that, and they will have to speak for themselves, but one of the most interesting things about Christianity is that Christ was tried, and it's on public record that he was tried for being a terrorist, we rarely put it into modern terms. He was exonerated by the Roman procurator. And why? Because when challenged whether he was a political opponent of Rome, he said, "My kingdom is not from this world, otherwise my servants would've been been fighting," and he'd stopped them fighting. But now my kingdom isn't from here. "You're a king." "Yes," he said. "To this end, I was born. And to this end, I came into the world to bear witness to the truth." And Pilate said, "What is truth?" And went out, declared Christ innocent, but then gave in to the crowd. The point of that is hugely important historically. I used to wonder why is there so much in the New Testament gospels about the trial of Christ? And suddenly I realized it's because of this precise question. Christ repudiated violence so the people, in my own country, who followed him using bombs on both sides, they weren't Christian at all because they repudiated Christ. The obvious thing in all of this is the one thing you cannot do with sheer power is to impose truth on people. And I think Pilate saw that.
Peter Robinson: John Lennox, Michael Behe, Steven Meyer, thank you.
John Lennox: Thank you.
Peter Robinson: For "Uncommon Knowledge" and the Hoover Institution, I'm Peter Robinson.