Response to Darrel Falk’s Review of “Signature in the Cell”

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January 28, 2010 Tags: Design

Today's entry was written by Stephen C. Meyer. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of The BioLogos Foundation. You can read more about what we believe here.

Response to Darrel Falk’s Review of “Signature in the Cell”

On December 28, Darrel Falk reviewed Stephen C. Meyer’s book Signature in the Cell (2009). On January 7, we also posted Dr. Francisco Ayala’s response to Meyer’s work.

One of the things Falk said in his initial assessment of Meyer’s book was the following:

In Chapter 14, as Stephen Meyer brings his discussion about the feasibility of RNA’s role as the early storehouse for cellular information to a conclusion, he recalls a twenty year old conversation with a philosophy professor about origin-of-life-research: “The field is becoming increasingly populated by cranks. Everyone knows everybody else’s theory doesn’t work, but no one is willing to admit it about his own.” Following this statement, Meyer fast-forwards into the present, and writes of his own assessment of the field twenty years later: “I found no reason to amend these assessments.”

The work Meyer had been discussing that led up to the final statement on page 322 was that of Gerald Joyce and Jack Szostak.

Falk sent a copy of his overview of Signature in the Cell to Meyer, Joyce, and Szostak and asked for a response that would be posted on this site. On January 12, we posted a follow-up to Falk’s review containing responses from both Joyce and Szostak.

Today, we are happy to post Dr. Meyer’s unedited response.

In 1985, I attended a conference that brought a fascinating problem in origin-of-life biology to my attention—the problem of explaining how the information necessary to produce the first living cell arose. At the time, I was working as a geophysicist doing digital signal processing, a form of information analysis and technology. A year later, I enrolled in graduate school at the University of Cambridge, where I eventually completed a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science after doing interdisciplinary research on the scientific and methodological issues in origin-of-life biology. In the ensuing years, I continued to study the problem of the origin of life and have authored peer-reviewed and peer-edited scientific articles on the topic of biological origins, as well as co-authoring a peer-reviewed biology textbook. Last year, after having researched the subject for more than two decades, I published Signature in the Cell, which provides an extensive evaluation of the principal competing theories of the origin of biological information and the related question of the origin of life. Since its completion, the book has been endorsed by prominent scientists including Philip Skell, a member of the National Academy of Sciences; Scott Turner, an evolutionary biologist at the State University of New York; and Professor Norman Nevin, one of Britain’s leading geneticists.

Nevertheless, in his recent review on the Biologos website, Prof. Darrel Falk characterizes me as merely a well-meaning, but ultimately unqualified, philosopher and religious believer who lacks the scientific expertise to evaluate origin-of-life research and who, in any case, has overlooked the promise of recent pre-biotic simulation experiments. On the basis of two such experiments, Falk suggests I have jumped prematurely to the conclusion that pre-biotic chemistry cannot account for the origin of life. Yet neither of the scientific experiments he cites provides evidence that refutes the argument of my book or solves the central mystery that it addresses. Indeed, both experiments actually reinforce—if inadvertently—the main argument of Signature in the Cell.

The central argument of my book is that intelligent design—the activity of a conscious and rational deliberative agent—best explains the origin of the information necessary to produce the first living cell. I argue this because of two things that we know from our uniform and repeated experience, which following Charles Darwin I take to be the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. First, intelligent agents have demonstrated the capacity to produce large amounts of functionally specified information (especially in a digital form). Second, no undirected chemical process has demonstrated this power. Hence, intelligent design provides the best—most causally adequate—explanation for the origin of the information necessary to produce the first life from simpler non-living chemicals. In other words, intelligent design is the only explanation that cites a cause known to have the capacity to produce the key effect in question.

Nowhere in his review does Falk refute this claim or provide another explanation for the origin of biological information. In order to do so Falk would need to show that some undirected material cause has demonstrated the power to produce functional biological information apart from the guidance or activity a designing mind. Neither Falk, nor anyone working in origin-of-life biology, has succeeded in doing this. Thus, Falk opts instead to make a mainly personal and procedural argument against my book by dismissing me as unqualified and insisting that it is “premature” to draw any negative conclusions about the adequacy of undirected chemical processes.

To support his claim that I rushed to judgment, Falk first cites a scientific study published last spring after my book was in press. The paper, authored by University of Manchester chemist John Sutherland and two colleagues, does partially address one of the many outstanding difficulties associated the RNA world, the most popular current theory about the origin of the first life.

Starting with a 3-carbon sugar (D-gylceraldehyde), and another molecule called 2-aminooxazole, Sutherland successfully synthesized a 5-carbon sugar in association with a base and a phosphate group. In other words, he produced a ribonucleotide. The scientific press justifiably heralded this as a breakthrough in pre-biotic chemistry because previously chemists had thought (as I noted in my book) that the conditions under which ribose and bases could be synthesized were starkly incompatible with each other.

Nevertheless, Sutherland’s work does not refute the central argument of my book, nor does it support the claim that it is premature to conclude that only intelligent agents have demonstrated the power to produce functionally-specified information. If anything, it illustrates the reverse.

In Chapter 14 of my book I describe and critique the RNA world scenario. There I describe five major problems associated with the theory. Sutherland’s work only partially addresses the first and least severe of these difficulties: the problem of generating the constituent building blocks or monomers in plausible pre-biotic conditions. It does not address the more severe problem of explaining how the bases in nucleic acids (either DNA or RNA) acquired their specific information-rich arrangements. In other words, Sutherland’s experiment helps explain the origin of the “letters” in the genetic text, but not their specific arrangement into functional “words” or “sentences.”

Even so, Sutherland’s work lacks pre-biotic plausibility and does so in three ways that actually underscore my argument.

First, Sutherland chose to begin his reaction with only the right-handed isomer of the 3-carbon sugars he needed to initiate his reaction sequence. Why? Because he knew that otherwise the likely result would have had little biologically-significance. Had Sutherland chosen to use a far more plausible racemic mixture of both right and left-handed sugar isomers, his reaction would have generated undesirable mixtures of stereoisomers—mixtures that would seriously complicate any subsequent biologically-relevant polymerization. Thus, he himself solved the so-called chirality problem in origin-of-life chemistry by intelligently selecting a single enantiomer, i.e., only the right-handed sugars that life itself requires. Yet there is no demonstrated source for such non-racemic mixture of sugars in any plausible pre-biotic environment.

Second, the reaction that Sutherland used to produce ribonucleotides involved numerous separate chemical steps. At each intermediate stage in his multi-step reaction sequence, Sutherland himself intervened to purify the chemical by-products of the previous step by removing undesirable side products. In so doing, he prevented—by his own will, intellect and experimental technique—the occurrence of interfering cross-reactions, the scourge of the pre-biotic chemist.

Third, in order to produce the desired chemical product—ribonucleotides—Sutherland followed a very precise “recipe” or procedure in which he carefully selected the reagents and choreographed the order in which they were introduced into the reaction series, just as he also selected which side products to be removed and when. Such recipes, and the actions of chemists who follow them, represent what the late Hungarian physical chemist Michael Polanyi called “profoundly informative intervention[s].” Information is being added to the chemical system as the result of the deliberative actions—the intelligent design—of the chemist himself.

In sum, not only did Sutherland’s experiment not address the more fundamental problem of getting the nucleotide bases to arrange themselves into functionally-specified sequences, the extent to which it did succeed in producing more life-friendly chemical constituents actually illustrates the indispensable role of intelligence in generating such chemistry.

The second experiment that Falk cites to refute my book illustrates this problem even more acutely. This experiment is reported in a scientific paper by Tracey Lincoln and Gerald Joyce ostensibly establishing the capacity of RNA to self-replicate, thereby rendering plausible one of the key steps in the RNA world hypothesis. Falk incorrectly intimates that I did not discuss this experiment in my book. In fact, I do on page 537.

In any case, it is Falk who draws exactly the wrong conclusion from this paper. The central problem facing origin-of-life researchers is neither the synthesis of pre-biotic building blocks (which Sutherland’s work addresses) or even the synthesis of a self-replicating RNA molecule (the plausibility of which Joyce and Tracey’s work seeks to establish, albeit unsuccessfully: see below). Instead, the fundamental problem is getting the chemical building blocks to arrange themselves into the large information-bearing molecules (whether DNA or RNA). As I show in Signature in the Cell, even the extremely limited capacity for RNA self-replication that has been demonstrated depends critically on the specificity of the arrangement of nucleotide bases—that is, upon pre-existing sequence-specific information.

The Lincoln and Joyce experiment that Falk describes approvingly does not solve this problem, at least not apart from the intelligence of Lincoln and Joyce. In the first place, the “self-replicating” RNA molecules that they construct are not capable of copying a template of genetic information from free-standing chemical subunits as the polymerase machinery does in actual cells. Instead, in Lincoln and Joyce’s experiment, a pre-synthesized specifically sequenced RNA molecule merely catalyzes the formation of a single chemical bond, thus fusing two other pre-synthesized partial RNA chains. In other words, their version of ‘self-replication’ amounts to nothing more than joining two sequence specific pre-made halves together. More significantly, Lincoln and Joyce themselves intelligently arranged the matching base sequences in these RNA chains. They did the work of replication. They generated the functionally-specific information that made even this limited form of replication possible.

The Lincoln and Joyce experiment actually confirms three related claims that I make in Signature in the Cell. First, it demonstrates that even the capacity for modest partial self-replication in RNA itself depends upon sequence specific (i.e., information-rich) base sequences in these molecules. Second, it shows that even the capacity for partial replication of genetic information in RNA molecules results from the activity of chemists, that is, from the intelligence of the “ribozyme engineers” who design and select the features of these (partial) RNA replicators. Third, pre-biotic simulation experiments themselves confirm what we know from ordinary experience, namely, that intelligent design is the only known means by which functionally specified information arises.

For nearly sixty years origin-of-life researchers have attempted to use pre-biotic simulation experiments to find a plausible pathway by which life might have arisen from simpler non-living chemicals, thereby providing support for chemical evolutionary theory. While these experiments have occasionally yielded interesting insights about the conditions under which certain reactions will or won’t produce the various small molecule constituents of larger bio-macromolecules, they have shed no light on how the information in these larger macromolecules (particularly in DNA and RNA) could have arisen. Nor should this be surprising in light of what we have long known about the chemical structure of DNA and RNA. As I show in Signature in the Cell, the chemical structures of DNA and RNA allow them to store information precisely because chemical affinities between their smaller molecular subunits do not determine the specific arrangements of the bases in the DNA and RNA molecules. Instead, the same type of chemical bond (an N-glycosidic bond) forms between the backbone and each one of the four bases, allowing any one of the bases to attach at any site along the backbone, in turn allowing an innumerable variety of different sequences. This chemical indeterminacy is precisely what permits DNA and RNA to function as information carriers. It also dooms attempts to account for the origin of the information—the precise sequencing of the bases—in these molecules as the result of deterministic chemical interactions.

Nevertheless, for Professor Falk, drawing any negative conclusions about the adequacy of purely undirected chemical processes—or worse—making an inference to intelligent design, is inherently premature. Indeed, for him such thinking constitutes giving up on science or making “an argument from ignorance.” But this betrays a misunderstanding of both science and the basis of the design argument that I am making. Scientific investigations not only tell us what nature does, they also frequently tell us what nature doesn’t do. The conservation laws in thermodynamics, for example, proscribe certain outcomes. The first law tells us that energy is never created or destroyed. The second tells us that the entropy of a closed system will never decrease over time. Moreover, because these laws are based upon our uniform and repeated experience, we have great confidence in them. That is why physicists don’t, for example, still consider research on perpetual motion machines to be worth investigating or funding.

In the same way, we now have a wealth of experience showing that what I call specified or functional information (especially if encoded in digital form) does not arise from purely physical or chemical antecedents. Indeed, the ribozyme engineering and pre-biotic simulation experiments that Professor Falk commends to my attention actually lend additional inductive support to this generalization. On the other hand, we do know of a cause—a type of cause—that has demonstrated the power to produce functionally-specified information. That cause is intelligence or conscious rational deliberation. As the pioneering information theorist Henry Quastler once observed, “the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” And, of course, he was right. Whenever we find information—whether embedded in a radio signal, carved in a stone monument, written in a book or etched on a magnetic disc—and we trace it back to its source, invariably we come to mind, not merely a material process. Thus, the discovery of functionally specified, digitally encoded information along the spine of DNA, provides compelling positive evidence of the activity of a prior designing intelligence. This conclusion is not based upon what we don’t know. It is based upon what we do know from our uniform experience about the cause and effect structure of the world—specifically, what we know about what does, and does not, have the power to produce large amounts of specified information.

That Professor Falk rejects this knowledge as knowledge, and the case for design based on it, reflects his own commitment to finding a solution to the origin of life problem within a strictly materialistic framework. Indeed, he and his colleagues at BioLogos have made clear that they accept the principle of methodological naturalism, the idea that scientists, to be scientists, must limit themselves to positing only materialistic explanations for all phenomena. Of course, it is their right to accept this intellectual limitation on theorizing if they wish. But it needs to be noted that the principle of methodological naturalism is an arbitrary philosophical assumption, not a principle that can be established or justified by scientific observation itself. Others of us, having long ago seen the pattern in pre-biotic simulation experiments, to say nothing of the clear testimony of thousands of years of human experience, have decided to move on. We see in the information-rich structure of life a clear indicator of intelligent activity and have begun to investigate living systems accordingly. If, by Professor Falk’s definition, that makes us philosophers rather than scientists, then so be it. But I suspect that the shoe is now, instead, firmly on the other foot.

Editor's Note: Darrel Falk will post his response to Dr. Meyer's entry tomorrow. For another discussion of Meyer's book, be sure to visit Jesus Creed. Today they are talking about the RNA world hypothesis.


Stephen C. Meyer is director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture and a founder both of the intelligent design movement and of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, intelligent design’s primary intellectual and scientific headquarters. He is author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperOne 2009).

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Jesse - #3563

January 29th 2010

Thanks for the thoughtful answer, Gregory!

This is interesting. I would say that certainly language required enough intelligence to understand it (to understand symbolism and such), but I agree that to say it was “created” or “designed” seems inaccurate—I don’t think an individual or group sat down and made up a language. (How could they? They couldn’t communicate.)

There probably were some intentional modifications. But after language got started, I can see it changing on its own without intention too: say person A comes up with a new word for something, you could call that a “mutation,” but then A has hardly any say in whether the word catches on in society. Other persons are able to intentionally choose whether to use the word or not (though I suspect much of it is unintentional), so the process might be a mix between “natural” and “artificial selection.” But looking at it as a whole, it looks rather unintentional.

I’m not sure how this all relates to the language of a cell. I suppose the “naturalistic” explanation of abiogenesis is that nucleic acids formed into a particular sequence that could make copies of itself. The order would have been determined by biochemistry. After that it gets more complicated.


Larry - #3565

January 29th 2010

if you could demonstrate a plausible materialistic pathway by which nucleotide bases (or amino acids in proteins) could be sequenced in a meaningful manner without the need for deliberative, conscious activity from the researcher.

Now show me an experiment that doesn’t involve “deliberative

, conscious activity” from a researcher. All experiments involve the intelligence of the researcher, that’s what an experiment _is_. If some one is claiming, as Meyer seems to above, that intelligent experimental design implies intelligent design in nature then you have an unfalsifiable hypothesis. This hypothesis might even be true, but it is not science.


hmm - #3566

January 29th 2010

If someone is claiming, as many have claimed, that intelligent experimental design implies no design at all in nature then you have also an unfalsifiable claim…


Gregory Arago - #3579

January 29th 2010

Who ‘owns’ the rules of science so that we can appeal to Him or to Her or to Them to decide the matter of what counts as ‘science’ and what doesn’t? The demarcation game is still played nowadays, especially by those who didn’t follow the so-called ‘science wars’ of the past two decades.

Some in the IDM have spoken of ‘changing the rules of science.’

One distinction that is on the (a) cutting edge in ‘science’ today is to speak of ‘reflexive science,’ in contrast to ‘positive science.’ Many natural-physical scientists don’t like this distinction.

From a PoS perspective, the term ‘post-positivism’ has been used. What does it mean?

Larry’s expression of “it is not science” sounds to me like a monolithic one - i.e. the outdated use of the phrase ‘the scientific method’ when the truth is that there are ‘multiple scientific methods.’

Isn’t this the point of invoking ‘intelligence’? I.e. to say that ‘intelligent design theory’ is a ‘science’ that studies the effects of ‘intelligence? Maybe one can’t ‘prove’ intelligence at all, but it still exists!


Gregory Arago - #3591

January 29th 2010

Jesse, Thanks for your words!

You wrote: “I don’t think an individual or group sat down and made up a language.”

It depends. E.g. J.R.R. Tolkien sat down and made up a language. Computer programming languages were ‘made-up’.

When we can check into intentionality, we can learn more @ the ‘making’ of a language than when no one is around to ask. ‘ID in biology’ cannot check.

You wrote: “after language got started, I can see it changing on its own without intention.”

I don’t understand. New words are ‘chosen/orignated’ by individuals or groups. The way they spread is a different issue. *Intention* simply must be there somewhere.

Merton has a good paper from 1936 on ‘unanticipated consequences’ worth reading.

Dawkins’ term ‘meme’ is a classic mistake. One has to ‘create’ or ‘make’ a meme first before it can spread.

At issue here is not replication, but origin. How does one get information/language without mind?

‘BioLogos’ implies Mind!


Larry - #3596

January 29th 2010

Larry’s expression of “it is not science” sounds to me like a monolithic one - i.e. the outdated use of the phrase ‘the scientific method’ when the truth is that there are ‘multiple scientific methods.’

True, there are, and always have been many “scientific methods”, but they do have some things in common. One of these is that for a statement to be considered “scientific” it must be, at least in principle, falsifiable. Now, there may be many practical obstacles to demonstrating the falsity of a statement, look at a lot of modern physics for examples of this. But Meyer seems to me to be putting forth a thesis that is not falsifiable even in principle, since he is asking for an experiment with no intelligence involved in its design and execution.

And while its true that nobody “owns” the rules of science, it does not follow from this that science is whatever the speaker at the moment wishes it to be. Unless you want to go down the Humpty-Dumpty trail of semantics, where words lose all meaning.


Peter Kubicki - #3604

January 29th 2010

To Larry #3492:

If the necessity of using intelligence in science makes ID unfalsifiable, then it also makes a non-intelligent process unconfirmable.  If I have to select between two competing ideas, one that cannot be demonstrated to be wrong and the other that cannot be demonstrated to be right, I am choosing the former.  I choose to accept ID because there is evidence to support it, and I choose to reject non-intelligent causation for the origin of life because there cannot be evidence to support it.


Jesse - #3607

January 29th 2010

Gregory,

Yes, I know some people do make up languages. I meant, I don’t think someone(s) made up the first language. One might even say that people like Tolkien who make their own are actually just changing existing languages, since I don’t think he came up with rules of grammar and such on his own. I may be wrong, and I don’t know whether it’s true for computer languages or not.

Still, while this is an interesting discussion, I’m not sure it’s adequately analogous to the origin of life.


Jesse - #3608

January 29th 2010

Regarding the original topic, it might be fair to say that, while intelligent design may be a good explanation for the origin of life, it may not be the ONLY good explanation. It would be unwise to just give up on investigating alternatives, especially since the knowledge could have implications for current science (what we might expect from life on other planets, for example).

I’m prepared to let Meyer say that an intelligent designer could have created life, and I would even agree with him to that extent, but if he wants to say that scientists should accept that without further study, I’ll take issue with that.

I also think that people of faith should consider the implications in case science DOES produce a good proposal for abiogenesis. I would be unwise to trust too much in ID.

So, sure. Meyer may be right, but what if he’s wrong?


Gregory Arago - #3609

January 29th 2010

Well said, Peter (#3604)

For those who would challenge ‘intelligent design theories’ with the question of ‘falsifiability,’ there is the alternate challenge of ‘verifiability’ or ‘confirmability’ to deal with.

Should I assume, however, that the “evidence to support it” that you speak of, Peter, is not ‘scientific’ in the way that Dr. Falk or Larry *interprets* the meaning of ‘scientific’, but rather a different *kind* of evidence that leads us to recognize ‘mind’?

The simple question: how do you get information without mind/Mind? is a powerful one indeed! John Lennox is an Oxford mathematician, lecturer on ‘science and religion’ dialogue who makes the same claim.

As a non-biologist, it seems to me that when biologists are coming into contact with engineers and mathematicians, the problem of ‘information’ becomes more acute. But then, when natural-physical scientists come into contact with sociologists of science, there is perhaps even more unfamiliarity and skepticism.


Gordon J. Glover - #3617

January 29th 2010

Meyer said, “...we do know of a cause—a type of cause—that has demonstrated the power to produce functionally-specified information. That cause is intelligence or conscious rational deliberation.”

Not so fast.  Just because a conscious being can sequence nucleotides in his/her mind does not mean that he/she has the power to sequence them materially.  I can envision a DNA sequence that produces a specific chain of amino acids, but I have no means to actually assemble it. 

The Greek philosophers recognized the difference between a formal cause and an efficient cause.  A sculptor can stare at a piece of marble and envision a statue (formal cause), but it will never happen without the material the means to execute his vision (efficient cause).

(cont….)


Gordon J. Glover - #3618

January 29th 2010

(...cont)

The problem when talking about the origin of life is this: we can’t appeal to the actions of material beings to explain the DNA enigma.  So any talk about “concious rational deliberation” must invoke immaterial beings (or spirit).  However, this still begs the question of efficient causes.  How does an immaterial being mediate his/her actions through the physical world?  And unless Meyer is up to the task to solving the mind-body problem, ID is not causally adequate to explain the origin of life.

Just as panspermia simply transfers the origin-of-life-problem to an extra-terrestrial locale, Meyers central thesis transfers the problem from “the DNA” enigma to the “mind-body problem”.  And given the inherent difficulties of solving the mind-body problem, I’ll keep my money on the DNA enigma.  At lest there we can use the tools of science to answer the question—even if those done’t seem forthcoming as of yet.


Atom - #3619

January 29th 2010

Bravo to Biologos for letting Dr. Meyer respond to Dr. Falk on their own site. You guys didn’t have to do this and it speaks very highly of you. It gives me a much greater respect for your voice in this debate.


Gregory Arago - #3631

January 29th 2010

Hi Larry,

Points well made and challenging!

You wrote:
“while its true that nobody “owns” the rules of science, it does not follow from this that science is whatever the speaker at the moment wishes it to be. Unless you want to go down the Humpty-Dumpty trail of semantics, where words lose all meaning.”

Let us not fall off the wall so that our pieces cannot be put back together again! : )

I am seeking synthesis & integration of views & not further specialization & fragmentation.

Science is not whatever the speaker wishes it to be, we are agreed. But let me ask then if you consider anthropology or cultural studies or psychology or linguistics as ‘scientific’?

I lived with a Dr. of Science in Literature for several months. In America this title doesn’t exist. But who says the anglo-American model is best on division of labour in the Academy?

Scholar, scientist, researcher, professor; these terms overlap in many cases.

If you’d allow for ‘rigorous scholarly investigation’ to mean ‘scientific,’ a new world of interpretation would open itself.

Can BioLogos be studied ‘scientifically’?!


Gregory Arago - #3642

January 30th 2010

Jesse wrote: “I’m not sure how this all relates to the language of a cell.”

Well questioned! But then what does ‘biologos’ mean? Why did F. Collins call DNA ‘the language of God’? I cannot answer this question as a biologist, nor can @ 98% of the American population.

Does biology hold as much power as some of its proponents assume?

Language is studied at many levels. Jesse raises the issue of ‘naturalism’ and wonders if such an ideology can explain ‘origin of language.’ I contend it cannot. And ‘resort’ to supernaturalism is unnecessary.

Jesse: “I don’t think someone(s) made up the first language.”

Then how did it ‘arise’ or ‘emerge’. Do you say there was no ‘intention’ or no ‘mind’ behind ‘the first language’?!

“while intelligent design may be a good explanation for the origin of life, it may not be the ONLY good explanation.” - Jesse

What other explanation than mind or intelligence is available? Materialism, naturalism, etc.?

Meyer is *not* a science stopper, but a science promoter!


Gregory Arago - #3643

January 30th 2010

“Whence did the wond-rous mystic art arise,
Of painting SPEECH, and speaking to the eyes,
That we by tracing magic lines are taught,
How to embody and to colour THOUGHT?”
- Alexander Pope (via Marshall McLuhan)


Jesse - #3646

January 30th 2010

Gregory,

““Do you say there was no ‘intention’ or no ‘mind’ behind ‘the first language’?!”“

I don’t say that. But the intention was probably at the level of “I will assign this sound to this object/concept,” like, “I will call this ‘rock’” (or more likely: *points* “rock”) rather than “I am going to make a system of sounds assigned to objects/concepts with rules of grammar to facilitate communication.” The language and grammar probably developed over time with many people contributing, sometimes without even consciously contributing.

I may be wrong, but I cannot imagine how anyone would come up with rules of grammar without already knowing a language that contained them. In my experience, many people have enough trouble understanding grammar even when they know how to use it when speaking. To come up with rules of different types of word and how they fit together before words were around is incredible. So I don’t think that it was intentional.


Jesse - #3647

January 30th 2010

Continued from 3646:

““What other explanation than mind or intelligence is available [for the origin of life]? Materialism, naturalism, etc.?”“

That a particular sequence of some type of molecule came together that could copy itself. This is a mindless, unintelligent process, isn’t it? And the details have not been worked out of how it could work, but the concept is believable.

““Meyer is *not* a science stopper, but a science promoter!”“

I won’t disagree, but I would like some details. What science does he promote, and how?


Mark Lewis - #3662

January 30th 2010

As an uneducated layman, I conclude from Signature in the Cell that Dr. Meyer is merely saying that Intelligent Design is the best explanation for the origin of specfied information.  If a better and provable explanation is discovered, I expect Dr. Meyer would revise his position. 

I am most grateful for Dr. Meyer’s book.

Mark


Gregory Arago - #3664

January 30th 2010

I wrote: “Do you say there was no ‘intention’ or no ‘mind’ behind ‘the first language’?!”“

Jesse responded: “I don’t say that.”

And then later wrote: “To come up with rules of different types of word and how they fit together before words were around is incredible. So I don’t think that it was intentional.”

Now it is a contradiction; i.e. ‘not intentional.’

Intention and mind: required for ‘language’ or not?

What is the ‘BioLogos’ position on this?

It is *not* a natural scientific question, in terms of the *origins* of human languages.

In terms of ‘origin(s) of life,’ however, about which Stephen Meyer is a greater expert than anyone else here, I welcome his views.

Who will show if/that ‘specified information’ is possible without mind?

Is BioLogos possible without Mind?


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