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Signature in the Cell: A Letter to Our Readers

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December 29, 2009 Tags: Design
Signature in the Cell: A Letter to Our Readers

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

Hi Everyone:

The comments are flowing quite freely and in many ways that is healthy. However, I think it is important that we not let this evolve into personal attacks, or even judgments. As a scientist, my read of Signature in the Cell is that it has declared the science of early life to be bankrupt. The book is clearly and articulately written. My colleague Gordon Glover is correct--this is a thoroughly engaging book. With the possible exception of Michael Behe’s two books (which are also engagingly incorrect) never have the arguments been laid out more succinctly. Dr. Meyer says with near certainty that the science has now reached a dead end and since there is nothing else left, he says, the only other possibility is that there is a mind behind the code of life.

So there is one simple question to be addressed. Is the science at a dead end? Has Dr. Meyer demonstrated this or not?

Dr. Meyer has chosen to take this question to a general audience, but it is purely a scientific question. I have asked Dr. Meyer to respond to my review with an answer we could post on our site. We’ll see if he does. I also have a response from the Nobel laureate, Jack Szostak, which I will post soon. I expect responses from other scientists as well.

A couple of commenters have read Dr. Szostak’s article. That is a wonderful start. They have declared, however, that Dr. Szostak’s work is not testable and thereby is not scientific. It is important to emphasize that an article in Scientific American is not where the science is done; this is where the science is summarized. To know whether it is science, one needs to go back to the original articles themselves. Let me assure you, please trust me, the science is still proceeding and some of the best minds on the planet are working on this problem. It is a fascinating scientific problem; they are thoroughly engaged.

Some commenters have become personal. Nothing is to be gained by this. I have said it before and I will say it again, my experience is that these people are sincere. They make mistakes like we all do. However, I find I love these people, even though I have deep concerns about the quality of their science. Please try your best not to question their integrity. If you were to sit down with each of them over coffee, you would find they are not out to deceive.

All of that, however, is beside the point. We can just focus on the science. Dr. Meyer makes a simple proposition. Is he right or is he wrong? It is my opinion that he has been so engagingly clear, everyone with a four year degree in biology should be able to see that there is no dead end. Those of you who don’t have such a degree may have to trust the rest of us; the science is not dead.

We who believe in a Mind that is above all and through all still have very good reasons to believe. We need not base our belief on what happens in culture dishes and test tubes. I have written in other places why I choose to believe. My reasons are very strong and yours can be too. We can still kneel in reverence and awe as we read John 1 and as reflect on the majesty of the Creator. We can wait with “baited breath” as truly great scientists like Jack Szostak, Jerry Joyce and Mike Lynch work through the details of how the creation command came to be realized. But in the famous words of one of my great boyhood heroes, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The last twenty years of biology have been characterized by the filling in of one gap in our knowledge after another. Meyer has focused on the biggest gap of all and declared that no one will fill this one in! In the words of that same boyhood hero “this feels like déjà vu all over again.” Trust me. It ain’t over.


Darrel Falk is former president of BioLogos and currently serves as BioLogos' Senior Advisor for Dialog. He is Professor of Biology, Emeritus at Point Loma Nazarene University and serves as Senior Fellow at The Colossian Forum. Falk is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.

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Mike Gene - #1404

December 30th 2009

Hi Steve,

Those are good points.  It would indeed seem to be the case that acceptance of those three points would constitute a prerequisite for common ground.  I accept those three points and more.  I also don’t think ID is science and I think mutations and NS can behave as a designer-mimic.  But I’m really just a nobody.  More significant would be a player like Behe.  He accepts a-c. Has anyone in the TE/EC community ever reached out to him?

John Kwok - #1405

December 30th 2009

Mike Gene -

If Behe was serious about “dialogue”, then he would discuss disagreements with his leading critics like Ken Miller and Jerry Coyne in a reasonable, rational manner. He hasn’t yet and he isn’t interested.  Instead, he attacks his critics like Ken as frequently as possible. To be perfectly honest, it would be an ample waste of time trying to seek some “dialogue” with him.

Jordan - #1406

December 30th 2009

Darn, the comment monster ate my perfect, 2200 character comment

@John Kwok:

You’ve used “mendacious” 11 times and “intellectual pornography” 10 times in the last two posts, it would be helpful if you found some synonyms or something. When you repeat the same thing over and over it loses its meaning and you start losing readers. Similar with “Dishonesty Institute”, we got it the first time. You seem like a smart guy, I’m sure you can find some other ways to make your point.

Regarding removing the “kid glove” treatment of Intelligent Design theory/leaders, I think it depends on what your purpose is. If your purpose is to destroy ID leaders and the public face of it, then sure, the “kid glove” treatment is not as effective. However, if you’re concerned, as I am, about the millions of Christians out there who follow and subscribe to Intelligent Design then I think it’s entirely appropriate for us to be careful and sensitive when dealing with ID and it’s leaders.


steve martin - #1409

December 30th 2009

Hi John (1395):

My concern with much of the IDM (NOT necessarily all ID advocates or even all ID claims) is that (I believe) it is counterproductive to orthodox Christianity and maybe even the gospel (so I share some of Darrel’s concerns).  So to me this is also a spiritual matter and thus at least as important as one country’s intellectual, cultural and educational life.  However, I can (and hopefully always do) refrain from personal attacks when dialoguing with those that disagree with me.  So it certainly is possible – I’m puzzled why you say it can’t be done. 

Again, the discussion on honesty and scientific integrity has its place.  But if we constantly trot out the same mantras (as I’ve seen in this forum the last couple days) without engaging in the science (as Darrel, Gorden etc. want to do), THAT too is completely unproductive. 
And on seeking the “common ground”, I understand this isn’t important to you because you are not part of the set of “orthodox Christians”.  But most ID advocates, and even most YECers, are people I count as brothers and sisters in Christ.  So I already have lots of common ground – I just want to extend it.

Jordan - #1410

December 30th 2009

Consider that ID has another “wedge” to it. It seems to me that it has been very successful in opening Christian minds to the possibilities beyond young-earth creationism. Most Christians I know are YECs but they support ID heartily, despite the knowledge that most ID leaders are not YECs. While the press and atheists will take this to mean that ID is really YEC in disguise, I see ID as maybe rather a wedge between Christians and YEC thinking.

Therefore, BioLogos may see ID as a significant stepping stone for YECs. Importantly, bridging that last step involved finding common ground, and carefully illustrating the differences between ID and BioLogos/TE/EC in such a way the people can step naturally from the former to the later. Darrel has done a pretty good job of avoiding the negativity and sticking to giving people information and illustrating the content of the BioLogos position. Thanks Darrel.

What I most commonly see, sadly, is people digging their intellectual trenches a little deeper with each blog post or comment. This lets them hurl vacuous word bombs over the fence at the other guys but does virtually nothing to resolve the issues that many people do actually care about.

steve martin - #1411

December 30th 2009

Have you listened to the audio of the Haarsma / Gordon (was supposed to be Meyer himself) session at the ASA?  Also, check out Haarsma’s paper on the Four myths of TE and ID.  I think that is a good start.

John Kwok - #1412

December 30th 2009


Were I to find some suitable synonyms as you suggest, I think it would lessen the impact as to what I am trying to say. We need to recognize that the Discovery Institute (BTW I’m not the first to refer to them as Dishonesty Institute) is an organization replete with “professional scientists” whose number one skill isn’t science, but instead, in practicing deceit merely so that they can do it on behalf of their twisted, tormented and bizarre notion of Jesus Christ. They are a gang of liars and thieves. They are disseminating each and every second, their pornography known as Intelligent Design creationism. Since they are liars and engage in promoting intellectual pornography, then they should be referred to as mendacious intellectual pornographers.

John Kwok - #1413

December 30th 2009

The Discovery Institute isn’t interested in engaging with its critics, but instead in “destroying” them. Fine, so be it. Let’s just not turn the other cheek - as Christ might admonish us to do - but instead, recognize that they are a malignant tumor on American intellectual, political and educaitonal life and need to be dealt with accordingly. They want to subvert,  and render as incomprehensible, the very nature, the very essence, as to what science is, which they have stated as their primary goal even before their infamous “Wedge Document” was exposed by others online nearly a decade ago. Deal with them, and if necessary, destroy them. Just don’t seek dialogue with them.

John Kwok - #1414

December 30th 2009

Steve Martin -

With respect to the Discovery Institute, we are dealing with a body of individuals who for whom the words honestty and scientific integrity are mere words to be said, not words to be taken seriously. They consistently criticize, lie, bear false witness and steal in defense of their beliefs - which include a grossly distorted version of who Christ was - so it is utterly pointless to seek dialogue with them. They’ve had ample opportunities for “dialogue” by playing legitimately in the scientific arena, but each and every time they’ve chosen instead to smear their critics and to cry “Foul”, claiming that “evil Liberal Atheistic Darwinists” like myself (thought that is ironic, since I am a Deist and a Conservative Republican) are out to get them. They’re doing it now in their absurd Amazon.com favorable review campaign on behalf of Meyer’s book and in a brand new legal defense of a screening that was cancelled by the California Science Center.

Dr B - #1417

December 30th 2009

John Kwok,

While your passion is understandable, I think your approach is what everyone in the debate has been doing for decades.  The way Darrell and others are suggesting hasn’t really been tried in earnest, because there has been so much distrust between the sides.  The accusations you bring against DI (lies, no integrity, all self-serving to advance a theological position, etc.) are exactly what they’ve been saying about mainstream science for years.  Of course they are misguided, but is it possible that your perspective of them is also incomplete?  What is needed, at least among Christians, is a new way, or at least a fuller, more vigorous effort at mutual understanding than has been tried.  I would also add that the more direct and personal and private the communications, the better.  Public debate in the media, literature, or blogs pushes the participants to stake out more firm and sometimes inflexible positions, whereas the give and take in private personal dialogue can bear more fruit, because there’s greater freedom to admit doubt.  Perhaps I’m naive, but hopeful.  Facts are stubborn things.

John Kwok - #1418

December 30th 2009

Dr. B -

I wish I could share your potential optimism, but it is quite misplaced. For the very beginning the DI has never expressed any genuine interest in “dialogue”, except where it advanced its own interests. I think a far more productive approach is to continue emphasizing how much the DI fails to live up to the teachings of Jesus Christ by its ongoing activities replete in their mendacity and other forms of duplicity. Instead, you should remind fellow Christians who remain skeptical of evolution why their skepticism is misplaced, and maybe there, perhaps, there might be some room for genuine “dialogue” with other creationists (I am well aware that former Evangelical Protestant Christian, now eminent biologist, E. O. Wilson, is currently working assidulously towards such a dialogue, especially with regards to conservation biology.); unlike some Atheists, I don’t believe it is meaningless to have such a dialogue, but, again, only with those who seem genuinely interested in one.

Gregory Arago - #1484

December 31st 2009

I would ask to Darrel Falk, how does one ‘let something evolve’, e.g. into ‘personal attacks’, without their own conscious choice, agency, plan, decision to press ‘submit’, etc.?

In other words, Dr. Falk’s use of the grammar ‘evolve’ here is misplaced, it is suspect. Choices simply *don’t* ‘evolve’ into reality. The term ‘evolution’ makes no sense here at all. Falk is over-extending the meaning of the term ‘evolution’ into a domain in which he cannot speak with authority. He is over-evolving ‘evolution’.

Evolution is a particular kind or type of change. Not all change is an example of ‘evolution’. Can this be acknowledged openly at Biologos?

Surely Darrel Falk agrees with Meyer that there is/was a “mind/Mind behind the code”!

The ‘science’ is not at a ‘dead end’ and I doubt that Meyer thinks that ‘science has stopped.’ What is evident is a false accusation of Meyer rather than a willingness to engage his arguments.

p.s. John Kwok is revealing his full-of-insults, anti-DI/ID extremism and ‘orthodox’ does not equal ‘evangelical’

Pete Enns - #1486

December 31st 2009


I am fairly certain Dr. Falk was using “evolve” metaphorically. I think he understands that personal attacks do not evolve—or am I missing your point entirely?

Gregory Arago - #1494

December 31st 2009

Hi Dr. Pete Enns,

If Dr. Falk was using the term ‘evolution’ in a way ‘unrealistically’ then why not just resist the temptation, and not use it? There is too much ideological baggage involved with ‘evolution’ to needlessly confuse the issue by using the term ‘evolve’ wrt non-biological or non-physical things.

Again, I have now raised the issue of whether ‘evolution’ speaks of ‘real’ things or not. As a scientist I am interested in what is real, not in what is metaphorical.

The communicative use of ‘evolution’ where it is not warranted is indeed a serious problem in some academic arenas.

Warm regards,

John Kwok - #1518

December 31st 2009

@ Gregory Arago -

I have been the victim of the DI’s “hospitality”, and so have others, starting with Ken Miller, for example. But I am much more concerned with the potential danger to America’s economic, cultural and educational future posed by the Discovery Institute and its fanatical advocacy of Intelligent Design creationism, than being a target again of the Discovery Insittute’s “kindness”. Read Paul Gross and Barbara Forrest’s “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design” and if you are truly objective, then you will realize that they are absolutely right to expose the crypto-Fascist agenda espoused by the Discovery Institute and its staff for our country’s future.

Gregory Arago - #1534

January 1st 2010

Let me add, Dr. Pete Enns, that Dr. Karl Giberson (along with many others, e.g. T. Kuhn) agrees with my assessment in his public expressions. The communicative use of ‘evolution’ where it is not warranted, e.g. Darrel Falk’s (metaphorical) use of it here, and with which you already agreed, is a real problem.

“we just needed another word [than evolution]” - Karl Giberson (about the meaning of Biologos)

All that is required of Dr. Falk is to back away from ‘universal evolutionism,’ which shouldn’t be that hard to do. His use of the term ‘evolve’ here is simply wrong.

Why did he write: “I think it is important that we not let this evolve into personal attacks”?

Or does he really think that a human person can consciously, with agency, plan, choose, decide, to direct something to ‘change randomly’ (gambling aside)? The intentional human choice itself betrays ‘natural selection.’ Let’s speak of ‘human selection’ (and ‘character’) instead of ‘nature’!

Gregory Arago - #1535

January 1st 2010

“personal attacks do not evolve” - Pete Enns

Yes, this is exactly the point.

Gregory Arago - #1536

January 1st 2010

“We just wanted a word that wasn’t ‘evolution’ because [the word] ’evolution’ has come to carry a lot of negative baggage for Christians.” - Karl Giberson (in dialogue with Robert Wright)

Shouldn’t Darrel Falk also circumscribe his use of the term ‘evolution’?

John Kwok - #1537

January 1st 2010

Gregory Arago -

Apparently you, like some of your fellow ID advocates, refuse to recognize that the Discovery Institute acts consistently in a manner that would be denounced by none other than Jesus Christ were he alive today (To those who reject my invocation of Christ since I’m not a Christian, I say, “Too bad”. I was once a Christian and still respect many devout Christians who are friends and family. And I will be among the first that Christ’s New Testament teachings are sound words of advice that so-called “Christians” like Stephen Meyer, William Dembski and Michael Behe, among others, seem incapable of understanding and putting into practice in their daily lives. Moreover, I have known - or still know - many non-Christians who live lives more consistent with Christ’s teachings than those from the Discovery Institute or Answers in Genesis, for example.).

Respectfully yours,

John Kwok

John Kwok - #1538

January 1st 2010

Just an editorial revision to the above -

And I will be among the first to recognize that Christ’s New Testament teachings are sound words of advice that so-called “Christians” like Stephen Meyer, William Dembski and Michael Behe, among others, seem incapable of understanding and putting into practice in their daily lives.

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