Origins Debate: A Biochemical Sketch


I heard a bit of your talk with the Discovery Institute rep last Thursday. I'm a fan of your show and listen because you give opposing views a hearing and are generally polite.

What bugs me Thom, as an educated person who is scientifically literate with background in journalism and a liberal perspective, is hearing the origins debate repeatedly described as "Science versus Religion" or "The Bible versus Science," etc. ad nauseum.

Yes, there are some lamentably untaught believers who say excruciatingly dumb things about science. And sadly, many in the biological sciences cartel use equally unenlightening terminology.

But let's talk about the issue the way it should be addressed: a question of which proposed hypothesis explains a set of phenomena, field data, and observed processes most comprehensively. That's what science is about. For example, physicists debated among themselves for a couple of decades about the origin of the universe as a whole. Observable data (red shift/Dopler effect, etc.) finally compelled a recognition of a point-in-time origin for said universe (there are some holdouts with "multiverse" and other dreams).

One does get the impression that there is less than a spirit of open enquiry and dialogue within the life sciences. Disagree and criticize, yes--but honestly, Thom, the labeling of any non-Darwininian model as non-scientific reeks with stonewalling and exclusion. Why not let all hypotheses be evaluated on their merits? Who says science must a priori exclude any interface with an intelligence-based origin model (all right, call it "God"). The idea that science must exclude God is an arbitrary and inexcusably biased notion which is not connectable with anything actual observable within science itself. It's just a prejudice.

I like to point out that there are basic phenomena within the biochemical basis of biology for which there is no chemical determinant. For example, the arrangement of the amino acids A, C, T, and G on the "rungs" of the DNA double helix determine the genotype and phenotype of the organism--but are not themselves chemically determined. These and other anomalies at the foundational level of biochemistry caused Dr. Dean Kenyon, emeritus of San Francisco State University, a co-author of a seminal text in evolutionary biochemistry, to question and eventually abandon his evolutionary presuppositions. An input of intelligence is the only hypothesis that will work in these and other phenomena. Why not open that to debate? A Darwinian explanation is not more scientific here; there isn't one.

Being liberal is about taking all points of view offered by qualified proponents (in this case PhDs in the sciences) seriously and not labeling one approach non-scientific because it interfaces with the God issue.

I do appreciate your having occasional conversations with the Discovery Institute people. But your chosen presuppositions make you a hard sell for those of us who like liberal to mean liberal.

May I suggest that you try to get Discovery Institute associates who are practicing scientists to speak on your show-- Stephen Meyer, David Berlinsky, Jonathan Wells, to name three who are published (see Amazon). The DI attorney you spoke with was OK, and did raise the intermediate types issue, for which your response was quite weak, frankly. But please, Thom, get some heavy hitters there, and take a truly liberal approach. Science is not all on one side of the debate.

Thanks, ART

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