Monday, April 20, 2009

Smart men talking about materialism and intelligent design

Last night Isaac and I attended a presentation by these three gentlemen:

  • biochemist Dr. Michael Behe (author of Darwin's Black Box, PhD from U of Pennsylvania)
  • philosopher of science Dr. Stephen Meyer (PhD from Cambridge and founder of the Discovery Institute)
  • philosopher, mathematician, and molecular biologist Dr. David Berlinsky (PhD from Princeton, an agnostic Jew)

They represented the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and their argument, which they each approached in slightly different ways, was against materialism as a scientific philosophy. They argued that the most recent science in cosmology, biochemistry, and the fossil record point most clearly towards a universe with a beginning and an intelligent design.

They were careful to state very clearly that they weren't saying anything about creationism and that this had nothing to do with religion, they were simply making a scientific argument against materialism. They discussed how the cultural presupposition in the intelligentsia of the West is that there is no God, and therefore most scientists are unwilling to look honestly at the possibility of intelligent design because it has theistic implications.

I wasn't thrilled about going to this event because the the debate between creation and evolution is a tired one that has split friends and angered people in my past. I went anyways and was shocked to find that the auditorium was FULL 20 minutes before the event started. The over-flow room was full. The lobby was full. The parking lot was full. We ended up in the top balcony, sitting on the floor in the aisle. I estimate over $3,000 people were there.

I loved that faith was not the focus or reason for this event. Stephen Meyer made the comment at one point that they were looking into science and seeing clearly the evidence of design. They weren't making any comments about the who, what, when, where, or why, but they clearly see evidence for design. Because intelligent design as a theory is so closely associated with Christianity, I really appreciated David Berlinsky's presence as an agnostic. He is a hilariously curmudgeonly fellow, blunt and unapologetic about his views. He admonished the audience that he is a scientist, and he is taught to follow scientific evidence wherever it takes him, even if that is against the scientific establishment. He totally slammed "people at cocktail parties in New York who don't even realize that their ideas and opinions are puerile and cracker-thin." Yow!

There is a lot more to say about this Discovery Institute Event but it just would make too long of a post to say it all at once. Tomorrow I'll sum up my notes about their main arguments and then I'll talk about what makes me uncomfortable about these kinds of events.

Overall, though, it was a pleasure to sit under men who lectured with such intelligence. Wow.


Kaycee said...

That sounds fascinating, I can't wait to read your notes. This is something I've been doing a little bit of research on, but still haven't quite decided where I stand.

My brother is a well studied geologist and atheist and loves to debate this topic. What amazes me is that regardless of which side of the argument you are on it all comes down to faith.

Kacie said...

I agree with that, Kaycee. I think that we can investigate all we want, but in the end science only takes us back so far. At a certain point we are doing guess work, and positing different theories to try to explain things. At that point, everything is faith.