Stephen Meyer: Did God Need Darwin?

By Tom Gilson Published on July 21, 2018

The age of the earth may be the most heated origins-related debate dividing Christians, but it’s not the only one. There’s also dispute over “theistic evolution,” the idea that life developed pretty much as evolutionary theory supposes, except God was involved in it somehow. Some prefer to call it “evolutionary creationism.”

But whatever name you give it, there are problems with theistic evolution. Explore them in depth in a new (1,000-page!) volume called Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique. I’m well into it, and I’m enjoying the read.

Help us champion truth, freedom, limited government and human dignity. Support The Stream »

In case that seems a bit long to you, this video gives you a shorter version covering many of the scientific problems with theistic evolution. Stephen C. Meyer holds a Ph.D. in the philosophy of science from the University of Cambridge. He has published two major scientific critiques of Darwinian evolution. Maddeningly, bookstores like to shelve these books in the religion section, but they are science, through and through. So is this lecture.

See the conference YouTube channel for more.

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  • John Doane

    Stephen Meyer’s recent talk at Biola University was quite good. In particular, he showed how scientists holding to evolution are admitting among themselves that they have no workable mechanism for evolution. This is at the same time that many Christians are tripping over themselves somehow to get on the evolution bandwagon.
    In an answer to a question after his talk, Meyer said that he is trying to show how impossible evolution is, no matter how long it could have taken. The problem is that if you allow millions and billions of years of earth history, you have evolution going on in the background. That is, if the fossils were laid down over millions of years, you are accepting the basic narrative of the evolutionists. You are also denying a global Flood (which would have wiped out any previous fossils), and you accept that death came before the Fall. So Biblical authority is still undermined, and evolution will come back to haunt you. Think of those in the Old Testament who pursued the enemy even after they fled in initial defeat: Joshua, the Judges, and David, who wrote (Psalm 18:37) “I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed.”

    • Jim

      Stephen Meyer has been debunked over and over. Purely a charlatan from the creationist side.

      • David Hess

        Stephen Meyer has dialogued and/or debated some of the leading evolutionary thinkers in the world. You obviously don’t know what you are talking about. Meyer is brilliant, and has never not more than held his own.

        • Jim

          Meyer is a hack. Why do intelligent design “scientists” never get their research in peer reviewed journals? Hint-it’s not scientific in the least. Keep trying

          • Still looking for that example where Meyer got debunked. In order to count, it has to be valid, not just someone’s opinion, but one that represents Meyer accurately and debunks him on valid grounds.

            I’m well aware of multiple attempts to prove him wrong in his main theses, I know of none that have been successful.

          • swordfish

            Stephen Meyer isn’t even an evolutionary biologist. His arguments are published in books, not peer-reviewed papers. Does that not give you a clue?

          • Argument from authority; not a successful debunking. Show me an actual problem with an actual argument.

          • swordfish

            It’s not an argument from authority to cite the fact that Meyer isn’t qualified in the highly specialised and technical fields he writes about, and hasn’t published any research in those fields.

            If you want a debunking, you could do worse than search for:

            ​”Stephen Meyer’s Fumbling Bumbling Amateur Cambrian Follies”

            Which is an article written by an actual paleontologist.

          • Apparently you don’t know what an argument from authority is.

            Can you think of any reason, other than technical competence, explaining why he hasn’t been published? Hint: The last editor who did publish a peer reviewed paper of his got fired or it. Think about it.

            As for Prothero, see Meyer’s response (search Meyer responds to Prothero), in which he shows that Prothero’s review is mostly based on things he complains Meyer didn’t address, where in fact Meyer had whole chapters on those topics.

            Have you read Meyer’s books.

            Have you?

            As Isaid elsewhere on this thread, I have solid, research based reasons to make an educated guess here: You haven’t. You’re lambasting that which you do not know.

          • swordfish

            “Apparently you don’t know what an argument from authority is.”

            An argument from authority isn’t a fallacy if the authority cited is an actual authority in the subject under discussion. Pointing out that Meyer isn’t qualified to critique the subjects of his books, but his critics are, is a valid AfA.

            “The last editor who did publish a peer reviewed paper of his got fired or it. Think about it.”

            Conspiracy theory.

            “As for Prothero, see Meyer’s response (search Meyer responds to Prothero), in which he shows that Prothero’s review is mostly based on things he complains Meyer didn’t address, where in fact Meyer had whole chapters on those topics.”

            Did you read Protheros article? It lists dozens of problems with Meyer’s book, Meyer’s videos (Why respond in video format?) only address a few points, and didn’t seem to me to properly address those points. It’s worth pointing out that ultimately, there isn’t any research or evidence which successfully supports ID.

            “You’re lambasting that which you do not know.”

            With respect, are you an expert in molecular biology and paleontology? If not, how do you expect to be able to work out whether Meyer’s books are deceiving you?

      • pngmac

        When, where, and how has Stephen Meyer been debunked? (I will leave the creationist comment alone for now.)

        • Jim

          You obviously have internet access…..,

          • pngmac

            I do have internet access, but I did not claim that Meyer has been debunked. Point me to one or two of the arguments that you think best debunk Meyer.

          • swordfish

            Try searching for “Stephen Meyer’s fumbling bumbling cambrian follies.”

  • tz1

    If God didn’t create Darwin, he would have evolved.

    Also see Evolution 2.0 by Perry Marshal – Since the Stream won’t let me link, which I forgot, I won’t try to recreate the detail that was auto-banned, but what the public thinks about Darwinianism is countered in 2nd year college biology, but most don’t get far enough to get the details. This book points out the myths on both sides. You can get the Kindle textbook “sample” and it basicaly lays out the problem

  • Boris

    “Maddeningly, bookstores like to shelve these books in the religion section, but they are science, through and through.” Even more maddeningly for the creationists is the fact that every Christian college and university that teaches life sciences teaches evolution and has for over a century – since before the Scope trial. Intelligent Design Magic is not science, it’s religion, through and through. Where are all the new advances in biology, medicine, immunology, farm management, pest management, fishery management and so on that a new theory hoping to replace evolution should be supplying right now? Scientific theories prove themselves to be true by being useful, by producing tangible results. The Intelligent Design Magic hoaxers at the Discovery Institute can’t even tell us what their “science” could ever be used for. That is unless your aim is to confuse an already scientifically ignorant American public. If it’s science let’s see some results. Not only is IDM not science, it isn’t even a subject. The Discovery Institute (which has never discovered anything other than how to quote-mine legitimate scientists) can’t even get their “science” accepted by the Christian academic community. That should let everybody know right there what complete nonsense Intelligent Design Magic really is. Creationism in a lab coat.

    • Gerrard

      Might want to check out Dr James Tour on utube before you close your mind completely.

      • GLT

        Boris’ mind was padlocked a long time ago.

        • Boris

          Says the person who must keep his thoughts in captivity. Your lack of self awareness is astounding, even for a Bible thumper.

          • GLT

            How do you figure I must keep my thoughts in captivity? I used to hold to the idea of evolution from common descent. My thought processes were free enough to allow me to change my mind. Not so you, Boris.

          • Boris

            No. When you started believing you stopped thinking. Thinkers don’t believe and believers don’t think. You’re a great example of a non-thinker. Really really great.

          • “Thinkers don’t believe and believers don’t think,” you say. For how much of history would you say that’s been true? How long now?

          • Boris

            When people began making things up and other people started to believe these things or misinterpret them. That’s how long. That would be when our ancestors noticed the cereal and grain cycles and developed agriculture. 7000 to 10,000 years ago.

          • So that would probably mean no real scientist could be a believer, right? No original-thinking, rocket scientist, no pioneering geneticist, no cosmologist, no theoretical physicist?

          • Boris

            That would depend on the individual and what they believe exactly and also what “believer” means to you. There are Christian evolutionary biologists but we don’t know of any who believe in a literal Adam and Eve as human evolution is the best documented science we have. There are Christian cosmologists but I don’t know of any who think the universe is only a few thousand years old or that Earth was created in a week. There are Christian theoretical physicists but they all recognize that the Laws of Physics are human descriptions of human observations and do not emanate from any Lawgiver. The question is whether you classify these people as true believers.

          • GLT

            “human evolution is the best documented science we have.”

            The situation is really that bad?

          • GLT

            “Thinkers don’t believe and believers don’t think.”

            So tell us, Boris, do you believe you’re a thinker?

          • Boris

            I know it.

          • GLT

            “I know it.”

            If you know it, you must also believe it or are you going to argue you know it but do not believe it? Judging by your past lack of logic, that event would not surprise me at all.

      • Boris

        Let me know when this Bible thumper gets a Nobel Prize for science. Until then what he says means nothing.

        • GLT

          That results in what 99.9 of scientists say meaning nothing as well. Brilliant position to take, Boris but not unusual for you.

          • Boris

            What scientists actually do is what matters, not what they say. Evolution deniers don’t DO anything, They are all talk. Like you.

          • GLT

            “Evolution deniers don’t DO anything,…”

            Do you know every person who denies evolution? Obviously not. Therefore and as usual, your comment is worse than meaningless.

            You’re just up to your typical nonsense, Boris, spouting ridiculous, unfounded and mindless rhetoric.

            By the way, Dr. Raymond Damadian is an evolution denier and while he was standing around nothing he developed the MRI.

          • Boris

            Damadian did nothing to make a case against evolution. He stole an idea from two other guys and claimed it for his own. A typical move for someone who believes in Jesus Christ and denies evolution. A typical Christian creationist.

          • GLT

            “He stole an idea from two other guys and claimed it for his own.”

            I am going to suggest you do something which is totally foreign to you, Boris, check the history. You will find Damadian did no such thing. You will find he did all the foundational work for the MRI and you will also find people who argued for his inclusion in the Nobel Prize.

          • Boris, you’re doing nothing to make a case for evolution. You’re parroting lines from all across the atheist Internet. Try looking in a mirror, please, when you accuse others this way.

          • swordfish

            Do you know every scientist working in the field of evolution? Have you read every paper in the field of evolution? If not, your comment is worse than meaningless (according to your ‘argument’)

            PS: What happened to you last time? Every time I answered your questions with facts, you ran away.

          • GLT

            “Do you know every scientist working in the field of evolution? Have you read every paper in the field of evolution?”

            I never made the claim that evolutionists do not do anything. Therein lies the difference and therein lies the fact that makes your comment meaningless.

            “Do you know every scientist working in the field of evolution? Have you read every paper in the field of evolution?”

            That’s very funny, you never answered a question, let alone provided a factual answer.

          • Jim

            99.9% of scientists have nothing of meaning to say? Wow….so typical.

        • No Nobel for Tour. Too bad. Just this (quoting Wikipedia):

          Tour was inducted into the National Academy of Inventors in 2015.[41] He was named among “The 50 most Influential Scientists in the World Today” by TheBestSchools(dot)org in 2014.[42] Tour was named “Scientist of the Year” by R&D Magazine in 2013.[43] Tour won the ACS Nano Lectureship Award from the American Chemical Society in 2012. Tour was ranked one of the top 10 chemists in the world over the past decade by Thomson Reuters in 2009. That year, he was also made a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Other notable awards won by Tour include the 2008 Feynman Prize in Nanotechnology, the NASA Space Act Award in 2008 for his development of carbon nanotube reinforced elastomers, the Arthur C. Cope Scholar Award from the American Chemical Society (ACS) for his achievements in organic chemistry in 2007, the Small Times magazine’s Innovator of the Year Award in 2006, the Southern Chemist of the Year Award from ACS in 2005, the Honda Innovation Award for Nanocars in 2005, the NSF Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1990, and the Office of Naval Research Young Investigator Award in 1989. In 2005, Tour’s journal article “Directional Control in Thermally Driven Single-Molecule Nanocars” was ranked the Most Accessed Journal Article by the American Chemical Society.[44] Tour has twice won the George R. Brown Award for Superior Teaching at Rice University in 2007 and 2012.

          I guess he doesn’t know anything.

          • Boris

            By his own admission he doesn’t understand evolution. And he doesn’t want to. “What a comfort it must be to be pleasantly settled in one camp or the other, but I can not be so settled, and hence I have few tent-fellows. Based upon my faith in the Scriptures, I do believe (yes, faith and belief go beyond scientific evidence for this scientist) that God created the heavens and the earth and all that dwell therein, including a man named Adam and a woman named Eve.” Tour is just another liar for Jesus who admits any evidence that the “scriptures” are false will be patently rejected by Tour. A scientist who believes the magic tree – talking serpent – rib woman’s story. There’s no excuse for that kind of willful ignorance.

    • David Hess

      obviously you know NOTHING about Intelligent Design. but keep propagating the fake news!

      • Jim

        Intelligent design is nonsensical at best. It’s not even considered real science.

      • Boris

        If I did not give a perfect description of what Intelligent Design Magic really is you surely would have corrected me. Instead you resort the the same tactics used by the totalitarian dictators you hold in such high regard. Fake news. Yep that could describe Intelligent Design Magic as well because it’s nothing new. Everyone of the ID Magic promoters believes in a literal Adam and Eve and has signed a statement of faith to that effect. Intelligent Design Magic is creationism disguised to try to fool more sophisticated people into believing in God. It’s a trick from the House of Tricks, the Christian religion.

        • Boris, name-calling such as you constantly practice here is not argument. I invite you to consider for yourself what it is instead, and where it’s most usually practiced. Then I call on you to take a close look at yourself.

          Just to be clear, this comment isn’t about science, ID, origins, or anything of the sort. This comment is about how you present yourself here, and the fact that it isn’t argument, it’s something else instead.

          A person’s behavior reveals something about that person’s character. That’s true even for online behavior: It doesn’t reveal everything, but it reveals something, something every reader here can see. Do you see it in yourself? Do you like yourself that way?

          • Boris

            Yeah I come across a little harsh in online discussions. About ten years ago I was trying to get something published and got myself invited to be a guest for an hour on a couple Christian radio broadcasts. One of the contributors here, Michael Brown had me as a guest for an hour and after the show he thanked me for being so congenial and a good guest. But the next day he blasted me on the air and on his blog for not being the belligerent, argumentative person I come across as on these discussion boards. I’m quite charming in person. I’m just a forceful writer.

          • Forceful? You call playground antics “force”? Sorry. That’s not how they come across to people who know what name-calling really is.

          • Boris

            Stupid people don’t know they’re stupid. Someone has to tell them. It’s a dirty job but somebody’s got to do it.

    • Trilemma

      Antony Flew was a staunch atheist until he looked at the science and became a deist because that’s where the science led. How closely have you actually looked at the science in which you have so much blind faith?

      • Boris

        I wish I had a dollar for every time some believer told me about Anthony Flew’s inability to understand scientific explanations for things. Who cares? I don’t know what happened to your other post so I will answer it here.
        “You asked me to prove abiogenesis is impossible by natural processes. I expect you to participate in the my proof. If you like your ignorance, you can keep your ignorance.”
        Yes and you’re not talking about natural processes because you don’t know anything about them. So you want to play a shell game with numbers as if that had some relevance to the subject. It does not. The use of statistics to prop up weak and spurious arguments is a very old trick. 90 percent of the people who use statistics to bolster an argument are lying 50 percent of the time. Or something like that. It doesn’t matter, I am not impressed because anyone can see you haven’t got a clue what you are talking about. Part of your job. Yeah at Wendy’s. At the moment, since we have no idea how probable life is, it’s impossible to assign any meaningful probabilities to any of the steps to life. The feasibility of life appearing naturally depends on chemistry and biochemistry that we are still studying. It doesn’t depend on odds making. You’re not a scientist and you’re not an origins of life researcher. What you’re doing is nothing more than engaging in the ancient custom of creating a mystery to explain a mystery. Your argument is the perfect example of an argument from ignorance. You can’t figure out how something happened so it couldn’t have. It’s hard to believe such primitive minds can still exist in the modern age.

        • Trilemma

          What makes you think Antony Flew was unable to understand scientific explanations? Why should I think you are able to understand scientific explanations?

          ” The use of statistics to prop up weak and spurious arguments is a very old trick. 90 percent of the people who use statistics to bolster an argument are lying 50 percent of the time.”
          Too funny.

          Yes, probabilities can be calculated for simplified aspects abiogenesis in order to gain an idea of the probabilities of the more complex aspects. How does science explain the polymerization of amino acids into proteins that only have left handed amino acids from a racemic solution? How does science explain how the first cell had both the necessary proteins and the DNA that codes for them? What are the chances of a strand of DNA coding for all the proteins necessary to replicate the DNA?

          • swordfish

            The first living thing would most likely have been a relatively simple self-replicating peptide molecule, not a complete cell with DNA and so on. In the light of that, your questions are irrelevant.

          • Trilemma

            I am not aware of any peptides that can self-replicate from monomers.

          • swordfish

            Given the absence of context, could you explain why you think this is relevant?

          • Trilemma

            Apparently, natural abiogenesis needs a molecule that can self-replicate from monomers to have existed prior to the first cell. I am not aware of the existence of any such molecule or of any evidence one ever did exist.

          • swordfish

            Such molecules have been produced under laboratory conditions, but you wouldn’t expect to find them in nature as they might have only existed for a short time four billion years ago. I don’t think you can draw any conclusions about abiogenesis from such a state of affairs.

          • Trilemma

            Every time I search the internet for a molecule that can self-replicate from monomers that has been produced under laboratory conditions, I don’t find any.

          • swordfish

            Links aren’t allowed here but you could search for: “Self-Sustained Replication of an RNA Enzyme”, or: “A Self-Replicating Peptide”.

          • Boris

            Flew has admitted himself that he has not stayed up to date with developments in the field of abiogenesis or chemical evolution, which emphasizes that using him as an example of a proponent of design is an Appeal to Authority fallacy: he is not an expert authority. He was a philosopher, not a scientist. It is for the same reason that non-scientists are impressed by Michael Behe’s thoroughly debunked argument of “irreducible complexity” and the bacterial flagellum, while people who understand the science are not impressed. -Quora

          • Trilemma

            I’m not using Antony Flew as an authority. I’m using him as an example of an atheist who looked at the science and changed his mind. People other than scientists can understand science. What makes you think Antony Flew was unable to understand scientific explanations?

          • Boris

            Flew admitted he didn’t understand them. He wasn’t a scientist. He was a philosopher. I have the same amount of respect for them as I do anybody else who sits on their butts all day doing absolutely nothing.

          • Trilemma

            Are scientists the only people who can understand scientific explanations?

          • Boris

            That depends on the explanation and the person.

          • Trilemma

            If people other than scientists can understand scientific explanations then Antony Flew can.

          • Boris

            He admitted he didn’t keep up with the latest science. He never did. He wasn’t interested. Like you. Just like you.

          • Trilemma

            What scientific discovery did he fail to consider?

      • Boris

        “How closely have you actually looked at the science in which you have so much blind faith?”
        The religious fanatic finally admitted that he hates science as all religious nut cases do. This guy is a complete scientific ignoramus and naturally he is under the delusion that he knows a lot of things scientists just can’t seem to figure out. This is the arrogance of creationism. The notion that a layperson with no college experience whatsoever can dismiss the findings of an entire branch of science with a couple of simplistic and entirely brain-dead arguments. Trilemma is a disciple of Ken Ham and all of his arguments can be found in the official creationist Ken Ham playbook. I understand from another blogger he’s also a flat earther and works at Wendy’s. ROFL!

        • Trilemma

          How closely have you actually looked at the science in which you have so much faith? Does a molecule exist that can self-replicate from monomers?

          • Boris

            What is necessary for moving a system from monomers to self-replicating polymers is template-assisted ligation.

          • Trilemma

            Has template-assisted ligation actually produced a self-replicating polymer?

          • Boris

            No more of that Dude. Time’s up. Trying to point out inconsistencies in origins of life research by using fuzzy math proves nothing. This is a typical creationist ploy, pretending to shoot holes in a target you can’t even see as if that’s going to validate your religious superstitions. “Oh the numbers prove evolution didn’t happen.” Sorry, the fossils do. It’s now time for your counter explanation – time for you to show creationism is right by overwhelming evidence. No more standing on the sidelines whining about this. Step up to the plate and make your case for creationism. If you have the nerve.

          • Trilemma

            The fossils prove neither creationism nor evolution. I asked a simple yes/no question. Has template-assisted ligation actually produced a self-replicating polymer?

          • Boris

            Fossils prove evolution. You are a real loser. I answered enough of your questions. Defend your idiotic superstitions or shove them up your….

          • Trilemma

            Fossils can be used as evidence of evolution, but there’s not enough of them to prove evolution.

          • Boris

            Do you know what the Dunning – Kruger Effect is? It explains that a lot of intellectually inferior people with no formal education often think they know more about many subjects than the experts and the people who work in these fields every day. This explains you perfectly. FYI I reject any and all claims made about science coming from non-scientists just like I reject all claims about the supernatural coming from human beings. Fortunately I know enough about science to tell that you don’t know squat about science. Thanks for the laughs.

          • Dunning-Kruger. Yes, indeed. A reference coming from a man who thinks fossils prove evolution.

            Look, everyone believes in evolution in the sense of change over time. What we contest is the power of random variation plus natural selection to produce today’s flora and fauna. Fossils so far have completely failed to show the expected pattern for Darwinism, neo-Darwinism or the modern evolutionary synthesis. The theories’ predictions go unmet. That, my friend, is the very definition of not-a-scientific-proof.

          • Boris

            How come we don’t see any Christian colleges or universities making the claims that evolution is a flawed theory? Why does the Christian academic community reject Intelligent Design Magic as science? None of what you just said is true. The only question is whether you are lying or if you’re really that ignorant of and uninformed about this subject. My guess is both.

          • swordfish

            Are you really a flat Earther?

          • Trilemma

            No. Boris makes up stuff when he doesn’t want to answer a question.

  • swordfish

    Rather than complaining that bookstores place Meyer’s books in the “religion” section instead of the “science” section, you should be thankful they aren’t put in the far more appropriate “fiction” section.

    • Have you read them?

      Have you?

      Really?

      Then why are you pontificating?

      I have an educated, research-based guess as to your answer, by the way. Do a google search for “Gilson Signature Cell quantitative view reviewers” and click on my “Signature in the Cell: A View of Its Reviewers.” Tell me which group you recognize yourself in there.

      • swordfish

        I have read some books which question various aspects of evolution, such as Davies’s The Fifth Miracle, but I don’t read books by ID/creationists like Meyer. This is what reviews are for – experts, like the paleontologist I mentioned elsewhere, can give non-experts like myself an informed opinion as to the scientific merit of a book.

        • The new you admit you don’t know what you’re talking about. Thanks.

          • swordfish

            And you admit to believing the content of books about molecular biology and paleontology written by a science historian who is also a proponent of ID/creationism. Why don’t you accept the opinion of genuine experts on a subject you know nothing about?

            Would you accept the opinion of Meyer on car mechanics over that of a qualified car mechanic?

          • Meyer explains his reasoning. If he knew car mechanics as well as he knows what he’s talking about in this book, I’d accept his word. Not that he’d likely be much in disagreement with a mechanic, because there are no long-standing metaphysical, religious and ethical entailments bound up in car engines — things you carefully avoid recognizing have an impact on this debate.

      • Boris

        Diagnosis: One of the staunchest, most influential, most dishonest anti-science advocates in the world. Crackpot and complete hack. – Encyclopedia of American Loons. I forgot to check to see if you’re in there Tom. You’re as loony as they get.

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