Thomas Nagel Likes Stephen Meyer's Book

Nice.  Prominent philosopher Thomas Nagel--no friend to Christianity--names Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design as one of his books of the year:

Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.

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Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Intelligent Design

1. Design Detection
If nature, or some aspect of it, is intelligently designed, how could we tell?

Design inferences in the past were largely informal and intuitive. Usually people knew it when they saw it. Intelligent design, by introducing specified complexity, makes the detection of design rigorous. Something is complex if it is hard to reproduce by chance and specified if it matches an independently given pattern (an example is the faces on Mt. Rushmore). Specified complexity gives a precise criterion for reliably inferring intelligence.

2. Looking for Design in Biology
Should biologists be encouraged to look for signs of intelligence in biological systems? Why or why not?

Scientists today look for signs of intelligence coming in many places, including from distant space (consider SETI, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence). Yet, many biologists regard it as illegitimate to look for signs of intelligence in biological systems. Why arbitrarily exclude design inferences from biology if we accept them for other scientific disciplines? It is an open question whether the apparent design in nature is real.
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An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design

One of the most stereotypes of intelligent design (ID) is that it is an evangelical Christian movement intent upon forcing religion into the classroom. The release of Seeking God in Science: An Atheist Defends Intelligent Design (Bradley Monton, Broadview Press, 2009) officially puts this claim to rest. Defenders of ID do include evangelical Christians, but also Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, and now even atheists! University of Colorado philosophy professor Bradley Monton is ultimately not persuaded by the arguments of ID (which is why he’s an atheist), but he says that they do have some force, and they make him less certain of his atheism.

For those of you who have followed the ID movement, this should come as quite the surprise. Yes, an atheist actually defends the integrity and merits of ID! Monton argues that criticisms of ID—whether from atheists or theistic evolutionists—are largely unfounded, misplaced, and erroneous.

Evil and Intelligent Design

Since the release of Understanding Intelligent Design last summer, I have had the chance to speak to thousands of Christians and non-Christians about the case for design in nature. Probably no challenge is raised more frequently than the seemingly “evil designs” in nature, such as the AIDS virus or the Great White Shark. How could a good God create such efficient killing machines? The apparent cruelty of nature was actually one of Darwin’s chief contentions with creation. He couldn’t see how the cruelty of nature could have been created by God.

For the sake of argument, let’s grant that AIDS and sharks were designed as killing machines. This raises an obvious question: How does such an admission count against intelligent design? After all, a torture chamber is clearly designed, even though it is used for an evil purpose. Evil designs are still designs.
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Surprising Evidence for Intelligent Design

One of the most surprising gifts I received this Christmas season was a copy of the December 2008 issue of Discover magazine. How could the gift of a magazine come as such a surprise? The title of one of the main articles should sum it up: “A Universe Built for Us” (pp. 52-58). Discover is one of the most widely read popular-level science magazines. And like the vast majority of science journals and magazines, it is decidedly naturalistic. Nevertheless, the article went on to describe how our cosmos “seems inexplicably well designed for life” (52).

The reason Tim Fogler, the author of the article, concluded the universe appears designed is because of how exquisitely the laws of physics are fine-tuned for the emergence and sustenance of life. Fogler says the properties of the universe “are uncannily suited for life.  Tweak the laws of physics in just about any way and—in this universe, anyway—life as we know it would not exist” (52).
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