Stephen C. Meyer Author, Philosopher, and Director of the Center for Science and Culture

What Accounts for Information in DNA? Watch Part 3 of Stephen Meyer’s Series on the John Ankerberg Show

The DNA Enigma — where did the information in DNA come from? — is the supreme puzzle for Darwinian evolution. With the question affecting the origin of life, the chance hypothesis is completely out of the question, and pre-biotic natural selection begs the question. Watch as Stephen Meyer explains the inference to the best explanation for information in DNA, the origin of life, and our world: intelligent design.

Now that it’s out in paperback, Stephen Meyer’s book is getting more attention and a wider audience. Today Professor Anthony J. Sadar has a thoughtful review of Signature in the Cell in the Washington Times, where he writes:

In “The Blind Watchmaker,” atheist Richard Dawkins proclaimed, “Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.” Now, with the paperback release of Stephen C. Meyer’s “Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design,” theists can rejoin with, “Meyer made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled theist.” Indeed, in his book, Mr. Meyer begins the chorus by stating that “as a Christian theist, I find this implication of intelligent design ‘intellectually satisfying.’ “

But, to suppose that “Signature in the Cell” is a book that argues for intelligent design (ID) from a religious or even metaphysical perspective is to suppose badly. For this book makes a strong case for ID as a rigorous scientific argument for the origin of life – at least as rigorous and scientific as any purely materialistic explanation such as neo-Darwinism.

Here’s someone who gets the methodological equivalence of Darwinian evolution and intelligent design, and no wonder, for Prof. Sadar sees good pedagogy in teaching both sides:

On a practical note, this fall at Geneva College, I will be teaching a course on “ID and Evolution,” using the most accessible information available that makes the case for both ID and evolution. For course “textbooks,” I have selected “Signature in the Cell” for the ID perspective and Richard Dawkins’ latest book, “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution,” to defend the evolution position. I expect the course will achieve what most if not all college courses hope to achieve: an opportunity for students to gain perspective on an important topic and use critical thinking skills to judiciously evaluate contemporary ideas.

Kudos to Prof. Sadar for exposing his college students to the full debate and letting them “gain perspective” and “use critical thinking skills.” Prof. Sadar’s class should be interesting; his review certainly is, and you can read the whole thing here.

Over the course of a year, Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell has made a powerful impact for intelligent design, reaching a wide audience with its cutting-edge science.

From making’s best-seller list for science books in 2009 to being named one of Times Literary Supplement‘s Top Books of the Year, Signature in the Cell is a work that fittingly earned its author WORLD Magazine‘s “Daniel of the Year.” Watch the video below for more.

Dr. Stephen Meyer was recently on the radio show Evidence 4 Faith discussing his book, Signature in the Cell. Listen here.

Click here to listen.

This episode of ID the Future features an excerpt from an interview on the Albert Mohler program featuring CSC Director Stephen Meyer, author of the recent book, Signature in the Cell. Was there intelligent design in the recent experiments on artificial life? Listen in as Meyer discusses the science behind the latest headlines.

Ever since Thomas Nagel selected Signature in the Cell as one of 2009’s best books, the Times Literary Supplement has had a vigorous back and forth in its letters sections. The last salvo published was by Loughborough University chemistry professor Stephen Fletcher. The response below was submitted by Stephen Meyer to TLS, but they opted not to publish it. 

To the Editor

The Times Literary Supplement

Sir—I see that the Professor Stephen Fletcher has written yet another letter (TLS Letters, 3 February, 2010) attempting to refute the thesis of my book Signature in the Cell. This time he cites two recent experiments in an attempt to show the plausibility of the RNA world hypothesis as an explanation for the origin of the first life. He claims these experiments have rendered the case I make for the theory of intelligent design obsolete. If anything, they have done just the reverse.  

To support his claim that scientific developments have “overtaken Meyer’s book,” Fletcher cites, first, a scientific study by chemists Matthew Powner, Béatrice Gerland and John Sutherland of the University of Manchester (Nature, Vol. 459, pp. 239—42). This study does partially address one, though only one, of the many outstanding difficulties associated with the RNA world scenario, the most popular current theory of the undirected chemical evolution of life. Starting with several simple chemical compounds, Powner and colleagues successfully synthesized a pyrimidine ribonucleotide, one of the building blocks of the RNA molecule.  

Nevertheless, this work does nothing to address the much more acute problem of explaining how the nucleotide bases in DNA or RNA acquired their specific information-rich arrangements, which is the central topic of my book. In effect, the Powner study helps explain the origin of the “letters” in the genetic text, but not their specific arrangement into functional “words” or “sentences.” 
Moreover, Powner and colleagues only partially addressed the problem of generating the constituent building blocks of RNA under plausible pre-biotic conditions. The problem, ironically, is their own skillful intervention. To ensure a biologically-relevant outcome, they had to intervene—repeatedly and intelligently—in their experiment: first, by selecting only the right-handed isomers of sugar that life requires; second, by purifying their reaction products at each step to prevent interfering cross-reactions; and third, by following a very precise procedure in which they carefully selected the reagents and choreographed the order in which they were introduced into the reaction series.  
Thus, not only does this study not address the problem of getting nucleotide bases to arrange themselves into functionally-specified sequences, but the extent to which it does succeed in producing biologically-relevant chemical constituents of RNA actually illustrates the indispensable role of intelligence in generating such chemistry. 

The second study that Fletcher cites illustrates this problem even more acutely. 

This work, conducted by Tracey Lincoln and Gerald Joyce (Science, Vol. 323, pp.1, 229—32), ostensibly establishes the capacity of RNA to self-replicate, thereby rendering plausible one of the key steps in the RNA world scenario. Nevertheless, the “self-replicating” RNA molecules that Lincoln and Joyce construct are not capable of copying a template of genetic information from free standing nucleotides as the protein (polymerase) machinery does in actual cells. Instead, in Lincoln and Joyce’s experiment, a pre-synthesized specifically sequenced RNA molecule merely catalyzes the formation of a single chemical bond, thus fusing two other pre-synthesized partial RNA chains. Their version of ‘self-replication’ amounts to nothing more than joining two sequence specific pre-made halves together.  

More significantly, Lincoln and Joyce themselves intelligently arranged the base sequences in these RNA chains. They generated the functionally-specific information that made even this limited form of replication possible. Thus, as I argue in Signature in the Cell, Lincoln and Joyce’s experiment not only demonstrates that even limited capacity for RNA self-replication depends upon information-rich RNA molecules, it also lends additional support to the hypothesis that intelligent design is the only known means by which functional information arises.

Author, Signature in the Cell
Senior Research Fellow, Discovery Institute
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A. 

Premier Radio UK aired a debate recorded earlier this week between Signature in the Cell author Stephen Meyer and noted Oxford University chemist and “new atheist” Peter Atkins. The debate is part of the kick off of promotion for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, which arrives in the UK on DVD this month. 

Both Atkins and Meyer are accomplished scholars with very different viewpoints. The at times testy back and forth between them is as entertaining as it is enlightening. 

Click here to listen to the debate, which is about an hour long.

Those who follow the debate over evolution will remember 2009 as the year Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell convincingly made a new scientific case for intelligent design. In fact, according to Doug Groothuis, “Its publication may prove to be a decisive moment for the Intelligent Design movement.

One could not ask for more in a philosophy of science treatise than what we find in The Signature in the Cell. The book is no less than magisterial, an adjective that curmudgeons such as myself seldom use. At every level—philosophical, scientific, historical and literary—it is a superb treatise.

Reading every word of its 508 pages of text (not counting end notes)—as I did—repays the reader greatly. Meyer thoroughly examines a most significant topic—how life came about—and does so in an engaging, warm, and philosophically rigorous fashion. (Few books ever do such a thing.) In fact, I have never read a book that goes so deep while remaining so welcoming to the reader. It does so by using a minimal narrative structure—there is no obtrusive autobiography here—to guide us through the issues and arguments pertaining to the nature and origin life at the genetic level. The reader is lead step-by-step into the question of the origin of biological information, and so receives a hearty education in the history of science in general and the scientific question to understand life itself. (emphasis added)

Of course, it’s difficult to be objective when it seems everyone has a stake in the debate over the origin of life itself. As another reviewer observes:

Certainly in our own day such inquiries are made with apostolic fervor, both by those who adhere to science and by those who follow faith — and by that segment of every population, quieter than the first two and by far more numerous, who believe it’s possible to live in both mindsets simultaneously. These are the great and rancorous ‘God Debates’ of our beleaguered modern moment, with battle-ready contestants on both sides, writers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Behe, and Kenneth Miller squaring off on TV screen and town hall stage to wrestle with eschatological questions as old as Abraham. The fool sayeth in his heart ‘there is no God’ — the wise man, apparently, sayeth it on Larry King Live.

Into this supercharged atmosphere Cambridge-educated chemist and scientific historian Stephen Meyer puts forth his own case in his new book Signature in the Cell. In its calmly-reasoned 400 pages (with an extra 100 tightly-packed endnotes), Meyer constructs the strongest argument yet made for the theory of Intelligent Design, and he does it without once advocating any living God.

This reviewer, Ignazio de Vega of Open Letters Monthly, notes how Meyer takes on arch-atheist Richard Dawkins (“his serial dismantling of Dawkins throughout the book is conducted with a very satisfying mandarin delicacy”) and concludes by noting that “The author is concerned only with scientific fact — and the limits of some of those facts.”

Read the rest of this substantive review here.

The parallels between the CRU email scandal (aka “Climategate”) and the abuse of science perpetrated by those who want to keep Darwin-skeptics out of their universities, journals, and way, are clear to those closely involved in the debate over evolution. Today Stephen Meyer explains in an article at Human Events how familiar it is to have “scientists from various academic institutions hard at work suppressing dissent from other scientists who have doubts on global warming, massaging research data to fit preconceived ideas, and seeking to manipulate the gold standard ‘peer review’ process to keep skeptical views from being heard.”

Does this sound familiar at all? To me, as a prominent skeptic of modern Darwinian theory, it sure does. For years, Darwin-doubting scientists have complained of precisely such abuses, committed by Darwin zealots in academia. 

There have been parallels cases where e-mail traffic was released showing Darwinian scientists displaying the same contempt for fair play and academic openness as we see now in the climate emails. One instance involved a distinguished astrophysicist at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez, who broke ranks with colleagues in his department over the issue of intelligent design in cosmology. Released under the Iowa Open Records Act, e-mails from his fellow scientists at ISU showed how his department conspired against him, denying Dr. Gonzales tenure as retribution for his views.

To me, the most poignant correspondence emerging from CRU e-mails involves discussion about punishing a particular editor at a peer-reviewed journal who was defying the orthodox establishment by publishing skeptical research.

Continue reading here.

Recently Dr. Meyer was on The Dennis Miller Show, where he talked about Signature in the Cell, Francis Crick’s sequence hypothesis, and more.  Click here to listen.

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