April 10, 2009

Hitchens v. Strobel, Craig, et al.

Posted in Answering Apologists, Atheism, Debates, Interviews, Science tagged , , , , , , , at 3:19 pm by Andrew

Courtesy of the Christian Booksellers’ Association, and it’s a fair summary of the common apologetic arguments and the way in which they fall on atheistic ears.

I continue to be stumped — even angry — when the supposed “leading lights” of the Christian apologetics movements (Strobel, Craig) can repeat obvious scientific falsehoods with a straight face. Make whatever argument you want, but when you stand in front of several hundred people and affirm that “information in DNA requires an intelligent source,” you are spouting nonsense at best and outright lies at worst. I’m shocked more Christians don’t disavow these sorts of tactics.

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9 Comments »

  1. Nathaniel said,

    Andrew,

    What, exactly, is your objection to this claim? Is it that you do not think that there is information encoded in DNA? Or is it that you think the word “requires” is an overstatement? Or have you solved the OOL problem? And if so, how?

  2. Andrew said,

    Nathaniel,

    The bit about “solving” the origin of life problem doesn’t follow; no reputable scientist believes that the problem is “solved.”

    The claim that “information in DNA requires an intelligent source” is, from a scientific perspective, absolute gibberish. Note that Strobel (with Craig nodding happily on the end of the panel) doesn’t even define what he means by “information” — had he done so, it would have been stunningly obvious that information arises via naturalistic (even random) processes all the time.

    Nathaniel, I would challenge you to do two things: (1) define “information” and (2) produce a single reputable biologist who assents to the claim that “information requires an intelligent source.” That’s it. Find me one guy — a person who’s an actual scientist in the field, doing actual research and publishing in actual peer-reviewed journals, and then we have a legitimate topic of discussion. But without that, we’re basically talking about Time Cube-level crackpottery.

  3. Christianjr4 said,

    It’s one thing to say information can be acquired through natural selection, it is entirely another thing to say that all of the information got started by natural selection. Since the origin of life hasn’t been at all solved, I think Craig’s use of DNA information is legitimate since he is evidently referring to it in general. The only thing I would disagree with Craig is his mention of “require”. It doesn’t have to be the case that DNA information requires a designer, but that is probably just a word slip by Craig (or Strobel since he made the point??). It’s a plausibility argument, as always.

  4. Christianjr4 said,

    I also forgot to add that this is a metaphysical issue at hands, and you cannot claim that scientists know metaphysically that DNA information wasn’t designed (even parts of it). Scientists, even if they do make such claims, are not qualified to make such bold philosophical claims. I do not know of any scientist who say scientifically that DNA information does not require a designer.

  5. Andrew said,

    Christian: not so. Go back to the panel. The statement, made first by Strobel and echoed approvingly by Craig, is as follows — beginning at 6:12 on the video:

    [I]nside every cell in every living thing [are] volumes of biological information that is in the form of DNA, which spells out the precise assembly instructions by which the protein is made.

    Now it’s interesting that nature can produce patterns, and even complexity, but whenever we see information, whether it’s in a software code, whether it’s in a painting on a cave wall, whether it’s in a book, universally we know that there’s an intelligence behind it.

    That claim is absolute, 100% gibberish. It is not true, and Strobel either knows it and is lying (which would be my guess, based on his prior behavior) or is too stupid to understand what he’s saying. Either way he needs to stop, and Christians who care about the truth should pull him and Craig aside and tell them they’re not helping.

    Let me be clear. The argument you seem to be making — and, I think, the one Nathaniel is making above — is along the lines of “scientists can’t explain how DNA evolved and/or how life began, so maybe God did it.” I don’t have any objection to that argument! (I don’t agree with you, obviously, but I can’t prove that you’re wrong, and I don’t think it’s dishonest to say.)

    But that’s not what Strobel and Craig say. Instead, they parrot back nonsense generated by the Discovery Institute and their creationist forebears. Honest Christians should be just as angry as I am about this kind of deception.

    cheers,
    -Andrew

  6. danielg said,

    I think that, no matter how poorly Craig and Strobel are putting it, they are communicating a real truth.

    Information theory and probability indicate that the creation of information from data does not happen with random arrangement of buildling blocks.

    When you have what IDers called ‘specified complexity,’ that defies all known mechanisms, and the supposed known mechanisms are statistically far below zero, you intuit an intelligent source of such information.

    And while this is a sort of God in the gaps argument, it also begs the question. How WOULD you determine if an organism was artificially created by intelligence? When do you say “this is too complex to have happened by natural processes?” This is what IDers are attempting to define and argue.

    I mean, the improbability of the DNA information being created and evolving into modern life forms was so real to Francis Crick, that he postulated ‘Evolution from Space.’ Modern scientists ignore the gross improbability of their theory (not to mention the lack of empirical evidence), and convince themselves that such intelligent and compelling fairy tales as The Selfish Gene or Wolfram’s theories provide the answer. But science does not.

    Additionally, when we talk about the creation of novel functional proteins and novel DNA information being created, we are NOT talking about such common events as
    – exchange or recombination of existing information
    – modification of existing information and functionality
    – since all know modifications are merely the interruption or hampering of existing functions (which can also bring to light other existing functionality to take up the slack), such ‘beneficial mutations’ can not be considered new information.

    Craig et al. might be guilty of a half god in the gaps argument, but they are not incorrect in claiming that the high level of extraordinarily complex information in DNA is extraordinarily improbable and points to an intelligent source, just like our other experiences of information in real life. Despite such refutations as The Blind Watchmaker, I think these arguments still hold weight.

  7. danielg said,

    And again, we are not talking about being SURE, we are talking probabilities. But I know you guys have much to say about probability which I am coming up to speed on.

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  9. zooboomoofoo said,

    Andrew, I know it’s several years later, but I’d be really interested to know your take on the comment left April 30, 2009 at 2:16pm. You have made some excellent points but then you just stopped responding. Is there an argument against the final comment left??


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