The Norman Transcript

September 29, 2009

Author posits intelligence as a cause

By Julianna Parker Jones

Intelligent design is the most likely explanation of the origin of life, an author and speaker at the University of Oklahoma said Monday night.

The way Stephen C. Meyer came to that conclusion, was using Charles Darwin's own scientific method of determining which cause to accept for scientific questions in the remote past.

"The irony of that is that a conclusion that points to intelligent design" is reached by Darwin's own methods, Meyer said.

Scientists agree that DNA looks like it's been designed, but try to find other explanations. Meyer said he chose the option that best explained the complexity.

Meyer is at OU this week on the invitation of the Intelligent Design and Evolution Awareness Club. He spoke Monday night in Meacham Auditorium as a precursor to the screening of an intelligent design movie, "Darwin's Dilemma," 7 p.m. tonight. That film and following discussion will address the Cambrian period in the fossil record, said Meyer, who will speak after the movie. He said Monday's lecture, however, was a basis for today's information.

He made the case that the complexity and specificity of DNA points to an intelligent designer. In his lecture, he did not look at evolution of life, instead choosing to look at the first organism from which Darwin said all life evolved.

"Darwin did not address the origin of natural life," Meyer said.

He said Darwin didn't look at how that first organism began, because at the time scientists thought the cell wasn't very complex. It's only been since the 1950s that scientists have discovered the ultimate complexity of DNA, Meyer said. He looked at how something that complex could first begin.

Meyer said he was a scientist for an oil company when he attended a science conference that posed questions about the origins of life. He said he was struck with the fact that although there were disagreements about how life evolved, all the scientists agreed that no one knew how the most basic organism began.

So Meyer said he went to graduate school with that question in the forefront of his mind. He eventually got his doctorate in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge University.

He said scientists have tried to explain the complexity in DNA through three methods: chance, necessity or pre-biotic natural selection.

Meyer said mere chance has been determined as not enough to produce the incredible specificity within the structure of life.

Necessity, he said, is also not a good explanation because laws don't allow for the differentiation and complexity in DNA.

Pre-biotic natural selection brings up new questions because differential replication is necessary for natural selection to take place, he said, but then how did that organism begin?

"Invoking natural selection before you have life operating is essentially begging the question," Meyer said.

Darwin and another scientist, Charles Lyell, came up with a system to determine which cause to choose to explain an event that happened in the remote past. Darwin said to use the best explanation until a better one comes along. Lyell said the best explanation is one that is in agreement with causes now in operation.

When Meyer looked at the causes for new information that are produced now, it was obvious that intelligence is the creator.

"There is a cause that we know to produce information and that is intelligence," he said.

Meyer said people will counter that conclusion, saying that intelligent design is not science. He said that's just a different definition of science, one that possibly limits researchers from finding truth.

"Then I think it's important to amend the rules of science to allow scientists to follow the evidence to wherever it leads," he said.

Julianna Parker Jones 366-3541 jparker@normantranscript.com