Mar 16, 2012

Session 6, Stephen Meyer — 2012 National Conference

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The audio and video from the 2012 National Conference is now available to purchase or stream online for free.

In the sixth session of the 2012 Ligonier National Conference, Dr. Stephen Meyer discussed a revolution in scientific thinking that has produced a new openness to "the God hypothesis"—the belief that the universe is the product not merely of natural processes but of the Creator.

The so-called new atheists—the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins—represent the perspective that science, properly understood, renders belief in God untenable. Dawkins argues that the best argument for God was always the argument from nature, but now that we know nature arose by natural processes, we know that God either does not exist or leaves no evidence of His existence.

This perspective conflicts with the biblical view. The psalmist says the heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19). He looks at nature and talks about something beyond nature. The new atheists' view is also directly opposed to the view of early modern scientists such as Robert Boyle, Johannes Kepler, and Isaac Newton. Many of the leaders of the scientific revolution were devout men of faith. They had a deep conviction that nature was intelligible because it was made by a rational intellect.

How did we get from Newton to Dawkins, from the idea that nature displays the handiwork of the Creator to the idea that nature shows there is no Creator?

The view that the God hypothesis was no longer necessary took hold in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This view became a philosophy—scientific materialism. This is the idea that everything has come from matter and energy, which have been here from eternity past. By the end of the nineteenth century, leading intellectuals were coming around to this materialistic worldview. Science itself, with all its origin theories, seemed to support it. The key idea in the materialistic worldview is that there is nothing beyond the physical sphere.

This view is now very much the witness of the academy and the culture. But even though this worldview is still culturally pervasive, the basis of it has evaporated. Recent discoveries in science have undermined the materialistic worldview and support a theistic worldview. Three discoveries especially have led to this change.

1. The expansion of the universe. Astronomers found evidence that the universe is expanding.

Expansion implies that the universe is finite, that it had a beginning. Some scientists find this idea repugnant because it suggests matter and energy are not eternal. However, the first words of the Bible are, "In the beginning. . . ." The Bible also says the plan of creation existed before time, which implies that time had a beginning, and science is beginning to show this, too.

2. The fine tuning of the expansion.

Physicists have discovered that the expansion rate of the universe is exquisitely finely tuned. If it were not, life would not be possible. The universe would not be a suitable place for life. Everything is delicately balanced to make life possible. About three dozen of these fine-tuning parameters have been discovered. This led Sir Fred Hoyle (1915–2001) to say: "A common sense interpretation of the data suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics as well as with chemistry and biology."

3. Information at the molecular level.

The discovery of the DNA double helix has led to the discovery that there are four "bases" along the spine of the double helix. The proteins in the cells of our bodies are built according to information stored in these bases on the DNA code. It is their arrangement that is important. If arranged properly, the bases provide instructions for cells to build processes they need to stay alive.

This means that information is running the show in even the simplest cells. The "information revolution" has been at work since the beginning of life itself. But where did this information come from? There is only one known cause of information, and that is a mind. The discovery of information that is necessary for life points to a designer.

Thus, we see evidence of design well after the beginning of life. The best explanation is the theistic design hypothesis. The reality of God explains everything from the expansion of the universe to the evidence for information in the cell. In short, God is both transcendent and immanent.

Dr. Meyer concluded: "I think this is an exciting time to be a person of faith who is active in science. I think Paul was right—the things that are made do reveal the reality of the Creator."

Stephen MeyerDr. Stephen Meyer earned is Ph.D. in philosophy of science from Cambridge University. He is the founder of the Center for Science and Culture and is the author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.