God vs. physics: Krauss debates Meyer and Lamoureaux

I haven’t yet watched yesterday’s Religion and Society debate at Wycliffe College in Toronto: “What’s behind it all? God, science, and the universe,” whose description is this:

Has a scientific explanation of the universe replaced the need for God as cause of its origins? Could life on our planet exist apart from divine intervention? Is there evidence for a designer?

The video of the event, with speakers physicist Lawrence Krauss, ID advocate Stephen Meyer, and “evolutionary creationist” Denis Lamoureaux, is three hours long, but the real debate, or rather exposition, begins 34 minutes in. I don’t know for sure, but would bet a lot of money, that Krauss plumps for physics while Lamoureaux and Meyer for the importance of either God or his euphemism, a “designer.”

I hadn’t know much about Lamoureaux, but his Wikipedia biography is intriguing:

Denis O. Lamoureux (born May 27, 1954) holds a professorial chair of science and religion at St. Joseph’s College at the University of Alberta, Canada. He has doctoral degrees in dentistry,theology, and biology. The author of Evolutionary Creation and of I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution, he has also written (along with Phillip E. Johnson) Darwinism Defeated? The Johnson-Lamoureux Debate on Biological Origins, on the creation-evolution controversy (Regent College, 1999).

Lamoureux, an evangelical Christian and a former young-earth creationist, calls himself as of 2013 an evolutionary creationist, and lectures and writes widely on the topic.

I Love Jesus and I Accept Evolution? Sounds like it’s two on one in this discussion.


  1. Daniel bertini
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Sorry I posted this earlier, but it belongs here.

    Last night was the lawrence krauss evolution vs Id debate at the University of Toronto. Lawrence was brilliant as usual!! Steven meyer the Id proponent was pathetic. I’m sure PCC (E) will watch it and cringe at the lack of coherent info provided by the ider’s. Meyer kept complaining of a migraine because of the lighting and repeatedly used it as an excuse for his incoherent presentation.

    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      The truth is so bright, you gotta wear shades.


      • lutesuite
        Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        I don’t think he was faking his migraine. The incoherence is an inherent part of his argument.

        • papalinton
          Posted March 20, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

          Spot on.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:52 pm | Permalink

      I had a bad migraine yesterday too so if Meyers suffers from migraines he probably had one because of the weather as I did. Meyer drives me right crazy and I would have loved to tell him that I got his book moved out of the science section at Chapters but I can sympathize with someone having a migraine and what that means when arguing….though with Meyers how could you tell the migraine was making him incoherent as opposed to his arguments.

    • rickflick
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

      I’ve seen Meyer stumble through his spiel when he didn’t claim to have a migraine. It went pretty much the same way.

  2. Yi
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I happened to watch it. Lawrence could have done a much better job at tearing down ID.

  3. reginaldselkirk
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Larry Moran covers this event:
    You need to understand biology if you are going to debate an Intelligent Design Creationist

    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      That was good, thanks. Krauss would be a great choice to debate about the origin of the universe. Biology is a whole nother thing.

      • Posted March 27, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

        You do not need to know advanced biology to understand the process of evolution and Krauss shows an excellent understanding of evolution, particularly the mathematical algorithmic process that it entails. His referencing Evolutionary Algorithms in his counterarguments is spot-on – as this is exactly where Meyer is fundamentally wrong in his understanding. Krauss destroys the underpinning of Meyer’s entire case completely, particularly his absurd inference that evolution must be somehow teleological, hence improbable.

  4. Mike
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    I would have thought PCC would have been a suitable Partner for Lawrence Kraus in that Debate.

  5. sshort
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    I cannot wait to watch, but the first thing that jumps out to me above is “dentistry.” What the hell is goin on in those schools?

    We have had our own creationist dentists to deal with down in Texas. Here Colbert annihilates one of the worst:


    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      Dentistry — something to do with deeply rooted beliefs?


      • lutesuite
        Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Lamoureux is not a creationist. He argues for some form of theistic evolution.

        • Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          Theistic evolution driven by a Creator…how is that not creationism?

          • docbill1351
            Posted March 20, 2016 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

            Exactly. It’s puppeteer evolution any way you look at it. Turtles all the way down.

          • sshort
            Posted March 20, 2016 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

            Precisely. Dover demonstrated ID was tarted-up creationism. Say no more.

            • Michael Kolker
              Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:27 pm | Permalink

              Hmmm… Since when did lawyers and judges determine the viability of a philosophical/scientific idea?

              • Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

                In one sense, at least since the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial.

                However, I think that citing Dover to support the view that “ID” isn’t science can be a rod for our own backs, as the case turned on a bogus, NOMA-type argument.


          • Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:49 am | Permalink

            He’s not an ID Creationist. Like Kenneth Miller, he’s a Theistic Evolutionist.

            • Posted March 21, 2016 at 2:52 am | Permalink

              Yeah … chris gets that. Maybe read his comment again and answer his question?


              • Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

                I’ll add some emphasis…how is Theistic Evolution driven by a Creator (with a capital C) not a type of creationism?

                It’s like saying that software isn’t software if it’s not being run in debug mode, which gives me an idea for a new theory–God the Debugger. He used to show up so much more often because things were going awry, but now he’s run out of funding and we’re left with The Universe, Vista edition. Maybe I can write something up for Templeton?

        • Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

          So? That’s still letting belief trump reason.


          • sshort
            Posted March 20, 2016 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

            Like how you worked in Trump there. Deft.

            And don’t go giving the credit to Freud.

        • Posted March 20, 2016 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

          You may want to brace yourself for this: Ant’s point was humorous. There may have even been two points.

      • sshort
        Posted March 20, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink


      • Posted March 20, 2016 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

        Incisive question.

        • Posted March 21, 2016 at 2:39 am | Permalink

          It poses a molar dilemma.


          • Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            And one we can’t simply brush aside. But I feel we’re on the cusp of resolving it.

  6. Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Here are the curriculum vitae and resume for Denis O. Lamoureux.

    You tell me, does he have a doctoral degree in biology?

  7. Vaal
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    What is Krauss – a theoretical physicist and cosmologist – doing in a debate that is going to center around biology?

    This does not sound good….

    • Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      At least he’s more qualified than Bill Nye.

    • Alexander Hellemans
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think arguing against the existence of an “intelligent” designer is not that hard. Perhaps a “sadistic and cruel” designer would do, one that designs horrible viruses and bacteria, and a food cycle that calls for sentient beings killing other sentient beings.

  8. docbill1351
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    Nothing good can come out of this. To paraphrase Dawkins on why he doesn’t “debate” creationists, “It looks good on their resumé, not so much mine.”

    My “intelligently designed” prediction, i.e pulled out of my ass, is that Meyer will yammer on about “information” and how it can only come from intelligence, then declare that the intelligently designed functional perfection of the genome was “proved” by ENCODE because of the functional specified complexity frim-fram manifested in the framastat.

    Yeah, makes no sense but will Krauss know that?

    Unless Krauss has studied the methods, tactics and systematic failures of scholarship practiced by Meyer, he’ll get bogged down in the La Brea pit Meyer digs.

    • lutesuite
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      You called it with almost total accuracy.

      • docbill1351
        Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        That’s ’cause I’m a freaking genius, just ask me!

        Srsly, though, Meyer turned his PhD thesis into a paper he sneaked into the Bio. Soc. of Wash., then turned it into a book, then another book. He’s a one-trick Hallucigenia.

        Meyer “wins” if you don’t ask a follow-up question and allow his pronouncements to hang there. But if you try to pin him down he’ll regress to the Big Bang. An exercise in futility.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

          one-trick Hallucigenia

          Nice one!

          • loren russell
            Posted March 21, 2016 at 1:02 am | Permalink

            Hallucigenia — well known for its head being confused with its ass..

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, my friend said right away that having such a debate put ID on equal footing with science.

  9. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    I contemplated going but I thought it would just annoy me.

  10. EvolvedDutchie
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I thought male evangelicals didn’t like intimate relationships with other men? And if Lamoureux is married, then he’s in a polyamorous relationship. I don’t think Jesus would approve of that.

  11. Posted March 20, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    I hate that debates immediately give the impression that each side of the discussion is on equal footing going in. Alas, as long as 40% or so of Americans still believe in young earth creationism, I think it is a net win for rationalism. I doubt anyone has ever been swayed to be a creationist from these debates and I’d bet there’s often at least a handful of people who are exposed to the actual science for the first time, as opposed to the strawmen that creationists present.

    As far as transferring from young earth creationism to old earth creationism, that was a stepping stone on my path too, but I fail to see how so many people stop halfway.

  12. Kopper
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    I watched about 2/3 already, enough to confirm that it is one university-level exposition (Krauss obviously) and two Sunday-school level crackpots, while the organizer tries to make it look like a leveled debate. Embarrassing.

  13. Kevin
    Posted March 20, 2016 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

    I am unable to have respect for the religious claim that science and religion have equal merit to describe the world. If this talk does not embarrass the faithful, I suspect nothing does.

  14. Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    I listened to most of it. Gave up on Meyer because I felt so sorry for his migraine and couldn’t bear to listen any more to him suffering from inability to find the words he needed. But I picked it up again later, after the end of his speech.

    Lawrence was good in his own speech, especially his quietly savage beginning, even better in the replies at the end. Lamoureaux spoke well about evolution, but his case for evolutionary creationism was transparent special pleading. He accepted all the evidence for evolution but then, having no evidence whatsoever for creation, just dragged God back in anyway because he was desperate to salvage the beliefs of his upbringing. Not only is God unnecessary to give evolution a helping hand. God (especially a god capable of doing all those godlike things, not just creative things but listening to thousands of prayers simultaneously etc) is just the sort of highly improbable entity (improbable in the Meyer combination lock sense) which needs an explanation in its own right.

    Meyer was terrible, not because of his migraine but because of the content of his speech, which was written down BEFORE his migraine. When will these people understand that calculating how many gazillions of ways you can permute things at random is irrelevant. It’s irrelevant, as Lawrence said, because natural selection is a NONRANDOM process. You’d think they’d realise that if it were THAT easy to disprove evolution no scientist would take evolution seriously. Do they really think we are so very stupid? Or are they cynically playing to the gallery, dazzling the naive audience with big numbers like 10^77, while knowing full well they are irrelevant?

    • lutesuite
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      The number is not so much irrelevant, as simply incorrect. As far as I can see, there is nothing wrong, in principle, with attempting to calculate the proportion of sequence space that will yield functional proteins. It is just very difficult to do (e.g. How do you determine a priori whether a given protein is “functional”?) and so it’s quite easy to generate numbers that are meaningless. Over on Panda’s Thumb, Arthur Hunt has evaluated the Axe paper that Meyer cited, and shows where Axe went wrong:


      • Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

        Note how long ago that was, too. (Not that it should have had to been done, either, but …)

    • rickflick
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

      Just so.
      I happily note that Krauss did, in his opening remarks, accuse Meyer of being disingenuous. He got that of my chest for me.

      • rickflick
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

        disingenuous: insincere, dishonest, untruthful, false, deceitful, duplicitous, lying, mendacious; hypocritical.

        There. Now I feel completely satisfied.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

          “Mendacious” is my favourite because given its sound, I think it could be mistaken for some sort of root vegetable.

          • Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink


            (Which, I was surprised to find, is a mid-19th century word.)


            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

              I like that my Mac’s dictionary defines Mendacious as “Janus-faced”. Poor Janus, the guy was just looking out from two directions to protect the place (and doing so bodaciously) and he is now associated with being a liar.

              • Posted March 21, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

                He never knew whether he was coming or going…


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

                But he always saw both sides.

    • Posted March 21, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

      dazzling the naive audience with big numbers like 10^77

      I think I can play this game. How’s this for dazzling? I walk a mile from my train station to my office every day. If I just randomly took enough steps to walk a mile, I could end up anywhere in a 3.14 square mile area. My cubicle is only about 20 square feet. This leaves about a one in 4.4 million chance of finding it. I’ve done this 1000 straight days which equates to a 1:10^6641 chance of this having randomly happened.

      The obvious conclusion is that my commute isn’t random. Why is it so hard for these people to come to the same conclusion about evolution, especially when it is repeated to them ad nauseam?

      • Douglas Axe
        Posted March 24, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

        Equally obvious is that your commute isn’t random because you know where you’re going. When I read The Blind Watchmaker as a student (and enjoyed it very much, I might add) I was under the distinct impression that “blind” meant NOT knowing where one is going.

        So, let’s look at your analogy again. You receive benefit in the form of a paycheck for showing up at your cubicle every work day. If instead you were to meander blindly from the train station (meaning, without using any knowledge of where you’re supposed to go) do you really think your employer would give you 0.1% of your pay if you happened to end up 0.1% closer to your cubicle than your starting point? And then 0.2% if you happened to make it a little closer the next day?

        Of course you don’t. You get paid after making it the whole way and doing your work.

        That’s the glaring problem with natural selection. It’s huge weakness has nothing to do with randomness and everything to do with the fact that it only rewards good work AFTER that work has been done. Consequently it has absolutely nothing to do with HOW that work gets done in the first place.

        Speaking of ad nauseam repetition, this obvious shortcoming of natural selection has been repeated over and over for well over a century. As it was put in a quote offered by Hugo De Vries in 1904: “Natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest.”

        • Posted March 25, 2016 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

          The debate seems too far removed from concrete examples (Krauss being a physicist naturally distances him from biological examples) while Meyer’s well-ground axes have kept him removed from all but thin slices of the paleontology and genetics.

          Until and unless Intelligent Design comes up with a good accounting for the range of data explained (and generated) by evolutionary scientists (from the reptile-mammal transition evidence to modern paleogenomics’ utility in reconstructing ancestral biomolecules) ID is an exercise in wheel-spinning.

          And that’s before one addresses the question begged in this matter: why is the specific version of God held by Meyer (or Lamoureaux for that matter) to be privileged or countenanced? Does the Big Bang or anthropic fine-tuning or any number of alleged irreducibly complex biological cases make any of the internal problems of the Bible go away?

          Tom Paine did not possess (or require) any knowledge of those 21st century topics to be skeptical of the Bible in 1794, and nothing in this debate (or the ID movement) causes any of that balance to be changed.

          Let’s be blunt: if God (of the form Meyer or Axe wish) existed, and is responsible for the diversity of life now and in the past, then it was just plain dumb to have designed all those synapsids (even doing several 220 million years ago to make Robert Broom happy in the 1930s, fulfilling his 1912 prediction of them to a T). And having done all that gratuitously pro-evolution designing, that God should not be surprised that people misread that evidence to deduce evolution from it.

          Likewise, if that God wanted modern people not to cringe with doubt about the moral utility or historical reliability of the Bible, maybe that deity should have not included the Exodus 21 slavery rules or the persistent contradictions on the nativity and genealogy of Jesus in Matthew and Luke.

          Whether or not such stumbling-blocks get noticed by Krauss or Meyer or Lamoureaux, etc, doesn’t make them go away.

        • Posted March 28, 2016 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

          Equally obvious is that your commute isn’t random because you know where you’re going.

          You managed to fully grasp the point of my analogy and then go completely off the rails and proceed to show why my analogy is so inept at describing a scenario I wasn’t using it for in the first place. The point is that assigning “what-if” scenarios to the chances of something happening randomly is an utterly pointless exercise if the something you are assigning odds to isn’t random. My commute isn’t random, neither is evolution, but for different reasons. The point is not to say that my known destination is analogous to evolution.

          You are right that blind does indeed mean not knowing where one is going in this context. That doesn’t mean blind == random. And really? You’re quote mining a scientist from 1904, complaining about something science hasn’t explained, and calling it a day? That’s god-of-the-gaps at its finest.

          • Shea B
            Posted March 29, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

            Glad to see this great counter to Axe’s absurd “gotcha!” claims.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      I do feel for Meyer and his transient aphasia. I know exactly what that is like.

    • Posted March 25, 2016 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Thank you Professor Dawkins. Like you, I just don’t have the stomach to watch someone suffer, even if I may disagree with him/her. Regarding my upbringing, it was similar to yours (you an Anglican, me a Catholic), and I became an atheist in university. Here is my story from a recent book chapter, if you are interested: https://www.ualberta.ca/~dlamoure/story2014.pdf We both love evolutionary theory, and whether one believes there is a God behind this natural process, or not, is a metaphysical decision. Both positions are logically reasonable.

  15. wetbook71
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    At first I was irked to think that a place of higher learning would even host such a debate as legitimate – as though it were a debate between two competing still-valid hypotheses. But then I looked up Wycliffe College. It’s own website describes it as “an evangelical Anglican graduate school of theology at the University of Toronto”. So, the graduate Bob Jones of Canada (except weirdly associated with UT).

  16. Bernie Dehler
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I know Denis Lamoureux. He’s an evangelical Christian that fully accepts all of modern science. He says the Bible isn’t meant to be a science textbook, and the science in the Bible is incidental to the Bible’s message. He’ll also freely admit that the Adam and Eve story is a myth; those two and the event described never really happened. With evolution, he knows there’s no such thing as “first humans.”

    Here’s an awesome short paper he wrote to outline all his ideas:

    For an evangelical Christian, he’s very much much in the minority, because he fully, 100%, accepts modern science. He likes to focus on Jesus and the good stuff in the Bible.

    • lutesuite
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      From that paper:

      “It contends that the Creator established and maintains the laws of nature, including the mechanisms of a teleological evolution.
      In other words, evolution is a planned and purpose-driven natural process.”

      That’s an explicitly scientific claim, with very little science to back up, and quite a lot to refute it.

      • Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Krauss did manage to squeak in a one-line refutation of that idea, fortunately, but it got lost in the shuffle, likely. (The bit about it being incredibly wasteful: 99.99999% of all species are extinct.)

    • reasonshark
      Posted March 21, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

      Why do people assume that “fully accepts all modern science” means “posits supernatural beliefs that don’t immediately contradict current scientific knowledge”?

      Is skepticism not part of scientific endeavour? What do the words “pseudoscience” and “cognitive bias” mean for such people that they allow these and science to rub shoulders? Do extraordinary claims no longer require extraordinary evidence? If I write a paper explaining how a belief in fairies is compatible with current evolutionary theory, am I doing science?

      Lamourex is no friend of science. He’s a religious apologist trying to convince the judges that his club-footed pet theory is in the same league as the champion animals. He’s still picking and choosing when it suits him, which is the opposite of a scientific mindset. Someone is not a champion of science if they’re handing it a beer with one hand while smuggling religious dogma through the back door with the other.

      Accommodationism is trying to claim black is white. It doesn’t matter if its proponents claim to love white; black isn’t a white colour.

    • Posted March 21, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      For some values of “fully”.


      • Bernie Dehler
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

        No- he really does say the Bible has nothing to do with science. If anyone shows him a conflict with the Bible and science, he will choose the science and interpret the Bible metaphorically at that point. He says the Bible is not meant to teach science at all. He acknowledges the Bible writers were ignorant about modern science and says it was not their intent to teach science, but instead “the things of God.” The Bible, god’s message, had to be expressed through the science-of-the-day when it was written.

        I think that God is superfluous. And I think Christian theology is wrecked by modern science and philosophy. That’s why I left it. I wrote about it in a booklet called “Modern Science and Philosophy Destroy Christian Theology.”

    • Posted March 21, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Has anyone ever cornered him on the resurrection of Jesus, just where Heaven (and Hell) are, or even generally what the afterlife entails? If he can’t give a coherent explanation of any of this, I don’t view that as fully embracing science since laying out muddled claims isn’t very scientific. If he accepts none of this and says Christianity has nothing to do with an afterlife, then he’s a very rare find indeed. But if no afterlife, why God, and if no God, why even say he’s Christian?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        Indeed and no Adam and Eve then no original sin and I guess Jesus died for nothing. This man seems an odd Evangelical.

        • Bernie Dehler
          Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:45 am | Permalink

          RE: “Indeed and no Adam and Eve then no original sin and I guess Jesus died for nothing.”

          Lamoureux would say we are all sinners, from traditional theology. But how or why? He’d say that is a mystery (not inherited from first humans, because there is no such thing.

          I think that is how those types maintain faith in light of modern science… just say it is all a mystery… not compelled to have answers or make it make sense. It’s all about Jesus and a relationship with God. I think a version of mysticism.

          Since they go so heavily on “Jesus feelings” I think the best way to attack them (people like Lamoureux) is to push the “delusion” arguments… how can we know if those feelings represent truth or a delusion? What’s the test? I don’t think they’ve thought that far, and they might be afraid to test it. This calls for intellectual courage and intellectual honesty… and the willingness to be found wrong.

          • Posted March 22, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

            It sounds from what you’ve said then that he’ll accept science, but happily fill in the blanks in the areas that science still hasn’t grasped.

            The supernatural is another matter entirely–we’ve had discussions on this site before about whether the supernatural is even something that can exist in principle. I’m of the opinion that it can, but it would have to be in such a way that it doesn’t interact with us, else it would be open to scientific investigation. Since science is continuously updating itself with new findings, even if we found something like demons or angels out there, I don’t know how we’d arbitrarily call those things supernatural. We don’t do that with “spooky” things like QM. All our technology today would certainly seem supernatural to most people 100 years ago.

            Even if discoveries were made about “supernatural” things that violate the laws of Physics, I don’t see why we wouldn’t search for an explanation and new paradigm that explains what we observe rather than declaring it a violation of nature. Einstein didn’t discover things that violate classical mechanics, he simply discovered more beyond the domain where classical mechanics applies. In the same way, I don’t see anything that could be discovered in principle that we could rightly label “supernatural” without simply drawing an arbitrary line that science has never drawn before. As for Lamoureaux, I suspect pushing him on points like these would find he’s only fully embracing science for some definitions of fully, as Ant pointed out.

            • Bernie Dehler
              Posted March 22, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

              RE: ” In the same way, I don’t see anything that could be discovered in principle that we could rightly label “supernatural” without simply drawing an arbitrary line that science has never drawn before. ”

              Easy counter-examples for you: miracles from the Bible.
              1. Jesus turning water into wine.
              2. Jesus (and Peter) walking on water.
              3. A blind person immediately and quickly gaining sight
              4. Jesus resuscitates a dead man by calling his name (Lazarus).

              Etc. etc. etc.

              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

                Made up stories don’t count!

                But, even so, there’s no reason in principle that each of those things cannot have “natural” explanation that is amenable to scientific investigation.

                #3 and #4 certainly have contemporary medical counterparts.


              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

                I wouldn’t slap a supernatural label on those things either. Given what we know, there’s many alternative and more likely explanations for claims like these, all of which include the high likelihood that these things didn’t happen at all.

                But let’s pretend they did. Let’s say we can actually verify something like Jesus (or anyone else) walking on water. The scientific approach would be to investigate it to find the explanation. Why label it supernatural instead of simply unexplained (which is what we label everything else science doesn’t yet know)? Facts about the world we live in would now include the facts that people can walk on water, die and come back, turn water to wine, and they all would all warrant investigation to find explanations.

                I think the other mistake here when people consider miracles to be violations of natural law is simply a result of muddled language. It’s common to say that things “obey the laws of nature” and then conflate that meaning with the meaning of a phrase like “obey authority.” The models we have are descriptions of what we observe, not prescriptions. One can argue otherwise, but there would need to be an explanation for why all of our theories have boundaries at which they break down. If there’s prescriptive laws out there, we haven’t found them yet nor explained how they can exist independently while “lording over lowly matter” as Paul Davies put it. The theist who claims there are miracles has a hidden burden of proof–show that there’s some set of laws dictating reality rather than describing it.

              • Bernie Dehler
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

                More info, the Amazing Randi has a $1 million challenge for the supernatural.

                Suppose Benny Hinn really could heal people. He’d get the money. Test setup:

                1. Get 10 people diagnosed with obvious cancer.
                2. Benny touches them, and they fall down and get healed.
                3. Xray scans show the cancer disappeared.

                FYI, Randi’s old discontinued challenge info:

                So, I think we can test for it, and have tested it. It just always fails.

              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

                Fair enough. I think Randi has a slightly different definition of supernatural than I’m using. I think his challenge is more about people demonstrating magical powers that have been thoroughly debunked by our current knowledge and naturally (haha) no one will ever win this game. I don’t think that affects my stance that such powers would be incorporated into our understanding of the world were they actually demonstrated.

      • Bernie Dehler
        Posted March 21, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        RE “Has anyone ever cornered him on the resurrection of Jesus, just where Heaven (and Hell) are, or even generally what the afterlife entails?”

        I would guess he is like most Christians and say no one knows about the details. Just believe in the general outlines, I suppose. It’s a spiritual world and place, beyond the reach of science since science can’t touch the spiritual world by definition (it is supernatural).

        RE: “If he can’t give a coherent explanation of any of this, I don’t view that as fully embracing science since laying out muddled claims isn’t very scientific.”

        I think he would say that science is about cosmology, biology, physics, etc. Science doesn’t deal with spiritual things, places, and beings.

        I think the biggest issue (with his beliefs) is in philosophy with the “problem of evil,” esp. for those who accept evolution. He thinks evolution is God’s way of designing, but evolution is very mean (red in tooth and claw) and God is supposed to be all loving, all good, etc. It is pretty much, opposites. If there’s no God, then the meanness in evolution can be expected from a heartless and brainless nature.

        I think he also (wrongly) thinks mankind is the pinnacle of evolution, which isn’t technically correct (evolution just fills all ecological gaps, radiating out in all directions).

        • Posted March 21, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          “It’s a spiritual world and place, beyond the reach of science since science can’t touch the spiritual world by definition (it is supernatural).”

          So, how does the spiritual world touch /us/?


          • Bernie Dehler
            Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:40 am | Permalink

            RE: “how does the spiritual world touch”

            I think Lamoureux would say to follow your heart. Also- he said he believes in miracles and likes the Pentecostal strain of Christian faith.

            I think “going on feelings” is a logical fallacy of “appeal to emotion.” Emotions can’t determine what is true. That’s why there’s conmen doing brisk business.

            • Posted March 22, 2016 at 5:00 am | Permalink

              “follow your heart” What does that even mean? It’s certainly not an answer to the question.

              I’ll put it another way: If God can intercede in the universe, if he can influence events here, if he can communicate with believers — i.e., if he can interact with matter — how can he be beyond the reach of science?


              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 9:29 am | Permalink

                According to Triumph, it’s “living for today, forget about tomorrow”.

              • Bernie Dehler
                Posted March 22, 2016 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                RE: “If God can intercede in the universe, if he can influence events here, if he can communicate with believers — i.e., if he can interact with matter — how can he be beyond the reach of science?”

                In the video, Lamoureux said that evolution is perfect as God’s design method because you can’t prove nor disprove whether God is behind it. If young earth creationism were true, all the scientists would know, and it would no longer be a game of faith. I guess the Yahweh God really likes faith for some reason. God’s the best, when it comes to playing the children’s game of hide-and-seek. Most of us grow out of it pretty quick, but not this all-knowing smart Bible God.

              • Posted March 22, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink

                It might be the case that you can’t prove nor disprove whether God is behind evolution within /biology/ (although there is a stunning /absence/ of evidence for the proposition).

                However, I suspect Lamourex knows little about the consequences of the discovery of the Higgs boson at the LHC.


  17. Posted March 21, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    Nothing more than a cathexis on mathematical improbability with a preemptively tendentious conclusion. When will they learn that the very concept of a disembodied mind is an eternal oxymoron?

  18. rickflick
    Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Krauss is no biologist, so he did not do as well as a Dawkins or Coyne would have done. However, I really enjoy watching him. He’s very good on cosmology, of course, and does very well when analyzing his opponents arguments from a scientific perspective.

  19. Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    I watched this with some CFI folks here in Ottawa. What a train wreck on the part of Meyer, and that’s even without the migraine. *Nothing* new, and not a clue that he gets how probability works, how genetic algorithms work, how protein synthesis occurs or any number of a dozen other topics.

    Lamoreux was interesting to hear from; I’d never heard of him. It was amusing hearing about tooth evolution from a dentist (brush your scales!). But his quote-mining/misreading Darwin was seriously old. (And Galileo, but never mind that since the current scholarship is likely unfamiliar.) Also, he seems to have no real grasp of his target, secular metaphysics. (Where’s the leap of faith in vol 3 of Bunge’s _Treatise of Basic Philosophy_? Where’s the faith in Armstrong’s _A World of States of Affairs_?) Hint, the idea that you’re not in the Matrix does not require faith in the sense *you* mean, Dr. Dr. Dr. 😉

    • Posted March 21, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      Oh, and for the new watchers: there was technical difficulties and speaker difficulties throughout, so that may be why it was so long.

  20. Paul Matthews
    Posted March 22, 2016 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    Funny that PCC says he didn’t know much about Denis Lamoureux, because they both appeared on the same panel (with one or two other guests) on TV Ontario’s The Agenda back in 2007, albeit both from their home cities via technology rather than in the same studio. It was the first time I’d seen PCC. I remember PCC mentioned a moving experience he’d had in a natural setting and Lamoureux was presumptuous enough to stare that it was because he (PCC) was getting in touch with the divine or some such rot. PCC took exception.

  21. Posted March 25, 2016 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

    « The author seems also to forget that natural selection cannot occur before the first living cell replicates. Several hundred proteins had to be already in place and fully operating in order to make even the simplest life possible »

    Not really. Natural selection can begin as soon as there are replicators, however simple — proteins maybe, certainly RNA. “Living cells” don’t appear until we’re already some way down the road.


    • rickflick
      Posted March 25, 2016 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

      Otangelo Grasso’s post seems to have been deleted. I received notification at 6:37, but it’s now missing.
      Grasso is a friend or follower of William Lane Craig at “Reasonable Faith”.

      • Posted March 25, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

        Ah — so it seems. I replied directly in email, not on this page. I’m glad I quoted part of his comment, else mine would’ve seemed thoroughly random!


        • Posted March 26, 2016 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

          Phew! I also caught it in the emails I get when new comments are made. Otherwise, in a Universe as young as ours, a comment thread like this would never be coherent just by blind chance. Your response taken against the incalculable combinations possible from random characters couldn’t possibly be just dumb luck.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] having seen the debate, this post is not a reply to Meyer. But I do notice that Richard Dawkins has left a comment over at Jerry Coyne’s website about the debate. He […]

  2. […] a comment at Why Evolution Is True, Richard Dawkins has deigned to descend from the atheist Mt. Olympus to comment on the Meyer et al. […]

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