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Readers Weigh in on Stephen Meyer's Toronto Debate

Readers Weigh In.jpg

Theodore Roosevelt famously survived a 1912 assassination attempt in Milwaukee following which, instead of seeking medical help, he proceeded directly to a campaign event. There, he delivered a 90-minute speech with a bullet lodged in his chest and blood leaking from his wound.

Stephen Meyer's performance at the University of Toronto on Saturday night, debating evolution with two opponents in the middle of a debilitating migraine headache, was considerably less dramatic than that. Still, readers of Evolution News appreciated Meyer's determination and character for going through with it and, despite the handicap, giving the better scientific arguments of the evening.

After inviting reader comments for publication, we received many emails of thanks, encouragement, and shrewd analysis. I thought I'd share a selection (withholding surnames though almost all volunteered theirs). With minor edits and a bit of snipping for length, here we go.

From Jim:

Not sure if this will get back to Steve but bravo. Very tough and courageous to get through his physical ailments and I was deeply moved by his tenacity. I hope he gets on stage again with Dr. Krauss but I think a growing number of people and students are fixated on popular scientific cultural secular icons like Nye and Neil deGrasse Tyson and a discussion with them would be so important.

From Doug:

I watched the debate all the way through, and am grateful that you fought through your miserable migraine to do the best you could. With Krauss's unspeakably unscientific opening disparaging of you (his word, multiple times), computer problems, etc., you still had the best case of the three. You know this material so well that it's "in your DNA", so it did come through.

From Joe:

Fortunately, [Meyer] was able to prevail in the end, dealing succinct blows to both Krauss and Lamoureaux. By staying on point, by being the only consistent, evidence-based, well-reasoned voice in the debate, he emerged victorious in spite of the migraine.

Meanwhile, Krauss managed to come across more arrogantly and rudely than he usually does. In the comment section of the live stream, even atheists were bemoaning his condescending straw-man approach.

From John:

Really sad that Dr. Meyer had a migraine tonight. Even so, he had the only scientific arguments. Krauss came across like a Junior High smart aleck, and Lamoureux sounds like he wants to make peace and hope nobody else leaves the church.

From Kenneth:

Was it just me or did it seem like Dr. Lamoureux spent more of his time attacking his "brother in Christ" than [he did attacking Krauss]? It looked like the evening's title should've been changed from "What's Behind It All?" to "Let's All Attack Stephen Meyer!" Seriously though, kudos to Dr. Meyer for hanging in there like a champ. Best moment was when he nailed Krauss on how natural selection doesn't kick in until after a random search of a functional protein is found. Seeing Krauss go silent then change the subject (thereby implicitly conceding the point) was pure gold! Get well, Dr. Meyer! God bless!

From Marc:

I will never again watch Lawrence K. debate anyone. Instead of interacting with the ideas and arguments he chooses to mock them. With his level of education you would think that he would realize that while accusing Dr. Meyer of using a "God of the gaps" approach to his way of doing science he himself uses a "science of the gaps" approach.

I have watched as many videos of Dr. Meyer as I have been able to find online and very much enjoy his way of explaining the subject matter.

From Michael:

I think it was Christopher Hitchens who said that he was encouraged when his opponents resorted to ad hominems. Meyer must have been supremely encouraged when the fearful, or otherwise disturbed, Krauss opened up his dialogue with a litany of them! Props to you, Mr. Meyer, for your civility!

From Elliott:

Before I give my thoughts on the debate, I would like to detail my current educational standing briefly. I am not a scientist. As of now, I am attending a rabbinical college in the U.S., training for rabbinic ordination, while simultaneously receiving credits for a bachelor's degree in religious studies. This may not make me an expert on the actual material presented, but this background has certainly helped give me an informed opinion on the logic (proofs, inferences, fallacies, theological biases, etc.) employed to push said information. It was in this category that I was horrified. How could it be, year after year, article after article, debate after debate, and book after book that people still do not understand the difference between a God of the Gaps argument, and the Intelligent Design argument. The former being an argument from ignorance, and the latter being a positive argument from our "repeated and uniform experience" of the "cause and effect structure of the world"?

On a side note, for all the jabs Krauss made at theism, it seems he has completely forgotten the logical inconsistencies with his materialist philosophy. In this regard, Krauss lost the debate as soon as he showed up. You cannot come to an event which presupposes mindful discourse when you believe you are a determined swirl of mindless chemical and physical processes. No, be a contradictory robot somewhere else. Perhaps, though, we are all determined. That is the only reason I can think of that causes ID critics to continually misunderstand the argument. Perhaps they are just determined never to understand. I think Dr. Meyer put it best in his introduction to Darwin's Doubt where he wrote about the constant misrepresentation of his previous book Signature in the Cell and his feelings about the whole thing. He said, " I found this all a bit surreal, as if I had wandered into a lost chapter from a Kafka novel". I couldn't have said it better myself. [Despite his condition], Dr. Meyer was still able to tackle two PhD opponents and outdo them in both manner and wit. Bravo Dr. Meyer. That's a telling image few are likely to forget.

First a rabbinic student, now a reader with a Muslim name. [Correction and apology: The writer points out to me in a follow up email that he is a Christian, not a Muslim.] From Yousif:

A major takeaway from this debate is that even with a migraine attack, Dr. Meyer was able to communicate the problem Neo-Darwinism faces regarding the generation of new genetic information effectively. So effectively in fact that both Lawrence Krauss and Denis Lamoureux were unable to provide any compelling answers. I was shocked by Krauss's deceptive and weak attacks on Dr. Meyer's arguments. For example Krauss brought up the RNA world hypothesis as a solution, disregarding the fact that Dr. Meyer addressed exactly that in his opening speech and showed that even in that proposed scenario, you would still need specified complexity, something (that as Dr. Meyer shows) neither chance or chance and necessity is able to account for. (There are of course many other problems with the RNA world hypothesis that Dr. Meyer explains in his book Signature in the Cell.) Furthermore, the bacteria gene evolution example by Denis Lamoureux was a very weak response that Dr. Meyer addressed effectively. From this it becomes clear that on his argument regarding specified complexity, Dr. Meyer was not proven wrong at any time in the debate.

Krauss attempted to show that ID is unscientific because it does not make any predictions however even there once again Dr. Meyer showed that he is simply incorrect (especially when bringing up Richard Sternberg). Krauss and Lamoureux both argued that ID is not scientific however all one has to do is read "An Introduction to Intelligent Design," an article very well written by Casey Luskin, where he shows ID is based on the scientific method, involving an observation, (Intelligent agents produce Complex and Specified Information), hypothesis (Natural structures will be found that contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function -- indicating high levels of CSI, including irreducible complexity), experiment (Experimental investigations of DNA indicate that it is full of a CSI-rich, language-based code. Cells use computer-like information processing systems to translate the genetic information in DNA into proteins. Genetic knockout experiments and other studies show that some molecular machines, like the bacterial flagellum, are irreducibly complex), and conclusion (The high levels of CSI -- including irreducible complexity -- in biochemical systems are best explained by the action of an intelligent agent).

To see this misrepresentation of ID by Lawrence Krauss and Denis Lamoureux was very saddening and frustrating but even with all that, despite having a migraine attack and facing a debate involving 2 versus 1 against him, Dr. Meyer did an excellent job and I commend him for it.

On Krauss's tactics, some astute comments from Ryan:

During his [opening] diatribe, Krauss informed the audience that Meyer and his ideas are not worth debating and that Meyer himself is something of a dishonest marketing man for Intelligent Design. And what exactly is Krauss's justification for this claim? Well, you see, several years ago at a school board hearing in Ohio, Krauss, having failed to inform himself of Discovery Institute's long-standing position [against] mandating the teaching of Intelligent Design in public schools, assumed they would be in favor of such a thing. When he discovered from Meyer's testimony that they were not advocating the introduction of ID into public schools, Krauss came to the only reasonable conclusion he could imagine: Steve Meyer and Discovery Institute were lying about their position. After all, the only other alternative was that Krauss had failed to do his due diligence in trying to understand the position of one of his opponents...

This is classic Krauss. If you denigrate, misrepresent and discredit your opponent in the eyes of your audience right up front then you don't have to worry too much about answering their arguments later. You just make silly faces while they're talking or offer a few snide remarks here and there and hope the audience believes that you know better than your opponent, and that they shouldn't consider his arguments any more seriously than your mime routine suggests you're considering them...

This was an incredible display of intellectual dishonesty on Krauss's part and it is a sign of the weakness of his position.... When you honestly believe you have the better case and the ability to present that case, you don't resort to an opening ad hominem salvo...

...Krauss forced Stephen into making a decision to either address the misrepresentations that had been leveled at him in order to clear his name before proceeding with his arguments for ID or to simply ignore Krauss and make his presentation. If Stephen chose to address Krauss's inaccurate attack it would take up a significant portion of his speaking time and almost certainly prevent him from completing his presentation. On the other hand, if he just ignored the personal attack he would clearly risk having his entire presentation undermined in the eyes of the audience...

In order to choose the latter approach, one must have a high degree of confidence in the intellectual capacity of the audience and be willing to trust that they are capable of seeing through sleazy debate tactics.... And this was precisely what Meyer did.... Conversely, Krauss showed a significant amount of disrespect for the intelligence of the audience members by assuming that they could be persuaded to dismiss Meyer's actual arguments by presenting them with an irrelevant and false attack against his person.

From Gustavo:

Dr. Meyer bravely kept on even though he had a migraine and faced a hostile environment. What a very rude and disrespectful opening statement from Dr. Krauss! Yet, Dr. Meyer showed class and poise and did not reply in kind. Dr. Meyer's closing statement was beautiful, showing that looking for causation for the appearance of the universe is better science than settling for the assumption that the universe came to be without cause.

From Collin:

If Krauss was asked the questions about evolution that he asked about ID, he would have folded up like a protein.

Not exactly sure what that means but I like the image.

From Sandy:

Near the end of the debate, Denis Lamoureaux stated: "There's a great problem with anti-evolutionists bringing in this engineering mentality. It does not work like that." Actually, it works exactly like that.

From Andrew:

[I]t seems that Dr Krauss spends a lot of time being rude to Dr. Stephen Meyer. The ad hominem attacks are legion. I would rather heave heard Dr. Krauss speak more to his arguments than attack the people on stage who were trying to be charitable toward him.

Right there at 30 mins 13 secs Krauss says, "We can make our own meaning"....except if it involves anything he disagrees with. If I make my own meaning by believing in a "God" because ultimately the universe doesn't care and it is all meaningless and I need comfort, then why does Krauss have such a problem with that? Why am I foolish for doing that?

From John:

Anyone who knows about Lawrence Krauss could have predicted last night's events. Krauss is an arrogant, disagreeable man with a serious mean streak, a schoolyard bully who never grew up. I am tired of seeing honorable and decent men from the ID and theistic camp "debate" that man (or any of the current crop of militant atheists)....

I hope Dr. Meyer is doing okay in the aftermath. He is one of my favorites in the ID movement. He deserved better treatment. Maybe we need to stop being so nice to these people during debates.

From Frank:

What I saw briefly in this debate...is a man of courage suffering a vicious migraine and being insulted with personal attacks by that ignoramus Lawrence Krauss yet willing to carry on so as not to let the people in the audience down. A proper gentleman unlike his opposite number who is a disgrace to the scientific community.

From Steven:

The only thing that I came away with was what I already believe. If I have to judge between these two theories based on the kind of people who adhere to them I have to go with ID.

From Darrell:

I was appalled at the incivility of Lawrence Krauss and the lack of solidarity of Denis Lamoureux toward our brother Steve Meyer. Yesterday I sent a hand written letter to Dr. Meyer to tell him that I was proud of him.

From Kelly:

Bravo to you for fighting on -- even in your limited capacity that night, the facts that you shared won the day over Krauss's propaganda-like non-engagement with any substantial issues. Rest assured that for anyone who was listening with a critical ear, it was clear that Krauss showed no understanding of your position, clear that you understand his, and also clear that the facts and evidence you shared support a superior view.

As for Krauss: his shameful misrepresentations and personal attacks to begin the discussion were a clear attempt to prejudice the audience against anything you might say....

I think your audience that night did not realize that Krauss was treating them like imbeciles, and that helping future audiences see this, as well as expressing your own confidence in their abilities, will help open hearts and minds to engage in the issues more fully.

From Kathy:

Hello. I'm just a person who became interested in Intelligent Design quite by accident while searching the Internet. I have no strong beliefs in any arena. A video of Dr. Meyer lecturing (I can't recall where) caught my attention which led to subsequent searches. Evolution News & Views is now on my favourites list. I suppose my spelling of "favourites" will indicate that I'm Canadian.

I've watched and listened to many of Dr. Meyer's debates. I've read Signature in the Cell and will be reading Darwin's Doubt. I'm currently reading Science and Evidence for Design in the Universe.

I recently watched the debate in Toronto where Dr. Meyer was suffering a migraine. I suppose you could say that it was Krauss's lucky day! As for Lamoureux, I have nothing to say as nothing he said stayed with me. Krauss adhered to the common theme of insults and derision that I've noticed with many Darwinists.

I just wanted to say that I was so impressed with Dr. Meyer (as I always am). I think that his critics would not have suffered through the same.

Dr. Meyer has become the "gold standard" to which I compare all the others.

Thank you, Kathy, though with some regret I've exercised editorial discretion and cut your P.S. with an off-topic remark on Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump!

Finally, from Lars:


Great stuff! Can we expect to see more of this in the future? I find it fascinating that these discussions can be held in a civil manner where the participants act like adults (mostly). This is years overdue. What is truly behind all of this? What do we make of the underlying wisdom in everything that is the universe? I sincerely hope this can be a regular feature.

Me too, Lars, only minus the headache and the ad hominems, next time.