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Man Plans, God Laughs: Thoughts on Meyer v. Krauss v. Lamoureux

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A Yiddish proverb puts it neatly: "Man plans, God laughs." Last night's debate in Toronto on "What's Behind It All? God, Science, and the Universe" went a little differently than planned. I hated to see our friend Stephen Meyer suffer a severe migraine in the midst of a public presentation, something that has never happened to him before.

At one point his vision was significantly impaired by the aura that goes with many migraine attacks, for which he offered the audience his apology. For most of the duration, this otherwise most brilliant and articulate of ID scholars simply could not find the words he wanted. He had to stop speaking and lie down for 20 minutes while theistic evolutionist Denis Lamoureux gave his presentation.

It was not the ideal of a clash between ID and Lawrence Krauss's atheism that one would hope for. However, the event was something else, in a way, of no less interest. It was a dramatic test and acting out of character. Almost as if it had been intelligently designed that way. Meyer's courageous performance, while not his most articulate, was in a moral sense heroic.

When all was said and done, Meyer with a migraine offered a whole lot more substance than either of his interlocutors. In addition, he was a gentleman throughout. His argument was about science and nothing but science. He never stooped to slander or condescension.

Krauss opened with a vicious and dishonest attack on Discovery Institute ("rather moribund right-wing creationist group") and on Steve personally, emphasizing themes of pushing ID into public high schools (which Steve and Discovery have always opposed) and the Dover decision. Presumably because Krauss isn't conversant with the biology behind the argument for ID, he relied on the critique cribbed by Judge Jones from the ACLU. Yes, when it comes to the millennia-old question of whether nature reflects design, an anonymous attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union gets the final word. Krauss inanely summarized our perspective: "Science is bad," "science is evil." He then moved on to his standard "something from nothing" cosmology, which we've dealt with here in the past.

Well, I suppose if you believe, as Krauss said he does, that "the universe doesn't care about us," "we are irrelevant to the functioning of the universe," "we are a bit of cosmic pollution in a sea of dark matter and dark energy" -- then why not get down in the gutter and stay there?

Denis Lamoureux was not my cup of tea. Unlike Meyer, who made no appeal to personal religious experience, Scripture, or theology, because he doesn't need to, Lamoureux offered history, theology, simplistic Scriptural exegesis, biography, autobiography, personal belief, ancient mythology and poetry, with a splash of dental evolution. Lamoureux included on one of his slides the contention that he personally has experienced miracles.

Some, though not all, theistic evolutionists share a certain fulsome, unctuous manner, almost a signature style, when it comes to dealing with their own religious beliefs. He said, "Steve is a friend. Steve is a brother in Christ," "I've prayed with Steve," "I don't want to do this but I have to do it." Yet the same Christian brother, who whistles through his teeth when he talks, spent much more energy in attacking Meyer than he did in attacking Krauss. He encouraged the atheist by exclaiming at one point, "Preach it brother!" and assured the audience "I resonate deeply with Dr. Krauss." Yes, it seems so.

And the science? I'll leave that to others, except to say that, apart from Meyer's arguments, there wasn't a whole lot of it. Krauss absurdly contended that snowflake crystals are rich in information. He adduced "fullerenes" and geodesic domes (see Evolution News on that). He failed to understand Meyer's bike lock analogy (see here for more). Krauss and Lamoureux hit the failed "God of the gaps" objection again and again. Lamoureux brandished nylonase (see here). He cited the evolution of teeth -- "Teeth emerged. Very easy to do."

They hardly touched Meyer's main arguments. And that fact is perhaps the most revealing thing about the evening. For all the bluster offered by Krauss (and to a lesser degree, by Lamoureux), their arguments were pretty threadbare. The failure to respond to the actual case for intelligent design, the reliance on ad hominem attacks and condescension, exposed the condition of the worldview of scientific materialism offered by Krauss, and just how little substance there is to the me-too "theistic" Darwinism of Lamoureux.

Our friend Steve alone faced three challengers at once -- the atheist, the theistic evolutionist, and the migraine. Of those, by far the most potent opponent was the headache. I respected him a lot before this, but last night my respect doubled.