Stephen Meyer

Praxis Circle Contributor Stephen Meyer is the Director and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is the author of three books: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (2009) which was named Times (of London) Literary Supplement Book of the Year, the New York Times bestseller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (2013), and his most recent book, Return of the God Hypothesis (2021). Praxis Circle interviewed Dr. Meyer because he is among America’s leaders in presenting the extensive evidence for God or Intelligent Design (ID) that exists in all fields of science everywhere scientists do their work.

Introduction and the Discovery Institute 

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Well, Dr. Meyer, I just want to thank you for this opportunity. It is truly one of the thrills of my lifetime. I would put it up there. I won’t mention names, because I love all my contributors the same, but having followed you, they’re clapping for you there, having followed you, I just admire what you’re doing.

I also wanted to say that having seen you and your team live at the Dallas conference, if all of America could see that, I know theists would go up 30% overnight in this country, and conversion to Christianity would go up 15 or 20%, and over time.

I think you’re taking the truth forward in one of the most important ways, which is in science, so I want to thank you for that.

Stephen Meyer:

I know there’s so many good reasons to believe it’s … Very few of our young people in particular know about them, so that’s been part of the burden that we’ve felt is to get the word out.

Doug Monroe:

It’s truly you’re fighting a …

Stephen Meyer:

But thank you for having me.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Appreciate it.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, thank you. It’s the culture in our university system and educational system that’s against it. I just would love for it … To hear about you founding the Discovery Institute and what its mission and what you do there.

Stephen Meyer:

Well, the Discovery Institute was founded by Bruce Chapman and George Gilder, both of whom had just finished stints either advising or working for President Reagan. They founded it in 1990. They wanted to found a regionally-based think tank that addressed issues of national and international scope. In other words, they wanted to be out of the DC Beltway but still do serious policy work.

They founded that in 1990. In 1996, my colleague John West and I founded a center within Discovery called the Center for Science and Culture for the purpose of investigating these scientific issues that have larger worldview implications, and if they have larger worldview implications, therefore larger cultural implications.

A big part of the focus of our work has been exploring the evidence of design in nature and whether there is such evidence, and supporting scientists who have research projects investigating those questions.

What is your definition of worldview as an academic discipline?

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I think the word worldview is from the German [foreign language]. It’s a German philosophical word, but it is … A way of thinking of a worldview is it’s a kind of default personal philosophy that each person holds, whether or not they know it, whether they know it or not, and whether they talk about it explicitly.

A way to define a worldview is a worldview is a more or less coherent set of answers to some basic questions about reality. The most basic of which is what is the thing or the entity or the process from which everything else comes?

In the formal discipline of philosophy that would be the subject of metaphysics or the subject of what’s called ontology, the question of being, what fundamentally exists. Everyone has some idea about that. The typical answers that are given are in the idea that matter and energy are the things from which everything else comes. That would be the worldview of materialism, or a theist might say that God is the thing from which everything else comes. That would be the worldview of theism.

There would be different conceptions of God. There’d be a deistic conception where God acts only at the beginning of the universe or a theistic conception where God acts as a creator at the beginning of the universe, but also is active within the creation or within the laws of nature that he otherwise sustains and upholds.

You have a more passive notion of God, a more active notion of God, and then you have impersonal notions of God, such as in Eastern philosophy. That would be a pantheistic worldview.

There are other themes, variations on these various themes, but then worldviews also answer questions about the nature of human nature or the nature of human beings, about how we know things, about the nature of morality. Is it objective or is it relative to persons in groups? What happens to us at death? These sort of fundamental questions are the stuff of worldview inquiry.

What worldview were you born into? 

Stephen Meyer:

Sure. I was raised in a nominally Catholic home, so I had something of the rudiments of a Christian worldview. We happened to be in a parish where the priest seemed more interested in politics than in religion. I’m not sure how much of the Judeo-Christian or biblical worldview was inculcated to us.

That’s because it varies from parish to parish and church to church, but I think I had a kind of rudimentary theistic worldview, but by my early adolescence, I was deeply confused about all such matters, and we were no longer going to church.

I really found faith in a unconventional way, let’s say. It took me a while to … My conversion to Christianity was kind of a long and tortuous affair. It wasn’t until really after college that I felt settled in that.

Built to Last: Christian Conversion via the Bible’s Metaphysics

Stephen Meyer:

Well, as a 14-year-old, I had an experience, which in retrospect I think was kind of metaphysical anxiety. At the time I experienced it as a … Actually as a worry about my own sanity. I was having questions that were popping into my mind that I couldn’t answer. They kind of terrified me. To even describe them as questions is not quite right. They were more worries. What’s anything going to matter in a hundred years?

At the time, I had broken my leg in a skiing accident, and I was laid up for quite a while. While I was convalescing, I was reading a book that my dad gave me about the history of baseball, because he and I were both huge baseball fans. I found the stories very, very engaging, but then always at the end a little bit depressing because no matter how much glory the athlete in question achieved, at the end of the day, there were just some records in a record book. So many career home runs and so many batting titles and so many trips to the World Series. Then, what? Was the point of it all?

I kept having this same feeling. To me at the time, my mother kept saying, “Well, it’s just a game. No wonder it doesn’t seem significant.” I thought, “Well, but how is that different for anything else? Even if I am a great surgeon and I save lots of lives, even the people whose lives I’ve saved will eventually die, and I will die. And no one will even remember that I saved those people in a hundred or 200 years.”

There was a phrase I heard recently that eventually every grave goes unvisited. There was I think this strange craving for lasting meaning or significance that I could find no satisfactory answer for. As these questions started to haunt me, I then had another question, which was, I wonder if this is what it means to be insane?

I remember the day I had that pop into my head, and then I had a surge of panic like, oh, there’s something really wrong with me. There was this kind of anxiety that took me over at 14, 15 years old. I was not able to get out and move around and do things. I was kind of … Because I was in a full length leg cast and I was immobilized. I already had an overly active, slightly neurotic style of thinking. It was just a …

I spent six months in this sort of space. Again, it was kind of a worry or a strange thought about time. If you stop and think about time too much it will freak anyone out because here we are having a conversation. A minute ago I heard some people clapping in the other room. That was an event, but that event has gone. Where did it go? I can’t recover that event. It’s gone forever.

We have this kind of strange series of sensory experiences that we would describe as one event after another, but they go as fast as they come. There’s nothing that seems stable or … About our experience. Everything is always changing.

I had this very strange intuition that there must be something that doesn’t change or else everything that is constantly changing cannot have any lasting meaning or value or significance, or something. It was just that kind of …

I was having these sorts of swirling thoughts and then worrying that there was something wrong with me because I was having them. No one at school that I knew was talking about things like this.

Doug Monroe:

But you were obviously just a very, very bright, mature young man. Okay?

Stephen Meyer:

I was a very immature young person.

Doug Monroe:

No.

Stephen Meyer:

I had no idea how to process any of this. My mind was just racing out of control. Later in my … I got out of the leg cast, I went back to school. I have a happy-go-lucky younger brother who in various ways sort of pulled me out of my own head space, but the underlying questions were sort of still there.

Sometime in the ensuing year or so, out of curiosity, maybe some desperation, something I don’t quite remember, I picked up the big white fat Catholic family Bible. It opened to the division between the two testaments. There was a picture of a very manly depiction of Jesus, not the Jesus with lipstick, and with the verse, “Come unto me, all ye who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I thought that sounded pretty good to me. I began to read the Gospel of Matthew at the first chapter, and then the next night at the second and the next night at the third. I was kind of blown away by what I was finding because I had some exposure to Christianity in a nominal sort of way, but what I was finding in the Gospels was so incredibly compelling.

What it did for me was I found that I couldn’t go to sleep at night until I read one chapter, and then I found as I read more deeply in the Bible that there were other things in the biblical … What you would call a worldview that were addressing the questions that I had.

In particular, I remember coming across the verse, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I thought, “Oh, could there be such a thing?” Then in the third chapter of Exodus where Moses … Where God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush and says that I am, that I am. The idea of the eternal self-existent ground of all being is also a personal God implicit in the name.

There were things in Christianity that seemed, in the Bible in particular, that seemed to address the kind of questions and concerns that I had that were I later learned philosophical.

In College: Christianity vs. Existentialism

Stephen Meyer:

When I got to college, I remember I was in a philosophy course. It was a course on atheistic existentialism with the … I think we were studying Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre close paraphrase said something to the effect that without an infinite reference point, nothing finite has any lasting or enduring meaning.

To the atheistic, existentialist philosophers, this was just axiomatic, that meaning had to be created by the individual. This was the whole idea of existence precedes essence. There’s no pre-given design. There’s no pre-given morality. There’s no pre-given meaning. We have to create it. We have to generate it for ourselves because there is no infinite reference point. There is nothing that can confer meaning that was here before we came on the scene and will be here after we pass, that to whom things can mean anything.

Nothing can mean anything to a rock or an atom or a planet. Things only mean things to persons. If there are no persons besides ourselves when we die and we rot then there can be no lasting meaning. This was the sense of anguish, forlornness, and despair that the French existentialists talked about, which for them was a consequence of the death of God.

This was exactly what I was feeling as a young person that absent God in my life, or in our collective lives, there could be no personal reality that persists beyond the grave. Therefore … I came across this quotation from Bertrand Russell where he talked about all the great achievements of human beings at … Our highest noonday achievements in the pinnacle of human existence, they will all die in the heat death of the universe. These are all very depressing thoughts. You don’t have them on a day-to-day basis, but they were bothering me as a young person.

I found that Christianity, biblical Christianity, addressed these head on, that there was a source of lasting meaning because there was a person who pre-existed us and would continue to exist us and could confer life upon us even after our death, so there was a possibility of meaning. That was one of the things that really haunted me when I got to college.

Epistemology & the Judeo-Christian Idea of Intelligibility

Another thing that was … Is taking philosophy courses that was … Has troubled the philosophers since the late enlightenment is the whole question of knowledge. How is it that we can know anything? This was actually another one of the things that haunted me. I remember listening, looking at my sister’s window sill in her bedroom and I had been … We had to change rooms while I was in the leg cast. I was staring out the window and looking at the pattern on the window sill.

I thought, “Well, how do I know that that is really … That what I’m seeing actually corresponds to what’s really there and that other people are seeing the same thing that I’m seeing?” Then I thought, “Oh boy, there’s, again, something wrong with me. I’m having this weird thought. I don’t know how to answer it.”

Later learned that this was the big question that philosophers have been asking since Hume and Kant was how is it possible for us to justify the idea that we have any knowledge of the world around us, that there is a mind independent reality that we can know truly?

There was a really powerful argument that I was exposed to as an undergraduate in philosophy called the argument from epistemological necessity, because the key concern of the philosophers was the reliability of the human mind and … Hume and Kant were especially attuned to the … They were especially aware that there were certain things we were assuming, that our minds necessarily assumed about reality, that were necessary to making sense of reality.

Then the question that naturally arises is, well, can we trust those assumptions? How do we know that nature is uniform? How do we know that all events have causes? How do we know that the way our minds spatially order … That our perceptual apparatus and the assumptions that are embedded in our minds to make sense of sensory data, how do we know that those assumptions that our minds are making match reality?

This was the whole question of the reliability of the human mind. It was philosophy that I encountered in university. Presented the case that it was theism that could uniquely answer that question. If our minds had been made by a benevolent creator who made our minds to know the world that he made then we could have confidence in our ability to know the world.

This I found later was one of the assumptions of the scientific revolution. It was called the idea of intelligibility, that we can do science because, this was the assumption of the early scientists, our minds are made in the image of an intelligent and rational creator. Therefore, he’s endowed us with rationality. We can understand therefore the rational structure that he built into the world, which we depict with our descriptions of the laws of nature, our understanding of the design of nature.

There was a principle of correspondence between the rationality built into the world and the rationality we had to understand the world and its rational structure. It seemed to me that theism, and particularly Judeo-Christian theism, which its idea of our minds being made in the image of the creator, provided an answer to what is now called the postmodern turn in philosophy, the worry about our ability to know the world and wondering if we are all kind of trapped in a isolating sense of subjectivity.

These were the weird, strange thoughts I was having more in college, but this really convinced me that this to me was a very compelling argument for theism, that theism alone could ground our ability to know. We all lived as though we knew things, but if we were living as though we knew things then we were tacitly affirming that our minds were made in such a way as to know the world, and really only theism could justify that assumption.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. You started worrying very early on compared to most kids about metaphysical issues. As you got further along, the answers that made you more calm and happy were also the ones that conformed to reality.

I think you’re carrying that forward in your science. It should be no surprise that the more we look, the more we see God, if all that is true, which means you would lean to being a theist.

The interesting thing to me, your first problem you mentioned as a kid, which would be, does Babe Ruth matter anymore? I call it the what has Alexander the Great or Napoleon done for me lately? Nothing.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, right. Right. Yeah.

Answering Youth Who Don’t Believe in God: Return of the God Hypothesis 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, what I can comment on is a survey that we commissioned to probe as to why so many young people were losing faith in God. You may have seen the Gallup poll from a summer ago.

Doug Monroe:

yep.

Stephen Meyer:

Where the Gallup people released their data showing that belief in God in the United States had dropped to an all-time low, still reasonably high, 81%, I think, but they showed that there’d been a precipitous loss of … A drop in belief in God in the last seven to 10 years from in the low nineties to the low eighties.

That was almost entirely driven by one demographic, which are young people between 18 and 30. We did a commission to survey to find out what were the reasons that young people are citing as reasons for rejecting belief in God.

We found that surprisingly science was playing an outsized role in their thinking, that one of the major factors was no scientific evidence for God. Something like I think 65% of young atheists said they thought that belief in God made … That science made belief in God less probable. The number was in the high forties for young agnostics. Same kind of thing.

I think one of the reasons I wrote Return of the God Hypothesis was that we have … There’s so much compelling evidence for the existence of God, and it is precisely scientific. Yet, very few people know about it. I sort of wanted to address the existential angst in the younger generation coming up because it’s not dissimilar to what I experienced as a young person myself.

Crosstalk on Recorded Human History & Cognition

Doug Monroe:

What could we say about life, given 5,000 years of recorded history, recorded human history? What would be the most important things that we could say about that, taking the debate off the table?

Stephen Meyer:

Well, [inaudible].

Doug Monroe:

It’s like red. What’s red, right?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. One thing that’s kind of crazy is that we only have about 5,000 years of recorded history.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah, right, which is this.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, because we don’t get writing until the Sumerians. That’s the Mesopotamian floodplain between the two rivers, the great cities there, which include Uruk, which is thought by archeologists to be the oldest true city.

Doug Monroe:

Oldest true city.

Stephen Meyer:

We have settlements in Jericho, we have settlements in [inaudible], whatever that place is called in Turkey.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

But we don’t really have true cities. Interestingly, Uruk is mentioned in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10.

Doug Monroe:

Is it really?

Stephen Meyer:

Yes, it is.

Doug Monroe:

Wow.

Stephen Meyer:

The oldest city mentioned in the Bible is also the oldest city recognized by archeologists.

Doug Monroe:

And that’s where the famous myth … The myth?

Stephen Meyer:

[inaudible]. Well, and they had lots of ziggurats in that area, too.

Doug Monroe:

What’s the [inaudible] where the guy has … The hero builds the city, but he loses his friend and he tries to …

Stephen Meyer:

Oh, is that part? I don’t know that. That might be part of …

Doug Monroe:

You know this. You know this. This the legend of …

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, you know that. Is that in Babylon? Is that in the Tigris Euphrates area?

Stephen Meyer:

Uruk is between the two rivers.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Okay.

Stephen Meyer:

Between Tigris and Euphrates, and there’s another city there that included a partially built ziggurat that our friend Titus thinks is likely the Tower of Babble.

Doug Monroe:

Oh, no. Get out of here.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Wow.

Stephen Meyer:

It’s called … That one is called [inaudible], I think. [inaudible]. Anyway, I made these … I had COVID a Christmas ago. I read a book on the history of cities, and I got fascinated with this and thought there’s a lot more. The …

There’s a lot more. My view is that the earth and the universe are super old, but anatomically modern, cognitively endowed human beings have not been around very long. There’s just very little evidence of higher cognition past, before the last ice age.

 Crosstalk on the Mind-Body Problem of Consciousness

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I don’t think we know. We don’t know how our own minds generate the information we’re using to communicate with each other right now. It’s called the mind-body problem.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

We know there’s a brain.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

We know we have by our direct introspective experience, we have conscious awareness. So we have this consciousness, but that consciousness… But our brain states are necessary but not sufficient to explain that consciousness. We’re not the same thing as chemical reactions going on and our synapses or whatever is going in down there. So there’s something different between the mind and the brain. I can have an intention, I can have a thought, and I can convert that thought into modulated sound waves that will convey my thought to your ear and then into your brain and into your mind. But we don’t really know. We know nothing about that interface. We have no idea. We know that there is a mind, we know what minds can do. Therefore, we can infer the activity of mind from the distinctive things that minds do that matter alone does not, but we don’t know. So we can retro predict to a mind. We cannot explain how the mind affects the body in the other direction of time.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, yeah. Which it clearly does.

Stephen Meyer:

Which it clearly does. But then the question is, well, what then do we make of how do we conceive of divine action? We don’t really know, but we don’t know how our own mental action works.

Crosstalk on Sufficiency of Proving the Existence of God

Doug Monroe:

What can we say about God, assuming God of the Bible exists?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

That God must not want us to prove God.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

It gives us all the evidence you’re talking about, which to me is proof. If I put myself in the position of a scientist and I see all that you’ve written and others, I’ve probably read 10-15 books at least down that pathway over the last 20 years, how can you really believe that this information doesn’t come from a mind? Really to me, I don’t, like Frank Turk says, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” I mean, it’s overwhelming, but yet God designed the world so that we cannot prove God. And the only reason I can think of is, we would not be free. We would essentially be in heaven.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. I’d have a different take on that. I’ve never liked that argument. I think that God has made, as Roman says, that he has made himself plain through the things that are made.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Okay.

Stephen Meyer:

And the problem is not with the insufficiency of evidence and therefore the arguments that can be constructed on the basis of that evidence. I think the problem is in the human heart that we don’t want to believe.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Okay.

Stephen Meyer:

And someone was telling me yesterday about, in this room actually, someone in the lunch yesterday was telling me about a study that had been done of young children in different countries, Japan and all around the world, and that… I don’t have to get that. And almost all of them have a basic belief in a creator as young children. But by the time they get through high school and certainly by college, it gets beaten out of them by the educational system.

Doug Monroe:

Right. Right.

Stephen Meyer:

It depends on what…

Doug Monroe:

I agree with you.

Stephen Meyer:

You mean by proof. But I’ve heard that argument. I don’t think that… I think we do have free will, but we have the freedom to suppress the evidence. Sometimes people say, “Well, the evidence is ambiguous, and that’s how God allows us free will.” I think he allows us the freedom to suppress the evidence, which is what Roman says. We suppress it in ungodliness, but we do not have… Our freedom is not underwritten by a lack of evidence, by an ambiguity of the evidence.

Doug Monroe:

Right. Right. I would agree with all that you say there. And I would say that a lot of young people and maybe people that are mad at that God would allow us to have World War I and World War II, for example, are just really upset at God that God doesn’t walk around like a person and tap us on the shoulder every day and assure us that he or she or it or whatever is there. And so the proof that God has chosen is deemed by human standards insufficient.

Stephen Meyer:

Insufficient.

Doug Monroe:

You know? That’s kind of another way of looking at it.

 Is the concept of worldview important for Christian evangelism?

Stephen Meyer:

I think one of the reasons that people are losing faith in God is that they don’t see that there are any objective reasons for such belief. And when we did a survey of younger people in particular, we found that that was the case. 65% of young atheists said they thought that the findings of science made belief in God untenable.

When people go out to share their faith in a secular context like that, especially in among those younger cohorts, and they begin to make arguments based on the Bible or based on their own subjective religious experience, those arguments have very little traction with people because there’s, what has ensued in the recent decades is a worldview divide has arisen in the culture. There’s at least two main competing worldviews, two different ways of thinking about things. And as our culture becomes more and more secular, simply preaching the gospel has no effect on people because the Christian message is making, as it’s often presented, is making assumptions that are not held in common by the people to whom the gospel is being preached.

And so whereas in 1954, Billy Graham go to London and do a massive crusade and simply preach from the biblical text and droves and droves of people, in a sense came back to God. He was calling them in a very real sense to rethink. That’s the literal meaning of repentance, to rethink their standing before God. That was something that could be done. That style of preaching or evangelism could be done in 1954 because there was still a strong Christian memory in Britain and the United States. People still believe that God existed. They mainly had some sense of the morality, the neo-Christian morality, and they knew where they stood in relation to that. Maybe they felt that they didn’t stand in a good relation to that. Maybe they needed to repent, but they still believed that there was an objective morality and they believed that there was a God who was the source of that and that they were in some way accountable to that God.

And so the basic framework of a theistic and Judeo-Christian worldview was pervasive in the culture. And so that style of evangelistic proclamation was very effective. But we live in a completely different time now. Where the majority of, at least young people do not have a theistic worldview. If they have a worldview that’s coherent, it’s maybe a more materialistic worldview or maybe somewhat a version of materialism, which is called cultural Marxism, which has made a lot of inroads in the culture. Or maybe it’s a new age kind of worldview, or maybe it’s some sort of amalgam of different elements. Maybe when sociologist has described a common way of thinking in the United States, not so much as Christian, but as what he calls moralistic therapeutic deism, there’s a combination of the therapeutic perspective of psychology combined with some idea of a creator, but also some sense that there is right and wrong, but it’s all, it’s not terribly coherent. It’s an amalgam of different elements.

And so in that kind of a context, if people of any worldview, persuasion want to persuade people to change their worldview, they have to understand what is in the minds, what their interlocutors are assuming, where is their common ground, and build from there. And you see this in the Book of Acts where St. Paul as recorded in chapter 17, you get the first snapshot of how he shared his Christian message first to a pagan world and also with fellow Jews. And in each case he sought to provide, he found a common ground basis and then built his case from there. But he did not presuppose the same worldview framework when he was trying to persuade people to adopt the worldview that he had come to believe was true.

And so I think that’s just a principle of persuasion. You have to build your case based on facts or assumptions that are held in common with yourself and your interlocutors, but then being aware of the differences, make a case based on what you have in common for the differences between your two worldview perspectives and argue your case based on evidence and reasons and the common ground assumptions that you in common, you hold together.

So yeah, I think worldview is very important. I think not in the sense of talking about worldview, maybe that’s not so important, but I think that being aware of the default worldview that people around you hold and if you want to persuade them to hold a different worldview, you have to be very aware of what they hold. And don’t beg the question, don’t assume the point at issue in your argumentation or apologetic.

The Importance of Philosophy: Good Thinking 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I think philosophy in one sense is just good thinking and good thinking about certain kinds of deep questions that maybe we don’t have to think about every day. But if we have a pulse, probably are questions we should be thinking about and questions about the meaning of life and what our priorities are and what’s true about human nature, about where we came from, about what is the ultimate good, those sorts of things. So yeah, I think philosophy is very important. A lot of scientists in the new atheist movement would ridicule or demean philosophy, or cast it aside as if it was something that was irrelevant to inquiries that they were making. Or the science was a form of inquiry that could lead us to true conclusions and philosophy was sort of vain speculation, the kind of impression you get from them, but then they go on to do really bad philosophy. And so I think good philosophy is good thinking and good thinking is important to get to the truth.

Relationship Between Materialism & Relativism 

Doug Monroe:

One of the smartest scientists that I’ve seen is Stephen Hawking. And in all due respect to somebody five times smarter than me, he was not a good philosopher. He constantly said things that would contradict his own thinking. And you mentioned the word truth. If, sort of materialism is the default of culture today, relativism is the default I think also of culture today.

Stephen Meyer:

It’s the default moral philosophy and it flows out of materialism because as Dostoevsky put it, if God is dead, then all things are lawful or all things are permissible. There are moral objectives who are not theists. Michael Shermer, a friendly debating partner, is a moral objectivist who is an atheist or agnostic or a materialist. He doesn’t believe in God. But generally what flows from a materialistic worldview is moral relativism. And there’s a reason for that philosophically, because all moral propositions involve a different tense. They’re not just offered in the indicative, they don’t say murder is, murder hurts people. That would be a factual statement. They say murder is wrong or you ought not to murder.

What does ought imply? Well, ought implies that there is some standard above us all to which we can appeal that will allow us to adjudicate the rightness or wrongness of an action. So when you use the word ought, you’re necessarily implying the existence of a standard of right and wrong. And theism, I think can give in account of what that standard is. It’s an expression of God’s moral law, which is an expression of his design for human flourishing. The moral law was given to help us flourish in accord with the way he designed us to work best.

The materialistic view tries to give an account of those ought statements in terms of our evolutionary past and says, well, what those moral propositions are, they are sort of instincts that were programmed into us by the evolutionary mechanism to promote human survival. But once you know that, that that’s all the evolution, all the moral propositions are, and that you’re not actually accountable to anyone, first of all, to act a certain way, but that if those moral instincts as they’re rendered in materialism are just instincts programmed into us to help us survive. If you discover that there’s a certain course of action that may violate those moral principles, but which promote your own survival or the survival or proliferation of your offspring, then you really have no reason to any longer acknowledge and respect those moral principles. And so as one moral philosopher put it, that the evolutionary account of morality does not withstand its own exposure.

Once you know that, oh, well, all those moral principles are instincts that were designed or you can’t say the word designed if you’re an evolutionist, that were programmed. Well, you can’t really say that either, that were somehow built into us to enhance survival. If it turns out that it will enhance your survival to abscond with the money and run off to South America, you really have no reason not to do that. I mean, that’s just one problem with what’s called evolutionary ethics. And there are many others.

So I think the theistic Harold Berman, one of the legal scholars at Harvard years ago said that that behind every moral statement is a grand says who question. Thou shalt not murder? Well, who says? Well actually the author of the universe says so. And it’s not just murder is not just wrong because he says so. But there’s also a rationality, a benevolent rationality that is underlies those moral motions. And that is that the moral propositions or moral commands were given to promote our flourishing in accord with our design. So the moral law is actually an expression of divine benevolence.

How to convert moral relativists? Ask them to rake your leaves!

Stephen Meyer:

Right, right. Well, I used to do a gag when I was a philosophy professor on the first day of class in freshmen Intro to Philosophy. I would hand out a syllabus to the students and at the same time hand them a survey of philosophical questions. And then when they got done with the survey, I’d have the teacher’s assistant gather the surveys and tally the answers. Well, unbeknownst to the students, I was really interested in the answers they gave to only three of the questions. And they were all questions about whether or not they thought that morality was subjective and relative to persons and groups on the one hand, or whether there was an objective basis for morality or whether there were objective moral principles to which we were all accountable or needed to respect.

And invariably, when the teacher’s assistant tallied the responses year after year, about 85% of the students revealed that they were moral relativists, at least in their stated philosophy, whatever’s true for you is true for you. Whatever’s true for me is true for me. True or false? Well, in the moral realm, it was always the relativistic answer, whatever’s true for you is true for you. And whatever’s true for me is true for me morally.

Doug Monroe:

Oprah, Oprah.

Stephen Meyer:

I have my morality, you have your immorality, don’t impose your morality on me, et cetera. So it was very easy to get them to reveal their relativistic tendencies. And so as the teacher’s assistant was tallying those answers, I was presenting the syllabus for the class. I’d get to the part about the grading, I’d explain that to get an A in the class, you needed to have so many points on tests and so many points on assignments. And 10% of the grade I said was assigned by their help to the professor. And then I would just go on to the next portion of the syllabus, very deadpan, and then little by little hands would start going up in the classroom. What’s this stuff about the help to the assistance to the professor?

Doug Monroe:

They want the A.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, what’s the 10%? And I would just say very seriously. I would just say, “Well, I live up the hill from the campus and I’ve got young kids and I’m just starting teaching and I’ve just got so much work to do and we have these pine trees on our property and every fall they just rain needles on our yard and I just cannot keep up with raking the pine needles. So if anyone would come up to the house and give me a hand with that, I’d be just so grateful.”

And they’d look at me and say, “Well, oh, you mean this is extra credit?” And I say, “Well, no, it’s not extra credit, but you don’t have to do it.” But then they say, “But wait, it’s 10% of the grade. If I don’t do this, I can’t get an A.” And I’d say, “Oh, well yeah, I suppose that’s right because you could only get a 90 and you need a 92. And so okay, yeah, I guess that’s right.” They said, “No way. That’s lame. That’s… No way.” And so then I get various forms of righteous indignation and moral indignation at this. And then they’d start to tell me that it was wrong. And I said, “Well, why do you say that it’s wrong?” And they, “Well, nobody else does it that way in a class.” I said, “That’s your idea of what makes right and wrong, what everybody else does.”

So we’d get into the conversation and then at a certain point I would reveal their answers to the questions they were revealing themselves and their reaction to be very dyed in the wool moral objectives. They believed that there were some things that were right and some things that were wrong. And in particular, my syllabus was completely wrong. And yet when I got the TA to reveal their answers to the questions in their stated philosophy, they were all moral relativists.

And so then I would say, welcome to philosophy and introduce the class and explain that the purpose of philosophies was to bring into a coherent synthesis. One’s stated philosophy and one’s actions that that was part of the purpose of philosophy. And because the gag was so fun, I’d usually get five or six students signing up the next day. They’re thinking the whole class would be involved with the professor pulling stunts like that.

But anyway, it was a way of illustrating that whatever we say, we in our actions reveal a commitment to certain objective moral principles. In no society is selfishness actually respected. You cannot get anyone to affirm the proposition, “It’s a good thing to kick old ladies in the shins for pleasure.” There might be some situation in which there’s an old lady who’s about to kill the president with a gun or something, and then it would be okay to kick her in the shins, but not just for pleasure. Okay?

So you can, in ethical philosophy, you can construct these examples that show that we do have a deep-seated commitment to certain objective moral principles. And that’s universal across cultures. And yet we have lots of people today saying that there is no such thing, but their actions betray their stated relativistic philosophy. And so that was one of the little gags I do.

The Fact/Value Divide and Its Justifiable Bridge 

Stephen Meyer:

Hey, just to relate the last answer to your previous question about the upper story and lower story, this was a concept from Francis Schaeffer, the idea that… And it also reflects something of in contemporary secular philosophy that’s called the fact/value divide. And the idea that there are these facts of the world that we can know by observation through scientific methods that are real and objective, but we have no knowledge, objective knowledge, of religious or moral propositions. And that these two sorts of things are of two different kinds. And so the only things we can really know are things that we know empirically through the senses, processed by the scientific method.

And I think the previous illustration in some ways suggests that we may have moral knowledge as well. We may not get it through the senses, it may be an innate, but we have a kind of universal moral knowledge. We may have both empirical knowledge and innate knowledge of the reality of God.

Yesterday I was speaking with someone in this very room who was telling me about a survey of young children in four to five, in the kind of kindergarten age, all around the world. And when asked questions about their beliefs, almost universally young children have a belief that there is some sort of benevolent creator who made them, who had them in mind, and they have to be kind of educated out of that view. So Calvin, the Protestant theologian, had the idea or the concept of a sensus divinitatis, that there is a kind of innate knowledge of God.

You could debate whether or not that’s true or not, but a philosophical definition of knowledge is justified true belief. And as a scientist and philosopher, I’m convinced there is justified true beliefs about God that we can have, namely in the first instance, that God exists. I think there are empirical and rational justifications for that belief, and therefore I think we can have knowledge of God the same way we have knowledge of the world around us.

Doug Monroe:

Well, I completely agree with that, and I also think that I’m so glad you gave me that answer.

Stephen Meyer:

And so what follows from that is that the upper story and the lower story as that metaphor is used in philosophy are not separate.

Doug Monroe:

They are not separate.

Stephen Meyer:

And in fact, knowing the lower story is not just a matter of sense perception…

… in fact, knowing the lower story is not just a matter of sense perception. It also requires us to make certain assumptions about the world that cannot be verified empirically. This was the import of say David Hume’s work or Immanuel Kant’s work in epistemology in the period of modern philosophy.

We, in order to come to something like an inductive generalization about what we would call the laws of nature, we have to first assume that there’s a uniformity of nature such that our observations are in some way representative of the way nature generally works, even though we can’t observe nature at all times and in all places. But is that assumption of uniformity of nature something that we can prove empirically? It’s not because it’s making a claim about the way nature works at all times and in all places. And we don’t have the capacity to make observations about nature in all times at all places. There are many assumptions that we bring to bear in processing sense data to make sense of the world scientifically.

In other words, our knowledge of the lower story depends upon our priori assumptions that we make that cannot be proven simply by observation. And so, we can have knowledge of things in the upper story, moral propositions, propositions about the existence of God. But we have knowledge of things in the world and the lower story in virtue of assumptions that we make that are really not justifiable scientifically, but rather, they’re philosophical assumptions or innate assumptions that we make.

And so, I think the simplistic division of knowledge into science and everything else has really failed in philosophy. That was the project of what’s known as logical positivism.

Doug Monroe:

And wouldn’t you say the ancient overall, from our standpoint today had a lot more agreement about the ability to have moral truth, et cetera? And that maybe the 1800s starting before then, but really drilled into that and tried to destroy that foundation. And we’re still recovering from that?

Stephen Meyer:

But just think about the idea of moral knowledge. At that point where someone is about to kick an old lady in the shins for pure sadistic pleasure, is there anyone who really doubts their visceral response to that impending action and say, “No, no, that is wrong.” They don’t say, “Well, am I 98% sure of this?” No, they have knowledge and are convinced that that is a wrong action that’s about to be undertaken. I think it’s appropriate to call some things in the upper story forms of knowledge.

The Newton and Leibniz Debate: Gravity and God? 

Stephen Meyer:

Fascinating story in the history of physics about Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, which he proposed in his famous book written in 1687, the Principia or Principia, depending on your preferred Latin pronunciations. And it was a fascinating theory, and it’s still our best classical theory of gravitation. We have relativistic theories now, and in some ways superseded Newton or at least subsumed Newton’s ideas into a larger framework.

But Newton’s idea was that massive bodies exert a force on other massive bodies through empty space. This was the idea of action at a distance. We have the moon high in the sky above us. And its motions are affecting the tides on earth, but the moon is not touching the earth. There’s no pushing and pulling.

And so, how does that happen? Newton famously said, “Hypothesis non fingo.” I don’t feign to know the cause. I don’t have a full explanation, but I can describe how it happens. I can describe mathematically the strength of that force if I know certain factors. If I know the mass of the moon, the mass of the earth, the distance between them.

And he had a famous equation, his force law, for calculating the force of gravity. He could provide a very precise mathematical description of the amount of gravitational force in a given situation. But he couldn’t tell you what caused the force. And if you think about it, it is actually deeply puzzling. Okay.

It’s got my cell phone here, and if I drop it, it falls to the earth. Now, the earth did not touch the cell phone, but somehow there was, the physicist talked about it in different ways, gravitational attraction or gravitational force. But there’s a movement produced by something at a distance. Prior to Newton, the scientific ideal in the period of the 17th century was advanced by a group of thinkers called the mechanical philosophers. And so, if you’re going to explain something, they thought you need to have a mechanistic explanation of pushing and pulling the clock-

Doug Monroe:

Early stage positivism.

Stephen Meyer:

Sorry?

Doug Monroe:

Early stage positivism, no?

Stephen Meyer:

In a way. But I mean we still have this demand for mechanism today. We provide many good mechanistic explanations for things. But it turns out that the four fundamental force laws in physics, not only gravitation but electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear force, all have this occult property it was called in the 17th century of action at a distance. The motion is produced in some way by the massive body in the case of gravitation, but we know not how.

Leibniz got wind of Newton’s theory, and he opposed it and he accused Newton of bringing occult properties or occult causes into science because there was no mechanical pushing and pulling. And so the two great men ended up having this very spirited correspondence/debate. Newton writing through an intermediary named Clarke. And so there’s the famous Clarke, Leibniz correspondence, but Newton is basically crafting all the responses or putting all the answers and giving them all to Clarke and it’s absolutely fascinating.

It ends up in the end underscoring, I think, a great mystery which was revealed by a dilemma that Leibniz wanted to impose on Newton to hang him out to dry. And so, it was actually a trilemma. Leibniz said, “Well, either you have a proper scientific pushing and pulling explanation, which you don’t have. Okay. And you’ve acknowledged that. You acknowledged you don’t have proper pushing and pulling, so it’s not a mechanistic explanation. Then either you’re bringing God into science and saying that somehow the cause of the motions is being produced by the spirit action of the creator.”

And that was not that implausible because Newton said that gravitational action occurs instantaneously at a distance everywhere throughout the universe. What causal agent could be responsible for that uniform motion everywhere if it’s not material? Because if there’s no material pushing and pulling, and this was the dilemma, then Leibniz said, “Wither you’re using one of these scholastic name game explanation.”

Famously, Volterra ridiculed this, the medievals would say that opium puts you to sleep. Why? Because it has a dormative virtue. It has a sleep inducing virtue. We still say this today. Aspirin has a pain relieving formula, and that’s the reason it relieves your pain.

Doug Monroe:

Teleological.

Stephen Meyer:

Well, they’re not even teleological in that. They’re just renaming the effect to be explained. They’re proposing as a cause, a name of the effect. Okay. And that isn’t really at all persuasive. And in the scientific revolution, the mechanical philosophers, the early scientists said “That’s a way of thinking that we reject, we want more satisfying explanations. We want to see an actual explanation. We want to see pushing and pulling. We want to imagine corpuscles of gas causing the expansion of the balloon or something of that sort.”

Doug Monroe:

Matter and energy.

Stephen Meyer:

Okay. Yeah, matter and energy. Either it’s a return to one of these scholastic name game explanations or you’re subtly bringing the deity in. So which is it, Newton? Which was the question that Leibniz put to him. And Newton didn’t want to fess up to the theistic explanation, which is what he favored. He said “Hypothesis non fingo.” I don’t know the cause.

But in private correspondence to a Bishop Bentley who was giving the Boyle lectures on natural theology in 1691, Newton acknowledges that he thinks that the cause of gravity must be immaterial. And in examining the corpus of his work, one of my Cambridge supervisors said that Newton’s view was that the explanation of gravity was constant spirit action.

That as in the book of Hebrews where it says that God sustains the universe by the word of his power. Or in the Book of Colossians where it says, “Jesus Christ holds the universe together. In Christ, all things are held together.” And Newton doesn’t mention Christ specifically, but he says, “In God, all things are held together.” He has a close paraphrase of that concept in his theological epilogue to the Principia, the General Scholium.

And so, it’s really interesting. The bottom line in all of that is that scientifically the fundamental laws of physics that we think of as our ultimate explanatory principles are themselves unexplained. That they involve forces that are occult in the sense that they involve the production of motions under certain circumstances without any materialistic explanation of what is producing those motions.

And even with our newer ideas about gravity with Einstein’s gravity replaces Newton’s notion of gravity, or at least subsumes Newton and then provides a broader context. But he proposes that gravity is the result of the curvature of space. How does the curvature of an empty object, of an empty something produce motion in material things? It’s equally occult and mysterious.

And then subsequent to that, we have the idea of gravitons, which are massless particles that aren’t even pushers. They’re attractors. How does a massless particle pull or attract? It’s all quite mysterious. We can describe mathematically beautifully. We have mathematical principles that seem to describe the phenomenon of the universe, but we do not have materialistic explanations for these fundamental forces.

 Why Mind? Reduced Uncertainty, Low Probability, Specified Information

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. Chapters three and four of Signature in the Cell are my most detailed treatment answering that question. Maybe the best way to get into it is to distinguish a couple different kinds or definitions of information. There’s a mathematical theory of information that was developed by the computer scientist and mathematician, Claude Shannon, the MIT scientists in the late 1940s. And Shannon’s idea intuitively was that information…

Doug Monroe:

Wait.

We’ve had interviews where there’ve been in New York City, welcome to the sirens. You know what I mean?

Stephen Meyer:

Welcome to the sirens. Shannon’s idea was that information is related to the reduction of uncertainty. If something informs you of something, it’s reducing your uncertainty about something. If you have a coin and you flip it, when it comes up heads, you have reduced the uncertainty you had about whether it would be heads or tails.

If you have a six-sided die, and it comes up a three, you’ve reduced the uncertainty by quite a bit more because there were six possibilities in the case of the die and only two possibilities in the case of the coin. And so, in addition to the intuitive connection between information and reduction of uncertainty, Shannon developed a way to quantify how much uncertainty was being reduced.

And in effect, he showed that the more improbable an event is when it occurs, the more uncertainty is reduced. If you think of the die, you’ve reduced uncertainty to the tune of you had six possibilities, and now there’s one. You’ve reduced more uncertainty in the case where the event that occurs is more improbable than in the case with the coin where there were only two possibilities. And you have a higher probability of getting either the head or the tail than you do of getting any one of the six sides on the dye. You’ve reduced less uncertainty in the other case, so you’ve imparted less information. The more improbable, the more information you’re imparting.

Doug Monroe:

It’s future looking in a way.

Stephen Meyer:

Right. And so, this is a powerful intuition. And then he’s able to quantify the amount of information that is being transmitted down a channel with he’s got various formula and things that are based on this basic intuition that there’s an inverse relationship between improbability, or there’s an inverse relationship between probability and reduction of uncertainty and the transmission of information.

Now, it turns out that Shannon, as powerful as that intuition was, was very explicit that he couldn’t really distinguish a series of characters that were meaningful from a series of characters that were not. He was actually able to measure the information carrying capacity without being able to measure whether that information transmitted was functional or not.

He is measuring the carrying capacity, without measuring or determining whether the information had content, if it was actually meaningful or functional. And so, there’s another form of information that’s more relevant to biology and more relevant to computer science and more relevant to human speech and communication and that we call specified information.

And a way to illustrate that that I’ve used probably ad nauseum is just comparing a string of characters, 20 or so letters long, with a line of poetry, “Time and tide wait for no man.” The one because there’s no discernible English words or any other words in the sequence, has Shannon information. It’s an improbable array, but the characters not arranged or specified in their arrangement so as to perform a communication function.

And so that’s a really crucial distinction because the kind of information that we have in DNA is actually the specified kind of information. The arrangement of the genetic letters in the genetic text matters to the function of the gene, the stretch of DNA that is providing instructions for building the protein.

Doug Monroe:

A mind produces and understands that.

Stephen Meyer:

Oh, yeah. The point of all that is that there might be some mindless process that would produce a merely improbable sequence that did not have a specified arrangement of characters to perform a function. But in our experience, mind is the only known cause of specified information, at least specified information of a given amount. I mean, you might get lucky with a couple two or three word letters if you’re pulling letters out of a Scrabble bag. But if you need a lot of information, it will always require mind. And then we have a probabilistic way of making those demarcations.

Specified Information vs. Laws of Nature (Redundancy/Scientific Constants)

Stephen Meyer:

Right. The laws of nature, sometimes people will say, “Well, maybe there’s a law of nature that we haven’t discovered yet that will explain where information comes from.” That sounds plausible because we think of the laws of nature as things which there are fundamental tools for explaining things in the natural world.

One of the reasons I like the Newton story that we just talked about is that it shows that our fundamental laws of physics very oftentimes are merely describing what generally happens without providing a causal explanation for any given event. And the other thing to note about the laws of nature is that they describe repetitive patterns, things that happen in a similar way over and over again.

We may have, I was dropping my cell phone a minute ago and I could drop it 100 times and you’d see basically the same event. And because we’d seen that same event over and over again, we could come up with a law of, in fact, Newton did, a law of gravity to describe this repeating phenomenon that we see over and over again. And he used a simple mathematical equation to describe those gravitational motions.

And so, the laws of nature have a characteristic that information scientists call redundancy. They’re describing the same thing over and over again. Remember the old joke about Department of Redundancy Department, JJ speaking. You’ve got the laws of nature describe redundant patterns of order, repetitive patterns of order. But informational sequences are by definition something different than that. They are aperiodic and complex in that they are not reducible to simple patterns that repeat over and over again.

If I sit here and say, “T-H-E, T-H-E, T-H-E,” or recite a mantra, whatever information was in the first utterance I gave you has not been added to by those additional utterances. Okay. That’s redundancy. And so, the laws of nature describe redundant patterns of order. They do not explain the origin of aperiodic, complex and specified sequences that are conveying information. It’s the wrong kind of beast. It’s the wrong kind of entity to explain the thing that’s of interest here.

How Christianity Sparked the Scientific Revolution

Stephen Meyer:

Well, a lot of historians of science have probed. I tried to explain what gave rise to the scientific revolution. Let me just start over on that. There’s a famous historian of science, Joseph Needham, who was himself a Marxist in his worldview who asked a famous question about the origin of modern science.

And the question was, “Why there? And why then”? We’ve had great civilizations. The Chinese made gunpowder and had a very sophisticated civilization. You go back to the ancient Egyptians, you have the Romans and their aqueducts and their roads. In Muslim countries, you had development of mathematics, but you don’t see the systematic approach to interrogating nature. The systematic methods for investigating nature develop until this period of the scientific revolution. I mean, we could also talk about the Greeks, but there were many things about the Greek way of philosophizing about nature that actually held back empirical investigation.

And so, Needham was very curious, “Well, why in Western Europe and why then in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s?” And the answer that he and numerous other historians have come to is that the difference that made the difference was the worldview. That there was something about the Judeo-Christian way of thinking that inspired the scientific investigation of nature.

Rodney Stark’s title captures some of that. He says, “For the glory of God, the scientists were motivated to study what they believed were the works of God to bring glory to Him.” But that’s really only part of it. There were other assumptions that were really part of a biblical worldview, one of which was that nature is intelligible. It could be understood because our minds are made in the image of the same mind who made the rational order in nature that we’re studying. And that was one of the reasons that mathematics was so prized by Newton and Kepler and others, that they believed that the language of nature was mathematical and that that was an expression of the divine mind.

But there were other premises. One was that nature was a created order, but the order that it manifested was contingent on the will of the creator. It could have been otherwise. I used to use an illustration when I was teaching on this. If you have a whole bunch of paintbrushes, there’s a whole bunch of different ways to use. You’ve got fat ones and skinny ones and tiny ones. They all have roughly the same function, the same Aristotelian final because, to place paint on a canvas. But that Aristotelian way of thinking of final causes, and the Greek way generally. The Greeks thought of the logos as the fundamental underlying explanation of things, this deep logic that even the gods had to obey. Okay.

And so that meant that there was a logically necessary way that nature had to be. And the job of the philosopher thinking about nature in the Greek context was simply to think, “Well, what is the most logical way that nature should be?” They came up with the idea of perfectly circular orbits, because that was the perfect geometric form. That was the way that nature should and had to be.

And we had 2000 years of total manic astronomy based on the idea of circular orbits. And it wasn’t until the scientific revolution that people said, “Well, maybe we should go out and look and see what the motions of the planets really actually reveal.” And Robert Boyle captured it beautifully. He said that it is not the job of the natural philosopher to ask God must have done, but instead to go out and look and see what he actually did do. Okay. And so that the impulse…

Doug Monroe:

Francis Bacon [inaudible].

Stephen Meyer:

To investigate things empirically came out of a view that, yes, nature was a created order, but it could have been created in many different ways. There might have been, Newton might’ve discovered that gravity had an inverse square law, which is what he did discover. Or maybe gravity might have been an inverse cube law, or maybe it as just a linear function.

There were many different possible ways that nature could have been ordered. And it was our job as the natural philosophers to look and see what was done. That was another premise. Nature was a created order. It was intelligible, but it was also contingent on the will of the Creator, so we had to go and look and see.

 Human Fallibility Needing the Scientific Method

And one other premise that came out of the Protestant side of the equation, I think both the Catholics and the Protestants and the ancient Hebrews scriptures, many concepts on the Book of Job were inspirational to the early founders, modern science. There was a contribution from all those different faith traditions. But one of the things that the Protestant reformers emphasized was the depravity of man, that humans were sinful. And that that sin affected our noetic capabilities, that it affected our thinking.

And so, that made us prone to flights of fancy. It made us prone to bias. It made us prone to wishful thinking. And so to check our theories, to check against those aspects of the fallenness of the human intellect, we needed to check our theories against actual data. And we needed to come up with rigorous ways of testing our theories to make sure that they were actually conforming to the way the world worked and weren’t just flights of fancy or products of our own biases. That was the-

Doug Monroe:

That’s four right there.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. There’s a whole mix of assumptions about nature, about human nature and about the relationship of God to nature. In particular, that he was a creator and a rational creator, were part of the inspiration for science and also part of the conviction that science could be done. That it was worth the hard effort to try to figure out what those underlying rational principles that were governing the world actually were.

Today’s Schizophrenia: Scientific Materialism & Philosophical Skepticism 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, it’s a long story. There’s a scientific aspect, a philosophical aspect. But I think that there’s an ancient maxim of St. Augustine, credo ut intelligam. Believe in order to know. If you have a prior belief in a benevolent creator, that has positive implications for our ability to know the world because it implies that our minds have been made in a way that allows us to do so.

In the field of epistemology, the subject of how we know what we know, and the grounds and justification of knowledge. In the field of epistemology, when you get secular figures like David Hume, and they want to separate our ability to know from theistic belief, and they want to ground knowledge only in empirical observation, what arises out of that is skepticism. Because Hume famously argues that we can’t know. We can’t know those inductive generalizations, which are the very object of scientific inquiry. We want to know the general laws that describe nature. Well, that’s the very thing Hume says we can’t ever know.

And so you have this postmodern turn as it comes down to us in the last couple of centuries where there’s a doubting of our ability to know. And so that’s taking place in philosophy. And then in science…

Doug Monroe:

Extreme skepticism.

Stephen Meyer:

In the 19th century, you have this corresponding affirmation from people that science is the only way to know. And that what science is figuring out is how everything came to be without the assistance of any designing intelligence whatsoever.

You have the 19th century origins theories. You have Laplace explaining the origin of the solar system. You have Darwin explaining the origin of new forms of life. You have Huxley and Haeckel extending his ideas to try to explain the origin of the first life. Darwin himself extends his idea in the other direction to try explain the origin of human life. Then you get figures like Marx and Freud and many other scientific materialists. I think Darwin, Marx, and Freud, in a way are illustrative of the zeitgeist.

Doug Monroe:

Trifecta.

Stephen Meyer:

Darwin tells us where we came from in materialistic terms. Marx has his dialectical, materialistic account of where the human race is going with his utopian vision of the future of a social estate. And then Freud, in the early 20th century, has an account of what to do about our guilt, but explaining it away. And then also argues that the God did not create man. That man created the concept of God.

And so you have this complete reversal and the establishment of this materialistic worldview. And a worldview that’s often asserted with great certainty by the scientists at the same time that the philosophers are saying we can’t know anything at all And that we should be skeptical about the scientific method. You have this schizophrenia within intellectual thought. And that’s why I think one of the wonderful things that commence theism, theism I think affirms scientific realism-

Things that commence theism. Theism, I think affirms scientific realism and also allows us to do good science.

Where does intelligent design stand in the scientific community today? 

Doug Monroe:

I thought I’d ask you a little bit about where we are as you see the scientific community today? Are they becoming more and more open to intelligent design? Do you feel like you’re possibly a Francis Bacon in the middle of a big new wave, or do you feel like you are just a little piece of light in the night like David Hume who might’ve been early in the secular movement? I mean, where are you? Where are we with intelligent design?

Stephen Meyer:

I have no idea where I personally am other than here at the Heritage Foundation with you today. But I would say I’m extremely bullish about the development of the intelligent design research program and the development of the community of scientists who are advancing that program. We’ve had some very high level conversions, scientific conversions that is and changes of mind about these origins issue. One very striking example of that is the case of Gunter Bechly, a very prominent German paleontologist who in 2009 was curating the Darwin Bicentennial and Sesquicentennial exhibition celebrating both his birth and his work the origin of species. He created a display that was in some way mocking the idea of intelligent design. One of his colleagues challenged him and said, “Gunter, if you’re going to make fun of the ID people, you should read their books because you’re our spokesman, you may get asked in the media.”

And Gunter later told me that was his… He said, “That was my mistake.” And he came out to see us in Seattle to the Discovery Institute. We had some long and deep conversations. He told us he had concluded by reading a number of the key ID books that we were being unfairly maligned, that there was a lot more science supporting our work than he had any inkling about before. And that led him into a deep think about the whole issue. And within several years he was openly acknowledging that he was now a proponent of intelligent design and a skeptic about neo-Darwinism. And he’s doing some great research work for us as a paleontologist, he’s really first-rate. David Gelernter is another interesting case, Yale computer scientist who read my book, Darwin’s Doubt and David Berlinski’s important collection of essays, the Deniable Darwin, where he encountered the mathematical argument that we’ve made against the plausibility of the neo-Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for the origin of information and the origin of new forms of life. And Gelernter wrote a really extraordinary review essay called Darwin a Found Fawn Farewell in the Claremont Review of books.

And there have been many other leading scientists who are either coming out of the woodwork and becoming more public in their support for this or offering to sponsor graduate students in their laboratories as mentors or announcing scientific conversions. And in fact this has been going on through much of the 20th century. In my book I talk about the scientific and philosophical conversion of the physicist, Fred Hoyle, who was a staunch scientific atheist who embraced some form of sort of theistic belief to account for what’s called the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics. You have figures like Dean Kenyon, who Kenyon was a prominent chemical evolutionary theorist who repudiated his own theory and then embraced the intelligent design hypothesis. Allen Sandage, the great cosmologist who was a staunch scientific materialist who ended up having a religious conversion in part because of not in spite of his own scientific discoveries relating to the Big Bang and the origin of the universe.

So there’ve been many of these cases of scientists moving away from a scientific materialist viewpoint and embracing either intelligent design or theism or at least a skepticism about the scientific materialist views that they once held.

Argument for God: Signature of the Cell 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, right, the subtitle of my book, return of the God Hypothesis is three Discoveries that reveal the mind behind the Universe. And I start in a sense building on the biological arguments that I made in the… Actually the order is reversed in the new book, but here’s the story of the book I wrote two books beforehand one, Signature in the Cell and second, Darwin’s Doubt. And these were books arguing that the information needed to build the first life and major new innovations in the history of life is best explained by the activity of a designing intelligence. In 1957, Francis Crick advanced something called the Sequence Hypothesis. This was four years after he and Watson had elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule. And in 57 Crick realized that the subunits along the interior of the molecule, along the spine of the molecule subunits called the bases or nucleotide bases were functioning like alphabetic characters in a written text or digital characters like the zeros and ones in a section of software.

That is to say that it is not the material properties of those chemical subunits that give them their function, it’s not their weight or their shape, but rather their arrangement in accord with an independent symbol convention now known as the genetic code. And so what Crick was able to elucidate with the help of other scientists in the ensuing seven or eight years was a whole information storage transmission and processing system. And that DNA was literally carrying instructions for directing the construction of the proteins and protein machines that cells need to stay alive. And so at the foundation of life, we don’t just have matter and energy, we don’t just have chemistry, we have code, we have information. And that raised the really huge question in biology, where does that information come from?

And scientists, because they could not answer that question within the framework of modern evolutionary theory, either chemical evolutionary theories of the origin of life or I would have and have argued biological theories of the origin of the new information needed to build new forms of life are also inadequate to account for the origin of the information needed to build new biological form. Just as in our computer world, you need new information to generate a new program or operating system to give your computer a new function. In the biological world, you need information to generate new biological form, it takes information to create form. And so that has turned out to be a very, very difficult problem to solve within the framework of evolutionary biology. I argued in Signature in the Cell, my first book, that information in our uniform and repeated experience is always the product of an intelligent cause. And our uniform and repeated experience is the basis of all scientific reasoning. So there’s actually a scientific basis for inferring that there was a designing intelligence responsible for the information necessary to life.

Whenever we see information, whenever we detect it and we trace it back to its ultimate source, whether it’s in a section of computer code or if it’s in a hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or even information embedded in a radio signal, whenever we look at that information, trace it back to where it came from. We always find a mind, not an undirected material process. So the discovery of information at the foundation of life in every single cell of every living organism, including the very first simple one celled organisms suggest that a designing intelligence played an important causal role in the origin and development of life. And that’s the argument of the first two books. And that’s what I pick up in the third book because people then asked, well, who do you think that designing intelligence is or was?

Something from Nothing? The Universe’s Origin and Quantum Physics 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, that’s the idea. What Krauss was popularizing in his little book Universe from Nothing, was one of the two main models of what is called quantum cosmology. The idea that we can explain the universe out of nothing physical by reference to some underlying quantum mechanical laws of gravitation. So Stephen Hawking famously said, that there is a law such as gravity explains why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe came into existence. But what’s not stated there is that the nothing, oh yeah, is not really nothing. That there is a law such as gravity explains how you can get the universe to create itself from nothing. Well, if there are laws of gravity, then that’s not nothing, right? So if the laws are explaining how you get from nothing to something, then that presupposes that there are those laws and the laws are mathematical in character.

And that really exposes an even deeper paradox for the quantum cosmologists because as Alexander Vilenkin pointed out, who is one of the other great advocates of quantum cosmology and whose work Krauss was popularizing, he pointed out that the mathematical equations and the mathematical equations we use to express those quantum physical laws are conceptual. That math exists in the realm of the mind. And so what these quantum cosmologists ultimately are arguing is that matter and energy emerge out of a conceptual realm of math, which necessarily implies a preexisting mind to think the math, to think the mathematical ideas. And so they’ve invented quantum cosmology to get around the theistic implications of the standard Big Bang Theory. And its affirmation that there was a beginning to the physical universe of matter, space, time, and energy before which there was no matter that could do the causing of the universe. You see the problem?

And they saw the problem too, and so they developed this other model. But so first of all, they did not end up getting rid of the beginning. In all the quantum cosmological models, there’s still what’s called the singularity at the beginning, but their explanation for the origin of the universe out of the singularity is a preexisting mathematical reality that could only have reality if there was a preexisting mind. And so in their attempt to circumvent the theistic argument sometimes called the cosmological argument, they ended up showing that if you adopt a different cosmological model, you still end up having… Inadvertently, you end up reaffirming the need for-

Doug Monroe:

Information.

Stephen Meyer:

The need for information, but also a mind-

Doug Monroe:

A mind.

Stephen Meyer:

A mind behind the universe.

Theistic Design: Is “Who created God” a problem? No! 

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, sometimes people will object to the design hypothesis or a theistic design hypothesis more specifically, by saying, “Well then if you’re positing God as the explanation for the origin of the universe, who created God? And doesn’t that therefore render your explanation absurd?” And my answer to that is no, that every philosophical system has to posit something as what philosophers sometimes call a primitive, the thing from which everything else came, or in worldview studies, they call it the prime reality or in-

Doug Monroe:

Ultimate reality.

Stephen Meyer:

… formal philosophy, they’ll talk about the issue of ontology. What is the thing from which everything else came and the material [inaudible], the eternal self-existent thing from which everything else came, the thing that doesn’t need explaining and materialists have long affirmed that matter and energy are those things. And I would say in the aftermath of the great revolution of thought that’s taken place in the last 100 years in cosmology where we have multiple lines of evidence and developments within theoretical physics suggesting that the universe itself, the physical universe had a beginning, that matter and energy are now a poor candidate to be the thing from which everything else came, they themselves appear to have come into existence a finite time ago before which, whatever that means, there was no matter and energy to do the causing. They can’t be the eternal self-existent thing because they began a finite time ago. They haven’t been around forever.

Whereas if you posit God and a God possessing the attributes that say Jews and Christians have long ascribed to God, then you are positing the existence of an entity which has precisely the type of attributes that you would need to explain the origin of the physical universe from nothing physical. God is an entity who exists outside of space and time, is immaterial and is thought to have great power. So to suppose that such a being exists provides a better explanation for the origin of the universe than does materialism.

Cosmological data points to God?

Stephen Meyer:

And just to amplify the last answer a little bit, there’s a great physicist Arno Penzias, who co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation, which was one of the very important confirming pieces of evidence in support of the Big Bang Theory and the concept of a cosmic beginning. And he famously said, “The best data we have are exactly what I would’ve predicted if I had nothing to go on, but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.” If you take a kind of Bayesian take on this where you think, okay, I’ve got two different metaphysical hypotheses, what expectations would I generate from one as opposed to the other? Well, the idea of materialism or scientific materialism was the idea that matter and energy were eternal and self-existent, they’d always been here, but then we discovered, no, the material universe had a beginning, so that’s not what you would expect given a materialistic worldview.

But given a theistic worldview, indeed, even a biblical worldview, you would have greater reason to expect a beginning because on a biblical world or on a theistic worldview, generally you would be positing a creator for the universe, and therefore that would suggest the possibility of a beginning. But on a biblical worldview, we have an even greater reason to expect a beginning to the universe because it’s affirmed in the Bible as the first words of the Bible and in other places. So I think Penzias’ quote highlights how the way in which the Big Bang Theory or the evidence we have supporting that theory is confirmatory of a theistic or biblical worldview and disconfirming of a secular materialistic worldview.

Interestingly, Richard Dawkins has framed the issue beautifully. He says, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if at bottom there’s no purpose, no design, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” But that turns out that’s a great way of framing it because it says, “Hey, look, we can test our competing metaphysical hypothesis by looking and observing the world to see what kind of properties it has.” But the properties of the universe suggests that the universe had a beginning and that’s not what you’d expect given Dawkins’s scientific atheism, so it’s disconfirming.

 Our Fine-Tuned Universe

Stephen Meyer:

Well, the second class of evidence that I address in the book that I think reveals the mind behind the universe that points to intelligent design is the evidence that physicists have discovered in their analysis of the conditions that would be needed in their analysis of the physical property, the basic physical properties of the universe, and they found that time and time again, there are very fundamental properties of physics such as the strength of gravitational attraction or the strength of electromagnetic attraction or the mass of the elementary particles, in particular, the quarks or the strength of the force that’s causing the universe to expand, called the cosmological constant, that each of these different fundamental parameters have to fall within very narrow ranges or tolerances outside of which life would be impossible. And the probability of getting even one of these parameters in that just right sweet spot is oftentimes extremely small. Sometimes it’s just small, but other times it’s almost vanishingly small.

So for example, the cosmological constant is the name of the force that physicists give to the force that is causing the expansion of the universe. It turns out that, that force is fine-tuned to one part and 10 to the 90th power. So 10 to the 90th big exponential number, it’s a tiny, tiny smidgen within a vast range of possibilities to put that probability of getting that force just right in context, it would be that roughly the same probability as a blindfolded man floating in free space would have of choosing one marked elementary particle among not just all the elementary particles in our universe, but in having to explore 10 billion universes our size, it’s incredibly improbable. And yet the universe is sort of balanced on a razor’s edge-

Doug Monroe:

And you only need one right of the key forces?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, but many-

Doug Monroe:

That are independent.

Stephen Meyer:

Some of the parameters might be derivative of others. And so the probabilities in those cases would not be independent, but many of the probabilities and the parameters are certainly independent. So the probabilities are multiplicative, but you start with just a few parameters that you have insanely small probabilities, and yet you’re in the sweet spot where life can exist. So Fred Hoyle who discovered some of the first and most important fine-tuning parameters had been a staunch scientific atheist, he has a reversal of worldview as a result of his own discovery of the fine-tuning and later is quoted as saying that a common sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics to make life possible, and it’s pretty compelling; fine-tuning suggests a fine tuner.

A Fine-Tuned Universe vs. Faulty Materialist Multiverse Counterargument 

Stephen Meyer:

They argue that, while, yes, the probability of getting one or all of these parameters just right is infinitesimally small. But what if you had a nearly infinite number of universes, then yes, the probability… If you have an infinite number of universes, then you could conceive that the combination of factors that would be life friendly would have to arise in one of those universes just by chance. And then we just happen to be the lucky ones. But there’s a problem with that, and there’s two aspects to it, and that is that if you just have all these other universes, then the mere existence of those universes doesn’t… And they’re not interacting causally with our universe, then the mere existence of the universes does nothing to explain whatever process it was that set the probabilities in this universe because there’s no interaction. So in virtue of that, multiverse proponents have suggested that there are kind of universe generating mechanisms that produce all the different universes, including our own, so they can portray our universe as a kind of lucky winner in a great cosmic lottery.

But that’s where the ultimate rub comes in, because it turns out that for those universe generating mechanisms, whether they’re based on something called string theory or inflationary cosmology, for those universe generating mechanisms to produce new universes, even in theory to plausibly generate new universes, those universe generating mechanisms themselves have to be exquisitely finely tuned. So there’s unexplained prior fine-tuning in the multiverse hypothesis. So it takes you right back to where you started. And given what we know… What we mean by fine-tuning is an ensemble of improbable parameters that work together to accomplish a significant outcome or function. And when we see fine-tuning in our experience, whether we’re talking about a finely tuned French recipe or a finely tuned internal combustion engine, or a finely tuned radio dial, or any finely tuned system, those systems always result from a mind from a prior intelligence. So even if the multiverse hypothesis is correct, it only underscores the need for prior fine-tuning, which takes you right back to the need for intelligent design. And so I think either way you go, you have evidence of intelligent design.

Applying Occam’s Razor: Multiverse Theory vs. Intelligent Design 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, God is also an unobservable in the same way that the other universes are unobservable. But the point is that the multiverse doesn’t get rid of the need for an intelligent agent to explain the fine-tuning, nor is it a simpler explanation than the theistic explanation. It turns out that if you think of those two different universe generating mechanisms that the materialists have had to propose to explain the fine-tuning, when you posit those mechanisms, they themselves require belief in all kinds of unobservable entities, extra dimensions of space and string theory. Unobservable strings and string theory, a force called an inflaton field, et cetera. And so you end up multiplying explanatory entities in the materialistic multiverse explanation, whereas in the theistic explanation, you can explain the same data more simply by reference to one single explanatory entity, namely a transcendent intelligence. So the theistic explanation passes the Occam’s razor test much more nicely than the materialistic one does.

Doug Monroe:

No question.

Stephen Meyer:

Plus, you’re invoking a gabillion other universes, which is fantastically extravagant as part of your explanatory framework.

 Primary Argument Against Darwinism: Mutation’s Extremely Low Creative Power 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, the term evolution has multiple meanings. It can mean simply change over time. It can refer to small scale variations among very similar organisms like the Galapagos finches that got a little longer, a little shorter beaks in response to varying weather patterns. It can also refer to the idea that all organisms are related by common ancestry. And most importantly, and this is the most important aspect of the Darwinian idea of evolution, it refers to the idea that there is an undirected unguided process called natural selection acting on random variations, and in our modern times, we would also talk about acting on random mutations. And that undirected process produces all the forms of life we see and all the change that’s implied by Darwin’s depiction of the history of life as a great branching tree. So in explaining my skepticism about evolutionary theory, I typically explain why I am skeptical about the creative power of that mutation, natural selection mechanism, because that’s the most important element of the theory.

I don’t doubt that there’s been change over time. I don’t doubt micro-evolutionary change. I think that some organisms may be related by common ancestry, I’m a skeptical about universal common ancestry because there’s too much evidence of discontinuity in the fossil record and in the genomic record. But the main focus of my skepticism concerns the claims for the creative power of the mutation selection mechanism. In 2016, I attended a conference at the Royal Society in London where leading evolutionary biologists convened a conference to evaluate new developments and evolutionary thinking and evolutionary biology. But the main unstated reason for convening the conference was that they recognized the need for a new theory of evolution, and that the mutation selection mechanism does a nice job of explaining that small scale variation in the Galapagos finches. But it does a very poor job of explaining the origin of birds or insects or the first animals, or what biologists call morphological innovation. It explains small scale variation, but not major change, major innovation in biological form.

And at that conference in 16, the first lecture was given by a leading Austrian evolutionary biologist named Gerd Muller. And he started his talk by enumerating, what he called the explanatory deficits of textbook neo-Darwinian theory, the first one of which had to do with this lack of creative power associated with the mechanism. And so I have various ways of explaining that, but one easy way to grasp that is to think about the problem of generating new information. Because in our biological biology today, we now realize that if you want to build a new form of life, or if the evolutionary process is to succeed in building a new form of life, it must produce a lot of new information. You need information to build new biological form. You need new information to build proteins, to service new types of cells, et cetera.

So where’s that information come from? Well, in the Darwinian scheme, it comes as a result of random changes in the DNA, in the sections of DNA that have the… Or in the characters, the information bearing subunits of the DNA that carry the information. Well, we know from our computer world that if you start randomly changing zeros and ones in a section of computer code, you’re going to destroy that code, that operating system or that program long before those random changes are going to have a chance of generating some new program or operating system. And it turns out from very careful studies that have been done on mutating DNA-

… on mutating DNA and proteins. It turns out the same thing is true in DNA, in the cell. If you start changing the ACs, Gs and Ts, the digital characters or the genetic characters in the genetic language at random, you will invariably degrade the structure of the resulting proteins long before you’ll generate the capacity to build a new protein. And so the origin of information is a crucial problem that has not been solved by the standard Neo-Darwinian evolutionary model, or I would argue and have argued in Darwin’s Doubt any of the post Neo-Darwinian theories of evolution that have been proposed either.

The Problem with TOE (Theories of Everything)

Stephen Meyer:

Theories of everything are, I think conceptually incoherent. The idea that there could be a theory of everything is conceptually incoherent because there’s a fundamental misunderstanding that is prevalent among a lot of physicists. Physicists think that the laws of nature explain particular facts and the laws of nature tend instead to describe general patterns of behavior in nature. They may sometimes explain particular facts, but they don’t explain all particular facts.

And here’s why. Imagine you have an apple falling from a tree, and you use the law of gravity to describe the motion. Okay, so far so good, but now you also see a rocket ship flying to the moon, and you also use the law of gravity to describe its motion. It’s crucial. We needed to know the laws of gravity to be able to put a man on the moon. So the law of gravity is applicable to describing both of those motions. But there’s a big difference in the motions, and the law is not the difference that makes a difference and to explain why the apple fell as opposed to the rocket ship flying, we need to invoke other factors to provide an explanation that explains the difference. And the other factor actually has to do with the way that metal was configured and the parts were made to make a rocket ship that had the ability to constrain, thrust and fly.

And so that pertains not to the laws of nature, but rather to the configuration of matter, and what in a different context a physicists might refer to as the initial conditions of the material state, so the laws of physics by themselves, the idea of a grand unifying theory was we’d get one law that would explain everything. Well, if the law was so general, if it was even more general than the law of gravity, it will describe aspects of all motions or all events. But it won’t explain why one event happened as opposed to another because it’s so general. It applies to everything, and it can’t be a difference that makes a difference between two contrasting event scenarios. So I think-

Doug Monroe:

I see what you’re saying. Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

So it’s conceptually confused.

Doug Monroe:

Is that dying or is interest in that just there? Is it cult-like or-

Stephen Meyer:

There’s always interest in this among physicists. They want to reduce the four fundamental laws to one fundamental law of physics. And they may succeed in that, although I’m doubtful for other reasons I could explain. But even if they did, then they would just have a very general description that applied to every piece of matter and every piece of energy and every realm of space-time. But they wouldn’t be able to explain why one thing happened rather than another. They wouldn’t be able to explain the origin of any biological system because that requires explaining how specific configurations of matter arose against the backdrop of the very general laws that don’t explain why one configuration as opposed to another is favored.

Theistic Evolution: An Oxymoron

Stephen Meyer:

There are different views of biological origins within the religious community, within the Christian community, within people who hold a theistic worldview. And one of those views, which is different than the view I hold, is the view of theistic evolution, and that’s the idea that God in some way used the evolutionary process to create life, to create the new forms of life.

Doug Monroe:

Wasn’t that the church’s sort of original approach to it when it came up? Just-

Stephen Meyer:

Not really-

Doug Monroe:

No?

Stephen Meyer:

… because the evolutionary theory really only dates from the 19th century. And so there are figures like-

Doug Monroe:

I’m sorry to interrupt you. Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Well, that’s okay.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

In any case, so theistic evolution is sometimes a little bit difficult to define because there are many different versions of it, but roughly speaking, it’s the idea that God used the evolutionary process to create. And it sounds kind of innocuous, it sounds sort of commonsensical, but it has three main problems with it. There are scientific problems associated with it. There are philosophical problems associated with it, and there are theological problems.

The scientific problem is very simply the one we just covered, and that is that if the mutation natural selection mechanism, the main mechanism cited by evolutionary biologists itself lacks creative power, then it’s incoherent to claim that God used that to create. In other words, the theistic evolutionists have been involved in trying to reconcile what they regard as mainstream evolutionary biology with their religious beliefs, not realizing that mainstream evolutionary biology itself is beginning to recognize problems that make that synthesis unnecessary. Okay?

And I would say actually that for at least 40 years now, maybe longer, I mean in 1980, Stephen J. Gould said that Neo-Darwinism is effectively dead except as textbook orthodoxy. People have known now for a very long time about the problems associated with the creative power of natural selection and random mutation. I explained several more than the ones we talked about already in this interview in Darwin’s Doubt and this Royal Society conference and other events of biologists who call themselves sort of third way. They don’t want to endorse intelligent design, but they know that Neo-Darwinism is dead. One of the biologists at the conference in London said, “Criticism of Neo-Darwinism is now so early ’90s.” In other words, it’s passe even to criticize the theory. So there’s a disparity between what our students are being presented and what even people in the field of evolutionary biology know.

All of which is to say why are prominent professors at Christian colleges or prominent scientists associated with groups like BioLogos working so hard to try to reconcile their Christian or theistic beliefs with a dying theory, with a theory that lacks a creative mechanism for explaining the origin of new forms of life? So that’s the scientific problem.

The logical problem or philosophical problem is that Darwin conceived of the mechanism of natural selection acting on random variations as a purely undirected, unguided process. And the reason for that was that he was trying to explain the appearance of design in living organisms without invoking an actual designing agent. And so he came up with this mechanism that was a kind of designer substitute mechanism.

Well, if the mechanism of mutation selection is natural as opposed to intelligently guided, and that’s how it was formulated, then how is that logically compatible with the idea that God is guiding the evolutionary process? If God is guiding an unguided process, it’s no longer unguided. Sorry. If you ask the theistic evolutionists, if they think it’s guided or unguided, they get kind of famously ambiguous and will say, “Well, it might be guided.” Or they’ll often say it isn’t guided. If they say it isn’t guided, they’ve got a flat out contradiction. If they say it might be guided, they have such an ambiguous theory as to not really warrant critiquing it because it’s not really a theory at all. It’s not really telling us what is the true causal agency that’s responsible for the origin of new forms of life? And then I would argue there are theological problems but we can set those aside for now.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, that’s a big argument among scientists and theologians, but at least you both believe in God having some role. And but I-

Stephen Meyer:

I think the main problem with the theistic evolutionary position is it’s not at all clear what role the theism plays.

Doug Monroe:

What role it is. Exactly.

Stephen Meyer:

Is that just a rhetorical add-on, or is God actually doing something that makes a difference scientifically?

Doug Monroe:

Right.

Stephen Meyer:

And typically the theistic evolutionists will say, “No. The design of the creator is not detectable scientifically,” which means that their science is identical to that of the materialists.

Do miracles (like the Resurrection) violate the laws of nature?

Stephen Meyer:

I don’t think that miracles violate the laws of nature. And I think that’s a misconception again, about what the laws of nature do. They describe regular patterns of occurrence in the physical world, but there is, with a law of nature, always a ceteris paribus clause, all other things being equal. In particular, a clause that says, provided there is no interfering conditions, so if I were to analyze the movement of billiard balls on a table or pool table, I guess, and I know the law of momentum exchange and I know the initial conditions that are in play, what the force is when ball A hits ball B at angle X, I can predict the outcome as a physicist in theory at least. But when the cue strikes the ball, somebody shakes the table, then all bets are off. That doesn’t mean the law of momentum exchange has been violated. It means that someone has introduced into that physical system a chain of cause and effect.

And I think biblically, miracles are conceived of as acts of God, acts of a personal agent. In the Exodus account, it says that, “And the Lord caused an east wind to blow.” Now, it may not be the ordinary thing for walls of water to stand up, but a sufficiently strong force, even produced by wind might be capable of doing that. But the philosophical point is that-

Doug Monroe:

My low-lying property on the bay will agree with that, right?

Stephen Meyer:

Okay.

Doug Monroe:

There you go.

Stephen Meyer:

But the point is that if an agent acts in an otherwise closed physical system, you may get unexpected outcomes without the laws that apply to that physical system being violated. So I think that argument and other arguments that I could make against say Hume’s skeptical argument against miracles, and I think Hume’s argument against miracles is incredibly weak, but anyway, I don’t think there are good in principle, philosophical reasons to reject the possibility of miracles.

Miracles are fundamentally acts of God. They are impossible if there is no God to act. The prior probability of miracles given scientific materialism is zero. But if you have good reasons for believing in God, then the probability shifts to non-zero, and you have to evaluate the historical evidence itself to see whether or not it suggests that a miracle took place. And in my case, without going into all the details, I have had a deep dive into some of the great scholars who have examined the historical evidence surrounding the resurrection, and I would name four: Wolfhart Pannenberg, his student, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and N.T. Wright. And Habermas has some extraordinarily persuasive videos online. N.T. Wright wrote the Magisterial 700-page volume, “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” And I think that-

Doug Monroe:

Is that the gold standard, would you say, or they’re all the same?

Stephen Meyer:

Craig’s PhD dissertation, which cost me $150. It was probably Edwin Mellen Press. I remember when I got it. It’s a fantastic piece of work so I mean, there’s some very profound scholarship on this. And there’s two different ways of arguing for the resurrection. One is called the Minimal Facts Argument. Another called the Maximal Facts Argument. I actually think they both work. I mean, I think the historical evidence is surprisingly strong when you get into it.

A Good Theology of Nature: God’s Creating, Sustaining, and Special Agency 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I do want to say that the natural entities have real causal powers associated with them, so I do think that we actually detect God’s special action. I think those causal powers are a consequence of God’s creation and his upholding the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry. But I do think we detect God’s special agency against the backdrop of what nature ordinarily does. And so I think distinguishing between two powers of God as the medieval theologians did between his ordinary power of sustaining and upholding the regular concourse of nature and his special action where he acts as an agent within the matrix of natural law that he otherwise sustains and upholds is a good way to think about nature. It’s a good theology of nature, if you will.

How does Mind influence the world? Evidence: The Cambrian Explosion

Stephen Meyer:

Well, there’s an asymmetry in science often between prediction and explanation. And this is a slightly different asymmetry, but it’s the asymmetry between our ability to detect the activity of an agent and being able to understand how mental agency affects matter. Well, we may have ideas about it, but we do not have an adequate explanation of how mental agency affects matter, and that applies to divine agency as well as human agency.

You and I are communicating with each other using words right now, but we’re actually modulating acoustic signals and sending them across a room. Our ears are picking them up, they’re sending us a signal to our brains. Our brains are processing that, and somehow our minds are interpreting that signal and we’re understanding each other. All that was initiated by, in my case, a desire to communicate something to you, so my mind, through conscious deliberation, my mind of which I’m aware through direct introspective experience has causal powers of which I’m aware, but I don’t really know how the mental realm affects the physical. We can see evidence of the activity of mind in an event like the Cambrian explosion. For one thing, we have a massive increase in the amount of information in the biosphere in a fairly narrow window of time.

And I think the increases of information are, in our experience, solely produced by mental agents. Therefore, we have evidence of mental agency in the history of life. That’s a radical conclusion, but one I think that follows from the evidence and our knowledge of cause and effect, but going the other direction is difficult. We don’t really know, presuming it was the mind of God, how God’s mind affected matter. The scripture uses metaphors like, “The spirit of God brooded over the waters.” Well, we don’t get a full account.

Doug Monroe:

Is it fair to say, I’m asking a leading question now, but-

Stephen Meyer:

I guess the payoff point there is that just because we don’t know how mind affects matter in the forward direction, if the causal arrow’s running in that direction, doesn’t mean that we can’t retrodict or detect the activity of mind in the reverse direction from the distinctive effects that we know only minds produce.

 Is a non-material explanation “scientific”? Yes, with special evidence.

Doug Monroe:

Along those same lines, would it be fair to say that gravity for one, how life started, number two, what consciousness really is number three, in spite of Daniel Dennett, there’s really no scientific explanation for those things that are satisfying yet, right? Or we don’t feel like we-

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I would-

Doug Monroe:

You see what that question that-

Stephen Meyer:

… quibble with the framing of your question slightly-

Doug Monroe:

Okay, okay, okay.

Stephen Meyer:

…. because we want to say that posing an intelligent cause is a properly scientific explanation for certain types of evidence, especially within certain types of science. If I am asking a question about causal origins of something that happened a long time ago, and I have every indicator in that event of the distinctive activity of an intelligent agent, then the best explanation is to infer that an agent played a role. And that’s also a scientific explanation, or it’s at least as scientific as its competitor a Darwinian materialistic explanation because the difference between Darwinism and intelligent design is not that they are two different types of things, rather than, they’re two different competing theories trying to explain the same types of events. And they’re even using the same methods of reasoning to do so.

So I would say, yes, I don’t think we’ve had materialistic or evolutionary explanations for the origin of the Cambrian animals or the origin of the other abrupt appearances of living forms in the history of life or the origin of life, nor have we had materialistic explanations that explain the fine-tuning or explain consciousness. But that doesn’t mean that there might not be non-materialistic explanations that have an equally good claim to be scientific.

Are you a dualist? 

Stephen Meyer:

I’m a dualist interactionist. Yeah. I’m not a Cartesian dualist, but there’s a model of mind-body interaction that was developed by Sir John Eccles and some of his colleagues in the ’90s. A great brain physiologist who was a mind-body dualist, and he and Karl Popper wrote a book called The Self in Its Brain, and a book that I love is a book about how to treat anxiety disorders, a practical sort of a book for people to help with anxiety called You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz. And it’s the same kind of concept that the self or the soul or the mind controls the brain or can control the brain as an instrument of its existence.

What Jeffrey Schwartz, a great psychiatrist at UCLA has discovered is that the most effective ways to treat anxiety disorders are to help people to retrain their brain, retrain certain patterns of thinking that are reflexive, and you can use your mind to do that. And so the very success of those modes of treatment suggests a distinction between mind and brain.

Our Ultimate Problem: “Men Have Forgotten God”

Stephen Meyer:

This year marks the 40th anniversary of a great speech that was given by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, his “Men Have Forgotten God” speech. And it has an incredible sort of anecdotal opening where he tells about, as a young person, the news is spreading across Russia about the success of the Bolshevik Revolution. And the old people are weeping in the fields, and he’s told repeatedly by older people that these great disasters have befallen Russia because men have forgotten God.

And I think we’re facing a situation in our culture where we have a lot of disasters that are beginning to befall us. We have these, I mean almost every third day evidence of a brawl somewhere. We have violence. We have crime. We have epidemic, teen suicide. We’ve got the fentanyl crisis. We’ve got epidemic levels of anxiety in the culture. A lot of things in our infrastructure are not working. You could enumerate, right? And some of them can be directly traced to a loss of belief in God and the moral convictions that go with that. I think certainly the crime epidemic can be.

But from my own experience, I’m incredibly sensitive to the experience of angst that a lot of young people have. I don’t think it’s just anxiety about future prospects. A lot of the anxiety of the teen suicide is taking place amongst kids that are coming from very affluent homes. It’s more of a metaphysical anxiety. It’s a quest for meaning that’s not being satisfied. And so I think that if there is a hope for our country to reverse these trends that so many people find are disturbing, it is in the re-embrace of our belief in God.

Our whole system of human rights was based on the idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. There was this idea of intrinsic dignity that informed the whole Western tradition. And we had dignity because we had been made in God’s image. And that dignity meant that we had rights that even the state could not take away. And so I think we’re at a pivotal moment in our culture where there is a lot of pain. There is an increasing dysfunction in society, in cities, in families, and our last best and greatest hope is to return to God.

And I wrote “Return of the God Hypothesis” in part because I’m completely persuaded by the evidence, and I think it’s a great story that’s been not told. But now that the book’s out, I’m also hoping it will have an effect in opening people’s minds and hearts to the reality of God because I do think we can, as the philosophers say, have knowledge of God. There is justification for true beliefs about our Creator. And returning to that theistic foundation for culture and for family life and for personal life, I think provides the best hope for all of us.

Optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future? Let’s Return to God! 

Stephen Meyer:

I’m agnostic and pray every day about the cultural moment.

Doug Monroe:

You’re just staying in the now?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Well, thank you very much. I just got to tell you-

Stephen Meyer:

It’s the shortest answer I gave you all day.

Doug Monroe:

Well, no, but this has just been an honor and a privilege to speak with you about this.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, for me too. Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Thank you so much.

Stephen Meyer:

Thank you.

Overview

Stephen Meyer

Praxis Circle Contributor Stephen Meyer is the Director and Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. He is the author of three books: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (2009) which was named Times (of London) Literary Supplement Book of the Year, the New York Times bestseller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (2013), and his most recent book, Return of the God Hypothesis (2021). Praxis Circle interviewed Dr. Meyer because he is among America’s leaders in presenting the extensive evidence for God or Intelligent Design (ID) that exists in all fields of science everywhere scientists do their work.
Transcript

Introduction and the Discovery Institute 

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Well, Dr. Meyer, I just want to thank you for this opportunity. It is truly one of the thrills of my lifetime. I would put it up there. I won’t mention names, because I love all my contributors the same, but having followed you, they’re clapping for you there, having followed you, I just admire what you’re doing.

I also wanted to say that having seen you and your team live at the Dallas conference, if all of America could see that, I know theists would go up 30% overnight in this country, and conversion to Christianity would go up 15 or 20%, and over time.

I think you’re taking the truth forward in one of the most important ways, which is in science, so I want to thank you for that.

Stephen Meyer:

I know there’s so many good reasons to believe it’s … Very few of our young people in particular know about them, so that’s been part of the burden that we’ve felt is to get the word out.

Doug Monroe:

It’s truly you’re fighting a …

Stephen Meyer:

But thank you for having me.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Appreciate it.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, thank you. It’s the culture in our university system and educational system that’s against it. I just would love for it … To hear about you founding the Discovery Institute and what its mission and what you do there.

Stephen Meyer:

Well, the Discovery Institute was founded by Bruce Chapman and George Gilder, both of whom had just finished stints either advising or working for President Reagan. They founded it in 1990. They wanted to found a regionally-based think tank that addressed issues of national and international scope. In other words, they wanted to be out of the DC Beltway but still do serious policy work.

They founded that in 1990. In 1996, my colleague John West and I founded a center within Discovery called the Center for Science and Culture for the purpose of investigating these scientific issues that have larger worldview implications, and if they have larger worldview implications, therefore larger cultural implications.

A big part of the focus of our work has been exploring the evidence of design in nature and whether there is such evidence, and supporting scientists who have research projects investigating those questions.

What is your definition of worldview as an academic discipline?

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I think the word worldview is from the German [foreign language]. It’s a German philosophical word, but it is … A way of thinking of a worldview is it’s a kind of default personal philosophy that each person holds, whether or not they know it, whether they know it or not, and whether they talk about it explicitly.

A way to define a worldview is a worldview is a more or less coherent set of answers to some basic questions about reality. The most basic of which is what is the thing or the entity or the process from which everything else comes?

In the formal discipline of philosophy that would be the subject of metaphysics or the subject of what’s called ontology, the question of being, what fundamentally exists. Everyone has some idea about that. The typical answers that are given are in the idea that matter and energy are the things from which everything else comes. That would be the worldview of materialism, or a theist might say that God is the thing from which everything else comes. That would be the worldview of theism.

There would be different conceptions of God. There’d be a deistic conception where God acts only at the beginning of the universe or a theistic conception where God acts as a creator at the beginning of the universe, but also is active within the creation or within the laws of nature that he otherwise sustains and upholds.

You have a more passive notion of God, a more active notion of God, and then you have impersonal notions of God, such as in Eastern philosophy. That would be a pantheistic worldview.

There are other themes, variations on these various themes, but then worldviews also answer questions about the nature of human nature or the nature of human beings, about how we know things, about the nature of morality. Is it objective or is it relative to persons in groups? What happens to us at death? These sort of fundamental questions are the stuff of worldview inquiry.

What worldview were you born into? 

Stephen Meyer:

Sure. I was raised in a nominally Catholic home, so I had something of the rudiments of a Christian worldview. We happened to be in a parish where the priest seemed more interested in politics than in religion. I’m not sure how much of the Judeo-Christian or biblical worldview was inculcated to us.

That’s because it varies from parish to parish and church to church, but I think I had a kind of rudimentary theistic worldview, but by my early adolescence, I was deeply confused about all such matters, and we were no longer going to church.

I really found faith in a unconventional way, let’s say. It took me a while to … My conversion to Christianity was kind of a long and tortuous affair. It wasn’t until really after college that I felt settled in that.

Built to Last: Christian Conversion via the Bible’s Metaphysics

Stephen Meyer:

Well, as a 14-year-old, I had an experience, which in retrospect I think was kind of metaphysical anxiety. At the time I experienced it as a … Actually as a worry about my own sanity. I was having questions that were popping into my mind that I couldn’t answer. They kind of terrified me. To even describe them as questions is not quite right. They were more worries. What’s anything going to matter in a hundred years?

At the time, I had broken my leg in a skiing accident, and I was laid up for quite a while. While I was convalescing, I was reading a book that my dad gave me about the history of baseball, because he and I were both huge baseball fans. I found the stories very, very engaging, but then always at the end a little bit depressing because no matter how much glory the athlete in question achieved, at the end of the day, there were just some records in a record book. So many career home runs and so many batting titles and so many trips to the World Series. Then, what? Was the point of it all?

I kept having this same feeling. To me at the time, my mother kept saying, “Well, it’s just a game. No wonder it doesn’t seem significant.” I thought, “Well, but how is that different for anything else? Even if I am a great surgeon and I save lots of lives, even the people whose lives I’ve saved will eventually die, and I will die. And no one will even remember that I saved those people in a hundred or 200 years.”

There was a phrase I heard recently that eventually every grave goes unvisited. There was I think this strange craving for lasting meaning or significance that I could find no satisfactory answer for. As these questions started to haunt me, I then had another question, which was, I wonder if this is what it means to be insane?

I remember the day I had that pop into my head, and then I had a surge of panic like, oh, there’s something really wrong with me. There was this kind of anxiety that took me over at 14, 15 years old. I was not able to get out and move around and do things. I was kind of … Because I was in a full length leg cast and I was immobilized. I already had an overly active, slightly neurotic style of thinking. It was just a …

I spent six months in this sort of space. Again, it was kind of a worry or a strange thought about time. If you stop and think about time too much it will freak anyone out because here we are having a conversation. A minute ago I heard some people clapping in the other room. That was an event, but that event has gone. Where did it go? I can’t recover that event. It’s gone forever.

We have this kind of strange series of sensory experiences that we would describe as one event after another, but they go as fast as they come. There’s nothing that seems stable or … About our experience. Everything is always changing.

I had this very strange intuition that there must be something that doesn’t change or else everything that is constantly changing cannot have any lasting meaning or value or significance, or something. It was just that kind of …

I was having these sorts of swirling thoughts and then worrying that there was something wrong with me because I was having them. No one at school that I knew was talking about things like this.

Doug Monroe:

But you were obviously just a very, very bright, mature young man. Okay?

Stephen Meyer:

I was a very immature young person.

Doug Monroe:

No.

Stephen Meyer:

I had no idea how to process any of this. My mind was just racing out of control. Later in my … I got out of the leg cast, I went back to school. I have a happy-go-lucky younger brother who in various ways sort of pulled me out of my own head space, but the underlying questions were sort of still there.

Sometime in the ensuing year or so, out of curiosity, maybe some desperation, something I don’t quite remember, I picked up the big white fat Catholic family Bible. It opened to the division between the two testaments. There was a picture of a very manly depiction of Jesus, not the Jesus with lipstick, and with the verse, “Come unto me, all ye who labour and are burdened, and I will give you rest.”

I thought that sounded pretty good to me. I began to read the Gospel of Matthew at the first chapter, and then the next night at the second and the next night at the third. I was kind of blown away by what I was finding because I had some exposure to Christianity in a nominal sort of way, but what I was finding in the Gospels was so incredibly compelling.

What it did for me was I found that I couldn’t go to sleep at night until I read one chapter, and then I found as I read more deeply in the Bible that there were other things in the biblical … What you would call a worldview that were addressing the questions that I had.

In particular, I remember coming across the verse, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I thought, “Oh, could there be such a thing?” Then in the third chapter of Exodus where Moses … Where God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush and says that I am, that I am. The idea of the eternal self-existent ground of all being is also a personal God implicit in the name.

There were things in Christianity that seemed, in the Bible in particular, that seemed to address the kind of questions and concerns that I had that were I later learned philosophical.

In College: Christianity vs. Existentialism

Stephen Meyer:

When I got to college, I remember I was in a philosophy course. It was a course on atheistic existentialism with the … I think we were studying Jean-Paul Sartre. Sartre close paraphrase said something to the effect that without an infinite reference point, nothing finite has any lasting or enduring meaning.

To the atheistic, existentialist philosophers, this was just axiomatic, that meaning had to be created by the individual. This was the whole idea of existence precedes essence. There’s no pre-given design. There’s no pre-given morality. There’s no pre-given meaning. We have to create it. We have to generate it for ourselves because there is no infinite reference point. There is nothing that can confer meaning that was here before we came on the scene and will be here after we pass, that to whom things can mean anything.

Nothing can mean anything to a rock or an atom or a planet. Things only mean things to persons. If there are no persons besides ourselves when we die and we rot then there can be no lasting meaning. This was the sense of anguish, forlornness, and despair that the French existentialists talked about, which for them was a consequence of the death of God.

This was exactly what I was feeling as a young person that absent God in my life, or in our collective lives, there could be no personal reality that persists beyond the grave. Therefore … I came across this quotation from Bertrand Russell where he talked about all the great achievements of human beings at … Our highest noonday achievements in the pinnacle of human existence, they will all die in the heat death of the universe. These are all very depressing thoughts. You don’t have them on a day-to-day basis, but they were bothering me as a young person.

I found that Christianity, biblical Christianity, addressed these head on, that there was a source of lasting meaning because there was a person who pre-existed us and would continue to exist us and could confer life upon us even after our death, so there was a possibility of meaning. That was one of the things that really haunted me when I got to college.

Epistemology & the Judeo-Christian Idea of Intelligibility

Another thing that was … Is taking philosophy courses that was … Has troubled the philosophers since the late enlightenment is the whole question of knowledge. How is it that we can know anything? This was actually another one of the things that haunted me. I remember listening, looking at my sister’s window sill in her bedroom and I had been … We had to change rooms while I was in the leg cast. I was staring out the window and looking at the pattern on the window sill.

I thought, “Well, how do I know that that is really … That what I’m seeing actually corresponds to what’s really there and that other people are seeing the same thing that I’m seeing?” Then I thought, “Oh boy, there’s, again, something wrong with me. I’m having this weird thought. I don’t know how to answer it.”

Later learned that this was the big question that philosophers have been asking since Hume and Kant was how is it possible for us to justify the idea that we have any knowledge of the world around us, that there is a mind independent reality that we can know truly?

There was a really powerful argument that I was exposed to as an undergraduate in philosophy called the argument from epistemological necessity, because the key concern of the philosophers was the reliability of the human mind and … Hume and Kant were especially attuned to the … They were especially aware that there were certain things we were assuming, that our minds necessarily assumed about reality, that were necessary to making sense of reality.

Then the question that naturally arises is, well, can we trust those assumptions? How do we know that nature is uniform? How do we know that all events have causes? How do we know that the way our minds spatially order … That our perceptual apparatus and the assumptions that are embedded in our minds to make sense of sensory data, how do we know that those assumptions that our minds are making match reality?

This was the whole question of the reliability of the human mind. It was philosophy that I encountered in university. Presented the case that it was theism that could uniquely answer that question. If our minds had been made by a benevolent creator who made our minds to know the world that he made then we could have confidence in our ability to know the world.

This I found later was one of the assumptions of the scientific revolution. It was called the idea of intelligibility, that we can do science because, this was the assumption of the early scientists, our minds are made in the image of an intelligent and rational creator. Therefore, he’s endowed us with rationality. We can understand therefore the rational structure that he built into the world, which we depict with our descriptions of the laws of nature, our understanding of the design of nature.

There was a principle of correspondence between the rationality built into the world and the rationality we had to understand the world and its rational structure. It seemed to me that theism, and particularly Judeo-Christian theism, which its idea of our minds being made in the image of the creator, provided an answer to what is now called the postmodern turn in philosophy, the worry about our ability to know the world and wondering if we are all kind of trapped in a isolating sense of subjectivity.

These were the weird, strange thoughts I was having more in college, but this really convinced me that this to me was a very compelling argument for theism, that theism alone could ground our ability to know. We all lived as though we knew things, but if we were living as though we knew things then we were tacitly affirming that our minds were made in such a way as to know the world, and really only theism could justify that assumption.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. You started worrying very early on compared to most kids about metaphysical issues. As you got further along, the answers that made you more calm and happy were also the ones that conformed to reality.

I think you’re carrying that forward in your science. It should be no surprise that the more we look, the more we see God, if all that is true, which means you would lean to being a theist.

The interesting thing to me, your first problem you mentioned as a kid, which would be, does Babe Ruth matter anymore? I call it the what has Alexander the Great or Napoleon done for me lately? Nothing.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, right. Right. Yeah.

Answering Youth Who Don’t Believe in God: Return of the God Hypothesis 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, what I can comment on is a survey that we commissioned to probe as to why so many young people were losing faith in God. You may have seen the Gallup poll from a summer ago.

Doug Monroe:

yep.

Stephen Meyer:

Where the Gallup people released their data showing that belief in God in the United States had dropped to an all-time low, still reasonably high, 81%, I think, but they showed that there’d been a precipitous loss of … A drop in belief in God in the last seven to 10 years from in the low nineties to the low eighties.

That was almost entirely driven by one demographic, which are young people between 18 and 30. We did a commission to survey to find out what were the reasons that young people are citing as reasons for rejecting belief in God.

We found that surprisingly science was playing an outsized role in their thinking, that one of the major factors was no scientific evidence for God. Something like I think 65% of young atheists said they thought that belief in God made … That science made belief in God less probable. The number was in the high forties for young agnostics. Same kind of thing.

I think one of the reasons I wrote Return of the God Hypothesis was that we have … There’s so much compelling evidence for the existence of God, and it is precisely scientific. Yet, very few people know about it. I sort of wanted to address the existential angst in the younger generation coming up because it’s not dissimilar to what I experienced as a young person myself.

Crosstalk on Recorded Human History & Cognition

Doug Monroe:

What could we say about life, given 5,000 years of recorded history, recorded human history? What would be the most important things that we could say about that, taking the debate off the table?

Stephen Meyer:

Well, [inaudible].

Doug Monroe:

It’s like red. What’s red, right?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. One thing that’s kind of crazy is that we only have about 5,000 years of recorded history.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah, right, which is this.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, because we don’t get writing until the Sumerians. That’s the Mesopotamian floodplain between the two rivers, the great cities there, which include Uruk, which is thought by archeologists to be the oldest true city.

Doug Monroe:

Oldest true city.

Stephen Meyer:

We have settlements in Jericho, we have settlements in [inaudible], whatever that place is called in Turkey.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

But we don’t really have true cities. Interestingly, Uruk is mentioned in the Table of Nations in Genesis 10.

Doug Monroe:

Is it really?

Stephen Meyer:

Yes, it is.

Doug Monroe:

Wow.

Stephen Meyer:

The oldest city mentioned in the Bible is also the oldest city recognized by archeologists.

Doug Monroe:

And that’s where the famous myth … The myth?

Stephen Meyer:

[inaudible]. Well, and they had lots of ziggurats in that area, too.

Doug Monroe:

What’s the [inaudible] where the guy has … The hero builds the city, but he loses his friend and he tries to …

Stephen Meyer:

Oh, is that part? I don’t know that. That might be part of …

Doug Monroe:

You know this. You know this. This the legend of …

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, you know that. Is that in Babylon? Is that in the Tigris Euphrates area?

Stephen Meyer:

Uruk is between the two rivers.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Okay.

Stephen Meyer:

Between Tigris and Euphrates, and there’s another city there that included a partially built ziggurat that our friend Titus thinks is likely the Tower of Babble.

Doug Monroe:

Oh, no. Get out of here.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Wow.

Stephen Meyer:

It’s called … That one is called [inaudible], I think. [inaudible]. Anyway, I made these … I had COVID a Christmas ago. I read a book on the history of cities, and I got fascinated with this and thought there’s a lot more. The …

There’s a lot more. My view is that the earth and the universe are super old, but anatomically modern, cognitively endowed human beings have not been around very long. There’s just very little evidence of higher cognition past, before the last ice age.

 Crosstalk on the Mind-Body Problem of Consciousness

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I don’t think we know. We don’t know how our own minds generate the information we’re using to communicate with each other right now. It’s called the mind-body problem.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah. Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

We know there’s a brain.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

We know we have by our direct introspective experience, we have conscious awareness. So we have this consciousness, but that consciousness… But our brain states are necessary but not sufficient to explain that consciousness. We’re not the same thing as chemical reactions going on and our synapses or whatever is going in down there. So there’s something different between the mind and the brain. I can have an intention, I can have a thought, and I can convert that thought into modulated sound waves that will convey my thought to your ear and then into your brain and into your mind. But we don’t really know. We know nothing about that interface. We have no idea. We know that there is a mind, we know what minds can do. Therefore, we can infer the activity of mind from the distinctive things that minds do that matter alone does not, but we don’t know. So we can retro predict to a mind. We cannot explain how the mind affects the body in the other direction of time.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, yeah. Which it clearly does.

Stephen Meyer:

Which it clearly does. But then the question is, well, what then do we make of how do we conceive of divine action? We don’t really know, but we don’t know how our own mental action works.

Crosstalk on Sufficiency of Proving the Existence of God

Doug Monroe:

What can we say about God, assuming God of the Bible exists?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

That God must not want us to prove God.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

It gives us all the evidence you’re talking about, which to me is proof. If I put myself in the position of a scientist and I see all that you’ve written and others, I’ve probably read 10-15 books at least down that pathway over the last 20 years, how can you really believe that this information doesn’t come from a mind? Really to me, I don’t, like Frank Turk says, “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist.” I mean, it’s overwhelming, but yet God designed the world so that we cannot prove God. And the only reason I can think of is, we would not be free. We would essentially be in heaven.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. I’d have a different take on that. I’ve never liked that argument. I think that God has made, as Roman says, that he has made himself plain through the things that are made.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Okay.

Stephen Meyer:

And the problem is not with the insufficiency of evidence and therefore the arguments that can be constructed on the basis of that evidence. I think the problem is in the human heart that we don’t want to believe.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Okay.

Stephen Meyer:

And someone was telling me yesterday about, in this room actually, someone in the lunch yesterday was telling me about a study that had been done of young children in different countries, Japan and all around the world, and that… I don’t have to get that. And almost all of them have a basic belief in a creator as young children. But by the time they get through high school and certainly by college, it gets beaten out of them by the educational system.

Doug Monroe:

Right. Right.

Stephen Meyer:

It depends on what…

Doug Monroe:

I agree with you.

Stephen Meyer:

You mean by proof. But I’ve heard that argument. I don’t think that… I think we do have free will, but we have the freedom to suppress the evidence. Sometimes people say, “Well, the evidence is ambiguous, and that’s how God allows us free will.” I think he allows us the freedom to suppress the evidence, which is what Roman says. We suppress it in ungodliness, but we do not have… Our freedom is not underwritten by a lack of evidence, by an ambiguity of the evidence.

Doug Monroe:

Right. Right. I would agree with all that you say there. And I would say that a lot of young people and maybe people that are mad at that God would allow us to have World War I and World War II, for example, are just really upset at God that God doesn’t walk around like a person and tap us on the shoulder every day and assure us that he or she or it or whatever is there. And so the proof that God has chosen is deemed by human standards insufficient.

Stephen Meyer:

Insufficient.

Doug Monroe:

You know? That’s kind of another way of looking at it.

 Is the concept of worldview important for Christian evangelism?

Stephen Meyer:

I think one of the reasons that people are losing faith in God is that they don’t see that there are any objective reasons for such belief. And when we did a survey of younger people in particular, we found that that was the case. 65% of young atheists said they thought that the findings of science made belief in God untenable.

When people go out to share their faith in a secular context like that, especially in among those younger cohorts, and they begin to make arguments based on the Bible or based on their own subjective religious experience, those arguments have very little traction with people because there’s, what has ensued in the recent decades is a worldview divide has arisen in the culture. There’s at least two main competing worldviews, two different ways of thinking about things. And as our culture becomes more and more secular, simply preaching the gospel has no effect on people because the Christian message is making, as it’s often presented, is making assumptions that are not held in common by the people to whom the gospel is being preached.

And so whereas in 1954, Billy Graham go to London and do a massive crusade and simply preach from the biblical text and droves and droves of people, in a sense came back to God. He was calling them in a very real sense to rethink. That’s the literal meaning of repentance, to rethink their standing before God. That was something that could be done. That style of preaching or evangelism could be done in 1954 because there was still a strong Christian memory in Britain and the United States. People still believe that God existed. They mainly had some sense of the morality, the neo-Christian morality, and they knew where they stood in relation to that. Maybe they felt that they didn’t stand in a good relation to that. Maybe they needed to repent, but they still believed that there was an objective morality and they believed that there was a God who was the source of that and that they were in some way accountable to that God.

And so the basic framework of a theistic and Judeo-Christian worldview was pervasive in the culture. And so that style of evangelistic proclamation was very effective. But we live in a completely different time now. Where the majority of, at least young people do not have a theistic worldview. If they have a worldview that’s coherent, it’s maybe a more materialistic worldview or maybe somewhat a version of materialism, which is called cultural Marxism, which has made a lot of inroads in the culture. Or maybe it’s a new age kind of worldview, or maybe it’s some sort of amalgam of different elements. Maybe when sociologist has described a common way of thinking in the United States, not so much as Christian, but as what he calls moralistic therapeutic deism, there’s a combination of the therapeutic perspective of psychology combined with some idea of a creator, but also some sense that there is right and wrong, but it’s all, it’s not terribly coherent. It’s an amalgam of different elements.

And so in that kind of a context, if people of any worldview, persuasion want to persuade people to change their worldview, they have to understand what is in the minds, what their interlocutors are assuming, where is their common ground, and build from there. And you see this in the Book of Acts where St. Paul as recorded in chapter 17, you get the first snapshot of how he shared his Christian message first to a pagan world and also with fellow Jews. And in each case he sought to provide, he found a common ground basis and then built his case from there. But he did not presuppose the same worldview framework when he was trying to persuade people to adopt the worldview that he had come to believe was true.

And so I think that’s just a principle of persuasion. You have to build your case based on facts or assumptions that are held in common with yourself and your interlocutors, but then being aware of the differences, make a case based on what you have in common for the differences between your two worldview perspectives and argue your case based on evidence and reasons and the common ground assumptions that you in common, you hold together.

So yeah, I think worldview is very important. I think not in the sense of talking about worldview, maybe that’s not so important, but I think that being aware of the default worldview that people around you hold and if you want to persuade them to hold a different worldview, you have to be very aware of what they hold. And don’t beg the question, don’t assume the point at issue in your argumentation or apologetic.

The Importance of Philosophy: Good Thinking 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I think philosophy in one sense is just good thinking and good thinking about certain kinds of deep questions that maybe we don’t have to think about every day. But if we have a pulse, probably are questions we should be thinking about and questions about the meaning of life and what our priorities are and what’s true about human nature, about where we came from, about what is the ultimate good, those sorts of things. So yeah, I think philosophy is very important. A lot of scientists in the new atheist movement would ridicule or demean philosophy, or cast it aside as if it was something that was irrelevant to inquiries that they were making. Or the science was a form of inquiry that could lead us to true conclusions and philosophy was sort of vain speculation, the kind of impression you get from them, but then they go on to do really bad philosophy. And so I think good philosophy is good thinking and good thinking is important to get to the truth.

Relationship Between Materialism & Relativism 

Doug Monroe:

One of the smartest scientists that I’ve seen is Stephen Hawking. And in all due respect to somebody five times smarter than me, he was not a good philosopher. He constantly said things that would contradict his own thinking. And you mentioned the word truth. If, sort of materialism is the default of culture today, relativism is the default I think also of culture today.

Stephen Meyer:

It’s the default moral philosophy and it flows out of materialism because as Dostoevsky put it, if God is dead, then all things are lawful or all things are permissible. There are moral objectives who are not theists. Michael Shermer, a friendly debating partner, is a moral objectivist who is an atheist or agnostic or a materialist. He doesn’t believe in God. But generally what flows from a materialistic worldview is moral relativism. And there’s a reason for that philosophically, because all moral propositions involve a different tense. They’re not just offered in the indicative, they don’t say murder is, murder hurts people. That would be a factual statement. They say murder is wrong or you ought not to murder.

What does ought imply? Well, ought implies that there is some standard above us all to which we can appeal that will allow us to adjudicate the rightness or wrongness of an action. So when you use the word ought, you’re necessarily implying the existence of a standard of right and wrong. And theism, I think can give in account of what that standard is. It’s an expression of God’s moral law, which is an expression of his design for human flourishing. The moral law was given to help us flourish in accord with the way he designed us to work best.

The materialistic view tries to give an account of those ought statements in terms of our evolutionary past and says, well, what those moral propositions are, they are sort of instincts that were programmed into us by the evolutionary mechanism to promote human survival. But once you know that, that that’s all the evolution, all the moral propositions are, and that you’re not actually accountable to anyone, first of all, to act a certain way, but that if those moral instincts as they’re rendered in materialism are just instincts programmed into us to help us survive. If you discover that there’s a certain course of action that may violate those moral principles, but which promote your own survival or the survival or proliferation of your offspring, then you really have no reason to any longer acknowledge and respect those moral principles. And so as one moral philosopher put it, that the evolutionary account of morality does not withstand its own exposure.

Once you know that, oh, well, all those moral principles are instincts that were designed or you can’t say the word designed if you’re an evolutionist, that were programmed. Well, you can’t really say that either, that were somehow built into us to enhance survival. If it turns out that it will enhance your survival to abscond with the money and run off to South America, you really have no reason not to do that. I mean, that’s just one problem with what’s called evolutionary ethics. And there are many others.

So I think the theistic Harold Berman, one of the legal scholars at Harvard years ago said that that behind every moral statement is a grand says who question. Thou shalt not murder? Well, who says? Well actually the author of the universe says so. And it’s not just murder is not just wrong because he says so. But there’s also a rationality, a benevolent rationality that is underlies those moral motions. And that is that the moral propositions or moral commands were given to promote our flourishing in accord with our design. So the moral law is actually an expression of divine benevolence.

How to convert moral relativists? Ask them to rake your leaves!

Stephen Meyer:

Right, right. Well, I used to do a gag when I was a philosophy professor on the first day of class in freshmen Intro to Philosophy. I would hand out a syllabus to the students and at the same time hand them a survey of philosophical questions. And then when they got done with the survey, I’d have the teacher’s assistant gather the surveys and tally the answers. Well, unbeknownst to the students, I was really interested in the answers they gave to only three of the questions. And they were all questions about whether or not they thought that morality was subjective and relative to persons and groups on the one hand, or whether there was an objective basis for morality or whether there were objective moral principles to which we were all accountable or needed to respect.

And invariably, when the teacher’s assistant tallied the responses year after year, about 85% of the students revealed that they were moral relativists, at least in their stated philosophy, whatever’s true for you is true for you. Whatever’s true for me is true for me. True or false? Well, in the moral realm, it was always the relativistic answer, whatever’s true for you is true for you. And whatever’s true for me is true for me morally.

Doug Monroe:

Oprah, Oprah.

Stephen Meyer:

I have my morality, you have your immorality, don’t impose your morality on me, et cetera. So it was very easy to get them to reveal their relativistic tendencies. And so as the teacher’s assistant was tallying those answers, I was presenting the syllabus for the class. I’d get to the part about the grading, I’d explain that to get an A in the class, you needed to have so many points on tests and so many points on assignments. And 10% of the grade I said was assigned by their help to the professor. And then I would just go on to the next portion of the syllabus, very deadpan, and then little by little hands would start going up in the classroom. What’s this stuff about the help to the assistance to the professor?

Doug Monroe:

They want the A.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, what’s the 10%? And I would just say very seriously. I would just say, “Well, I live up the hill from the campus and I’ve got young kids and I’m just starting teaching and I’ve just got so much work to do and we have these pine trees on our property and every fall they just rain needles on our yard and I just cannot keep up with raking the pine needles. So if anyone would come up to the house and give me a hand with that, I’d be just so grateful.”

And they’d look at me and say, “Well, oh, you mean this is extra credit?” And I say, “Well, no, it’s not extra credit, but you don’t have to do it.” But then they say, “But wait, it’s 10% of the grade. If I don’t do this, I can’t get an A.” And I’d say, “Oh, well yeah, I suppose that’s right because you could only get a 90 and you need a 92. And so okay, yeah, I guess that’s right.” They said, “No way. That’s lame. That’s… No way.” And so then I get various forms of righteous indignation and moral indignation at this. And then they’d start to tell me that it was wrong. And I said, “Well, why do you say that it’s wrong?” And they, “Well, nobody else does it that way in a class.” I said, “That’s your idea of what makes right and wrong, what everybody else does.”

So we’d get into the conversation and then at a certain point I would reveal their answers to the questions they were revealing themselves and their reaction to be very dyed in the wool moral objectives. They believed that there were some things that were right and some things that were wrong. And in particular, my syllabus was completely wrong. And yet when I got the TA to reveal their answers to the questions in their stated philosophy, they were all moral relativists.

And so then I would say, welcome to philosophy and introduce the class and explain that the purpose of philosophies was to bring into a coherent synthesis. One’s stated philosophy and one’s actions that that was part of the purpose of philosophy. And because the gag was so fun, I’d usually get five or six students signing up the next day. They’re thinking the whole class would be involved with the professor pulling stunts like that.

But anyway, it was a way of illustrating that whatever we say, we in our actions reveal a commitment to certain objective moral principles. In no society is selfishness actually respected. You cannot get anyone to affirm the proposition, “It’s a good thing to kick old ladies in the shins for pleasure.” There might be some situation in which there’s an old lady who’s about to kill the president with a gun or something, and then it would be okay to kick her in the shins, but not just for pleasure. Okay?

So you can, in ethical philosophy, you can construct these examples that show that we do have a deep-seated commitment to certain objective moral principles. And that’s universal across cultures. And yet we have lots of people today saying that there is no such thing, but their actions betray their stated relativistic philosophy. And so that was one of the little gags I do.

The Fact/Value Divide and Its Justifiable Bridge 

Stephen Meyer:

Hey, just to relate the last answer to your previous question about the upper story and lower story, this was a concept from Francis Schaeffer, the idea that… And it also reflects something of in contemporary secular philosophy that’s called the fact/value divide. And the idea that there are these facts of the world that we can know by observation through scientific methods that are real and objective, but we have no knowledge, objective knowledge, of religious or moral propositions. And that these two sorts of things are of two different kinds. And so the only things we can really know are things that we know empirically through the senses, processed by the scientific method.

And I think the previous illustration in some ways suggests that we may have moral knowledge as well. We may not get it through the senses, it may be an innate, but we have a kind of universal moral knowledge. We may have both empirical knowledge and innate knowledge of the reality of God.

Yesterday I was speaking with someone in this very room who was telling me about a survey of young children in four to five, in the kind of kindergarten age, all around the world. And when asked questions about their beliefs, almost universally young children have a belief that there is some sort of benevolent creator who made them, who had them in mind, and they have to be kind of educated out of that view. So Calvin, the Protestant theologian, had the idea or the concept of a sensus divinitatis, that there is a kind of innate knowledge of God.

You could debate whether or not that’s true or not, but a philosophical definition of knowledge is justified true belief. And as a scientist and philosopher, I’m convinced there is justified true beliefs about God that we can have, namely in the first instance, that God exists. I think there are empirical and rational justifications for that belief, and therefore I think we can have knowledge of God the same way we have knowledge of the world around us.

Doug Monroe:

Well, I completely agree with that, and I also think that I’m so glad you gave me that answer.

Stephen Meyer:

And so what follows from that is that the upper story and the lower story as that metaphor is used in philosophy are not separate.

Doug Monroe:

They are not separate.

Stephen Meyer:

And in fact, knowing the lower story is not just a matter of sense perception…

… in fact, knowing the lower story is not just a matter of sense perception. It also requires us to make certain assumptions about the world that cannot be verified empirically. This was the import of say David Hume’s work or Immanuel Kant’s work in epistemology in the period of modern philosophy.

We, in order to come to something like an inductive generalization about what we would call the laws of nature, we have to first assume that there’s a uniformity of nature such that our observations are in some way representative of the way nature generally works, even though we can’t observe nature at all times and in all places. But is that assumption of uniformity of nature something that we can prove empirically? It’s not because it’s making a claim about the way nature works at all times and in all places. And we don’t have the capacity to make observations about nature in all times at all places. There are many assumptions that we bring to bear in processing sense data to make sense of the world scientifically.

In other words, our knowledge of the lower story depends upon our priori assumptions that we make that cannot be proven simply by observation. And so, we can have knowledge of things in the upper story, moral propositions, propositions about the existence of God. But we have knowledge of things in the world and the lower story in virtue of assumptions that we make that are really not justifiable scientifically, but rather, they’re philosophical assumptions or innate assumptions that we make.

And so, I think the simplistic division of knowledge into science and everything else has really failed in philosophy. That was the project of what’s known as logical positivism.

Doug Monroe:

And wouldn’t you say the ancient overall, from our standpoint today had a lot more agreement about the ability to have moral truth, et cetera? And that maybe the 1800s starting before then, but really drilled into that and tried to destroy that foundation. And we’re still recovering from that?

Stephen Meyer:

But just think about the idea of moral knowledge. At that point where someone is about to kick an old lady in the shins for pure sadistic pleasure, is there anyone who really doubts their visceral response to that impending action and say, “No, no, that is wrong.” They don’t say, “Well, am I 98% sure of this?” No, they have knowledge and are convinced that that is a wrong action that’s about to be undertaken. I think it’s appropriate to call some things in the upper story forms of knowledge.

The Newton and Leibniz Debate: Gravity and God? 

Stephen Meyer:

Fascinating story in the history of physics about Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, which he proposed in his famous book written in 1687, the Principia or Principia, depending on your preferred Latin pronunciations. And it was a fascinating theory, and it’s still our best classical theory of gravitation. We have relativistic theories now, and in some ways superseded Newton or at least subsumed Newton’s ideas into a larger framework.

But Newton’s idea was that massive bodies exert a force on other massive bodies through empty space. This was the idea of action at a distance. We have the moon high in the sky above us. And its motions are affecting the tides on earth, but the moon is not touching the earth. There’s no pushing and pulling.

And so, how does that happen? Newton famously said, “Hypothesis non fingo.” I don’t feign to know the cause. I don’t have a full explanation, but I can describe how it happens. I can describe mathematically the strength of that force if I know certain factors. If I know the mass of the moon, the mass of the earth, the distance between them.

And he had a famous equation, his force law, for calculating the force of gravity. He could provide a very precise mathematical description of the amount of gravitational force in a given situation. But he couldn’t tell you what caused the force. And if you think about it, it is actually deeply puzzling. Okay.

It’s got my cell phone here, and if I drop it, it falls to the earth. Now, the earth did not touch the cell phone, but somehow there was, the physicist talked about it in different ways, gravitational attraction or gravitational force. But there’s a movement produced by something at a distance. Prior to Newton, the scientific ideal in the period of the 17th century was advanced by a group of thinkers called the mechanical philosophers. And so, if you’re going to explain something, they thought you need to have a mechanistic explanation of pushing and pulling the clock-

Doug Monroe:

Early stage positivism.

Stephen Meyer:

Sorry?

Doug Monroe:

Early stage positivism, no?

Stephen Meyer:

In a way. But I mean we still have this demand for mechanism today. We provide many good mechanistic explanations for things. But it turns out that the four fundamental force laws in physics, not only gravitation but electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear force, all have this occult property it was called in the 17th century of action at a distance. The motion is produced in some way by the massive body in the case of gravitation, but we know not how.

Leibniz got wind of Newton’s theory, and he opposed it and he accused Newton of bringing occult properties or occult causes into science because there was no mechanical pushing and pulling. And so the two great men ended up having this very spirited correspondence/debate. Newton writing through an intermediary named Clarke. And so there’s the famous Clarke, Leibniz correspondence, but Newton is basically crafting all the responses or putting all the answers and giving them all to Clarke and it’s absolutely fascinating.

It ends up in the end underscoring, I think, a great mystery which was revealed by a dilemma that Leibniz wanted to impose on Newton to hang him out to dry. And so, it was actually a trilemma. Leibniz said, “Well, either you have a proper scientific pushing and pulling explanation, which you don’t have. Okay. And you’ve acknowledged that. You acknowledged you don’t have proper pushing and pulling, so it’s not a mechanistic explanation. Then either you’re bringing God into science and saying that somehow the cause of the motions is being produced by the spirit action of the creator.”

And that was not that implausible because Newton said that gravitational action occurs instantaneously at a distance everywhere throughout the universe. What causal agent could be responsible for that uniform motion everywhere if it’s not material? Because if there’s no material pushing and pulling, and this was the dilemma, then Leibniz said, “Wither you’re using one of these scholastic name game explanation.”

Famously, Volterra ridiculed this, the medievals would say that opium puts you to sleep. Why? Because it has a dormative virtue. It has a sleep inducing virtue. We still say this today. Aspirin has a pain relieving formula, and that’s the reason it relieves your pain.

Doug Monroe:

Teleological.

Stephen Meyer:

Well, they’re not even teleological in that. They’re just renaming the effect to be explained. They’re proposing as a cause, a name of the effect. Okay. And that isn’t really at all persuasive. And in the scientific revolution, the mechanical philosophers, the early scientists said “That’s a way of thinking that we reject, we want more satisfying explanations. We want to see an actual explanation. We want to see pushing and pulling. We want to imagine corpuscles of gas causing the expansion of the balloon or something of that sort.”

Doug Monroe:

Matter and energy.

Stephen Meyer:

Okay. Yeah, matter and energy. Either it’s a return to one of these scholastic name game explanations or you’re subtly bringing the deity in. So which is it, Newton? Which was the question that Leibniz put to him. And Newton didn’t want to fess up to the theistic explanation, which is what he favored. He said “Hypothesis non fingo.” I don’t know the cause.

But in private correspondence to a Bishop Bentley who was giving the Boyle lectures on natural theology in 1691, Newton acknowledges that he thinks that the cause of gravity must be immaterial. And in examining the corpus of his work, one of my Cambridge supervisors said that Newton’s view was that the explanation of gravity was constant spirit action.

That as in the book of Hebrews where it says that God sustains the universe by the word of his power. Or in the Book of Colossians where it says, “Jesus Christ holds the universe together. In Christ, all things are held together.” And Newton doesn’t mention Christ specifically, but he says, “In God, all things are held together.” He has a close paraphrase of that concept in his theological epilogue to the Principia, the General Scholium.

And so, it’s really interesting. The bottom line in all of that is that scientifically the fundamental laws of physics that we think of as our ultimate explanatory principles are themselves unexplained. That they involve forces that are occult in the sense that they involve the production of motions under certain circumstances without any materialistic explanation of what is producing those motions.

And even with our newer ideas about gravity with Einstein’s gravity replaces Newton’s notion of gravity, or at least subsumes Newton and then provides a broader context. But he proposes that gravity is the result of the curvature of space. How does the curvature of an empty object, of an empty something produce motion in material things? It’s equally occult and mysterious.

And then subsequent to that, we have the idea of gravitons, which are massless particles that aren’t even pushers. They’re attractors. How does a massless particle pull or attract? It’s all quite mysterious. We can describe mathematically beautifully. We have mathematical principles that seem to describe the phenomenon of the universe, but we do not have materialistic explanations for these fundamental forces.

 Why Mind? Reduced Uncertainty, Low Probability, Specified Information

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. Chapters three and four of Signature in the Cell are my most detailed treatment answering that question. Maybe the best way to get into it is to distinguish a couple different kinds or definitions of information. There’s a mathematical theory of information that was developed by the computer scientist and mathematician, Claude Shannon, the MIT scientists in the late 1940s. And Shannon’s idea intuitively was that information…

Doug Monroe:

Wait.

We’ve had interviews where there’ve been in New York City, welcome to the sirens. You know what I mean?

Stephen Meyer:

Welcome to the sirens. Shannon’s idea was that information is related to the reduction of uncertainty. If something informs you of something, it’s reducing your uncertainty about something. If you have a coin and you flip it, when it comes up heads, you have reduced the uncertainty you had about whether it would be heads or tails.

If you have a six-sided die, and it comes up a three, you’ve reduced the uncertainty by quite a bit more because there were six possibilities in the case of the die and only two possibilities in the case of the coin. And so, in addition to the intuitive connection between information and reduction of uncertainty, Shannon developed a way to quantify how much uncertainty was being reduced.

And in effect, he showed that the more improbable an event is when it occurs, the more uncertainty is reduced. If you think of the die, you’ve reduced uncertainty to the tune of you had six possibilities, and now there’s one. You’ve reduced more uncertainty in the case where the event that occurs is more improbable than in the case with the coin where there were only two possibilities. And you have a higher probability of getting either the head or the tail than you do of getting any one of the six sides on the dye. You’ve reduced less uncertainty in the other case, so you’ve imparted less information. The more improbable, the more information you’re imparting.

Doug Monroe:

It’s future looking in a way.

Stephen Meyer:

Right. And so, this is a powerful intuition. And then he’s able to quantify the amount of information that is being transmitted down a channel with he’s got various formula and things that are based on this basic intuition that there’s an inverse relationship between improbability, or there’s an inverse relationship between probability and reduction of uncertainty and the transmission of information.

Now, it turns out that Shannon, as powerful as that intuition was, was very explicit that he couldn’t really distinguish a series of characters that were meaningful from a series of characters that were not. He was actually able to measure the information carrying capacity without being able to measure whether that information transmitted was functional or not.

He is measuring the carrying capacity, without measuring or determining whether the information had content, if it was actually meaningful or functional. And so, there’s another form of information that’s more relevant to biology and more relevant to computer science and more relevant to human speech and communication and that we call specified information.

And a way to illustrate that that I’ve used probably ad nauseum is just comparing a string of characters, 20 or so letters long, with a line of poetry, “Time and tide wait for no man.” The one because there’s no discernible English words or any other words in the sequence, has Shannon information. It’s an improbable array, but the characters not arranged or specified in their arrangement so as to perform a communication function.

And so that’s a really crucial distinction because the kind of information that we have in DNA is actually the specified kind of information. The arrangement of the genetic letters in the genetic text matters to the function of the gene, the stretch of DNA that is providing instructions for building the protein.

Doug Monroe:

A mind produces and understands that.

Stephen Meyer:

Oh, yeah. The point of all that is that there might be some mindless process that would produce a merely improbable sequence that did not have a specified arrangement of characters to perform a function. But in our experience, mind is the only known cause of specified information, at least specified information of a given amount. I mean, you might get lucky with a couple two or three word letters if you’re pulling letters out of a Scrabble bag. But if you need a lot of information, it will always require mind. And then we have a probabilistic way of making those demarcations.

Specified Information vs. Laws of Nature (Redundancy/Scientific Constants)

Stephen Meyer:

Right. The laws of nature, sometimes people will say, “Well, maybe there’s a law of nature that we haven’t discovered yet that will explain where information comes from.” That sounds plausible because we think of the laws of nature as things which there are fundamental tools for explaining things in the natural world.

One of the reasons I like the Newton story that we just talked about is that it shows that our fundamental laws of physics very oftentimes are merely describing what generally happens without providing a causal explanation for any given event. And the other thing to note about the laws of nature is that they describe repetitive patterns, things that happen in a similar way over and over again.

We may have, I was dropping my cell phone a minute ago and I could drop it 100 times and you’d see basically the same event. And because we’d seen that same event over and over again, we could come up with a law of, in fact, Newton did, a law of gravity to describe this repeating phenomenon that we see over and over again. And he used a simple mathematical equation to describe those gravitational motions.

And so, the laws of nature have a characteristic that information scientists call redundancy. They’re describing the same thing over and over again. Remember the old joke about Department of Redundancy Department, JJ speaking. You’ve got the laws of nature describe redundant patterns of order, repetitive patterns of order. But informational sequences are by definition something different than that. They are aperiodic and complex in that they are not reducible to simple patterns that repeat over and over again.

If I sit here and say, “T-H-E, T-H-E, T-H-E,” or recite a mantra, whatever information was in the first utterance I gave you has not been added to by those additional utterances. Okay. That’s redundancy. And so, the laws of nature describe redundant patterns of order. They do not explain the origin of aperiodic, complex and specified sequences that are conveying information. It’s the wrong kind of beast. It’s the wrong kind of entity to explain the thing that’s of interest here.

How Christianity Sparked the Scientific Revolution

Stephen Meyer:

Well, a lot of historians of science have probed. I tried to explain what gave rise to the scientific revolution. Let me just start over on that. There’s a famous historian of science, Joseph Needham, who was himself a Marxist in his worldview who asked a famous question about the origin of modern science.

And the question was, “Why there? And why then”? We’ve had great civilizations. The Chinese made gunpowder and had a very sophisticated civilization. You go back to the ancient Egyptians, you have the Romans and their aqueducts and their roads. In Muslim countries, you had development of mathematics, but you don’t see the systematic approach to interrogating nature. The systematic methods for investigating nature develop until this period of the scientific revolution. I mean, we could also talk about the Greeks, but there were many things about the Greek way of philosophizing about nature that actually held back empirical investigation.

And so, Needham was very curious, “Well, why in Western Europe and why then in the 1500s, 1600s, 1700s?” And the answer that he and numerous other historians have come to is that the difference that made the difference was the worldview. That there was something about the Judeo-Christian way of thinking that inspired the scientific investigation of nature.

Rodney Stark’s title captures some of that. He says, “For the glory of God, the scientists were motivated to study what they believed were the works of God to bring glory to Him.” But that’s really only part of it. There were other assumptions that were really part of a biblical worldview, one of which was that nature is intelligible. It could be understood because our minds are made in the image of the same mind who made the rational order in nature that we’re studying. And that was one of the reasons that mathematics was so prized by Newton and Kepler and others, that they believed that the language of nature was mathematical and that that was an expression of the divine mind.

But there were other premises. One was that nature was a created order, but the order that it manifested was contingent on the will of the creator. It could have been otherwise. I used to use an illustration when I was teaching on this. If you have a whole bunch of paintbrushes, there’s a whole bunch of different ways to use. You’ve got fat ones and skinny ones and tiny ones. They all have roughly the same function, the same Aristotelian final because, to place paint on a canvas. But that Aristotelian way of thinking of final causes, and the Greek way generally. The Greeks thought of the logos as the fundamental underlying explanation of things, this deep logic that even the gods had to obey. Okay.

And so that meant that there was a logically necessary way that nature had to be. And the job of the philosopher thinking about nature in the Greek context was simply to think, “Well, what is the most logical way that nature should be?” They came up with the idea of perfectly circular orbits, because that was the perfect geometric form. That was the way that nature should and had to be.

And we had 2000 years of total manic astronomy based on the idea of circular orbits. And it wasn’t until the scientific revolution that people said, “Well, maybe we should go out and look and see what the motions of the planets really actually reveal.” And Robert Boyle captured it beautifully. He said that it is not the job of the natural philosopher to ask God must have done, but instead to go out and look and see what he actually did do. Okay. And so that the impulse…

Doug Monroe:

Francis Bacon [inaudible].

Stephen Meyer:

To investigate things empirically came out of a view that, yes, nature was a created order, but it could have been created in many different ways. There might have been, Newton might’ve discovered that gravity had an inverse square law, which is what he did discover. Or maybe gravity might have been an inverse cube law, or maybe it as just a linear function.

There were many different possible ways that nature could have been ordered. And it was our job as the natural philosophers to look and see what was done. That was another premise. Nature was a created order. It was intelligible, but it was also contingent on the will of the Creator, so we had to go and look and see.

 Human Fallibility Needing the Scientific Method

And one other premise that came out of the Protestant side of the equation, I think both the Catholics and the Protestants and the ancient Hebrews scriptures, many concepts on the Book of Job were inspirational to the early founders, modern science. There was a contribution from all those different faith traditions. But one of the things that the Protestant reformers emphasized was the depravity of man, that humans were sinful. And that that sin affected our noetic capabilities, that it affected our thinking.

And so, that made us prone to flights of fancy. It made us prone to bias. It made us prone to wishful thinking. And so to check our theories, to check against those aspects of the fallenness of the human intellect, we needed to check our theories against actual data. And we needed to come up with rigorous ways of testing our theories to make sure that they were actually conforming to the way the world worked and weren’t just flights of fancy or products of our own biases. That was the-

Doug Monroe:

That’s four right there.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah. There’s a whole mix of assumptions about nature, about human nature and about the relationship of God to nature. In particular, that he was a creator and a rational creator, were part of the inspiration for science and also part of the conviction that science could be done. That it was worth the hard effort to try to figure out what those underlying rational principles that were governing the world actually were.

Today’s Schizophrenia: Scientific Materialism & Philosophical Skepticism 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, it’s a long story. There’s a scientific aspect, a philosophical aspect. But I think that there’s an ancient maxim of St. Augustine, credo ut intelligam. Believe in order to know. If you have a prior belief in a benevolent creator, that has positive implications for our ability to know the world because it implies that our minds have been made in a way that allows us to do so.

In the field of epistemology, the subject of how we know what we know, and the grounds and justification of knowledge. In the field of epistemology, when you get secular figures like David Hume, and they want to separate our ability to know from theistic belief, and they want to ground knowledge only in empirical observation, what arises out of that is skepticism. Because Hume famously argues that we can’t know. We can’t know those inductive generalizations, which are the very object of scientific inquiry. We want to know the general laws that describe nature. Well, that’s the very thing Hume says we can’t ever know.

And so you have this postmodern turn as it comes down to us in the last couple of centuries where there’s a doubting of our ability to know. And so that’s taking place in philosophy. And then in science…

Doug Monroe:

Extreme skepticism.

Stephen Meyer:

In the 19th century, you have this corresponding affirmation from people that science is the only way to know. And that what science is figuring out is how everything came to be without the assistance of any designing intelligence whatsoever.

You have the 19th century origins theories. You have Laplace explaining the origin of the solar system. You have Darwin explaining the origin of new forms of life. You have Huxley and Haeckel extending his ideas to try to explain the origin of the first life. Darwin himself extends his idea in the other direction to try explain the origin of human life. Then you get figures like Marx and Freud and many other scientific materialists. I think Darwin, Marx, and Freud, in a way are illustrative of the zeitgeist.

Doug Monroe:

Trifecta.

Stephen Meyer:

Darwin tells us where we came from in materialistic terms. Marx has his dialectical, materialistic account of where the human race is going with his utopian vision of the future of a social estate. And then Freud, in the early 20th century, has an account of what to do about our guilt, but explaining it away. And then also argues that the God did not create man. That man created the concept of God.

And so you have this complete reversal and the establishment of this materialistic worldview. And a worldview that’s often asserted with great certainty by the scientists at the same time that the philosophers are saying we can’t know anything at all And that we should be skeptical about the scientific method. You have this schizophrenia within intellectual thought. And that’s why I think one of the wonderful things that commence theism, theism I think affirms scientific realism-

Things that commence theism. Theism, I think affirms scientific realism and also allows us to do good science.

Where does intelligent design stand in the scientific community today? 

Doug Monroe:

I thought I’d ask you a little bit about where we are as you see the scientific community today? Are they becoming more and more open to intelligent design? Do you feel like you’re possibly a Francis Bacon in the middle of a big new wave, or do you feel like you are just a little piece of light in the night like David Hume who might’ve been early in the secular movement? I mean, where are you? Where are we with intelligent design?

Stephen Meyer:

I have no idea where I personally am other than here at the Heritage Foundation with you today. But I would say I’m extremely bullish about the development of the intelligent design research program and the development of the community of scientists who are advancing that program. We’ve had some very high level conversions, scientific conversions that is and changes of mind about these origins issue. One very striking example of that is the case of Gunter Bechly, a very prominent German paleontologist who in 2009 was curating the Darwin Bicentennial and Sesquicentennial exhibition celebrating both his birth and his work the origin of species. He created a display that was in some way mocking the idea of intelligent design. One of his colleagues challenged him and said, “Gunter, if you’re going to make fun of the ID people, you should read their books because you’re our spokesman, you may get asked in the media.”

And Gunter later told me that was his… He said, “That was my mistake.” And he came out to see us in Seattle to the Discovery Institute. We had some long and deep conversations. He told us he had concluded by reading a number of the key ID books that we were being unfairly maligned, that there was a lot more science supporting our work than he had any inkling about before. And that led him into a deep think about the whole issue. And within several years he was openly acknowledging that he was now a proponent of intelligent design and a skeptic about neo-Darwinism. And he’s doing some great research work for us as a paleontologist, he’s really first-rate. David Gelernter is another interesting case, Yale computer scientist who read my book, Darwin’s Doubt and David Berlinski’s important collection of essays, the Deniable Darwin, where he encountered the mathematical argument that we’ve made against the plausibility of the neo-Darwinian mechanism as an explanation for the origin of information and the origin of new forms of life. And Gelernter wrote a really extraordinary review essay called Darwin a Found Fawn Farewell in the Claremont Review of books.

And there have been many other leading scientists who are either coming out of the woodwork and becoming more public in their support for this or offering to sponsor graduate students in their laboratories as mentors or announcing scientific conversions. And in fact this has been going on through much of the 20th century. In my book I talk about the scientific and philosophical conversion of the physicist, Fred Hoyle, who was a staunch scientific atheist who embraced some form of sort of theistic belief to account for what’s called the fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics. You have figures like Dean Kenyon, who Kenyon was a prominent chemical evolutionary theorist who repudiated his own theory and then embraced the intelligent design hypothesis. Allen Sandage, the great cosmologist who was a staunch scientific materialist who ended up having a religious conversion in part because of not in spite of his own scientific discoveries relating to the Big Bang and the origin of the universe.

So there’ve been many of these cases of scientists moving away from a scientific materialist viewpoint and embracing either intelligent design or theism or at least a skepticism about the scientific materialist views that they once held.

Argument for God: Signature of the Cell 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, right, the subtitle of my book, return of the God Hypothesis is three Discoveries that reveal the mind behind the Universe. And I start in a sense building on the biological arguments that I made in the… Actually the order is reversed in the new book, but here’s the story of the book I wrote two books beforehand one, Signature in the Cell and second, Darwin’s Doubt. And these were books arguing that the information needed to build the first life and major new innovations in the history of life is best explained by the activity of a designing intelligence. In 1957, Francis Crick advanced something called the Sequence Hypothesis. This was four years after he and Watson had elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule. And in 57 Crick realized that the subunits along the interior of the molecule, along the spine of the molecule subunits called the bases or nucleotide bases were functioning like alphabetic characters in a written text or digital characters like the zeros and ones in a section of software.

That is to say that it is not the material properties of those chemical subunits that give them their function, it’s not their weight or their shape, but rather their arrangement in accord with an independent symbol convention now known as the genetic code. And so what Crick was able to elucidate with the help of other scientists in the ensuing seven or eight years was a whole information storage transmission and processing system. And that DNA was literally carrying instructions for directing the construction of the proteins and protein machines that cells need to stay alive. And so at the foundation of life, we don’t just have matter and energy, we don’t just have chemistry, we have code, we have information. And that raised the really huge question in biology, where does that information come from?

And scientists, because they could not answer that question within the framework of modern evolutionary theory, either chemical evolutionary theories of the origin of life or I would have and have argued biological theories of the origin of the new information needed to build new forms of life are also inadequate to account for the origin of the information needed to build new biological form. Just as in our computer world, you need new information to generate a new program or operating system to give your computer a new function. In the biological world, you need information to generate new biological form, it takes information to create form. And so that has turned out to be a very, very difficult problem to solve within the framework of evolutionary biology. I argued in Signature in the Cell, my first book, that information in our uniform and repeated experience is always the product of an intelligent cause. And our uniform and repeated experience is the basis of all scientific reasoning. So there’s actually a scientific basis for inferring that there was a designing intelligence responsible for the information necessary to life.

Whenever we see information, whenever we detect it and we trace it back to its ultimate source, whether it’s in a section of computer code or if it’s in a hieroglyphic inscription or a paragraph in a book or even information embedded in a radio signal, whenever we look at that information, trace it back to where it came from. We always find a mind, not an undirected material process. So the discovery of information at the foundation of life in every single cell of every living organism, including the very first simple one celled organisms suggest that a designing intelligence played an important causal role in the origin and development of life. And that’s the argument of the first two books. And that’s what I pick up in the third book because people then asked, well, who do you think that designing intelligence is or was?

Something from Nothing? The Universe’s Origin and Quantum Physics 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, that’s the idea. What Krauss was popularizing in his little book Universe from Nothing, was one of the two main models of what is called quantum cosmology. The idea that we can explain the universe out of nothing physical by reference to some underlying quantum mechanical laws of gravitation. So Stephen Hawking famously said, that there is a law such as gravity explains why there is something rather than nothing, why the universe came into existence. But what’s not stated there is that the nothing, oh yeah, is not really nothing. That there is a law such as gravity explains how you can get the universe to create itself from nothing. Well, if there are laws of gravity, then that’s not nothing, right? So if the laws are explaining how you get from nothing to something, then that presupposes that there are those laws and the laws are mathematical in character.

And that really exposes an even deeper paradox for the quantum cosmologists because as Alexander Vilenkin pointed out, who is one of the other great advocates of quantum cosmology and whose work Krauss was popularizing, he pointed out that the mathematical equations and the mathematical equations we use to express those quantum physical laws are conceptual. That math exists in the realm of the mind. And so what these quantum cosmologists ultimately are arguing is that matter and energy emerge out of a conceptual realm of math, which necessarily implies a preexisting mind to think the math, to think the mathematical ideas. And so they’ve invented quantum cosmology to get around the theistic implications of the standard Big Bang Theory. And its affirmation that there was a beginning to the physical universe of matter, space, time, and energy before which there was no matter that could do the causing of the universe. You see the problem?

And they saw the problem too, and so they developed this other model. But so first of all, they did not end up getting rid of the beginning. In all the quantum cosmological models, there’s still what’s called the singularity at the beginning, but their explanation for the origin of the universe out of the singularity is a preexisting mathematical reality that could only have reality if there was a preexisting mind. And so in their attempt to circumvent the theistic argument sometimes called the cosmological argument, they ended up showing that if you adopt a different cosmological model, you still end up having… Inadvertently, you end up reaffirming the need for-

Doug Monroe:

Information.

Stephen Meyer:

The need for information, but also a mind-

Doug Monroe:

A mind.

Stephen Meyer:

A mind behind the universe.

Theistic Design: Is “Who created God” a problem? No! 

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, sometimes people will object to the design hypothesis or a theistic design hypothesis more specifically, by saying, “Well then if you’re positing God as the explanation for the origin of the universe, who created God? And doesn’t that therefore render your explanation absurd?” And my answer to that is no, that every philosophical system has to posit something as what philosophers sometimes call a primitive, the thing from which everything else came, or in worldview studies, they call it the prime reality or in-

Doug Monroe:

Ultimate reality.

Stephen Meyer:

… formal philosophy, they’ll talk about the issue of ontology. What is the thing from which everything else came and the material [inaudible], the eternal self-existent thing from which everything else came, the thing that doesn’t need explaining and materialists have long affirmed that matter and energy are those things. And I would say in the aftermath of the great revolution of thought that’s taken place in the last 100 years in cosmology where we have multiple lines of evidence and developments within theoretical physics suggesting that the universe itself, the physical universe had a beginning, that matter and energy are now a poor candidate to be the thing from which everything else came, they themselves appear to have come into existence a finite time ago before which, whatever that means, there was no matter and energy to do the causing. They can’t be the eternal self-existent thing because they began a finite time ago. They haven’t been around forever.

Whereas if you posit God and a God possessing the attributes that say Jews and Christians have long ascribed to God, then you are positing the existence of an entity which has precisely the type of attributes that you would need to explain the origin of the physical universe from nothing physical. God is an entity who exists outside of space and time, is immaterial and is thought to have great power. So to suppose that such a being exists provides a better explanation for the origin of the universe than does materialism.

Cosmological data points to God?

Stephen Meyer:

And just to amplify the last answer a little bit, there’s a great physicist Arno Penzias, who co-discoverer of the cosmic background radiation, which was one of the very important confirming pieces of evidence in support of the Big Bang Theory and the concept of a cosmic beginning. And he famously said, “The best data we have are exactly what I would’ve predicted if I had nothing to go on, but the first five books of Moses, the Psalms, and the Bible as a whole.” If you take a kind of Bayesian take on this where you think, okay, I’ve got two different metaphysical hypotheses, what expectations would I generate from one as opposed to the other? Well, the idea of materialism or scientific materialism was the idea that matter and energy were eternal and self-existent, they’d always been here, but then we discovered, no, the material universe had a beginning, so that’s not what you would expect given a materialistic worldview.

But given a theistic worldview, indeed, even a biblical worldview, you would have greater reason to expect a beginning because on a biblical world or on a theistic worldview, generally you would be positing a creator for the universe, and therefore that would suggest the possibility of a beginning. But on a biblical worldview, we have an even greater reason to expect a beginning to the universe because it’s affirmed in the Bible as the first words of the Bible and in other places. So I think Penzias’ quote highlights how the way in which the Big Bang Theory or the evidence we have supporting that theory is confirmatory of a theistic or biblical worldview and disconfirming of a secular materialistic worldview.

Interestingly, Richard Dawkins has framed the issue beautifully. He says, “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if at bottom there’s no purpose, no design, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.” But that turns out that’s a great way of framing it because it says, “Hey, look, we can test our competing metaphysical hypothesis by looking and observing the world to see what kind of properties it has.” But the properties of the universe suggests that the universe had a beginning and that’s not what you’d expect given Dawkins’s scientific atheism, so it’s disconfirming.

 Our Fine-Tuned Universe

Stephen Meyer:

Well, the second class of evidence that I address in the book that I think reveals the mind behind the universe that points to intelligent design is the evidence that physicists have discovered in their analysis of the conditions that would be needed in their analysis of the physical property, the basic physical properties of the universe, and they found that time and time again, there are very fundamental properties of physics such as the strength of gravitational attraction or the strength of electromagnetic attraction or the mass of the elementary particles, in particular, the quarks or the strength of the force that’s causing the universe to expand, called the cosmological constant, that each of these different fundamental parameters have to fall within very narrow ranges or tolerances outside of which life would be impossible. And the probability of getting even one of these parameters in that just right sweet spot is oftentimes extremely small. Sometimes it’s just small, but other times it’s almost vanishingly small.

So for example, the cosmological constant is the name of the force that physicists give to the force that is causing the expansion of the universe. It turns out that, that force is fine-tuned to one part and 10 to the 90th power. So 10 to the 90th big exponential number, it’s a tiny, tiny smidgen within a vast range of possibilities to put that probability of getting that force just right in context, it would be that roughly the same probability as a blindfolded man floating in free space would have of choosing one marked elementary particle among not just all the elementary particles in our universe, but in having to explore 10 billion universes our size, it’s incredibly improbable. And yet the universe is sort of balanced on a razor’s edge-

Doug Monroe:

And you only need one right of the key forces?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, but many-

Doug Monroe:

That are independent.

Stephen Meyer:

Some of the parameters might be derivative of others. And so the probabilities in those cases would not be independent, but many of the probabilities and the parameters are certainly independent. So the probabilities are multiplicative, but you start with just a few parameters that you have insanely small probabilities, and yet you’re in the sweet spot where life can exist. So Fred Hoyle who discovered some of the first and most important fine-tuning parameters had been a staunch scientific atheist, he has a reversal of worldview as a result of his own discovery of the fine-tuning and later is quoted as saying that a common sense interpretation of the data suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics to make life possible, and it’s pretty compelling; fine-tuning suggests a fine tuner.

A Fine-Tuned Universe vs. Faulty Materialist Multiverse Counterargument 

Stephen Meyer:

They argue that, while, yes, the probability of getting one or all of these parameters just right is infinitesimally small. But what if you had a nearly infinite number of universes, then yes, the probability… If you have an infinite number of universes, then you could conceive that the combination of factors that would be life friendly would have to arise in one of those universes just by chance. And then we just happen to be the lucky ones. But there’s a problem with that, and there’s two aspects to it, and that is that if you just have all these other universes, then the mere existence of those universes doesn’t… And they’re not interacting causally with our universe, then the mere existence of the universes does nothing to explain whatever process it was that set the probabilities in this universe because there’s no interaction. So in virtue of that, multiverse proponents have suggested that there are kind of universe generating mechanisms that produce all the different universes, including our own, so they can portray our universe as a kind of lucky winner in a great cosmic lottery.

But that’s where the ultimate rub comes in, because it turns out that for those universe generating mechanisms, whether they’re based on something called string theory or inflationary cosmology, for those universe generating mechanisms to produce new universes, even in theory to plausibly generate new universes, those universe generating mechanisms themselves have to be exquisitely finely tuned. So there’s unexplained prior fine-tuning in the multiverse hypothesis. So it takes you right back to where you started. And given what we know… What we mean by fine-tuning is an ensemble of improbable parameters that work together to accomplish a significant outcome or function. And when we see fine-tuning in our experience, whether we’re talking about a finely tuned French recipe or a finely tuned internal combustion engine, or a finely tuned radio dial, or any finely tuned system, those systems always result from a mind from a prior intelligence. So even if the multiverse hypothesis is correct, it only underscores the need for prior fine-tuning, which takes you right back to the need for intelligent design. And so I think either way you go, you have evidence of intelligent design.

Applying Occam’s Razor: Multiverse Theory vs. Intelligent Design 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, God is also an unobservable in the same way that the other universes are unobservable. But the point is that the multiverse doesn’t get rid of the need for an intelligent agent to explain the fine-tuning, nor is it a simpler explanation than the theistic explanation. It turns out that if you think of those two different universe generating mechanisms that the materialists have had to propose to explain the fine-tuning, when you posit those mechanisms, they themselves require belief in all kinds of unobservable entities, extra dimensions of space and string theory. Unobservable strings and string theory, a force called an inflaton field, et cetera. And so you end up multiplying explanatory entities in the materialistic multiverse explanation, whereas in the theistic explanation, you can explain the same data more simply by reference to one single explanatory entity, namely a transcendent intelligence. So the theistic explanation passes the Occam’s razor test much more nicely than the materialistic one does.

Doug Monroe:

No question.

Stephen Meyer:

Plus, you’re invoking a gabillion other universes, which is fantastically extravagant as part of your explanatory framework.

 Primary Argument Against Darwinism: Mutation’s Extremely Low Creative Power 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, the term evolution has multiple meanings. It can mean simply change over time. It can refer to small scale variations among very similar organisms like the Galapagos finches that got a little longer, a little shorter beaks in response to varying weather patterns. It can also refer to the idea that all organisms are related by common ancestry. And most importantly, and this is the most important aspect of the Darwinian idea of evolution, it refers to the idea that there is an undirected unguided process called natural selection acting on random variations, and in our modern times, we would also talk about acting on random mutations. And that undirected process produces all the forms of life we see and all the change that’s implied by Darwin’s depiction of the history of life as a great branching tree. So in explaining my skepticism about evolutionary theory, I typically explain why I am skeptical about the creative power of that mutation, natural selection mechanism, because that’s the most important element of the theory.

I don’t doubt that there’s been change over time. I don’t doubt micro-evolutionary change. I think that some organisms may be related by common ancestry, I’m a skeptical about universal common ancestry because there’s too much evidence of discontinuity in the fossil record and in the genomic record. But the main focus of my skepticism concerns the claims for the creative power of the mutation selection mechanism. In 2016, I attended a conference at the Royal Society in London where leading evolutionary biologists convened a conference to evaluate new developments and evolutionary thinking and evolutionary biology. But the main unstated reason for convening the conference was that they recognized the need for a new theory of evolution, and that the mutation selection mechanism does a nice job of explaining that small scale variation in the Galapagos finches. But it does a very poor job of explaining the origin of birds or insects or the first animals, or what biologists call morphological innovation. It explains small scale variation, but not major change, major innovation in biological form.

And at that conference in 16, the first lecture was given by a leading Austrian evolutionary biologist named Gerd Muller. And he started his talk by enumerating, what he called the explanatory deficits of textbook neo-Darwinian theory, the first one of which had to do with this lack of creative power associated with the mechanism. And so I have various ways of explaining that, but one easy way to grasp that is to think about the problem of generating new information. Because in our biological biology today, we now realize that if you want to build a new form of life, or if the evolutionary process is to succeed in building a new form of life, it must produce a lot of new information. You need information to build new biological form. You need new information to build proteins, to service new types of cells, et cetera.

So where’s that information come from? Well, in the Darwinian scheme, it comes as a result of random changes in the DNA, in the sections of DNA that have the… Or in the characters, the information bearing subunits of the DNA that carry the information. Well, we know from our computer world that if you start randomly changing zeros and ones in a section of computer code, you’re going to destroy that code, that operating system or that program long before those random changes are going to have a chance of generating some new program or operating system. And it turns out from very careful studies that have been done on mutating DNA-

… on mutating DNA and proteins. It turns out the same thing is true in DNA, in the cell. If you start changing the ACs, Gs and Ts, the digital characters or the genetic characters in the genetic language at random, you will invariably degrade the structure of the resulting proteins long before you’ll generate the capacity to build a new protein. And so the origin of information is a crucial problem that has not been solved by the standard Neo-Darwinian evolutionary model, or I would argue and have argued in Darwin’s Doubt any of the post Neo-Darwinian theories of evolution that have been proposed either.

The Problem with TOE (Theories of Everything)

Stephen Meyer:

Theories of everything are, I think conceptually incoherent. The idea that there could be a theory of everything is conceptually incoherent because there’s a fundamental misunderstanding that is prevalent among a lot of physicists. Physicists think that the laws of nature explain particular facts and the laws of nature tend instead to describe general patterns of behavior in nature. They may sometimes explain particular facts, but they don’t explain all particular facts.

And here’s why. Imagine you have an apple falling from a tree, and you use the law of gravity to describe the motion. Okay, so far so good, but now you also see a rocket ship flying to the moon, and you also use the law of gravity to describe its motion. It’s crucial. We needed to know the laws of gravity to be able to put a man on the moon. So the law of gravity is applicable to describing both of those motions. But there’s a big difference in the motions, and the law is not the difference that makes a difference and to explain why the apple fell as opposed to the rocket ship flying, we need to invoke other factors to provide an explanation that explains the difference. And the other factor actually has to do with the way that metal was configured and the parts were made to make a rocket ship that had the ability to constrain, thrust and fly.

And so that pertains not to the laws of nature, but rather to the configuration of matter, and what in a different context a physicists might refer to as the initial conditions of the material state, so the laws of physics by themselves, the idea of a grand unifying theory was we’d get one law that would explain everything. Well, if the law was so general, if it was even more general than the law of gravity, it will describe aspects of all motions or all events. But it won’t explain why one event happened as opposed to another because it’s so general. It applies to everything, and it can’t be a difference that makes a difference between two contrasting event scenarios. So I think-

Doug Monroe:

I see what you’re saying. Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

So it’s conceptually confused.

Doug Monroe:

Is that dying or is interest in that just there? Is it cult-like or-

Stephen Meyer:

There’s always interest in this among physicists. They want to reduce the four fundamental laws to one fundamental law of physics. And they may succeed in that, although I’m doubtful for other reasons I could explain. But even if they did, then they would just have a very general description that applied to every piece of matter and every piece of energy and every realm of space-time. But they wouldn’t be able to explain why one thing happened rather than another. They wouldn’t be able to explain the origin of any biological system because that requires explaining how specific configurations of matter arose against the backdrop of the very general laws that don’t explain why one configuration as opposed to another is favored.

Theistic Evolution: An Oxymoron

Stephen Meyer:

There are different views of biological origins within the religious community, within the Christian community, within people who hold a theistic worldview. And one of those views, which is different than the view I hold, is the view of theistic evolution, and that’s the idea that God in some way used the evolutionary process to create life, to create the new forms of life.

Doug Monroe:

Wasn’t that the church’s sort of original approach to it when it came up? Just-

Stephen Meyer:

Not really-

Doug Monroe:

No?

Stephen Meyer:

… because the evolutionary theory really only dates from the 19th century. And so there are figures like-

Doug Monroe:

I’m sorry to interrupt you. Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

Well, that’s okay.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah.

Stephen Meyer:

In any case, so theistic evolution is sometimes a little bit difficult to define because there are many different versions of it, but roughly speaking, it’s the idea that God used the evolutionary process to create. And it sounds kind of innocuous, it sounds sort of commonsensical, but it has three main problems with it. There are scientific problems associated with it. There are philosophical problems associated with it, and there are theological problems.

The scientific problem is very simply the one we just covered, and that is that if the mutation natural selection mechanism, the main mechanism cited by evolutionary biologists itself lacks creative power, then it’s incoherent to claim that God used that to create. In other words, the theistic evolutionists have been involved in trying to reconcile what they regard as mainstream evolutionary biology with their religious beliefs, not realizing that mainstream evolutionary biology itself is beginning to recognize problems that make that synthesis unnecessary. Okay?

And I would say actually that for at least 40 years now, maybe longer, I mean in 1980, Stephen J. Gould said that Neo-Darwinism is effectively dead except as textbook orthodoxy. People have known now for a very long time about the problems associated with the creative power of natural selection and random mutation. I explained several more than the ones we talked about already in this interview in Darwin’s Doubt and this Royal Society conference and other events of biologists who call themselves sort of third way. They don’t want to endorse intelligent design, but they know that Neo-Darwinism is dead. One of the biologists at the conference in London said, “Criticism of Neo-Darwinism is now so early ’90s.” In other words, it’s passe even to criticize the theory. So there’s a disparity between what our students are being presented and what even people in the field of evolutionary biology know.

All of which is to say why are prominent professors at Christian colleges or prominent scientists associated with groups like BioLogos working so hard to try to reconcile their Christian or theistic beliefs with a dying theory, with a theory that lacks a creative mechanism for explaining the origin of new forms of life? So that’s the scientific problem.

The logical problem or philosophical problem is that Darwin conceived of the mechanism of natural selection acting on random variations as a purely undirected, unguided process. And the reason for that was that he was trying to explain the appearance of design in living organisms without invoking an actual designing agent. And so he came up with this mechanism that was a kind of designer substitute mechanism.

Well, if the mechanism of mutation selection is natural as opposed to intelligently guided, and that’s how it was formulated, then how is that logically compatible with the idea that God is guiding the evolutionary process? If God is guiding an unguided process, it’s no longer unguided. Sorry. If you ask the theistic evolutionists, if they think it’s guided or unguided, they get kind of famously ambiguous and will say, “Well, it might be guided.” Or they’ll often say it isn’t guided. If they say it isn’t guided, they’ve got a flat out contradiction. If they say it might be guided, they have such an ambiguous theory as to not really warrant critiquing it because it’s not really a theory at all. It’s not really telling us what is the true causal agency that’s responsible for the origin of new forms of life? And then I would argue there are theological problems but we can set those aside for now.

Doug Monroe:

Yeah, that’s a big argument among scientists and theologians, but at least you both believe in God having some role. And but I-

Stephen Meyer:

I think the main problem with the theistic evolutionary position is it’s not at all clear what role the theism plays.

Doug Monroe:

What role it is. Exactly.

Stephen Meyer:

Is that just a rhetorical add-on, or is God actually doing something that makes a difference scientifically?

Doug Monroe:

Right.

Stephen Meyer:

And typically the theistic evolutionists will say, “No. The design of the creator is not detectable scientifically,” which means that their science is identical to that of the materialists.

Do miracles (like the Resurrection) violate the laws of nature?

Stephen Meyer:

I don’t think that miracles violate the laws of nature. And I think that’s a misconception again, about what the laws of nature do. They describe regular patterns of occurrence in the physical world, but there is, with a law of nature, always a ceteris paribus clause, all other things being equal. In particular, a clause that says, provided there is no interfering conditions, so if I were to analyze the movement of billiard balls on a table or pool table, I guess, and I know the law of momentum exchange and I know the initial conditions that are in play, what the force is when ball A hits ball B at angle X, I can predict the outcome as a physicist in theory at least. But when the cue strikes the ball, somebody shakes the table, then all bets are off. That doesn’t mean the law of momentum exchange has been violated. It means that someone has introduced into that physical system a chain of cause and effect.

And I think biblically, miracles are conceived of as acts of God, acts of a personal agent. In the Exodus account, it says that, “And the Lord caused an east wind to blow.” Now, it may not be the ordinary thing for walls of water to stand up, but a sufficiently strong force, even produced by wind might be capable of doing that. But the philosophical point is that-

Doug Monroe:

My low-lying property on the bay will agree with that, right?

Stephen Meyer:

Okay.

Doug Monroe:

There you go.

Stephen Meyer:

But the point is that if an agent acts in an otherwise closed physical system, you may get unexpected outcomes without the laws that apply to that physical system being violated. So I think that argument and other arguments that I could make against say Hume’s skeptical argument against miracles, and I think Hume’s argument against miracles is incredibly weak, but anyway, I don’t think there are good in principle, philosophical reasons to reject the possibility of miracles.

Miracles are fundamentally acts of God. They are impossible if there is no God to act. The prior probability of miracles given scientific materialism is zero. But if you have good reasons for believing in God, then the probability shifts to non-zero, and you have to evaluate the historical evidence itself to see whether or not it suggests that a miracle took place. And in my case, without going into all the details, I have had a deep dive into some of the great scholars who have examined the historical evidence surrounding the resurrection, and I would name four: Wolfhart Pannenberg, his student, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, and N.T. Wright. And Habermas has some extraordinarily persuasive videos online. N.T. Wright wrote the Magisterial 700-page volume, “The Resurrection of the Son of God.” And I think that-

Doug Monroe:

Is that the gold standard, would you say, or they’re all the same?

Stephen Meyer:

Craig’s PhD dissertation, which cost me $150. It was probably Edwin Mellen Press. I remember when I got it. It’s a fantastic piece of work so I mean, there’s some very profound scholarship on this. And there’s two different ways of arguing for the resurrection. One is called the Minimal Facts Argument. Another called the Maximal Facts Argument. I actually think they both work. I mean, I think the historical evidence is surprisingly strong when you get into it.

A Good Theology of Nature: God’s Creating, Sustaining, and Special Agency 

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I do want to say that the natural entities have real causal powers associated with them, so I do think that we actually detect God’s special action. I think those causal powers are a consequence of God’s creation and his upholding the fundamental laws of physics and chemistry. But I do think we detect God’s special agency against the backdrop of what nature ordinarily does. And so I think distinguishing between two powers of God as the medieval theologians did between his ordinary power of sustaining and upholding the regular concourse of nature and his special action where he acts as an agent within the matrix of natural law that he otherwise sustains and upholds is a good way to think about nature. It’s a good theology of nature, if you will.

How does Mind influence the world? Evidence: The Cambrian Explosion

Stephen Meyer:

Well, there’s an asymmetry in science often between prediction and explanation. And this is a slightly different asymmetry, but it’s the asymmetry between our ability to detect the activity of an agent and being able to understand how mental agency affects matter. Well, we may have ideas about it, but we do not have an adequate explanation of how mental agency affects matter, and that applies to divine agency as well as human agency.

You and I are communicating with each other using words right now, but we’re actually modulating acoustic signals and sending them across a room. Our ears are picking them up, they’re sending us a signal to our brains. Our brains are processing that, and somehow our minds are interpreting that signal and we’re understanding each other. All that was initiated by, in my case, a desire to communicate something to you, so my mind, through conscious deliberation, my mind of which I’m aware through direct introspective experience has causal powers of which I’m aware, but I don’t really know how the mental realm affects the physical. We can see evidence of the activity of mind in an event like the Cambrian explosion. For one thing, we have a massive increase in the amount of information in the biosphere in a fairly narrow window of time.

And I think the increases of information are, in our experience, solely produced by mental agents. Therefore, we have evidence of mental agency in the history of life. That’s a radical conclusion, but one I think that follows from the evidence and our knowledge of cause and effect, but going the other direction is difficult. We don’t really know, presuming it was the mind of God, how God’s mind affected matter. The scripture uses metaphors like, “The spirit of God brooded over the waters.” Well, we don’t get a full account.

Doug Monroe:

Is it fair to say, I’m asking a leading question now, but-

Stephen Meyer:

I guess the payoff point there is that just because we don’t know how mind affects matter in the forward direction, if the causal arrow’s running in that direction, doesn’t mean that we can’t retrodict or detect the activity of mind in the reverse direction from the distinctive effects that we know only minds produce.

 Is a non-material explanation “scientific”? Yes, with special evidence.

Doug Monroe:

Along those same lines, would it be fair to say that gravity for one, how life started, number two, what consciousness really is number three, in spite of Daniel Dennett, there’s really no scientific explanation for those things that are satisfying yet, right? Or we don’t feel like we-

Stephen Meyer:

Well, I would-

Doug Monroe:

You see what that question that-

Stephen Meyer:

… quibble with the framing of your question slightly-

Doug Monroe:

Okay, okay, okay.

Stephen Meyer:

…. because we want to say that posing an intelligent cause is a properly scientific explanation for certain types of evidence, especially within certain types of science. If I am asking a question about causal origins of something that happened a long time ago, and I have every indicator in that event of the distinctive activity of an intelligent agent, then the best explanation is to infer that an agent played a role. And that’s also a scientific explanation, or it’s at least as scientific as its competitor a Darwinian materialistic explanation because the difference between Darwinism and intelligent design is not that they are two different types of things, rather than, they’re two different competing theories trying to explain the same types of events. And they’re even using the same methods of reasoning to do so.

So I would say, yes, I don’t think we’ve had materialistic or evolutionary explanations for the origin of the Cambrian animals or the origin of the other abrupt appearances of living forms in the history of life or the origin of life, nor have we had materialistic explanations that explain the fine-tuning or explain consciousness. But that doesn’t mean that there might not be non-materialistic explanations that have an equally good claim to be scientific.

Are you a dualist? 

Stephen Meyer:

I’m a dualist interactionist. Yeah. I’m not a Cartesian dualist, but there’s a model of mind-body interaction that was developed by Sir John Eccles and some of his colleagues in the ’90s. A great brain physiologist who was a mind-body dualist, and he and Karl Popper wrote a book called The Self in Its Brain, and a book that I love is a book about how to treat anxiety disorders, a practical sort of a book for people to help with anxiety called You Are Not Your Brain by Jeffrey Schwartz. And it’s the same kind of concept that the self or the soul or the mind controls the brain or can control the brain as an instrument of its existence.

What Jeffrey Schwartz, a great psychiatrist at UCLA has discovered is that the most effective ways to treat anxiety disorders are to help people to retrain their brain, retrain certain patterns of thinking that are reflexive, and you can use your mind to do that. And so the very success of those modes of treatment suggests a distinction between mind and brain.

Our Ultimate Problem: “Men Have Forgotten God”

Stephen Meyer:

This year marks the 40th anniversary of a great speech that was given by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, his “Men Have Forgotten God” speech. And it has an incredible sort of anecdotal opening where he tells about, as a young person, the news is spreading across Russia about the success of the Bolshevik Revolution. And the old people are weeping in the fields, and he’s told repeatedly by older people that these great disasters have befallen Russia because men have forgotten God.

And I think we’re facing a situation in our culture where we have a lot of disasters that are beginning to befall us. We have these, I mean almost every third day evidence of a brawl somewhere. We have violence. We have crime. We have epidemic, teen suicide. We’ve got the fentanyl crisis. We’ve got epidemic levels of anxiety in the culture. A lot of things in our infrastructure are not working. You could enumerate, right? And some of them can be directly traced to a loss of belief in God and the moral convictions that go with that. I think certainly the crime epidemic can be.

But from my own experience, I’m incredibly sensitive to the experience of angst that a lot of young people have. I don’t think it’s just anxiety about future prospects. A lot of the anxiety of the teen suicide is taking place amongst kids that are coming from very affluent homes. It’s more of a metaphysical anxiety. It’s a quest for meaning that’s not being satisfied. And so I think that if there is a hope for our country to reverse these trends that so many people find are disturbing, it is in the re-embrace of our belief in God.

Our whole system of human rights was based on the idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. There was this idea of intrinsic dignity that informed the whole Western tradition. And we had dignity because we had been made in God’s image. And that dignity meant that we had rights that even the state could not take away. And so I think we’re at a pivotal moment in our culture where there is a lot of pain. There is an increasing dysfunction in society, in cities, in families, and our last best and greatest hope is to return to God.

And I wrote “Return of the God Hypothesis” in part because I’m completely persuaded by the evidence, and I think it’s a great story that’s been not told. But now that the book’s out, I’m also hoping it will have an effect in opening people’s minds and hearts to the reality of God because I do think we can, as the philosophers say, have knowledge of God. There is justification for true beliefs about our Creator. And returning to that theistic foundation for culture and for family life and for personal life, I think provides the best hope for all of us.

Optimistic or pessimistic about America’s future? Let’s Return to God! 

Stephen Meyer:

I’m agnostic and pray every day about the cultural moment.

Doug Monroe:

You’re just staying in the now?

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Okay. Well, thank you very much. I just got to tell you-

Stephen Meyer:

It’s the shortest answer I gave you all day.

Doug Monroe:

Well, no, but this has just been an honor and a privilege to speak with you about this.

Stephen Meyer:

Yeah, for me too. Yeah.

Doug Monroe:

Thank you so much.

Stephen Meyer:

Thank you.

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