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The Case for a Creator, Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of Case is about abiogenesis. It seems Strobel couldn’t find any actual molecular biologists or organic chemists who support ID and were willing to speak with him about it, so it’s back for another talk with Stephen Meyer, the philosopher already interviewed in chapter 4. With cheerful ludicrousness, Strobel describes Meyer, who is not a biologist and has never published a single piece of research on this topic, as “one of the country’s leading experts on origin-of-life issues” [p.221] – which is like saying that Kent Hovind is one of the country’s leading experts on tax law.

I want to quote some more of Strobel’s rapturous verbiage about Meyer’s intellectual prowess, to give you a sense of just how over-the-top and obnoxious it is:

In fact, I once hosted the videotaping of an intellectual shoot-out between Meyer and an atheistic anthropologist on the legitimacy of intelligent-design theories, and I remember walking away amazed at Meyer’s finesse in deftly dismantling the professor’s case while at the same time forcefully presenting his own. Maybe that’s a throwback to Meyer’s earlier years when he trained as a boxer, learning to overcome fears of taking a punch and how to jab away at an opponent’s weakness. [p.222]

Creationists certainly love to describe how wonderfully convincing and compelling their arguments are. In some cases, they love doing it so much that they never actually get around to making the argument. And it’s a given that Lee Strobel would never declare any debate between a creationist and a scientist to be anything less than a total victory for creationism. But I noticed something important missing from that paragraph: a footnote.

There are plenty of other footnotes throughout this chapter, but for some reason, Strobel never gives us a reference or a URL to this debate, never tells us where it was, when it was, or even who it was against. If it was such a total victory for ID as he claims, why doesn’t he give his readers the tools to view it for themselves so they can see just how decisively Meyer trounced the other side? Could it be that he actually thinks the scientist won the debate, despite what he says? Or, more likely, he just doesn’t want his readers to see any unfiltered pro-evolution argument in a format that creationists don’t completely control. (As we saw last time, creationists tend to fare poorly in those encounters.) He’d prefer his readers serve as a cheering section, rather than giving them any information that might encourage those pesky tendencies toward critical thinking.

What Strobel also doesn’t see fit to mention is that his re-interview of Stephen Meyer is likely because, at this point in the book, he’s interviewed nearly every prominent figure in the intelligent-design movement. At the beginning of the book, he boasted of the parade of experts he would put on display – but it seems he couldn’t fill out even ten chapters without repeating himself, and even then, the list had to be padded with philosophy professors, theologians and professional Christian apologists.

Strobel’s defenders would doubtless say that there are other people he could have interviewed, such as two more names mentioned in the introduction to this chapter:

The astounding capacity of microscopic DNA to harbor this mountain of information… “vastly exceeds that of any other known system,” said geneticist Michael Denton. [p.221]

…biology professor Dean Kenyon repudiate[d] the conclusions of his own book and the chemical origin of life and conclude[d] instead that nothing short of an intelligence could have created this intricate cellular apparatus. [p.222]

Yet I suspect there are reasons why Strobel chose not to include either of these two. Denton, for example, was once an ardent anti-evolutionist who wrote books like Evolution: A Theory in Crisis – but his newest book, Nature’s Destiny, completely reverses course and instead argues that the laws of the cosmos are fine-tuned so as to make evolution (and the appearance of humans) inevitable. This position has significant similarities to ID, to be sure, but it also strays from the “abrupt appearance” evangelical-Christian orthodoxy that’s promoted throughout the book, so it’s not surprising that Denton isn’t given a chance to speak here. (Jonathan Wells, the Moonie, and Michael Behe, the Roman Catholic, seem to be the farthest that Strobel is prepared to go in the name of ecumenism.)

The other name, Dean Kenyon, is more interesting. He’s that rarest of rare birds, a creationist who actually has a degree in biology (Ph.D in biophysics from Stanford, 1965). On the face of it, he seems like an ideal choice for a book like this. But Strobel skips him, too, and I think this may have something to do with it:

It is my professional opinion, based on my original research, study, and teaching, that creation-science is as scientific as evolution, although it currently does not have the benefit of the volume of research that has been carried out under evolutionist presuppositions…. Moreover, I believe that a scientifically sound creationist view of origins is not only possible, but is to be preferred over the evolutionary view.

Kenyon was a major participant in the original intelligent-design movement – back when it was still called “scientific creationism”. The Supreme Court dealt the decisive blow to that in Edwards v. Aguillard, which held that creationism was unconstitutional to teach in public schools. Almost immediately thereafter, the movement reconstituted itself as “intelligent design”. Perhaps Strobel felt that interviewing Kenyon would be treading on dangerous ground as regards the ID movement’s history. (The original proponents of scientific creationism also argued strenuously in court that their ideas were not religious, as you can see from Kenyon’s affidavit.)

For all its boastful claims, the actual ID movement is quite small, and Strobel’s being forced to return to the same interview subject shows it. He tries his best to create the illusion of parity, to imply that there are just as many experts supporting ID as evolution, but we’ve already seen the deceptiveness of that. Try as he might to make the ID movement seem a mile wide, it will still only be an inch deep, and in no way comparable to the vast amounts of actual research, knowledge, and expertise within evolutionary theory.

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DAYLIGHT ATHEISM Adam Lee is an atheist author and speaker from New York City. His previously published books include "Daylight Atheism," "Meta: On God, the Big Questions, and the Just City," and most...