Transcript of the debate between Professor Steve Fuller and Professor Lewis Wolpert at Royal Holloway College
This debate was one of the big events in the Winter of 2007. Fuller is the leading advocate of Intelligent Design in the UK and Lewis Wolpert one of Britainís very top scientists.
Held in the early evening of the 21st February at Royal Holloway College, University of London, it attracted an audience of about 150 people. Three people from BCSE were amongst the audience.
Weíve divided our coverage of the event into three parts Ė a straight transcript (on this page), an RHC Debate Summary with additional notes and RHC Debate Commentaries. You can also click here, Steve Fuller for more background on where Professor Fuller was coming from in the debate. Click here for the Wikipedia entry on Lewis Wolpert.
There are some very short gaps in transcript during the period when questions were being asked from the floor. This is mostly due to people speaking without the use of the microphone. The transcription of the debate was undertaken by Malcolm Stein and Roger Stanyard, both of the BCSE. We also thank Greg Spiers for addional help with the recoding and the transcripts.
The debate is in four sections - a presentation by Steve Fuller followed by a presentation by Lewis Wolpert, then a debate between the two and finally a debate with the audience.
Proposition: ďIntelligent Design and Evolution have the same status as scientific theories.Ē
In defence of the proposition: Professor Steve Fuller, Warwick University
Against the proposition: Professor Lewis Wolpert, University College, London
Chair: Professor Johannes Zanker, Royal Holloway College
Johannes Zanker (chair): Welcome to (you all?) on this very exciting afternoon. I first call on to express my thanks to Narender Ramnani and (not clear) who organised this debate.
So we are talking about tonight, we are talking about Intelligent Design and evolution. Obviously this is something which occupies a lot of great minds but obviously, (also?), the general public and, sometimes, even the courts.
The attempt for tonight is to bring this discussion into the scientific context, to try to get to the roots of the scientific and philosphical problems underlying this debate.
We invited two of our prominent speakers to talk to us about it. We have Steve Fuller from Warwick University and Lewis Wolpert for UCL, who are taking opposite views, or it looks like opposite views, in this debate.
And we talked about an appropriate format for this and the idea is that each of them has about 20 minutes to present their views to the audience, after which they can cross-examine each other for five minutes each and then the discussion will be open to the whole group, to the auditorium and we have another 20-25 minutes for that. We have to be out of the room by 6.30 OK, so the debate is limited by, by this.
I think there is one more item of housekeeping. Could you please all switch off your mobile phones? Thank-you.
The whole session will be taped so if anybody has an interest in this afterwards (not clear) we can collect some of the details, this should be possible (not clear) on the way.
So let's start with Steve, Professor Steve Fuller from the Department of Sociology at Warwick University. He's is defending the proposition that Intelligent Design and evolution have the same status as scientific theories.
Steve is a professor of sociology as I have said. He's interested in the history and philosophy of science, has written a long list of publications and books and in this context, has quite interestingly, done a lot of his work about the debate between (not clear) about which I can see from his opening statement will become relevent for the discussion tonight.
OK, Steve, I hand over to you.
Part 1: Presentation by Steve Fuller
Steve Fuller: OK that sounds pretty clear to me. Alright, I didnít realise we had about 20 minutes a piece so in a sense I have got too much material for the time that I have been allotted. But if you are interested in seeing all of the slides that I have prepared for this and kind of looking at it in a bit more detail, I guess that we are not going to be able to look at all of this, even in the course of the whole afternoon, you can contact me at my email address, firstname.lastname@example.org.
First off, I want to thank Narender for inviting me to participate and to be the opening speaker because Intelligent Design, its seems to me as so much often presented as a kind of anti-evolution position as if it has no kind of hypothesis/viewpoint of its own.
And, in a sense of being the opening speaker, itís incumbent on me to actually say how is this has a different position from evolution that has its own research agenda, its own way of looking at the biological sciences and so forth.
Now in terms ofÖ..the first point that needs to be conceded, at least to be conceded for the purposes of argument, is that at a sociological level, it's quite clear that evolution is superior to Intelligent Design; in terms of which the way evidence is mobilised in the scientific literature, it is certainly more often mobilised in support of evolution that Intelligent Design.
That leaves open the question, of course, about whether the same evidence could be equally used to support Intelligent Design. And this, it seems to me, says something about the actual conceptual states of the two theories that we are talking about here. OK
And also I think itís true there are probably more biologists, practising biologists, believe that evolution explains life better than Intelligent Design does. But again, it seems to me we actually donít have any reliable sense of what most scientists think, because particularly when these surveys are done, weíre looking at a fairly (either in a lead?) group of scientists or the questions are presented in a sort of question begging kind of way, and in terms of the range of scientists who are being considered, whose judgements are being considered, in the matter, so that one presumes already that the kinds of scientists whose, whose, opinions are worth hearing, right, that already begs the question vis a vis evolution and Intelligent Design.
So it is not clear to me that we actually know what scientists think,about this matter.
Now one of things that is interesting is the kind of a sort of benchmark here, that some of you may know that last year that 67 national academies of sciences signed a statement saying that evolution needed to be taught. But the interesting thing about this statement is that it didnít mention any specific mechanisms of evolution. It didnít mention natural selection in particular, or rather what it did was it mentioned some general facts that we associate with evolutionary theory having to do with the age of the earth, the, the, when origins of life took place, the fact that all life is interconnected, though even though adoption of common descent wasnít mentioned in the statement.
Now this is quite frightening, it seems to me, because if one thinks about - OK, weíre talking about a consensus document here amongst the 67 national academies of science, pro-evolution - how superficial it is. OK in the sense the only thing that was seriously excluded from this statement was young earth creationism.
OK, and if one has a version of Intelligent Design if anything other than young earth creationism then in a sentence thatís already, that it seems to be allowable by this statement of 67 national academies of science.
So the very least what this shows is that in terms of the very fundamental levels of principal that separate evolution and Intelligent Design there certainly isnít a very robust consensus amongst the people who wanna to support evolution.
Now so far everything I have been talking about it has had to do with the sociological status of evolution versus Intelligent Design, in terms of what people think about it, the way it appears in the scientific literature and so forth, but, but if one looks at it at a sort of the deeper level in terms of the conceptual horizons of the two theories, what in principle can the two theories attempt to explain, here I think we start to enter into some difficult territory, because typically the one talks about the strengths or weakness in either evolution or Intelligent Design theory, one is usually focussing on a specific version of these theories; OK so for example, one might say Richard Dawkins is wrong that evolution isnít just about the selection of the level of the gene. Or one might say Michael Behe is wrong that the cell, thebacterial flagellum isnít irreducibly complex.
But do those, those kind of specific empirical reputations actually undermine the conceptual basis of the wider theories of which they are one possible version? OK. So it seems to me that we are talking about evolution versus Intelligent Design, weíre actually talking about something of a conceptual level is at a higher level and at a broader level than the specific versions of the theory that one can say there is either empirical or not empirical support for.
Now this can in a way be interpreted as though there is a plus or a minus. OK. And I wanna to move on and look first at the minus.
Minus and what I mean by minus is that, in a sense, neither evolution nor Intelligent Design is falsifiable, at a certain level, because in a sense they pitch the claims at such an abstract level, if we are just talking, about the general concepts, that they canít be falsifiable.
Now, why is this? Well first of all, one reason is that in principal nothing escapes the theoryís scope. So, for example, one of the things that one sees sometimes in evolutionary explanations, is, you know, someone will say look, this particular organ or this particular, err isnít really adapted to the animal, why does this animal have it? Right? Well, one that creates this category, exaptation, to use this term that Stephen Jay Gould coined, whereby you end up having through some sort of maybe random genetic drift/faction (?) you have some kind of organ that doesnít seem to serve some kind of immediate function in the environment nevertheless being carried along through evolution. So no matter what happens, right, evolution can explain what goes on, whether the organ is adapted or not adapted.
OK. But evolution is not alone in this capacity. Intelligent Design has the same sort of issue so that one can talk about for example, well, look at some of the aspects of, letís say, you know, the way in which organisms were constructed. These things don't look like the sort of thing an Intelligent Designer would do, they are too jimmy-rigged, theyíre too arbitrary the way they are constructed. There are much better ways we could be doing this sort of thing.
Well one thing an Intelligent Design person could say is, look, the unit at which the Intelligent Design is occurring isnít necessary at the unit you are looking at. It may be occurring at a sort of larger level. So you may imagine that God, or whoever the Intelligent Designer is, is involved in some sort of grand optimisation problem which is trying to make a lot of things to fit together in one kind of universe and you canít necessarily make ever part the best possible part but in order to make the best possible whole, right, one has to make certain kinds of trade-offs.
OK and so at a particular level of a particular function, organ or organism, this maybe this is not a perfect creature, but if you look at it in the whole, it fits in the larger picture.
So a lot depends on where exactly the Intelligent Design is being pitched. At what level exactly. So you can get away with that as well.
The other issue that has do with unfalsifiability, has to do with how the key concepts are defined. OK, and there is a tendency, sometimes to define these concepts in purely negative or residual terms. That is to say, in terms of what they are not.
Now, in the case of Intelligent Design, we have this attempt, that some of you know about, by William Dembski, to define in probabilistic terms using information theory, what a design is and it turns out to basically going through a sort of sequence whereby you show that something is not necessary, it is not done by chance therefore it is done by design, it is the design as it where, it is the residual category that gets left after you canít explain something as being the product of necessity or chance.
But evolution, but what exactly is evolution? Now I mention here in this slide I talk about the Harvey-Weinberg equilibrium which, which is is a formula that has been contributed by population geneticists which gives a kind of an equation for gene frequency in a population generation after generation and assuming that there no disturbances to the population.
When there are disturbances, thatís evolution. OK. So if there is mutation, when there is natural selection, when there is not now, when there is not random mating. All of these kinds of conditions.
So what Iíve got listed here and Iím not gonna to go through this whole thing, comes from a web site thatís been endorsed by the US National Science Teachers Association, basically explaining evolution from the standpoint of population genetics. And what we see here is that basically evolution is always happening. Because it is always, because the Harvey-Weinberg conditions that gives kinda stable gene frequencies in populations, are always being violated.
And evolution can happen in just about any kind of way that shifts the equilibrium.
So there is no actual positive account of evolution being given here. Itís just whatever shifts the gene frequency equilibrium.
Now there is an interesting actual historical back story to why this is the kind of definition of evolution that population geneticists use but I wonít go into that here.
Now on the positive side, and this is in a sense kinda the biggest, you might say, take home point that I want to raise to you, is I think that the best way to look at the difference between evolution and Intelligent Design is really as what Karl Popper called metaphysical research progress.
Now this is a very unpopular phrase now in the philosophy of science for reasons that I could go into for reasons that you might be interested in.
But basically I think basically it is correct, mainly what, what these two concepts do from a positive standpoint is they provide what I think are fairly clearly alternative ways of organising and orienting research in what broadly speaking we might call the biological sciences.
OK so there is sort of like at level of the blueprint how do you design the science. Because, as we know, you know, whether one is an adherent of evolution or Intelligent Design, biology is a very heterogeneous science. There are a lot of things going on under the name of biology and in fact the range of methods and approaches and so forth are, in fact, just as varied as one would find in social sciences.
OK, and in fact from that standpoint of view of the Darwinian synthesis in biology is a very striking accomplishment because you basically have a whole bunch of people doing radically different things at a methodological level, nevertheless thinking of singing to the same hymn. OK.
But I think itís clear to say that evolution and Intelligent Design would organise the biological sciences differently.
Now, as I mention here in the slide it seems to me that in, you know, evolution, fundamental intuition goes back to Darwin and it has to do with the survival of self-reproducing carbon-based entities, in terrestrial environments.
Alright, so, life on earth.
And the idea that all of this life descended from a common ancestor, who exactly this ultimate origin of life is, mysterious? Darwinists do not want to commit themselves to this. Darwin himself didnít commit himself to this.
But basically the upshot is in biology from a fundamental historical science and it is about the history of life on earth, OK, it is a field-based science in the first instance, but increasingly, especially once we move into the incorporation of genetics and molecular biology in the 20th century, right, it gets increasingly supplemented and, some would say, I think, dominated by, lab and computer based research.
So we are really are moving far way from Darwinís own kind of entomological horizons. But basically evolution insofar as it is, or sort of recognisable kind way of doing biology, is a kind of historical science based on life on earth.
Now this is being challenged a lot now in the sense that evolution is becoming a kind of grand metaphysical idea, evolution of the universe, cosmic selectionism, that kind of thing, but if it is gonna be a distinct idea it seems to me is about history of life on earth.
Now Intelligent Design theorists, and here Iím not gonna, I donít see any reason to hide this point, I think there is, in the background, there is a biblical conception of God and that God is a kind of super engineer. OK.
And an interesting thing about this is that, that the way in which life is designed, right, so whether we are talking about cells or organisms or species or whatever, right, is a much more improved but nevertheless relatable version of what human beings are doing.
So that things like mechanistic analogies and so forth are appropriate to use to understand the way in which life works.
OK so, God is the big mechanic, God is the big engineer, very much in the kind of way that Isaac Newton thought about this, for example, and most of the way people in the scientific revolution thought about these matters. And this has a lot to do with the privileged relationship that human beings have with God as, as a creature, of all the creatures in nature. OK.
Now here then, biology isnít this kind of distinct, unique historical science that's about life on earth so much but rather it is a kind of branch of technology, OK, whereas one branch of technology is the technology human beings do, engineering, and the other branch of technology is the technology God uses, which is biology.
So it then becomes this kind of relationship that is implicitly set up between biology and technology where in some sense nature is providing prototypes for the way in which we, as humans, can redesign our environment, redesign our world, to improve human dominion over nature, which again the biblical perogative.
This I think is very much in the background here. So if you look at the person who is probably, from the scientific standpoint, is the most prominent defender of Intelligent Design in this country, Andrew McIntosh, who is even a young earth creationist I believe, a professor of thermodynamics at Leeds University, what is, the key thing is to look at, whatís the science he does? And he is part of a big project in the Engineering and Physical Science and Research Council having to do with biominetics. OK
Biominetics which is the idea if you look at organisms, right, and you look at other aspects of the ecology and you use them as the basis for technology. Right, the basis for improving the human condition, OK so organisms are not seen as, you know, entities in their own right on an equal footing with human beings, which was basically Darwinís picture. I mean for Darwin, Darwin in terms the way he gives you the world, its species are egalitarian. We are subject to the same laws as all the other organisms are; weíre just a slightly upright ape.
No, this is a different kind of view - where the best of nature is basically a means, available inspiration for us to transform and rationalise nature so, you know, as the part of the ennoblement of human beings as privileged beings in the eyes of God.
So not surprisingly, the kinds of science that people who are attracted to Intelligent Design do, will be engineering styles of science and ones that look as nature as prototypes, as inspiration for ideas for transforming the environment.
And I think that this is kind of a very important point to make because this is one way in which I think that Intelligent Design can very strongly reorientate biological scientists and make things like bioengineering and biotechnology and things like that a much more central concern.
Now I say of this, part of what is in the back of my mind here is, I think there are some very serious theological problems up the road for Intelligent Design on this trip. OK, because Intelligent Design, I think that this is, you known and for people who support this is a very important point, mainly, just how close to God do we get? Right. To what extent to....do we usurp the role of God, here.
Because it seems to me the logic of this argument, and this in essence what is very attractive about it and very enticing about it, is basically, it postulates such a strong analogy between what human beings can do and what God supposedly did, right, that it does sort of suggests a kind of merger in a way which evolution doesnít do,
I mean one of the things that is very, very striking about reading Darwin because natural selection is based on the metaphor of artificial selection, right, is that Darwin over and over again stresses just how radically different and how much better natural selection is that artificial selection.
And how, human beings couldnít possible be able get to what nature could do; that nature is always superior and if humans beings would just be fooling themselves if they think that in some sense that they, in some sense, as it where, can evolve out of their ape-like condition to any significant extent. OK
And I think that this kind of generally pessimistic view that Darwin has about what science can accomplish, right, is very much a product of its having lost the belief in design. OK
This is a very crucial point here, because sometimes in this debate, one gets the impression, especially with concepts like irreducible complexity, that Intelligent Design is a science stopper in the sense that it is somehow trying to make the opening causes of things seem quite mysterious.
And, that may be true in terms of history if the kind of explanation one is thinking about historically what actually did it and so forth but in terms of the way in which things happens in the world, OK, Intelligent Design seems to committed to the idea that however life works in the world, it something that can be comprehended by human beings and human beings as privileged creatures of creation can take control of.
How deeply, evolution is not committed to this type of viewpoint and that, you know, one of the interesting things I think that would be, would be worth thinking about, especially as we are now heading towards the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of the Species, by 2009 and also the 200th anniversary of Darwinís birth, 2009 again, that, you know, what if Darwin was bought back here today, OK, and that this very strong kind of distinction he wants to make between natural selection and artificial selection was very a much a product I think of a certain kind of pessimism he had about the degree to which science could actually figure out the inner workings and be able to control life processes.
Right, Darwin is not a laboratory science, scientist, OK. Darwin was a naturalist. He was an amateur. There was no biological science to speak of in his day. And what he saw was diversity, he saw death, he saw extinction. And so all these things about design that people had made in the past, he just thought had no empirical basis for them. But he also didnít think that we would be able to figure out what the microscopic, the actual causal mechanisms by which life comes about, at least not in the way we can take control of, so if Darwin were to be brought around to today he would be incredibly surprised at what we can do with biotechnology and what we can do at a molecular level and so forth and I would say that, being exposed to that, he would become a believer in Intelligent Design.
(End of presentation by Professor Steve Fuller.)
Johannes Zanker: Thanks Steve.
I think we will move straight onto our second speaker, Lewis Wolpert who's the professor of biology as applied to medicine at UCL. He is interested in development and in particular the pattern relation (not clear). (He was written?) a number of books (not clear) as varied as (not clear).
Part 2: Pesentation by Lewis Wolpert
Lewis Wolpert: Well, thanks very much of inviting me. I wonít attack Steve now because Iíve got a five minutes a little later on.
But a few notes. Thereís not a single example of where, where, he thought Intelligent Design provided a better explanation that Darwinian. Anyway, I think Intelligent Design is just bunkum, to put in bluntly. OK, I could put it politely. But why should someone one be polite about something thatís such total and irreducible rubbish?
And let me try and explain to you why itís total rubbish.
First of all, the point is, that it doesnít provide a different mechanism. It is not a mechanism. The sense that God has on occasion actually designed these animals and brought them and plants into existence is hardly a mechanism which we need take seriously.
It is basically supernatural. There is not a shred of evidence to support it. And I say not a shred, let me repeat, not a shred.
And when one thinks about the comparisons between the two, let me put the point to you, there is not a single refereed paper in the whole of the scientific literature which discusses in a positive way Intelligent Design. There is not a single published paper in the literature.
So to talk about Intelligent Design as a competitor in the scientific framework to Darwinian theory, is, is, Iím terribly sorry, it is totally beyond me.
Itís, itís nothing to do with science whatsoever. Science is based on evidence, it is based on people discussing these issues or public papers, of doing experiments and so forth. With Intelligent Design, yes there is one book about pandas which is slightly misleading and I won't go into it, it's very good but in terms of the refereed literature, there is zero science to support it.
One of the bases on which the Intelligent Design people base it, is what they call irreducible complexity. Boy is that silly?
Can I give you one a nice example of irreducible complexity? Think of an arch. I go out and I am very glad with my hands but that I actually built an arch out of stones, you known what I mean by arch, no cement at all but you, you know what I mean by an arch (do you?) of stones.
I tell you if you remove a single stone from that, the whole thing falls down. Thatís irreducibly complex; Iím sorry, itís not irreducibly complex, it was produced gradually. Thatís the way evolution works.
I do not understand you to think the way evolution is to suddenly produce something as complex as the knee or something as complex as a bacterial flagellum is to totally misunderstand the nature of Darwinian evolution.
And itís reallyÖ to argue, I suppose, itís really about the existence of God (not clear) I must say it next week, does God exist? Iím terribly sorry, it seems forgotten, that the existence of God says anything about the creation of animals, apart from a few lines in the bible, I want to say it very firm. Most of the existence of God comes from the Bible. But Iíd be very grateful if anyone in the audience or my other debater, could tell me something that God has done in the 2000 years since the bible was written.
When I ask people who believe in God about this, they mumble and say there are lots of examples but canít provide a single one. The evidence for God, Iím terribly sorry, Iím an atheist, thereís just no evidence for God. And if you ask whatís the evidence for this non-God actually bringing about animals and incidentally they never tell you which animal, you know, you see one of the cofusions about evolution and Iím a developmental biologist, the multi-cellular animals, the way evolution works, is that genes change - Richard Dawkins is absolutely right, the only thing that changes in evolution initially are the genes Ė they change what proteins the embryo has and that determines how that embryo develops.
And thatís my first slide, you know - don't turrn down the lights and go to sleep. You never put down the lights. Nothing to do with Intelligent Design.
(not clear) animals and Iíve just noticed how these all have very similar features early on and then they diverge. You donít need an intelligent designer to do that, you just need to modify, gradually how, how, they change. Thatís not a, thatís not a difficult problem, what, whatsoever.
And just look at this, do you really think you need Intelligent Design to make all those different limbs and we know quite a lot about the genes that control and we have very nice explanations for it and there are no problems whatsoever understanding this (not clear)
And so itís hard to understand why we need an intelligent designer at all.
And look at the horse, the horse, itís lovely, just look at how that, that leg evolved. Do you need a designer for that? We known the genes can control the growth of things like that.
Can I just ask to make a point? Itís a suggestion and he is a professor of the public philosophy of science and I should really weight my question here, but one of my points about philosophers of science, they have zero understanding of science. Thatís my experience.
I know of no leading scientist in the world who pays the slightest attention to the philosophy of science. Itís all....well donít, I shouldnít get too involved in that.
Don't tempt me.
I just point out that it is quite easy to think of examples that would totally falsify the theory of evolution. If they found a fossil, yes, which had, all the elements of a human but which was 10 million years older than the earliest vertebrate, I want to say evolution would be in a terrible condition.
So, you know, there, there, or if we found an animal which actually lives on totally different principles, there is no DNA, there is no protein, there is nothing like that whatsoever, was built on totally different principles which an intelligent designer had decided to use, that would be a great blow, too.
And if we look at small examples, there would be not difficult in finding things that would really make evolution be very difficult. There is a lovely example of this (not clear) philosophers (not clear) I donít want to get too involve in that.
Oh, and the evolution, so, for example, if we found a fish in the sea with very nice fingers, yes, with which it would try to catch other little fish, I think we would be in real trouble from the point of view of Darwinian evolution.
And can I just give you a littleÖ. I known that many of the examples that we have to give in evolution go back historically. There is a difficult problem, there is no question about that, so it is quite difficult to prove that was is right or wrong
I for example with my colleague, Trevor (not clear) , well Trevor (not clear), a little theory of how multi-cellularity evolved. You known single cells were doing very well and then they became multi-cellular. Why did they bother to do that? And our argument is that one of these cells, when they divided, something went wrong and they stuck together. And I suppose with a little luck they wondered around. But they had one advantage. In hard times, when there was no food, they could eat each other.
And that I want to tell you is the origin of multi-cellularity. The egg is the cell that was begged by other forms and that was led to multi-cellularity and it is quite interesting that actually in certain animals the development of the egg involves eating from neighbouring cells, but I donít want to get too, too, too involved in that.
But I think it is very important to bear in mind that the development is at the core of evolution and anything when one talks about the intelligent designer, what that intelligent designer has to do is to change is to change how animals develop.
But we know a great deal about how animals develop and we have no difficulty in many cases of seeing what needs to be changed to move things that say from that arm of an early fish into the fingers that we have in our hands.
I canít give you quite a detailed model of (not clear) but I can give you a plausible indication, but we donít need supernatural things in order to justify that.
And itís very vital in terms of evolution to remember about those small viruses and bacteria. Just remember, when you take your antibiotic you must take it for a long time; if not, those bacteria are going to evolve resistance to the drug which youíre giving them.
Thatís a beautiful example of evolution which I think now is that those intelligent designers really want to say ďOh God in each case is helping those bacteriaĒ. Donít be ridiculous.
I say, let me remind you how different dogs are, yes I know that humans are not very good at selection, but just look at how many dogs there are these day and thatís just ordinary human selection. Inevitably.
And the reasons why Darwin was right about human versus free selection is that there are so many more factors out there in the wild, that one should, you known, it is more difficult for the human to imagine all of them which would give the selected, the selective advantage.
Now, I donít want to say that everything is OK in Darwinism. There are clearly are problems. Origins of life, yes there are clearly problems, we have some interesting theories but there is not a clear model of the origins of life.
And really biology is about cells. You are nothing more than a society of cells and so are all other multi-cellular organisms. You are a society of cells and you all come from one single cell, the fertilised egg. And thatís how evolution works, it works by changing that single cell, the fertilised egg as it develops.
There are problems though, I say, about the origins of cells. There are also problems that in changing, the intermediate forms have an adaptive advantage, they have a selective advantage. And there are examples like that which do really make things quite, quite difficult.
And Iíll just show you how amazing things are.
This is very nice one. I like this. It is a lovely example of, of evolution. That the three little elements, that the, two of the elements in you ear, the (not clear), the incus and the maleus were originally were in the jaws of your ancestor. So if you have a look at the way at this junction here (I'll move across here) have a look, this is a reptile, an ancient reptile and two of the elements which I have masked over (not clear), particular in the jaw, but in evolution, they disappear and they have to be got, they have moved away from there, they became single element, the jaws became single nodes and those became involved (in the ear?).
You donít need an intelligent designer for that. Thatís how you alter development and development is very clever at making use as to what is actually there.
And it is also of course worth remembering, I going to tell you that; oh, if I not start giving you a lecture on Hox genes and how curt they are, but, you have a set of genes along your body which really determine wherever you vertebrae will be, what kind, where you ribs will be and so forth and so on. They really are, are very important.
And, there are also very tiny (not clear). There are tiny differences in the fly about where natures patches are. You see what those two arrows are. Thereís a naked patch in that one, thereís a naked patch there and thereís a tiny naked patch there and thatís totally the genes that determine those little local patches that have been identified. So we do know that genes can make very small changes.
But let me give you an example of where a gene can make very big change. Oh, I didn't bring it. Doesn't matter. Let me tell you what it is.
How silly of me. Silly boy.
So, look, think about a fly. Out of here is an antenna coming out of my head. I change one gene, yes, you take one gene and instead of an antenna coming out of here, is a leg.
Genes can do quite remarkable things. I know that the latest (not clear) but the power of genes, but these controlling genes, they actually bring about change in development is important and you must remember that it is not the protein that genes code that is important, it is the control regions that matter.
Itís, it's really about where and when these proteins act on, and turn on and turn on other genes. And I think you must realise that there are such common mechanisms for development, in all manner. I canít, I want to tell you that fruit flies say to each other, quite often ďisnít it amazing how similar human development is to oursĒ. And it is.
And no intelligent designer would waste their time, you know, doing it.
You could say God designed the first cell and therefore knew that evolution was going to take all away, as is was, and wouldnít bother any further, but I donít think that there is evidence for that.
I think that Intelligent Design is something which should be abandoned and put way and let people believe in God and other things that they wish but they shouldnít try to interfere with very good science.
Thank you very much.
(End of presentation by Professor Lewis Wolpert.)
Part 3: Debate between Professors Wolpert and Fuller
Johannes Zanker: Thanks Lewis for this (not clear) I think the next round is respondintg to what the other person said.
Can I ask both both speakers to, to respond to the arguments and and stay away from criticising the competence or the other speakers.
Lewis Wolpert: It's very difficult to do that.
Steve Fuller: No problem with that.
Lewis Wolpert: That's the illusion.
Steve Fuller: Really, if Intelligent Design has nothing to say about science and biology, why does design language continue to proliferate in evolution theory. I mean, we talk, hear about the design without the designer, we hear about natural selection, we use, evolution gets used as an age as a subject of birds, in scientific articles and in evolution was doing stuff.
We have evolution being portrayed as a sort opportunistic tinkerer or sometimes and an optimising engineer, I mean evolution is completely, drives on design language in order to make its point and even in the technical scientific literature this is case. Why doesnít it just completely abandon that language?
Lewis Wolpert: Well I can answer that, of course because Evolution is based on how and the change in the development of the organism and one of the things I work on is pattern formation which Iím very sorry is one of the key concepts in the development an organisation, is the spatial organisation of pattern, you know, why there are five fingers there and why, and so on so I am terribly sorry that's, you canít understand development unless you have a conceptÖ.
Steve Fuller (interrupting): Pattern and design are not the same thing, OKÖ..
Lewis Wolpert: Iíve written a book, on development.
Steve Fuller: I know you have.
Lewis Wolpert: I donít think the word design is there.
Steve Fuller: OK, the problem is that there are, that within in the evolutionary literature, people are still drawing on the design language, whether we are talking Öyou have a very kind of stereotyped view of Intelligent Design as if it is just one view by which God kinda creates everything and makes everything perfect and if nature displays something that looks less than complete perfection, therefore there is no intelligent designer but just like in the case of, you know, design engineering generally, there are lots of levels at which the process gets done. OK.
And there is tinkering on the one hand and thereís global optimisation on the other and there are a lot of things in between. And it seems to me that evolution just happily takes for itself, uses all this language for its own purposes, creating this incredibly what, what seems to me even in the scientific literature a very anthropomorphic view without one taking seriously a metaphysical commitment that appeals to the design involved.
OK, and I, what I would like, I would like evolutions to make a complete break from design talk, OK. To, to stop using these kind of phrases like design without a designer, which is meaningless, itís a meaningless expression, design is by a designer, Richard Dawkins not withstanding.
OK that phrase was original used by William Paley. He used it, you, know as saying ďhow come you could see design if there wasnít a designer, itís implied by definitionĒ and basically Dawkins just ironised it. OK
And so, I would be really convinced if evolution doesnít need to presuppose the notion of Intelligent Design the day it gets rid of all of its engineering metaphors, all of its, all of its appeals to some kind of purposefulness, just, just get rid of it and just, just talk about what exactly you think is really causing whatís going on.
Lewis Wolpert: I quite happy about that.
The reason why I raise this point is because, if you look at Michael Behe and all the reputations that have been made of his work, one, one, one very interesting article has to do how the Krebs Cycle, which is one of those things that, that Behe says is irreducibly complex and so there is this article that gets trotted in the Journal of Molecular Evolution [Volume 43, Number 3 / September, 1996, 293-303]
saying how in fact evolution can explain how the Krebs Cycle is produced.
Well, the Krebs Cycle, yes it's produced by (not clear) opportunistic tinkerer. OK, now it seems to me that, thatís a kind of intelligent designer idea, OK and the whole conceptual frame is still being presupposed. I donít think that you should think that somehow would dispense with molecular biology or genetics or any of those subjects are close to the empirical phenomena, I mean the difference between Intelligent Design and evolution lies, is that at a broader conceptual level of what is, what is all this stuff we are discovering in the lab and the field, what exactly to they add up to in the overall picture of life.
So, so the point is here, as long as evolution trades on design metaphors, its basically helping itself to a position that it then wants to reject.
Lewis Wolpert: I donít think evolution requires applies (not clear). Can you give me example.
Steve Fuller: Oh come on. Richard Dawkins is a (not clear). If there is any adaptationist, it always trades on design metaphors. People have a very strong adaptationist view of evolution.
Lewis Wolpert: But it is not design.
Steve Fuller: Yes it is, thatís the problem. Adaptation is designed and thatís why Stephen Jay Gould was so much up against Dawkins because he basically thought that Dawkins had this over-nice of evolution being able to create a kinda optimal world whereas Dawkins, whereas Gould believed in fact, as Darwin himself thought that, messy and lots of extinctions and big happenings for no good reason whatsover and Dawkins was creating for a kind of false sense that evolution made the world rational, which it doesnít.
Lewis Wolpert: I donít think Dawkins said that at all.
Steve Fuller: No?
Lewis Wolpert: Iím sorry, I totally disagree.
Johannes Zanker: OK. OK so, so. Itís somewhat, I would love to ask myself as what (not clear) factors that gratuitously talks design in an evolutionary contest and I have such permission for asking such questions if you were an engineer, which you built something like that, this is deeply routed in evolution understanding, I have to say. It is based on, on, on the issue about form follows function, so the functionality of a design is driven, OK, by evolution.
Steve Fuller: Thatís an adaptationist view of evolution.
Johannes Zanker: It is an adaptationist view.
Steve Fuller: But thatís not the only view; thatís the view that Gould and others stand in life being opposed to.
Johannes Zanker: I just wanted to explain where this design talk comes into effect and I am certainly not implying anything creator or intelligent designer or true of engineers siting up in the in cloudsÖ.
So should I give Lewis a few minutes here?
(next 10 seconds or so not clear).
Can we give Lewis this opportunityÖ
Steve Fuller: Listen you quys are (quakers?).
Lewis Wolpert: Could you present me with an example where you think, Intelligent, I would really like a biological example, where you think that Intelligent Design, you know, provides something where standard evolution does not?
Steve Fuller: I donít think it does because of the reasons I was just indicating. Evolution is just trading on the design language so the two positions are not clear, and evolutionÖ
Lewis Wolpert: Can you give me an example?
Steve Fuller: Well, actually Iím looking at the moment, I am staring at the last paragraph of this article on the Krebs Cycle that supposedly says that it is a product of evolution, and not of Intelligent Design and it is just full of design language, it talksÖ
Lewis Wolpert: What, can you tell us?
Steve Fuller: OK, for example, you know. The Krebs CycleÖlet me read.
Lewis Wolpert: Yes read it.
Steve Fuller: OK. ďThe Krebs Cycle has been frequently quoted as a key problem in the evolution of living cells, hard to explain by Darwinís natural selection. How can natural selection explain the building of a complicated structure in toto when the intermediate states have not fitness functionality. This looks in principle similar to the eye problem Ė whatís the use of half an eye? However our analysis has demonstrate that this is a quite different.Ē
ďThe eye evolved because the intermediate stages were also functional as eyes and the same target of fitness was operating during the complete evolutionĒ. So, they see the eye as an optimisation issue, right, that there is some sort of evolution, there is this engineering optimisation in the case of the eye but not in the Krebs Cycle.
ďIn the Krebs Cycle the problem intermediate stages were also useful but for different purposes and therefore its complete design was a very clear case of opportunism.Ē
OK. So evolution is being opportunistic in the case of Krebs Design, the Krebs Cycle, whereas in the case of the eye there was an optimising engineer. So we have two types of intelligent designers being presupposed here; one is this kind of optimising engineer and the other is this kinda tinkerer, engineer. OK.
Lewis Wolpert: Alright alright, youíve got your point.
Steve Fuller: The building of the eye was really a creative process, this is the next step, really a creative, whoís creating, here? created, come on?
Lewis Wolpert: Embryos, embryos.
Steve Fuller: Really? Literally?
Lewis Wolpert: Yes.
Steve Fuller: ďReally a created a process in order to make a new thing specifically.Ē That sounds to me like an Intelligent Design language. OK. I mean, why use this way of talking?
With the Krebs Cycle was built through the process which often calls evolution by (not clear) from the 70ís,stating that evolution does not produce novelties from scratch. Evolution is producing novelties or not, meaningÖ Who is the 70s?
"It works from whatever exists. The most novel result of our analysis is seeing how with minimal material, evolution created the most important pathway of metabolism achieving the best chemical design in the best of all possible worlds." This is, again, Intelligent Design language. "In this case the chemical engineering who was looking for the best possible design in the process could not have found a better design than works than the cycle that works in living cells."
What is this? This is Intelligent Design language.
Lewis Wolpert: Hold on, hold on hold. It may be Intelligent Design but it does not require a designer.
Steve Fuller: Well, I donít know what that means. Sorry, that is mysterious. That is a science stopper. A designer without, design without a designer is a science stopper, as far as I am concerned.
Lewis Wolpert: Then you donít understand natural sciences are.
Louis Constandinos (from the audience): Can I say this issue in two sentences Johannes? Darwin (not clear) the most recent (not clear) is a lot more recent than people make of things. Designer language, purpose of language, is a convenient and shorthand metaphor. This is what (interrupted).
Steve Fuller: Sorry it's the, its the theoretical, itís a theoretical question, it isÖ.
Louis Constandinos: This has been explained in the popular and scientific literature several hundred times, that, that one can convert from this very, I donít like this designer language myself, I have to say. One can convert from the designer/stroke back to the proper, if you like, non-designer point, quite simply and quite, quite (interrupted)
Steve Fuller: You say that, it doesnít happen.
Louis Constandinos: It does.
Steve Fuller: It doesnít happen.
Louis Constandinos: Well I think it happens.
Steve Fuller: Iím sorry there is a such a thing as (not clear) capable of (not clear) evolution (not clear) doing the intelligent design.
Johannes Zanker: Can we get this back on track fit, sorry. I think Lewis should have as yet hasnít managed yet a question and after that we open up with discussions with the floor. Lets just stick with a routine andÖ
Lewis Wolpert: I must say, I want an example, do you think that the Intelligent dessigner works. Whoís side do you thing he on.
I still want an example where you can, the intelligent designer wouldÖ
Steve Fuller: I actually think that this stuff is actually very good for Intelligent Design.
Lewis Wolpert: But, but who is the designer?
Steve Fuller: Ah well, well. What, what are the characteristics of this designer? I think, think that there are lots of different views on the nature of intelligent designer.
Lewis Wolpert: Tell us some, tell us.
Steve Fuller: OK so, for example, you can imagine that, that the intelligent designer is someone who is, completes the universe as one great global optimisation problem where there will be a lot of sub-optimal fights, so lots of organisms arenít gonna look very perfect in their own right but it you actually understand how the whole world works, youíll see why the way it is. You can imagine a kind of global optimising intelligent designer.
Or can you imagine, as Paley, did, a kind of, you know, this where adaptationists comes from, a kind of locally optimising intelligent designer whose particular organs are functioning in particular ways because of the particular environment in which they find themselves and so they are adapted just right for those environments.
So you can have all kind of different waysÖ
Lewis Wolpert: There is a designer isnít there?
Steve Fuller: Yes of course.
Lewis Wolpert: Who do you think the designer is?
Steve Fuller: Who do I think what the designer is?
Lewis Wolpert: Which word is it you donít understand?
Steve Fuller: The point is, I think, people whoÖ
Lewis Wolpert: Like you...
Steve Fuller: I think it is a reference to God, of course it is. And I donít thinkÖ
Lewis Wolpert: Do you think there is evidence for God doing it.
Steve Fuller: No, Hereís what I think. I think if you donít presuppose that there is Intelligent Design or an intelligent designer you wouldnít get to the science we are talking here. Thatís my point. Itís a counterpoint. Because...
Lewis Wolpert: It' not a counterpoint (not clear) a lot of talking nonsense (not clear).
Steve Fuller: Now look here, look here, we are not proving the existence of God. Thatís a debate next week. We are talking about the need to presuppose Intelligent Design in order to be able to do science regardless of whether the Intelligent Designer exists.
Lewis Wolpert: Youíve lost me for the first time, that evolution cannot explain the origin of the Krebs Cycle.
Steve Fuller: I didnít say that (not clear)... Intelligent design language... (not clear).
Lewis Wolpert: No, Iím talking about Darwinian evolution cannot explanation.
Steve Fuller: I dunno because Iíd like to see what this explanation looks like is stripped of its Intelligent Design language.
Lewis Wolpert: I'm sure...
Johannes Zanker: Three times longer.
Lewis Wolpert: I think that this can be quite easily done. In all cases we can provide you with models, we are not sure they are right, but you don't need an Intelligent Designer.
Steve Fuller: No, no. Iím open to the possibility. OK. But it is striking, itís striking that, that even in this first class article that he presents as a refutation of Intelligent Design, it is just loaded with Intelligent Design language. It gives you at least two or three different conceptions of what the intelligent designer is.
Lewis Wolpert: No it doesn't.
Steve Fuller: Yes it is, yes it is.
(End of section three of the debate.)
Part 4: Debate with the floor.
Johannes Zanker: OK, I think probably the positions have been laid our sufficiently clear, so we can widen off the discussion now to the, to the floor. There is a microphone which goes around. Can I ask you are a matter of courtesy when your get te microphone to state your name and affiliation perhaps to see where you are coming from.
Now how can we do tha? We've had a, OK. One up there.
Not known: I have the microphone but I have no sound on the microphone....please help us..
Questioner: I'm (?Enrico Collodo?) from biological sciences.
Steve Fuller?: We hear you loud and clear.
Questionaire: 200 metres from Prof Wolpert, I was 200 metres from here when you said principles of development?).
Lewis Wolpert: [laughing] Good. Thank you.
Questioner: Alright. My question, my question to you will be to try to relate briefly to the position of (someone?).
A few months ago there was, eh, a documentary series on the BBC radio of (inaudible) by someone, eh, Robert Winston, who, and I missed most of it, I learned about in the last day, in the last half an hour. The title was, the subject was documentary series was "the History of God". And the last program was "God and Science".
(inaudible) He had 2 interviews. One was with the founder of the American Museum of Creationism somewhere in the American Midwest and arguing about (inaudible) a very heated debate in the radio station, clearly clashing, "you are, you are making up, you are twisting science", Robert Winston was saying, "you are twisting science for, to make it think your, your pre-conceptions that you treasure so dearly", and he had in a second interview with Richard Dawkins in Oxford, the Natural History Museum,..(inaudible) etc, and then he also clashed, clashed in a much more gentle way, his argument setting a theme, "you are turning evolution into an all-encompassing theory in a way such that by deceit, your theory, trying to deceive design... (not clear) design language. Therefore using (inaudible) as an argument, against the existence of any designer for God and the 3rd stage was how he thinks the program introduced in Geneva with a view (inaudible) where you have visited which was kind of (inaudible) there ...evolution.. a metaphor for it ... not ..such a different way... used the word creation ... not all the time.
And his point was one can see and understand and use evolution to explain biology as we use constantly continuously without using its as an argument against anything metaphysically. And he felt perfectly comfortable with both as a very, some physicists do. Do you think such a, such a position is reasonable, merely different from yours but acceptable.
Johannes Zanker: I hate to interfere but ... I just wanted to say ... what I suggest is we have 2 or 3 contributions and then get back to out speakers. Also I want to ask the people who want to contribute perhaps to make very short contributions. We only have half an hour I'm afraid. And to focus them into a precise question to the speakers. I think this is most productive for the discussion. (not clear) OK, we're moving down here. (not clear)
Professor Jack Cohen: I want to come on to the question of design, because I think there is a basic error right from, Reverend Paley, finding the watch on the heath, and the stone on the heath, he found, he says in his book, round about 1800, if I see a stone, it's not a problem, if I see a watch on the heath I assume there to have been a designer, because form follows function.
Now I give talks in this area and what I do is I take a teddy bear and I pull off its arm, and everyone goes "aaaghuuu..". Yes, because they've got concepts and percept out of key. They perceive it not, and they put it into the wrong context, pets and children. We do this all the time. And Paley did it wrong for the watch.
And then he looked at the arm and he looked at the eye and he said, "look, they're designed". Because all of us, like Paley, have been brought up in a designed world. When we see things that ... where form and function go together, we say "oh that's design". And when we do the strange thing for many of us and look at something in nature, we say, "gosh, form goes with function. That must be designed." That's as much of a mistake as putting a percept, teddy bear into pets and children instead of putting it with cushions and blankets. Now, the one further effect which is really nice, which is that circle turns right round, explains why we use design language because our bloody designers went to nature to get just the things that we look at and think are designed.
So that, the whole thing is a complete circle, and the intelligent designers have picked up this,(halo?) sits with no support except our mistaken concept of design.
Johannes Zanker: OK we have one question ...A question over there (not clear).
James Williams: Actually I'd like to take us right back. My name is James Williams. I am University of Sussex and I'm actually currently researching creationism and evolution in the school context and training science teachers understanding of creationism and evolution and Intelligent Design. One of the problems that we have is that our science graduates, and scientists and the public have different ideas about what we mean by a theory, and a law and a hypothesis. My graduates in science, and some of them are very well qualified, up to PhD level in astrophysics for one at the moment, think of a theory as nothing more than just a speculative guess.
Now that worries me intensely. And that's how creationism often presents evolution. It's just a guess. It isn't. A theory is about as good as it gets in science. And they say "well surely it should be a law", well not necessarily because laws describe what happens, they don't explain how things happen and that's what theories do.
When we talk about creationism and evolution and, I'm afraid Professor Wolpert you fell into the trap of sort of saying that biologists 'believe' that evolution explains. I'm sorry, scientists do not have those sorts of beliefs.
Lewis Wolpert?: Really?
James Williams: Yep. Because science is actually about the 'acceptance' of evidence. So in fact what we should be talking about is the 'acceptance' of evolution, not about 'belief' in evolution.
Steve Fuller: That's what the philosophy of science tells you but scientists don't like it.
James Williams: Well I'm sorry, but a lot of the scientists that I research with, that I talk to, that I survey, are very confused about this whole issue, about belief and about theory and about law and about acceptance. So really what I would say is that first of all we should talk about things such as scientific facts and a 'fact' is not 'truth' and a scientific fact is not truth, we should talk about the 'acceptance' of evidence and not about 'belief' in theories of evolution and actually we should have a far better scientific understanding in our under-graduate degrees of what the theories are, of what laws are, what hypotheses are and we should teach, I'm afraid, Professor Wolpert, a little of this philosophy of science.
Lewis Wolpert: No... [laughter]
James Williams: Because my undergraduates have never heard of Popper, have never heard of Feyerabend, have never heard of Kuhn.
Johannes Zanker: Thanks you very much (not clear).
(next few seconds not clear.)
Questioner: (... inaudible...) The 2nd question is that you have not actually disproved Intelligent Design as a theory that has the same status as evolution. And so you disprove it (inaudible) as the same status you can't really say what you like because you merely attack the (...inaudible...) disprove this status for me please if you can.
Johannes Zanker: OK, that you for the questions, back to you...
Lewis Wolpert: Can I just pick up your point. You can't disprove Intelligent Design - there's nothing to disprove. You have zero evidence. It's not a mechanism. Until you tell us who the designer is there's nothing we can do about it. There's nothing to disprove. Its just junk. Just magic. Supernatural. It's like fairies did it.
Questioner: There's no reasoning in your argument.
Lewis Wolpert: Well there's no reasoning in yours either, ma'am. I'm terribly sorry, the theory of evolution, if I sat down with you, and I could show you in detail how the arm could have evolved. Yes? And how the genes could control them.
Questioner: And I could show you in detail how God originated all of that, but I'm not going to go into that.
Lewis Wolpert: I'm afraid you can't. No you can't. You have zero evidence. I'm terribly sorry you have no evidence whatsoever. You going to give me evidence of how God created the arm?
Questioner: No, I'm not going to go into that, no. That's not the point.
Lewis Wolpert: What is the point?
Questioner: ... (inaudible) it's not falsifiable. (inaudible) ...Until you give me a falsifiable argument it's not acceptable (not clear).
Lewis Wolpert: But you've got to give me an argument that I can falsify.
Steve Fuller: Can I respond to the three questions. The first question from the guy up there... if I understood you correctly you were advocating, a kind of, what Gould called the dual magisteria approach where there's science and there's religion and sort of have them both in your minds, but they're sort of separate but equal.
A bit like that?
Questioner: It reaches a point
Steve Fuller: Well it can't go any further and something else takes over.
Questioner: That is (inaudible)
[Continue to Part 2, Royal Holloway College Debate]