Part 4 — Dr. William Dembski, Dr. Kenneth Miller

ES:
Gentlemen! [pause] that worked, I'll have to remember that. [laughter]. First time. Thank you very much...You're Done. You have to sit down now. [laughter and applause]. Well, that was fun. Um, Bill will stay at his podium, we're going to have a, a change of questioners for the moment, and I'll take this opportunity to introduce from here, our next speaker, Dr. Kenneth Miller. Dr. Kenneth R. Miller is a cell biologist at Brown University studying the relationships of structure and function in biological membranes. He is the recipient of numerous awards for outstanding teaching. He has written many articles that have been published in numerous scientific journals including Nature, Cell, the Journal of Cell Biology, the Journal of Molecular Biology and popular science magazines such as Scientific American and Discover. He is the Co-author of several high school and college biology textbooks and the author of Finding Darwin's God: a Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution. You will have five minutes, the two of you will have five minutes to, uh, question and answer.

KM:
Bill, um, what I have up here is not terribly readable; it's a geological time scale. It's sort of the age of the Earth starting with, uh, the formation of the planet four and a half billion years ago and going right to the present time. And what I want to do is I want to take your ideas about design, I want to map them on this, which is an important scientific thing to do, so let's start with the origin of life. The evidence is that living things first appeared on this planet about, uh, three billion years ago, I put an arrow down there. It, it it's fair to say, isn't it, since you think life that was made complex specified uh, information, that there must have been a design event at which that information was put into some sort of living tissue about that time. Is that right?

WD:
uh, not necessarily at that time. You know I, I, I...In, In my [crosstalk]

KM:
CSI is necessary for life, there's life...

WD:
It is, it is necessary but at what point was it inserted? Okay, we, I mentioned right in my first paragraph of my talk that one of the things that's not studied by evolutionary biology is the programming of these mechanisms. So it's conceivable that all of this CSI could have been put in there right at, right at the Big Bang,

KM:
Fair enough. Okay.

WD:
And then it's gotten itself expressed at that point.

KM:
Good answer. Okay, so there's two possibilities. One is that it was put in where I put the arrow, and the other possibility is that it was programmed at the beginning of the Big Bang.

WD:
yeah.

KM:
Yeah okay, cool. Okay. So, the two possibilities, and, and you specifically use the bacterial flagellum as an example of design, I put an arrow up there when the first bacteria with flagella we presume originated and the eukaryotic cell, cells with nuclei, much more complicated, the eukaryotic cilium, example of, um, uh, uh, irreducible complexity, and the very famous Cambrian explosion, now I think I understand your answer to say either, that all of this was programmed at the Big Bang, or we have more examples of design events. Either of those is possible, is that right?

WD:
Um, all I spoke to was the bacterial flagellum. So...

KM:
I know.

WD:
So with the eukaryotic cell and the flagellum and I'm looking at individual systems it's going to take some analysis to figure out if CSI is in-...

KM:
Okay so it might be, might not.

WD:
Might, might be might not.

KM:
Okay. Now here's what I want to do. We biologists have to deal with a lot of appearances of new and novel systems throughout geological history. We have a whole bunch of them. Um, and the, what your, what you propose to do as part of the research program is to look at one after another and try to decide whether or not CSI applies, and whether or not we might have some sort of insertion of Design. Is that right? We're pretty sure we've got one for the bacterial flagellum, right?

WD:
[pause] yeah.

KM:
So I, I assume it's a case-by-case basis how often we'll have to invoke design, is that right?

WD:
When, When the, When this sort of information gets expressed, you know, there's the question of how far can you track it back.

KM:
Right.

WD:
You know, and so it may be to the Big Bang. The thing is, you know, it could conceivably go back further. Maybe there's some...

KM:
Okay.

WD:
I think Mike Behe talks about the...

KM:
Okay.

WD:
...super cell, in which...

KM:
fair enough.

WD:
...everything is programmed.

KM:
now...

WD:
you know there are lots of possibilities.

KM:
Okay. Very good. Thank you. So, this is something you said in No Free Lunch. Which is, " the way design works is the designer makes a plan. To accomplish it he forms a plan, executes the plan, specifies the building materials and finally implies and puts together the assembly structures in the building, in other words, all of these examples in life that are, specified complex, uh, specified complex information went through this process. Is it fair to say, that design theory is a series of progressive creative events? And what I mean by that is, to me, my wife is an artist, and she always emphasizes to me she has to think of something, she has to plan it, and then she has to execute it. And the execution of her design is a creative act. Same thing here?

WD:
Well I think, what I'd want to speak to is just this notion of these punctuated events where the design emerges. Was it that information was input? Is it just that it's becoming evident that, that there was some information that was already there...

KM:
Creative act or not?

WD:
I'm sorry?

KM:
Creative act - Bacterial flagellum, creative act?

WD:
There was a creative act there, yes. But ...

KM:
When, when was, when was that creative act?

KM:
I just asked if it was a creative act.

WD:
There was a creative act behind it, but whether it occurs right when the bac-, flagellum first appears in natural history or whether it was programmed in some way prior to that...

KM:
Okay, I'd like to get one more important question in because I'm an experimental biologist and it's an empirical one.

WD:
Okay.

KM:
You make the claim that undirected natural processes just can't generate specified complex information so what I would propose to do as a biologist is do a little test. Let's suppose we grow bacteria at thirty-seven degrees, then we rev up the temperature...

ES:
One minute.

KM:
...to forty-two degrees and then we see basically what happens; we test for increased fitness and we scan the genome to see if anything happens. Well the interesting thing, as you may know, a few months ago this experiment was actually done and reported, exactly as I've described on the previous page. And what these investigators found was that at two places in the E. coli bacterial chromosome, there were a series of gene duplications and modifications that dramatically increased the fitness of the bacteria; thirty five, uh, thirty three point five percent.

ES:
Finish the question please.

KM:
That's an enormous increase in fitness and here is the question. And that is, since we see this and gene duplication and amplification provides the raw material for the evolution of new and beneficial genes, don't these results, which very clearly show in the laboratory that an undirected increase in beneficial new genetic information occurs, don't they violate your so-called law of conservation of information?

ES:
Please answer in one minute.

WD:
...I don't know, I mean what, what do the numbers there mean. To say that you have a thirty-seven-fold increase in fitness, that's all fine and well...

KM:
Thirty-seven percent

WD:
oh, thir-, thirty sever percent. What's you know, it's gotta be mapped onto what I'm doing. You know, in terms of, of these complexities, which need to be evaluated, we're talking, you know, the, the universal complexity bound that I talk about. We're talking 500 bits of CSI. Uh, Is that the case here? You know, the analysis will need to be done. You haven't done it.

KM:
Okay, no, absolutely, but what I suggest

ES:
Ken you're done.

KM:
is that the production of information

ES:
Ken,

KM:
is

ES:
Ken! You're done. [laughter/applause]