Questions for Gunter Bechly and Swamidass on Unbelievable?

I’m recording an interview for Unbelievable with Gunter Bechly, an ID advocate, this Tuesday. What question do you think is should ask him that would help clarify his position or move the conversation forward?

Do you have any helpful references to his ideas to help me prepare?

  1. How old is the earth?
  2. When did life first appear?
  3. One “design event” or many?
  4. When did the “design event[s]” happen?
  5. What specific things were “designed”?
  6. For each of the above questions, what specific evidence is there for each answer?

(Quotes around “design” because cdesign proponentsists and I would appreciate if IDers, and especially Discovery Institute Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture IDers, stopped treating the rest of us like we’re stupid.)

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Go right to his wheelhouse - ask if there is evidence in the insect fossil record for intelligent design.

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#1 and #2 would be pointless. Bechly is an old-earther as is, I’m assuming, Josh.

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This will be interesting and I’ll definitely listen to it. I follow Unbelievable regularly. It’s a great show and Justin is an excellent host and always asks difficult questions to both sides. Justin is an ID sympathizer at the very least, but as I said, he’s an excellent host.

I would like to see more discussion between the ID and TE camp about what “random” means when applied to mutations. There’s been a lot of talk from the TE camp lately about how “random” doesn’t mean “chance” or “indeterminate” or “uncaused.” I’ve been thinking maybe we need a more precise definition of “random” so we don’t automatically imply that TEs who accept that mutations are “random” are understood to be automatically ruling out teleology. Maybe something like “random with respect to their position in the DNA sequence” or something like that.

Anyway, it’s an important topic that I would like to see discussed more between the two sides.


So that would be an interesting discussion, as he would have the opportunity to explain to the large number of ID supporters who are also YEC why he believes they are wrong.


I’m sure you would enjoy that. As one of those YEC/ID people, I would just roll my eyes and ignore it.

But that’s just you, then. Presumably there are other people who would benefit from hearing a discussion about evidence they might not be familiar with, and why someone ostensibly in their camp on a range of matters still disagree with them on these points.


I’ll add another. Based on Bechly’s writings at EN, it would seem as if he is skeptical about aspects of human origins. Thus, a discussion of GAE would seem to be a good subject. Are there aspects of GAE that Bechly can buy into? Are there things that he would take issue with?


I would be interested in the priority of the ID arguments that persuaded him. What was his aha moment.



That is correct.

This is one reason for my “how many “design” events”. Because if you accept an old earth but require design, then when where humans designed? One must accept, I think, life before H. sapiens. So is it an ongoing process or what? Everything frontloaded at the start? Multiple discreet events? And whatever the answer is, how do you know, and what evidence allows you to eliminate the other options?


Not really Bechly’s area, but phylogenetic data would seem to offer a wealth of possibility for testing ID hypotheses. No one is willing to put ID to the test with actual data - at least no one within ID. Others have thrown down the gauntlet a long time ago, the means to test ID exists and no one with the ID movement is up to the challenge.

Theobald, D. L. (2011). On universal common ancestry, sequence similarity, and phylogenetic structure: the sins of P-values and the virtues of Bayesian evidence. Biology direct , 6 (1), 1-25.

White, W. T. J., Zhong, B., & Penny, D. (2013). Beyond reasonable doubt: Evolution from dna sequences. PLoS One , 8 (8), e69924.


Great questions. I would start even more basic - how do you detect design, other than “I know it when I see it”? How do you distinguish between designed and non-designed?


Do I understand that Bechly accepts universal common descent? From his web site:

“I am convinced that the evidence strongly points towards a combination of old earth and common ancestry with saltational development. The latter I see as quantum computations based on entangled DNA that collapses into non-random adaptive macro-mutations, which because of their survival value populate and propagate more branches of the wave function. Intelligent Design is instantiated not by supernatural interventions within spacetime but by fine-tuned initial conditions, fine-tuned laws of nature, and a fine-tuned fitness landscape. The fitness landscape of evolutionary biology is a discernible set of alternative possibilities and as such a subset of Hilbert space of the universal wave function in quantum mechanics. Due to entanglement the wave function of the universe represents a single integrated information state that is equivalent with a universal consciousness (based on Tononi’s IIT). Universal wave function (platonic abstract objects) and universal mind (consciousness) are co-dependent in a strange loop: The universal wave function “lives” in the universal mind, and the universal mind is based on the integrated information of this wave function. This unifies Neoplatonism with objective (monistic) idealism and (panen)theism. Spacetime emerges from entangled quantum information and thus from universal consciousness.”

A good question to ask him would be what the heck all that means.


The latter I see as quantum computations based on entangled DNA that collapses into non-random adaptive macro-mutations, which because of their survival value populate and propagate more branches of the wave function.

The fitness landscape is a Hilbert-space of entangled possibilities. Therefore quantum-God. Praise be his wavy functions.


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It just means “not entirely predictable from a human point of view.” It is not a claim of ontological randomness. No more a threat to God’s providence, then modeling the role of a dice as random variable. What looks random to us might be entirely determined and known by him.

What is unsatisfactory about that response?


That paragraph from Bechly’s website: Meaningless, evidence-free word salad.


I’m not sure what you mean by ontological randomness. Can you clarify?

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