Religious Thought of Tour and Meyer -- New Podcast

Joshua has from time to time expressed the idea that ID folks do not talk enough about Jesus when they talk about God, and that this marks a difference between their approach and his to faith and science questions. I wonder if he would see the remarks of Meyer, in this discussion between Tour and Meyer, as a step in the right direction?

The discussion is about many things, including fine-tuning, and the problems with defining “life”, but I’m more interested in what Joshua and others here think about the religious thought of the two speakers – where it matches or differs with their own.

Yes, I saw this. That was Tour pulling out of Meyer, but it also might reflect a larger shift in their approach, with his new book addressing the “God Hypothesis”.

@Eddie, you’d have to agree that this is an outlier, right?

I guess what I was getting at is that both Tour and Meyer, in the interview, sound at points like you. So I’m wondering if you find their statements about faith and science more congenial than some other statements. If there are any particular statements you found particularly interesting and want to comment on, by all means do so.

As for whether this marks a departure for ID, I’m not sure that it is a departure, but rather just a place where an ID person speaks more explicitly about personal faith (as opposed to arguments for design). I don’t see Meyer as altering any of his arguments for design here, but rather, as being more explicit about how design is connected with his own personal religious faith. Which is appropriate, given the venue: Tour’s interview is explicitly done under religious auspices and for a religious purpose. A book like Signature in the Cell, on the other hand, is meant not just for religious audiences but for secular and agnostic audiences as well, and so Meyer is not going to talk about Jesus there, as that would cause many secular, agnostic readers to put up defenses against design arguments. In an interview situation explicitly of evangelical purpose, however, it’s perfectly appropriate for Tour to ask about, and Meyer to speak to, personal religious belief.

Dembski has also been explicitly theological in the past, offering his own particular Christian beliefs, though again, not in books like The Design Inference or No Free Lunch, which are aimed at a broad audience including many with no interest in Christian faith.

I agree with you that Meyer’s next book, when it comes out, seems to promise to touch more explicitly on religious and theological questions, and it should be interesting.

In the meantime, any reaction you have to the religious beliefs expressed by Meyer and Tour would be interesting, at least to me and some others here.

I’ve always identified Tour as the exception to the rule:

Meyer was not an exception, but this interview with Tour is an exception.

Perhaps. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Yes, I know you have, but I wondered what you thought about the particular statements Meyer made about Jesus – whether they were similar to your own understanding, whether they were in any way surprising to you, etc.

I was a bit surprised by this video. I’m sure he believes these things personally, but this is the first case I’ve seen him discuss it so openly. I think Tour is having a good influence on him.

Well, it certainly will refute the charge that Meyer is “coy” or secretive or guarded about his religious faith – a charge frequently made against ID proponents.

My understanding is that the reason why ID proponents were reticent to speak about their faith is that they wanted to argue that ID is a pure “scientific” theory instead of a religious belief. Maybe now they’ve given up on that battle (at least in the courtroom)?


It doesn’t refute it in his past work, but maybe if this patterns holds he is turning over a new leaf.

The thing is, they have never been “reticent to speak about their faith” – in faith contexts. They just haven’t spoken about their faith in books and articles the purpose of which is to argue for the existence of design in nature. Any number of times, Behe, Meyer, Dembski, etc., when interviewed by journalists, and in popular talks and so on, have said that they personally think the designer is not an alien or time traveler or angel, but God. In some cases they have even identified that God with the Christian God, or with a particular version of the Christian God, e.g., Behe has never concealed the fact that he’s a Catholic and has been up front about his belief that the designer he sees in nature is the God he learned about in Church as a kid. There has never been any concealment of religious belief, just a decision to keep personal faith statements out of writings aimed at mixed audiences of theists and non-theists.

Sure, part of that decision comes from their conviction that arguments for design are science and not theology, and therefore personal faith statements are irrelevant to the strength of the argument, but beyond that, if you have religious interests that go beyond science, including an interest in persuading secular readers of Dawkins, Coyne, Dennett, etc. that God is a real possibility, it’s a sensible strategy not to lean heavily on Jesus language. A good number of people in modern society are scared off by Jesus-talk, and while they might be persuaded that there are signs of design in nature, stuff about Jesus, salvation, prayer, conversion etc. is just a bridge too far; they will tune out if they hear it. Most of my best childhood friends, relatives, etc. are lapsed cradle Christians or secular humanists, and if they saw the opening of the Tour video, where he puts Jesus right up front, they would turn the video off. But if someone like Denton made some of the same points about chemistry, they might listen for the first few minutes, to see if the argument was plausible. Transparent evangelism is not always the best way to open people’s minds to the possibility of Christianity. For some people, “You’re not a scientific moron if you see at least circumstantial evidence for design in nature,” is a better approach for leading them (in the long run) to faith than “Jesus is Lord!” shouted out up front.

It will be interesting to see whether Meyer’s next book is another ID book, in the narrow sense, or an explicitly Christian book. If it’s explicitly Christian, it won’t be published by Discovery, but by someone like HarperOne. But he tends to go with outside publishers anyway.

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The last chapter of Darwin’s Doubt is explicitly about Meyer’s religious beliefs. He just says that those beliefs have nothing to with his reasons for believing in ID.

Right; and this is the general reason why ID books don’t spend much time on the personal beliefs of the authors; those beliefs, however interesting to know, aren’t employed in the arguments. So ID writers’ discussion of religious implications and connections, if found in ID books at all, tend to appear in the final chapter, or in an Epilogue, or the like, as if to say: “Nothing I have argued for in this book requires any reader to accept my personal religious beliefs, but since so many people have asked about what I believe, here it is…”

Of course the case is different when an ID author writes a book whose purpose is explicitly theological, e.g., Dembski’s The End of Christianity. In such books, not only is the personal faith of the author not de-emphasized; it’s actually emphasized.

I’ve never found the ID people to be evasive about their religious convictions. One pretty well knows what they think about religious questions, if one asks them directly, in a personal context or in the context of faith discussion (as opposed to arguments about design). And given their view (right or wrong) that design is detectable by objective means that don’t require adherence to particular religious traditions, there is no reason why their books arguing for design should be riddled with quotations from the Bible, statements of what Jesus has done in their lives, etc.

I think that people have misunderstood the “designer doesn’t have to be God, he could be some other intelligent being” business to be some sneaky way of talking about God without acknowledging it, when in fact, given the ID premise, i.e., that intelligence, as such, whether divine or human or of any other kind, is in principle detectable in its products, there is no reason for ID proponents – in the writings whose sole purpose is to establish the existence of design – to pitch their camp on a hill and defend “The designer is God” or “The designer is the Christian God” to the death. They honestly think, rightly or wrongly, that the question of design is one that can be settled objectively, without regard to the personal spiritual beliefs of the person who claims to have detected the design. This belief of theirs, in the objectivity of design, may in the end not hold up, but I don’t see that it implies any dishonesty or sneakiness.

Of course, Joshua’s past statements, if I understand them correctly, are not to the effect that ID people are sneaky or dishonest about their beliefs, but that they are not as evangelical as he would like them to be. So his criticism of the ID people is different from the one I just dealt with. It was to respond to his criticism that I pointed out the Tour/Meyer exchange, which definitely makes Meyer sound more evangelical than, say, Signature in the Cell does. I figured Joshua would regard this as a positive development, and he has confirmed this, so my question is answered.

I have. They tend to dissemble about how much their religious convictions dictate their “science”, and they are often evasive about how much mainstream science they’re willing to accept and what their alternatives actually are. Take Darwin’s Doubt. Nowhere does he suggest what actually happened in the Cambrian, to what extent he thinks common descent actually occurs, how new protein folds actually arise, or whether in fact any species is related to any other species. (In other publications, he’s suggested that the evidence for human relationships to chimpanzees is poor.) The book is devoted to attacking the standard account but puts nothing in its place.

That may or may not be true. How would one tell?

That is not being evasive about his religious convictions. It’s being insufficiently clear about his account of earth’s biological history.

Agreed. It’s being evasive about the nature of his beliefs about the world. More on-topic, it’s being evasive about the religious underpinnings of those beliefs.

Since Darwin’s Doubt came out Meyer has never given his explanation for the 3.5 billion years of life ( including 150 million years of multicellular life) before the Cambrian. He has never given his explanation for the huge diversity of life including the 5 major mass extinctions and re-radiation of life after the Cambrian. What you call “insufficiently clear” most people call lying by omission.

Hey, he’s never given his explanation for the Cambrian explosion either, which was the ostensible subject of the book.

We seem to be drifting off topic. What I hoped to discuss was Meyer’s explicit statements about Christianity and his own faith, when he is questioned about those things, not whether Meyer is deviously concealing faith assumptions in his writings on intelligent design.

Since his explicit statements about faith at the end of Darwin’s Doubt have been mentioned, it is interesting to contrast those with what we see in the Tour interview. Such religious faith as he indicates at the end of DD is a sort of generic theism, presented as the alternative to a meaningless universe. But in the interview he speak particularly of Christian belief, of the Bible, of evidence confirming the Bible, etc. The religion at the end of DD doesn’t go much beyond a sort of natural theology and a protest against modern atheism, whereas the religion presented in the interview is a personal Christian confession. I think this is why Joshua sees it as a departure from many of the public presentations of ID writers – the strongly personal approach and the specifically Christian contents, as opposed to a more detached philosophical approach and a more generically theistic substance.


I suspect that his statements are tailored to his audience. Darwin’s Doubt aims for a maximally inclusive one, while the interview is aimed at Christians specifically.

I agree with that. And that is part of what I have been saying here and on BioLogos for years now, i.e., that if you are trying to persuade atheists, agnostics, etc. that there might a designing mind behind nature, starting out your presentation with a ringing endorsement of how Jesus has changed your life is not, in most cases, going to be the most effective approach. For many people, personal testimony about Jesus is cloying and off-putting, in some cases because they simply have no interest in personalistic religious faith, and in other cases because the word “Jesus” may have bad associations for someone who had, say, a repressed fundamentalist upbringing, and the negative reaction to the Jesus-talk might close the mind to the design arguments.

So if I were Meyer, I would do exactly what he does: provide religion-independent arguments for mixed audiences, and restrict my personal testimony to audiences that might be interested. There is nothing wrong with that, and it’s not the same as concealing or being coy about one’s religious beliefs. It’s simply a practical communications strategy in a pluralistic society.