Some Comments from YouTube Watchers of the Tour-Farina Debate

Would it still be considered intervention if the designer designed the natural laws that let to life on earth?

I think Tour would not have posted the video if it did not meet his approval

It was live-streamed on his channel, and heavily publicised, so I think even if he absolutely hated his own performance it would be difficult to take the video down or not publish it. It would be humiliating, and pointless since he knows Dave would also publish it.

I don’t think we can draw the inference that Tour was content with his performance simply from the existence of the video on his channel.


I mean, it could also be that Tour has some regrets about the way things went (I sure hope so), but that not posting the video would also be a loss of face after the debate was so hyped up, so he posted it despite the downsides.


Wasn’t it live-streamed? If so, he had no chance to approve it’s contents before posting it.


I’ll just leave this here:

@thoughtful thought Cronin’s Big AdmissionTM was super significant. Turns out Cronin is just that kind of guy who likes to throw crap like that around.


Ugh. Even just the clips of Tour from that video are more than I can take.

I get that you can become excited. (I occasionally become excited too, though my personality doesn’t incline that way, haha.) But seriously, Tour. Shouting and interrupting don’t mean you are right.


To win a debate requires shifting to the ground of one’s choosing, and from Tour’s opening, he went in expecting to end with five topics, all with “clueless” written beside them. That was the defining image that was to be the take away, repeatedly referenced in future seminars and ID literature. Whatever Tour’s pronouncements on other topics, on abiogenesis I accept that his stand is a matter of personal conviction. There was nothing really illegitimate with his approach to the debate.

As he mentally rehearsed, it probably seemed solid, and as an exposition in front of a friendly congregation that Tour is used to experiencing, I expect it would have played very well. Excitedly raising his voice to cap off each point, met with applause. No serious challenge or critical appraisal present. His typical audience would have found it very convincing, a world class chemist delivering scientific demonstration that abiogenesis has no natural pathway. In that context it feels all very rational and objective, and congregants are excited to hear it.

What a dramatic difference it is when the social dynamic changes. It takes very little to overturn the whole apple cart. Whoever was the better of the losers, his confidence now came across as hubris, and the certitude of assertions now as strained and evasive. There is a Jekyll and Hyde difference between a insular and friendly setting and a contentious and challenging setting, that can take a speaker from a projecting confidence and competence to appearing as a complete [ insert your preferred derogatory terms here ]. The episode is an interesting illustration in social structures of leadership and belief.


So I was just re-watching the debate to get deeper into the details, and I see now that I misremembered how the audience member question to Tour, about if Tour would denounce the faulty inference that Tour’s criticisms has not shown that God exists, was phrased. It was phrased perfectly fine, and Tour understood it. It is obvious Tour understood it, and it made him squirm and he didn’t like answering it. He even asked multiple times for the speaker to re-state it.

After he had asked for it to be restated a couple of times, it honestly sounds and looks like he played dumb, and he had to spend a moment to stand there stuttering and try to figure out a way to get out of answering it, so he chose to answer a slightly different question. He effectively refused to denounce his fans’ fallacious inference from his criticisms of the field. It seems rather obvious now in retrospect. This is at least one instance where I think Tour shows himself to be more of a politician than an honest debater.

Not as I intended “intervention” above. What you are describing is essentially Denton’s position from Nature’s Destiny. There is design, but no intervention, because the design is baked into the universe at the beginning, and things unfold naturally from that beginning. There need be no “insertion of new information” from outside the natural system. Most of the ID leaders think there had to be the insertion of new information, both to get life going at the start and to make major changes in life afterward. So if it could ever be shown that no intervention, no manipulation was needed to get life started – that under certain conditions entirely natural, duplicatable today, and plausible on an ancient earth, life would start by itself, the belief of most of the ID leaders would be shown to be wrong.

Tour’s criticism of OOL research suggests that he is very skeptical that life could have arisen without guidance on an ancient earth, but for some reason he does not explicitly draw the conclusion of intelligent design. I think, based on things he has said in many places, that he regards that conclusion as religious or philosophical, not scientific, and therefore does not want to draw it when speaking purely as a scientist. As a scientist, all he can show is that unguided origins scenarios are very unlikely. He can’t go further than that. But a philosopher or religious believer might go further.

@Rumraket – I think the above considerations suggest that Tour is not being dishonest when refusing to “denounce” people who draw theistic conclusions from his work. He’s not required to denounce people who draw philosophical or religious, as opposed to scientific, inferences. He should only denounce those who use his work to say, “Science has proved that God created life.” He should say that as a scientist he cannot say how life began. And I think that was in fact his position throughout the debate and in his other writing and speaking on the subject, so I don’t think there is any fundamental dishonesty going on, though I admit that his handling of that question might have given that impression. I myself found the questioner’s demand that he “denounce” something to be off-putting, and perhaps that word rattled him, but he could have collected himself and given a better answer, along the lines I’ve just given.

I’ve seen “Professor Dave” videos where he debates Flat Earthers, and he’s quite rude in those as well. I don’t plan on watching the OoL debate because I just don’t have the stomach for those types of discussions. Overall, oral debates in the sciences are quite poor. Written debates are much, much better.

In the end, we have the opinion of a guy with a limited knowledge of OoL research who thinks that abiogenesis is nearly impossible. Meh. I can see why the ID/creationist choir gets in a tizzy, but opinions really don’t matter much here. Tempest in a teapot.


But if he has fans that mistakenly think his scientific criticisms of the origin of life-field has in fact shown that life’s natural origin is impossible(and I think it would be silly to deny many think this, there’s been theists on forum who have explicitly stated as much), how is that not the same things as saying “Science has proved that God(or at the very least something supernatural) created life”?

I find it odd why he wouldn’t just say yes he’s fine with denouncing, or at least encouraging people to not engage in fallacious reasoning in general, and from his criticisms of the field specifically. And he could then just have stated that he as a Christian thinks he has other, better reasons, for thinking God exists, than his criticisms of the field.

Heck as you say, he has on other occasions stated that it is possible science will one day find an explanation(presumably he means a natural explanation) for the origin of life, and that yet he would remain a Christian because he thinks that’s compatible with his faith.

So the fact that he does not take this rather obvious opportunity to make a statement of a similar nature in answer to that question indicates, to me at least, that one large part of why he is doing this whole abiogenesis attack project is because he is doing a sort of apologetics work. Why would anyone be so focused on “reaching the masses” about advancing the position that “we’re[science is] clueless” as the overall state of abiogenesis research?

I agree with many of your points. I agree that Tour at times sends out mixed messages. I wish he didn’t. If I had Tour’s level of knowledge of chemistry, I would conduct myself differently. I think he could gain more support by doing so. As for why Tour behaves in this way, I can’t say, because I don’t know the man. Joshua says he is a friend of Tour. Maybe he has some insight into Tour’s psyche or motives?

I’m actually surprised that Joshua has not weighed in on this topic so far. Since he founded PS to promote a more healthy and peaceful relationship between scientific and religious thought, I would think he would have some strong views on the value (or lack thereof) of displays such as the Tour-Farina live and online debates.


A comparison of Tour with Denton is instructive. Both men think that the origin of life is unlikely to have been accidental. But Denton writes with calmness, whereas Tour writes with fury. I think Denton resolved long ago never to engage at the popular, culture-war level; he doesn’t blog or comment on blog sites, won’t comment on American school controversies, etc. But Tour seems to think his presence at the popular, culture-war level is needed. Is that simply a difference in personality? Or in the kind of religion each man holds? (Denton’s religion, so to speak, is more Platonic; Tour’s is more Biblical-evangelical.) I don’t know, but I do know I prefer Denton’s manner of presentation to Tour’s.

A quote-mine? Who’d ha’ thunk.

So I found this video to be well worth watching. Cam Bertuzzi from “Capturing Christianity” brings Dr. @Paul.B.Rimmer onto his show to cut through the rhetoric and talk about the science that was brought up in the Tour vs Farina debate. Dr. Rimmer also gives a short intro to origins of life science, starting at about 10 mins 25 seconds into the video.


I haven’t been following this discussion, but maybe you should be quoting what I actually said, so I don’t get slandered like this.

I actually explained my opinion of the wider context of the quote, which I saw as more significant than using the word “scam.” I see him as an orthodox believer. I think he’s saying everyone else are the progressives, because they don’t start from scratch hence he calls that a scam. Yes, I know he’s not saying that completely literally - it’s tongue-in-cheek. I never believed it was literal.

What a truly pathetic response.

What a bizarre response.

I don’t care that Cronin used the word scam. I just care that he’s exposing that hardly anyone tries to make a protocell from scratch and that the main thrust of what he’s saying by calling it a scam

I would actually go much farther than Tour. No one’s going to make artificial life ever. They could use organic pieces to put a cell back together and Frankenstein it, but that’s about it. I’ve also said I don’t think we’re going to find extraterrestrial life ever.

Don’t fret, I know you’re not a quote-miner. But James Tour would/should have known the context, so he has no excuse.

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Ok, good.

I usually get wound up about stuff like this because I really dislike it when people aren’t being represented fairly, but I don’t care that Tour used the “origin of life research is a scam” out of context. Tour’s goal is to show no one has made life. That IS what Cronin is griping about - and he’s actually going farther - that barely anyone is even TRYING to do it.