Challenging Darwin at the Westminster Conference
by Jonathan McLatchie
Over the weekend, a number of us traveled to Philadelphia for the Westminster Conference on Science & Faith. The two-day event, which was a pack-out with nearly 800 attendees, featured notable speakers including John Lennox, Stephen Meyer, Douglas Axe, Paul Nelson, Vern Poythress, John West, Megan Best and Scott Oliphint. Over the course of Friday and Saturday, participants attended a total of three breakout sessions, with options of attending the science track, the theology and culture track, or the apologetics track. I decided to attend all three of the science breakout sessions, which featured Axe, Meyer and Nelson.
The first speaker at the event on Friday afternoon was Vern Poythress, who spoke on “Why the Beginning is Important and Why People Fight About It.” With the central themes of the origins debate thus introduced, attendees divided into their chosen concurrent breakout sessions. The first science breakout session was a lecture by molecular biologist Doug Axe, director of the Biologic Institute. Dr. Axe’s presentation covered a number of the challenges to neo-Darwinian evolution coming out of the experimental research on the origins of new protein folds and functions conducted by him and his colleagues. Following a dinner break, philosopher and mathematician Professor John Lennox of the University of Oxford (who has a new website) gave a lecture on the case for design as the best explanation for the origins of the universe. With his usual wit and humor, Lennox offered a rebuttal to Stephen Hawking’s book The Grand Design, a critique that he develops in more detail in his own book God and Stephen Hawking: Whose Design is it Anyway?).
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On Saturday morning, Professor Lennox gave another lecture, this time on the origins of life. As Lennox explained, although he is not a biologist or an organic chemist, the question of life’s origin is a subject that comes closer to his own field of mathematics than the majority of other questions in biology. Unpacking the arguments from biological information, Lennox explained how functional information (since it carries meaning) possesses a semiotic dimension, and is thus not reducible to the material constituents of the informational medium. Since meaningful information is habitually associated with the activities of a conscious agent, Lennox argued, the nature of the information needed to explain life’s origin point towards the reality of an intelligent cause behind life…
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