Debate Review: Jim Tour vs Lee Cronin at Harvard

ID the Future
Casey Luskin
Brian Miller, Stephen Dilley, and Owen Anderson
Audio File (44.21M)

Are we close to cracking the origin of life problem or not? In 2021, chemist Dr. Lee Cronin declared publicly that “Origin of life research is a scam.” Yet, scientists regularly claim to be close to creating simple and complex life from non-life in their labs, and the public is buying it. On this ID The Future, we bring you the first half of a panel discussion reviewing the recent debate between Rice University chemistry professor Dr. James Tour and University of Glasgow professor of chemistry Dr. Lee Cronin.

In November 2023, Dr. Tour and Dr. Cronin participated in a roundtable debate on origin-of-life studies at Harvard University with a live audience of Harvard faculty and guests. Even if you haven’t seen the debate yet, you’ll likely find this insightful discussion helpful. The panel features three of our own: scientist and attorney Casey Luskin, physicist Brian Miller, and Center for Science and Culture Senior Fellow Dr. Stephen Dilley. It also featured Arizona State University Professor of Philosophy Owen Anderson.

In this first half, you’ll get some helpful background on Dr. Tour and why he’s challenging origin of life researchers. The panel also discusses the difficulties inherent in origin of life studies, as well as the problems that arise from the models proposed by Lee Cronin. Towards the end of Part 1 the panelists talk about the process of natural selection. How much power do Darwinists believe it has? And just what can the process of natural selection actually do and be credited for? And while Cronin accuses Dr. Tour of employing a god-of-the-gaps fallacy in his arguments, the panel explains that it’s actually Cronin who employs such a fallacy, more aptly named materialism-of-the-gaps: the idea that given time, science will explain everything and that we simply need to wait for these natural explanations to come along. But as Brian Miller points out, every attempt to rationalize away the evidence of design through some natural process collapses as science advances.

This discussion was recorded by the Kirkwood Center and hosted by Kirkwood president Anthony Costello and vice-president Lenny Esposito. We thank the Kirkwood Center for permission to share it.

This is Part 1 of a two-part discussion. Look for Part 2 next.

Dig Deeper

Read some of our coverage on the debate:

Casey Luskin

Associate Director and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Casey Luskin is a geologist and an attorney with graduate degrees in science and law, giving him expertise in both the scientific and legal dimensions of the debate over evolution. He earned his PhD in Geology from the University of Johannesburg, and BS and MS degrees in Earth Sciences from the University of California, San Diego, where he studied evolution extensively at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. His law degree is from the University of San Diego, where he focused his studies on First Amendment law, education law, and environmental law.

Brian Miller

Research Coordinator and Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture
Dr. Brian Miller is Research Coordinator and Senior Fellow for the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. He holds a B.S. in physics with a minor in engineering from MIT and a Ph.D. in physics from Duke University. He speaks internationally on the topics of intelligent design and the impact of worldviews on society. He also has consulted on organizational development and strategic planning, and he is a technical consultant for Ideashares, a virtual incubator dedicated to bringing innovation to the marketplace.

Stephen Dilley

Senior Fellow and Academic Mentoring Centers Coordinator
Stephen Dilley (PhD, philosophy) is the Academic Mentoring Centers Coordinator and a Senior Fellow with Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture. Prior to joining Discovery, Dr. Dilley was a professor for 14 years at St. Edward’s University (Austin, TX). He is the editor of Darwinian Evolution and Classical Liberalism (Lexington Books) and co-editor of Human Dignity in Bioethics (Routledge). He has published essays in the The British Journal for the History of Science, The Journal of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, and elsewhere.
Assembly Theory
design hypothesis
God of the gaps
Harvard University
James Tour
Lee Cronin
materialism of the gaps
natural selection
No categories
origin of life
origin-of-life experiments