Evolution’s Demigods: Reviewing the Tour/Cronin Debate

ID the Future
Casey Luskin
Brian Miller, and Stephen Dilley
Audio File (33.2M)

Do biologists give too much credit to natural selection and self-organization? What are the limits of a materialist approach to science? On this ID The Future, we bring you the second 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 get valuable insight into the state of origin-of-life research from this panel discussion, featuring 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.

The second half of the conversation begins where Part 1 left off: with a critique of the seemingly limitless power attributed to natural selection. In the debate, Dr. Cronin called natural selection “the force that produces our stars.” Dr. Miller explains why natural selection wields so much power for scientists like Cronin: “What a lot of origin-of-life people do is they talk about natural selection as a demigod with creative agency. That’s how they rationalize away the evidence for design.” The panel also discusses how intelligent design is a legitimate threat to materialist science, and how Dr. Tour’s challenge is impacting the origin-of-life research community. They conclude with the reminder that a mind-first view of the natural world can not only help us personally, it can help society create better solutions for living.

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 2 of a two-part discussion. Listen to Part 1 if you missed it.

Dig Deeper

Listen to Dr. Stephen Meyer interview Dr. James Tour about the origin-of-life 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.

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.

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.
Assembly Theory
creative agency
design hypothesis
engineering principles
God of the gaps
Harvard University
James Tour
Lee Cronin
materialism of the gaps
materialist science
natural selection
No categories
origin of life
origin-of-life experiments
roundtable debate