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A Review of Steve Meyer’s The Return of the God Hypothesis


Terry Scambray has given Uncommon Descent permission to reprint his review of Steve Meyer’s The Return of the God Hypothesisoriginally published at New Oxford Review — at Uncommon Descent. So here it is:

The Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries Revealing The Mind Behind The Universe, Stephen C. Meyer. Harper One, 2021. 448 pp.

Fred Hoyle, the astrophysicist, coined the phrase, “big bang,” to ridicule the idea that the universe had a beginning, a position which suited him as an atheist, materialist. But he changed his mind when the evidence indicated that the universe did have a beginning and that it was as finely tuned as a concert piano though with millions more interdependent variables that make possible our, Just right, Goldilocks universe. As Hoyle wrote, “the properties of the universe fall within narrow and improbable ranges that are absolutely necessary for any complex life forms to exist.”

In The Return of the God Hypothesis, Stephen Meyer presents a variety of other scientists who may not have agreed with Hoyle but in one way or another contribute to Meyer’s thesis that science points to the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.

Meyer summarizes his thesis early on when he points to three 20th century mutually supporting scientific discoveries that provide strong evidence for belief in the God of Judaism and Christianity. The first is the aforementioned Big Bang which brought the material world into existence with an opening day of stupendous fecundity. Though a seemingly chaotic event, the Big Bang nonetheless gave birth to our Goldilocks universe all of whose elements have been dished out in astonishingly providential proportions. Meyer’s final evidence for his thesis is the fact that “since the beginning large amounts of new functional genetic information have arisen to make new forms of life possible.” An example of this is “the Cambrian Explosion,” sometimes called “biology’s Big Bang” wherein new body plans, phyla, appear within a relatively short geological time period.

In bringing scientific findings to bear on theology and vice versa, Meyer shows that he operates in a long tradition because science developed uniquely from the Judeo-Christian worldview. He admits that this fact first puzzled him since the classical Greek thinkers are thought to be the foundation of the Western intellectual tradition. And, indeed, they did believe that nature had an underlying order, “an intrinsic self-existent logical principle called the logos.”

Nonetheless, just as a picture can be painted in different ways and a building can be constructed likewise, so too God created the world His way, making it the duty of science to find out exactly how He did it. Thus, science developed as both logical and contingent, which is to say that it strives for internal consistency and empirical validation.

Steve Meyer

Meyer fills all this in with an explanation of the Hebrew contribution to the development of science citing the lesser known historian, Edgar Zilsel. He continues with an enlightening section on the depth of Christian belief of many of the earliest scientists especially Isaac Newton whose theological writings are invariably presented as an eccentric avocation, distinct from his rigorous science. Not so, says Meyer; for Newton’s theology and science are merely another reflection of the indispensable unity between Judaism and Christianity, on the one hand, and science on the other.

Of course, this unity is largely unknown when it is not openly resisted by the great unwashed in our educational citadels and in the editorial offices of influential journals, whose bastions defend a materialist cult which they call “science.” The story of this resistance and Meyer’s response to it is taken up in the ensuing 400 pages of his exhaustively superlative book.

Many know that the most famous modern scientist, Albert Einstein, found the proposition that the universe had a beginning repugnant. He, like others including Aristotle, thought that the universe had always existed in “a steady state.” In the words of Carl Sagan, “The cosmos was all there ever was and ever will be.” But observations, evidence, contradicted the equations, the mathematical formulae that Einstein had relied on for his certitude.

First a Russian physicist, Alexander Friedmann, solved Einstein’s gravitational equations by allowing for the possibility of a dynamic universe while simultaneously relying on Einstein’s theory of gravitation which stipulated that massive bodies cause space to curve or contract. Though Friedman did not refute Einstein, he did show the need for an “implausible degree of fine tuning” in order to maintain the tension between the drag of gravity and the pull of expansion, akin to the centripetal force that pulls us in as we round a curve and the opposing centrifugal force that pushes us out.

This tension was resolved by a Belgian priest and physicist, Georges Lemaitre, who agreed with Friedman. Then Lemaitre ventured further into metaphoric space by relying on observations showing light from distant galaxies as well as data from Edwin Hubble’s telescope both of which showed the distances to other galaxies. Taken together these findings demonstrated that galaxies are speeding away from one another. And while Friedmann had shown that the universe could change, Lemaitre showed that it had changed by arguing that galaxies were not merely speeding away into preexisting space but that space itself was expanding.

“Not so fast!” Einstein, in effect, said of Lemaitre‘s idea which Einstein contemptuously dismissed by saying it was, “inspired by the Christian dogma of creation, and totally unjustified from the physical point of view.”

Moving from this opening part of his book, Meyer next explains “abduction” as his method of drawing inferences from these scientific findings. For example, Charles Lyell, “the father of modern geology,” used abduction when he observed the present and then extrapolated backwards in time in order to discover what happened in the distant past. Thus, Lyell posited, “The present is the key to the past,” meaning that present geological forces working relentlessly in the deep past carved up the earth’s surface to its present state.

Meyer qualifies this process by saying that it must also recognize multiple causes in the past, including evidence for the trinity of “singularities” upon which he bases his argument. Abduction also fails to offer the air tight assurance of a logically deductive argument. Instead, Meyer writes, “abductive reasoning represents an inference to the best explanation.”

Meyer concludes his treatise by mixing it up with formidable materialist opponents like Stephen Hawking. Hawking argued that since gravity at the subatomic level might have worked differently during the earliest stages of the universe, it could be the source of the origin of the universe; however, in making his mathematical calculations about the early universe, he needed to introduce the concept of “imaginary time.” But this way of eliminating the need for a temporal beginning of the universe “did not correspond to anything in the real physical universe,” Meyer emphatically writes, echoing the objection of other physicists and philosophers. Besides as Hawking admitted, “imaginary time” was merely an expedient to support his claim.

Meyer takes on other materialist theories like the “Wheeler-DeWitt equation” and “The Mathematical Universe Hypothesis” which seek to explain away the uniqueness of our universe. He concludes with the 19 th century physicist, Ludwig Boltzmann’s postmodernist, many worlds’ cosmology in which “Boltzmann Brains” could self-assemble as the result of chance arrangements of atoms due to random quantum fluctuations. Accordingly such fluctuations at the subatomic level may cause bizarre outcomes like the Statue of Liberty waving at passers-by and, though such events may not happen in our universe, given enough universes and time, such things will happen and happen endlessly!

But, as Meyer points out, each of these rationales involves monumental question begging; that is, each assumes the prior existence of features of our universe like gravity, matter, time, reliable mathematics and so on which themselves demand explanations.

In Meyer’s first book, Signature in the Cell, he showed that the bio-chemical instructions in each DNA molecule resemble the language of computer code, the only known source of such specified information being a mind. His second also widely praised book, Darwin’s Doubt, revealed that the fossil record relentlessly demonstrates that the body plans, the architecture, of all the major animals arose relatively dramatically in direct contradiction to Darwin’s theory that such body plans developed in tiny, incremental steps.

With The Return of the God Hypothesis, Meyer has once again written a hefty book in size and subject. Nonetheless, it is a pleasure to read because of the way that his inviting voice brings light to bear on complicated and profoundly influential subjects. And while a short review cannot do justice to most books, this limitation applies five-fold to this abundantly rich book. Indeed, with this book, Meyer completes a compelling trilogy which refutes the prevailing materialism of the intelligentsia while also completing his one long argument that, in the words of Solomon, “from the greatness and beauty of created things comes a corresponding perception of their Creator.”

Terry Scambray writes from the Great Central Valley of California

Bornagain77: But none of the outlandish things we imagined back then when we were smoking pot comes anywhere near close to the outlandish claim from Darwinists that, in all seriousness, they believe they are nothing but meat robots.
“You are robots made out of meat. Which is what I am going to try to convince you of today” Jerry Coyne
What, if anything, can possibly be the meaning of a meat robot convincing other meat robots that they are meat robots? Why bother? Meat robot Jerry seems to have a strong tendency to try to convince others of all sorts of stuff, and when he meets resistence he really starts complaining.
“Free will is an illusion so convincing that people simply refuse to believe that we don’t have it.” – Jerry Coyne
I wonder what meat robot Jerry is trying to accomplish and why. Origenes
The issue isn’t whether “God did it.”
I agree with this statement 100% and so does ID.
The issue is whose God did it
This is not part of ID though ID can provide some insight into the nature of the creator. I haven’t read Meyer’s book but the review above does nothing to indicate it is the Judeo-Christian God that did the creating. The creator is however, entirely consistent with the Judeo-Christian God based on his analysis. The review does not point to Christianity as the chosen way for humans to live or the nature of the Judeo-Christian God. For that, other approaches are needed and many would not consider them science and definitely not the purview of ID which is science but science not limited to non-intelligent explanations. jerry
Origenes, "Imagine materialism making perfect sense to you,,," Back in my teenage years when I was young and dumb, and prior to me taking my Christianity far more seriously, me and my friends would smoke pot and 'imagine' some pretty 'far out' and outlandish things. I'm pretty sure you know what I'm talking about. But none of the outlandish things we imagined back then when we were smoking pot comes anywhere near close to the outlandish claim from Darwinists that, in all seriousness, they believe they are nothing but meat robots. :)
“You are robots made out of meat. Which is what I am going to try to convince you of today” Jerry Coyne (Science Uprising 02) – No, You’re Not a Robot Made Out of Meat – video https://youtu.be/rQo6SWjwQIk?list=PLR8eQzfCOiS1OmYcqv_yQSpje4p7rAE7-&t=20
I really don't think there is is drug out there that is powerful enough, LSD included, to make me believe such an outlandish delusion. bornagain77
Bornagain77 @12 Imagine materialism making perfect sense to you and, after accepting that "you" are nothing but a temporarily happenstantial conglomerate of irrational particles, register at uncommondescent as "ChuckDarwin" and start accusing other people of being clowns. Origenes
@12 According to materialism, there is no ChuckDarwin. Instead there is just a conglomerate of irrational uncaring elementairy particles determined by laws who also do not give a hoot about ChuckDarwin and his opinions. Heck, even materialism does not exist according to materialism. And even if it can be said to exist in some undefined way, then, like everything else, it must be the result of an utterly irrational process. Origenes
ChuckDarwin, you believe that your 'beyond belief' brain, and all your thoughts, are the result of, basically, random atomic accidents. So exactly why in blue blazes should I 'give any credence' whatsoever to your 'accidental' beliefs, which you had no choice in forming, over and above what that 'clown', Eric Metaxas, has purposely written about ID in his new book? I mean really ChuckyD, according to your Darwinian beliefs, you are just a mindless meat robot with no free will of your own.. So I would be really careful about who I was calling a clown. Turns out that you, via your own Darwinian beliefs, are the one who is actually wearing the clown makeup :) bornagain77
Seversky, It’s rather astonishing that the basis for your beliefs is simply your animosity towards “believers”. Once again ID says nothing about the creator’s identity (Meyer’s personal opinion aside). So your belief in atheism stemming from your animosity towards Christian’s and they’re arguments -you- find unimpressive is irrelevant to science and says nothing about the true nature of reality. Seekers
#7 Bornagain. I'm not sure how Metaxas ties into my comments. I listened to Metaxas' podcast for about a year along with his sidekick, Zmirak, who's sole purpose in life seems to be to relentlessly and viciously attack Pope Francis. The fact that you give any credence at all to these two clowns, quite frankly, astonishes me. You seem smarter than that..... chuckdarwin
Atheism is alive and well for as long as believers fail to make a compelling case for their beliefs. Unless Metaxas has uncovered startling new evidence or constructed totally new arguments then he's just rehashing what we already knew. Seversky
CD @1 Have you read the book? Explain what an intelligent designer would be other than God...outside of time, space, matter, super powerful and creative....... I don't think it's fair to hand wave off a book because it comes to a conclusion you don't like? Ultimately, if the quest is "what is true" then aren't you open to it? Let me ask this... Do you feel favorably or negatively about the possibility of the existence of God? zweston
ChuckDarwin at 3, You might be interested in Eric Metaxas's new book: "Is Atheism Dead?"
Reasons to Believe: Eric Metaxas’s Powerful New Book, Is Atheism Dead? John Zmirak - October 28, 2021 Excerpt: Three Good Books in One What Metaxas has written is in effect an instant trilogy. The first part explores in great detail, but never pedantic toil, the findings of key scientists in varied fields that touch on the question of God’s existence. And in my view, all but prove it. The second part reveals astonishing, little talked-about discoveries in biblical archaeology, confirming the Old and New Testaments as trustworthy chronicles of real-world history. Want evidence that the Exodus actually happened? It turns up here. Need to know the GPS coordinates for Sodom? Eric can show you the ashes, if not the receipts for the clean-up crews. The third part of the book takes on the New Atheists, especially Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. Eric accepts their challenge to argue purely by reason, and purely on the merits. He finds their arguments thin, bitter gruel, clotted with logical fallacies, puerile evasions, and damnable untruths. https://evolutionnews.org/2021/10/reasons-to-believe-eric-metaxass-powerful-new-book-is-atheism-dead/
Imagine theists to have similar sensitivities as Chuck … at first assuming that biology is a neutral scientific search for the truth only to find out that it is in fact a warped effort to find materialistic explanations for everything, no matter how counter intuitive and nonsensical they may be. Origenes
Is it just me and my poor memory, or does this review confuse and misrepresent some of Meyer's arguments? I have read the book and at a few spots in the review thought, "this does not seem quite what Meyer said". Perhaps the reviewer read too fast, or did not quite understand some of the arguments? I don't particularly want to track through the review and the book to see where the hiccups (if any) occur, it just seemed to me that the reviewer missed in a few places; perhaps names, concepts, connections between ideas... Did anyone else get that feeling after reading the book and then this review? Fasteddious
And that is why the book pertains to Meyer's PERSONAL choice. ET
The issue isn't whether "God did it." The issue is whose God did it..... chuckdarwin
Earth to ChuckDarwin- The God Hypothesis is Meyer's PERSONAL piece. And if God didit, then that is ID anyway and science has to deal with it. ET
In The Return of the God Hypothesis, Stephen Meyer presents a variety of other scientists who may not have agreed with Hoyle but in one way or another contribute to Meyer’s thesis that science points to the existence of the Judeo-Christian God.
What, in my opinion, is the most offensive thing about Meyer's "God Hypothesis" is that after over a decade, since he published Signature in the Cell, of asserting that ID is "neutral" and does not seek to identify the "designer," that ID is real, objective science and not creationism, he has a great epiphany and that he's is now ready for the big reveal:
Meyer summarizes his thesis early on when he points to three 20th century mutually supporting scientific discoveries that provide strong evidence for belief in the God of Judaism and Christianity.
So we have come full circle to creationism--again. So much for neutrality. The scientific discoveries that purportedly guide Meyers to his conclusion, the Big Bang, the anthropic principle and the nucleotide sequencing of DNA (what Meyers refers to as "digital code") have been around for over 50 years. They were around when he joined the DI and they were around when he wrote his first book. So why now? chuckdarwin

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