In my last post, A world-famous chemist tells the truth: there’s no scientist alive today who understands macroevolution, I wrote about Professor James Tour, who is one of the ten most cited chemists in the world – and a Darwin skeptic. Professor Tour is not an Intelligent Design proponent, but he is openly skeptical of macroevolution, which is generally defined as “evolution happening on a large scale, e.g. at or above the level of species, over geologic time, resulting in the formation of new taxonomic groups.” In 2001, Tour, along with over 700 other scientists, signed the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism”, which read: “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged.”
On Professor Tour’s Website, there’s a very interesting article on evolution and creation, in which Tour declares that he does not understand how macroevolution could have happened, from a chemical standpoint (all bold emphases below are mine – VJT):
… I simply do not understand, chemically, how macroevolution could have happened. Hence, am I not free to join the ranks of the skeptical and to sign such a statement without reprisals from those that disagree with me? … Does anyone understand the chemical details behind macroevolution? If so, I would like to sit with that person and be taught, so I invite them to meet with me.
In a recent talk, entitled, Nanotech and Jesus Christ, given on 1 November 2012 at Georgia Tech, Professor Tour revealed that he had a long-standing offer to buy lunch for anyone who would sit down and explain evolution to him, but that no-one had taken him up on his challenge:
But about seven or eight years ago I posted on my Web site that I don’t understand. And I said, “I will buy lunch for anyone that will sit with me and explain to me evolution, and I won’t argue with you until I don’t understand something – I will ask you to clarify. But you can’t wave by and say, ‘This enzyme does that.’ You’ve got to get down in the details of where molecules are built, for me.” Nobody has come forward.
The Atheist Society contacted me. They said that they will buy the lunch, and they challenged the Atheist Society, “Go down to Houston and have lunch with this guy, and talk to him.” Nobody has come!
Nick Matzke makes an offer…
Nick Matzke, who is is currently a doctoral student in evolutionary biology at the University of California, Berkeley, and who is also the former Public Information Project Director at the National Center for Science Education, declared on February 18 that he would “love to” take up Professor Tour’s offer of a free lunch, “if someone pays my airfare.”
Two offers to contribute towards the cost of Mr. Matzke’s air travel were made. Mung kindly offered to pay for part of the cost. Another contributor, groovamos, went further and declared: “I will buy a ticket for Nick to Houston and will buy a night at a hotel on a weekend.” Groovamos added that he lives in Houston and would like to attend the meeting. He also promised that he would remain silent throughout the meeting, requesting only that he be permitted to ask questions after the meeting.
… which Professor Tour accepts…
I have just received an email from Professor James Tour, in response to Nick Matzke’s invitation. I trust that he will not mind me quoting a brief excerpt, as it directly pertains to the terms of the invitation:
If you would please inform Mr. Matzke that I would be delighted to have him to lunch at the Rice faculty; my treat. I really want to learn this, and I hope he can help me. And I shall be fine with groovamos paying his airfare and joining us in the meeting, which will not extend beyond the three of us, please. I shall pay for groovamos’s lunch too as only members can pay at the faculty club. So if groovamos agrees to stay quiet and settle in as a quiet observer only, I am fine with that as long as Mr. Matzke agrees.
Professor Tour added that he would do his very best to listen attentively to Mr. Matzke’s description without interjecting, and that he would only question Mr. Matzke when he did not understand what he said. Professor Tour also expressed his deep appreciation to Mr. Matzke, saying that it was very kind of him to propose such an offer.
… on one condition!
There’s just one condition that Professor Tour attached to the meeting, however. In his email to me, he stated: “It shall not be recorded or extend beyond the three of us as this is not for show but for my edification.”
In my original invitation which I issued to Professor Tour, when I informed him that Nick Matzke would like to explain macroevolution to him in person, I naturally mentioned his wish that someone pay his airfare, but I neglected to mention his wish that the meeting be recorded. I gave Professor Tour the address of my Web post, to which the conditions of Nick Matzke’s offer were attached. However, Professor Tour is a busy man, and he informed me in his email that he has not viewed my post, as he rarely reads blogs.
Barry Arrington recently wrote a very entertaining post about the “No true Scotsman” logical fallacy. Well, Nick Matzke may not be a true Scotsman; but he is certainly a true scientist. And what distinguishes a true scientist from ordinary mortals is that he/she is passionately motivated by the pursuit of truth for its own sake. Mr. Matzke is also the the former Public Information Project Director at the National Center for Science Education. In other words, he’s someone who really cares about educating people in the truth. I take it, then, that Mr. Matzke would regard the goal of setting Professor Tour straight about evolution as a worthy objective, in and of itself. Let me add that in my experience, Mr. Matzke has always shown himself to be a true gentleman. I trust, therefore, that he would happily respect another gentleman’s wish for privacy – particularly when that gentleman is an esteemed and distinguished scientist.
Professor Tour is a very kind and courteous man, and he has also informed me that there is a chance that Mr. Matzke can get a flight to Houston from SFC in the morning, have lunch, and fly back on the same day. Professor Tour adds (and I hope he won’t mind me quoting him here): “If he needs a night here in Houston, he is welcome to stay in my home. Maybe we can have more conversations at our family dinner table. I enjoy seeing my children exposed to diverse insights from kind people.”
Finally, Professor Tour writes that Mr. Matzke is welcome to contact him directly to arrange a mutually agreeable time when they can reserve a couple of hours for a private lesson over lunch. He also suggested that Mr. Matzke contact groovamos. To facilitate matters, Professor Tour’s contact details are here and Mr. Matzke’s contact details are here. I sincerely hope that the parties concerned can make suitable arrangements.
I also asked Professor Tour about the Atheist Society’s offer to cover the cost, and he replied that the offer had been made from the national office, and not from Rice University. He added that it was made many years ago, and said that it might still be somewhere on the Web. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to locate it, so I presume that the relevant page must have been taken down.
In any case, it is now up to Mr. Matzke to respond to Professor Tour’s offer. The ball is in his court. Your move, Nick.