In 2009, outspoken Darwinist and opponent of intelligent design, PZ Myers, presented a lecture at the Atheist Alliance International 2009 conference in Burbank, California. The Richard Dawkins Foundation kindly posted it on youtube:
As per usual, Myers blasts Intelligent Design and the Discovery Institute for allegedly erroneously presuming that complex structures only arise from intelligent agents, implicating that one needs to demonstrate something other than complexity to demonstrate intent. Curiously, PZ Myers adamently asserts in his introductory remarks that he has attended ID conferences and lectures; that he as read the literature and hence qualifies as an authorotative expert on the topic of Intelligent Design. One can only wonder whether Myers was awake during these lectures that he claims to have attended, for had he been paying attention, he would have known that ID proponents have traditionally concurred with PZ Myer’s assessment that complexity can arise by entirely undirected processes involving chance and necessity. Myers, therefore, proceeds to massacre any pretense to fair scholarly enquiry. As a self-proclaimed skeptic, it is a curious thing that Myers does not extend to his critics the same charitable and accurate representation of their position as he expects ID proponents to offer in return.
Like so many in his field, PZ Myers is an expert at keeping his cohort of devoted and devout followers in the dark regarding what is really going on in the origins controversy. Sadly, the fact-free rants of Myers, and the other usual suspects, about Intelligent Design, appear to be the only exposure to ID that his flock receive, as they unquestioningly hang on to his every word, offer no repudiation when the floor is opened for questions, and seem to find his strawmen charicatures of Intelligent Design hilariously comical.
The neo-atheist movement, of which PZ Myers is a part, dismisses anyone who would harbour skepticism of Darwinian theory as a mere fundamentalist, one who blindly and unthinkingly accepts what he is told to believe without pause for critical thought or reflection. As a consequence, such individuals often exhibit a jaw-dropping ignorance of the rich variety of scientific scholarship and intellectual thought coming out of our side of the divide. It does not cross their mind to invest their time in listening to what we have to say regarding these matters. The exact same attitude is exhibited by religiously-minded fundamentalists who possess no interest in understanding any viewpoint besides their own.
Having claimed eroneously that the core premise of the Intelligent-Design argument is that living systems exhibit complexity and must therefore have been designed, PZ Myers proceeds to refute this simplsitic characature of the contentions of ID as defined by the proponents themselves. He puts up a slide of a pile of driftwood, and points out that the random complex pattern of the driftwood is the product of chance, not design. In so doing, he completely ignores the extensive commentary developed by William Dembski, Stephen C Meyer, Jay Richards, and others, regarding the fundamental distinction between mere complexity (‘Shannon information’ or information-carrying-capacity) and information-content (that is, complex specified information). Myers subsequently offers a few more examples in the same vein. Given that this fundamental distinction has been employed by advocates of ID for over a decade now, it is illuminating that PZ Myers has failed to pick up on it. Should we be surprised? After all, Myers is one of the “reviewers” of Meyer’s book who wrote a response to the book before having read it – self-admittedly so.
And so, I have a question for PZ Myers. As you now claim to have read Meyer’s book, having read of the fundamental distinction here described (and more thoroughly in Signature in the Cell), are you prepared to repudiate your previous comments concerning the nature of ID claims? Obviously you would expect I.D proponents to accurately represent your arguments. Why do you hold I.D. proponents to such a reasonable standard of intellectual engagement – a standard with which you yourself are unwilling to comply?