The Evidence Strikes Back

A Review of The Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries Revealing the Mind Behind the Universe by Stephen C. Meyer

From a young age, Stephen Meyer was interested in both the natural sciences and the big philosophical questions of life. In the 1980s, after graduating from college, he attended a science conference where the origins of the universe and of life were debated by leading voices from both the theistic and materialistic perspectives. Intrigued, he entered Cambridge University a year later as a grad student with the goal of working on the question of the origin of life. Specifically, could a rigorous scientific argument for the concept of intelligent design be made?

In Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (2010), he made the case for intelligent design (ID) as the best explanation for the origin of the functional digital information resident in DNA. Following that, in Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (2014), he argued for design as the best explanation of the source of the information necessary to produce the major innovations in the history of life as discernible in the fossil record. Notably, Meyer did not argue in either book for the Judeo-Christian concept of God, since the intelligence necessary to supply the information central to these arguments could have arisen from somewhere within the universe, at least in principle.

In The Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries Revealing the Mind Behind the Universe, he widens the purview and argues for the theistic worldview as the best metaphysical explanation of the universe we observe. The three referenced scientific discoveries, all based on developments of the last century, are: (1) evidence from cosmology that the universe is not infinite but that it had a material beginning, (2) evidence from physics showing that from the beginning, it has been "finely tuned" to allow for the possibility of life, and (3) evidence from biology establishing that since the beginning, large amounts of new functional information have arisen in the biosphere to make new forms of life possible.

Although The Return of the God Hypothesis is very much a book of science, especially physics and cosmology, it is equally about the philosophy of science—how to reason about the evidence. Whereas most of mainstream science limits itself to positing only naturalistic causes as explanations for the evidence it uncovers, thus imposing, de facto (and often unstated), a presupposition of philosophical materialism, Meyer lifts that limitation and evaluates competing metaphysical worldviews, especially materialism versus theism, to assess how well each one can account for this new evidence. Ironically, although critics often charge that ID is "not science," Meyer's manner of reasoning, called the "method of multiple competing hypotheses" or "inference to the best explanation," is the exact same method Charles Darwin employed in The Origin of Species, which raises awkward questions for critics deploying the charge.

The case is compelling on its own, but Meyer bolsters it by including an entire section addressing the critics' competing explanations of the same evidence (a courtesy many of them have been loath to reciprocate), and he shows how, in each case, they don't work quite so well as their proponents imagine.

Meyer is an exquisitely clear writer, and although a few spots get weedy and technical, he brings these wide streams of thought together into a remarkably readable tour de force showing how contemporary science and theistic belief integrate into a comprehensive, coherent, and marvelously peaceable whole. This book will become a landmark classic for the science and faith discussion.

 is Deputy Editor of Salvo and writes on apologetics and matters of faith.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #58, Fall 2021 Copyright © 2024 Salvo |


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