The Dallas Observer has published a profile of Roy Abraham Varghese, a wealthy computer and business consultant who funnels money into ‘spirituality’ nonsense, that is not only so stupid that it pained me to read it, but but was also poorly and confusingly written — the reporter is utterly credulous and gushes over Varghese like the most pathetic fanboy, but then every once in a while tosses in a paragraph that takes a critical stance, but reads as if he has just cribbed an argument “for balance” and stuck it in, like a lump of hard thought floating in a sea of New Agey, fuzzy religious porridge. It makes one wonder if an editor had tried to sharpen up the slop by telling the writer to throw in some random scientific paragraph. The goofy philosophy is bad enough, but the graceless prose and incoherent structure is agonizing.
You know this article is in trouble from the first paragraph.
For a quarter-century Roy Abraham Varghese has been assembling God proofs. Along the way he won over the world’s most influential atheist.
I am not impressed with god proofs, especially not “collections” of them. I will also not that in this entire long and rambling article, not one “god proof” is given, although there are plenty of assertions.
Who, you may wonder, was the world’s most influential atheist? Or maybe not; as everyone who’s been following the arguments knows, the instant Antony Flew became a deist, he was instantly promoted to being the most important atheist there ever was, despite the fact that he was virtually unknown to all but a few academics. I swear, if ever I want to become the most important biologist of the 21st century, all I have to do is reject the evidence for evolution and become a true believer in Jesus, and presto! The creationists will laud me with exaggerated glories!
Flew’s conversion was baffling and inconsequential. He was best known for his argument that religious claims were untestable; he was won over to a grudging admission of deism by his own ignorance, and led there by the lies of a creationist. Here’s one of Flew’s comments on the persuasive ‘evidence’ that prompted his conversion:
I am open to it [theistic revelation], but not enthusiastic about potential revelation from God. On the positive side, for example, I am very much impressed with physicist Gerald Schroeder’s comments on Genesis 1. That this biblical account might be scientifically accurate raises the possibility that it is revelation.
Oh, please. Flew knows nothing about the science of origins, and he’s willing to believe a creationist’s claim that a couple of flimsy pages of a poetic myth stand up well against the detailed knowledge of physics and biology? This is the level of argument Flew has managed to muster since he flipped, and it’s not at all impressive—it’s the waffling of the clueless.
But it sways some people, like Roy Varghese.
Roy Abraham Varghese has a God equation. It is self-evident. He sees it in a grain of sand. He sees it in bees, especially bees. By rights, bees shouldn’t fly. The haphazard way in which they beat their wings simply shouldn’t haul their pot-bellied bodies aloft. But they fly, hovering and reversing over bluebonnets and bachelor buttons. Bees flout the laws of physics and aerodynamics, a puzzle that perplexed scientists for 70 years. “How is it that they can do that?” he asked in a 2005 interview at Perry’s Restaurant while smacking on bites of filet mignon. “The fact that these insects can do this…” Varghese trailed off.
He doesn’t understand how bees fly, therefore God exists. The ability to translate ignorance into a sense of wonder must be especially useful to creationists; the world must look like a supernova of wonder to them, with rainbows and dancing ponies and happy clowns doing pirouettes. Listen, people, here’s a word of advice: when you find your sense of wonder lighting up at what you don’t know instead of the cool stuff in reality that you do know, slap yourself, hard. What you don’t know should be a goad to make you try and find out, not an excuse to bliss out and sit drooling into your filet mignon.
OK, I haven’t even gotten past the heading and the first paragraph, and you can tell this article is a target-rich environment. I’m not even going to try and purge the blockages in this pipeful of sewage, but I’ll mention a few instances of nonsense. Here, for instance, is the Discovery Institute’s version of metazoan evolution in all its glory.
Then there is the bizarre spectacle of the Cambrian Explosion, the geological era beginning some 505 to 550 million years ago. In this evolutionary leap, virtually every major life form and all the basic body plans in existence today–intestinal structures, jointed limbs, gills, eyes with fully formed lenses–seemingly emerged fully formed from single-celled and other simple life forms without any apparent evolutionary antecedents. This explosion from single-celled simplicity to multicellular complexity occurred within a geological moment of 5 to 10 million years. Before the Cambrian discoveries, scientists believed well more than 100 million years of evolutionary incrementalism were necessary for the basic body plans of advanced life to develop from simple life forms, which loitered for 3 billion years before this biological boom.
Familiar slop, so forgive me if one thing jumped out at me: “intestinal structures”? What? Can this author even name an “intestinal structure” that originated in the Cambrian?
Overall, that account is all wrong. Before the Cambrian discoveries, scientists believed there was a long period of evolution, and after the discoveries, we still think that. Life didn’t “loiter” for 3 billion years — that was a period of constant, ongoing evolution. It’s another example of foolish ignorance to think bacteria are all the same, simple, single-celled and negligibly sophisticated organisms, and then poof, there were crabs and fish and clams, which are all somehow immensely more complicated than everything that came before. The molecular and genetic substrate for multicellularity was assembled in the long period before the Cambrian; we have evolutionary antecedents well before the Cambrian, and we can see the molecular precursors of plant and animal gene regulation in extant microorganisms.
One more item: the writer has a lengthy anecdotal jabber about yet another “authority” whose ideas are congruent with Varghese’s. It’s George Gilder. Watch out, you will get stupider reading Gilder’s mangling of information theory.
Canadian social theorist Marshall McLuhan famously stated “the medium is the message.” Techno-utopian writer and Discovery Institute senior fellow George Gilder, in the article “Evolution and Me” published in National Review (July 17, 2006), took McLuhan’s premise and flipped it on its ear: The medium is not the message. Gilder teases out a clash between information theory, a thing invented by Claude Shannon of MIT, and evolutionary theory. Stripped down to its bolts and nuts, information theory states that the transport channel of information—wires, fiber optic strands, satellite signals or the DNA molecule—is distinct from the source of the information. Content (girly jabber) is utterly divorced from its conduit (cell phone signals).
Gilder illustrates his thesis using a computer. Silicon microprocessors, carefully assembled in all their multibillion dollar precision, could never give rise to an operating system, such as Microsoft Windows. “In a computer, as information theory shows, the content is manifestly independent of its material substrate,” writes Gilder. “No possible knowledge of the computer’s materials can yield any information whatsoever about the actual content of its computations.”
Scientists, Gilder says, reflexively blur information and the physical structure of DNA molecules, implying life is biochemistry rather than information processing. “[T]he DNA program is discrete and digital, and its information is transferred through chemical carriers—but is not specified by chemical forces,” he writes.
Varghese concurs. “Information precedes its manifestation in matter,” he writes. Matter and energy are merely vehicles of all information in the known universe. “The next breakthrough is realizing that the foundation of it all is intelligence,” writes Varghese. “Implicit in all its phases of discovery is the greatest insight of modern science: Everything is intelligence.”
Gah. The information in a computer is the product of its physical state; the flow of current through a transistor, the pattern of holes on a disk, the pattern of signals from input devices. Gilder wants you to believe it’s some otherworldly essence, but it’s not, it’s all rooted firmly in the natural, physical world. Similarly, life is chemistry. We have a mechanism, natural selection, that sculpts chemistry into complicated patterns without intelligence. If there is a great insight in modern science, it’s the exact opposite of what Varghese claims: information can arise from matter and energy without any guiding agent.
These guys do not speak for science. They speak as part of a network of idiots.
The article concludes with a return to the mysterious bees mentioned in the introduction, and it hammers home my point: Varghese is unaware of what the actual science has been saying.
Still, it seems wise to remain open to the unexpected strangeness of science. Just two months after that 2005 lunch meeting at Perry’s where Varghese rhapsodized on the wonders and mysteries of hovering bees, researchers from the California Institute of Technology and University of Nevada Las Vegas announced a startling discovery based on evidence from high-speed digital photography and sophisticated robotics. After 70 years of confounding confusion, scientists had finally unraveled the secrets of bee flight.
Weis-Fogh. The clap-and-fling model of insect flight. From 1973, not 2005.
The ignorance of these people is no excuse.