Science & Faith
4/8/13 at 07:02 PM 22 Comments

Darwin’s Doubt (A Game-Changing Book?): Conversations about a Book not yet Published

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In Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, Dr. Stephen Meyer will present new scientific evidence that challenges the neo-Darwinian account of the development of animal life and points toward the only known kind of cause that is capable of doing the job: intelligent design. Why am I recommending a book in early April that will not hit the streets until mid June 2013? Here are my main reasons.

  • Other leading members of the intelligent design community who are more familar with what Meyer is doing in this book are already talking about it (more on that below).

  • Through interaction with Steve Meyer on a prototype version of this book project, I already know his main thesis and many of the principal lines of evidence that he will invoke to support that thesis. This book will create quite a stir in the evolutionary biology community. It could be a game changer!
  • Even though parts of this book will include details that will stretch your capacities (I'm speaking to the generally educated reader), Meyer is a gifted communicator, and will make most of his content very accessible. I can say this confidently based on having worked with Meyer on various curriculum projects since 1999. See, especially
  • Pre-order now to get a huge discount. See below. I'm going public about this book today because I don't want you to miss out on saving lots of money.

Special Limited Time Offer: Save 43% Off of Hardcover Price Plus Get 4 Free Digital Books When You Pre-Order Stephen Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt by April 30.

So what are other leading members of the intelligent design community saying about Dr. Meyer's book? ID theorist and philosopher of biology Paul Nelson anticipates Meyer's treatment of the concept of "ontogenetic depth" in relation to the origin of the major animal body plans. Nelson himself has contributed in important ways to this topic within developmental biology that poses a nasty, and still unvolved, problem for evolutionary biologists commited to undirected evolution.

The problem can be introduce in the following manner (but go here and then here for Nelson's details). Since Darwin published his theory in 1859, the origin of not a single animal body plan (at the phylum level) has been explained in a step-by-step evolutionary fashion, where random mutation and natural selection were, as biology textbooks assert, the primary causal mechanisms. Choose any phylum (basic animal body plan): A mollusc, brachiopod, chordate (to which humans belong), etc. Then go look in the scientific literature for the incremental pathway, via mutation and natural selection, that would show how that body plan was assembled from the alleged common ancestor shared by all animals. What will you find? Answer: A striking failure to show how this could have happened. [I'm simplifying some of Nelson's article linked below for my audience].

Part of the reason for this failure is what is called the "ontogenetic depth" problem presented to us by the study of how animals in each generation go from a fertilized egg to an adult capable of making sex cells (eggs or sperm) cabable of producing the next generation. You began as a fertilized egg that divided into 2 cells, then 4, then 8, etc. You were then implated into your mother's womb, and then later birthed. This process of embyrological development is especially vulnerable to lethal genetic errors in it earliest phases when random changes in genes have a multiplying domino affect upon the developing embryo that result in a miscarriage.

The paradox for Darwinists is that it is precisely these sorts of early mutation-triggered changes in embryonic development that would be needed to transition from one fundamental animal body plan to another (to go from one animal phylum to another). But in order for mutations at early stages of embyronic development to not be lethal, the process of change would almost certainly require foreknowledge of what is needed downstream in embryological development (what the adult organism is going to need, and how to get there in a pre-programmed way). Natural selection acting on random variations is a totally inadequate mechanism for this sort of goal-directed process because it is blind in regard to future needs.

"Ontogenetic depth" is a way to characterize and measure this goal-directed process of embyrological development. Paul Nelson explains this in detail here and here.

Paul Nelson also explains the bottom line in these words:

When a scientific theory, namely neo-Darwinism (i.e., textbook evolutionary theory), claims to explain something like the origin of the animal phyla, and then signally fails to do so over a period of many decades, the failure may have more to do with nature resisting the attempts than with any lack of effort on the part of the relevant community (evolutionary biology). You can't solve a problem you don't understand.

When nature resists, it's because the phenomena to be explained exist qualitatively beyond the reach of the mechanisms thought to be causally responsible. In this instance, random mutation and selection fail, not because they don't occur (they do), but because developmental pathways in all animals are end-directed processes, where the cause needs to see the target to put the entire pathway in place. Undirected mechanisms such as mutation and selection lack the foresight required.

That's the problem of ontogenetic depth, and evolutionary biology has yet to grasp it. There are hints, however -- such as the discussion in Douglas Erwin and James Valentine's new book The Cambrian Explosion (2013) -- that the problem is swimming into view. See too, of course, Steve Meyer's forthcoming Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

If you want a real brain teaser, read with ID theorist Bill Dembski has to say about Meyer's new book in the essay: Before They've Even Seen Stephen Meyer's New Book, Darwinists Waste No Time in Criticizing Darwin's Doubt.

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