Science & Faith
7/16/14 at 11:08 AM 10 Comments

Milestones in a Year of Darwin's Doubt

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Let's review recent significant discussion of Stephen Meyer's book Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Darwin's Doubt passed the 500-reviews milestone on Amazon just before the book's one year anniversary on June 18. Reviews, both popular and professional, indicate that even many critics of intelligent design have found it difficult to simply ignore Meyer's bestseller (although many of the critical reviews display ignorance of the book's precise evidential arguments).

ENV put it this way:

What's the biggest failure of the critics who tried to knock down the argument Steve Meyer makes in Darwin's Doubt -- Matzke, Prothero, Cook in The New Yorker, Farrell in National Review, etc., with the important exception of Marshall in Science? As Meyer says above [use link above to see video], it's the failure to wrestle with or really even to properly acknowledge the book's main argument. That is, the problem of where all the new genetic and epigenetic information needed to build the Cambrian animals came from.

With the passage of exactly a year today (June 18) since the book came out in hardback, that's still true. In fact, at Panda's Thumb, Nick Matzke has posted a response to the new Epilogue in Darwin's Doubt ("Meyer's Hopeless Monster, Part III"). The Epilogue answers the main arguments that the critics did make. Matzke, once you look past the bluster, insults, horn-tooting and obfuscating technical talk, is still offering the excuse that due to cladistic analyses he doesn't have to answer the book's primary contention.

It's like the note from the doctor or your mom that gets you out of school on the day of the big test. You may be home watching reruns on TV, but meanwhile in the classroom the test goes on. The questions it asks still matter, and eventually you'll be called on to answer them.

Meyer's latest accolade: World Magazine designated Darwin's Doubt as among a few select books that collectively received World's annual "Books of the Year" recognition. Although you normally need a World Magazine subscription to read this part (not displayed on the webpage above), here you go:

Stephen Meyer's Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (HarperOne) starts with Charles Darwin's confession: "The difficulty of understanding the absence of vast piles of fossiliferous strata, which on my theory were no doubt somewhere accumulated before the [Cambrian] epoch, is very great." Darwin admitted that the lack of intermediary forms in the fossil record undermined the key element of his theory, incremental change over long periods of time. He expected the missing links would turn up eventually, but to this day the fossil record has revealed no valid prototypes for the "Cambrian explosion" of new animal forms.

Meyer was World's Daniel of the Year in 2009, shortly after he published his previous big book, Signature in the Cell, which unravels the incredibly complex structure of the single living cell and demonstrates the unlikeliness of its evolving by chance. Darwin's Doubt expands that picture with an examination of what the Cambrian explosion reveals and what sort of hypothesis might best fit the evidence. Using anecdote, analogy, drawings, and diagrams, he makes a highly technical subject accessible for a dedicated layman. Along the way he explores the nature of science itself, and how unexamined assumptions can keep scientists from seeing what is right under their noses.

World got it right.

Here are a few recent episodes (with videos) in the controversy over Darwin's Doubt.

ENV July 8. One criticism you certainly cannot make of paleontologist and ID critic Donald Prothero is that he doesn't give us enough material to work with. As Stephen Meyer observes in this conversation about the critics of Darwin's Doubt, Prothero threw pretty much "everything but the kitchen sink" at Meyer's book, from the enigmatic Ediacaran fauna to the artifact hypothesis, and more. Meyer answers Prothero's rant, among others', in the new Epilogue to Darwin's Doubt, and dispatches him even more speedily here [in the video posted].

ENV July 1. Conversations with Stephen Meyer [video]: Meyer's ... new Epilogue ... is a powerful indication that the scientific debate about Darwinian evolution most certainly is on. But says Meyer, absolutely don't miss the confirmation coming in the opposite direction -- from paleontologists, bioengineers, molecular biologists, geneticists, etc., who read the book and were delighted to praise and endorse it, demonstrating how widely recognized the problems with evolutionary theory are, and how increasingly thinkable the solution from intelligent design has become.

This last video points to new paths in scientific research guided by a design theoretic perspective. But you really need to read Darwin's Doubt to understand what this means. (I'm talking here to some of my CP Blog commentators who often make uninformed and unsupported claims about the alleged scientific sterility of ID).

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