Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen C. Meyer.
Thirty or so years ago I smuggled some new Christian media into a closed Communist country. I remember the thrill vividly: the sense of risk, the satisfaction of completion. I’ve had a similar sensation lately reading Darwin’s Doubt. It’s the book the evolutionists won’t want you to read. It’s too hot to handle: it might cause you to question whether evolution happened the way they say it did.
This risky volume Stephen Meyer’s latest challenge to theories of undirected/unguided evolution. I have to admit, though, that it took a few hundred pages for me to warm up to the adventure of reading verboten material — and that’s because the first 80 percent or so of the book contains nothing but mainstream science. Sure, it raises serious doubts about unguided evolution’s explanatory power, but where do those doubts come from?
They come from Charles Darwin, to start with.
The title of the book refers to the difficulty he had in explaining the “Cambrian Explosion,” the vast proliferation of new animal body plans (new “phyla” or major animal groupings) that appears in fossils in the Cambrian strata, deposited some 530 million years ago. These animals appear suddenly in the fossil record, without any plausible predecessor such as Darwin’s theory predicted. Darwin wrote,
The difficulty of understanding the absence of vast piles of fossiliferous strata, which on my theory were no doubt somewhere accumulated before the Silurian [i.e., Cambrian] epoch, is very great. I allude to the manner in which numbers of species of the same group suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks.
Darwin saw this accurately as a challenge to his theory. It remains one still. The animals appear too quickly in the record to be explained through his gradualistic theory.
Mainstream Science’s Continuing Questions
And it remains a challenge from the perspective of mainstream science. Various theories have been proposed in explanation of the suddenness with which these new phyla came on the scene. Perhaps selective fossilization caused their predecessors to disappear from paleontologists’ view. Mainstream science casts serious doubt on that view. Statistical paleontology renders it deeply improbable. The soft-body hypothesis appears unlikely to succeed, since the evidence shows soft-bodied organisms have been frequently fossilized.
Or maybe the Cambrian animals’ precursors really are there in the record, in the form of exotic Ediacaran fossils. But these organisms are not clearly animals of any sort, and what they are is so in confusion that they could hardly be considered evidence for anything. Further,
As Nature recently noted, if the Ediacaran fauna “were animals, they bore little or no resemblance to any other creatures, either fossil or extant.” … This absence of clear affinities has led an increasing number of paleontologists to reject an ancestor/dependent relationship between the Ediacaran and Cambrian fauna.
Scientists have proposed genetic histories for these phyla, but as Meyer pointedly puts it, these scenarios all “assume a gene.” And a lot more besides. That is to say, they beg the question of evolution’s explanatory adequacy by assuming that it must be true. From there they suggest pathways according to which genes “must have” evolved. But there’s no evidence of it in the record.
I could go on summarizing chapter by chapter, but even in summary form it would lengthen this review beyond reason, and besides, the pattern remains the same: the hypotheses for explanations of the Cambrian explosion have been rejected — by mainstream science.
That’s the account Meyer gives of it. I’m no expert in the field, but I have to admit it’s convincing. The Cambrian Explosion remains unexplained on any standard terms.
Too Hot for Science?
So if it’s all basic science, what makes this book so hot? It’s Meyer’s suggestion that explanations need not be limited to standard terms; that the data might point to a Designer who intelligently guided the world to be the way it was 530 million years ago — and by extension, today as well.
That’s a tough one for mainstream science to swallow. I think I can see, or almost rather feel, why that might be. I’ve written about it previously, in the context of another ID-related passage on the Cambrian Explosion; I called it “What’s Wrong and What’s Right About Intelligent Design.” There’s a definite weirdness to the idea that God (yes, I’ll identify him as the designer, even though that conclusion doesn’t derive from ID) did something like that in our world. One almost wants to shout “Hey! Quit meddling with our world! Stick to your own reality, would you?” — as if our reality were not first and above all God’s.
Too Hot For the (Ahem) Reviewers?
And I wouldn’t be surprised if that same feeling might explain the anger that ID provokes. I get the sense from Lawrence Krauss that he doesn’t want God meddling in his world.
That anger was evident when Meyer’s last book, Signature in the Cell, was published. Some time after its release I ran a quantitative study of Amazon.com reviews of the book. Here’s some of the analysis.
- Negative (1-star) reviews were significantly more likely to come from reviewers who definitely (31 percent) or likely (43 percent) hadn’t read much of the book. Only 26 percent of 1-star reviews came from people who had definitely read it.
- Theological considerations clearly motivated just 8 percent of 5-star rating reviews, but 51% (!) of 1-star criticisms.
- Only 9 percent of 1-star reviewers were able to avoid black/white, simplistic dogmatism in their statements, while 75% of positive reviewers avoided that kind of language.
- And 86 percent of 1-star raters used personal pejorative language (accusations of stupidity, unthinkingness, or worse) with respect to Meyer or ID proponents generally.
It adds up to a general response that could far better be characterized as emotional rather than reasoned; reacting rather than thinking; stereotyped rather than reflective. I’ll be interested to see how the same kind of analysis pans out with this book.
Signature in the Cell was too hot to handle; or at least, its Amazon.com critics handled it poorly. Darwin’s Doubt promises to be just as hot to the touch — even though most of it is really quite mainstream. It’s that suggestion of a meddling Designer that bothers people:
There’s More to Reality…
One almost wants to shout “Hey! Quit meddling with our world! Stick to your own reality, would you?” — as if our reality were not first and above all God’s. The problem with a book like this isn’t with its science. It’s with the suggestion that there’s more to reality than we want to deal with.
Hi, Tom. That’s an interesting analysis of reviews of Signature in the Cell. As you may have noticed, my own review, which has been highlighted as the most popular for a few years, now, was also pretty ambivalent. I thought Meyer spent too little time on the actual science, and too much time on autobiography and explaining the science to his readers in a seemingly patronizing way.
I did find at least three very strong one-star or so reviews that did seem to grapple with the science in a serious way, though. It would be interesting to see Meyer, or someone who agrees with him, rebut those reviews. This is not a trivial suggestion, since I found one or two Amazon reviewers giving a stronger argument against Behe’s Edge of Evolution than Coyne, Carroll, or Dawkins, or at least two of the three.
I take it from what you say that DD avoids the faults I criticize SITC for? It’s a strange argument, in any case: it seems bizarre to suppose God would create life that way. I have sympathy with those who dismiss Meyer’s argument, or call it “God of the gaps” science, even if it turns out to be a really good book. But it’ll be interesting to see how he deals with these objections, if he does.
Looking forward to reading this one – I just downloaded it to my Kindle 🙂
I’m going to re-read SITC first, just to refresh my memory. I also need to think scientifically again about Meyers’ arguments.
On a side note, I wonder if this whole debate is our 21st century equivalent of Paul’s argument in Romans 1. What do you think?
I think Meyer does a respectable job with the science, considering he wrote it for a lay audience (a pretty well educated audience, that is).
As for “bizarre,” yes, that’s why I wrote this. I think there’s something unexpected, foreign-seeming, even alien about it. It leaves open the question of just how God did it. And it also invites us to consider what I wrote at the end of this review: just who is it we’re uncomfortable with invading and interfering with our world?
Victoria, I’d like to know which portion of Romans 1 you have in mind. Not acknowledging God as creator? Not seeing his eternal power and invisible nature?
Yes, and specifically Romans 1:20-23
my emphasis added
Sure, modern man doesn’t bow down to graven images in the literal sense, but scientism and metaphysical naturalism are the 21st century idols that we have created for ourselves to displace God (because He is unnecessary to that worldview).
Signature in the Cell was too hot to handle; or at least, its Amazon.com critics handled it poorly.
Of course, Amazon.com critics don’t prove a whole heck of a lot about the status – or motivations – of “mainstream science”.
Meyer is certainly correct that it’s not only ID’ists and creationists who doubt the sufficiency of the neo-Darwinian paradigm to explain evolutionary change. Some died-in-the-wool evolutionists do as well. For example, University of Oklahoma, geophysicist David Deming wrote in 2011:
However he then asks:
From the Theistic Evolutionary perspective:
A detailed explanation of the above can be found here.
Sounds like a really interesting book. I have never read anything from Darwin himself one evolution that didn’t promote it. Sounds like great ammo next time I talk to an evolutionist.
Ugh, I had really wanted to pre-order this for the discount, but the deal was only available in the US. Pity.
I enjoy Stephen Meyer (from the talks I’ve seen and articles I’ve read) and anticipate a very interesting read with this one.
*Signature in the Cell* was a good read – this sounds like a great follow up. My pre-order should arrive in the next day or two.
It’s been very interesting seeing some of the reactions to SITC, and no doubt we’ll see the same for its successor. “Science” is supposed to be skeptical, and open to self-correction and re-evaluation of cherished theories. In practice, outliers like Meyer usually get shouted down, and sometimes it is only when a paradigm is overturned that they are listened to.
Alex Rosenberg points out in his *Philosophy of Science* that the self-correctiveness of science is something that happens in the long run – and often not in the short-term.
Myers was on Stand To Reason this week talking about his new book.
Even though I would consider myself an evolutionist, I though it was an fascinating show and I was particularly interested in Myer’s optimism for the future of ID, and the trouble that neo-Darwinism is currently in – at least in some people’s estimation.
I think we can look at Meyer’s new book in two ways: (1) It’s a scientific critique of the sufficiency of the neo-Darwinian paradigm to explain the so-called “Cambrian explosion”. (2) It’s purpose is to promote ID as a scientific alternative.
I think #1 can stand on it’s own without #2. Listen to Meyer’s interview on Stand to Reason and you’ll hear that he actually downplays #2. Summarizing (and paraphrasing) briefly he says, “I believe that ID is science… so?”
In other words, whether or not ID is, or ever could become, science there are serious problems with the existing neo-Darwinian explanation.
You might want to read a review by someone who knows the science involved: http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/06/meyers-hopeless-2.html
It really, really isn’t the case that scientists are afraid of the “evidence” that people like Meyer invoke. It really, really is the case that virtually all of Meyer’s “evidence” is based on misunderstandings of that science, or flat-out ignorance of relevant scientific findings that demolish said “evidence.”
But seriously, don’t just take my word for it–read Nick Matzke’s review of the book. If you can form intelligent responses to the many, many flaws Matzke points out, then I guess you can consider yourself satisfied. But if you dismiss the review–or fail to even read it at all–because you assume that “scientists are just lying anyway,” then why bother discussing scientific issues at all?
Oh, and I imagine you’ll probably delete this comment–I’m really not trying to insult anybody, though. My point is just learn the science before you form opinions, not the other way around!
Wow, that article of Matzke’s has been getting a lot of airplay! Here is what I wrote in response to one of the half-dozen or so times it’s been mentioned so far on Amazon.
Now you come along, posting under a really wild pseudonym, and you tell me to learn the science before I form an opinion. I have to wonder how much of the science you’ve learned. Do you have a degree in biology? Can you assess the arguments from a solid technical standpoint? Have you formed an opinion anyway?
Perhaps you are a biologist; perhaps I guessed wrong about that. But here’s the thing: we have a new and very biased Ph.D. biologist trying to make waves with a statement on a very biased website. We have senior biologists and paleontologists disagreeing with him. Shall we all withhold judgment completely until every one of them comes to agreement and can explain it all to the rest of us without any controversy between them?
Well, maybe that’s not a bad idea. I did say this:
But I would also say this: I don’t know enough of the science to pronounce it forever unexplainable on standard terms. I’m willing to suspend judgment on what caused the Cambrian Explosion.
Also, did I say “scientists are lying anyway”? Did I imply it? Why did you put that in quotes?
I think you’ve stereotyped me. Do you believe in that?
“As for “bizarre,” yes, that’s why I wrote this. I think there’s something unexpected, foreign-seeming, even alien about it. It leaves open the question of just how God did it.”
I have never found it bizarre I guess because I have never felt God creating each “kind” directly was biblical. Its actually more than a feeling . It really is unbiblical. Genesis has just three commands for life and they are not even abracadabra life appears but they are commands given to the earth and the sea to bring forth life not even for life to spring forth on its own.
We know that God brings the animals to Adam to name individually not that they are created one by one or distinctly. Individual design is anthropomorphic not necessarily divine. Divine design can be almost infinite in variation and instantaneous or follow a law that governs and creates all kinds of organisms with nothing but the law/word governing the design.
This I think is what holds back creationism. We have the image of God painting the colors on a bird’s wing as a means of creation when that is most definitely not the case. Just like us as human beings he gives life its form and its governing rules during creation but it comes with great variation but with no paintbrush.
Even in ID we talk about intelligence but our reference point is our own where God has told us he doesn’t think like we do. God doesn’t think through situations or even through designs. He commands them to be.
Tom Gilson – Couple points. The “wild pseudonym” hallucigenia is a reference to a Cambrian-era genus.
And while “Matzke posted his review on a rabidly pro-Darwinist website”, you’ve posted your review on an arguably rabidly – and self-admittedly ‘militant’ – pro-Christian website. As C.S. Lewis said, “That is why the motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits. I decline the motive game and resume the discussion.”
Accusations of ‘bias’ are pretty much irrelevant. Lewis also said, “You must show that a man is wrong before you start explaining why he is wrong.” “It is the same with all thinking and all systems of thought. If you try to find out which are tainted by speculating about the wishes of the thinkers, you are merely making a fool of yourself. You must first find out on purely logical grounds which of them do, in fact, break down as arguments. Afterwards, if you like, go on and discover the psychological causes of the error.”
And, finally, I’m not surprised there are a few professionals willing to praise Meyer’s book. But then again, there’s Project Steve.
Ray, when I say that Panda’s Thumb is “rabidly” pro-evolution, it’s not “arguably” that. It’s not “arguable” at all. I’ve commented there, and the reaction has been hot, nasty ridicule. Not only that, but it’s been rabidly pro-evolution in another sense: I made a comment once there that had to do with a well-defined and circumscribed sub-point of a topic. The reaction (I say reaction, not response, and I say it advisedly) was a sneering, snarky multiple demand to justify everything that creationists believe.
I’ve experienced the same kind of thing under my own name and under a pseudonym I tried once, just in case people were reacting to the knowledge that I run this blog.
There is no offer of respect toward people who disagree there.
Bias is irrelevant? Wow. Then you would have been fine with Phillip-Morris funding all the research that’s ever been done on cigarettes and health?
Further on that quote from Lewis, Ray. it’s a fine principle when the matter is one that each person can assess for him- or herself, and especially when it’s a matter of “purely logical grounds.” But this is an incredibly complex technical matter, for which the great majority of us must rely on trusted and trustworthy persons to guide us. Where bias is strongly in evidence, trust is not wisely offered.
Is Einstein’s theory of general relativity a theory that must be accepted without question? Do any physicists dare to suggest openly that it will some day be replaced or superseded by another theory? Anyone who reads any of the literature knows the answer to the first question is no, for the second it’s yes. Why should Darwin’s theory or it’s modern version, neo-Darwinism, be treated any differently? What makes it so sacrosanct?
Tom Gilson –
You mistake the point. Sidney Hook said it pretty well: “Before impugning an opponent’s motives, even when they legitimately may be impugned, answer his arguments.” Not all of Galileo’s arguments were sound, but some of them were. We can see why he advanced the bad ones – but that takes nothing from the good ones. Phillip-Morris’ studies can be critiqued for sample preselection, failure to report studies disconfirming their hypothesis, etc.
True, it’s hard to catch all those effects, which can be subtle, so you want independent confirmation and multiple investigators. But when such a huge majority of biologists, paleontologists, geneticists, and so forth agree on things, that’s indicative. You can find people who question Relativity even today – that doesn’t mean you should invest in an FTL drive.
That’s actually a cogent point. Which is why I don’t take Meyers word for it.
No, you miss the point.
First, I have answered Nick Matzke’s arguments over and over and over again on this blog, ad nauseum. He is a really lousy logician, he expresses a lot of personal dislike for non-materialist answers, and he’s practiced intellectual dishonesty. So I’ve done what you say, thank you very much.
Second, this is what I said in the OP:
I find Meyer’s work convincing. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t set myself up as an authority. I don’t answer to you, so you have no need to try to force me to change my mind. I’m not harming you by my opinion, so there’s no need for you to try to force a change of mind on me for that reason, either.
To the extent that I’m influencing anyone else, I’m fine with that as long as they understand what I am saying and what I’m not, and don’t read more into it than that. I’m fine with them reading this exchange and drawing whatever they want to draw out of it.
But I’m not fine with continuing to argue it with you. I think your point about bias is completely out of context and irrelevant to this situation, where it’s a question of authorities’ trustworthiness. You keep pressing it, but I’m not interested in being pressed.
Tom Gilson –
When did I say that? ‘Forcing you to change your mind’? If you don’t want to discuss it, fine, but if you post a review and open up comments for it, you might expect a disagreement or two.
As you note, of course not, and sure, respectively. But also note – whatever replaces Relativity will have to look an awful lot like Relativity for all the areas we can currently test. (The GPS system would be useless within hours if not for Relativistic corrections, for example.) In fact, in pretty much the same way that we still use Newtonian mechanics for everything from designing bridges to piloting space probes. Relativity isn’t wrong so much as incomplete – and the areas where it’s (potentially) wrong are pretty exotic indeed, like around rotating black holes and such.
It’s certainly possible – in fact, it’s quite certain – that our understanding of evolution is likewise incomplete. That doesn’t mean that it’s wrong about a whole lot of very fundamental things.
I can see how Newtonian physics can be incorporated into special and general releativity. They’re not really incompatible. However, it at least appears on the surface that QM and STR/GTR are incompatible. According to a Stanford University website:
IMO I don’t think anyone presently knows how a so called “Theory of Everything” will actually look like.
Of course that discussion is just another a rabbit trail into the weeds.
What’s the big deal with what Meyer is doing? He’s posing a problem that even Darwin himself recognized and asking after 150 years where do we stand? Is the Darwinian, now neo-Darwinian, mechanism of natural selection acting on random mutation sufficient to explain the rapid develop and infusion of new information that we see during the Cambrian era? Meyer thinks not. If someone out there does have an explanation, they can prove him wrong and set the record straight.
Has anyone ever read The Great Evolution Mystery, by author Gordon Rattray Taylor?
In a nutshell, he challenges the Neo-Darwinian model with the same sorts of questions that Meyers has done, namely that there are problems and issues that as yet have no satisfactory naturalistic explanations. However, Taylor does not question that naturalistic evolution has occurred, and that the only explanations must be naturalistic, i.e., random mutations and natural selection, or time + chance + [properties and dynamics of](matter + energy) = life ( hierarchical order + complex information(codes,algorithms,programs)). The appearance of teleology and design in the natural world is an illusion for Taylor, as it is for Francis Crick and Richard Dawkins.
It is a very well-written book, fascinating and informative, and Taylor knows how tell the story.
He has a token chapter at the end of the book asking if God plays dice or not, so at most Taylor could concede deism. It was written in 1981, but is still available at Amazon, and the few reviews there are favorable, even those that disagree with Taylor’s arguments. He says, in effect, “Naturalistic evolution is true, and we all know it, but for pity’s sake, let’s find some decent evidence and arguments to solve those unsolved problems”. You don’t see the kind of invective criticism of Taylor that we see leveled against Meyers and the ID camp. Interesting…
Contrast that with another author, A.E. Wilder-Smyth, writing 30-40 years ago as well, challenging the neo-Darwinian model with unsolved problems as well, but from a theistic perspective – Wilder-Smyth was one of the early critics who argued that the formula should be time + chance + [properties and dynamics of](matter+energy) + information(codes, algorithms, programs) = life( hierarchical order ). He argued that information was necessary from the beginning, that it was an input to the process, not a result. Furthermore, for Wilder-Smyth, the source of that information is none other than the Triune God of the Bible. Wilder-Smyth was a professional scientist, but he, like Myers and the ID camp, had the audacity to challenge scientism and metaphysical naturalism.
Victoria discussing Taylor:
That’s how we do science? We decide a priori that something is true and then try to prove it?
That’s an interesting twist on the form a lot of research takes (not all, but a lot). Simply stated and in its simplest form, the researcher proposes that some hypothesis H1 might be true, and runs experiments trying to prove it’s false. Of course there’s a way of saying it differently, that he or she is trying to prove it’s true, but the way that’s frequently done is by trying everything possible to prove H1 false.
Only if that fails (if the null, H0, hypothesis is rejected at a sufficient significance level) is H1 regarded to be supported. Not proven, but “supported.”
Just to be clear, that is my paraphrase of Taylor’s position, not my position 🙂
@JAD: That’s how we do science? We decide a priori that something is true and then try to prove it?
No, we do 120 years of additional research, filling in a lot of blanks, and hugely expanding on Darwin’s (and Wallace’s) original insight. Then we continue work on the remaining blanks.
We don’t throw out 120 years of results and say naturalistic evolution is wrong, back to the drawing board, because Stephen Meyer can’t figure out how to fill in one or two blanks.
Well, you’re absolutely about that last paragraph!
OK, then we say
“[properties and dynamics of](matter, energy) + time + chance + selection + ??? = life ( specified complex information( codes, algorithms, programs) + hierarchically ordered systems)”
What goes in ‘???’ to make the equation work, then?
Have you actually read Meyers’ books? Followed up on the extensive references he cites? It is not just Meyers who can’t fill in the blanks. Read that book I mentioned above (The Great Evolution Mystery) and Taylor’s references.
Science works best when scientists are free to challenge the reigning paradigms and models, and even discarding them if necessary, and replacing them with new ones. A good thing, too, or else we’d still be classical physicists, or worse, geocentrists.
No, I haven’t read Meyer’s books. Based on the reviews of experts, they don’t seem to be very convincing.
Are there any full reviews (as opposed to book jacket blurbs) by paleontologists that suggest he knows what he’s talking about and fairly presenting his points?
I think that the reason his books only receive reviews from “biased” experts like Nick Matzke is that for any serious and impartial scientist, Meyer’s output is not worth the time a review would require.
Scientists are free to challenge the reigning paradigms and replace them with new ones. But if they are not able to convince more than 1% of their colleagues that it would be useful to replace the reigning paradigm, it won’t be replaced.
For those who do not wish to buy or read Meyer’s book here is a paper he published back in 2007 in which he briefly states the main thesis of his book. Here it is in a nutshell:
Or. even more briefly, how does natural selection acting on random variation account for the vast infusion of information needed to create all the “novel animal forms and body plans” that we see arising during the Cambrian era?
That’s a legitimate scientific question. Attacking or disparaging Meyer for asking it doesn’t make it go away.
PS The on line version was published in 2007. The original paper was published in 2004 in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (volume 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239).
@JAD 39 cites Meyer’s paper.
Thanks. That paper was controversial, of course. Those unfamiliar with the controversy should look into it. It suggests why the book is published by a religious publisher rather than a scientific one.
As to “novel animal forms and body plans”, Matzke’s review of the book referenced above claims that the change was from simple worms to more complex worms over thirty million years. That doesn’t sound beyond the plausible power of natural processes to me. Natural selection of course is not the only natural process acting upon mutation.
How does Meyer measure/describe the differences between the phyla?
From a population of simple worms, with simple developmental pathways (simple compared to those of modern animals), I expect that genetic drift might cause minor differences to arise that could be the basis for greater differences later on.
Under the mainstream view, if a single species of simple worms divided into three very similar species, each of those three daughter species might eventually be identified as the first species of a new phylum. That does not require that the three daughters be as different from each other as modern species of those phyla are.
Does Meyer take into account other processes besides selection?
If he exaggerates the variation among body plans and suggests that selection is the only natural process that might be involved, his framing of the legitimate question as to what happened deserves to be disparaged.
IMHO, an even more interesting philosophical question: what the heck is “information” in a naturalist, mechanistic worldview?
(hear random, barely coherent answers)
Information is… Shannon? Reduction of uncertainty? That’s one option, at least. And it’s related to mind in the sense that…
in the sense that…
I guess I skipped a step.
What is “mind” in a naturalist, mechanistic worldview?
One of the more frequent complaints brought against Meyer is that he relies on “Creationist Information,” which suffers at least two problems. It lacks rigorous definition: it can’t be mathematically specified; and it also lacks proper naturalistic/scientistic boundaries: it permits one to think of information in the mind of an unknown designer, and who knows what that might mean?
I find these complaints hard to understand. Maybe someone could clarify them for us. What is it about DNA that makes it not a carrier of information?
In his 2004 paper Meyer makes reference to complex specified information or CSI.
It is not far fetched to describe DNA as a carrier of information. But without a rigorous definition it is hard to know what to make of that fact.
The nutshell JAD provided above says there was some new information infused at some point. And JAD thinks there was a vast infusion of information needed during that era.
If it can’t be mathematically specified, how can we determine that the amount needed was vast? I suppose because there were a lot of phyla that appeared? Is that why the amount needed was vast?
If so, we must know that it takes a lot of information to create a new phylum, right? So how do you calculate the amount of information required to create a new phylum?
As I said at 40, under the mainstream view, each new phylum starts when a single species becomes two separate species. The amount of information needed immediately is no more than the amount of information needed for a new species. (It is not obvious that it is the start of a new phylum at that time, and given the state of the fossil record we probably could not identify the first species of a new phylum if we had a fossil of it.)
Can that amount of information be created without design? If not, that would suggest that design is required for the creation of every species.
If the descendants of one of those two diverging species split further into other species that are nevertheless clumped together, and the descendants of the other do the same, but the two clumps diverge from each other, they may eventually be classified as separate phyla.
When the clumps are different enough to be classified as separate phyla, then at that time it would take a vast change in the genome to make any species of one from a species of the other, because the two original species and their most immediate descendant species are all extinct. If those old species weren’t extinct, the groups would not be separate enough to be called separate phyla.
Would that vast change in the genome be a vast infusion of information? If so, then would a small change in the genome be a small infusion of information?
Each time those diverging species split, is more information needed? The “infusion” of information required at any particular time is not large, in my opinion. The amount of information to create a new phylum accumulates in small amounts from the time the first species in the phylum arises until the time millions of years later that it is clear from the fossil and molecular record that the descendants of “this” group of more complex worms is significantly and consistently different from the descendants of “that” group of worms that are more complex in slightly different ways.
Is that your understanding of the mainstream view as well? I might not be right. If that is the mainstream view, where is the need for the vast infusion that could not have happened naturally?
How do you calculate or estimate the amount of Meyer information needed to create a new phylum?
I like to take this one step further. It makes the same point, but in a way that makes it much more personal. It’s basically the argument from reason.
We know the human mind is the product of evolution and nothing else (this is what naturalism entails). This process is ongoing – even today. How does natural selection acting on random variation account for the vast infusion of information needed to create reliable rational thought?
It deserves the same response that G. Rodrigues gave above…
(hear random, barely coherent answers)
Tom, you wrote:
“These animals appear suddenly in the fossil record…”
How suddenly? Suddenly relative to what?
“The animals appear too quickly in the record to be explained through his gradualistic theory.”
Do they? How do you know? Is that via hearsay, or by you examining the evidence for yourself?
“I think Meyer does a respectable job with the science, considering he wrote it for a lay audience (a pretty well educated audience, that is).”
On what do you base this claim, Tom? You’re clearly unfamiliar with the relevant science and appear to be afraid to check on Meyer.
Then you quote Meyer “quoting Nature? What does this even mean? Attributing something in a paper published in a journal to the journal itself is SOP for hacks. Have you even read the paper in Nature for yourself? If you’re going to reproduce the misattributed quote, the citation would be absolutely necessary, would it not?
“Negative (1-star) reviews were significantly more likely to come from reviewers who definitely (31 percent) or likely (43 percent) hadn’t read much of the book.”
So how many of Meyer’s descriptions of the primary scientific literature have you personally read and checked against Meyer’s citations, Tom?
“I’m no expert in the field, but I have to admit it’s convincing.”
Then how do you have any rational basis for your judgment? I don’t think that being an expert in the field is necessary, btw. If you answered my questions above in a nonvenomous way, I think even you might see the glaring problems with your review.
“Simply stated and in its simplest form, the researcher proposes that some hypothesis H1 might be true, and runs experiments trying to prove it’s false.”
Correct. So, what experiments (not merely experiments, but including empirical observations like looking for a particular type of fossil in a particular stratum/location) does Meyer offer? What about the DNA evidence, particularly the differences?
And since you’re proposing that Meyer is correct and the people who actually do science are wrong, why not empirically test your hypothesis that Meyer is accurately representing the primary scientific literature by sampling what he cited?
That would seem to require a lot less time than what you’ve spent writing your review and so many comments defending it.
John, it’s a book review. I wrote, “I’m no expert in the field, but I have to admit it’s convincing.”
Here’s my position in the ID controversy. I am not a physical scientist. My M.S. is in a branch of social psychology. I have spent many years watching the ID controversy play out in the blogs, the media, and the social media, and I have done considerable study into the philosophical underpinnings of the issue. Those are my primary areas of interest.
So I wrote a review summarizing some of what Meyer wrote. I said “I’m no expert, but I have to admit it’s convincing.” Apparently that bothers you. I think you can relax: it really ought not matter so much to you whether it’s convincing to me or not. I’m no expert, remember?
And here’s one thing that makes it convincing to me, which also ties in with the way I closed this review. It has little to do with biology and everything to do with trust: something that ID’s opponents don’t deserve, according to everything I’ve seen.
ID’s opponents twist ID, for one thing. They distort what ID says, and then they laugh at that distortion. They light fire to a straw man, dance over its death, and mock those who think ID still lives, never noticing that the straw man is a fake of their own building.
ID’s opponents fight dirty. They play rotten rhetorical games. Search “Jerry Coyne” on this blog if you want examples of both these. Or consider their constant tendentious conflation of ID with creationism. Or their complete refusal even to hear ID’s answers to the false “God of the gaps” charge. (I’ll bet you thought ID opponents’ positions on these things were legitimate. If so, then you’re not listening, either.)
ID’s opponents seek to intimidate ID proponents. I know of one tenured biology prof who won’t publicly admit his support for ID because he’s sure he’ll lose his grant funding — in a field not at all dependent on evolutionary theory. PZ Myers said to me at the atheist Reason Rally, “Are they ridiculing you here? They should be.”
Far too often, ID’s opponents are completely out to lunch with their employment of reason and logic. Dawkins’s use of reason is horrible.
And thus, for reasons completely unrelated to what’s in the biology literature, I don’t trust the anti-ID rhetorical machine.
That’s my field. That’s where I claim to know my stuff. That’s why I closed this review by speaking to that aspect of the controversy.
You say I could look up the papers Meyer quoted in less time than it took to respond to comments on this blog. That’s another sadly simple view of reality. No, in order for me to assess Meyer’s biological claims with real expertise I would have to develop real expertise.
I wrote a book review. I presented an opinion. It need not bother you that I did.
If I were you, what would bother me a lot is the way people on my side of the issue are carrying forth their arguments. They may know their biology, but they’re really awful at engaging in reasoned discussion, and it’s killing their credibility. ID’s opponents are trying to set themselves up as experts that laymen should trust, but they keep doing things that display themselves as not being trustworthy.
So pardon me for drawing the reasonable conclusion that I shouldn’t trust them — but it’s a reasonable conclusion.
Indeed, this was Darwin’s other doubt, which Plantinga honed into the evolutionary argument against naturalism.
“But then with me the horrid doubt always arises whether the convictions of man’s mind, which has been developed from the mind of the lower animals, are of any value or at all trustworthy. Would any one trust in the convictions of a monkey’s mind, if there are any convictions in such a mind?”
Here’s my position in the ID controversy.
ID is not a science, and the absolute vast majority of biologists and other scientists that study the history and nature of life, simply ignore it. How does postulating a designer, which is something that can never be proven, help at all?
The idea is not testable or verifiable, you can’t make predictions from it, so the whole idea is just pointless and serves nothing but to validate the presuppositions of religious people.
What you really mean is ID is not science as defined by Metaphysical Naturalism.
(John, you may not remember this, but your participation on this blog was disallowed a long time ago, and for good reason.)
Then why don’t you?
So if the “idea”, and by this I presume you mean the concept of design, whether via direct intervention or via guided evolution, is not falsifiable in the usual scientific sense (which by the away, I agree with), then so it isn’t the idea of *unguided* evolution. Good; this means we will be spared the usual nonsense about the matter that is so prevalent in some quarters.
Here is a short video where Meyer talks about the difficulties of relying on natural selection acting on random mutation alone to create new functions and generate new body plans etc. If you disagree with Meyer, fine. Just tell us how it’s done.
Claiming something to not be a science is fraught with difficulties, and is known as the demarcation problem. There are a wide range of views amongst philosophers of science.
Many theories have been ignored by the majority and subsequently been accepted – that is certainly no criteria for what is and isn’t science.
Just because you can’t think of how it might help does not mean others can’t think of ways that it can. Likewise, how do you know a designer can never be proven? Is that a scientific statement?
Popper rejected verification as a criteria for science in favour of falsification. As for testability and predictions, you can test astrology and make predictions from it that are sometimes true. Science?
Here’s the Discovery Institute’s review of Matzke’s review. Worth reading.
And Matzke’s response: Luskin’s Hopeless Monster.
I won’t comment on the accuracy of either side, only to say that I am impressed that Matzke can write a 9400 word detailed response in about 18 hours.
“Has anyone ever read The Great Evolution Mystery, by author Gordon Rattray Taylor?”
Yes I have read it, it is a very good book. Taylor advocates non-Darwinian evolutionary theories such as orthogenesis and Neo-Lamarckism. He’s dead now but what he said has come true about evolution being more than the Darwinists assumed.
If you read modern scientific papers there’s lots of stuff now being published on non-Darwinian evolution or epigenetic semi-Lamarckian mechanisms.
Instead of the debate over intelligent design which is a non-issue to scientists, the debate is about the mechanisms of evolution and we are discovering that evolution is totally non-Darwinian than the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the 1940s assumed.
I suggest reading the website of Denis Noble which provides evidence how all the assumptions of Neo-Darwinism have been broken.
forests – Seeing the line “The lecture was given to a large general audience at a major international Congress in Suzhou, China” on Denis Noble’s home page triggered alarms. Sure enough:
Um, your source doesn’t agree with that:
That said, the creationists and the supporters of ID tend to take every example of a break with neodarwinism as a vindication of their views. Some have done the same with my article, despite the fact that I make it clear that I am arguing for a return to a “more nuanced, less dogmatic view of evolutionary theory (see also Muller, 2007; Mesoudi ̈ et al.2013), which is much more in keeping with the spirit of Darwin’s own ideas than is the Neo-Darwinist view.”
@29 Ray, if the entire body of literature we call “Evolution” and the scientific processes that vet this information, public peer review, etc, are not enough to pierce the tough skin of incorrigibility you find here, where do you get your hope in being able to do so?
Sure enough, what, Ray? You charlatan, if there’s any connection between your first two links and the conference on Dennis Noble’s home page, you haven’t explained what it is. Does P.Z. Myers’ invitation to a conference in China have any bearing on the one Noble mentioned? Or do you conclude that every “major international conference in China” is a scam?
Does it make any difference to you that the IUPS, where Noble will soon be presenting a version of the lecture, is being opened by the president of the Royal Society?
Do you have any integrity at all???
Further, forests said Noble was indicating that “all the assumptions of neo-Darwinism have been broken.” You say that Noble disagrees, and then you quote him saying that he has made a break from Neo-Darwinis, that it is essentially wrong.
Your logic is as weak as your integrity.
Sure, Noble denies that his work lends support to ID or “creationism,” whatever he means by that (it is an extremely slippery term, depending on who is using it). That’s because he doesn’t want to support “creationism.” But if he has found that Neo-Darwinism is scientifically unsupportable to some greater or lesser degree, he can’t cap off the implications of that just by saying, “sorry, creationists, this is my discovery and I really don’t like you trying to use it for yourself.”
I don’t know where ID proponents (or “creationists”) claim every break from Neo-Darwinism as vindication for our views, but evidence against Neo-Darwinism certainly does count as evidence in favor of Intelligent Design. Noble is arguing against a straw man if he says we always take it as “vindication;” our position is more modest than that.
If you’re hoping for our “incorrigibility” to be “pierced,” you might call on your friend Ray to be more persuasive. Dishonesty doesn’t get either of you anywhere.
Tom, I thought you would have the insight by now to understand that the perception of “dishonesty” is just an artifact of the “world view clash”. To me, from the other side of that divide you are thoroughly dishonest, and self-deluded intellectually in your handling of any of the material in your blog. Consider how credulous you appear to one on the other side for your Christian beliefs and so incorrigible and highly skeptical on evolution. That is utterly dishonest and obviously self deluded from this side of the divide. So please, try to keep that charge under wraps.
Tom, recall my point is that if the body of work/literature called “evolution” is not enough to persuade you, you are thoroughly, hopelessly incorrigible (from my side of the divide). The task is no longer one of amassing more evidence and argument. It is a matter of having a disposition to be moved by good argument, not dismissive of it. It is a matter of psychology, self awareness, how we form and maintain beliefs even in the face of good reason and evidence.
Stephen, for me and for most of humanity, “dishonesty” is identified by lies, prevarications, manipulations, and evasions that one can actually point to and show that some deceit or mishandling of the truth is involved. Ray committed such acts of dishonesty. I identified them, whereas you accepted them without complaint. Why would you do that? I still suggest that your position would be easier to support if you would stand against dishonesty practiced by people on your side.
You consider my Christian beliefs “credulous.” Fine. I think you are wrong. Regardless, to be credulous is not to be manipulative, it is to be readily manipulated, which is not dishonesty, it’s a different kind of flaw. It is not to deceive but to be easily deceived, which is also not dishonesty. To be self-deluded is not to be intentional in deluding others. So if I am credulous, it does not follow that I am dishonest.
I recognize that there is considerable, yea, even massive evidence in favor of microevolution and common descent. I also recognize that there is a philosophical substratum under the interpretations of that evidence. My disagreement is not with the evidence but with the interpretation, and it has to do with my disagreement with the materialistic philosophies animating neo-Darwinism.
If you call that dishonest, then kindly show me what I’m hiding from you or from myself, or where I’m lying or manipulating anyone.
Oh, and by the way: there is strong evidence for Christianity. You don’t see it. That’s a sad thing, in my opinion. But that’s not the topic of this thread, so I won’t carry that any further here.
The careful blend of credulity and incorrigibility is an important mental facet of the critical thinker.I can hardly think of a better indication of the mis-attenuation of these cognitive parameters than to hold a confident believe in Christian doctrine and to be suspicious, skeptical or disbelieving in evolution.
Skillful thinking is identified not by the conclusions one reaches but by the quality of reasoning by which one reaches them. See here for more on that.
(I note, by the way, that you ignored what I wrote in my previous comment.)
Tom, I regret using the word “dishonesty”. But I know the feeling you are referring to. I don’t like the word “dishonesty” because I want to avoid the moralistic frame. I prefer the more psychological “self-delusion”. Dishonesty requires a consciousness of what you are doing. I believe you are not conscious of what appears to me (on the other side of the divide) as glaring biases in your position. The peculiar mix of credulity and incorrigibility, as I stated above, raises for me this red flag (what you call dishonesty) that something is not right here.
Stephen, if your point is to identify me as a bad, careless, incorrigible thinker, then you have said it. It’s utterly irrelevant to the rest of the conversation, however, where we’re interested in arguments, not ad hominems or expressions of the genetic fallacy.
What I accepted is that the so called world view clash can be interpreted by the participants as “dishonesty” on the part of the interlocutor. I have not called you dishonest except in defense of you call me dishonest. I would have preferred to keep that charge under wraps knowing that that is simply an evaluative choice in explaining the world view clash in action.
I think I have since responded to rest of #66.
And what I call dishonesty is not what you said (in #69) I call dishonesty. See #66, which you have ignored twice now.
I did not call you dishonest, Stephen. (Note that #71 and #72 cross-posted with each other; I had not read #71 when my #72 went up here.)
To be more specific:
You say that dishonesty is an “evaluative choice in explaining the world view clash.” I say that dishonesty is speaking that which is false, and doing so intentionally. I only use that term when it appears to be an identifiable event. See #63 again.
Let me rephrase “I believe you are not conscious of what appears to me (on the other side of the divide) as glaring biases in your position.” as
I believe you are not conscious of what appears to me (on the other side of the divide) as glaring biases in your handling of the debate, right down to finding good arguments to be bad arguments: to not finding evolution to be made of the stuff that convinces and finding Christianity, the stuff that is utterly unbelievable, believable.
With that, I don’t believe that more words on the level of argument are going to be productive. I think you need to be born again.
More ad hominem and genetic fallacy, and so far nothing from you whatsoever on the level of argument. Good day, sir.
Here’s a quick note for other readers. If you examine Stephen’s argument, you’ll find that he’s saying:
1. I (Tom) disbelieve in evolution and I believe in Christianity.
2. Therefore (and for no other stated reason) I am a poor thinker: deluded, biased, etc.
3. Therefore … what? There is no other conclusion stated, except that:
4. I am wrong about evolution and Christianity, and
5. I am dishonest.
Does anyone think 4 and 5 follow from 1 and 2? Does anyone think 2 follows from 1?
In the course of that discussion he says I have handled the debate badly, “right down to finding good arguments to be bad arguments.” I wonder whether something similar should be said of one who finds bad arguments to be good arguments.
Let me make the point more plainly to address the charge of ad hominem. Tom says on the one had there is evidence for Christianity and on the other there is the evidence for Evolution. He feels that the evidence for the truth of Christianity renders it the place to place strong belief and the evidence for Evolution the place to be highly skeptical and spend energy trying to show that. This, to one on the other side of the world view clash is all we need to substantiate the charge of outrageous bias – not ad hominem.
Stephen, you’re still failing to present a valid case. See #77.
Further (and perhaps redundantly) once again you’re taking my “bias” against evolution and for Christianity as evidence in support of your conclusion that my positions concerning evolution and Christianity are false. This is of the essence of ad hominem, not to mention circularity.
I shake my head in wonderment at people who mount such identifiably fallacious arguments in defense of their own claimed superior reasonability.
As I see this thread has been resurrected, can I ask, Tom, how you respond to my on-topic comments and questions at #45?
What puzzles me is where people get the energy to barge in somebody else’s house (which is what a blog is), psychologize the host and pile insults on him. Why even bother? If Tom is *really* deluded, what does pointing this out can ever achieve? It is not like the deluded will suddenly see the light upon being called “deluded”. It is also clear that presenting an argument is way way beyond the competence of the poster, so who does he expect to convince with his trolling?
The irony is that those who present themselves as a paragons of rational thought and open minded thinking can’t defend their point of view (if they even have one) without employing logically fallacious arguments. Do they even know what a logical fallacy is?
Tom Gilson – Integrity check. You wrote:
Here’s the thing. I quoted the part of forests comment that I was commenting on. It was not the part you just quoted. In addition to what you quoted forest as saying, forest also said – let me quote this again: “we are discovering that evolution is totally non-Darwinian”. I was, very obviously and specifically, replying to that. And what I quoted from Noble is very relevant to that.
So, did you misunderstand what I wrote? Or did you just not have the integrity to present it accurately? (I don’t really like phrasing things this way; but I’m hoping that doing so will prod you to actually think about what I wrote, so that maybe we can get past tossing nasty words around.)
I gotta admit, when I can’t even find out the name of the “major international conference in China” from Noble’s website, it’s not a confidence-builder.
The book I recommend is On the Genesis of Species by George Mivart, the book explains the fallacies in natural selection. The book supported a form of theistic evolution. I also enjoy the book Evolution and Christians by Phillip Gilbert Fothergill which also embraced theistic evolution. I have no problem with accepting common descent but the atheist evolutionists have taken it too far in my view for removing God or supernatural forces from evolution completely.
Ray, I completely missed your comment 83 until forests came back today. Apologies to you for that.
I’m having a little trouble parsing what you think I did wrong. In 83 you reference a couple of previous posts in such a way that I’m not quite sure what you’re pointing at or what you’re saying I got wrong. I’m going to give it a shot according to what I think you were trying to say. I might be reading it incorrectly, and if so you’re welcome to re-explain it.
But first this, which is rather straightforward.
In 61 you challenged Noble’s credibility concerning his conference in China. Then again in 83 you said, “I gotta admit, when I can’t even find out the name of the “major international conference in China” from Noble’s website, it’s not a confidence-builder.” The funny thing is that if you had looked on Noble’s website you would have found the names of the other high-credibility conferences I referred to in 63.
So what you have is an argument from silence with respect to some conference in China. And you’re dwelling on that argument from silence: “it’s not a confidence builder.”
Meanwhile you have all the specific information anyone could ask for, to show that he’s presenting his information at highly respected gatherings. And now this is twice that you’ve ignored that.
Ray, that’s weird. I’m scratching my head trying to figure out strange motivation could lie behind your doing that. What’s your purpose in it? Do you even know?
Did I misread something? Please correct me if I did.
Now with regard to your “integrity check” on me. You said in 61 (as I have already said) that forests’ source didn’t agree with his conclusions. I wrote in 63 that your logic was weak. I did not say that your quotation was wrong. I guess on a second reading I think your conclusion is correct: Noble does not make a clean and complete break from neo-Darwinism.
To be honest I thought you were camping on the first part of what you quoted from Noble, and that your point was that there was no support to be found in him for creationists. That’s what I was responding to. Apparently I misread you. My apologies for that.
What was your point there, then?