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Posted by on Jul 9, 2013 in Book Review, Creationism, Evolution, Research, Science | 17 comments

Darwin’s Doubt – A Review

A pro-ID reader has graciously sent me a copy of Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen Meyer with the understanding that I will read and report on it.  I’ll remind everyone that I made several predictions about the book. Since I made my predictions, my understanding of the book has changed.  It is, apparently, almost purely about the Cambrian Explosion and why this is evidence of special creation.  Make no mistake about it, ID is special creation with “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause.”

Now this review will take a while.  First, I’m traveling for the next two weeks.   A week in Denver, unfortunately not for fun, but for work.  Then a week in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. My ability to review the book will be limited due to this (sorry).  Unfortunately, I can’t read (or do much of anything) on aircraft.  I have vertigo and a airplane trip puts me out for a while.

The second part is that I fully intend to (somehow) acquire the references (if any) used by Meyer.  I’ll review them to see if Meyer reports them accurately and if the same conclusion is drawn.  It’s not that I don’t trust Meyer… well… OK… it’s that I don’t trust Meyer.  The people from the Discovery Institute are consummate charlatans. I’ll be perfectly honest, there isn’t anything in this book that shows evolution is wrong or that ID has any supporting evidence.  If there was, they would publish and then they wouldn’t shut up about it.

This is just  book to lead the lay-person to the conclusion that science can’t explain everything. I may sound biased, and I am, a bit.  The DI doesn’t do science.  Meyer doesn’t do science.  Behe has tried to redefine science.  Dembski doesn’t do science.  How can one refute science when one does not do science? That all being said, I will try my best to be scrupulously fair.  I will let you, my readers, decide if I’m being fair or biased. I will also ask that anyone willing to help me acquire research papers send me a message from my contact page.  I would be grateful.

Prologue (part I, part II, part III, part IV )

Part I  The Mystery of the Missing Fossils

  1. Darwin’s Nemesis (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8 )
  2. The Burgess Bestiary (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6)
  3. Soft Bodies and Hard Facts
  4. The Not Missing Fossils?
  5. The Genes Tell the Story?
  6. The Animal Tree of Life
  7. Punk Eek!

Part II – How to Build an Animal

  1. The Cambrian Information Explosion
  2. Combinatorial Inflation
  3. The Origin of Genes and Proteins
  4. Assume a Gene (part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5)
  5. Complex Adaptations and the Neo-Darwinian Math
  6. The Origin of Body Plans (part 1, part 2)
  7. The Epigenetic Revolution

Part III – After Darwin, What?

  1. The Post-Darwinian World and Self-Organization
  2. Other Post-Neo-Darwinian Models
  3. The Possibility of Intelligent Design (part 1, part2, part 3)
  4. Signs of Design in the Cambrian Explosion (part 1)
  5. The Rules of Science
  6. What’s at Stake

As an aside, here are two additional articles of relevance to this text.

This article is a review of another Meyer quotemine in Darwin’s Doubt.

This article is an explanation of why Meyer misunderstands evolution and higher taxonomic orders.

This article is the closing of the reviews and why. If you have specific questions about specific pages (not whole chapters), then let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

9 Pingbacks/Trackbacks

  • Attilashrugs

    Read review: lacked any evidence that the book was even read by you.
    There is no scientific explanation for the evolution of the mechanism upon which genetic mutation does its magic. The mistakes in nucleic acid replication requires the super complex system of nuclear acid replication to be already up and running.

    • Attilashrugs

      PS. I am a Neurologist and not someone you might dismiss as a “bitter clinger”.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I don’t dismiss anyone unless they are extremely rude or constantly ignore the evidence. Your job doesn’t mean anything… it’s the quality of the argument. And the argument you present is flawed.

      • Viktor Shakapopolous

        Your rantings are far more similar to what one would see from a creationist paint salesman than from someone pretending to be a neurologist.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      If you had read the review, you would know that I’m on page 60 of 12,500+ (the Kindle numbering system).

      As far as the rest, you left out something. It’s called natural selection. And you are right, but the part II reviews shows that the “supercomplexity” wasn’t required in the beginning as RNA can be both the information storage system AND the information processing system.

    • Viktor Shakapopolous

      “There is no scientific explanation for the evolution of the mechanism upon which genetic mutation does its magic.”

      Why on earth would a rational person expect something like that in a BOOK REVIEW?

      Of course, from what I have read, the book offers NO evidence for the way in which this unidentified, evidence-free “designer” operated. Are you asking Meyer for those specifics, as well?

    • Tim Tian

      the theory of evolution isn’t a theory about the creation of life. What you’re looking for is the theory of abiogenisis.

  • BornRight

    You rock! I greatly appreciate the time and effort you’re putting in to expose the stupidity in Meyer’s book “Darwin’s Doubt”. Nick Matzke and Don Prothero have written great reviews, but your effort is the most comprehensive, dismantling the book chapter by chapter. Kudos! I can’t wait to read the remainder of the series.

  • Eric Collier

    Fantastic review! So what are the chances of a Smilodon-Meyer debate?

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Slim at best. Meyer wouldn’t want to and I’m not very good in a live debate. I get too emotional and lose track of the points I need to make. I’ll happily do a written debate with him.

  • mrheuss

    Thanks for this – I am learning a lot. Your efforts are appreciated.

  • FormAndFunction

    Thanks for your work on this review, and thanks in particular for the table of contents you’ve got started. :) I’ve got it bookmarked!

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  • Joe_Buddha

    Any possibility of linking these parts in a chain so I don’t have to come back here and try to remember what’s next?

  • Engr3454, BS, MS, MDiv, PE

    1. I HAVE slogged through the whole book (although I make no claim to have chased through any of the footnotes or bibliography).
    2. I AGREE with most of your judgments about it, although—
    3. I strongly suggest you suspend further review articles until you have at least also slogged through at least the rest of the text. That will save you, and the rest of us reading your review, the time wasted wondering whether Meyer later addresses the questions raised in the earlier sections. In most cases, he does attempt to do so, and I am sure you will find ample opportunity to question the results of his attempts.
    4. I have only the usual layman’s smattering of training in evolutionary biology and biochemistry, but did study thrology and philosphy of religion (through PhD course work, “all but dissertation,”) and agree that it is really Meyer’s theology that it is lacking: Despite his denials, his version of ID is “God of the gaps,” whereever convenient gaps may be found..

  • Engr3454, BS, MS, MDiv, PE

    Sorry for the typo in my previous post. I studied theology, not “thrology.”
    Though I suggested you suspend further review articles until you have read the whole book, please do not abandon the effort, which is much appreciated.

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  • Jeffery Jay Lowder

    Smilodon — FYI: I think many of the comments in my two preliminary posts about Meyer’s earlier book also apply to this one, since they concern the logical structure of his arguments. See here and here.