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Posted by on Dec 7, 2013 in Book Review, Creationism, featured, Science, Skepticism | 3 comments

Darwin’s Doubt – Chapter 18 – Part 1

As we saw in Chapter 17 (here, here, and here), Meyer didn’t really do anything to actually explain what intelligent design is, how it’s supposed to work, or the evidence for it. Yet, in this chapter, we’re going to talk about Signs of Design in the Cambrian Explosion.

Meyer opens this chapter by continuing inane analogy of the sheriff looking for a murderer on a small island.  Again, analogies are useful teaching tools, but great care must be taken that the analogy is accurate and does not introduce misconceptions to the students (or readers).  Meyer doesn’t care about that, he’s in the business of introducing misconceptions, as we’ve seen in the work on this book so far.  Every chapter in this book is littered with lies, quotemines, incorrect information, and subtle debating tricks that cast doubt on the opponent.

I’m going to spend some time unpacking this paragraph of Meyer’s work.

As I have described the many attempts to explain the scientific enigma motivating this book, that mystery has, in one sense, progressively deepened. As more and more attempts to explain the Cambrian explosion of animal life have failed, the evidence that these various competing theories fail to explain may be considered a set of negative clues—evidence that effectively precludes certain possible causes or explanations.

This is simply untrue.  The material that Meyer has presented to us has failed to explain the origins of the Cambrian explosion.  As we have seen so far though, Meyer has fundamentally misrepresented both the fossil record AND the statements of scientists who are directly involved in research on this subject.

Meyer has erected a strawman of truly epic proportions and still fails to bring it down.

I’ve already explained why the received version of evolutionary theory, neo-Darwinism, fails to account for the explosion of information and form in the Cambrian period.

This is an interesting claim.  I see that I’ve jumped too far ahead and will have to explain all the mistakes Meyer made in chapter 8 of his book.  And there are many, many mistakes.  I’ll also note that there are a lot of quotes in that chapter, so we’ll have to see what Meyer has misrepresented there.  I think we’ve established that when Meyer quotes someone, he’s probably misrepresenting the person.

Let’s put it simply though.  Evolution can indeed account for new information (however information is defined).  It happens all the time.  ERVs are new information in a genome.  Gene duplication is new information in a genome.

If there is one thing we’ve learned about creationists, it’s that they also misrepresent the idea of “information” in their discussions.  Indeed, I haven’t ever had a conversation with a creationist where they didn’t change the definition in midstream.  Nor, can they actually calculate the information in an organism.  There’s a lot to talk about… sigh.

I’ve also examined more recent evolutionary theories and shown why they too fail to explain key aspects of the evidence.

Such as misrepresenting Charles Marshall?

To this point, then, much of the evidence has returned a negative verdict.

Again, the evidence Meyer presented is negative.  Sadly, he’s very, very wrong.

It has told us a lot about what, in all probability, did not cause the Cambrian explosion. But, as in our hypothetical murder case, an accumulating body of evidence that makes one set of explanations less and less plausible may also begin to paint a picture of an alternative cause and the true explanation.

How about some evidence.  I’m really hoping that’s where this chapter goes.  I don’t have much hope though.

Let me explain.  If creationists (such as Meyer, Axe, Behe, or any of the others) actually had any evidence that supported any of their ideas about information, intelligent design, or anything else… we wouldn’t be able to get them to shut up about it.

If that evidence existed, this book would have 500 chapters and every chapter would be analyzing that evidence and comparing it to evolution.  But that’s not what we have here.  So far, this book has been sixteen chapters of attacks on, misrepresentation of, and mistakes about evolution.  There is a chapter (17) on intelligent design, which is basically useless and this chapter (18) on the purported evidence for intelligent design.

In chapter 19, Meyer attempts to explain to actual practicing scientists why they are not doing science correctly and then (chapter 20) explains that this whole exercise is really about affirming the theistic view of reality.

Which tells us the real point of this entire exercise.

In the next section, we’ll investigate some more of Meyer’s possible quotemines.  We’ll see.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

    But, as in our hypothetical murder case, an accumulating body of evidence that makes one set of explanations less and less plausible may also begin to paint a picture of an alternative cause and the true explanation.

    Ghosts? No matter how mysterious the causes of the death under forensic examination, does any CSI team ever consider that ghosts did it? Or space aliens? Or time travelers? And, if so, how would they go about developing admissible evidence for such a hypothesis?

    OH, excuse me, I forgot that ID has nothing to do with inconsequential things like evidence, “intelligent design should be viewed as a ground-clearing operation that gets rid of the intellectual rubbish that for generations has kept Christianity from receiving serious consideration.

  • Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    Sincere thanks for all the time and effort you’ve put into deconstructing Meyer’s latest boondoggle.

    I’m left to wonder, where are Mung and the others who seemed to eager to defend Meyer’s tome of intellectual dishonesty and shoddy “scholarship” ? Now that they can’t use the taunt of “you haven’t read the book so we can’t discuss it” ? Have they lost their way on the journey to skepticink ? Should we send out a search team ? I’m beginning to worry.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      They appeared here briefly and took up one thread for comments. I didn’t edit, ban, or even moderate a single post.

      I don’t think that they can actually engage with evidence. In their own world (Uncommon Descent), they can threaten, ban, even edit comments left by others. They can’t do that here. They can’t do that at After the Bar Closes, they can’t do it at The Skeptical Zone.

      Which is good reason for them not to hang out in those places. (Though Mung does appear a lot at TSZ and we know that the UD regulars read AtBC, but don’t comment.)