More excerpts from a review on Darwin’s Doubt, from the American Spectator.
Darwin’s Doubt has also been subjected to a barrage of what can only be called hate. “Mendacious intellectual pornography” is among the more inventive descriptions. Hundreds of negative comments appeared on Amazon review page within hours of the 498-page book’s publication.
Donald Prothero, a geologist and research associate at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, typified many when he said that Meyer is a “fool,” “incompetent,” guilty of “ignorance,” in “way over his head,” with a “completely false understanding of the subject.” Further, Meyer argues “dishonestly,” promotes a “fundamental lie,” promotes a “fairy tale,” and so on.
Would a scientist make his case that way if he had real arguments? Prothero did attempt a few substantive criticisms, but inadvertently demonstrated that he had not read Meyer’s chapters that had already addressed them. Prothero, in truth, hankers after creationism as his preferred target. But Meyer’s book is devoid of creationism or biblical references. It’s all science.
Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species claimed that organisms arose by random variation and natural selection, which must have been a slow business. But the fossil record shows that the major animal forms appeared without visible predecessors — an event known as the Cambrian Explosion. As the Darwinian rulebook regards such sudden changes as highly improbable, the evolutionists encounter two problems: insufficient time and missing fossils.
Years ago, speaking in a tone of subdued irony for my benefit, Donn Rosen, a curator of ichthyology at the American Museum of Natural History, wryly summarized what is involved: “Darwin said that speciation occurred too slowly for us to see it. Gould and Eldredge said it occurred too quickly for us to see it. Either way we don’t see it.”
Meyer also describes how work in statistical paleontology has undermined the idea that the missing ancestral fossils are merely an artifact of incomplete sampling. If you hunt in lots of different places and keep unearthing the same old specimens, it becomes ever harder to maintain that you still haven’t looked hard enough. Maybe the missing ones never were there to begin with.
IN THE SECOND PART of Meyer’s book, “How to Build an Animal,” the argument changes. Meyer shows that building new animal body plans requires the origin of new genetic information and “epigenetic” information (biological information stored in places outside of DNA). He shows the Cambrian explosion is not just an explosion of new forms of animal life, but an explosion of the information or instructions necessary to build them.
But to generate new information, neo-Darwinism relies on mutations — random changes in the arrangement of the chemical “bases” that function like alphabetic characters in the genetic text stored in DNA. And to build whole new animals, lots of major mutations are needed, but most are lethal.
The geneticist Hermann J. Muller, winner of the Nobel Prize in 1946, bombarded fruit flies with X-rays, which he thought would “speed up evolution.” But nothing came of it. Fruit flies not killed by the X-rays remained fruit flies. Also, mutations that occur early in embryonic development are always lethal — generating “dead animals incapable of further evolution,” as Meyer writes. Late-acting mutations may be viable, but these “do not affect global animal architectures.” Hence the Darwinian dilemma: “Major changes are not viable; viable changes are not major.”
IN THE THIRD PART of his book, Meyer outlines his positive case for intelligent design. Ironically, here he uses the same principle of scientific reasoning that Darwin used in the Origin. Darwin subscribed to a principle of scientific reasoning known as the Vera Causa principle. This asserts that scientists should seek to explain events in the remote past by causes “now in operation.” Meyer applies this to the question of the origin of the information necessary to produce new forms of animal life. He argues that the only known cause of the origin of the kind of digital information that arises in the Cambrian explosion is intelligent activity. He quotes the information theorist Henry Quastler who stated that “the creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” Thus, he concludes, using Darwin’s principle, that intelligent design provides the best explanation for the Cambrian information explosion.
If a correct scientific theory is pursued, we expect new knowledge to comport with the theory. Yet recent discoveries, especially in molecular biology, were not foreseen and have weakened Darwinism. For example, Darwin’s German contemporary and supporter Ernst Haeckel viewed the cell as a simple lump of “protoplasm.” Now we know that it is a hi-tech nano-factory complicated beyond comprehension. A cell can also reproduce itself, something no man-made machine has yet been able to do.
Meyer also reviews the “Rules of Science” decreeing what is permitted if an investigation is to be called scientific. “Methodological naturalism” is the main one today: Only material causes are permitted. That rule is the basis for Darwinian accusations that ID is creationism. ID does admit non-material causes, thereby flouting the (recently imposed) rule obliging scientists to adhere to naturalism all the way.
Yet science itself abounds with non-material entities. Information is non-material and if it is essential for building organisms, how is it transmitted to the three-dimensional world of matter? There’s an obvious parallel, Meyer points out. How are the decisions we make in our own conscious minds transmitted to the world of physical matter? We know every day that we can transform our mental decisions into physical acts. We choose to lift our arm, and it lifts.
Neuroscience hopes to explain this materially — to show how the brain’s nerve endings translate into consciousness, thence into acts. But one may predict that they will keep looking for a long time, because the gulf separating matter and consciousness is greater than that separating us from the remotest galaxy. That doesn’t mean that mind is too remote, unreal, or can be excluded from science. Mind is within us and nothing can be closer. Without it, the very ideas, theories, and arguments of science wouldn’t exist.