on June 11, 2014
I'm not a Christian and I certainly don't believe in "creation science" which is often confused with intelligent design. I have spent my life studying science, and all of my degrees are in scientific and medical areas, but I've always been interested in spirituality. It's unfortunate that so many scientists are atheists. Perhaps they have no choice in the matter since they are generally wed to the very narrow perspectives of their scientific specialties. (Others, like Richard Dawkins, are wed to the industry of Atheism.) The Signature in the cell was the first book that I have read that explains in no uncertain terms why the genetic code would be impossible for nature to create by randomly combining primordial molecules. It is a technical book filled with technical facts and statistics that is so interesting that you forget that you are actually learning something. Although it doesn't talk about God or any form of religion or spiritual world, it is difficult to avoid the obvious conclusion that something outside of our material universe had something to do with the very first reproducing organism as well as multiple steps along the way to the evolution of the human species. (Myer himself does not draw any inferences about anything outside of the material universe. He simply draws the conclusion that an intelligent designer is the simplest, and for all practical purposes, the only explanation for the rise of life from a lifeless world.)
If you have studied quantum mechanics, you will have run into the inescapable conclusion that nothing really exists an a determinate state unless it is observed by a conscious observer. Furthermore, you probably have run into Bell's theorem which concludes that locality is something of a myth and that there is no logical connection between the reality we live in every day and quantum reality upon which our material world is based. The theory of quantum mechanics frankly states that consciousness is (and probably was) a primordial property of the universe.
The theory of intelligent design is based upon SCIENCE, and not on theology. It stands upon infinitely firmer ground than the Multiverse which is modern cosmology's latest mathematical/theological attempt to explain the anthropomorphic nature of our world of matter. Read this book if you really want to begin the journey to a rational understanding of how Spirit might actually have a place to live after all!
P.S. I've read the one star reviews. It is obvious that none of these reviewers has actually read the book. Out of 429 reviews, only 58 gave it two stars or less, and their comments seemed to have nothing to do with the book's actual content.
on December 27, 2009
I come to this book with two peeves, one pet, the other a stray that is beginning to wear out its welcome.
My pet peeve is fanatics who attack ID out of ideological compulsion, rather than using the "think" cells hidden deep within their brains to evaluate and argue. That includes most of the reviewers who gave the book 1 or 2 stars so far. Meyer, we are told, is "lazy," a "creationist," "idiot," "fraud," and "liar" who hawks "error-prone" "snake-oil," "gobbledygook," "pseudo-science." We should read Richard Dawkins new Greatest Show on Earth instead (I did -- it isn't about the origin of life, you numbskulls). One "reviewer" blasts the book after reading four sentences, and gets 69 of 128 "helpful" votes. Another "reviews" the first few pages and calls Meyer a liar.
Hardly any negative reviews even try to point to any scientific errors. Two exceptions: reviews by A Miller and K. M. Sternberg are worth reading. Sternberg's is particularly eloquent. (Though having written a couple books on the historical Jesus, I tend to wonder about the objectivity, awareness, and / or good sense of someone who thinks there is no evidence for the life of Jesus!)
My second peeve is a growing dislike for the way Discovery Institute often packages its arguments. I visited DI a year ago when another ID book came out -- I won't name it, seeing no need to embarrass the author. His presentation essentially said, "Look at all the wonders of creation. How can evolution possibly explain all that?" When Q & A time came, I was the only one to ask any critical questions. "That sounds impressive, but why don't you engage the explanations evolutionary biologists offer for those features?" Like the talk, the book (he gave me a copy) simply ignored detailed arguments.
This book does much better. Meyer's critics to the contrary, he does offer detailed scientific and philosophical arguments. Signature is NOT mainly about evolution per se - it is about the origin of life. It is, therefore, not strictly parallel to Dawkins' books or arguments -- ID is in a sense broader than evolution as a theory, since it seeks to explain things that evolution does not.
My main beef is the book is too long. While many of Meyer's illustrations are interesting, he uses too many, and repeats himself too often. Meyer should chop out some of the remedial 7th Grade biology, cut some stories and the "I was in Akron when I thought A and in Baton Rouge when B occurred to me" stuff, and cut the book in half.
The first-person auto-biographical is overworked. No one thinks you're neutral, Stephen -- so just argue! Don't pretend your conversion to ID was purely scientific -- reasonable people understand that people act under a mixture of motives, and the unreasonable ones are not worth arguing with. Dawkins, Behe, Stephen Hawking, and Darwin for that matter write serious arguments without losing ordinary readers; models that Meyer could profitably shoot for.
But the issue here is the origin of life, and when Meyer finally gets to it, he argues it well, I think. The central chapters seem to cover most of the main issues well. He discusses different solutions, and explains fairly clearly why they do not work, and why some sort of design seems preferable. It is interesting that none of Meyer's critics here dispute those arguments. (Again, Miller and Sternberg come closest, but do not really engage his most important points.) I wish, however, that Meyer had expanded those central chapters, and discussed in more detail leading rival contemporary hypotheses.
Many of his secondary arguments work, too. I suppose one can't complain if a philosopher of science writes a lot about the philosophy of science, and I suppose those arguments are made necessary by attempts to marginalize ID proponents through the sheer power of wordplay. Pardon the self-indulgence, but as I wrote in Truth Behind the New Atheism, in response to Dawkins' attempts to marginalize ID proponents: "David Bohm once defended science as 'openness to evidence.' The best scientist -- or theologian -- is not someone who shouts 'heresy!' when he hears strange views, but one who listens carefully and responds with reason and evidence. When it comes to ultimate questions, 'openness to evidence' is the definition that counts."
The scientific evidence is what matters, and I would have liked to have seen more detail on that. Still, all in all, a strong ID perspective on the origin of life.
on September 3, 2015
This book is incredible. It comprehensively lays out its case sticking to the facts. If anyone is considering making this purchase but is wary that religiosity might be injected, you don't have to worry, that aspect is not present in the book. I think anyone that is adamant against intelligent design will be genuinely stumped by this book and will have to reconsider their views. I was against any intelligent design theories before reading this and have made a complete 180. I also bought this book for my brother I liked it so much.
on February 27, 2010
Stephen Meyer answers this question. But why was the creation of this excellent work necessary? What could motivate Stephen Meyer to make himself (and his family) a target for the inevitable derogation and questioning of his credentials, intellect and character? The simple fact is this; the evolutionists have declared war on any thought not of their origin, indeed academia is generally intolerant of any ideas not of their creation, aggressively intolerant. A recent quote by one of the god's of evolutionary dogma; "It is absolutely safe to say, that if you meet somebody who does not to believe in evolution that person is ignorant, stupid or insane", the tone of this sediment is ubiquitous. That the disagreement between divergent points of view has been passionate is nothing new, the tone and overt antagonism from those with a naturalist view point, perhaps is. The purpose of this tactic is to shut down any discussion or disagreement with their orthodoxy; this to me displays a lack of confidence with the premise of their belief and argument, obfuscation by derogation.
Stephen Meyer not only explains with clarity why what the evolutionists believe is simply not possible or even remotely possible, but gives creditable proof of design, intent and purpose in the architecture of cells. The hostility towards Meyer in exposing the inherent flaws in the theory of evolution take a tone of religious zealotry. The false superiority, arrogance and condescension of the vast majority scientist and academics make this work (and others like it) necessary.
This work begins with the concept of what is the best explanation possible for the origin of life based on "historical scientific reasoning". To answer this question Meyer reviews many origin of life theories, specifically relating to DNA and RNA. He dissects each of these theories, the end result for nearly all of these ideas is that they are based on certain amounts of specified information existing as a premise for the subsequent parts of the theory to function, in other words they do not explain or solve the problem of where biological information comes from, but simply displace the problem, I will not bore you with the details of the competing theories. Meyer goes on to give a very detailed (and extremely interesting) probability analysis regarding the possibility for even one functioning protein to come into existence simply by chance at 10/164, to put that number in some kind of perspective, there are only 10/65 atoms in the known universe. Meyer further explains how at least two hundred different kinds of proteins are necessary for the simplest cell to exist, which would then put the probability of one cell existing by chance at 10/41,000, this is an order of magnitude more than the probabilistic resources of the entire universe. He then quotes recent work by James Brook and Gordon Shaw regarding geological and geochemical evidence for the prebiotic atmospheric conditions being friendly or not, for the production of amino acids and other essential building blocks of life. Their work is conclusive, there is no evidence in metamorphosed Precambrian sedimentary rocks that such conditions as envisioned by evolutionist ever existed. This puts the probability for evolutionary theory providing a credible explanation regarding the origin of life at exactly zero. (my words, not his)
He continues on the theme of what provides for the best explanation possible for the origin of life which begins his argument in favor of intelligent design. His discussion develops on what does the evidence suggest? Below is a sample;
"Intelligence is the only known cause of complex functionally integrated information processing system. It follows once again, that intelligent design stands as the best- most causally adequate- explanation for this feature of the cell, just as it stands as the best explanation for the origin of the information present in DNA itself".
Meyer then concludes his work with a discussion of the "implications" regarding the theory of Intelligent Design, which does after all get to the real problem secularists have with any compromise regarding ID as a scientifically relevant concept. One thing that is particularly well illustrated in the final chapters is that any argument against ID as a legitimate scientific concept apply with equal (perhaps more so) weight against the theory of evolution.
Lastly I would to thank Mr. Meyer for the elevated tone and substance of his latest work, this book contains no vitriol, condescendence, arrogance or anything remotely unpleasant. It does contain well reasoned arguments for his points of view with extensive documentation in the notes and Bibliography. Meyer has taken no cheap shots at the scientists who do not happen to share his point of view, this in marked contrast to the screeds presented to the public as legitimate scientific discussion by the evolutionists. While I at times enjoy returning the fire of evolutionary zealots with a nuclear weapon, Meyer has chosen his words with the upmost care and demonstrated a particular graciousness to those who will not and perhaps cannot reciprocate this courtesy, this in my mind demonstrates the confidence and pure scientific ability bought to this study. I give the highest endorsement possible to the purchase of this worthy publication.
on December 29, 2009
First a note on the reviews I have been reading on this book:
A lot of the one star book reviews seem to be attacking Dr. Meyers, and not the topic of his book. Please let us get something out of the way up front. "Signature of the Cell" is not about Stephen Meyer, the Discovery Institute or God for that matter. It is about an argument, and a lot of the negative (and positive, let's be honest) reviews seem to overlook this fact. There is a lot of spin on both sides of the Intelligent Design debate. One side often states that Judge Jones III was appointed by George W Bush, while another side makes certain we know that Judge Jones III was previously a former Head of a Liquor Control Board. Please let us approach this topic with reason and give our honest-if biased-opinions.
In "Signature in the Cell", Dr. Meyers walks us through what information is and the different ways information is defined, created and discovered. He also goes into great detail on probability theory and the history of scientific reasoning. He then lays out the history of origins of life research including a fascinating exposition of the discovery of the DNA double helix, and the surprise of specified information that lies within. Dr. Meyers argues why the current OOL theories fail to explain how the first cell could have arisen by chance alone due to the insufficient probabilistic resources (temporal as well as physical) of the universe. He further argues why self organization/bio-chemical predestination models do not provide an adequate explanation for the origin of life. He also explains why the RNA world and other current models fail to explain the OOL, or what Dr Meyers calls the "DNA enigma"
The DNA Enigma is that which researchers have not been able to uncover. That is, the origin of specified information or digital code in every living cell. The information in the DNA molecule is not only complex, but has specified complexity. All of the current OOL models Dr. Meyer critiques contain what he terms the "displacement problem" That is they push back the source of the information or assume that the information simply occured or merely ignore the source, and put it on the back burner. In the book Dr. Meyers explains why evolutionary computer simulations and that why trying to manufacture "life in the lab" are actually very good examples of ID and are ideal cases for design theory.
Dr. Meyer does not make an appeal from ignorance or a "God of the Gaps" argument, but makes a positive case for design in OOL. Dr. Meyer appeals to the same historical branch of science that Darwin employed, and argues that if ID theory is arbitrarily deemed unscientific then Darwin's theory would fail to be classified as scientific on the same reasoning.
For those that say that "ID is not science", please read chapter 18 of the book-"But is it Science?" Following are the headings for the reasons Dr. Meyers regards ID as science, specifically historically scientific..
Reason 1: The case for ID is based on Empirical Evidence.
Reason 2: Advocates of ID use Established Scientific Methods.
Reason 3: ID is a Testable Theory.
Reason 4: The Case for ID Exemplifies Historical Scientific Reasoning.
Reason 5: ID Addresses a Specific Question in Evolutionary Biology (OOL).
Reason 6: ID Is Supported by Peer-Reviewed Scientific Literature.
(You'll have to read the book for the details.)
"Signature in the Cell" is not "Creationist Tripe", but a 600 page argument. Dr. Meyers does not necessarily argue for a God as the intelligent agent behind the OOL, but that an intelligent agent is the most likely cause of the specified information in the double helix and information processing systems of the cell. Dr. Meyers argument is not that "It is way too complicated to understand
so therefore God did it" but an appeal to what we know about how information is created and that information comes from minds, or agents. As some like to say and I'm paraphrasing several ID opponents here.."Let's not kid ourselves, we all know who Dr. Meyers means when he says an intelligent agent, he means God" Well maybe, or if your ontology will allow, probably, but both Richard Dawkins and Francis Crick believe in, or are at least sympathetic to an intelligent agent as the cause of life on earth. They just believe that the intelligent agent was or could have been extra-terrestrial. The panspermia theory too has it's problems, and ultimately pushes back the OOL or "DNA Enigma" to an earlier time and certainly from what we know of the universe, one is stopped by the previously mentioned wall of probabilistic resources.
In the epilouge Dr. Meyers opens the door to some of the latest discoveries of the hierarchical nature of DNA information storage. Quite interesting really, Super folders, folders within folders in optimized locations for efficient retrieval. He also touches briefly on what used to thought of as "Junk DNA" or non protein coding regions of the DNA molecule. What was once considered to be only leftovers and redundancies from transcriptions can now be shown to work as a sort of operating system. It will be interesting to see what comes from the ongoing research..
Dr. Meyer concludes the book in Appendix B with solid critique of multiverse theories and in chapter 17 provides a very powerful answer(rebuttal) to the ubiquitous "Who designed the designer?" question (challenge).
There IS an answer to the DNA Enigma, and Dr Meyer's positive argument is that life on earth was caused ~3-4 billion years ago by an intelligent agent, most likely God. Perhaps he is correct.
on January 25, 2015
What is the probability that life began by chance in a prebiotic soup? Stephen Meyer addresses this question in his book, The Signature in the Cell. Meyer offers best estimates in chapter 9 from which the quotes for this article are taken (page 212ff.).
Meyer shows that the origin of life happening by chance is mathematically unimaginable. Up to this point, chapter 9, he has been preparing us for the math. He discusses DNA and nucleic acid, amino acids and proteins, the history and philosophy of scientific research—a detailed description of the processes occurring in a living cell and how scientists reach their conclusions. Chapter 9 for me is the fulcrum of this work and a primary reason why it is subtitled: … Evidence for Intelligent Design.
Cells are complex living units with at least 250 functioning protein clusters. Proteins in the cell are made of a chain of amino acids—not any amino acids—but specific to the functionality the cell requires to be alive. There were 3 calculations that went into mathematically estimating the probability of life from the chance combining of amino acids into proteins. A simple 150 amino acid chain was used.
The probability that the amino acids will join or link up at all—peptide bonding(1×10^46);
The probability that they will join in the correct order—like words on a page to relay information in a readable sentence and not gibberish (1 x 10^74) ;
The probability that the correct amino acids will be joined—amino acids form isomers which are mirror images of themselves but only the left-handed amino acids (not the right-handed isomers) are functional in a living cell. (1×10^46).
“The odds of getting one functional protein from a prebiotic soup is no better than 1×10^164.” [1 x 10^46*46*74]
Meyer also argues for intelligent design (ID) as a science—an historical science, as was Darwin's approach previously for explaining natural selection as regards micro-evolution. Information theory, multiple hypothesis, causal adequacy.. a few new concepts that have come with the computer age. He uses Dembski;s filter to show that only ID provides a plausible explanation for the DNA enigma or the origin of life.
Honestly, to dat, I am convinced of his arguments. He uses down to earth illustrations to explain. A great read but a bit technical in places.
The New-Darwinian mechanism faced what they called a ‘combinatorial problem’.
The odds of getting one functional protein from a prebiotic soup is no better than 1×10^164
The probability of producing the proteins necessary to build a minimally complex cell—or the genetic information necessary to produce those proteins—by chance is unimaginably small. (1×10^41,000)
In Meyer's words
For one hundred and fifty years many scientists have insisted that "chance and necessity"—happenstance and law—jointly suffice to explain the origin of life on earth. We now find, however, that orthodox evolutionary thinking—with its reliance upon these twin pillars of materialistic thought has failed to explain the origin of life of the central feature of living things: information.
on March 2, 2013
I just finished reading this. Six months ago I read Richard Dawkins', The Greatest Show on Earth. Stephen C. Meyer not only comes across as more "scientific", reasoned and logical than Dawkins, he is infinitely more humble and rational. Instead of verbally jumping up and down with clenched fists while spewing invectives, Meyer calmly and carefully lays out each argument and addresses the competing origin of life theories with respect and grace. If Dawkins had spent as much time researching as he spent with his thesaurus he'd probably have written one of the endorsements on this book's cover.
This book could have easily been only a couple hundred pages. The reason it's over 500 with 50 pages of meticulous notes is both a testimony to the unreasonableness of Meyer's critics and tribute to how gently he tries to make his point. This is a work of great courage, intelligence and compassion.
on July 10, 2015
Great book, a bit on the technical side with some great insight into the human body and how it functions. I was really drawn to the workings of the cells and how they interact with each other. This is not a chance happening, we were designed.
on July 22, 2015
Stephen C. Meyer and those in the Intelligent Design field are doing remarkable work in the theory of life's origin. The compelling arguments that information always comes from an intelligent source can be overlooked only at the peril of denying the evidence. Meyer lays out a solid case that DNA is one of the places where that evidence is prevalent.
on April 12, 2016
This book has used a combination of the history of origin of life research, and the features of the basis for life’s chemistry. It is balanced and well laid out. It sweeps away the efforts used to create a chance explanation or physical necessity for the arousal of life’s chemistry. There is absolutely no evidence that chance or physical characteristics are capable of producing complex mechanisms either mechanical or in organic chemistry. Chance and random processes do not produce intelligent generated information storage and retrieval mechanisms. Why would that occur? Common sense and imagination are the tools of the science. Evolution is fraught with an agenda that seeks to destroy other explanations. I have only one comment to make to Stephen Meyer, A.E. Wilder-Smith was at the forefront of origin of life research. He had an influence on Dean Kenyon’s direction of research into the origin of DNA. He has stated that the influence of Wilder-Smith’s writing, and personal interaction helped to influence his thinking. Wilder-Smith has been unfairly labeled as a creationist by his opponents. He never even inferred such a stance. He argument and defense was strengthened by his encyclopedic knowledge of physical and organic chemistry. I learned an enormous amount about life’s chemistry from his writing. Wider-Smith's books that influenced my thinking are “The Natural Sciences Know Nothing of Evolution”, “The Creation Of Life: A Cybernetic Approach to Evolution”, and “The Scientific Alternative to Neo-Darwinian Evolutionary Theory: Information Sources & Structures” These books helped me understand these arguments before I read this book. So it would be It would be appropriate to pay some acknowledgement to Wilder-Smith's groundbreaking research and influence. This book is written for the enquiring mind, not a mind awash with the acid of materialistic answers only.