213 of 328 people found the following review helpful
Too Hot to Handle?,
This review is from: Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design (Hardcover)
EDIT (JUNE 19):
Amazon has taken a couple of different lines at different times from this review and featured them on the main page. One of them ("One almost wants to shout ...") was ripped out of context -- it wasn't even the whole sentence. It made it seem as if I supported a certain position, which I clearly rejected in the part of the sentence they didn't include. I regret that I have been misrepresented this way, but I cannot control it. (The other line I have seen them feature is fine.)
END OF JUNE 19 EDIT
This is 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. And questions are horrible, right?
This risky volume is Stephen C 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 forbidden 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. Meyer quotes Darwin,
"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.
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, Meyer points out,
"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.
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 rather almost rather feel, why that might be. 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.
And I wouldn't be surprised if that same feeling might explain the anger that ID provokes. That anger was evident when Meyer's last book, Signature in the Cell, was published. Some time after its release I ran a quantitative analysis of Amazon customer reviews of the book. Here's some of the analysis, as of the time I conducted it:
- 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:
Again: 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 Darwin's Doubt isn't its science. It's the suggestion that there might be more to reality than what we want to deal with.
Tracked by 8 customers
Sort: Oldest first | Newest first
Showing 21-30 of 190 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 7:37:32 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2013 7:41:28 AM PDT
T. Makinson says:
1) Everybody knows that "ID proposes that [God] was involved in the origination of [gaps that we say evolution can't explain] in the natural world." That ID's 'Intelligent Designer' is God, and that the "certain features" are a vague and equivocal coverall for the features that ID arguments claim that evolution cannot explain, is hardly a big secret.
2) Are you or Meyer claiming that Dawkins created the Cambrian body plans? If not, what Dawkins can, or cannot, do is irrelevant. There was no known intelligence around in the Cambrian, and the only purported one was God. Therefore, any claim that features of natural intelligence (or new knowledge about it) provide support for ID, or that ID is not a religious/supernatural argument, is spurious.
3) The "demand for a mechanism" is not question-begging. Natural intelligences implement their designs by natural mechanisms (e.g. creating arrowheads by chipping stone). Only by breaking the ID code of silence and admitting that the Intelligent Designer is God do you get around this. But that creates a whole heap of new problems. For example, (i) any purely supernatural hypothesis (i.e. one that does not make any purely natural claims -- e.g. that there was a worldwide flood) is unfalsifiable. (ii) We have no reliable knowledge of supernatural intelligence, therefore no reliable basis for claiming that it exists, let alone that our knowledge of natural intelligence in any way transfers to it.
Finally, I make no apologies for not taking anybody seriously who simply repeats another's meaningless jargon or long-debunked claims. Nor do I apologise for referring to said repetition as "parroting". If that gets your knickers in a twist, then that's your problem. <Makey laughs unashamedly at Tommy and Pentzey>
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 7:48:17 AM PDT
Thomas Gilson says:
Ummm, no, I'm not claiming that Dawkins created the Cambrian body plans. (This is a discussion about intelligence, after all, so let's try to keep it on that level.)
Your conclusion in point 2 does not follow from the premise. Simple as that.
Your point 3 skips the transition between intelligence and physical action. "Intelligence" doesn't chip stone; human beings chip stone. You still need to think through how humans' intelligence operates to cause that, and I am quite sure you won't be able to describe any mechanism there.
Point 3 also misses the point of what ID is and is not trying to claim. For more on that I suggest you read my article, "What's Wrong and What's Right with Intelligent Design:" http://www.thinkingchristian.net/posts/20
Posted on Jun 19, 2013 9:10:10 AM PDT
Thomas Gilson says:
FWIW, I just sent this message to Amazon customer service:
I wrote a review of Darwin's Doubt (http://www.amazon.com/Darwins-Doubt-Expl
That's only part of the sentence I wrote, and it turns my meaning upside down. The full sentence reads, "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."
Because the quote misrepresents what I wrote, I am asking you immediately to correct it.
Note that this appears intermittently, or perhaps it only shows up on the Kindle page for the book. It's not always there when I look. But since it's wrong, and it misrepresents me, I'm asking you to ensure that it *never* appears.
Posted on Jun 19, 2013 11:05:05 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2013 2:07:25 PM PDT
Glen Davidson says:
Evolutionary processes in organisms lacking substantial horizontal gene transfers--such as in the eukaryotes of the Cambrian--enforce an extremely derivative inheritance, resulting in the nested hierarchies dominant in eukaryotic taxonomy.
What do we see in Cambrian life? The extremely derivative inheritance reflected in nested hierarchies, just as we see in most eukaryotes before and after the Cambrian. Meyer has no explanation for that--certainly not design, which is never constrained by inheritance as life is--thus he fails completely to solve any sort of problem, or even to put a dent into evolution.
Creationists don't care, of course, hence they ignore such a blatant lacuna. Nevertheless, anyone who cares about science cares about causes and effects, and notes that genealogical trees extend throughout the metazoan world.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 2:38:43 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2013 2:41:45 PM PDT
Keb Shemp says:
Well, Rajkumar Pratab, since you put it that way - okay, Darwin was wrong.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 4:25:36 PM PDT
Meyer isn't a creationist.
"anyone who cares about science cares about causes and effects"
Which is the basis for much of the ID position. The only known cause for such complexity in any form is intelligence. Thats the point that everyone seems to love to ignore.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 4:40:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2013 4:41:52 PM PDT
Glen Davidson says:
"Meyer isn't a creationist."
Not only is he a creationist like other IDists are, he's an old-earth creationist who doesn't believe in common descent. It's true that you have to actually pay attention, and not simply parrot the line of the egregious IDists to know that, but what creationist pays attention to the facts?
"'"anyone who cares about science cares about causes and effects'
"Which is the basis for much of the ID position. The only known cause for such complexity in any form is intelligence. Thats the point that everyone seems to love to ignore."
Says the creationist who ignores the fact that the only known cause (outside of genetic algorithms or other human attempts to mimic evolution) of the extremely derivative nature of life happens to be evolution.
The fact is that any honest scientist identifies the effects of causes, then matches up those effects to those causes. Creationists do like you do, make blanket statements about causes--without demonstrating that these blanket statements are correct (that is, they simply analogize human causes to what are clearly quite unlike what is humanly caused--thus have no legitimate analogy)--ignore the very different aspects of effects that they find inconvenient, and then proclaim that they have proven something. The only thing they've proven is their lack of intellectual honesty, however.
The fact is that if one were to blame any one or any group of humans for, say, creating P. falciparum, the most notorious cause of malaria, not only would this accusation be laughed out of court, few ID/creationists would fall for it either. But because they believe in a magic being that supposedly made things actually unlike humans do, they simply accept such a claim for the magic being.
Any honest explanation simply has to account for the details, such as the extremely derivative nature of metazoan life. Evolution does, ID/creationism does not. That is the fact that you and Meyer want everyone to ignore.
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 6:06:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 19, 2013 6:10:40 PM PDT
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 6:09:57 PM PDT
"Any honest explanation simply has to account for the details, such as the extremely derivative nature of metazoan life. Evolution does, ID/creationism does not."
How exactly does evolution deal with the details and the mechanistic problems of creating life as well as all the details missing between then and now?
In reply to an earlier post on Jun 19, 2013 6:25:40 PM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Jun 20, 2013 1:19:28 AM PDT]