Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design Illustrated Edition, Kindle Edition
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About the Author
Derek Shetterly has worked extensively as an on-air radio talent, voice-over actor, and audiobook narrator. A graduate of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a BA in radio and television, he lives in Oregon.
--This text refers to the mp3_cd edition.
- File size : 6248 KB
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 628 pages
- Publisher : HarperOne; Illustrated edition (June 6, 2009)
- ASIN : B002C949BI
- Publication date : June 6, 2009
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- Language: : English
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- Best Sellers Rank: #73,851 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
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Top reviews from the United States
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He wrote in the Prologue of this 2009 book, “the Dover trial and its associated media coverage made me aware that I needed to make my argument in a more prominent way. Many evolutionary biologists had acknowledged that they could not explain the origin of the first life… In 2005, when I was repeatedly placed in the position of defending the theory of intelligent design in the media, the argument that I most wanted to make in its favor had little public standing. I have written this book to remedy that deficiency… [This book] does not just make an argument; it also tells a story, a mystery story and the story of my engagement with it.” (Pg. 6, 8) Later, he adds, “This book examines the many successive attempts that have been made to resolve this enigma---the DNA engine---and will itself propose a solution.” (Pg . 32)
He observes, “The interdependence of proteins and nucleic acids raises many obvious ‘chicken and egg’ dilemmas… The cell needs proteins to process and express the information in DNA in order to build proteins. But the construction of DNA molecules… also requires proteins. So which came first, the chicken (nucleic acids) or the egg (proteins)? If proteins must have arisen first, then how did they do so, since al extant cells construct proteins from the assembly instructions in DNA. How did either arise without the other?... scientists investigating the origin of life must now explain the origin of at least three key features of life. First, they must explain the origin of the system for storing and encoding digital information in the cell… Second, they must explain the origin of the large amount of specified complexity or functionally specified information in DNA. Third, they must explain the origin of … the functional interdependence of parts---of the cell’s information processing system.” (Pg. 134-135)
He acknowledges, “Anyone can claim that a fantastically improbable event might have occurred by chance. Chance, in that sense, if always a possible explanation. But it doesn’t follow that chance necessarily constitutes the best explanation. And… I wanted to find the BEST explanation for the origins of biological information. When I realized that I did not need to absolutely DISPROVE the chance hypothesis in order to make an objective determination about its merits, clarity came. By assessing the probability of an event in light of the available probabilistic resources, I could determine whether it was more reasonable to affirm or to reject the chance hypothesis for that event… I concluded that chance was not a terribly promising candidate for ‘best explanation’ of the DNA enigma.” (Pg. 222-223)
He notes, “When I first learned about Prigogine and Nicolis’s theory and the analogies by which they justified it, it did seem plausible. But as I considered the merits of their proposal, I discovered that it had an obvious defect, one that the prominent information theorist Hubert Yockey described to me in an interview in 1986. Yockey pointed out that Prigogine and Nicolis invoked external self-organizational forces to explain the origin of ORDER in living systems. But, as Yockey noted, what needs explaining in biological systems is not order (in the sense of a symmetrical or repeating pattern), but information, the kind of SPECIFIED digital information found in software, written languages, and DNA.” (Pg. 255)
He recounts, “in the spring of 2000, I had just written an article about DNA and the origin of life… When the letters to the editor came in, I initially blanched when I saw one from a fierce critic names Kenneth R. Miller… Miller claimed that my critique of attempts to explain the origin of biological information had failed to address the ‘RNA first’ hypothesis… Miller was half right… But I knew that two decades of research on this topic had not solved the problem of the origin of biological information… I had decided not to address this issue in my original article. But now Miller’s letter gave me a chance to do so.” (Pg. 296-297)
He points out, “Every major origin-of-life scenario… failed to explain the origin of specified information. Thus, ironically origin-of-life research itself confirms that undirected chemical processes do no produce large amounts of specified information starting from purely physical or chemical antecedents. For this reason, it seemed entirely sensible to think that the conservation laws that computer scientists had devised to describe the flow of information in computational domains applied equally to the larger domain of nature itself. If so, it seemed plausible to think that the informational repositories of life… were pointing to a source of information beyond the realm of physics and chemistry.” (Pg. 332-333)
He states, “Though advocates of intelligent design have been labeled by some of their opponents as creationists… the case for intelligent design depends, ironically, upon a form of scientific reasoning---namely, uniformitarian reasoning---that creationists have often bitterly opposed. Indeed, the case for intelligent design depends on the uniformitarian method of scientific reasoning that Darwin himself used in formulating his argument … I concluded that a rigorous scientific argument for intelligent design could be formulated.” (Pg. 347-348)
He suggests, “I have found that the scientists and philosophers who reject [intelligent design] typically do so on philosophical grounds.” (Pg. 375) He admits, “Of course, critics of intelligent design may still judge that the number of published books and articles supporting the theory does not yet make it sufficiently mainstream to warrant teaching students about it. Perhaps. But that is a judgment about educational policy distinct from deciding the scientific status, or… the merits of the theory of intelligent design itself… If there were a hard-and-fast numerical standard … no new theory could ever achieve scientific status… Logically, the issue of peer review is a red herring---a distracting procedural side issue.” (Pg. 412-413)
He asks, “Does a reference to an unobservable entity provide a good reason for defining a theory as unscientific?... The answer to that question depends… upon how science is defined. If scientists (and all other relevant parties) decide to define science as an enterprise in which scientists can posit only observable entities in their theories, then clearly the theory of intelligent design would not qualify as a scientific theory Advocates of intelligent design infer, rather than directly observe, the designing intelligence for the digital information in DNA. But … this definition of science would render many other scientific theories, including many evolutionary theories of biological origins, unscientific by definition as well.” (Pg. 423-424)
He admits, “As a Christian, I’ve never made any secret about my belief in God or even why I think theism makes more sense of the totality of human experience than any other worldview… the theory does not make claims about a deity, nor can it. It makes a more modest claim… about the kind of cause---namely, an intelligent cause---that was responsible for the origin of biological form and information.” (Pg. 440) Later, he adds, “there is no question that many advocates of … intelligent design do have religious interests and beliefs and that some are motivated by their beliefs. I personally think that the evidence of design in biology… strengthens the case for theism and, thus, my personal belief in God. Subjectively, as a Christian theist, I find this implication of intelligent design ‘intellectually satisfying.’” (Pg. 447)
He concludes, “In some [cosmological] models, it’s even more probable that a whole universe like ours spontaneously fluctuated into existence than it is that our universe with its extraordinarily improbable initial conditions evolved into an orderly and lawlike way over billions of years. This means that the many-worlds-in-one hypothesis generates an absurdity. It implies that … our memories and perceptions are … quite possibly chance fabrications of quantum fields… the proposal … renders all scientific reasoning and explanation unreliable… It would be hard to invent a more self-refuting hypothesis than that?” (Pg. 508)
This book is a substantial addition to the literature about Intelligent Design, and will be of great interest to those [whether ‘pro’ or ‘con’] studying the theory.
The arguments in favor of the need to postulate some form of intelligence as the progenitor of life on Earth seem to me quite convincing. Even with an awesomely vast universe, with much in the way of probabilistic resources, I believe that Dr. Meyer makes a very strong case for the view that some form of creative intelligence giving rise to life is certainly the best, if not the only reasonable, explanation for life as we encounter it here on Earth.
I believe that this book deserves to be in every university library, and that it belongs in many science and philosophy classrooms as required reading material. Dr. Meyer has certainly made belief in the existence of a creative Intelligence as the source of life in this universe and the progenitor of “laws of biology” not only more credible, but almost persuasively convincing. “Signature in the Cell” is an excellent book.
Top reviews from other countries
Stephen Meyer gives a decent but not exhaustive run through of the history of the scientific method, and the cellular biochemistry relating to DNA expression. He also expounds digital data, information capacity and the tricky bit, detecting and highlighting the specified information content symptomatic of a conscious intelligent agent. He successfully turns a well known Richard Dawkins analogy on its head by showing, amongst other things, that minimal complexity is indeed a valid and relevant argument here. Actually with unguided and unplanned takes on evolutionary biology I'd say it can only be encroached on by elaborate special pleading. He demonstrates that Dawkins' approach with text strings violates what are in fact his own stated assumptions about evolution. This applies to neo-Darwinism but arguably more clearly to cellular biochemistry.
Many of us look at the cellular machinery, replete as it is with a generalised quaternary storage method, astonishingly precisely arranged so as to have no energy level bias regarding sequence, along with co-dependent reading, messaging, decoding and assembly apparatus, and just register quiet awe and worship toward the Creator. I certainly do.
Others join with the reductionists and see the minimally functional cell as a result of blind chance. Some form of biochemical evolution is going to be adequate to explain all this 'apparent design', they believe. Somehow the stochastic environment adds information content to other stochastic matter. All rather hand-waving.
Meyer has, in a way, sought to arbitrate between these perspectives by putting rational statistics on the matter-time probability space available in the cosmic environment. This he terms this 'probabilistic resource'. He then sets out to provide workable and benevolent-to-chance estimates for the probabilities of various steps in the required assembly of complex biochemical molecules and the specific information content required to be stored within some of those molecules for cellular life to develop. Here it is noteworthy that much of the criticism of the book is facile. I'm sympathetic, having been party to rigorous probabilistic calculations on digital data systems requiring frame alignment.
An excellent case for a designer. Equally, an excellent case for thinking outside the boundaries delineated by blinkered and constrictive orthodoxy.
What the book is short of is any real attempt to describe how the intelligent agency might have chosen to introduce the first minimal biochemical life, or indeed complete higher organisms. I would appreciate an expounding of the possibilities Meyer would entertain and how the resultant scenarios would compare with those stemming from say the BioLogos camp.
A very unorthodox, thought provoking and informative book. I'll give 5 stars despite what was for me a significant omission.