Sunday, September 01, 2013
Be careful what you wish for.
Smilodon's Retreat (a blog by an anonymous scientist ... here's more on Smilodon's qualifications) has begun a review of the book in such detail that he had four posts on the Prologue and three, so far, on Chapter 1.
There are 20 Chapters in the book and, if the poor guy doesn't exhaust himself, the DI drones may get the heebie-jeebies whenever they see that dentition.
As long as I'm here, I'll list some of the other reviews:
Nick Matzke's Meyer's Hopeless Monster, Part II
Donald Prothero's Stephen Meyer's Fumbling Bumbling Cambrian Amateur Follies
Michael Schulson's Creationism 3.0: Meet Intelligent Design's Huckster
John Farrell's How nature works
Gareth Cook's Doubting "Darwin's Doubt"
John Harshman of talk.origins has technical objections at The Panda's Thumb
Elizabeth Liddle at The Skeptical Zone has "Meyer's Mistake"
Larry Moran at Sandwalk gives Meyer short but telling shrift at "Darwin's Doubt: A Synopsis" but then expands on it in "Darwin's Doubt: The Genes Tell the Story?" (with a a couple of detailed comments by John Harshman) and Larry promises more ... And here are two additional posts: The Cambrian Conundrum: Stephen Meyer Says (Lack of) Fossils Trumps Genes and Stephen Meyer Says Molecular Evidence Must Be Wrong Because Scientists Disagree About the Exact Dates. Here are two more: Stephen Meyer Says Molecular Data Must Be Wrong Because Different Genes Evolve at Different Rates and Stephen Meyer Says That Constant Mutation Rates Are a "Questionable Assumption."
Ack! I am remiss! Richard B. Hoppe had this at The Panda's Thumb some time ago: "Stephen Meyer: workin' in the quote mines"
Here's something handy: Darwin's Doubt Critical Reviews, which is aggregating critical reviews of Meyer's book and the underlying work by IDers that Meyer relies on heavily. The site has Charles R. Marshall's review in Science entitled "When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship."
I’ll be perfectly honest, there isn’t anything in this book that shows evolution is wrong or that ID has any supporting evidence. If there was, they would publish and then they wouldn’t shut up about it. This is just book to lead the lay-person to the conclusion that science can’t explain everything.
And that agrees with what I saw in Meyer's book. Even if everything he has to say is accurate, he does not support any doubt that humans are part of the common descent of vertebrates by naturalistic evolution over hundreds of millions of years. Nor does the book offer any scenario of what did happen in the Cambrian, for example, what the trilobites came from or how (much less suggest what might count as evidence for a scenario).
What does it offer, other than the hope that maybe something, somehow, somewhere might be wrong with the evolutionary account of the Cambrian? A person could accept everything that he says and still have nothing to say about the obvious physical relationship of the human body to those of chimps, other apes, other mammals and other vertebrates.
You've read the book and I haven't but I gather from Cook's review that Meyer is just making a god-in-the-gaps argument writ as large and vaguely as he can.
Some where, some how, (sotto voce) God did some thing and, therefore, the universe is not utterly indifferent to us and, in turn, we can have a sense of meaning and purpose. Of course, Meyer knows that, from there, most of his audience can fill in the rest of their religious beliefs and never trouble their heads about evolutionary theory ever again.
P.S. If Cook's description of Meyer's intent to give people back a sense of meaning and purpose is accurate, that pretty much blows the cover of the "Designer" (as if we didn't already know). After all, why would knowlwdge of an alien or time-traveling designer give people meaning and purpose?
I was going to quote from "In Memoriam A H H" by Tennyson, but maybe the unintended irony is better found in Whitman:
WHEN I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick; 5
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
The book’s best, most honest moments come in the concluding chapter, in which Meyer travels to see the famous Burgess Shale in person. His son goes ahead on the trail but then suddenly freezes, stricken with vertigo after peering down the mountainside. Meyer likens his son’s paralysis to modernity’s despair at materialism, its shock at the prospect that the universe is utterly indifferent. Meyer writes frankly, saying that his quest is to give people back their sense of meaning and purpose. Here, at last, Meyer is not pretending to be a scientist.
In other words, in a nutshell, Meyer's book is just another example of apologetics dressed up as science.
If I want to have a special relationship with my Creator and Redeemer, what does it matter to me about the origins of trilobites? I could almost understand if someone objected to reproductive biology or genetics. Those give cold, naturalistic explanations of where I come from. But why worry about some abstraction like Homo sapiens, and events of long, long ago? Not to mention that with all of that loving attention to the design of trilobites, they were allowed to go extinct without descendants.
And if someone finds it repulsive to think that we are related to monkeys, how is it any relief to think that we were purposefully designed to be like monkeys? That does not deny that we are like monkeys, but raises it from a mere matter of the ordinary working of nature to something worthy of particular divine intention.
If the trilobites are (even in a vague way) specially created, then they can be certain that they surely are too. And the ick factor of being related to monkeys only comes into play if they are, themselves, monkeys rather than the result of God's lack of imagination in design. In the latter case, they can even laugh at how much chimps look like us when we dress 'em up in human clothes.
This was profoundly stated, TomS. Do you mind if I quote this on my blog?
Meyer’s Mistake. There's quite a discussion, with several ID proponents making the same mistake as Meyer.