Friday, November 1, 2013

Darwin's Doubt by Stephen C. Meyer

Meyer centers his book on the “Cambrian explosion,” an event Darwin himself viewed as a “troubling anomaly” and one he hoped future fossil discoveries would eliminate.” (xii)

Meyer has divided his book into three parts. First he looks at the “missing fossils,” the absent ancestors of the Cambrian animals. Next he explores the importance of information to living systems and how that relates to the Cambrian explosion mystery. Meyer then evaluates the current evolutionary theories, assessing their inability to explain the origin of form and information. He also presents intelligent design as a possible solution to the Cambrian mystery.

Meyer notes, “Many evolutionary biologists now grudgingly acknowledge that no chemical evolutional theory has offered an adequate explanation of the origin of life or the ultimate origin of the information necessary to produce it.” (vii-ix)

But the public gets a different story. “Rarely has there been such a great disparity between the popular perception of a theory and its actual standing in the relevant peer-reviewed scientific literature.” (x) Meyer notes that the scientific community wants to ignore, at best, or hide, at worst, the significant problems with Darwinism.

Meyer covers the dating of strata, the impact of the Burgess Shale and the Cambrian fossil record, the Maotianshan Shale, the Ediacaran fauna, the genetic evidence regarding a possible ancestor of the Cambrian animals, variations of the tree of life, punctuated equilibrium, the information required for new forms of life, Shannon information and the possibility of mutations producing new genetic information, Axe's calculations and the improbability of building a Cambrian animal, evaluation of attempts to show how new genetic information arises, calculating “waiting times”, the complexities of building new animal body plans, epigenetic factors, self-organization and other neo-Darwin models.

He ends his book with a look at the current post-Darwinian world. He explores the philosophy of intelligent design, the signs indicating it, and why it is opposed so strongly by the scientific community, noting that in the world of academic freedom scientists advocating intelligent design are unwelcome.

Meyer's conclusion: “The neo-Darwinian mechanism does not account for either the origin of the genetic or epigenetic information necessary to produce new forms of life. Consequently, the problems posed to the theory by the Cambrian explosion remain unsolved.” (286) And, “Neither neo-Darwinism nor a host of more recent proposals (punctuated equilibrium, self-organization, evolutionary developmental biology, neutral evolution, epigenetic inheritance, natural genetic engineering) have succeeded in explaining the origin of the novel animal forms that arose in the Cambrian period.” (337) That, writes Meyer, is reason to consider intelligent design.

This may be a daunting book for the general reader (over 400 pages of text with 40 pages of notes and lots of biology language). Nonetheless, I would encourage every Christian interested in origins to read it. I would think that every science teacher and school board member would want to know what is in this book. It helps take off the peaceful facade of neo-Darwinism and bring to light the troubled state of the theory.

Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. From the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science after working as an oil industry geophysicist. He now directs the Center for Science at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, Washington. He authored Signature in a Cell and has appeared on many major television a radio programs.

HarperOne, 498 pages.
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