A (formerly) reputable publisher sells out to creationists

This isn’t an ad for an upcoming book showing that Jesus caused the Cambrian explosion of animal life (the rapid origin of many phyla about 540 million years ago); rather, it’s an indictment of a once-reputable publisher, HarperCollins, who, under the imprint of HarperOne (its “religion” subsidiary), is going to publish this book in June:

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There are of course many theories for why so many phyla originated within a short time (“short” being 10-30 million years!): explanations based on genes (new developmental plans became available), environmental changes (more oxygen), and biological interactions (predators drove evolution of prey and vice versa).  In a nice article in the 2006 Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences (free pdf), my former colleague, paleontologist Charles Marshall, summarized many of them, concluding that we can’t yet lean strongly toward one explanation, or even toward one key factor.

That’s the way science works: when we don’t know the answer, we say so. A very common—indeed, even trite—sentence in the conclusion of scientific papers is this: “More work needs to be done.”

But creationist Stephen Meyer, from the Discovery Institute, has apparently wrapped up the story. He’s hit upon the real reason for the Cambrian explosion: it’s intelligent design!  Yes, baby Jesus made the phyla! As the ID blog “Evolution News and Views” notes when touting the book:

Here is a sweeping account, stunningly illustrated with gorgeous color photos, of the frontiers of the scientific critique of Darwinism and the case for ID. Exacting and thorough, yet remarkably accessible to the thoughtful lay reader, Darwin’s Doubt introduces us to the challenges to Darwinism based on the study of combinatorial inflation, protein science, population genetics, developmental biology, epigenetic information, and more.

Meyer explains how post-Darwinian alternatives and adaptions of Darwin’s theory — including self-organizational models, evo-devo, neutral or nonadaptive evolution, natural genetic engineering, and others — fall short as well. He demonstrates that the weaknesses of orthodox evolutionary theory, when flipped over head-to-foot, are precisely the positive indications that point most persuasively to intelligent design.

Evolutionary biologists studying gene regulatory networks and fossil discontinuity, among other fields, have come tantalizingly close to reaching this conclusion themselves.

“Tantalizingly close” my yiddische tuchus! Tell that to the evolutionists working on this problem, some of whom I know. I doubt that a single one of them would entertain intelligent design for a second. That’s because it’s a non-explanation, something that creationists like Meyer invoke when science doesn’t yet have an answer. In other words, this promises to be yet another God-of-the-gaps book (as we know, the “designer” of IDers like Meyer is really the Christian God). The “case for ID” here, as it always is, consists of arguing that there are phenomena that supposedly can’t be explained by materialist science. It’s straight natural theology: Paley of the 21st century.

If Meyer can’t adduce positive evidence that a designer created the Cambrian explosion—and I can’t imagine how he could possibly do this—his argument would rest only on our current ignorance of why it happened.  And that is just filling the lacuna in our knowledge with God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who, unlike Meyer, was a smart theologian, presciently decried Meyer’s strategy in his Letters and Papers from Prison (1997, p. 311):

“If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed farther and farther back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat.”

I’ll put my money on science here, and bet that within 50 years we’ll know a lot more about the Cambrian explosion and why it happened.  Or perhaps we won’t, for some scientific answers will forever elude us. But I’ll bet even more money on one thing: Meyer has no positive evidence that the explosion came from a designer.

Shame on him, but even more shame on HarperCollins for feeding and misleading the public with creationism masquerading as science. Have they no shame, at long last?

118 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:22 am | Permalink

    sub

    • Klein
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      A more complete quote from Bonhoeffer better represents Meyer’s position. Note the final part of this quote:
      “How wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know”

  2. Marella
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:25 am | Permalink

    Yes, baby Jesus made the phyla!

    Bahahahahahahaha!

    So why did it have to wait for 4 billion years after the planet formed? Is the baby Jesus a slow learner? Did it take him that long to figure out how to make a worm?

    • Geoff Boulton
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:52 am | Permalink

      I can hear the religious replies now, ‘Don’t you know a billion years to Jesus is like a day to us. It’s a miracle! Only four days to plan how best to design every creature on the planet, decide which would survive and which unlucky 98% would die out, and work out all the interactions between the species to give us the ‘perfect’ world we live in. Suck on that Atheists!

      • Eddie Janssen
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

        Not to mention the fact that after 0,13824 seconds he already knew that the whole show was a blunder and should be destroyed. Which was done half-heartedly and the 8 sinners that were given the chance to survive, made a mess of things within even less than the 0,13824 seconds it took us the first time.

        Not particularly impressive.

  3. Jeffrey Shallit
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:30 am | Permalink

    Considering how badly Meyer botched information theory in his last book, and considering that he doesn’t seem overly concerned with being
    accurate, who would expect his new book to be any better?

    • darrelle
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:57 am | Permalink

      AIG? ICR? DI?

  4. Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:37 am | Permalink

    HOw sad…you really want to censor books like this? Is that not a bit insecure and intolerant?

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:54 am | Permalink

      How sad. . . you really don’t understsnd what censorship is, do you? Let me enlighten you: censorship is when one prevents something from being given public airing when it should be (that does not, by the way, include a publisher deciding not to publish a stupid ID book). When someone decries such a book on a website, and takes the publisher to task for putting it out, that is manifestly NOT censorship, nor intolerance.

      It’s free speech, and apparently you don’t know the difference.

      Insecure? Give me a break. I’ve been listening to creationist arguments for decades, and I’m perfectly secure in my conclusion that the lot of them, including IDers like Meyer, are not only scientifically misinformed, but also intellectually dishonest.

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:59 am | Permalink

        Actually I am fully aware of what censorship is – it can take many forms. pressuring a published not to publish a book you don’t like is one form. Incidentally you should be aware that the Collins part of Harper Collins were bible publishers from Glasgow. Guess they should not be publishing the bible either – if they want to be seen as ‘reputable’ publishers!

        • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:02 am | Permalink

          Oh, and exactly HOW did I “pressure a publisher”? I haven’t written them, I’ve just criticized them. The next thing you’ll do is say that we’re “censoring” you by criticizing your faith.

          The Bible can be seen as an influential historical document, but Meyer’s books have no historical or scientific value.

          Now see below: I’ve asked you to adduce evidence for your beliefs before you can publish any more comments. Do so.

          • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:40 am | Permalink

            Anyone wanting to know what David Robertson’s “arguments” for his beliefs are could read this account by Paula Kirby.

            • lulu_footloose
              Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:10 am | Permalink

              @Coel

              Thanks for the link, showing us David Robertson’s true colours.

              I find it ironic that he thinks that Professor Coyne’s critique of a publisher is “censorship”, while conveniently forgeting that he also posted his own criticisms of Dawkin’s book ‘The God Delusion’. So by his own logic, he is also censoring Dawkins’ work!

              It’s disgusting to read Christians accusing non-Christians of something *bad* they are fond of doing.

              • Billy
                Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

                It always amuses me when someone like DAR talks of censorship when he does not allow comments on his own blog.
                For anyone else wondering about his views on science, he believes eating “apples” causes earthquakes and tsunamis (p8) http://www.freechurch.org/pdf/monthlyrecord/march05.pdf

        • Jonathan Wallace
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:09 am | Permalink

          There is no way this blog post can be described accurately as censorship. Waving the ‘censorship’ card speaks more of insecurity on your part.

        • Griff
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:27 am | Permalink

          So they specialise in fiction then?

        • truthspeaker
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

          It has nothing to do with Jerry not liking the book. The book is factually wrong. Reputable publishers don’t publish books that are factually wrong as if they were non-fiction books.

          If Harper Collins decided to publish a book written by Holocaust deniers, and people objected to that, would you accuse the objectors of censorship?

          • Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:18 am | Permalink

            Much of Harper One’s list is factually wrong. Necessarily so for a religion imprint.

            /@

        • Mark
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

          Criticizing a publisher was, is, and never will be censorship. Redefining words to suit one’s belief(s) was, is and always will be fabrication.

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:10 am | Permalink

        It’s not about censorship, it’s about about trade descriptions, as we say in the UK (maybe in the US too. Endorsed by a major publisher, this is religion masquerading as science. If the Dr Pepper company marketed 7 Up as champagne, it wouldn’t be right, would it? Many would protest. That’s not the same as trying to ban people from drinking 7 Up.

        • Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

          “this is religion masquerading as science”

          Is it? Harper One doesn’t publish science books… 

          /@

          • microraptor
            Posted April 17, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

            Do you think that will stop this book from being marketed as science rather than religion?

            • Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

              What I think is neither here nor there.

              We know exactly how it’s being marketed:

              When Charles Darwin finished The Origin of Species, he thought that he had explained every clue, but one. Though his theory could explain many facts, Darwin knew that there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. During this event, the “Cambrian explosion,” many animals suddenly appeared in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock.

              In Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life—a mystery that has intensified, not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found, but because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal. During the last half century, biologists have come to appreciate the central importance of biological information—stored in DNA and elsewhere in cells—to building animal forms.

              Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the origin of this information, as well as other mysterious features of the Cambrian event, are best explained by intelligent design, rather than purely undirected evolutionary processes.

              It’s unashamedly a book about intelligent design.

              /@

      • Chuck
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:23 am | Permalink

        …and I suppose you are the obvious choice for deciding “…when it should be.” Not saying any of this rises above intolerance of differing views and a pack mentality toward censorship, but your definition of censorship betrays your own misunderstanding. People like you cry a lot about injustice and absurdity and free speech from your perspective and are the first to “decide” what other perspectives are worth hearing. Neither you nor the author here are censoring. True. But the point is you quite obviously wish it, and those of us who want to hear all sides know it.

        • gbjames
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

          “But the point is you quite obviously wish it,”

          This is false.

          What is wished is that people would write honest books, that they would recognized the difference between science and religion, and that they didn’t pretend that creationism was science. It is no different than if the book was presenting alchemy and pretending it was chemistry, or astrology pretending to be astronomy. The fact that astrology isn’t a science is not really something for which there are multiple “sides”. At least among sane and moderately educated people.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          A lie is not a “side”.

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:24 am | Permalink

      Hello David,
      Have you ever apologised for the time that you fabricated a false quote that you attributed to Dawkins in a letter to The Times?

      • Billy
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

        He hasn’t apologised for saying that he recieved a death threat on Dawkin’s site, when ne never, or the time he said on his blog that evil atheists there accused one of his mates of sexual abuse, when in fact, the guy was challenged over lewd comments he made.

    • JBlilie
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      So insecure in you faith that you must react to anyone who criticizes it?

      Playing the victim card here makes you look like a fool.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      Concern trolling, are we?

      How quaint.

    • Brygida Berse
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

      Is that not a bit insecure and intolerant?

      Are you suggesting that our host could be insecure in his knowledge of biology? Really, Mr. Robertson?

      What’s next? Are you going write a letter to Stephen Hawking saying “you don’t really understand physics, do you?”

      Others already commented on your ridiculous accusation of “intolerance”. Criticizing books that claim that the Earth is flat or that ear candling works is not intolerant. It is actually a duty of socially responsible scientists.

    • neil
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

      Please learn the difference between a call for editorial discretion without misrepresentation and a call for censorship.

  5. Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:42 am | Permalink

    Bonhoeffer was following the same line of argument as Henry Drummond, who wrote in 1904 of those Christians who point to the things that science can not yet explain—”gaps which they will fill up with God”—and urges them to embrace all nature as God’s, as the work of “… an immanent God, which is the God of Evolution, is infinitely grander than the occasional wonder-worker, who is the God of an old theology.”

    This I think is where the expression “God of the gaps” came from. Drummond was a theologian and prominent in the Free Church of Scotland, now, alas, committed to the most obscurantist version of “the old theology”, namely biblical literalist creationism.

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:47 am | Permalink

      Paul, its alwsys good to get your facts right. As a minister in the Free Church of Scotland I should point out that the Free Church is not, nor ever has been, committed to what you call ‘biblical literalist creationalism’. Our position is the same as it was in Drummonds day. We of course as Christians believe that God is the Creator, we deny that Genesis is a scientific text book. One of our founding fathers, Hugh Miller, was also a key figure in the development of modern geology – and since his day most people in the Free Church would have had no difficulty with believing in an old earth. I know some office bearers in the church who are young earth creationists, others old earth and others are theistic evolutionists…not quite the caricature you so confidently portray!

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:57 am | Permalink

        Are the four canonical gospels “scientific text books,” then, since clearly by that you mean, “true.” That is, does your Church believe in the reality of the Resurrection? What about the virgin birth?

        Since you are new here, and obviously a theist, I will ask you, before you post further, to give us the evidence that has convinced you that there is a God. This is normal for a first-time poster who is religious.

        So, before you make any more comments, please lay out for us the reason why you not only believe in God, but believe in the Christian God and whatever tenets of faith your church accepts, like the Resurrection.

        Evidence, please!

        • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:01 am | Permalink

          IN one post? You are kidding! Are you really saying that only that which is scientific can be true? YOu demand evidence but of course you would accept none – because your faith compels you to believe that there can be nothing outside the material world. Still nice deflection though – you misrepresent and still can’t apologise!

          • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink

            Yeah, pretty much: the only things we can know about the universe come from observation, experiment, and reason, that is, science defined broadly.

            I wrote a book about the evidence for evolution, and regularly lecture about the observations that would convince me that evolution was wrong (though we haven’t seen any).

            I suggest that you frequent some other website, as you won’t obey the rules here, which include giving evidence for your beliefs–something you could prefectly well summarize in one post.

            • Billy
              Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

              I posted it elsewhere, but seems more accurate here, but DAR believes tusnamis and cancer were not present before man http://www.freechurch.org/pdf/monthlyrecord/march05.pdf
              His church also promotes creationism. In fact a free church (Dowanhill in Glasgow) hosted a “talk” by Ken Ham a few years ago. A recent copy of their children’s “magasine” the instructor, openly said god *created* butterflies.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:41 am | Permalink

            Are you really saying that only that which is scientific can be true?

            Yes, of course.

          • Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

            Why should it be so difficult to provide at least some evidence in one post?

            If you ask Jerry about evidence for evolution he can enumerate some bullets in a short paragraph. It wouldn’t be exhaustive, naturally, but that wasn’t the request.

            I am going to propose a law: the overall length of and amount of verbal bluster contained in something purportedly explanatory is inversely proportional to the likelihood that it is true or has any merit.

            Someone (I think on this very site) once write that concision is a good litmus for assessing the merit of an idea. Can it be summed up clearly?

            • darrelle
              Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:47 am | Permalink

              We had a good example of this not too long ago in a comment by Ted Davis. He referenced as evidence, or support, for the claim that the Resurrection really occurred a book by N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God. When I commented negatively on a quote Ted selected from this book he replied with this.

              “As I’ve said, you can’t reproduce any lengthy excerpts, and an argument constructed in more than 700 pages is hard to reduce to a few hundred words.”

              This is a prime example of what is wrong with theology. Ted has at least one PhD, and he thinks that taking 700 pages to present an argument that it is reasonable to believe that the resurrection occurred, is a mark of good scholarship. This is even more remarkable when you consider that there is no data to summarize, no experiments to describe, no evidence of any kind. The only information to reference in support are similar unsupported, unevidenced rationalizations by others in the same profession.

              The unconfirmed suppositions of another are not evidence in support of any argument, no matter how many words are involved.

              • Kevin
                Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

                And when Ted was pressed — by me — he excerpted those 900 pages into a quite succinct paragraph that basically showed his “evidence” was nothing more than NT Wright’s evidence-free assertion that the “empty tomb” was the most-compelling “evidence” for a divine Jesus.

                Evidence: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

                It’s the same with all theists. They’ll boil and sputter — but they can give you the assertion on a 5×7 postcard.

              • Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

                @Kevin:

                Yes. That’s the great thing about clarity and concision. On the occasions when theists deploy those characteristics, it becomes trivial to see and point out the usually trivial errors.

        • DV
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

          I’d like to hear some reasons from David why he does NOT believe in any of the other religions too.

      • David Duncan
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

        Rev’d Robertson,

        I’ll admit I’m not an authority on every Presbyterian denomination, but doesn’t the Free Church subscribe to the Westminster Confession? If so, don’t you think that the WC is inconsistent with evolution?

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

        Perhaps I am remiss as charged for not distinguishing between Old Earth and Young Earth creationism, but this is a sample of the noxious garbage the Free Church now promotes; note that the author was Moderator (no less) for 2011. The “dangerous pseudoscience” referred to is the whole of biology AND geology:

        http://christianobserver.org/dangerous-pseudoscience/

        DAR, I am always happy to get my facts right; to help me do so, tell me this, do you accept the antiquity of the Earth, i.e. >4 billion years, do you accept the common ancestry of living things, and do you accept that, contrary to Genesis, whales appeared more recently than land mammals?

      • Cremnomaniac
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        Hmmm, Davey boy you might want to talk to that church webmaster of yours, if I take what you say as an honest representation of your church beleifs.
        From the Free Church of Scotland website under “christian basics”-

        This inspired book is fully accurate. God’s authorship ensures its reliability because God does not lie. His Word is without error in all that it teaches and we can rely on its absolute truthfulness. It is also authoritative because it still speaks with the authority of the God who first spoke it. All our beliefs are taken from this book and we appeal to it alone as our final authority.

        I’m thinking that a) you don’t know your church, or b) you’re lying out your arse. My quick read of that passage from YOUR church seems pretty clear. You are biblical literalists and the creation story is part of it. So, get your story straight.

  6. hammers69
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:44 am | Permalink

    And, well.. didn’t the Cambrian only happen a few hundred years ago or something…

  7. Kevin Anthoney
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:47 am | Permalink

    Isn’t HarperCollins owned by Newscorp? No wonder it’s gone downhill.

    • MKray
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:22 am | Permalink

      Yes … murdochery.

  8. Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:55 am | Permalink

    To be fair, Ediacara biota fossils do have a pareidolia effect. Marcion of Sinope often appears on lichens if you adjust the track lighting at the Discovery Institute.

  9. Jonathan Dore
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    HarperCollins is sadly just another of the thousands of orifices through which Rupert Murdoch speaks. No surprise to see this I’m afraid.

    • Venise Alstergren
      Posted April 20, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      I agree with you. Seldom, in the history of man, has so much power been handed to such a mediocre little man/mind.

  10. thedxman
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink

    But, but… doesn’t every major publisher have a “fiction” category? ;)

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

      Yeah, but Harper Voyager’s editors would surely shy away from publishing this kind of fantasy!

      /@

  11. Erik
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:19 am | Permalink

    Meyer’s book is likely an expanded version of his paper that was inappropriately published in, and then subsequently withdrawn (by the editorial board) from, the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington . Meyer still refers to the paper as if it were a legitimate peer-reviewed publication.

    As an antidote to this nonsense, I’d recommend Erwin and Valentine’s new book…The Cambrian Explosion: The Construction of Animal Biodiversity (Ben Roberts Publishing). While the book is not exactly written for a general audience, it is a good account by two paleobiologists who are major researchers in the field and have worked on this case. I’m part way through the book and recommend it highly.

  12. Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    Obviously HArper Collins can publish what they want, but they cannot escape the consequences good or bad.
    I trust we will see a suitable response of the more scientific kind that pooh poohs the rubbish S Meyer spouts.

  13. Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:29 am | Permalink

    “Reputable publisher”? HC is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

    • David Duncan
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:43 am | Permalink

      Murdoch is evil, he poisons every thing he touches.

      • John Scanlon, FCD
        Posted April 24, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        Maybe so, but I’ll always remember the time I and a couple of fellow palaeo students turned off the road to check out some Paleozoic marine outcrop in the front paddock but first headed through to the farmhouse to ask permission, and finally found an old man alone, reading in a big armchair by the French windows, who came out and welcomed us and knew all about his brachiopods and graptolites, and told us to help ourselves. No names were exchanged, but we all thought he looked familiar and a few minutes down the road I realised who we just met.
        I like Weinberg’s line about “for good people to do evil things, that takes religion”, but I suspect that it generalises to those who serve other kinds of corporations as well.

  14. jscrobinson
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    I’m not a creationist but I am a Christian. It’s unfortunate that Christian are often misrepresented by publications such as ‘darwins doubt’ but that doesn’t justify some of the rather childish patronising comments made by many of the anti Christians taking part in this discussion.

    With regard to the book being published, I don’t try to stop publishers from selling anti theist books, there is such a thing as free speech. Why shouldn’t the book be published even if parts of society disagree with it.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:34 am | Permalink

      “I don’t try to stop publishers…”

      A BS argument. There is a difference between criticizing a publisher for the material they publish and “trying to stop” it.

      You’ve motivated me to make a “patronizing” comment since you express a typical Christian persecution delusion, confusing criticism with censorship.

    • Tulse
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:37 am | Permalink

      With regard to the book being published, I don’t try to stop publishers from selling anti theist books, there is such a thing as free speech.

      So Jerry shouldn’t exercise his right to free speech to criticize the publisher? You seem rather selective in your notion of “free speech”.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:42 am | Permalink

      that doesn’t justify some of the rather childish patronising comments made by many of the anti Christians taking part in this discussion.

      Such as?

    • Bee
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:44 am | Permalink

      How is this post trying to stop the publication of the above mentioned book?
      It’s not censorship, it’s criticism. This is also part of free speech, you know.

  15. Bee
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    … you know what? Let’s stick to science.

  16. David Duncan
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    “…but even more shame on HarperCollins for feeding and misleading the public with creationism masquerading as science. Have they no shame, at long last?”

    HarperCollins bought the Christian publisher Zondervan to add to their stable, and OUP publishes, or at least did until recently various Bibles.

    It’s all about money. Why do you think university bookshops sell astrology books, as SJ Gould complained? Reputable publishers and university bookshops will sell WEIT or The Genesis Flood if it’ll make them a buck.

  17. Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

    HarperCollins is huge publishing house with many imprints with independent editorial control (pace Murdoch’s ownership).

    I don’t think any shenanigans that Harper One gets up to really reflect badly on any of the others, including Collins and 4th Estate, which publish Prof. Brian Cox and Dr. Ben Goldacre among others). I’m afraid your title is sheer hyperbole, Jerry! (Sorry.)

    In any case, Harper One already publishes Meter’s Signature in the Cell, so your umbrage is tardy. ;-)

    /@

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:39 am | Permalink

      I’ll bet it appears in the science section on Amazon … It does. What’s wrong here is that the publishers are publishing a work they undoubtedly know to be religious nonsense dressed up as a science book in order to deceive gullible readers and sell more copies; you just need to look at the cover to ascertain that. Science holds a privileged position in the public mind, and this kind of book is being cynically promoted to take advantage of that.

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:19 am | Permalink

        Then castigate Amazon, not HarperCollins. Write a review there!

        Re the cover, it subject matter does encompass the Cambrian Explosion, albeit from a religious pov, so a trilobite is appropriate (although experts might dispute whether or not that is a Cambrian species).

        ID is religious nonsense dressed up as science; why should an ID book’s cover not reflect that?

        All marketing is cynical…

        /@

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

      You might also have to pick a fight with the Library of Congress, Jerry, since Signature In the Cell has the following subject tags:

      650 _0 |a Intelligent design (Teleology)
      650 _0 |a Evolution (Biology) |x Religious aspects.
      650 _0 |a Religion and science.

      (This book hasn’t been catalogued yet.)

      /@

  18. Tulse
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    While I understand Jerry’s ire, I think it is notable that this book was indeed published under the HarperOne imprint

    The most important books across the full spectrum of religion, spirituality, and personal growth, adding to the wealth of the world’s wisdom by stirring the waters of reflection on the primary questions of life while respecting all traditions.

    In other words, even HarperCollins sees ID as a variety of religion, and not science. I’d be far more concerned if they published this under their standard HC imprint, rather than the religious ghetto of HarperOne.

  19. JBlilie
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Maybe I missed it somewhere in the comments; but I’m surprised no one has noted this (after Dr. C. did in the original post):

    HarperCollins, who, under the imprint of HarperOne (its “religion” subsidiary), is going to publish [Darwin's Doubt] in June.

    They agree with us!: This is religion, not science.

    I guess I’d be more concerned if it were published by a science imprint. There’s a load of money to be made off of the religious. I walked through a Barnes and Noble yesterday and was stunned by the sheer volume of religious books. Huge rows of nothing religious books.

    CENSORSHIP, Mr. Robertson? Puh-leeze. Criticism of books and companies is the normal process of life. Do you expect to be protected from criticism in the public sphere. It appears that, yes, most religious people expect to be exempt from criticism. And some try to enforce that with violence or the threat of violence. You ideas are bad; expect criticism. Get over it.

    Shall we count the number of religious books on offer at any randomly chosen Barnes and Noble and compare that to the number of books on evolution (or science, full stop) in the same store. Censorship? You’ve got to be kidding.

    • Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:01 am | Permalink

      OT (somewhat): In the UK, “Mind, Body & Spirit” sections can be bigger than popular science and religion sections combined!

      Not all “nones” are rational, sadly.

      /@

  20. Mark
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    A publisher should only interest itself in professionally presenting books that will sell. Nothing more. Hence, shame on us for casting this publisher in a bad light for simply publishing unsubstantiated BS. A publisher is not endorsing content. Long live free speech and capitalism – independent of worldviews!

    • Timothy Hughbanks
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

      Saying that publisher should only interest themselves in presnting books that will sell depends on what kind of reputation the publishers wish to establish for themselves. If Oxford University press wants to maintain a reputation for serious academic publishing, then they should probably refrain from publishing sadomasochistic porn or Steven Meyers creationist trash. If HarperCollins wants to publish bullshit, then they are free to do so, but to say that we shouldn’t call them trashy publishers is stupid. Capitalism can produce good things and it can produce bad things and I’ve little use for people who think anything that that makes money shouldn’t be criticised.

  21. Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

    I debated Stephen C. Meyer at the Washington Press Room. The ID’ers had rented a room. ID wanted to use this debate for another Provine-Johnson debate and to publish it many ways.

    Beforehand, I made a deal with Meyer. I would answer any question he put to me. Would he do the same for me? He said, “of course.”

    He made his cogent argument of evolution stirred on by an Intelligent Designer. I just argued that I was a far more critical of the evolutionary synthesis, was writing a book about random drift, and was a far better critic of current evolutionary views than he was.

    Then I asked him about his views on Christianity. He had to answer. We established that the Christian God made life; it was made perfectly and had gone downhill since the creation (young earth creationists hold this view); and he went on and on about Christianity and evolution. He killed all chances of using this debate as a way of killing evolution. I have never seen a movie of this debate, though one was taken.

  22. Tommy
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:21 am | Permalink

    FYI David Robertson specialises in specious drive-by apologetics. Most of it ill-founded biblicism. Once, in order to hastily shout down an atheist, he boldly claimed that all four of the gospel writers had known Jesus personally. (No informed Bible scholar thinks this is so.) As I recall I asked him for months to admit his error. It took several attempts and his final “retraction” was pretty mealy-mouthed.

    My advice: ignore him and he’ll go away eventually. Engage him and you feed his ego.

    • Harry
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

      David Robertson is of course “The Wee Flea” who used to troll RD.net. Contributors over there had to teach him about the bible all the time, but he was adamant in not learning. He also had an article published in The Telegraph that made one reader cancel his/her subscription accusing Robertson of “endorsing witchcraft”.

      • JBlilie
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

        I thought his whine sounded familiar …

        • Billy
          Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

          I think he also posed as “Clear thinker”. You can usually bet that someone who calls themself that is not.

          I remember him complaining that he was banned on RD.net – despite being able to complain about it on RD.net :-)

          You can’t take a guy seriously who claims to adhere to the Westminister Confession of Faith, which is pro literal creation and claims the pope is the antichrist, yet denies he believes that …..

  23. Boris Molotov
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    I find this much more appealing conjecture about the cambrian explosion… (and the timing of life).

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/513781/moores-law-and-the-origin-of-life/

  24. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    the frontiers of the scientific critique of Darwinism and the case for ID.

    They wish. It isn’t even the back end of science, where the light never shines.

    Btw, I noted a new flea byte in the Fleabytes’ link:

    “Wilson’s final assault is on the anthropic principle and cosmological improbability. He has another go at Dawkins’ insistence that any creator god must have evolved from something less complex, whining that his God is eternal and so exempt from this argument.”

    I don’t think Wilson understand the difference between infinite and finite measures. It would be very odd (as in unlikely) for an eternal agent to sometime decide to do a finite action. Why then and for what purpose? Surely it won’t make eternity less boring.

    But assuming for a moment that we grant Wilson an infinite agent and a religious special pleading of an uncaused cause, it is squeezed out by potentially infinite processes like eternal inflation. And as per usual, makes supernaturalism superfluous. So no go, as always we need evidence and the religious have none.

  25. Posted April 17, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    The whole Harper family has been owned by Murdoch for quite a few years. I was of the impression that he left at least some of his properties free to function without his polluting politics. It would seem that gradually he’s infecting his whole empire.

  26. Posted April 17, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Hey, Harper Collins is a business. They have to make money off the other 90% of the population that are theists. It’s all about the bottom line!

  27. @eightyc
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    lol

    It should be carried by publishers of homeopathy, reiki, etc.

  28. Ryan
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Maybe read the book first and then critique it?

    • Grania Spingies
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:15 am | Permalink

      Yeah. Except if you have any idea what site you’ve landed on, you’ll know that Jerry Coyne has spent a great many years rebutting the nonsense that ID & Creationist proponents churn out.
      And here’s the interesting bit: not once do they ever come up with a single valid idea.
      Their collective works can be summarised like this:
      God did it
      OR
      It’s too complicated for me to understand, so therefore God did it.
      That’s all. Even the more educated and intelligent ones eventually come down to this.

      So your point is like someone telling an astrophysicist that he really needs to read this new “Moon Landing was a Hoax” book before criticizing it. No, they really don’t have to. It’s long been discredited as an idea without any merit at all.

      • Ryan
        Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

        Well from my reading experiences not all ID proponents or creationists argue in a god-of-gaps manner. Sure there are some horrific creationist books out there, but I always felt like Meyers was better than say a Strobel or Behe book. Maybe instead of calling his work drivel before reading it just because he believes in ID, Coyne could at least read it and if there are any new ideas address them, or if it’s just the same re-hashed nonsense THEN say so.

        I mean we call creationists closed minded all the time but when I read stuff like, “I doubt that a single one of them would entertain intelligent design for a second. That’s because it’s a non-explanation, something that creationists like Meyer invoke when science doesn’t yet have an answer.” I feel like that’s being just as closed minded. If Meyer’s argues that there is evidence for the possibility at least of an intelligent designer sure that doesn’t give us a mechanism of how, but it would at least help us to be a bit more open minded to the ID’s perspective even if we don’t agree.

        In anycase I hope Coyne takes time to read it and critique it. At least think about it from the other side. If a creationist called Why Evolution is True a bunch of nonsense and not worth the read without himself having read it I’d think we’d all agree that’s not fair to do.

        • Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

          It’s precisely because it “doesn’t give us a mechanism of how” that we know it’s drivel — at least, that it’s not science.

          /@

          • Ryan
            Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

            Right but it seems to me Meyers isn’t trying to give us a “how” he’s trying to give us a possible “why.” He’s attempting to use science to support his position (of an intelligent mind) but not trying to say how the mind accomplished it. But I think you make a good point in saying this is how we know his position isn’t a scientific one. It’s a philosophical one.

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted April 17, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

              As briefly as I can: Without a description of the designer, his/her/its/their nature and technique, how would we even recognize a given object as designed? Paley’s argument works for watches, because we know how human designers work. But there is no a priori reason to think that the design of some god, or some advanced space alien, would necessarily show the same characteristics.

              This defeats the “why”. Others have already commented on the fact that the lack of any mechanism in ID “theory” defeats the “how”.

              As Barbara Forrest states in “Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design”: “The Conclusion that the Wedge is primarily a religious rather than a scientific movement thus becomes unavoidable” (updated edition, p. 264).

              • JBlilie
                Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:49 am | Permalink

                And, there’s a really important point here, that almost everyone (and certainly all creationists) forget, made nicely in Dannett’s book, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.

                Even if, you are willing to accept the induction that: The appearance of design is solid evidence for design (I do not accept this in any way), the conclusion the creationist draws from this is STILL WRONG.

                As Dennett points out: Paley’s iconic watch wasn’t designed suddenly from nothing either. It came into existence through a very long series of experiments: research and development (R&D.) Before the watch in question, lesser watches had to have been designed. Before the first watch, a long series of clocks had to have been designed. And before clocks, many various geared machines, springs, pendulums, wheels, bearings, etc., each with its own family tree of research and development. Before geared machines: gears and wheels and axels and bearings. Before good springs and good gears/axels/bearings, etc.: metallurgy. Before metallurgy: mining and use of furnaces. Before furnaces: making use of fire, building structures, fired bricks, etc. Before any of that: agriculture and permanent settlements. And so on.

                The correct conclusion, based on the watch analogy (which I do not accept) is that a large number of gods over a long period of time designed the natural world, NOT that one did it from nothing.

                Nevermind that the entire argument is bollocks; but pointing out the correct conclusion (creationists are not known for the logical prowess) usually stops them — for a while, until they pull out the universal solvent of theology: God is mysterious …

              • JBlilie
                Posted April 18, 2013 at 5:50 am | Permalink

                I contracted Dan Dennett’s name inadvertently into Dannett. Apologies.

        • gbjames
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          Do you think it unreasonable for me to disregard books advocating the existence of Bigfoot without reading them?

          Creationist books are stupid because creationism is stupid. Creationism is failed science that has been refuted repeatedly for more than a hundred years. Creationists have contributed nothing in all that time to advance the respectability of their position.

          It is not necessary to read every new creationist book to disregard it out of hand. They contribute no more to human knowledge than books that advocate for astrology.

        • truthspeaker
          Posted April 17, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

          If Meyer has new ideas, then he should submit a paper to an appropriate journal. Scientists don’t read popular science books aimed at the general public to learn of new ideas, they read peer-reviewed academic journals.

          Given Meyer’s previous output, which was just as bad as Behe or Strobel, I think it’s safe to assume that his newest book is likely to be drivel.

    • Kevin
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      Yes, and the new book about how vaccines cause autism.

      Or the book that denies the Holocaust.

      Or the book that says the Earth is flat.

      Or the book that says gravity is pixies holding us down…

      …and on and on.

      One does not need to read drivel in order to recognize it as such.

      Anything from Meyer — unless it is a full and complete retraction and apology for 20 years of bad scholarship and even worse argumentation — will be drivel.

    • steve oberski
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      Ryan, the book is not available yet, it will be released June 18.

  29. Kevin
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    You know, I’m going to go the other way on this.

    I think Meyers and Dumbski and all the rest should be praised for publishing their little books.

    Because it mobilizes real scientists to critique them, and to explain the real science in very public fora.

    You could not buy that kind of publicity.

    If no one was publishing this drivel, all of the scientists in the world would basically ignore the scientific illiteracy of the majority of the country. To everyone’s detriment.

    Oh no. I’m glad for Meyers to be exposed as a fraud and a charlatan.

    • neil
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:04 am | Permalink

      We can’t stop it anyway, so lets make lemonade out of these lemons. A teaching opportunity.

  30. Marcoli
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I am very late to this conversation, but people might like to learn that the Cambrian explosion might never have happened. Genetic clock data consistently shows that many of the animals first seen in the Cambrian were around in the PRE-Cambrian, emerging over a period of about 100 million years. See for example this entry from Sandwalk:
    <a ref="http://sandwalk.blogspot.ca/2011/12/cambrian-conundrum-fossils-vs-genes.html&quot;

    • Marcoli
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Sorry, I do not know how to enter links properly. Take off the “&quot” and it should work.

      • Posted April 17, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

        Thanks. Linking in turn to:

        Erwin, D.H., Laflamme, M., Tweedt, S.M., Sperling, E.A., Pisani, D., and Peterson, K.J. (2011) The Cambrian conundrum: early divergence and later ecological success in the early history of animals. Science 334:1091-1097. [PubMed] [doi: 10.1126/science.1206375]

  31. Dela
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    ID lol .. wat a pity ..

  32. docbill1351
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Meyer’s little buddies back at the Firm, the Tooters, have their collective panties in a bunch because the big, bad old scientists are giving Meyer’s latest opus flatus a good mocking and drubbing before it’s even published. Bad scientists, bad!

    However, what the Tooters fail to realize (again!) is that we are merely applying the Modern Theory of Creationism that hypothesizes that creationists produce bullshit. After 150 years the MTOC has held up pretty well especially with the recent discovery that a creationist’s genome is made up entirely of junk DNA.

    In fact, I plugged in the Tooter’s description of Meyer’s Hopeless Monster Mark 2013 into my Binford 3000 Creationist Combinatorial Inflation calculator and before it overheated managed to extract two readings: probability of Science – 0% and probability of Bullshit – 100% Of course, these are just probabilities with an uncertainty of +/- 5 Dembskis give or take a few framastats.

    Still, I’m prepared to wager 1000 Quatloos that my calculation will be verified by experiment once Meyer’s bolus, er, book has been excreted.

    Thank you Harp-1 for providing this summers entertainment.

    • darrelle
      Posted April 17, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

      Made me laugh.

      You should upgrade to a Binford 5000 series. They are cryogenically cooled.

  33. Moshe
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 6:11 am | Permalink

    Mr Coyne, you said, “That’s the way science works: when we don’t know the answer, we say so. A very common—indeed, even trite—sentence in the conclusion of scientific papers is this: “More work needs to be done.”

    My question to you is why wasn’t this the case with “junk” dna and vestigial organs which I find such terminology to be science stoppers held within the evolutionary framework. Things have been discovered unexpectantly that supports the so called vestigial organs to have function or purpose and some more than others.
    We should no longer view any part of dna to be junk after the recent discoveries of functionality within most of it. This just shows how much scientists really don’t know when it comes to biological systems.

    So why hasn’t the thought of “we don’t know” and “more work needs to be done” prevail in the above subjects?

    Thanks

    • DV
      Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know. And sometimes we are mistaken. But you overstate how much we really don’t know. We already know a lot. The things that we don’t know are details that won’t upend the overall framework. Whatever we find out about the functions of “junk” DNA (which I think is also being overstated or over-hyped), there’s no chance this will mean Evolution is false and Jesus really did it.

    • uva3021
      Posted April 18, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      The thought of “more work needs to be done” hasn’t prevailed on topics where more work by scientists has actually been done?

    • Posted April 18, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

      Junk DNA is just DNA that is non functional in the sense that it doesn’t code for proteins; it’s the remains of old genes that suffered mutations preventing transcription etc. But, given that it has existed in cells for such a long time, it would be surprising if it hadn’t been coopted by other functional genes to do something. In a similar way we (humans) coopt things in our environments – if you don’t have a hammer you can hammer in a nail with the heal of your shoe.

      The mistake is to imagine that the cell is a mechanism with watch like specificity and functionality – it’s not, it’s a spaghetti junction of Heath Robinson (Rube Goldberg) like solutions where everything at hand is pressed into some kind of usage.

  34. gbjames
    Posted April 18, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Welcome to the discussion. Before you go further in your questions you may want to pick up a copy of our host’s book “Why Evolution is True”, for which this website is named. You’ll find a wealth of evidence.


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