The first review of Stephen Meyer’s new ID book

As you’ll know if you’ve been reading here regularly, Stephen Meyer, a fellow of the intelligent-design-touting Discovery Institute, has published a new book called Darwin’s Doubt. Its thesis is that the Cambrian explosion of animal life, which I mentioned yesterday, could not reflect natural evolutionary processes, and so must be the work of God an Intelligent Designer.

It’s no use reading reviews by ID people, as they’re hardly objective, and don’t have the requisite knowledge about the Cambrian explosion anyway. I too lack that expertise, which is why I’m not reviewing the book.  But, over at Panda’s Thumb, Nick Matzke, who’s finishing his Ph.D. in biology at Berkeley, has written a very long but excellent review, which he call’s “Meyer’s Hopeless Monster, Part II“. (“Part I” is a damning review Matzke wrote about a paper Meyer published in 2004.)

Matzke’s verdict: Darwin’s Doubt stinks. His overall opinion:

As I read through Meyer’s book, though, in case after case I see misunderstandings, superficial treatment of key issues which are devastating to his thesis once understood, and complete or near-complete omission of information that any non-expert reader would need to have to make an accurate assessment of Meyer’s arguments.

And he proffers this damning assessment of Meyer’s scientific explanations:

In the cases I have checked, Wikipedia does better at explaining the actual issues and methods than Meyer does.

Nick’s review is long and quite technical, so I’ll just summarize the main points of contention. I am not evaluating what Nick said, but summarizing his criticisms, and I hope I get this right!

All statement in quotes are from Matzke:

  • Meyer doesn’t present the full story of the Cambrian “explosion,” and neglects the animal diversification that led up to it, making the explosion seem more explosive than it was.  Moreover, the earliest representatives of modern “phyla” are quite different from those that appear even in the late Cambrian, so evolution continued throughout the 30-myr period. I quote Nick:

“All of this is pretty good evidence for the basic idea that the Cambrian “Explosion” is really the radiation of simple bilaterian worms into more complex worms, and that this took something like 30 million years just to get to the most primitive forms that are clearly related to one or another living crown “phyla”, and occurred in many stages, instead of all at once. But, the reader gets very little of the actual big picture from Meyer.”

  • The notion of what a “new body plan” is turns out to be quite fuzzy, and in fact those “plans,” which comprise many characters, originated during the Cambrian in a step-by-step rather than instantaneous proces. Meyer’s failure to appreciate this comes from his apparent lack of understanding of modern systematics and cladistic methodology. Again I quote Nick:

“It is the step-by-step reconstruction of character changes that is the fundamentally important result that tells us about evolutionary history. This is the result that is closest to the data. The naming conventions are not of fundamental importance by comparison, even though creationists (including Meyer) usually distract themselves by focusing on names and taxonomic ranks rather than the distribution of characters. . . But Meyer never presents for his readers the point that cladistic analyses reveal the order in which the characters found in living groups were acquired, nor the fact that stem taxa are the transitional fossils the creationists are allegedly looking for. And he especially avoids giving his readers any real sense of the number of transitional forms we know about for some groups, and the detail known about their relationships and about the order in which the characters of modern groups originated. The most egregious example is with the Cambrian arthropods and arthropod relatives.

  • Meyer’s ignorance of modern systematics leads him to many other mistake or muddles. He mischaracterizes animals like Anomalocarus as “arthropods, which isn’t kosher. Further, some of his “phyla” are actually subgroups of other “phyla”.  Meyer mistakenly thinks that modern systematics can identify fossils that are direct ancestors of modern groups. It can’t: it can identify sister groups (groups that are each other’s closest relatives) and “ancestral grades and clades”—but not single fossils that are themselves ancestral.  According to Matzke, this issue (one that even I’m aware of) leads Meyer into several “howlers.” Finally, Meyer notes that some phylogenetic analysis conflict, and on this basis rejects the entire enterprise of systematics as used to analyze the fossil data! Nick weighs in:

“Again, it is only by refusing to depict and specifically discuss of the inter-relationships of these sorts of taxa, and the data that supports them, and to mention the statistical support for the resulting relationships, that Meyer manages to pretend to his readers that these questions [what is the ancestry of a group] are not even partially answered, are unanswerable, and that “poof, God did it” is a better explanation.

. . .But to creationists/IDists, all phylogenetic conflicts of any sort are considered equally, crashingly devastating. It’s rather a lot like when the young-earth creationists argued if estimates of the age of the Earth varied between 4.5 and 4.6 billion years ago, this 100-my disagreement was huge, and therefore we should instead think the Earth is 6,000 years old.

. . . All of the major statistical phylogenetic issues I’ve raised above were put forward with much more patience and detail by Doug Theobald in his “29+ Evidences for Macroevolution” FAQ at talk.origins. Meyer cites this once, near the beginning of his quote-mining tour about conflict between phylogenies, but then asserts that “In reality, however, the technical literature tells a different story.” This just ain’t so.”

  • Most of Meyer’s book isn’t really about the Cambrian explosion, but about his pet theme, the notion that evolution cannot produce biological “information.” His rejection of the idea that new genes can evolve—genes that can do new things—has been roundly refuted by discoveries in the last decade, if not before. Yet Meyer still rejects this, desperately clinging to the idea that the origin of new information requires God an Intelligent Designer. Meyer seems to think, for example, that the genetic similarity of duplicate genes arises not from duplication itself (a well understood process) but from independent, convergent evolution. That level of ignorance is so profound that it must be willful.

Nick has a long section refuting the notion that evolution can’t create new biological information (something that’s refuted not only by new genetic data, but by the evolution of transitional forms with new characters in the fossil record), but I’ll leave you to read that yourself.  I’ll finish with some excerpts from Nick’s conclusions. I quote at length because there’s a lot here, and his summary is good (the bolding is mine):

“Even without addressing all of these other issues in depth, I think the above shows that Meyer’s book is already holed beneath the waterline on the key issues of Cambrian paleontology, phylogenetics, and the information argument. I’m not sure it deserves much more of anyone’s time. Sadly, some vaguely respectable people seem to have ignored the crashingly obvious flaws and endorsed the book, although in at least some cases they are already known for promoting bizarre opinions in other contexts. Enthusiastic reviewers in the blogosphere, like Tom Gilson at Thinking Christian, seem to lack even Wikipedia-level research abilities in critically assessing Meyer’s claims.

“The one refreshing bit of the book is at the end, where Meyer basically admits that, yes, this really is all about bringing an interventionist God back into science, and thereby reconciling and harmonizing science and religion, and solving the problems of meaning in the culture and belonging in the Universe, or something. How exactly this could ever work, even if Meyer’s argument’s succeeded, is not explained. Meyer completely and explicitly punts on the question of providing any sorts of answers on what exactly is supposed to have happened at the Cambrian or anywhere else in geological history, on the ID view. All we get is ID did something, somewhere, somehow, for some reason, never mind extinction, the millions of years of twiddling around with arthropods, the billions of years of twiddling around with bacteria, the endless examples of apparent evidence for evolution, etc. If Meyer takes his own arguments at all seriously, he is invoking divine intervention not just for the origin of life and the Cambrian, for basically every new gene, ORFan, any adaptation of any significance, and some ill-specified level of morphological difference. This is, probably, billions of separate divine interventions. It essentially amounts to invoking divine intervention at every instance where Meyer personally doesn’t understand something, even in cases where scientists understand something quite well, and Meyer simply can’t be bothered to do the work necessary to understand what they are talking about.

“As I’ve said before, the real problem with creationists/IDists isn’t when they stick God into the gaps in current scientific knowledge. Such a thing is unwise, given history, but at least questions that all of humanity still wonders about are vaguely worthy of divine intervention. The real problem is when creationists/IDists insert God into the gaps in their own personal knowledge, gaps which have already been filled by scientists.”

This “God-of-my-own-gaps” argument is not new, of course, for creationists have used it repeatedly, as when they raise the “no transitional forms, ergo God” claim when we already have transitional forms between fish and amphibians, amphibians and reptiles, reptiles and mammals, reptiles and birds, land mammals and whales, and so on. It’s about pretending that there are gaps when there are none. But of course they continue to use the conventional god-of-the-gaps arguments for scientific issues that are still unresolved, like where did human morality come from, how did life originate, and why the laws of physics are why they are (i.e. laws that are supposedly “fine tuned” to allow the appearance of humans).

Nick and I have had our differences in the past—we’ve crossed swords several times, for instance, on the issue of accommodationism (he favors comity with religion; I don’t)—but I have to give him credit here, as I have done for all his work fighting creationism in the past. He’s done a magnificent job refuting Meyer’s thesis, and anybody interested in the technicalities of why Darwin’s Doubt is a Dud must read Nick’s post.

We can expect other reviews by paleobiologists in the near future. I’d be surprised if they were any more laudatory than Nick’s.

63 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    Thanks for summarizing and explaining the main points….I saw Nick’s article but it is indeed dense and I marked it for later when I could spend time going through it.

    I really hate the “god of my gaps” technique more than the “god of the gaps” one because it is even more frustrating to deal with!

    • Kevin Alexander
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      I always call that one the ‘God of the gap between my ears’

      • Diane G.
        Posted June 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

        That’s a keeper!

  3. NMcC
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    No so much Darwin’s Dilemma as Meyer’s Muddle then. I don’t know why they’re still bothering. Surely THEY know that WE all know ID’s a dead horse that simply won’t be whipped into life again. (Not that there ever was life in it, of course.)

    • darrelle
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Exactly. It is not for us It is for people that are ignorant of evolution and already reject it, are undecided or just haven’t yet given it any thought.

      I can’t recall anyone who rejects evolution who, in the course of arguing against it, doesn’t reveal that they have a serious misunderstanding of some aspect of it. Anybody ever come across a person with a good understanding of modern Evolutionary Theory and the evidence that supports it, and still rejects it?

      • eric
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        Todd Wood is the standard example that people bring up for questions like yours. But his position is so rare that you can probably consider him the exception that proves the rule.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted June 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure. I know someone who should have understood evolution, since he was a grad student in biology, but was a YEC for clearly acknowledged religious reasons.

  4. Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Creationists are not interested in facts, there are only interested in politics. Since the theory of evolution by natural selection undermines the authority of religion, religious authorities are loosing influence/power on society. By poissoning the population creationists try to descredit evolution, and science in general, with the sole purpose of consolidating the political influence of religion.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      Yep, sadly all part of the Evangelical agenda that would sound paranoid if you couldn’t google it. :(

    • Posted June 21, 2013 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

      “By poissoning the population creationists try to descredit evolution, and science in general, with the sole purpose of consolidating the political influence of religion.” — Something fishy there … ;-)

      /@

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        Or statistical ;)

        • Posted June 21, 2013 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

          That’s just mean!

          /@

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            Nah, it was a fair distribution.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted June 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

            Nah, it was a fair distribution.

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted June 22, 2013 at 3:14 am | Permalink

              Thanks, both of you, for a good laugh!

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

      Your first sentence is the key. The creationists have lost every scientific battle, and every legal battle, so they don’t anything left except for politics.

  5. marksolock
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Mark Solock Blog.

  6. Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    **

  7. Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    I think you’re being unfair to Wikipedia. In spite of some lapses, and a widely held assumption that it just couldn’t work, Wikipedia is actually quite a good and reliable encyclopedia. So it’s not in the least surprising that it should be better than a book by someone like Stephen Meyer.

    • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      I didn’t read it that way. I took it as a damning assessment of Meyer’s book that a reader could look up a better (and shorter and cheaper!) article about issues and methods simply by perusing a known encyclopedia.

      Wikipedia quality is tested and good enough, about the same as other encyclopedias AFAIK. (I dunno if that is with or without the pitfalls of bits without external references.)

      Anyway, I’ve seen scientists use it as reference in papers and lectures [but don't ask me for references ... :-/ ], so it is certainly somewhat accepted within the research community as well.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

        Oops, lectures – I mean’t courses.

      • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        Oops, lectures – I meant courses.

        [May duplicate, my browser acts weird.]

    • Posted June 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Well, Wikipedia’s articles on cladistics and phylogenetic systematics were rather weak and confused last time I looked. (One major problem may be that there are even a lot of scientists who don’t understand the principles all that well, and another that there are many cranks who forcefully reject these approaches.) All the more interesting then to read that Wikipedia is still better than what is found in the book.

  8. Mattapult
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    “The real problem is when creationists/IDists insert God into the gaps in their own personal knowledge, gaps which have already been filled by scientists.”

    Let’s take that a step farther… Then they write books with information that keeps the ignorant ignorant.

    Odd strategy to get into heaven–by bearing false witness–which is prohibited by the Ten Commandments.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      They’re just filling a niche. The niche is the space populated with people from whom their money can be extracted over this kind of crap. Still, it’s exceptionally insulting.

      The only solution is better education, which is why they try so hard to dumb it down. Their meal ticket depends on maintaining the presence of the niche.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      The tide comes in,
      the tide goes out;
      never a miscommuniation.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        Ha ha, Mr Deity references the tide goes in, tide goes out thing in his latest: http://youtu.be/ixcC9jVCsPs

        In case people are unfamiliar with the original and what become David Silverman’s meme face when he gives Bill O’Reilly the WTF look: http://youtu.be/wb3AFMe2OQY

  9. pilgrimpater
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    Meyer is an idiot if he thinks the fact that a relatively rapid appearance of diverse organisms is proof of design and evidence against evolution. He should consider:-
    1) Evidence for single organisms are in abundance pre Cambrian
    2) The highest life form in the Cambrian (which lasted circa 70 million years) is the jawless fish.
    3) That means jawed fish, tetrapods, amphibians, reptile, mammals/birds occured post Cambrian.

    Basically even if he could prove a non evolutionary explanation for the Cambrian, we are still left with Evolution post Cambrian.

    Typical lying Creotard.

    • eric
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      3a) AIUI (the evolution of) most of our modern land plant life occurred post Cambrian too.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      The highest life form in the Cambrian (which lasted circa 70 million years) is the jawless fish.

      Trilobite hater.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

        Ha ha “Trilobite hater” made me LOL with tears!

  10. Wayne
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Jerry,

    The book is titled “Darwin’s Doubt”, not “Darwin’s Dilemma”.

    IDiots won’t understand one bit of Nick’s technical essay. They don’t want to understand it. All they care about is that journal articles are still calling the Cambrian Explosion an unsolved problem in Biology. They’ll make hay out of it.

    Casey Luskin has already cited some recent articles that acknowledge the key issue addressed by Meyer’s book:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/06/as_darwins_doub073571.html

    • Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      Fixed, thanks; my bad.

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

      They don’t want to understand it

      “It is very hard to get a man to understand something when his entire paycheck depends upon him not understanding it.”

  11. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    This is, probably, billions of separate divine interventions.

    Proof of polytheism!

    • Richard Page
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 9:40 am | Permalink

      Not polytheism, but the Invisible Tinkering Warrior Army (ITWA), whose possible existence I believe Nick Matzke proposed many years ago.

      • Posted June 22, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

        How great to see someone who remembers ITWA, orogonally proposed by Nick on (the late lamented) Internet Infidels Discussion Board! Several years later I elaborated Nick’s idea as Multiple Designers Theory.

  12. Alex Shuffell
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    I like the ID/Creationist attention to Darwin, it shows some nice details into their processes. To me it shows they think reliance on authority figures is acceptable to science, also that their processes haven’t changed since the time of Darwin.

    • DV
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

      Proof of an incompetent God. Can’t do it right the first time; have to constantly fiddle and fix.

      • DV
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

        And I can’t post in the right thread! Proof I’m not God.

        • Alex Shuffell
          Posted June 21, 2013 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

          I can’t prove I’m not God, but I can prove I’m better! If I were to pray, I can understand myself, even if I’m just thinking. If I pray for something like a cup of tea I can go make one. If you were to pray in such a manner as for me to hear you, I would make you a cup of tea too. It would be better than any cup of tea a god has made. I have no evidence you can make a cup of tea (“I wasn’t there”), it makes me a better god.

  13. RFW
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    A timely posting by JAC, allowing me to point the knowledge-starved hordes to a couple of books that, unlikely though it may seem, are on point and well worth reading.

    Volumes III “Darwin’s Watch” and IV “Judgement Day” in the ongoing series, The Science of Discworld, by Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, and Jack Cohen.

    I’m currently reading vol. IV, “Judgement Day”, and it’s good, people. One thing I like about it very much is that it takes care to lay out the various alternative hypotheses about this and that phenomena, recounting how earlier kicks at the cat have arisen and fallen and evidence and knowledge have advanced in tandem.

    All these volumes consist of alternating chapters of a Discworld novella (invariably involving the wizards of Unseen University™) and more serious (but as you would expect if you know Pratchett, not too serious!) scientific discussion. Those who detest fantasy can skip over the pure Pratchett chapters; the rest, though it bounces ideas off Pratchett’s imaginary world, are where the meat is.

  14. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Christian apologist Randal Rauser is still riding the ID bandwagon like it’s 2004 and Kitzmiller v. Dover never happened. He loves to take every propaganda point put out by the Discovery Institute and label it a “fact.” I’m sure he will love Meyer’s new book.

  15. Posted June 21, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    Someone who knows a good bit about both evolutionary biology and polytheism should write an article or good blog post explaining how polytheism fits better with ID claims than monotheism; unfortunately I’m not qualified, but it seems to me that competition among non-omniscient, fallible, and probably jealous multiple ID deities similar to the Homer/Hesiod theogonies would fit quite well with the “struggle for life” of evolution, much better than the “one-god designed it all” claimed or implied by the IDiots.

    Such an article would probably stimulate consternation among IDers!

  16. DrBrydon
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    At least he’s done with sparkly vampires.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

      Nice one. :)

    • docbill1351
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      The interesting thing is, sparkly vampires is actually MORE plausible than what Meyer writes!

      Although I have had visions of Casey Luskin wearing a sparkly, pink leotard with glitter fairy wings on his back, prancing around with a little silver wand with a star on top.

      Tequila will do that. Yes, it will.

  17. Posted June 21, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Just up on Meyer’s Youtube channel:- 38m35s video [audio only]

    It’s Meyer on the Michael Medved Show, Wed. 19th June
    [inc. calls from listeners]

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      Thanks – I’m listening. It is worrying that his book is selling well if those numbers were true.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 22, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

        The rankings mentioned are true, but it’s too soon to be significant. These pseudo-science books don’t stay high on Amazon for long because buyers are heavily influenced by star ratings. e.g. I aim for > 4.3.

        THIS is the important list & it’s running at 3 stars [BIG difference between a 3 & a 4 rating] & I’m sure it will slip down below Coyne & Dawkins soon

        HERE are the 21 highly polarised reviews to date. Only two of them are by an “Amazon Verified Purchaser” & they both awarded one star. It’s clear that many of the reviews on both “sides” are not from readers.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted June 22, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

        Sample 5-star non-reviews

        1] By zero0.0zero:- “I’m very happy to see science and religion side by side. You have to love the 2 one star reviews….one not refuting anything, but attacking the publisher, and the second launching verbal attacks at Meyer. I purchased this book today and I look forward to reading with an open mind as I did, “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins……aka the “Fred Phelps” of atheism”

        2] THIS cut/paste non-review from Robin Crowther of Seattle who fails to mention that he’s Director of Communications at the Discovery Institute, Seattle

        BTW Correction:- I’ve found that 2 of the 5-star reviews are from genuine purchasers

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted June 22, 2013 at 9:58 am | Permalink

          I have to say this is my favourite short review from Amazon:

          The book can be summed up as such: “I’ll start with my conclusion, I’ll cherry-pick the data, gee DNA looks so complicated, it’s a mystery to me, I can’t explain it, I’ll ignore others that can, there are some smart people who believe in ID, ID doesn’t need to be falsified, peer-review isn’t perfect, it sure looks designed therefore there must be a magic-man”.

          I noticed a scathing review on Goodreads (now owned by Amazon) http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/646670827

          There is also a pretty good discussion where someone asks why the book is placed in science.

  18. Wayne Robinson
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    My take on the Cambrian ‘explosion’ is that it’s an artifact. The Burgess Slate fossil bed formed when a cliff collapsed causing a mudslide burying and killing all the animals in an inlet which were then in an optimal situation to fossilize.

    Stephen Meyer actually agrees with this scenario in ‘Darwin’s Doubt’ in Oder to stress how well preserved the Burgess Slate fossils are, including soft bodied ones.

    The Burgess Slate fossil bed is a snapshot of the Cambrian, not something typical of it. It’s a snapshot, similar to the Ashfall Fossil bed in Nebraska. Catastrophes causing the death of large numbers of diverse critters at the same time and in the same place (whether local as with a cliff collapse or widespread as with a big volcanic eruption) cause the appearance of population explosions.

    No one would claim that mammals were thriving unusually 12 MYA just because a large number of them died in a water source in later day Nebraska.

    At the end Stephen Meyer has a go at Robert Asher’s ‘Faith and Evolution. Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist’. Robert Asher criticizes ID for not having a mechanism for God’s thoughts creating the Cambrian phyla. Meyer makes the bizarre claim that we don’t know how our thoughts instantiate effects in the real world, so therefore we can’t know how God’s thoughts willed the Cambrian phyla into existence too (by the way, I’m an atheist, I’m just reporting Meyer’s arguments).

    We do know how our thoughts instantiate effects in the external world. I think I’ll go and have a cup of coffee, activate motor cortex, stand up, turn kettle on,…

    This applies whether there’s free will or not, mind-brain duality or not. I can’t just ‘will’ a cup of coffee into existence, as much as I’d like to do so.

    • Wayne Robinson
      Posted June 21, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Damn, spell check ‘in order to stress’

      • docbill1351
        Posted June 21, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        Whatever you do, Wayne, don’t offer to make John Haught a cup of tea. You’ll never hear the end of it!

  19. jkrebs054
    Posted June 21, 2013 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    At 15 above,Frank Williams speculates on multiple, competing deities, and someone else points out the Nick Matzke mentioned this idea long ago on an internet forum. In 2002, Dick Hoppe, Nick, myself and others were participating at Dembski’s ISCID forum, and Dick wrote up a “serious” proposal for multiple designer theory, which I, masquerading as a questioning polytheist, peplied to. Dick’s work was quite good – I’ve temporarily posted his main post and one of my replies at https://www.facebook.com/notes/jack-krebs/multiple-designers-theory/10152961342030607, for anyone who, for fun, would like to play with these ideas. For someone who takes monotheistic divine intervention seriously, I think Dick’s arguments could be somewhat disconcerting.

    • Posted June 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

      Thanks, Jack. :)

  20. Posted June 21, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    I think this will turn out to be yet another example of Stephen Jay Gould’s disastrous effect on public understanding of evolution. Gould is pretty much single-handedly responsible for the appealing but appallingly misleading myth of the Cambrian Explosion as a wild extravaganza of “sudden” “new” “experimental” “body plans” (giving “body plans” an almost mystically reified Platonic significance), springing into existence in the Cambrian, which had a “different kind of evolution” before evolution settled down into its familiar form in post-Cambrian eras. This is poetic science and it is nonsense, but unfortunately very appealing nonsense, tailor-made for exploitation by creationists, just as Gould’s other woolly myth, Punctuated Equilibrium was exploited by creationists.

    I dealt with this, among other examples of “bad poetry” in science, in my ‘Huge Cloudy Symbols of a High Romance’, which is Chapter 8 of Unweaving the Rainbow.

    Gould was a brilliant writer, but that very brilliance led him to misdirect American public understanding of evolution in ways that will continue to give aid and comfort to creationists for many years to come.

  21. Diane G.
    Posted June 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Permalink

    sub

  22. Posted June 23, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    sub

  23. Posted July 6, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    “Meyer mistakenly thinks that modern systematics can identify fossils that are direct ancestors of modern groups. It can’t: it can identify sister groups (groups that are each other’s closest relatives) and “ancestral grades and clades”—but not single fossils that are themselves ancestral.”

    GRADES are direct ancestors.

  24. Posted July 6, 2013 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    From post #18 above:
    “We do know how our thoughts instantiate effects in the external world. I think I’ll go and have a cup of coffee, activate motor cortex, stand up, turn kettle on,…”.

    Who is the “I” in that case? How did you activate the motor cortex?


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