Discovery Institute claims that Meyer’s ID book is approved by one of Britain’s “top geneticists”; doesn’t mention that he’s a creationist

The Discovery Institute is desperate to flog Stephen Meyer’s new book Darwin’s Doubt, which, according to Nick Matzke’s review, is not only laden with ignorance and errors, but touts God The Intelligent Designer as responsible for the rapid “Cambrian explosion.”

Ergo, they’re busy digging up scientists to approve of the book, though I doubt they’ll find a decent paleobiologist to give an imprimatur. Instead, in a post called “One of Britain’s top geneticists recommends Darwin’s Doubt,” the editors of Evolution News and Views, a DI mouthpiece, trumpets this:

Dr. Meyer’s book covers evidence from many disciplines — like genetics. So it seems relevant to consult one of Britain’s top geneticists, Dr. Norman C. Nevin OBE, BSc, MD, FRCPath, FFPH, FRCPE, FRCP. Once you get past all the honors and decorations, he is Professor Emeritus in Medical Genetics, Queen’s University, Belfast. In an appraisal of Darwin’s Doubt, Dr. Nevin says this:

“With the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin acknowledged that there wasn’t an adequate explanation for the pattern in the fossil record in which a wide diversity of animal life suddenly appeared in the Cambrian geological period. His doubt about the “Cambrian explosion” centered on the wide range of body forms, the missing fossil intermediates and the lack of evidence for antecedents.Meyer’s book examines the implications of the “Cambrian explosion.” It is a fascinating story and analysis of Darwin’s doubt about the fossil record and the debate that has ensued. It is a tour de force. It is divided into three main parts with several chapters in each — “The Mystery of the Missing Fossils,” “How to Build an Animal.’ And After Darwin What?’

Many leading biologists criticize key aspects of evolution. The main problem with neo-Darwinism is the origin of new biological information. Building a living organism requires an immense amount of information. The issue that arises is the source of the information and how can random mutations and natural selection generate the necessary biological information to produce such a diversity of animal forms without antecedents.

This book is well informed, carefully researched, up-to-date and powerfully argued. Its value is that it confronts Darwin’s doubt and deals with the assumptions of neo-Darwinism. This book is much needed and I recommend it to students of all levels, to professionals and to laypeople.”

You can hardly get better than that.

Well, you could, actually, for Norman Nevin is a well-known evolution denier and advocate of Intelligent design. He seems, in fact, to be a Biblical literalist. And he hardly has expertise on the Cambrian Explosion, certainly not anything like expertise of Nick Matzke, who is not even a paleobiologist. (Note that the DI will continue to ignore negative verdicts by scientists like Matzke and others.)

Here’s what the British Center for Science Education (BCSE) says about Nevin:

Nevin resolutely rejects both evolutionary biology and geology. He’ been an advocate of Answers in Genesis’s position on flood geology, openly accepting Tas Walker’s “work” on the matter. He openly believes that the Noah’s Ark storey is an historical event. He believes that the Book of Genesis is historically and literally true, lock, stock and barrel. (Tas Walker is yet another Queenslander pushing young earth creationism. He works for Creation Ministries International. Many of the leaders of the young earth creationist movement come from Queensland.)

BCSE has done a considerable amount of research on Professor Nevin’s position on creationism; it suggests that he is basically a hard line Biblical literalist. We’ve presented the evidence on our blog at http://bcseweb.blogspot.com/search/label/Nevin. It also suggests that he has some severe shortcomings in his knowledge of the science he seems to use to back up his creationist position.

Professor Nevin is an elder in the largest Brethren church in Northern Ireland (the Crescent Church in Belfast—see http://www.iguidez.com/Belfast/crescent_church/). It’s large by any British standards and is believed to have a capacity of some 2,000 people. The church is located in Belfast’s university district and has been a fairly regular venue for creationists visiting the province. These have included Monty White, then of Answers in Genesis.

. . . Nevin concludes in his book that “No coherent, cohesive theology has yet been offered that would allow Christians to embrace evolution with integrity.” There you have it. Any Christian who accepts evolutionary biology has “no integrity”. This statement is an affront to mainstream Christians in general, and (given the Vatican’s position) to Catholics in particular; no small matter in a Northern Ireland context.

If you want to see what a literalist he is, go see his long apologetic talk, given at Bethany Church, on the historical existence of Adam and Eve.  (The BCSE dissection of that “sermon” is here.

And from RationalWiki:

Prof Norman Nevin OBE, is Emeritus Professor of Medical Genetics at Queens University, Belfast.

He was the leader of a group of scientists which endorsed the actions of the anti-evolutionary group of scientists which endorsed the work of the intelligent design supporting website Truth in Science in 2007.

He is the president of the Centre for Intelligent Design in Glasgow.

Really, Discovery Institute? You have to dig up literalists like this and tout them as scientists with expertise to judge Meyer’s book? It’s laughable. Who will be the next endorser: Ken Ham, Hugh Ross, or Kent Hovind?

It’s ironic that the Discovery Institute claims that ID has scientific respectability, but their “scientific” evidence is never published in real science journals—only books aimed at the general public. Publication in science journals would be especially important if there was any credibility to Meyer’s claim that no naturalistic hypothesis could explain the Cambrian explosion or the increase in “biological information” that accompanies it. For that would be a startling claim.

No matter how the DI waffles when trying to explain their failure to publish in genuine science journals, the real reason is that their ideas wouldn’t pass criticial scrutiny by the scientific community.

35 Comments

  1. Gordon Hill
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    What is the relationship between the Discovery Institute and Fox News?

    • Richard Page
      Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

      I know of no formal relationship between the two, though I don’t doubt their political agendas converge to some extent. A few years ago, I recall Casey Luskin appearing on a Fox news show, where he flogged the DI’s “teach the controversy” schtick. There was no countering view, but who knows whether Fox made any attempt to find anyone to oppose Luskin.

  2. Diana MacPherson
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    I am astounded that there exists people like this geneticist who deny evolution (like physicists that agree with Deepak or climatologists who deny climate change). Of course these minority opinions get paraded out as if they are the majority so believers in this bunk have something to cling to.

    We need to turn it around – who wants to go work at the Discovery Institute? ;)

    • peltonrandy
      Posted June 23, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      It would at first appear astounding that a geneticist could be a creationist. But I long ago stopped being astounded by such things. What we know of cognitive dissonance and mental compartmentalization convinced me some time ago that the human mind is more than capable of fooling its owner. Add to this mix motivated reasoning, confirmation bias and the many other logical fallacies in which one can become ensnared and the failure in critical thinking is not all that surprising. Even smart people fall into these mental pits. And I suspect, intelligent people often are the ones most difficult to convince of their errors.

      • Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink

        I noticed that this seems to be a *medical* geneticist; this field is more technological. I suppose this could be like why there are so many creationist engineers and also fringe cases like Francis Collins and that neurosurgeon we discussed on site a few months back.

        • Posted June 24, 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

          Georgia Purdom is a YEC geneticist (molecular geneticist) with a legit degree from a secular university who now works full time for AIG. Her discussion with Michael Schermer is a good summary of how a secularly trained scientist rationalizes rejecting the science.

          • Posted June 25, 2013 at 1:11 am | Permalink

            Useful, but is a written synopsis available? I’m loath to spend 20 minutes listening to such stuff, and in any case would need to take written notes if I’m to use it later.

  3. godsbelow
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    “Tas Walker is yet another Queenslander pushing young earth creationism…Many of the leaders of the young earth creationist movement come from Queensland.”

    Not surprised at all. Yay, Queensland. No wonder we used to be called ‘The Smart State’.

    • Gordon
      Posted June 23, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Of course Queensland is also an excellent source of dinosauer fossils and there is an excellent museum on this near Winton, quick 24 hour train trip to Longreach and then a 100 k drive. Suburban by Australian standards!

    • kelskye
      Posted June 23, 2013 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

      It’s even funnier that in Queensland you can get “THE SMART STATE” on a licence plate for your car. At least most Queenslanders have the good sense to get “THE SUNSHINE STATE” instead.

  4. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    So the appeal is to “Answers in Genesis”.

    My understanding of biology is almost nil, but anyone with intelligence can figure out “Answers in Genesis” is chockful of pseudo-science from how they handle various issues in astronomy.

    Most notable is the “distant starlight problem”, ie if the universe (not just the earth) was created 6000 years ago why do we see objects from billions of light-years away. Three theories have been proposed of which the most bizarre but most popular with them is time dilation. (See at Wikipedia “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlight_problem#The_.22starlight_problem.22″)

    They similarly have had bizarre theories about the formation of the moon, and the amount of moondust on the surface. For a too-brief discussion, see http://orgs.usd.edu/esci/age/content/creationist_clocks/moon_dust.html The argument wound up being so obviously fraudulent that they retracted the argument.

    Because the main focus in these debates is on evolutionary theory, not a lot of attention is given to all the hokum in works like “Taking Back Astronomy” which attempts to establish a young !*universe*!, all argued by reinterpreting the laws of physics at the most basic, and therefore obviously phoney, level.

    • eric
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:04 am | Permalink

      “most popular with them is time dilation”

      That one always brings a smile to my face. To get a factor of 1,000,000 time dilation (billions of subjective years in thousands of observer years) for the Earth, you need enough gravity that it would turn Adam, Eve, and everything else into flat squishy goo. :)

  5. Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Emeritus or dishonorable discharge?

    • Posted June 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      Being a Professor Emeritus myself, I always have to think of dementia or otherwise fuzzy thinking amongst some emeriti :-) I like docbill’s list of letters, as if the sheer number is supposed to engender confidence in whatever the letter-holder believes; sorry, wrong is wrong despite the alphabet soup.

  6. Mark Joseph
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I wonder what the Meyer and the DI will say when they find out that their bigwig geneticist and star endorser is a literalist YEC who holds to a religious, rather than scientific, explanation for the history of the earth and the life on it? After all, doesn’t the DI spend a huge chunk of their time pretending that they are not YEC literalists, and that ID is science, not religion?

    I also wonder what Ken Ham thinks of Meyer’s book? My guess is that he isn’t even smart enough to understand it, much less Matzke’s refutation.

    • Richard Page
      Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      I’m sure the DI knows he’s a YEC. Just as they know that what they’re doing isn’t science, but politics and PR masquerading as science. It’s a subterfuge required to serve their religious agenda, and they know it. The sad fact is that, at least in the U.S., it seems to be working quite well.

    • eric
      Posted June 24, 2013 at 7:09 am | Permalink

      “doesn’t the DI spend a huge chunk of their time pretending that they are not YEC literalists”

      IMO that trend seems to be slowly reversing itself. I think that after Dover, they decided the facade of non-religion was not going to be as useful as they’d hoped. It seems to me that in the past few years, they’ve decided that encouraging their base to political action (which sometimes requires religious comments) is more fruitful than trying to deceive outsiders.

  7. docbill1351
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Bah, Norman Nevin, a piffle and a trifle!

    You wants letters, I’ll gets you letters:

    Doc Bill, BS, MS, PhD, DIC, MNG, FCD, MAAAS, MSI, MMNA, MHMNH, ARGG, SB, DAM, DC, FOK, RMAA and UAFF

  8. eveysolara
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I found it funny that they made a big hoopla about George Church after calling him stupid in a previous one.

  9. cooeerup
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I live in Queensland. A beautiful place with far too many crazy people. Jesus and his wife Mary live an hours drive away from me too.

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted June 23, 2013 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

      I’m a Brisbanite – a saner version of the geographical region, however our nutters stand out and are reported as such. The secular here is the default position.

  10. Posted June 23, 2013 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    Dr. Norman Nevin is president of Glasgow’s very own Centre for Intelligent design. He says in sermons (see here: http://bcseweb.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/norman-nevin-sermon-transcript-god-and.html) that Genesis is literally true. Dr. David Galloway, the vice-president, lists Answers in Genesis among his top resources on his web site at http://www.davidgalloway.co.uk/Christian.htm. Dr Alastair Noble, director of the Centre for Intellignet Design, evades questions about the age of the earth, but in his book “And is it true?” he pours scorn on what he calls Darwinism and states, as a merit of the Intelligent Design alternative, that it does not require enormous periods of time. It would be instructive to ask him what he meant by that, if he is not, as some of us suspect, a young earth creationist.

  11. Posted June 23, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    I should have also added, the Centre for Intelligent Design is in effect a franchise of the Discovery Institute, with Behe, Guillermo, and other DI members among those whose lectures it has sponsored. We don’t know if it gets any money from the DI, because it’s a charity registered in Guernsey. More about both the Centre in general, and Nevin in particular, at http://www.bcseweb.org.uk/index.php?q=centre+for+intelligent+design&n=Site.Search

  12. ladyatheist
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    Sad. Very sad.

  13. Posted June 23, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    And Nevin is on the editorial team of Bio-Complexity, along with, among others,
    Douglas Axe, Michael Behe, Stuart Burgess, William Dembski, Ann Gauger, Scott Minnich, and Jonathan Wells.

  14. Posted June 23, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Critical Thinking – A World View.

  15. Brian Jordan
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Let it not be forgotten that Prof, Nevin is a MEDICAL geneticist, whose branch of medicine is largely concerned with diagnosis and counselling. While he must have needed knowledge of evolutionary biology, the required cognitive dissonance will have been considerably less than if he’d been working in the same fields as, say, Jerry Coyne or PZ Myers.
    I’m sure there’s no reason to doubt his expertise in his own field but for the creationists to describe him as a “top geneticist” is misleading at least.

  16. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Norman C. Nevin OBE, BSc, MD, FRCPath, FFPH, FRCPE, FRCP.
    .
    Quite a lot of extra initials there, but he’s missing the best one: FCD

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted June 25, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      Yes, I like that one.

  17. Dawn Oz
    Posted June 23, 2013 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Next time there is a comment required for heart surgery, or moon landings, or whatever, we have a handy dandy geneticist who can opine for the journos!!!!!!

  18. Jim
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 1:18 am | Permalink

    I’ve never been to ENV before, but I think it’s hilarious that it has a number of sections – “Evolution,” “Intelligent Design,” “Science” – all of which strive to discredit evolution in favour of ID. “News and Views” implies a balance of opinions, but this is far from. Maybe that’s why they’re supporting Hedin so vigorously – they both claim to be supporting fair and equitable discussion, but in reality only present a one-sided perspective.

    They don’t appear to allow comments on articles, which is usually a sign that the authors know they’re lying but don’t want to be accountable.

    They even have an article citing the use of (an inaccurate version of) evolution in the new Superman movie, using it to show that (what they think of as) evolution can’t explain conscience. Really guys – you rely on a comic book movie script to make your supposedly-scientific points?

    It’s hilarious! Ooh, how I wish I could comment there!

  19. Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:31 am | Permalink

    “Nevin resolutely rejects both evolutionary biology and geology”

    He rejects geology?? But the evidence is rock solid.

    Apologies, I’ll get my coat…

  20. Marvol
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Drive by shooting!

    Consulting a medical geneticist as a specialist on the Cambrian explosion!? Wuuhaa! (even without him being a creationist)

    Addressing a doubt offered by Darwin 150 years ago and ignoring the fact that science has done a bit of work on it itself in that period!? Bazinga!

    Still quoting this immense nonsense: “The main problem with neo-Darwinism is the origin of new biological information”!? Kerplunk!

    On a serious note, where did our professor get that long list of titles behind his name from?!

  21. Brian Jordan
    Posted June 24, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Maybe he trades them with his similarly lettered fellow creationist Prof. Andy McIntosh BSc, PhD, DSc, FIMA, CMath, FInstE, CEng, FInstP, MIGEM, FRAeS :-)


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