Don Prothero guts Stephen Meyer’s new creationist book

The Lord hath delivered Meyer into Prothero’s hands.

If you’re a regular here, you’ll know about paleontologist Don Prothero, who wrote one of my favorite “evidence-for-evolution-and-anticreationist” booksEvolution: What the Fossils Say And Why It Matters (read it!).  He’s a crack paleontologist and a superb science educator, as well as an inveterate debunker of creationism (he was one of my co-arguers on the “Conspiracy Road Trip: Creationism” show).

It’s in the last role that I want to highlight Prothero today, for two days ago he published on Amazon a scathingly informed review—an unmitigated pan—of creationist Stephen Meyer’s new book on the Cambrian Explosion, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Called “Stephen Meyer’s Fumbling Bumbling Cambrian Amateur Follies, Prothero’s one-star assessment is a classic.

It’s long, but I’ll give a few excerpts. First, the overview:

Stephen Meyer’s first demonstration of these biases was his atrociously incompetent book Signature in the Cell (2009, HarperOne), which was universally lambasted by molecular biologists as an amateurish effort by someone with no firsthand training or research experience in molecular biology. (Meyer’s Ph.D. is in history of science, and his undergrad degree is in geophysics, which give him absolutely no background to talk about molecular evolution). Undaunted by this debacle, Meyer now blunders into another field in which he has no research experience or advanced training: my own profession, paleontology. I can now report that he’s just as incompetent in my field as he was in molecular biology. Almost every page of this book is riddled by errors of fact or interpretation that could only result from someone writing in a subject way over his head, abetted by the creationist tendency to pluck facts out of context and get their meaning completely backwards. But as one of the few people in the entire creationist movement who has actually taken a few geology classes (but apparently no paleontology classes), he is their “expert” in this area, and is happy to mislead the creationist audience that knows no science at all with his slick but completely false understanding of the subject.

Meyer’s sins include these:

1. Ignoring the length of and precursors to the Cambrian “explosion”. (All indentations are Prothero’s quotes.)

His figures (e.g., Figs. 2.5, 2.6, 3.8) portray the “explosion” as if it happened all at once, showing that he has paid no attention to the past 70 years of discoveries. He dismisses the Ediacara fauna as not clearly related to living phyla (a point that is still debated among paleontologists), but its very existence is fatal to the creationist falsehood that multicellular animals appeared all at once in the fossil record with no predecessors. Even more damning, Meyer completely ignores the existence of the first two stages of the Cambrian (nowhere are they even mentioned in the book, or the index) and talks about the Atdabanian stage as if it were the entire Cambrian all by itself. His misleading figures (e.g., Fig. 2.5, 2.6, 3.8) imply that there were no modern phyla in existence until the trilobites diversified in the Atdabanian. Sorry, but that’s a flat out lie. Even a casual glance at any modern diagram of life’s diversification (Figure 1) demonstrates that probable arthropods, cnidarians, and echinoderms are present in the Ediacara fauna, mollusks and sponges are well documented from the Nemakit-Daldynian Stage, and brachiopods and archaeocyathids appear in the Tommotian Stage–all millions of years before Meyer’s incorrectly defined “Cambrian explosion” in the Atdabanian.

2. Falsely implying that animal evolution during the Cambrian was too fast to be explained by natural processes. (Meyer is of course an exponent of Intelligent Design, and uses the “too-fast” argument to buttress the intervention of the Intelligent Designer, aka God.)

Meyer claims the 5-6 million years of the Atdabanian are too fast for evolution to produce all the phyla of animals. Wrong again! Lieberman (2003) showed that rates of evolution during the “Cambrian explosion” are typical of any adaptive radiation in life’s history, whether you look at the Paleocene diversification of the mammals after the non-avian dinosaurs vanished, or even the diversification of humans from their common ancestor with apes 6 m.y. ago. . . The Cambrian Period contains plenty of time to accomplish what the Proterozoic didn’t without invoking processes unknown to population geneticists–20 million years is a long time for organisms that produce a new generation every year or two. (Knoll, 2003, p. 193).

Yes, Don gives references.

3. Larding the text with errors and deliberate misrepresentations about phylogenetic trees, punctuated equilibrium, and modern discoveries bearing on evolution.

[Meyer] blunders through the fields of epigenetics and evo-devo and genetic drift as if they completely falsified Neo-Darwinism, rather than as scientists view them, as supplements to our understanding of it. (Even if they did somehow shoot down some aspects of Neo-Darwinism, they are providing additional possible mechanisms for evolution, something he supposedly does believe in!). In short, he runs the full gamut of topics in modern evolutionary biology, managing to distort or confuse every one of them, and only demonstrating that he is completely incapable of understanding these topics.

4. Relying on the intellectually disasterous “God of the gaps” gambit.

Even though ID creationists say that this supernatural designer could be any deity or even extraterrestrials, it is well documented that they are thinking of the Judeo-Christian god when they point to the complexity and “design” of life. They argue that if scientists haven’t completely explained every possible event of the Early Cambrian, science has failed and we must consider supernatural causes.
Of course, this is a lie. For one thing, Meyer’s description of the “Cambrian explosion” is distorted and false, since he deliberately ignores the events of the first two stages of the Cambrian. Secondly, this “god of the gaps” approach is guaranteed to fail, because scientists have explained most of the events of the Early Cambrian and find nothing out of the ordinary that defies scientific explanation. Only a few details remain to be worked out. As our fossil record of that time interval improves and we understand it even better, there will be nothing left for the creationists to point to that might require supernatural intervention. This is a losing strategy for them in every possible way.

Indeed, but it’s all the IDers have, for there is no positive evidence in favor of their position. They are perforce constrained to find their “evidence” for a designer in the things science has not yet explained. And when science does—when those missing fossils are found, or our understanding of early life improves—their faces should be red, but they’ll just move on to another gap. We’ll never understand everything, so there will always be room for Jesus.

And Prothero’s damning peroration:

In short, Meyer has shown that his first disastrous book was not a fluke: he is capable of going into any field in which he has no training or research experience and botching it just as badly as he did molecular biology. . . Some people with creationist leanings or little understanding of paleontology might find this long-winded, confusingly written book convincing, but anyone with a decent background in paleontology can easily see through his distortions and deliberate misunderstandings and misinterpretations. Even though Amazon.com persists in listing this book in their “Paleontology” subsection, I’ve seen a number of bookstores already which have it properly placed in their “Religion” section–or even more appropriately, in “Fiction.”

Now the Discovery Institute isn’t going to take this lying down: within a day they’ll assign their resident Jewish creationist David Klinghoffer to find reasons why Prothero doesn’t know his onions, is biased against Meyer, or is simply part of the great Darwinist-atheist-Hitlerian conspiracy against intelligent design. But each time the DI fails to listen to those who really know about the science, they further erode their credibility—at least among the fence-sitters.

IDers are crying in the wilderness and they know it, but that just makes them lie all the harder. After all, God is at stake.

h/t: Michael

82 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    sub

    • gbjames
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:14 am | Permalink

      Doh. Checkbox sub

    • NewEnglandBob
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:00 am | Permalink

      Me too.

      • Richard Olson
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    • jimroberts
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      sub

  2. Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:17 am | Permalink

    There is a desperation with Christians in defending ID that borders on the sociopathic.

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

      Mentally flawed, but not sociopathic. See “Scientific American Mind” (July/August 2013) for a review of the book, “Confessions of a Sociopath: A Life Spent Hiding in Plain Sight” by M.E. Thomas (Crown, 2013).

      I would suggest that the defenders of ID are akin to a distilled number of unwitting participants in the 1999 experiment by psychologist Daniel Simons in which people who were asked to count the passes during a ball game. They were often so absorbed in their task that they did not notice a person in a gorilla suit who walked through the game.

      The majority of people accepted the results, that the gorilla was there, but they failed to notice it. But a small portion of the viewers did not accept it. They would not accept that it happened. To this group, a video of the event, and of them, was shown, and plainly the gorilla was evident, as was their participation.

      So, a certain portion of the smaller group were then convinced that indeed they failed to notice the gorilla. Yet, there remained a very few observers who would not accept the video evidence. They know what they saw, they saw no gorilla, and to them, they were so sure, they then argued that a video confabulation was the reason the gorilla appeared! The video was a fake!! This group could not be convinced otherwise of their fallibility to notice a gorilla…..and this is the same type of mental flaw that ID people, the Discovery Institute, are possessed of. They’re akin to hoarders, invested inextricably to their own explanations, and no other shall merit consideration. Period.

  3. David Howarth
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:22 am | Permalink

    At first read-through (and being unfamiliar with Stephen Meyer) I read the name of the author as “Stephanie Meyers” (of Twilight fame), and didn’t miss a beat. It sounds like she’d be just as qualified to write such a book :-) as this joker.

  4. phuzz
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:26 am | Permalink

    The thing about ID, is that it doesn’t make sense from a theological point of view either. It assumes that god couldn’t design organisms right the first time, and had to keep coming back to tweak things, eg, by adding eyes.
    That’s not really an omnipotent god really is it.

    On the other hand, a creator who can set up the starting conditions of natural selection, so that their end result is, whatever it is that gods want, now that’s an omnipotent god.

    Disclaimer, I’m not religious and never paid much attention in RE.

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      Ah, but God is ineffable! (Except about who you sleep with. Then we know exactly what He’s thinking!)

      /@

    • derekw
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      It assumes that god couldn’t design organisms right the first time, and had to keep coming back to tweak things, eg, by adding eyes.
      The ID assumption (similar to evolutionary view) is that the design was sufficient even optimal (for the time/habitat/environment of the organism.)
      On the other hand, a creator who can set up the starting conditions of natural selection, so that their end result is, whatever it is that gods want, now that’s an omnipotent god.
      This is the theistic evolutionary argument (ie biologos.org)

  5. Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:27 am | Permalink

    Of course he achieved all his goals, actually…to sell a lot of books to those true believers.

  6. docbill1351
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:30 am | Permalink

    The comment thread on Prothero’s review is polarized between creationist poo-flingers who can only muster “Uncivil!” and “Darwin is dead!” and the evolutionists who simply point out the science and repeatedly ask for the “theory of ID.”

    Amazon will “hide” comments that readers don’t think contribute to the conversation and so far all the hidden comments belong to creationists.

    It’s sort of going to a fun but seedy bar knowing that you’re going to wake up with a headache.

    • Alex Shuffell
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      The comments were quite interesting. Creationists don’t come off well when they show us how they think. They all cited authority figures, used their quotes, giving each other, and the ID people, compliments and tried to discredit Prothero. All assuming they are correct and don’t need to show their working. Meyer shows of the same anti-science thinking by titling the book as Darwin’s Doubt, like it mattered what Darwin thought. Of course Darwin’s thoughts are interesting, if he had any doubts then we should listen carefully, but the ID people seem to be unaware that was over 150 years ago. Some of us have adapted to new information, discoveries and experiments since then.

      • RFW
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

        From a historical point of view, it’s interesting that the moment Darwin published “On the Origin of Species”, the religious establishment got up in arms about it — and they’ve been fighting evolution ever since.

        The very intensity of anti-evolution efforts over the last 150 years is evidence that the fundies quite properly recognize that their stock in trade (bibblical inerrancy, for example) is a house of cards. Must be tough to base one’s livelihood on what you know in your heart to be utterly false.

        • Posted July 23, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          That’s probably science’s greatest strength and religion’s greatest weakness. In science, not only is changing your mind a good thing, but every scientist’s dream is to revolutionize the field. In religion, truths are supposed to be timeless and revolution can only come in the form of reinterpreting established orthodoxy.

          b&

  7. Kurt Helf
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    “Doesn’t know his onions”. I love that!

  8. mrclaw69
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:42 am | Permalink

    I do love Don Prothero.

    • Eddie Janssen
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      How do you think he Proterozoïc got its name? :)

      • Graham Lyons
        Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

        And Freud was thinking of creationists when he postulated the id.

  9. lulu_footloose
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 5:58 am | Permalink

    Boom!

    I love it when pseudo-scientific claims are dismantled by thorough explanations and appropriate references.

  10. Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:38 am | Permalink

    Don makes an excellent point when he describes the “gods of the gaps” arguments as the ultimate in self-defenstration. The moment the gap is filled, you look like an idiot. When you insist that the gap hasn’t been filled when it has, you look like a willful idiot. And when so many gaps have been filled that you’re left arguing that nobody knows what Darwin’s third cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s hairdresser’s uncle ate for breakfast on his tenth birthday, ergo Jesus, you make clear that you’re an incoherent and incompetent idiot no more worthy of intellectual respect than a young child insisting that Santa is real and so is his invisible friend.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      I remember the Creationist/ID favorites for fossil gaps of the 1990s: whale ancestors and the origin of bird feathers. Hilarious from today’s perspective.

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

        Then again, not only do they use the evolutionary development of the eye as one of the gaps, they use the introductory phrase of Darwin’s own exposition of the evolutionary development of the eye….

        b&

    • Vaal
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

      Beautifully summed up, Ben!

      Vaal

  11. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:39 am | Permalink

    Well, this is going to make Klinghoffer explode. I wonder if there will be any more adjectives added to “radical evolutionary atheist”. Maybe radical evolutionary atheist who lacks forbearance while leading the Darwin Lobby?

    Don Prothero’s review was excellent, especially because he points out all the creationist tricks like flaunting PhD’s who have no training in the field they speak about (this is something the general public doesn’t understand and leads to acceptance of all kinds of garbage: climate change denial, fear of vaccines). Meyer might as well have slapped a big label on the front cover reading, “3 out of 4 dentists recommend this book”.

    I really hope more bookstores move this book into the Religion section. It says “Intelligent Design” right in the sub title for crying out loud!

    • Graham Lyons
      Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:44 am | Permalink

      Oh dear, “climate denial” is lumped together with creationism once again. Billions have not experienced a change in climate.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted July 31, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        Yes, I “lumped it in” because it ignores science in favour of ideas generated from bad thinking. Your statement that “billions have not experienced a change in climate” indicates that you do not understand climate change as a ” statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods ranging from decades to millions of years” (as nicely put on this Wikipedia page. I bet billions haven’t felt like they’ve “evolved” either.

  12. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Did anyone notice David Snoke’s review of the same book? He reveals that he is way out of his field, and has a false understanding of numerous specific points. Either he is poorly equipped to understand what is being said, or Meyer’s book actually contributed to his ignorance. Either way, it makes him look very very bad.

  13. Posted July 23, 2013 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    My only problem with all of this discussion is the insinuation that the only people capable of writing a really good, accurate book about a scientific topic are working PhDs in that exact field. This is not true (e.g., Carl Zimmer among others). The Meyer book is bad, but his lack of credentials in paleontology is not the real issue.

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 7:25 am | Permalink

      His lack of proper credentials becomes an issue when the credentials he has are used to establish his bona fides.

      b&

    • David Sepkoski
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      There’s also a big difference between writing about science in a clear, informative way for a lay audience (as Zimmer does) and claiming to be producing original research in that field (which Zimmer does not, but Meyer does). While it is theoretically possible for someone without a PhD to do so, these days it’s hard to imagine developing the requisite knowledge and experience to do original research without having gone through a PhD, postdoc, etc.

      I write about paleontology and evolutionary biology–and I think I know quite a lot about those fields–but I’d never claim that I was making original contributions to the science itself. I simply don’t have the tools or experience to do that, and my PhD would be irrelevant.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:02 am | Permalink

      I think if I were to write about say palaeontology, I’d do a lot of things differently than Meyer. First, I’d have real experts in the field (palaeontologists) review and hopefully endorse the book. As Ben mentions, Meyer gets in trouble by using the wrong bona fides. Second, I’d cite the bejesus out of the book too which Myers probably doesn’t and instead appoints himself as an expert. Carl Zimmer cites his work and doesn’t pretend to be an expert in the field he is writing about.

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        He did get an endorsement from Mark McMenamin.

        • Donald Prothero
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

          And if you know something about palentology, McMenamin has gone of the deep end into weirdness and all paleontologists regard his opinion as worthless now. Just remember his latest contribution: that ridiculous story about how giant kraken arranged the ichthyosaur vertebrae to produce art!

          • Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:45 am | Permalink

            But you are making my point. The PhD itself doesn’t prove anything – but that you convinced a small committee of PhDs to let you have one. The ideas stand or fall on their own.

            • Donald Prothero
              Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:51 am | Permalink

              And my point in the original review is that Meyer has NO direct experience or training or research in paleontology to provide him with enough expertise to write about it, Ph.D. or no Ph.D. Indeed, his arguments fail precisely on their own merits, because any paleontologist other than McMenamin can instantly tell he doesn’t have a clue what he’s writing about.

            • David Sepkoski
              Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:05 am | Permalink

              But who decides whether they stand or fall? Other people with credentials in that discipline, not just anyone off the street! Brian, you’re sounding pretty anti-credential here. Am I misreading you? Because nobody was saying that a PhD automatically confers reliability on someone (or makes them a better person or whatever). But NOT having a PhD in a relevant field–when it comes to technical science, at least–is a pretty good indicator that someone is not going to be able to make original contributions to that science.

              It would be very, very difficult to amass the relevant knowledge and experience required to do research in, say, paleobiology, without going through a PhD (and probably a postdoc or two) in that field. There is a reason, after all, that people work so hard for those degrees, and yes, I’m more inclined to trust someone who has one over someone who does not–when we’re talking about the relevant science, that is.

        • David Sepkoski
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

          That’s not exactly something to brag about.

          • Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

            I agree, but the point is that the PhD issue in this case is a side show. The book sucks – and it would suck regardless of the academic credentials of the writer. Look – I’m not being defensive. I have a PhD in paleontology. But this degree mongering issue is pointless.

            • Donald Prothero
              Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

              Again, I agree with you–but to his creationist audience, the Ph.D. makes you an all-purpose expert, and gives him credibility in their eyes–which it shouldn’t. I only raised the credential mongering in that context. (In fact, I deliberately played down my own credentials just so we wouldn’t go too far in that game).

            • David Sepkoski
              Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:08 am | Permalink

              Oh, ok, well ignore my last comment, then!

            • Posted July 25, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

              It *is* pointless.

              Unless you have snake oil salesmen referring to themselves as “Dr. So-and-So, Ph.D.” precisely for the purpose of trying bamboozle their audience to grant credibility to what they say, because, after all, they have a Ph.D. In which case it certainly does become relevant to point out that the Ph.D. is irrelevant, and why. If you have any familiarity with creationist rhetoric, you know they’re quite fond of credentials-flashing. Perhaps you’ve heard of “Dr. Kent Hovind, Ph.D.”

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

        Instead of citing the bejesus out of it, you would probably cite the beDarwin out if it ;)

  14. Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:13 am | Permalink

    If ID is indeed correct, how come there are places on my back, that I cannot reach to scratch, when they itch?

    The prosecution rests m’lud!

    Cheers,
    Norm.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      To punish you for original sin.

      In the garden, Adam and Eve could reach every point of their bodies to scratch, but they didn’t have to, because they never itched.

      • Tulse
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Itching is indeed a mark of a Fallen world.

        • Posted July 24, 2013 at 11:13 am | Permalink

          … and here I always thought Toxicodendron radicans (poison ivy) was often responsible.

    • Wayne
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

      Suboptimal design is still design. The IDiots have you covered.

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

        The IDiots can’t claim suboptimal design, for that makes Jesus not merely imperfect but incompetent.

        And men over forty are very forcefully reminded of said incompetence every year when they hear the words, “turn your head and cough,” and, shortly thereafter, “turn around and bend over.”

        b&

  15. Eddie Janssen
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    In his review Prothero states that the Atdabanian begins 530 million years ago. I have before me Erwin & Valentine, page 21. They let the Atdabanian begin 520 million years ago.
    I am confused. Anyone?

    • Donald Prothero
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      Timescales keep changing, year after year. I tried to use one consistent with the one Meyer had cited.

    • JimV
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Probably both numbers are within the error band, especially since a new fossil could turn up any day that changes the boundary, but my guess, for what it is worth, is that Dr. Prothero typed on a laptop like mine, which has shiny silver-gray keys with thin, black characters on them. I can’t tell a 2 from a 3 unless I squint very hard or put my nose almost on the keyboard. From now on I’m only buying laptops with black keys and thick, white letters.

      • David Sepkoski
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

        You need to get a mac next time!

        • Donald Prothero
          Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

          The timescale I used was primarily consistent with the one in the figure I cited (not seen on the Amazon.com review, but will be in the future eSkeptic and SkepticBlog reviews). It doesn’t change much of anything, no matter which you use. The relative lengths of intervals and their sequence is still the same.

  16. George Rumens
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    “…the creationist tricks like flaunting PhD’s who have no training in the field they speak about…” Diana MacPh.
    Isn’t it pretty obvious that religious folk who believe that all knowledge comes from authority will present themselves as authorities when pushing theology dressed as science?
    The Creationist Trick used in that debate is called is called ‘The Casey Luskin Gambit’ it goes like this. As long as Casey, or any another ID iot, can fool his own people to continue following the gods, then it doesn’t matter if he is out of his depth and looking foolish to those who are experts in the field.
    Another poignant observation is called ‘Exponential Error Dispersion’. It is a description I stole from probability Theory on the weather, or three-body planet-sun and moon movements, which sometimes produce wild and unexpected variability. In the case of religion, the more they try to explain their beliefs the more they are driven into exponential-seeming error, until they are obliged to suppose that Noah and his family held buckets under the arses of dinosaurs, or that the universal laws were changed when the prophet jesus did those miracles, or that the clear description of a fire-breathing dragon in Job 40,41 is really a decryption of a dinosaur.
    A further observation is that, having assumed the earth and its contents and processes are ‘Intentional’, then the religious folk will always be reduced to explanations based upon intentionality, such as ID. They twist and turn in pretending that they talk science, but we can tell, almost from the Jesus-sweat on their faces, that they are concealing their Intentional Universe. I have written-out ninety eight Creationist gambits whereby their underlying belief in an intentional universe is concealed in apparent dispassionate argument.

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

      “…jesus did those miracles…” One notes that the so-called miracles were all of the order of simple effects.

      Which has led me to ask, hypothetically, if Jesus was truly a miracle creator, why did he not give us the phonograph, right then and there? A phonograph requires no electricity, just constant rotation from a spring or weight. And, your message is preserved unerringly, and widely distributed. As a nine-year-old, I stuck a pin through the end of a paper cone I constructed, and could hear the phonograph record play through it. It is simple technology.

      Few people know the story of Edison recording his voice, then playing back the exact words to groups of people touring his laboratory…

      …Women often fainted upon hearing the record.

      It was such a miracle, and so self-evident, no one could doubt its singular advancement of knowledge, and the supreme nature of the guy proffering it.

      …any Deity worth the title would have brought the creation of the phonograph forth, rather than leave it to an atheist.

  17. Suri
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    ” 312 of 376 people found the following review helpful….was this review helpful to you ? —> YES ” Hell yes!

    • Donald Prothero
      Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      It’s remarkable that the comments have been largely pro-evolution on this string. In most cases, the creationists attack in numbers and swamp the handful of people who believe in science and reality.

      • NewEnglandBob
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

        Creationist alleles on here are recessive. ;)

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

        Don, the few comments presented by religionists on Jerry’s thread unlimber such a flurry of broadside rejoinders, that few return to the threads for further battering.

        ….civil though the rejoinders typically are..

      • Suri
        Posted July 23, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

        There aren’t many of those here luckily.

        What I think is interesting is that your review is the most helpful/ popular with almost 400 hundred up votes now, I guess Meyer Is less than thrilled.

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

        Don,

        Great review, and I loved “Evolution: What the Fossils Say” as well.

        I’ve seen this book in my local bookstores in Melbourne recently. Mysteriously enough, they’ve moved from under the Science section to Religion and Paranormal. I’m so absent minded when I pick up books while I browse. :)

        I seem to recall recent articles that have possibly pushed the earliest animal life back to 585 million years ago. Another 30 million years means it’s definitely not any kind of “explosion”. Even to my untrained mind!

        Cheers,
        Mark

  18. Posted July 23, 2013 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been waging a similar war in my review of Evolution: Impossible by John Ashton and the comments attached to that review (where I both quote from this blog, and link to Dr. Coyne’s book).

    Obviously, I don’t have the credentials of Coyne or Prothero —I’m just a civilian— but I think I’ve been handling myself pretty well!

    • Posted July 23, 2013 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

      I prefer “enthusiastic amateur” to “civilian”.

      • Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

        Yep, I like the “enthusiastic amateur” term a lot.

        We’re very fortunate right now. There are plenty of excellent science books around aimed at an educated lay audience. And it doesn’t take too long to get a good grasp of the basics principles presented.

  19. Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Well, he *IS* biased against Meyer. And for good reason. As we should all be biased against poor logic and reliance on unreliable methods.

  20. Posted July 23, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    One thing I’ve learned from science is that it’s a enormously SUCCESSFUL method. Most scientists recognize that, in any field, we should start with the consensus and change only when better evidence comes out. There may be precious few exceptions but this will result in the most reliable understanding of a new field.

    Next, we respect those who follow this tenet–they won’t NECESSARILY be correct, but they’re certainly more LIKELY to be. It’s a starting point — then we follow a logical appraisal of evidence.

    This was a good read.

  21. Wayne
    Posted July 23, 2013 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/07/darwin_defender_1074791.html

    It’s Casey Luskin, not David Klinghoffer, who has shot back at Donald Prothero.

    • Christine Janis
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 12:28 am | Permalink

      Check today’s Amazon postings!

      Jerry, like the excellent scientist he is, made a testable prediction — and was proved right.

  22. Suri
    Posted July 24, 2013 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    Creationist response:

    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2013/07/darwin_defender_1074791.html

    • Suri
      Posted July 24, 2013 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

      Oops

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 25, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      Notice how after Casey Luskin’s whiny piece, he & Klinghoffer rushed right over to Amazon & wrote their own reviews of Meyer’s book.

      It’s funny, they complain that readers here as well as at PZ’s & Larry’s sites, “have eagerly voted up Prothero’s post” (which is a guess on their part) but then they themselves rush on over! Eye roll.

  23. Posted August 7, 2013 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    Prothero’s review has now been published in eSkeptic.

    /@


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