Charles Marshall, a paleontologist and expert on early life at the University of California at Berkeley, recently debated intelligent-design advocate Stephen Meyer on the Cambrian Explosion, the topic of Meyer’s recent book, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin for Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. I haven’t yet listened to the hour-long debate, but I will, and readers interested in ID and paleontology should as well.
I confess that I had an small hand in this: when Meyer’s book came out, arguing that the suddenness of the Cambrian “Explosion” (it actually took at least ten million years), accompanied by the origin of several new body plans, was evidence for intelligent design, I wanted to see his argument addressed by scientific experts. I called it to the attention of several early-life paleobiologists, hoping that they’d review the book. Only one of them, Charles, took the bait, but he produced a great review, and in an important journal (Science). You can read Marshall’s negative review here, for free. And that review led to this debate.
The debate, of course, was conducted on a Christian station, Premier, a station in the UK, and on the “Unbelievable?” show hosted by Justin Brierley. You can go to the show’s website here and access the Meyer/Marshall debate by clicking on “click here to listen now,” or, better yet (since that way can crash your browser) listen to or download an MP3 of the show here.
Since I haven’t heard this yet, and many readers won’t, put your take on the debate below if you’ve listened to it.
I wish more paleobiologists would have a look at Meyer’s book. Not that he’ll listen to their critiques, for he and his Discovery Institute cronies aren’t interested in scientific argument, and always find a way to discredit the several negative reviews. And although it’s annoying to take time out of one’s science to debunk ID, having a paper record against its arguments is valuable. Paleobiologists should, for instance, note that if you look on the Amazon rankings under “organic evolution,” you’ll find this:
It’s a travesty that a religiously-motivated book is #1. That ranking doesn’t reflect its scientific or literary quality, of course: it reflects America’s extreme religiosity and the fact that Meyer’s book adds to religious Americans’ confirmation bias.
In the more sensible and less religious UK, Meyer’s book isn’t even listed under “evolution” (or at least doesn’t appear in the top 80), and is #42 in paleontology.