Those who follow the debate over evolution will remember 2009 as the year Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell convincingly made a new scientific case for intelligent design. In fact, according to Doug Groothuis, “Its publication may prove to be a decisive moment for the Intelligent Design movement.
One could not ask for more in a philosophy of science treatise than what we find in The Signature in the Cell. The book is no less than magisterial, an adjective that curmudgeons such as myself seldom use. At every level—philosophical, scientific, historical and literary—it is a superb treatise.
Reading every word of its 508 pages of text (not counting end notes)—as I did—repays the reader greatly. Meyer thoroughly examines a most significant topic—how life came about—and does so in an engaging, warm, and philosophically rigorous fashion. (Few books ever do such a thing.) In fact, I have never read a book that goes so deep while remaining so welcoming to the reader. It does so by using a minimal narrative structure—there is no obtrusive autobiography here—to guide us through the issues and arguments pertaining to the nature and origin life at the genetic level. The reader is lead step-by-step into the question of the origin of biological information, and so receives a hearty education in the history of science in general and the scientific question to understand life itself. (emphasis added)
Of course, it’s difficult to be objective when it seems everyone has a stake in the debate over the origin of life itself. As another reviewer observes:
Certainly in our own day such inquiries are made with apostolic fervor, both by those who adhere to science and by those who follow faith — and by that segment of every population, quieter than the first two and by far more numerous, who believe it’s possible to live in both mindsets simultaneously. These are the great and rancorous ‘God Debates’ of our beleaguered modern moment, with battle-ready contestants on both sides, writers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Behe, and Kenneth Miller squaring off on TV screen and town hall stage to wrestle with eschatological questions as old as Abraham. The fool sayeth in his heart ‘there is no God’ — the wise man, apparently, sayeth it on Larry King Live.
Into this supercharged atmosphere Cambridge-educated chemist and scientific historian Stephen Meyer puts forth his own case in his new book Signature in the Cell. In its calmly-reasoned 400 pages (with an extra 100 tightly-packed endnotes), Meyer constructs the strongest argument yet made for the theory of Intelligent Design, and he does it without once advocating any living God.
This reviewer, Ignazio de Vega of Open Letters Monthly, notes how Meyer takes on arch-atheist Richard Dawkins (“his serial dismantling of Dawkins throughout the book is conducted with a very satisfying mandarin delicacy”) and concludes by noting that “The author is concerned only with scientific fact — and the limits of some of those facts.”
Read the rest of this substantive review here.
The parallels between the CRU email scandal (aka “Climategate”) and the abuse of science perpetrated by those who want to keep Darwin-skeptics out of their universities, journals, and way, are clear to those closely involved in the debate over evolution. Today Stephen Meyer explains in an article at Human Events how familiar it is to have “scientists from various academic institutions hard at work suppressing dissent from other scientists who have doubts on global warming, massaging research data to fit preconceived ideas, and seeking to manipulate the gold standard ‘peer review’ process to keep skeptical views from being heard.”
Does this sound familiar at all? To me, as a prominent skeptic of modern Darwinian theory, it sure does. For years, Darwin-doubting scientists have complained of precisely such abuses, committed by Darwin zealots in academia.
There have been parallels cases where e-mail traffic was released showing Darwinian scientists displaying the same contempt for fair play and academic openness as we see now in the climate emails. One instance involved a distinguished astrophysicist at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez, who broke ranks with colleagues in his department over the issue of intelligent design in cosmology. Released under the Iowa Open Records Act, e-mails from his fellow scientists at ISU showed how his department conspired against him, denying Dr. Gonzales tenure as retribution for his views.
To me, the most poignant correspondence emerging from CRU e-mails involves discussion about punishing a particular editor at a peer-reviewed journal who was defying the orthodox establishment by publishing skeptical research.
Continue reading here.
Salvo magazine has an excellent review of SITC in its latest issue, from science writer Heather Zeiger.
In what would be typical British understatement, Dr. Stephen Meyer calls DNA replication a “curiosity.” Here is the conundrum: DNA needs proteins to replicate, but these same proteins are encoded in DNA. So which came first? In his magnum opus, Signature in the Cell, Dr. Meyer puts on the table what went through my mind when I took my first biochemistry class: How did this closed loop get started? Whatever made the loop could not have made the first DNA molecule the same way that it is made now. And the DNA and protein interaction is just one of many closed loops in perhaps the most efficient factory ever observed—the cell.
In 500 pages, Meyer takes his readers on a journey from working as a geologist in Texas, to walking the halls of Cambridge studying the philosophy of science, to being interviewed on television for his theories on origins. The value of his book is not merely in its conclusion that intelligence best explains the source of the DNA code; it is in the process Meyer uses to bring us to this conclusion. The reader sees the scientific process firsthand.
Read the full review online at Salvo.
Want to know more about the Amazon.com bestselling book that made the Times Literary Supplement’s Top Books of 2009? Robert Deyes has a review of Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell below:
In his recent book Signature In The Cell, Meyer presents a fresh outlook on one of the most compelling facets of the Intelligent Design case — that of biological information in DNA. Meyer provides a lucid and personal account of his own experiences as a scientist and philosopher revealing to the reader the watershed events that led to his move towards the intelligent design alternative.
Meyer’s historical overview of the key events that shaped origin-of-life biology is extremely readable and well illustrated. Both the style and the content of his discourse keep the reader focused on the ID thread of reasoning that he gradually develops throughout his book.
Meyer does a marvelous job in conveying the personal tensions that so characterized the DNA story. His extensive coverage of ‘turning point’ historical moments reveals an in-depth knowledge of the subject matter. Like few other scientific discoveries, that of the structure of DNA brought fundamental changes to our understanding of the chemistry of life since life itself could no longer be considered to be a mere product of matter and energy. As Meyer elaborates, information in the form of a DNA code had emerged as the critical player in defining the hereditary makeup of nature.
Meyer fleshes out a cohesive argument for intelligent design garnering support from an extensive body of molecular evidence and expert commentaries. His review of the ‘chicken and egg’ paradox, as relates to the integral interdependencies of molecular systems such as transcription and translation, highlights once more why it is that evolutionary ‘pie in the sky’ assumptions are powerless to explain the origins of critical life processes. Meyer then goes on to boldly entertain the idea that intelligent design presents us with the only causally adequate explanation for the origin of biological information and spends much of the remainder of his book tying together substantial evidence in support of his position.
Following in the footsteps of fellow ID advocate William Dembski, Meyer has done us all a great service by showing how the chance assembly of a 150 amino-acid protein pales in front of the available probabilistic resources of our universe. In other words, we are stopped dead in our tracks by a probabilistic impasse of the highest order before we have even begun assessing the geological plausibility of competing origin of life scenarios.
The scientific method commits us to finding the best explanation for the phenomena we observe. Drawing from the opinions of NIH biologist Peter Mora, Meyer shows us how the chance hypothesis — that purports to explain how life arose without recourse to design or necessity — has been found wanting particularly in light of the ever-growing picture of the complexity of the cell. A debate-clincher in Meyer’s expose comes from his comprehensive summarization of the bellyaches associated with chemist Stanley Miller’s controversial spark discharge apparatus.
In Signature In The Cell Meyer builds on Dembski’s cornerstone case and uses a seemingly non-ending supply of illustrations to firm up his own supportive arguments. One can only imagine how Darwin might have felt coming back to find intelligent design legitimized through his own Vera Causa criterion. My hunch is that he would have applauded the current state of debate.
Robert Deyes has been reviewing the book chapter-by-chapter, publishing a review of Meyer’s rebuttal of the chance hypothesis on Friday. Visit The ID Update for more.
Dr. Meyer’s first appearance on The Dennis Miller Show, where he talked about Signature in the Cell, Francis Crick’s sequence hypothesis, and more:
Dr. Meyer’s second appearance on the Dennis Miller Show to talk about his book:
Last week on Dec. 2nd, Dr. Meyer was on Dennis Miller’s radio program to talk about his book. You can listen to the interview here.
Stephen Meyer has already made year-end lists with Signature in the Cell, an Amazon bestselling science book and one of Times Literary Supplement’s books of the year for 2009, but the latest news go far beyond that: Stephen Meyer has been named World Magazine’s “Daniel of the Year” for 2009:
This fall Meyer came out with a full account of what science has learned in recent decades: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Harper One, 2009) shows that the cell is incredibly complex and the code that directs its functions wonderfully designed. His argument undercuts macroevolution, the theory that one kind of animal over time evolves into a very different kind. Meyer thus garners media scorn for raining on this year’s huge celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin 200 years ago and the publication of On the Origin of Species 150 years ago.
The cover story is what should become the essential profile of Meyer, following what World’s Marvin Olasky describes as “the four-stage pattern that is common among intellectual Daniels: Questioning, discernment, courage, and perseverance.”
Meyer says, “You ask how someone gets the moxie to take something like this on. Part of the answer is that I didn’t know any better when I was young. I was just so seized with this idea and these questions: ‘Was it possible to develop a scientific case? Were we looking at evidence that could revive and resuscitate the classical argument from design, which had been understood from the time of Hume and certainly the time of Darwin to be defunct?’ If that was the case, that’s a major scientific revolution.”
Courage becomes a determinant once we count the cost and see that it’s great. Meyer’s first inkling came when “talking about my ideas to people at Cambridge High Table settings, and getting that sudden social pall.” But the cost was and is more than conversational ease: San Francisco State University in 1992 expelled a professor, Dean Kenyon, who espoused ID, and other job losses have come since. Meyer and other ID proponents saw “that this would be very controversial. One of the things that emboldened all of us who were in the early days of this movement was meeting each other. In 1993 we had a little private conference [with] 10 or 12 very sharp, mostly younger scientists going through top-of-the-world programs in their respective fields who were all skeptical. I think the congealing of this group gave everyone the sense that this was going to be an exciting adventure: Let’s rumble.”
The article, as the title indicates, is a profile in courage worth reading, particularly this bit:
Many who enter the courage stage at first think that the war in which they find themselves will end in a few years. There comes a time in many lives, though, when a hard realization sinks in: It will not be over in my lifetime. That’s when some give in while others proceed to the perseverance stage. That’s where Meyer is: Signature in the Cell ends with a long list of testable predictions concerning the direction of science over the next several decades. Meyer predicts that further study will reveal the importance of “junk DNA” and the reasons for what seem to be “poorly designed” structures: They will reveal either a hidden functional logic or evidence of decay from originally good designs.
Read the whole article here.