In an op-ed for Long Island’s Newsday, columnist William O’Reilly relates Dr. Meyer’s story of meeting with a former Microsoft software engineer:
“He walks into my office one day, throws a book down on the table. It’s called Design Patterns — standard textbook for computer design engineers — and he says, ‘I get the eerie feeling, when I’m looking at what’s going on in the cell, that somebody’s figured this out before us.'”
The rest of the op-ed can be read here.
The evolution debate is about to undergo a paradigm shift.
Darwin’s Origin of Species launched a revolution whose scientific, cultural and spiritual effects are still with us. Now a new revolution is on the horizon. On June 18, the HarperOne imprint of HarperCollins will publish Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, by Stephen C. Meyer.
Dr. Meyer is the Cambridge University-trained leader and founder of the ID movement. His previous book, Signature in the Cell, caught the attention of scholars who previously had nothing friendly to say about ID. Even distinguished atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel admitted that it confronted him with a “fiendishly difficult problem.” But Signature in the Cellconsidered only the mystery of the origin of life. Dr. Meyer’s new book expands the scope of the case for ID to the entire sweep of life’s history.
In some ways his book resembles Darwin’s Origin, with its methodical style, summarizing and synthesizing arguments and evidence in an unprecedentedly rigorous and powerful way. Or since the idea of intelligent design stretches back to classical philosophy, waiting only to be restated definitively in contemporary scientific terms, it might best be compared to Richard Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker, which performed a similar service for Darwinian theory.
Meyer begins with what Darwin himself regarded as a troubling enigma, a subject of doubt and even some scientific distress. It is a mystery from which subsequent generations of Darwinists have sought to distract the public’s attention. Some 530 million years ago, in the event called the Cambrian explosion, there sprang suddenly into existence the majority of animal body plans (phyla) that have existed on Earth. The shallow seas of the Cambrian period abruptly teemed with diverse, exotic animals.
Evolutionary biologists and paleontologists have struggled to explain this epic event. Dr. Meyer takes his readers on a journey through scientific history, starting with the discovery of the Burgess Shale by Charles Walcott in 1909. He shows how failed attempts to give a satisfying Darwinian explanation of the Cambrian explosion have opened the door to increasingly profound questions, posed by evolutionary biologists themselves, leading to a far greater mystery: the origin of the biological information necessary to build the animals of the Cambrian and all the living creatures that have existed on Earth.
Here is a sweeping account, stunningly illustrated with gorgeous color photos, of the frontiers of the scientific critique of Darwinism and the case for ID. Exacting and thorough, yet remarkably accessible to the thoughtful lay reader, Darwin’s Doubt introduces us to the challenges to Darwinism based on the study of combinatorial inflation, protein science, population genetics, developmental biology, epigenetic information, and more.
Meyer explains how post-Darwinian alternatives and adaptions of Darwin’s theory — including self-organizational models, evo-devo, neutral or nonadaptive evolution, natural genetic engineering, and others — fall short as well. He demonstrates that the weaknesses of orthodox evolutionary theory, when flipped over head-to-foot, are precisely the positive indications that point most persuasively to intelligent design.
Evolutionary biologists studying gene regulatory networks and fossil discontinuity, among other fields, have come tantalizingly close to reaching this conclusion themselves.
The Cambrian event, fundamentally, represents an information explosion, the first but not the last in the history of life. As no book has done before, Darwin’s Doubtspells out the implications of this fact. Dr. Meyer stands on the verge of turning the evolution debate in an entirely new direction, compelling critics of the theory of intelligent design, at last, to respond substantively and in detail. The book will be a game-changer, for science and culture alike.
This article was originally published in the Daily Telegraph (UK) on January 29.
In 2004, the distinguished philosopher Antony Flew of the University of Reading made worldwide news when he repudiated a lifelong commitment to atheism and affirmed the reality of some kind of a creator. Flew cited evidence of intelligent design in DNA and the arguments of “American [intelligent] design theorists” as important reasons for this shift.
Since then, British readers have learnt about the theory of intelligent design (ID) mainly from media reports about United States court battles over the legality of teaching students about it. According to most reports, ID is a “faith-based” alternative to evolution based solely on religion.
But is this accurate? As one of the architects of the theory, I know it isn’t.
Contrary to media reports, ID is not a religious-based idea, but an evidence-based scientific theory about life’s origins. According to Darwinian biologists such as Oxford University’s Richard Dawkins, living systems “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”
But, for modern Darwinists, that appearance of design is illusory, because the purely undirected process of natural selection acting on random mutations is entirely sufficient to produce the intricate designed-like structures found in living organisms.
By contrast, ID holds that there are tell-tale features of living systems and the universe that are best explained by a designing intelligence. The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it disputes Darwin’s idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.
What signs of intelligence do design advocates see?
In recent years, biologists have discovered an exquisite world of nanotechnology within living cells – complex circuits, sliding clamps, energy-generating turbines and miniature machines. For example, bacterial cells are propelled by rotary engines called flagellar motors that rotate at 100,000 rpm. These engines look like they were designed by engineers, with many distinct mechanical parts (made of proteins), including rotors, stators, O-rings, bushings, U-joints and drive shafts.
The biochemist Michael Behe points out that the flagellar motor depends on the co-ordinated function of 30 protein parts. Remove one of these proteins and the rotary motor doesn’t work. The motor is, in Behe’s words, “irreducibly complex.”
This creates a problem for the Darwinian mechanism. Natural selection preserves or “selects” functional advantages as they arise by random mutation. Yet the flagellar motor does not function unless all its 30 parts are present. Thus, natural selection can “select” the motor once it has arisen as a functioning whole, but it cannot produce the motor in a step-by-step Darwinian fashion.
Natural selection purportedly builds complex systems from simpler structures by preserving a series of intermediates, each of which must perform some function. With the flagellar motor, most of the critical intermediate structures perform no function for selection to preserve. This leaves the origin of the flagellar motor unexplained by the mechanism – natural selection – that Darwin specifically proposed to replace the design hypothesis.
Is there a better explanation? Based on our uniform experience, we know of only one type of cause that produces irreducibly complex systems: intelligence. Whenever we encounter complex systems – whether integrated circuits or internal combustion engines – and we know how they arose, invariably a designing intelligence played a role.
Consider an even more fundamental argument for design. In 1953, when Watson and Crick elucidated the structure of the DNA molecule, they made a startling discovery. Strings of precisely sequenced chemicals called nucleotides in DNA store and transmit the assembly instructions – the information – in a four-character digital code for building the protein molecules the cell needs to survive. Crick then developed his “sequence hypothesis”, in which the chemical bases in DNA function like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. As Dawkins has noted, “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like.”
The informational features of the cell at least appear designed. Yet, to date, no theory of undirected chemical evolution has explained the origin of the digital information needed to build the first living cell. Why? There is simply too much information in the cell to be explained by chance alone.
The information in DNA (and RNA) has also been shown to defy explanation by forces of chemical necessity. Saying otherwise would be like saying a headline arose as the result of chemical attraction between ink and paper. Clearly, something else is at work.
DNA functions like a software program. We know from experience that software comes from programmers. We know that information – whether, say, in hieroglyphics or radio signals – always arises from an intelligent source. As the pioneering information theorist Henry Quastler observed: “Information habitually arises from conscious activity.” So the discovery of digital information in DNA provides strong grounds for inferring that intelligence played a causal role in its origin.
Thus, ID is not based on religion, but on scientific discoveries and our experience of cause and effect, the basis of all scientific reasoning about the past. Unlike creationism, ID is an inference from biological data.
Even so, ID may provide support for theistic belief. But that is not grounds for dismissing it. Those who do confuse the evidence for the theory with its possible implications. Many astrophysicists initially rejected the Big Bang theory because it seemed to point to the need for a transcendent cause of matter, space and time. But science eventually accepted it because the evidence strongly supported it.
Today, a similar prejudice confronts ID. Nevertheless, this new theory must also be evaluated on the basis of the evidence, not philosophical preferences. As Professor Flew advises: “We must follow the evidence, wherever it leads.”
Stephen C Meyer edited ‘Darwinism, Design and Public Education’ (Michigan State University Press). He has a PhD in philosophy of science from Cambridge University and is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.
In November 2011, Dr. Meyer addressed a distinguished group of leading British political, cultural, and intellectual leaders at the Royal Horseguards Hotel, No. 1 Whitehall, London, England. In attendance were several members of the House of Lords, university vice chancellors, and many journalists, politicians, philosophers and scientists. He was giving the inaugural annual lecture of the Centre for Intelligent Design (UK). The event was hosted by former Lord Chancellor Lord McKay of Clashfern.
The complete video of Dr. Meyer’s talk, including an important Q&A discussion on what constitutes science, is now available on YouTube.
A recent Nature publication reports a new technique for measuring the oxygen levels in Earth’s atmosphere some 4.4 billion years ago. The authors found that by studying cerium oxidation states in zircon, a compound formed from volcanic magma, they could ascertain the oxidation levels in the early earth. Their findings suggest that the early Earth’s oxygen levels were very close to current levels. This research supports Dr. Meyer’s discussion in Signature in the Cell. On pgs. 224-226 of Ch. 10: Beyond the Reach of Chance, Meyer states that when Stanley Miller conducted his famous 1953 experiment simulating early Earth’s atmosphere, he “assumed that the earth’s atmosphere contained virtually no free oxygen.” Meyer reveals that new geochemical evidence showed that the assumptions Miller had made about the early atmosphere were incorrect.
This new research is additional confirmation that oxygen was present in significant quantities. Because oxygen quenches organic reactions necessary to produce essential building blocks of life, the ability of inorganic materials to produce organic life, as chemical evolutionary theory assumes, is not possible. Read the complete article at ENV.
During a recent visit to London, Dr. Stephen Meyer debated Keith Fox on Premier Radio UK’s “Unbelievable” program. Fox is a professor of biochemistry at Southampton University and Chair of the UK’s Christians in Science network. Two years after its publication, Meyer’s Signature in the Cell continues to make an impact with its powerful argument for design in DNA. In this lively conversation, Meyer and Fox discuss origins of life and the design inference in science.
Many scientists say complex life just randomly happened. Overflowtoday.com interviewed Stephen Meyer to find out if there is any shred of scientific evidence that life was created. Watch the short video here.
The DNA Enigma — where did the information in DNA come from? — is the supreme puzzle for Darwinian evolution. With the question affecting the origin of life, the chance hypothesis is completely out of the question, and pre-biotic natural selection begs the question. Watch as Stephen Meyer explains the inference to the best explanation for information in DNA, the origin of life, and our world: intelligent design.
The John Ankerberg Show will launch this weekend a multi-part series examining the science behind origin of life theories and featuring Dr. Stephen C. Meyer.
In four television programs beginning Sunday night, Feb. 27th at 9 PM EST on Daystar and Sky Angel at 11 PM EST across the US and over 200 nations worldwide, join Dr. John Ankerberg as he interviews Dr. Meyer. Go here for a full schedule for both cable and local channels.
On this week’s first program: Every person’s body consists of over a trillion cells. Almost every one of these cells includes a DNA molecule. What is DNA? Why is it so special? What does it do? Where did the digital code embedded in DNA originate? Why does the specified information in DNA point to a designing intelligence? Dr. Meyer provides a nice overview of the current origin of life theories based on his best-selling book Signature In The Cell.
Starting today and each Friday, you will get a sneak peek and be able to watch the next week’s full program online.