Darwin’s Doubt to be on Times bestseller list

| 94 Comments

Years ago, someone gave me a book on child-rearing, and I noticed afterward that it was on The New York Times bestseller list. I mentioned the fact to my father, an expert on child-rearing, and his only comment was, “That’s not why it is lousy.” My father would no doubt feel vindicated right about now: Stephen Meyer’s book, Darwin’s Doubt, will be on the Times‘s bestseller list this coming Sunday, July 7.

Acknowledgment. Thanks to Alert Reader for pointing out this depressing fact.

Update, July 5: As a commenter has pointed out, Darwin’s Doubt will not appear on the July 14 list. The book is evidently a flash in the pan—unless they moved it to the fiction section. Advance orders were evidently vigorously promoted, but no one is actually reading the book, which we may consider a blessing.

94 Comments

Religious tripe often does well.*

Glen Davidson

*Note that I’m not saying all religious books are tripe, rather that it’s the religious tripe that sells.

Well, for what’s it’s worth, the number one bestseller is about “faith, family, and ducks.”

Sigh. The first and twelfth books on the paperback nonfiction list seem to be about people who had near-death experiences, hallucinated, and thought they had seen God. The Times ran a fairly credulous feature on Heaven Is for Real but never got around to asking whether this “memoir,” based on the testimony of a four-year-old, made any sense.

I’m about one quarter of the way through. It’s not bad.

The publication of Meyer’s book marks the moment when the theory of intelligent design – love it or hate it – has solidly joined the mainstream discussion about biological origins.

Says Klinghoffer

If he means any sort of science discussion, fat chance. If he means that ignorant bozos will latch onto it, since when didn’t they cling to fantasies about God poofing Cambrian life into existence?

As far as I can tell, nothing’s changed, except that perhaps the DI/Meyer are sucking money out of the marks better than previously.

Glen Davidson

This phenomenon appears to be analogous to Gresham’s Law.

Junk science is portrayed to be of equal value to real science; but junk science has “sweeteners” added that makes it more addictive.

This comment has been moved to The Bathroom Wall.

Robert Byers said:

Evolutionist error will not, I think, last another 15 years.

Shall we add Byers’s illustrious name to the list of those predicting the overthrow of established science “real soon now, for real this time” with all the others?

It’s like some kind of Creationist version of Millerism, predicting The End of ___________ Any Day Now. Then shuffling their feet as the deadline passes by uneventfully.

larry fluty said:

I’m about one quarter of the way through. It’s not bad.

I’m about 1/4 the way through too. They really should have printed it on softer paper… it’s gumming up the toilet.

ksplawn said:

Robert Byers said:

Evolutionist error will not, I think, last another 15 years.

Shall we add Byers’s illustrious name to the list of those predicting the overthrow of established science “real soon now, for real this time” with all the others?

It’s like some kind of Creationist version of Millerism, predicting The End of ___________ Any Day Now. Then shuffling their feet as the deadline passes by uneventfully.

Yeah, but think about what they have now!

More denials, of even more evidence. All of the time, even more evidence for evolution, so even more chances to scream “No.”

How can they lose? I mean, when there are people like Byers and the other dimwits of UD around.

Glen Davidson

It will soon fade from the list and people recognize it for what it’s real lack of science, unless the dishonesty institute buys them in bulk, then bilks their donors for $$$ for them.

DavidK said:

It will soon fade from the list and people recognize it for what it’s real lack of science, unless the dishonesty institute buys them in bulk, then bilks their donors for $$$ for them.

One wonders what ever boosted it so high. Manipulation, or just a bunch of gulls eagerly awaiting yet another version of the same gospel song?

I saw it at #10 on Amazon soon after it became available, but it quickly declined, and by now it’s hovering around the half-thousand mark. Way too high for the same old Cambrian “argument” and ID non-explanation, but, given the built-in population that laps up such regurgitations of twaddle, not too surprising.

Singing to the choir at best, is my guess. Meanwhile, all of the real science regarding the Cambrian will be done by real scientists, not by the yes-men at the DI, or their pious little believers.

Glen Davidson

New Yorker pans Darwin’s Doubt, referring to Matzke’s excellent review.

Probably the closest it gets to any praise is that it is a “masterwork of pseudoscience,” and is especially harsh on the simplistic resort to the “supernatural” when something isn’t known.

Glen Davidson

Confession: I bought it (kindle edition).

I presume that my local public library will have to buy a copy, so I will have access that way.

That will allow me to check for myself whether the book presents any alternative.

One question remaining open for all of the arguments against evolutionary biology is this: What if everything that you say is true?

What if standard evolutionary biology cannot account for the Cambrian Explosion? What does account for it? Is there something about “intelligent design”, for example, that tells us why designer(s) would decide to intervene in a special way half-a-billion years ago, in a way that they haven’t done ever since? That they were more interested in the unique design of trilobites than in the minor variation on the tetrapod/mammalian/primate plan for the human body?

I don’t find this fact terribly depressing.

The bestseller list is far less meaningful than it was during America’s literary era, which ended, oddly, quite a long time before the internet era began. The bestseller list once reflected mainstream reading habits. It does not anymore. People really read “Valley of the Dolls” and “The Godfather”, shortly after they were published (no quality assessment of either example intended here). Do you know anyone who who has recently bought a book around the time that the book was on the bestseller list? I don’t, and haven’t for years. I buy far more books than anyone I know, except my brother, which is not all that many in today’s world, and a habit I am breaking, I read the NY Times pretty often - online - and I never have any idea what’s on the bestseller list, nor do any books I buy ever reflect it.

(Note that I’m presenting anecdotat evidence here, but as I’ve noted before, GOOD anecdotal evidence - that is, an individual but objetive amd credible observation, which can potentially be replicated - can lead to the development of a testable hypothesis. We shouldn’t confuse good anecdotal evidence, which despite its limitations can have value as a spur to future study, with unverifiable, non-credible individual stories, of the type creationists like to use. The latter are best referred to as “rumors” at best, and often deserve less complimentary terms.)

I strongly suspect that certain types of institutional purchases drive the list. At any rate, what does get on is highly enriched in political, “management”, and “spirituality”.

Furthermore, I have no problem with ID/creationist crap being widely exposed. I remember the pre-Dover period quite well, when Dembski was routinely on television and Behe was on the bestseller lists. Propaganda does potentally work. However, everyone has the righht to promote any propaganda they want. ID books aren’t very good propaganda. “Spiritual” books sell, but people want real spirtuality. Unlike nonsensical but basically harmless books about, say, astrology, ID both has to be more hostile to science (which, remember, is ALSO very popular), and to disguise its religious message in a type of dissembling language that doesn’t come across well.

I’m going to make an optimistic and testable prediction here. I conjecture that since ID arguments are dissembling and weasel-worded failed legal strategies, they aren’t very useful at convincing others. Pushing them hard may actually have the net effect of driving more young people out of the movement. It amounts to drawing attention to the weak part of a the ideology. “We are superior, we should rule, we go to heaven, God loves us” - messages that keep young people in. “Science that seems highly credible must be denied to be a member of our movement, and not only that, but we publicly deny it in a weasel-worded, dissembling way that casts doubt on our underlying consistency” - that’s a weak point. By emphasizing that part of the ideology, they may be accelerating attrition.

Remember, ID isn’t designed to convince. It’s designed to FORCE. It was designed as a legalistic ruse. The hope was that sectarian science denial could be jammed into public schools, and then when it was challenged, sympathetic judges could wink at the defense and use the dissembling language of ID as the grounds for an insincere argument that the first amendment wasn’t violated.

Elizabeth Liddle said:

Confession: I bought it (kindle edition).

Black helicopters dispatched.

Great review in the New Yorker. Gareth Cook does a great job of highlighting the main creationist themes of Doubt and their origins at the Disco Tute. Best general review I’ve read. And, kudos to Matzke for getting a shout out in the NY!

Lizzie, I’m not going to register at UD to discuss a possible slight error, but IIRC from long ago the major entropy increase due to entropy decrease on Earth is in the Universe at large, rather than the Sun, and is accomplished by thermal radiation from the unlit side of the Earth.

Ah, here it is: Evidence, scroll to Gordon Davisson’s comment on 6/24.

Zoe Althrop!

How can Darwin’s Doubt be on the Times “bestseller list” already when the book has just come out? What is the time interval over which they calculate the “best seller”? Is the “bestseller” anywhere in the top 100 titles sold? Or 1000? In some category? Does anyone know what that designation really means?

If the time interval is short enough, then every book could spend one femto-second on the bestseller list the instant after a single person buys a single copy.

Carl Drews said:

How can Darwin’s Doubt be on the Times “bestseller list” already when the book has just come out? What is the time interval over which they calculate the “best seller”? Is the “bestseller” anywhere in the top 100 titles sold? Or 1000? In some category? Does anyone know what that designation really means?

If the time interval is short enough, then every book could spend one femto-second on the bestseller list the instant after a single person buys a single copy.

Okay, the NYT has an explanation of their methodology:

  1. The time interval for sampling is one week. So if you want to manipulate this particular system, you have to get all your friends to buy copies during the same week.
  2. Sales are reported by book vendors.
  3. There is a time lag of two weeks between final data collection for a week and publication of those results.
  4. There are various book categories tracked: “Among the categories not actively tracked at this time are: perennial sellers, required classroom reading, textbooks, reference and test preparation guides, journals, workbooks, calorie counters, shopping guides, comics, crossword puzzles and self-published books.”
  5. It is not clear to me how e-books count: “The universe of e-book publishers and vendors is rapidly emerging, and until the industry is settled sales of e-books will not be [statistically] weighted.”
  6. The NYT web page shows 1-16, with 17-25 “also selling.”

Of course one way to make the list would be to have churches preorder in bulk, then hold the books for later sale at church events. And it wouldn’t matter if that didn’t get anyone outside the church to buy the books, it would still increase sales at the church events. You could even set up a booth on the sidewalk of a major university and then claim that the book was sold there, even if you didn’t sell a single copy at that location.

Here is a link to the New Yorker article. Seemed to me a very fair, if dispassionate, review.

TomS said: One question remaining open for all of the arguments against evolutionary biology is this: What if everything that you say is true?

Then the TOE goes the way of Newtonian Mechanics. Which is to say it still gets taught and used because it gives accurate answers to a range of problems humans think are important to solve.

I think in general books with a strong conservative slant tend to sell well. Conservatives seem to be more anxious to confirm their opinions. That would explain why Fox News has over three times as many viewers as MSNBC, despite the fact that there are certainly not three times as many conservatives in the US.

It is disgusting that the Dishonesty Institute is getting away with their full court press shilling for “Darwin’s Doubt.” If you go to Google News, almost all the entries for the first few pages are from the Discovery Institute (and one from “World” magazine, that gave Meyer their “Man of the Year” award a few years ago). At least now the lead item is the New Yorker article.

It is disgusting that the Dishonesty Institute is getting away with their full court press shilling for “Darwin’s Doubt.” If you go to Google News, almost all the entries on the first few pages are from the Discovery Institute (and one from “World” magazine, that gave Meyer their “Man of the Year” award a few years ago). At least now the lead item is the New Yorker article.

Whoops - I don’t know how I did that!

The list I’d like would tell us which new books are most read. I’m guessing such a list would send pop novels to the top of the charts but deep six the ideological potboilers that many people buy out of loyalty to a cause.

Paul Burnett said:

Whoops - I don’t know how I did that!

Probably out of disgust.

Glen Davidson

diogeneslamp0 said:

Doc Bill said:

This link is a highlights reel of the Hitchens/Berlinski “debate” during which Hitchens expounded eloquently and Berlinski sang to a chorus of crickets.

There is a longer version out there that’s an hour or so long, but this four-minute clip summarizes the outcome nicely.

http://youtu.be/0bdTnCLiYi4

Oy Doc, you are my crack dealer. I needs da crack… da crack… For me, crack is hearing Berlinski say the following. Pay close attention, people:

David Berlinski actually said:

What am I to make of the claim that science and Christianity are in opposition to one another. I would need to hear the claim reticulated properly.

[http://youtu.be/0bdTnCLiYi4, time 4:36]

Yes, Berlinski said “reticulated” where anyone else would say “articulated.” I know people make slips of the tongue, but why is Berlinski’s slip of the tongue the use of jargon from graph theory?

And it’s not the first time Berlinski has used the word “reticulated” incorrectly, or been called on it. Here’s an egregious example of him misusing the same damn word.

David Berlinski actually wrote:

“IN ITS most familiar, textbook form, Darwin’s theory subordinates itself to a haunting and fantastic image, one in which life on earth is represented as a tree. So graphic has this image become that some biologists have persuaded themselves they can see the flowering tree standing on a dusty plain, the mammalian twig obliterating itself by anastomosis into a reptilian branch and so backward to the amphibia and then the fish…

This is nonsense, of course. That densely reticulated tree, with its lavish foliage, is an intellectual construct, one expressing the hypothesis of descent with modification. Evolution is a process, one stretching over four billion years. It has not been observed.”

[David Berlinski, “The Deniable Darwin”, Commentary magazine, June 1996]

Nonsense indeed: above Berlinski uses “reticulated” to describe the Tree of Life– the defining characteristic of which is its LACK of reticulation! Reticulation, as you know, means net-like or intertwined, like the structure of a banyan tree. (The reticulated python is so named because of its net-like color pattern.)

(He also uses the word “anastomosis” incorrectly: it’s the re-joining of two branches that previously separated, so this would NOT be a feature of a classical tree, either forward nor backward in time.)

Berlinski’s “Deniable Darwin” was smacked down by dozens of scholars in 1996 who picked it apart, the letters being printed in Commentary. Back in 1996 Arthur M. Shapiro dinged Berlinski for (among other things) not knowing what “reticulated” or “anastomosis” mean. That was 14 years before he did it again vs. Hitchens…

I had a manager who always pronounced the word “moot” as “mute.” It’s fairly common, I think. Only once did I quip, “Oh, you mean it doesn’t speak for itself?” And, of course, he didn’t get it at all.

The longer Berlinski (the 8-part, hour long debate involving Genie Scott and Ken Miller) was interesting to me for two reasons. Some years ago I watched an interview with Berlinski in which he said, paraphrasing, “I once decided to count the number of engineering changes that would be necessary to turn a cow into a whale. *insert more bafflegab here* I stopped at 50,000.”

OK, a couple of points. Where’s the list, Berlinski? Tell me, did Paul Nelson write his Ontogenetic Depth thesis on the back of your list? Where’s the list? Of course, there is no list. Berlinski made the whole thing up. Nobody makes a list of 50,000 items, not even my wife when she sends me to Whole Foods! It’s ridiculous. And consider Berlinski’s background; what would he possibly make a list of. Anyway, ridiculous.

But, going back to this 1997 debate he asks Genie Scott for the same list! How many changes, Genie, give me a number. But this time it wasn’t a cow, it was an aquatic mammal. I think later he chose a cow because a seal would be more plausible and he’s trying to be ridiculous. Genie dodges that bullet. THEN Berlinski asks Ken Miller the same question! And Ken says that, well, he could maybe make an estimate. The whale has about 100,000 genes so maybe half of them were involved. Before Ken can finish the discussion moves on.

It struck me, though, that perhaps Berlinski latched on to his number, 50,000, during this debate and has used it ever since. By using his bogus number Berlinski could appear to have an upper hand implying that he had actually researched a subject which we all know to be ridiculous.

Have I used “ridiculous” enough with Berlinski?

I, too, caught “reticulated” because it was such an odd word to use in that context and I confess to looking it up expecting a third or fourth or Urban definition. After all, Hitchens was there and he always made me look up stuff. Alas, it was just Berlinski feigning an intellectual as he did appearing bored when asked whether he would prefer an Islamic or secular Europe. A typical Disco Tute fellow, Berlinski pretends to be knowledgable when he’s actually quite shallow. He is quite a howler, though!

Actually, in the video of that debate, he said whales evolved from a dog-like animal.

In the later interview you spoke of– “The Incorrigible Dr. Berlinski” IIRC– he asks how could you make a whale by teaching a COW how to swim. He doesn’t talk about evolving populations or even an individual morphing, but teaching a cow to swim.

I have never heard an IDiot describe how evolutionary theory predicts whales evolved from artiodactyls. Say artiodactyl, motherhumper. Say it.

Ron Okimoto said:

Why would an agnostic stay with a scam outfit like the Discovery Institute? Berlinski even claimed that he had never bought into the ID scam junk.

Nick Matzke said: Because they pay attention to him.

apokryltaros said: And pay him money, too.

Indeed. Others have been done, but here’s a pretty good and recent breakdown …

The Discovery Institute Is A Con-Profit Scam

It might be a bit more depressing that it’s the #1 Bestseller in Amazon’s list in the category of “palaeontology”.

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This page contains a single entry by Matt Young published on July 2, 2013 2:05 PM.

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