It has been announced that Stephen Meyer is working on a new book, Darwin’s Doubt, to be published in June by HarperOne, the religion imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. The indefatigable Evolution News and Views describes the purpose of the book as “game-changing”, and says that “a revolution is on the horizon”. The book is to start with the mystery of the Cambrian explosion.
Evolutionary biologists and paleontologists since then 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.
(Yes, there are days when I too feel as if I have been struggling for 530 million years).
I suggest we help Meyer with his book. These days a book can be revised up until perhaps a month before publication, so there is still time for Meyer to take our advice. What issues should be carefully discussed? We wouldn’t want him to overlook important questions if
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.
Let me start with my suggestion (but you will have others to add). Dr. Meyer should explain the notion of Complex Specified Information (CSI) and deal carefully with the criticisms of it. Many critics of Intelligent Design argued that it is meaningless. But even those who did not consider it meaningless (and I was one) found fatal flaws in the way Meyer’s friend William Dembski used it to argue for ID. Dembski’s Law of Conservation of Complex Specified Information was invoked to argue that when we observe adaptation that is much better than could be achieved by pure mutation (monkeys-with-genomic-typewriters), that this must imply that Design is present. But alas, Elsberry and Shallit in 2003 found that when Dembski proved his theorem, he violated a condition that he himself had laid down, and I (2007) found another fatal flaw – the scale on which the adaptation is measured (the Specification) is not kept the same throughout Dembski’s argument. Keeping it the same destroys this supposed Law. Meyer should explain all this to the reader, and clarify to ID advocates that the LCCSI does not rule out natural selection as the reason why there is nonrandomly good adaptation in nature.
But enough of my obsessions: what do you suggest? Now is our chance to ensure that Dr. Meyer does not inadvertently forget some major issue, so that his game-changing book truly deals clearly and honestly with the major issues surrounding “the theory of intelligent design”.