Meyer’s Mistake

Quite apart from any factual errors, about which I’m not at all qualified to judge, here is what seems to me to be  Meyer’s fundamental logical error IMO:

According to Darwin’s theory, the differences in form, or “morphological distance,” between evolving organisms should increase gradually over time as small-scale variations accumulate by natural selection to produce increasingly complex forms and structures (including, eventually, new body plans).  In other words, one would expect small-scale differences or diversity among species to precede large-scale morphological disparity among phyla.

 

(Darwin’s Doubt, Chapter 2)

He illustrates this by asking us to comparing this figure, which he says is what we do see:

Figure_2.12

With this (appallingly badly drawn) one:

Figure_2.11_MeyerWhich he claims Darwin’s theory says we ought to see.

And he says:

 

The actual pattern in the fossil record, however, contradicts this expectation (compare Fig. 2.12 to Fig 2.11b).  Instead of more species eventually leading to more genera, leading to more families, orders, classes and phyla, the fossil record shows representatives of separate phyla appearing first followed by lower-level diversification on those basic themes.

Well, of course it does, Dr Meyer!  You have just, in Chapter 2 of your fat book made an absolutely fundamental error of understanding of the entire principle of phylogenetics and taxonomy.  No, of course you wouldn’t expect phyla to follow “lower-level diversification on those basic themes”.  How could it possibly?  And how could you possibly so fundamentally misunderstand the entire point of Darwin’s tree and its relationship to the nested hierarchies observe by Linnaeus?

All branching events, in Darwin’s proposal, whether the resulting lineages end up as different phyla or merely different species, start in the same way, with two populations where there once was one, and a short morphological distance between them.  It is perfectly true that the longer both lineages persist for, the greater the morphological distance will become.  But that isn’t because they started different, or because the phyla come later.  It’s because what we call phyla are groups of organisms with an early common ancestor,  whose later descendents have evolved to form a group that has a large morphological distance from contemporary populations who descended from a different early common ancestor.

So when a phylum, or a class, or even a kingdom first diverges from a single population into two lineages, the “morphological distance” from the other lineage will be very short.  We only call it a “phylum” because eventually, owning to separate evolution, that distance becomes very large.

I’ve amended the drawings in the book as below, and, instead of labeling the trees by what a contemporary phylogeneticists might have called them, I’ve called each tree a phylum, and I’ve drawn round the organisms that constitute various subdivisions of phyla in colours from orange to green to represent successive branchings.  Rather than the little bunch of twigs marked “families” by Meyer, I’ve indicated the entire clade for each subdivision, or tried to.

Figure_2.11_Meyer_EL

In Meyer’s version, he called the early sprout “ONE SPECIES”, which a contemporary phylogeneticist (Dr Stephen Chordata perhaps) would have called a “species”.  But by the time of the next tree (which I think is supposed to incorporate the first), and Dr Chordata’s distant descendent comes along, she may call it an entire “genus”, and become rather more interested in the “species” that she observes it contains.  Move along one to the next tree on Meyer’s time-line and an even more distantly descendent will call the whole tree a “family” containing “genera” and “species”.  What was a “genus” to her great^10 grandmother will be several genera to her, and so on.  And with each multi-generation of palaeontologist, the descendents of what were close relations in her ancestral palaentologist’s day are now separated by a wide “morphological distance.

So of course, if we look at the fossil record as these speciation-events were happening and try to categorise the organisms in terms of their modern descendents, we will find a great number of different phyla, and far fewer species. Of course they have different body plans, because they lived at a time when many different lineages from the first populations of rather amorphous multi-cell colonies were still around, some with not much symmetry, some with bilateral symmetry, some with five-fold symmetry, and many that didn’t go very far and left no extant lineages.  Because of course Meyer also forgets the big extinction events, which are the other part of the answer to why one particular branch “exploded” while the others were never seen again.  It’s even in his terrible Figure 1.11.  Which he may not have been responsible for drawing, but he should at least have looked at.

ETA: the other drawing, fixed:

Figure_2.12_EL
ETA2:

Another extraordinary example of Meyer’s complete failure to understand what a clade is, or that the words “phyla” and “class” refer to clades. Coloured emendations are mine (orange/red for Meyer’s “phyla”, blue for Meyer’s “class”):

Meyer_7.3_EL

I’d have expected an urbane, Cambridge-educated guy like Meyer to know the [ETA: spot the erroneous] singular of “phyla” but that’s minor compared to his crashing howler of an attempt to demonstrate what the term means.

ETA:3 Note: As Mung has pointed out, Meyer shows that he does know the singular of “phyla”, he just doesn’t get it correct it in this particular diagram. However, as I have said elsewhere (and above), this error is minor compared with the howler of including only a group of of descendents in his circled “phyla”, not the whole branch, which as I’ve said, undermines his entire argument.

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442 thoughts on “Meyer’s Mistake

  1. thorton:

    The 3 BY of fossils we have before the Cambrian, including almost 100MY of multicellular fossils.The 500MY of fossils after the Cambrian including the Great Ordovician Diversification and the subsequent 5 major mass extinctions and re-radiations.

    It’s a book on the Cambrian. Your complaint is that it’s not a book on the not Cambrian. I’m impressed (not really).

    thorton:

    No one else from the ID camp will touch the question. Mung sure won’t. How about you Blas?

    What was the question? Was It why didn’t Meyer address the not-Cambrian in his book about the Cambrian? Well, DUH!

    thorton:

    No one else from the ID camp will touch the question. Mung sure won’t.

    Really?

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  2. Richardthughes:

    Are you looking for ‘death by cop’, Mung?

    Don’t confuse me with Jerad. I have actual arguments and evidence. I’ve actually read the book and it’s still here within reach, as Elizabeth has discovered, to her chagrin.

    Have you read it? No? But you’re a “Skeptic”? Give me a break. Hell, give Elizabeth a break.

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  3. How chivalrous of all of you to come to Lizzie’s defense.

    It all rings hollow though if you haven’t actually read the book.

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  4. Mung:
    thorton, let us know when you’ve read the book.

    Mung, let us know when you love the truth so much you’re willing to discuss Meyer’s ideas.

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  5. Mike Elzinga, in true “Skeptical” style, makes another contribution to Guano.

    You’ve read Meyer’s book then, Mike?

    Or have you finally completed Life’s Ratchet and want to share with all of us it’s refutation of intelligent design? I’m still waiting to see that OP from you.

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  6. thorton, let us know when you’ve read the book.

    That’s where his ideas are published.

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  7. petrushka:

    I haven’t read Velikovsky.

    To your detriment. But you’ve read Meyer, right? No? Skeptical much?

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  8. Moved a bunch of stuff to Guano.

    Apologies for not doing so earlier – I’ve been away from home with only intermittent internet access.

    Please everyone remember the rules! Anyone can stray over the line from time to time, but if you really don’t like the rules-of-engagement here, then it’s probably not the right place for you. That is not a coded threat – it’s simple logic. I won’t ban anyone for not sticking to to any but the “don’t post porn/spam/malware” rules, but it does get tedious having to move loads of stuff to guano.

    So this is just a request for people to self-moderate a bit – read your post, and if it looks like it should go to guano editing before posting.

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  9. Mung

    You seem very keen on people buying “Darwins Doubt”.

    Why?

    I mean most reviews have not been favourable and I wonder what it was you thought reviewers are missing. Here’s one example. The reviewer is making the same point Lizzie makes in the OP.

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  10. Mung:
    Petition Elizabeth to have me banned for having actually read the book.

    I don’t actually believe you’ve read the book as it happens. If you had you should be able to respond to some of the points made in the various reviews. Yet you seem remarkably reluctant to actually engage on anything substantive.

    Pick a negative review, explain point by point why the review is wrong.

    Or, you know, continue on as you are. You are doing so very well!

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  11. Mung,
    But if you really have read the book (I’ve not, still on Signature) then what would be really helpful is if you could explain how Meyer’s Cambrian claims fit in with the rest of the fossil record? I mean the 3 BY of fossils we have before the Cambrian, including almost 100MY of multicellular fossils. The 500MY of fossils after the Cambrian including the Great Ordovician Diversification and the subsequent 5 major mass extinctions and re-radiations.

    Perhaps if you can do that I’ll make it my next book on my ID list. If not, then is it really worth reading at all? If the book explains none of this, then how can it be worth reading at all? I’ve more books to read then I can fit in a lifetime, why should I read this one?

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  12. Mung,
    One last question for you to ignore.

    Presumably you agree with Meyer that the designer intervened during the Cambrian?

    As a student of ID, do you believe that’s the only time the designer intervened? If not, when else?

    Approx how many times?

    Or don’t you have an opinion on this matter?

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  13. Mung: Have you read it? No? But you’re a “Skeptic”? Give me a break.

    I’m a little lost on your point here Mung. What does reading Meyer’s book (or any particular book for that matter) have to do with being a skeptic? Case in point, I happen to be skeptical of Meyer’s honesty and integrity. What incentive do I have then to read what I perceive as utter nonsense?

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  14. Alan Fox:
    Mung

    You seem very keen on people buying “Darwins Doubt”.

    Why?

    I mean most reviews have not been favourable and I wonder what it was you thought reviewers are missing. Here’s one example. The reviewer is making the same point Lizzie makes in the OP.

    That guy solve the problem of diversity and disparity with Gould`s saltationism. That was considered an heretic of darwinism for years. Now is used as “evolution” friendly theory with the add of “rapid (on a geologic time scale) ” to protect the theory in order to explain things that darwinism do not explains, because darwinism requires an step by step increase of diversity.

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  15. That guy solve the problem of diversity and disparity with Gould`s saltationism.

    Who’s that guy? Meyer? And you are confusing Stephen Jay Gould with Richard Goldschmidt, I think. The rest of your comment appears to rest on this confusion so there seem little point in addressing it. Saltationism (Goldschmit’s idea) is not the same as punctuated equilibrium as proposed by Eldredge and Gould.

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  16. Alan Fox:

    You seem very keen on people buying “Darwins Doubt”. Why?

    Really? Borrow a copy. Check out a copy from the library. Just don’t pretend to be able to debate a book you’ve never read.

    Or. maybe you, as a “true skeptic” here at “The Skeptical Zone” are willing to take Elizabeth’s word for things. Like when she claimed Meyer didn’t know the difference between phyla and phylum. Just think of all the readers here who hadn’t read the book for themselves and who placed their trust in Lizzie.

    Skeptical much, Alan?

    I notice that you don’t choose to discuss the book, or anything in the book, but rather attack my motives. Typical. But even then you get that wrong.

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  17. OMagain:

    Mung, One last question for you to ignore.

    Presumably you agree with Meyer that the designer intervened during the Cambrian? As a student of ID, do you believe that’s the only time the designer intervened? If not, when else? Approx how many times? Or don’t you have an opinion on this matter?

    I counted five questions. Five questions for me to ignore. So let’s take the first, so you can’t lie about me “ignoring” your oh so relevant and insightful questions.

    Presumably you agree with Meyer that the designer intervened during the Cambrian?

    Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian? Given that the chances are just oh so good that you haven’t actually read the book, I think you’re misrepresenting what Meyer wrote. .

    As for me, I don’t believe in an interventionist designer.

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  18. Mung:

    I notice that you don’t choose to discuss the book, or anything in the book, but rather attack my motives. Typical. But even then you get that wrong.

    Lots of people have tried to get you to discuss the grievous errors of omission in the book but you’ve refused every time. The book is entitled
    Darwin’s Doubt, The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

    Problem is there’s nothing in the book that addresses the origin of animal life. Meyer ignores the 3+ billion year history of life on the planet before the Cambrian, including almost 100 MY of multicellular animal life. Where is that covered Mung? Where does Meyer describe when his Intelligent Designer was here working? Or what processes were used? Or how the Designs were propagated for 500 MY after the Cambrian, through all those mass extinction events? How can he make a case for Intelligent Design when he flat out ignores so much crucial evidence?

    Tell me in the book where all those critical topics are addressed and I’ll go get a copy. But every synopsis I’ve seen points out this is just more of Meyer regurgitating the same IDiot claims he’s been spewing for years.

    I’m serious thinking you didn’t read the book either but are just knee-jerk defending any old crap that comes from the ID camp. Is that it Mr. Truth Lover?

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  19. Mung:

    Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian?

    How about a direct quote from Meyer posted last week at The DI’s Evolution News and Views?

    Meyer: “In Darwin’s Doubt, I argue that intelligent design provides the best explanation for the origin of the genetic (and epigenetic) information necessary to produce the novel forms of animal life that arose in the Cambrian period.”

    Sure seems like Designer intervention to me. Maybe you have some other way to spin Meyer’s words? Maybe the “design” for all the Cambrian forms was “front-loaded” 3 billion years earlier with a built in alarm to activate?

    You love the truth, so what is it?

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  20. The Discovery Institute implies that Meyer’s work demonstrates that any natural explanation for the Cambrian is ruled out:

    How to Solve the Cambrian Explosion: Turn Up the Evolutionary Speed Dial, Evolution News & Views, September 20, 2013

    …The Cambrian explosion poses the question of Darwinian evolution vs. intelligent design, because the sudden appearance of some two dozen distinct body plans without precursors challenges any naturalistic explanation, no matter how fast it runs.

    …Meyer’s books pose fundamental challenges to evolution and other naturalistic explanations, not just “exploiting” the “legitimate reservations” about the rate of evolution but about evolution itself as a scientific explanation.

    And that leaves us with supernatural explanations.

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  21. The Discovery Institute implies that Meyer’s work demonstrates that any natural explanation for the Cambrian is ruled out

    I doubt that they have any expectation of persuading scientists. I see them as creating a facade to impress creationists and persuade them to remain creationist.

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  22. Mung: Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian? Given that the chances are just oh so good that you haven’t actually read the book, I think you’re misrepresenting what Meyer wrote. .

    I’ve stated several times that I’ve not read the book.

    But do tell, if Meyer does not argue for an intelligent designer but simply argues that “Darwinism” is insufficient then on what basis is this book anything to do with Intelligent Design at all?

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  23. Mung: Or. maybe you, as a “true skeptic” here at “The Skeptical Zone” are willing to take Elizabeth’s word for things. Like when she claimed Meyer didn’t know the difference between phyla and phylum. Just think of all the readers here who hadn’t read the book for themselves and who placed their trust in Lizzie.

    I don’t know of anyone who particularly reacted to my comment about having my having expected Meyer to know the difference between the singular and plural of phylum, but as it was right there, wrong, in the diagram I referenced and presented, then they could see that he got it wrong directly. And you rapidly, and rightly pointed out that the mistake was not made throughout the book, so it was a slip, not a lack of knowledge, and I readily acknowledged this. I’m really not quite sure why you keep banging on about this. It was an ETA; it was a minor point (which I noted at the time); and it was an actual slip by Meyer, and an actual slip by me.

    And my slip (which was to mistake a Meyer’s slip for ignorance) is absolutely no grounds for concluding that anyone else regards me (or Meyer) as error-free. I certainly do not, and do not claim to.

    Isn’t it about time you moved on to the howler and ignored the squeakers (my slip, and Meyer’s)?

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  24. Mung: Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian? Given that the chances are just oh so good that you haven’t actually read the book, I think you’re misrepresenting what Meyer wrote. .

    As for me, I don’t believe in an interventionist designer.

    Mung: what do you think that Meyer is proposing in the book?

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  25. I’m really not quite sure why you keep banging on about this

    In legal circles it’s known as pounding the table.

    These discussions would be so much more fruitful if ID advocates would simply say what they believe happened, so we could subject their conjectures to testing.

    If Mung doesn’t believe in intervention, he must be a fine tuner, along the lines of Michael Denton. But Denton accepts a history of life consistent with mainstream biology.

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  26. petrushka: If Mung doesn’t believe in intervention, he must be a fine tuner, along the lines of Michael Denton.

    One wonders why Mung hangs around at UD then as almost by definition UD’s “Intelligent Designer” is interventionist. Those body-plans don’t build themselves! Those flagellum (all of them) don’t build themselves!

    One has to wonder what the fine-tuners are actually claiming with regard to ID. Seems to me they have totally given up on ID as logically we can’t tell if a given thing was fine-tuned to be like that or just is like that.

    It’s like god of the gaps but they put it in a gap inaccessible to science and claim victory. My response? Meh. If that intellectually satisfies you then go for it. Seems a bit of a thin premise to me to live your life by however.

    And of course it seems that Mung has no dispute with “Darwinism” after all. Evolution, according to Mung, can do everything it’s proponents claim. Without intervention, what alternative is there? Darwinism works!
    Inconsequential claims are inconsequential.
    Evolution works, builds new bodyplans etc. And if Mung wants to claim that it could not do that without some fine-tuning up at the big bang then fine. Mung seems to know that Mung cannot attack Darwinism at the technical level, so instead Mung claims fine tuning “allows” Darwinism.

    You should have said this years ago Mung. All that time you are arguing against Darwinism you’ve actually been arguing for a similar hypothesis (just not Darwinism) but which also has no designer intervention! If we see two fossils in the ground then there is no need to call on a designer to bridge the gap, according to Mung.

    So it seems we are agreed. Darwinism is insufficient to explain life and there was no designer intervention at any point (since the big bang anyway).

    What now? Shall we start a research project? As it seems to me your belief in ID would not affect your day to day research into evolution as your designer does not act at that level!

    So, Mung, when can I expect to see you actually start to “build a better Darwinism”?

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  27. Having brought up fine tuning I’d like to point out that fine tuning is equivalent to saying the English language is inevitable, given the alphabet.

    It’s rather odd, given that nearly all the species that have ever lived are extinct, that the ones now living were inevitable.

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  28. petrushka,

    It’s almost as if they are trying to find a way that they can believe in something and not have to deal with the consequences of that belief.

    I find it strange that only 2000 odd years ago bushes were on fire, water was being walked on and yet now they are reduced to “yeah, well, it happened before the start of the universe”. What happened to explicit proof in front of crowds of people, over and over again?

    Is there an 11th commandment?
    “Thou shalt not perform miracles when everybody has a camera-phone?”

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  29. I assume in response to:

    Mung

    You seem very keen on people buying “Darwins Doubt”.

    Why?

    I mean most reviews have not been favourable and I wonder what it was you thought reviewers are missing. Here’s one example. The reviewer is making the same point Lizzie makes in the OP

    .

    Mung writes:

    Mung:
    Alan Fox:

    Really? Borrow a copy. Check out a copy from the library. Just don’t pretend to be able to debate a book you’ve never read.

    I’ve not attempted and am not interested in debating “Darwin’s Doubt”. I am not in the habit of buying books without some kind of indication that it might be worth the money. (Also I doubt I will find a copy in any library near where I live). I am just wondering why you think it is worth reading.

    Or. maybe you, as a “true skeptic” here at “The Skeptical Zone” are willing to take Elizabeth’s word for things. Like when she claimed Meyer didn’t know the difference between phyla and phylum. Just think of all the readers here who hadn’t read the book for themselves and who placed their trust in Lizzie.

    It’s an error in the diagrams illustrated. That he apparently uses the correct plural (actually I find the use of Latin and Greek plurals a little pretentious and prefer “cactuses” to “cacti” and I would be happy with “phylums” and flagellums” ) elsewhere indicates a typo. Lizzie has corrected this in the OP. Her criticism on the substantive point stands.

    Skeptical much, Alan?

    Of a few things, yes. In my lifetime, that we shall ever find out the origin of life on Earth, that we shall ever have a good explanation of human consciousness, that the theory of evolution will prove adequate as a full explanation for the diversity of life on Earth.

    I notice that you don’t choose to discuss the book, or anything in the book, but rather attack my motives.

    I don’t see how anything I have written in this thread is an attack on your motives. I freely admit to having no idea what your motives might be in posting here. Your comments are generally free of the sort of content that might lead me to any conclusion as to what motivates you. I do recall asking you at ARN and you replying “the truth” which I admittedly found, well, unconvincing.

    Typical. But even then you get that wrong.

    You see what I mean. There a lack of content there.What’s typical? What did I get wrong?

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  30. I opened this up today, and becaus it came up first I assumed it was new.
    I started reading the OP, thinking it was a new argument in response to Mung. After a minute or two I realized it was the old thread.

    I can’t imagine why this argument has persisted, Meyer has simply misunderstood or misconstrued common descent. His description is so fouled up I can’t even figure out what he is trying to say.

    Mung, the tree is a metaphor.

    In real trees, the branches and leaves are all of the same kind or type or species.

    In the metaphorical tree, the branches are arbitrary labels for populations that differ enough to be called species. But in real life — Gould notwithstanding — there is never a point at which a child is a different species from its parent. Punctuation is just a name for a faster than typical change in morphology.

    There is nothing miraculous about rapid changes in morphology. We have produced astonishing changes in dogs in just a few hundred years. None of the intermediate dogs are likely to show up in the fossil record. Just try to find a hundred year old dog skeleton by digging at random.

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  31. petrushka:

    I can’t imagine why this argument has persisted, Meyer has simply misunderstood or misconstrued common descent. His description is so fouled up I can’t even figure out what he is trying to say.

    So you’ve read the book now have you?

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  32. OMagain

    I’ve stated several times that I’ve not read the book.

    Yes, I know, and I think your lack of familiarity with the material is relevant. You apparently don’t think it’s relevant. I’m still quite confused about what it means to be a “skeptic” here.

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  33. Alan Fox:

    I’ve not attempted and am not interested in debating “Darwin’s Doubt”.

    Of course not. It’s beneath you. I understand. Instead you’d like to know why I’m trying to “sell” the book.

    Elizabeth:

    Stickying this for a bit as there is still discussion going on

    Who, exactly, is discussing the book? Surely not Alan.

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  34. Mung. You’ve read the book. Feel free to cite chapter and verse to demonstrate that we are wrong and Meyer is right. Convince me that meyer actually understands evolution and I’ll buy the book.

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  35. petrushka:

    Mung. You’ve read the book. Feel free to cite chapter and verse to demonstrate that we are wrong and Meyer is right. Convince me that meyer actually understands evolution and I’ll buy the book.

    I have read the book and that places me in a pretty exclusive company here at TSZ.

    But who is this “we” who you speak of? You haven’t read the book. Alan hasn’t read the book. Joe hasn’t read the book. OMagain (who can’t even count) hasn’t read the book. thorton hasn’t read the book.

    What does this collective “we” that you represent assert you are right about and that Meyer is wrong about? Given that you haven’t read the book. I guess the absurdity of your position is lost on you.

    petrushka:

    Convince me that meyer actually understands evolution and I’ll buy the book.

    First, convince me that you actually understand evolution.

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  36. Mung:

    Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian? Given that the chances are just oh so good that you haven’t actually read the book, I think you’re misrepresenting what Meyer wrote. .

    As for me, I don’t believe in an interventionist designer.

    Elizabeth:

    Mung: what do you think that Meyer is proposing in the book?

    Elizabeth, unlike the person I was responding to (OMagain), you’ve actually read the book, right? So, quote Meyer, please. If you can.

    Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian? If not. let’s not continue the pretense that someone who hasn’t actually read the book can propose what is in the book and be taken seriously.

    But heck, let’s be honest. You appear to agree with OMagain, who admits on numerous occasions to having not read the book. Why on earth would you take the side of someone who is admittedly ignorant? Is that a part of what it means to be “skeptical”?

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  37. Mung: Elizabeth:

    Mung: what do you think that Meyer is proposing in the book?

    Elizabeth, unlike the person I was responding to (OMagain), you’ve actually read the book, right? So, quote Meyer, please. If you can.

    I’ve quoted Meyer quite a lot. I’m asking you, Mung, for your opinion of what Meyer is proposing in his book as a better theory to explain the Cambrian Explosion.

    As you’ve read the book, and you seem to find it persuasive, it shouldn’t be too hard for you to summarise what you think his alternative is, surely?

    If it isn’t an interventionist designer, what is it?
    And if it is, why do you remain unpersuaded of the case for an interventionist designer?

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  38. @ mung

    Who, exactly, is discussing the book? Surely not Alan.

    I’d be happy to discuss the book. Debates are best left to high school philosophers. Amazon’s description says:

    In Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life—a mystery that has intensified, not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found, but because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal. During the last half century, biologists have come to appreciate the central importance of biological information—stored in DNA and elsewhere in cells—to building animal forms.

    Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the origin of this information, as well as other mysterious features of the Cambrian event, are best explained by intelligent design, rather than purely undirected evolutionary processes.

    Is the statement “the origin of this [DNA-stored biological] information, as well as other mysterious features of the Cambrian event, are best explained by intelligent design, rather than purely undirected evolutionary processes” at all credible? It seems a monumental claim, that Meyer has come up with a better alternative explanation of the Cambrian period and the distribution of fossils therein and that it is laid out in “Darwin’s Doubt”. An “Intelligent Design” theory at last! I am amazed that this has gone unnoticed by reviewers.

    Could you indicate where in the book this alternative explanation occurs?

    @ Lizzie

    Did you not notice this alternative explanation on reading “Darwin’s Doubt”?

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  39. Alan Fox: Did you not notice this alternative explanation on reading “Darwin’s Doubt”?

    Yes, Mung, but I am asking you what you, Mung think that it is.

    Just as, if you remember (and IIRC) you and I disagreed about what Sanford’s conclusion was in Genetic Entropy – and I actually wrote to Sanford to check – and he agreed with both of us!

    So in this instance, what is it that you, Mung think that Meyer is proposing as his Design alternative?

    ETA: Oops, just noticed that this post is by Alan!

    Yes, I noticed that Meyer is proposing an alternative.

    But I’m interested in Mung’s answer as to what s/he thinks it is.

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  40. petrushka: I opened this up today, and becaus it came up first I assumed it was new.
    I started reading the OP, thinking it was a new argument in response to Mung. After a minute or two I realized it was the old thread.

    Apologies, Petrushka – there are limited facilities in WordPress for bumping still active threads, and once a thread has scrolled off, it’s easy to miss replies, especially if there is a lot of activity in some other threads, and therefore lots of responses in “recent posts”. So I temporarily bumped this one.

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  41. Mung: Do you have a quote from the book you’d like to discuss in which Meyer appeals to an intervention of a designer during the Cambrian?

    If there was some prospect of the argument for Intelligent Design being fleshed out as opposed to “Darwinian Evolution” being criticized then there is a strong change I’d buy and read the book.

    But from everything you’ve said so far there is no prospect of that. So what interest is there in reading something that would be better dealt with in the technical literature by experts in the relevant field.

    I’m bored of critiques of evolution unless they are paired with a better explanation. It’s like when you are at work and there is always somebody ready to criticize but who never supplies solutions. Critiques are easy – you are shooting at an existing wall. You know where to aim. ID on the other hand, like smoke. Can’t find it to aim at it. Can’t critique it because every time you look at it it morphs into a Darwinism can’t rather then Intelligent Design can form.

    When you demonstrate the calculation of FSCO/I for the contents of this comment then I’ll read this damm book. Otherwise it’ll just have to wait along with the rest of the books on that shelf.

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  42. FWIW, Meyer simply does not say what he is proposing, simply that the evidence speaks of “Acts of Mind”.

    He does not say what an act of mind is, only what it looks like.

    But it would appear, from the fact that he cites “gaps” as typical of what we might see from “acts of mind” and not from incremental evolution, that those gaps are part of the evidence.

    It would therefore appear that the “acts of mind” he has in mind, as it were, are interventions by something with a mind in order to get living things over the gap (as human designers crossed the “gap” between locomotives and cars).

    So I’m particularly curious to see what Mung, as a non-interventionist, either thinks Meyer is saying, or responds to what he is saying.

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  43. Just going to drop this here to allow future readers to see exactly what it is that Mung et al are seemingly unwilling to address:

    The entire diversification of life is now known to have gone through a number of distinct steps, from the first fossils of simple bacterial life 3.5 billion years old, to the first multicellular animals 700 m.y. ago (the Ediacara fauna), to the first evidence of skeletonized fossils (tiny fragments of small shells, nicknamed the “little shellies”) at the beginning of the Cambrian, 545 m.y. ago (the Nemakit-Daldynian and Tommotian stages of the Cambrian), to the third stage of the Cambrian (Atdabanian, 530 m.y. ago), when you find the first fossils of the larger animals with hard shells, such as trilobites. But does Meyer reflect this modern understanding of the subject? No! His figures (e.g., Figs. 2.5, 2.6, 3.8) portray the “explosion” as if it happened all at once, showing that he has paid no attention to the past 70 years of discoveries. He dismisses the Ediacara fauna as not clearly related to living phyla (a point that is still debated among paleontologists), but its very existence is fatal to the creationist falsehood that multicellular animals appeared all at once in the fossil record with no predecessors. Even more damning, Meyer completely ignores the existence of the first two stages of the Cambrian (nowhere are they even mentioned in the book, or the index) and talks about the Atdabanian stage as if it were the entire Cambrian all by itself. His misleading figures (e.g., Fig. 2.5, 2.6, 3.8) imply that there were no modern phyla in existence until the trilobites diversified in the Atdabanian. Sorry, but that’s a flat out lie. Even a casual glance at any modern diagram of life’s diversification (Figure 1) demonstrates that probable arthropods, cnidarians, and echinoderms are present in the Ediacara fauna, mollusks and sponges are well documented from the Nemakit-Daldynian Stage, and brachiopods and archaeocyathids appear in the Tommotian Stage–all millions of years before Meyer’s incorrectly defined “Cambrian explosion” in the Atdabanian. The phyla that he lists in Fig. 2.6 as “explosively” appearing in the Atdabanian stages all actually appeared much earlier–or they are soft-bodied phyla from the Chinese Chengjiang fauna, whose first appearance artificially inflates the count. Meyer deliberately and dishonestly distorts the story by implying that these soft-bodied animals appeared all at once, when he knows that this is an artifact of preservation. It’s just an accident that there are no extraordinary soft-bodied faunas preserved before Chengjiang, so we simply have no fossils demonstrating their true first appearance, which occurred much earlier based on molecular evidence.
    Meyer’s distorted and false view of conflating the entire Early Cambrian (545-520 m.y. ago) as consisting of only the third stage of the Early Cambrian (Atdabanian, 530-525 m.y. ago) creates a fundamental lie that falsifies everything else he says in the ensuing chapters.

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R2HNOHERF138DU/ref=cm_cr_pr_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0062071475

    If you can rebut this any of this at all Mung then I’ll seriously consider buying the book, but if not it sounds like the number of issues that the book has make it not worthwhile to bother with.

    Plenty more here: http://letterstocreationists.wordpress.com/darwins_doubt/

    Is the book worth reading? I feel not. An amateur bumbling about it seems.

    As a reference point I see no similar resources rebutting, for example, “Why Evolution is True”. No blog posts dedicated to pointing out the errors in that book. Why do you suppose that is Mung? A author writes about his area of expertise and seems to have got it right. Yet according to you Evolution is not true, and yet I see no deconstruction of that book from you.

    So it seems to me that if we look only at these two books there is something significantly different about them.

    Both are claimed to be incorrect by the opposing faction. Yet only one side can provide a detailed technical rebuttal to the other’s book.

    What inference can you draw from that Mung?

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  44. OMagain:Is the book worth reading? I feel not. [Meyer is]An amateur bumbling about it seems.

    That’s being charitable. Which is the standard of decorum here but being charitable is also somewhat misleading. At the risk of being Sandboxed I’ll be less misleading. Meyer is a profesional propagandist pandering to his interest group; giving them permission to wallow and exult in their ignorance instead of putting in the hard work necessary to know better science. Meyer isn’t concerned with either having or communicating a proper grasp of the paleontological record as we currently know it. This isn’t about being deliberately dishonest. He would be honest with the data if doing so could accomplish his goals but he can’t so he misleads with cherry-picked data. He only needs to vomit up enough sciency sounding words and stir up enough controversy that the audience in the pews can then plug their ears and shout over and over again “la la la, I can’t hear you” at the people trying to keep good science education in the schools. And this is sad because he has genuine scientific credentials. He could write proper pop-sci. As a believer he could try to help people learn good science without threatening their beliefs. That was the path taken by Ken Miller.

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  45. Aardvark,

    Exactly so. I’d happily read it in that light except of course I have a few others in that queue before it. But should Mung let me know of a book where the argument for ID is made as opposed to the argument against some variant of evolution then I’ll give it serious consideration for queue jumping. It appears this book is not that.

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  46. Aardvark: And this is sad because he has genuine scientific credentials. He could write proper pop-sci.

    I don’t think it is appropriate to say that any of the propagandists at the Discovery Institute have “genuine scientific credentials.”

    There is far more to scientific credentials than just the letters after one’s name. In order to actually earn the credentials in science, one has to have demonstrated that he/she can do productive research. That means the ability to lay out a research program that demonstrates knowledge of the issues along with a budget and personnel requirements.

    Even a post doc is not enough if one has the misfortune to be in a research group in which the bulk of the work, ideas, and proposal writing come from others.

    None of the leaders of the ID/creationist movement has achieved that level of expertise. Nearly all of them have gone from their degrees directly into propaganda mills. Even people like Behe and Gonzalez quit being involved in research after leaving the groups in which they were carried along by others. They have routinely failed at scientific research when they had to carry the primary responsibility themselves.

    When one has written successful research proposals and has obtained good reviews on those proposals, then one has taken the first baby steps toward demonstrating that one understands the issues. The next big trial comes in what one does after one receives the funds to do the research. This stage reveals whether or not the individual can even do research competently on their own.

    The reason these “rites of passage” are important is that they demonstrate that one really does have the knowledge and ability to contribute to the progress in science.

    Furthermore, one doesn’t become a legitimate critic of fundamental science concepts if all one ever does is patent a technological tool and/or do a few routine measurements in a lab under the supervision of others.

    Scientific credentials are built on both knowledge and experience in dealing with real data from real experiments and by real engagement with the real world; not from sitting in plush offices funded by ideologues with lots of money to waste on pushing political agendas.

    ID/creationists are anxious to get those letters after their name and be called “Doctor;” but that is little more than what Kent Hovind did. If one learns to game the overloaded systems in education and take advantage of advisors who are spread too thin, it is possible to get through a PhD without actually understanding the basics, as we have seen from members of the Discovery Institute.

    The only other alternative interpretation to what the DI people do is that they know and/or they lie. I am pretty sure they don’t really know.

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  47. Omagain,

    Why would you think any of it is difficult to rebut? The existence of Ediacara Fauna is not evidence for evolution and therefore not evidence that Ediacara Fauna is the foundation for the Cambrian explosion. You would need to elucidate how the chasm between the fauna and the explosion was bridged by evolution.

    However, the Ediacara Fauna as the immediate preceeding phase of an executed biological program resulting in the Cambrian explosion is supporting evidence for intelligently designed programming. This is in stark contrast to what evolution says ; that random mutation acting on heritable variation did the trick.

    Who is right?

    Well, once we get the hang of programming molecules, then ID will be on solid ground. That is not far off. But until then, I guess ID will just have to put up with evolutionist’s dismissive rhetoric. Its par for the course, isn’t it?

    So you get to continue yelling ‘na,na, nanana, catch me if you can!!’ ; for a while longer anyway. Oh, we’ll catch ya alright. Again, just a matter of time.

    Personally, I’m happy about the dismissive attitude of Meyer’s book. Its like the hare resting his pretty little head on a manicured lawn, taunting the turtle in its dreams.

    Take a rest, ye speedy, agile hare. Take a rest. No hurry at all. You are light years ahead.

    The turtle will never catch ya. Neeeeeeeeeeeeever!!!

    Omagain: “If you can rebut this any of this at all Mung then I’ll seriously consider buying the book, but if not it sounds like the number of issues that the book has make it not worthwhile to bother with.”

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