Stephen C. Meyer: Darwin’s Doubt. The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design

About Stephen Meyer

Dr. Stephen C. Meyer received his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in the philosophy of science. A former geophysicist and college professor, he now directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle. In 2004, Meyer ignited a firestorm of media and scientific controversy when a biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published his peer-reviewed scientific article advancing intelligent design. Meyer has been featured on national television and radio programs, including The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, CBS’s Sunday Morning, NBC’s Nightly News, ABC’s World News, Good Morning America, Nightline, FOX News Live, and the Tavis Smiley show on PBS. He has also been featured in two New York Times front-page stories and has garnered attention in other top-national media. Dr. Meyer is author of the New York Times bestseller Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design and Signature in the Cell, a Times Literary Supplement Book of the Year. He is also a co-author of Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism and Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique.

Book review

Stephen C. Meyer: Darwin’s Doubt. The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.

This book was published in June 2013, and rep- resents the most extensive criticism ever directed at neo-Darwinism21. It is a best-seller, and has been on the list of the most sold books in this category for a long time. World Magazine has named it The book of the year. It has been the topic of extensive debate in the US. Meyer’s first book Signature in the Cell, which we have just mentioned, also spurred debate. We can gain insight into how emotional this area is when we learn details in the reports of these two books. Meyer’s first book was reviewed by among others evolutionary bi- ologist Fransisco Ayala – associated with BioLogos. However, it turned out that it was highly unlikely that Ayala had even read the book. The expression “pull an Ayala” has become synonymous with reviewing a book you haven’t read. The book Darwin’s Doubt was reviewed by Nick Matzke, evolutionary biologist, the day after it hit the shelves. However, it is impossible to read this almost 500 page book thoroughly in such a short time. It appears that Matzke has written his review before he had a chance to read the book. We are hardly making a big mistake in assuming that this is a sign of an intense ongoing debate about people’s faith and worldview. Evolutionists even recommended to the web shop Amazon that they

move the book from the category for scientific literature to religious literature. On page 131 we mentioned the Cambrian explosion in connection with the discussion of Philip Johnson’s book Darwin on Trial. A short repetition could be useful: Cambrium is the name of the layer of soil – the layer of sediment – where fossils are found of the first multicellular organisms. It is one of the deepest lay- ers of sediment. All layers older than Cambrian are often collectively called Pre- Cambrian. According to evolutionist dating, Cambrian was formed about 540 million years ago. During a period of about 10 million years which represents quite a short time period according to the theory of evolution, many new organisms sud- denly appeared. This sudden, almost acute occurrence of a number of new animal species is often called The Cambrian explosion. This event gave rise to a number of fully developed multicellular animal species. One of the most well-known of these animals is the trilobite, which can measure up to 70 cm. The main portionof these species developed in 5-6 million years. Multicellular organisms had their debut in Cambrian. Previously in the history of the Earth, there were only bacteria and other single-celled organisms.

In our discussion of the theory of evolution, it was pointed out that Darwin lays decisive emphasis on the part of his theory that presupposed that an animal species developed to another species over a long period of time through a number of small and gradual changes that he called modifications. Darwin believed that the fossil material would show a richness of so-called intermediate forms which would represent the animal forms that constituted the transition from one species to another. Darwin knew that the fossil material of his day did not show these kinds of transition forms. But he was convinced that in time, paleontologists would find a legion of fossils that would verify macroevolution – that an animal species could develop to become an entirely new species. The title of the book “Darwin’s Doubt” reflects precisely the unrest Darwin felt with regard to the fossil material.

The Cambrian explosion is characterized by the following:
1. Sudden origin of new multicellular animal species.
2. These animals are completely developed from the onset.
3. These animal species show up without there being any fossils of pre-stages

of these animals – neither in Cambrian or Pre-Cambrian. Neither do

these new animal species have any ancestors.
4. The animals showing up in Cambrian, keep their physical appearance as

long as there are fossils of them. Even after millions of years, they look the same.

These four conditions are totally incompatible with Darwinian evolution, which presupposes that animal life has developed gradually through myriads of years. The Cambrian explosion of animal species actually disproves the theory of evo- lution. This sudden occurrence of life forms represents the origin of multicellular life on our planet. It seems obvious to regard the Cambrian explosion as a kind of act of creation.

In an area in Canada called Burgers Shales, a huge area of Cambrian fossils was uncovered in 1909. The researchers were surprised at the large number of new animal species which each had their own, characteristic physique, “body plan”. These were so different that they impossibly could have a common ancestor.

Meyer mentions the various theories researchers have submitted to explain the fact that there are no fossils in Pre-Cambrium. Evolutionists are practically committed to believing that the animals that lived in Cambrium, must have developed from previous animals. People have believed that these precursors to the Cambrian explosion have consisted of animals made up of soft parts which easily would have decomposed, so they wouldn’t leave any trace in fossil material. However, in 1984, fossils were found in China of a number of animals from Cam- brian, consisting of soft parts. The fossils from these “soft bodies” were particularly well preserved, making it unlikely that the prevailing evolutionary explanation is correct. The Chinese findings show in a convincing way that molluscs can give well-preserved fossils. The Cambrian explosion is thus a huge, unsolved problem since no credible explanation has been found as to how such a quick appearance of a number of new animal species could occur. Many biologists agree that there are no fossils from Pre-Cambrium.

Paleontologists and evolutionists have sought for other ways to explain this lack of transitional forms. They have resorted to molecular and genetic explanations. They deny that there has been an explosive development of new life. Instead, there has been a slow development process. They believe that molecular data verifies this assumption. One of these methods is called molecular clocks, and is based on differences in gene sequences and amino acid sequences between species. A major difference indicates that it is a long time since two species have developed from the same common ancestor, whereas smaller differences indicate a shorter period of time. However, this method has resulted in very divergent results. By studying various genes and proteins,
deviations can be found ranging from a few millions of years to even billions of years. Meyer also mentions two different such studies where the deviation between them is 400 million years. We are also informed that evolutionists sometimes avoid using data from certain molecules since they are giving contradictory results. For ex- ample, histones are not used, because that would give results that deviate too much from other proteins. This field of research is characterized by what is called cherry- picking. That is to say that data that do not fit into one’s own preconceived opinions, are ignored, and only data supporting the view one already has, are selected. Therefore data based on various molecular clocks are unreliable and involve many sources of errors.

Such molecular and genetic studies are based on the assumption that all life has one common ancestor. Software programs that are developed to perform these studies, are built based on the presumption that common lineage is factual reality. That easily results in such studies proving what they presuppose. It will result in circular argumentation that can seem captivating for lay people without detailed knowledge of these conditions.

Neither genetic studies or comparative anatomy provides cues for any Pre- Cambrian ancestor. These kinds of studies resulted in Darwin’s evolutionary tree no longer existing – when it was uprooted. Even evolutionary biologists realize and admit this. There are too many deviating findings to be able to construct a “tree of life”. This means that studies of Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian give results that are not compatible with all life having a common origin. There is simply no evolutionary tree that applies to Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian. The results are so divergent that it makes a “forest of trees” rather than a single tree. Meyer points out – as already mentioned – that studies attempting to solve the Cambrian riddle and tangle, often presuppose a common ancestor. Since this is very important to know, let me repeat: The studies aim at showing what the researchers have already decided is truth.

The book also has a separate chapter on epigenetics, which is a quite new field dealing with conditions that can affect cells, independent of DNA. Re- member that neo-Darwinism presumes that DNA controls all processes of biological life. Epigenetics is of crucial significance for normal foetal develop- ment. It has been found that structures of the cell, such as the cell membrane and cell skeleton, are vital for the development of the foetus. But since these are effects independent of DNA, epigenetics entails serious problems for the theory of evolution. There are now biologists who believe that DNA does not contain all of the information that is necessary to form an organism’s anatomi- cal structure. Epigenetical conditions can be inherited, but probably only for a short time.

The book also deals with so-called orphan genes – ORFans. These genes are found in all major animal groups. The remarkable thing is that there are no similar or homologous genes in related animals. It means that every animal species has genes that are specific for the species. They are not inherited from other species. ORFans are new and specific. Every animal species has hundreds and even thousands of unique genes that they don’t have in common with other species. It is just as bad for Darwinism that there also are hundreds of unique proteins in every single animal species. These proteins, then, are unique for the relevant species, and is called singleton. They are not found in any other species. Their origin as well as their existence therefore represent tremendous problems for Naturalism – since it is an impossibility that these proteins can develop by chance. It seems reasonable to conclude that ORFan genes as well as singleton proteins depend on intelligent causality – especially since new ORFans are con- tinuously being discovered.

On page 287 of his book, Meyer mentions the statements of three biologists.

“From the 1970’s, many biologists began to raise the question whether neo- Darwinism had an adequate explanation for evolution. Genetics can explain microevolutionary changes, but microevolutionary changes in the genome were not considered to be sufficient to explain the transformation of a reptile to a mammal, or the transformation from a fish to a reptile. Microevolution does not deal with the adaptations related to the survival of the species that are best adapted, and not the origin of the best adapted. Darwin’s problem – “The origin of the species” – is still unsolved.

In chapter 17, Meyer writes about Intelligent Design. There is great resistance to “Intelligent Design”, in spite of biologists’ recognition that the theory of evolution cannot explain life or the development of life. Meyer believes that much of this resistance is due to the fact that we don’t know what Intelligent Design stands for. Many evolutionary biologists equate Intelligent Design with religion – and believe it is a kind of Biblical creationism. Some people may believe that Intelligent Design rules out all kinds of evolution, but that is not correct. We all know that microevolution, variation and adaptation to various exterior conditions are parts of life. Naturalists may admit that they also see design in nature, but they decidedly refute that this design is created by a designer.

Intelligent Design is concerned with whether there are conditions in nature that are best explained by an intelligent cause – a conscious and rational mind– as opposed to a materialistic process without a plan, purpose or intention. Intelligent Design rejects the assumptions of the theory of evolution, that major biological changes such as macroevolution, are caused by random non-controlled processes.

The book Darwin’s Doubt clearly shows with convincing scientific weight that the neo-Darwinian mechanisms, mutations and natural selection, lack the crea- tive ability to produce the information that is necessary to create new animal species. This biological information consists of digital codes, an advanced symbol system, advanced genetic signal systems, biocybernetics, and hierarchically organ- ized metabolic processes. There are no plausible naturalistic theories as to how this information can arise. On the other hand, we all have experience showing that all information we humans know about, stem from an intelligent source. The best explanation for the explosive supply of new information for life during the Cambrian explosion is precisely an intelligent cause. The main problem when it comes to selection of the best scientific explanation for the origin of life, is that the prevailing science only accepts naturalistic causes for all conditions in our universe, solely for ideological reasons. Many leading researchers and philosophers of science realize that Darwinism is about to fall. But they do not know what will come in its place. And that can take some time, since it will not be an easy matter to replace intelligent activity with another naturalistic explanation. Even more so when we regularly can read about new biological discoveries that only serve to strengthen Intelligent Design.