You have all heard of Darwin’s Doubt, the new book by Stephen Meyer. We haven’t read it so we haven’t critiqued it, but judging by the amount of blog posts the Discoveroids have devoted to praising and promoting it, his book is the biggest thing they have going for them this year. That being the case, we pretty much know what it’s all about, because we’ve spent a bit of time following the claims of the Discoveroids.
And we already know about the book’s subject, the Cambrian explosion. A few years ago we wrote The Mystery of the Cambrian “Explosion”, in which we said:
The general idea they [the Discoveroids] hope to leave you with is that back in the long-ago Cambrian their supernatural Designer visited earth and performed his mysterious work to magically create a variety of “kinds” which couldn’t possibly have been the result of evolution. That’s their “scientific theory.”
We also know about Meyer. Not only is he Vice President of and a Senior Fellow at the Discovery Institute, he was a central figure in the infamous Sternberg peer review controversy.
We assume Meyer’s book follows the Discoveroid line, so there’s not much to be said about it. But at the Discoveroids’ blog he just posted a response to someone’s review of his book, so we can talk about that. Meyer’s post is Does Darwin’s Doubt Commit the God-of-the-Gaps Fallacy?
That’s a silly question. His book would have to commit that fallacy, because aside from Paley’s watchmaker analogy, that’s all there is to the “theory” of intelligent design. In case someone doesn’t know what kind of argument Meyer is talking about, see God of the gaps. Wikipedia says: “God of the gaps is a type of theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence.”
Let’s get to the Discoveroid article. Meyer says, with bold font added by us:
I turn now to [Charles Marshall’s] claim that the book’s argument for intelligent design represents a purely negative “god-of-the-gaps” argument.
Meyer doesn’t link to it, and you’ll need a subscription to read it, but Marshall’s review in Science is here: When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship. Meyer quotes this from the review:
Meyer’s scientific approach is purely negative. He argues that paleontologists are unable to explain the Cambrian explosion, thus opening the door to the possibility of a designer’s intervention. This, despite his protest to the contrary, is a (sophisticated) “god of the gaps” approach, an approach that is problematic in part because future developments often provide solutions to once apparently difficult problems.
As we said, we haven’t read the book, but we don’t need to because we already know about the Discoveroids — see Casey Luskin and the God of the Gaps, where we pretty much said it all. Because we’re familiar with the Discoveroids’ arguments, we’d be surprised if Marshall’s criticism were off in any way. Meyer says this about what he just quoted from Marshall:
I appreciate Marshall’s compliment about the sophistication with which I allegedly marshal this fallacious form of argumentation. Nevertheless, his characterization of my argument is entirely inaccurate.
Oh? It’s not a god of the gaps argument? Let’s read on:
First, although I do acknowledge in the last chapter of Darwin’s Doubt that the case for intelligent design has implications that are friendly to theistic belief (since all theistic religions affirm that the universe and life are the product of a designing intelligence), the scientific argument that I make does not attempt to establish the existence of God.
Let’s see — Meyer admits his argument is “friendly to theistic belief,” but he’s not trying to make an argument for God. Then what’s he doing? Meyer continues:
Instead, I attempt merely to show that key features of the Cambrian animals (and the pattern of their appearance in the fossil record) are best explained by a designing intelligence — a conscious rational agency or a mind — of some kind.
Oh. It’s not specifically Yahweh, but it’s something very much like Yahweh — some kind of designing intelligence. Okay. Here’s more:
Thus, my argument does not qualify as a God-of-the-gaps argument for the simple reason that the argument does not attempt to establish the existence of God.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Meyer’s book doesn’t commit the god of the gaps fallacy because the G-word isn’t used. It’s not god of the gaps — not specifically — it’s merely some kind of amazing, supernatural designing intelligence of the gaps with god-like abilities. Then he says:
But let’s set aside what Marshall might regard as a trivial distinction about what I claim — or rather don’t claim — to have established about the identity of the designing intelligence responsible for life.
Marshall might regard it as a trivial distinction? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Is there anyone who doesn’t regard it as such? Anyone?
We’re only about a quarter of the way into Meyer’s article, but we’re quitting here. The rest is his attempted rebuttal of other criticisms, but he led off with his strongest case. We’ve read through the rest. It’s incredibly verbose, and the substance is thin — very thin. We imagine the book is like that too. Read it all if you like. Read the book too. Then tell us where we’re wrong.
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