Reason To Doubt “Darwin’s Doubt”?

Your Curmudgeon has never read Darwin’s Doubt (Amazon listing), the book by Discoveroid Stephen Meyer, which is being wildly promoted by the Discovery Institute — see “Darwin’s Doubt” Is Setting New Records.

In order not to misrepresent the book’s argument, we went to the best source we could find — the Discoveroids. This is their very first post about the book, from back in March of 2013: Coming in June, a Game-Changing New Book: Darwin’s Doubt, by Stephen Meyer. In their own words, they say:

Meyer begins with what Darwin himself regarded as a troubling enigma, a subject of doubt and even some scientific distress. It is a mystery from which subsequent generations of Darwinists have sought to distract the public’s attention. Some 530 million years ago, in the event called the Cambrian explosion, there sprang suddenly into existence the majority of animal body plans (phyla) that have existed on Earth. The shallow seas of the Cambrian period abruptly teemed with diverse, exotic animals.

[…]

The Cambrian event, fundamentally, represents an information explosion, the first but not the last in the history of life. As no book has done before, Darwin’s Doubt spells out the implications of this fact. … The book will be a game-changer, for science and culture alike.

Bold claims indeed! Is Meyer correct? We found something today at PhysOrg that may cause you to doubt his claims in Darwin’s Doubt. Their article is Complex skeletons evolved earlier than realized, fossils suggest. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

The first animals to have complex skeletons existed about 550 million years ago, fossils of a tiny marine creature unearthed in Namibia suggest. The find is the first to suggest the earliest complex animals on Earth – which may be related to many of today’s animal species – lived millions of years earlier than was previously known.

Animals with skeletons existed 550 million years ago? Egad, the so-called Cambrian explosion started later — around 542 million years ago, and the Discoveroids say it was only 530 million years ago. Something’s terribly wrong here! Let’s read on:

Until now, the oldest evidence of complex animals – which succeeded more primitive creatures that often resembled sponges or coral – came from the Cambrian Period, which began around 541 million years ago. Scientists had long suspected that complex animals had existed before then but, until now, they had no proof.

Things don’t look good for the Discoveroids. The PhysOrg article continues:

The study suggests that complex animals existed long before a period in the planet’s history – known as the Cambrian explosion – during which most major animal groups evolved.

For the Discoveroids, this is troubling news indeed. Here’s more:

The team studied fossils of an extinct marine animal – known as Namacalathus hermanastes – which was widespread during the Ediacaran Period. [Note: the Ediacaran preceded the Cambrian.] The fossils are remarkably well preserved and reveal that the species possessed a rigid skeleton made of calcium carbonate – a hard material from which the shells of marine animals are made. The complex skeletal structures are similar to those of living creatures that dwell at the bottom of the sea, the team says.

Here’s a link to the research, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Ediacaran skeletal metazoan interpreted as a lophophorate. You can read it online without a subscription. One final excerpt from PhysOrg:

Professor Rachel Wood, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said: “… We have suspected that these complex animals were present in the Ediacaran, but this study provides the first proof.”

Well! What will the Discoveroids do? We suggest that they attribute this to some early tinkering done by the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — during a scouting trip to Earth. When he returned to see the results, he was sufficiently encouraged to get seriously busy during the Cambrian. Whatever they decide to do, they’d better figure it out fast. Otherwise, people may begin to doubt the value of Darwin’s Doubt.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “Reason To Doubt “Darwin’s Doubt”?

  1. Christine Janis

    Cool. But we’ve known about the Ediacaran basal mollusc (or at least basal lophotrochozoan) Kimberella for a couple of decades. Meyer even mentions it in DD (only to dismiss its importance).

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimberella

    Kimberella — you *shall* go to the ball! But not with Stephen.

  2. Christine Janis says: “But we’ve known about the Ediacaran basal mollusc (or at least basal lophotrochozoan) Kimberella for a couple of decades.”

    Yes, but the discovery that it had a skeleton seems to be new.

  3. Oh, the D’rrhoids will just say the Grand Old Designer was merely using the Ediacarian as a “market testing period”, if you will. When the G.O.D. found a design that worked, He/She/It went into mass production, otherwise known as the D’rrhoids’ “Cambrian Explosion.” Simple. Like the Geico commercials say, “Everybody knows that.”

    In other words, the entire premise of Intelligent Design is based on no evidence whatsoever, and thus is not disprovable. So no matter what evidence turns up, it will make no difference to the D’rrhoids. They’ll just keep wedging along.

  4. @retiredsciguy-
    Rather, Intelligent Design offers nothing positive or substantive.
    If there is something puzzling about the world – and there always will be – then that is taken as a gap that needs filling by Intelligent Design. No matter that there is no hint as to how ID fills any gap.

  5. The Cambrian event, fundamentally, represents an information explosion, the first but not the last in the history of life. As no book has done before, Darwin’s Doubt spells out the implications of this fact. … [Darwin’s Doubt] will be a game-changer, for science and culture alike.

    Groan. “Information” again. Someone should spell out for these people that information can, indeed, be created, given an input of energy. Crystals are more information-rich than simple molecules (or atoms–think carbon) of the same substance, simply because they’re more organized, yet they will form reliably without supernatural intervention.

    The creationists’ misunderstanding (or misrepresentation) of information is akin to their mauling of the concept of entropy. The Second Law of Thermodynamics, they claim, makes evolution impossible, because entropy means everything must tend toward disorder, so complex structures cannot develop naturally. If that were true, their God would have to personally intervene to drive the development of every living thing. A human designer who built a complicated machine whose every working part had to be constantly fiddled with to keep it running wouldn’t keep his job long. I don’t suppose God can be fired, but surely He wouldn’t create the sort of rickety universe creationists seem to imagine.

  6. @Eric Lipps-
    So they introduce a term “information”. Let’s not dwell on the inadequacy of their description of the term. Let’s not dwell on their lack of a measure of the term, or any of the other lacks in their theoretical basis. Just one question that I want to address: why should anyone guess that it be conserved? Lots of real things are not conserved.
    What we should expect is maybe some observations where “information” is conserved.
    But, the first thing that we hear about “information” is that it is not
    conserved. That doesn’t sound like a good start for a “law of conservation of information”:
    1) Information can decrease spontaneously.
    2) In the ordinary processes of the world of life, information can increase.
    3) When humans (and, presumably, other intelligent agents) are around, anything goes as far as information.
    (BTW, I’m not aware of any other law of nature which makes an exemption for humans. For example, humans are not able to make perpetual motion machines. When Wohler discovered the synthesis of urea, did anybody object that he, an organic agent, was involved in synthesizing an organic compound from inorganic compounds?)
    It is a perverse way of introducing a law of nature by pointing first of all, indeed exclusively, to violations of the the supposed law.

  7. The Discoveroids will not panic. They aren’t susceptible to facts. They just want some of the shine that science has.

  8. Christine Janis channels the Fairy Godmother:

    Kimberella — you *shall* go to the ball!

    Bravo!

    But at midnight, Kimberella her glass slippers will revert to being her skeleton…

  9. Pope Retiredsciguy suggests

    the D’rrhoids will just say the Grand Old Designer was merely using the Ediacarian as a “market testing period”, if you will.

    But they won’t specify who was recruited as the Focus Group to provide consumer feedback. Such specifics aren’t the business of ID Theory…

  10. Christine Janis

    @ Curmie
    “Yes, but the discovery that it had a skeleton seems to be new.”

    This is a different animal to Kimberella, and not that closely related.

    But, this now means that we have *two* definitive Ediacaran bilaterians, as well as number of putative ones, and evidence of their presence such as burrows (can’t make those without a mesodermal layer of body musculature, one of the hallmarks of bilaterians).

    As both of these taxa are within the Lophotrochozoa (molluscs, annelids & lophophorates): that means not only had the Lophotrochozoa diverged from the Ecdysozoa (arthropods and nematodes), but that the Protostomes (these two groups) had diverged from the Deuterostomes (echinoderms & chordates). That is, that all of the major basal branching of the Bilataria had occurred by the late Ediacaran. Creationists call this type of complex reasoning “pointless babbling”.

    Also, it’s been shown that most of the bilaterian genome (the magic “information”) is there in coelenterates and (to a lesser extent) sponges, and that the main new genomic stuff in the bilaterians is small changes in regulatory genes.
    An excellent short article about this can be downloaded here

    http://reports.ncse.com/index.php/rncse/article/view/331/719

    So, on all fronts — fossil record and genomics, the Meyerian notion of a sudden “explosion” of information is completely bogus. And he knows this —- this is why the science in his book is so selectively presented.

  11. The Roids will blow off the discovery as being “unrelated” to the Cambrian critters, thus preserving their notion that the Grand Old Designer – blessed be he– poofed them into existence. Facts don’t matter to the Tooters, only their narrative.

    And, yes, sadly I can visualize Luskin dressed up as a fairy godmother.

    Must. Find. Bleach.

  12. To expunge the grotesque image of a Fairy Godluskin, docbill1351 is on an urgent quest:

    Must. Find. Bleach.

    Save some for me! I figure downing six large tumblers of neat Clorex should do the trick…