Friday, August 30, 2013

And I Thought Don Prothero's Review of Darwin's Doubt Was Withering...

Nick Matzke has also written a review of Darwin's Doubt that has been posted on Panda's Thumb.  This is the nicest thing he has to say about it:
As I read through Meyer’s book, though, in case after case I see misunderstandings, superficial treatment of key issues which are devastating to his thesis once understood, and complete or near-complete omission of information that any non-expert reader would need to have to make an accurate assessment of Meyer’s arguments.
Matzke also points out that Meyer continually uses redrawn, dumbed-down illustrations, while ignorning detailed ones that would poke holes in his case and completely fails to understand the key events in the Pre-Cambrian and Cambrian periods. According to Matzke, Meyer also completely fails to understand phylogenetic analysis and the importance that it has to understanding patterns in the fossil record. It is this section for which he reserves his greatest scorn:
His main argument is basically that phylogenetic results sometimes conflict, therefore the whole thing is meaningless. This exhibits a jaw-dropping level of incompetence. It’s amateurish in the worst possible way, the opening-your-yapper-without-knowing-the-first-thing-about-what-you-are-discussing sort of amateurism.
Indeed, this seems to characterize much of the work that comes out of the DI these days.  One wonders why they don't just pick up a book on palaeontology and read it from cover to cover before writing these things.  This sort of reluctance to adapt their arguments to current data or respond to their critics is the kind of thing that leaves a bad taste in the mouth of your average scientist.  Reading reviews of Meyer's earlier work Signature in the Cell, it is clear that he has learned nothing in the intervening years. As I wrote over two years ago:
It is as if the concept of natural selection is completely foreign or is so repugnant as to be unacceptable and therefore, the DI writers continue to misunderstand it. The problem that I have with this perspective is that this misunderstanding of natural selection has not gone uncorrected. Kenneth Miller, Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, Jerry Coyne, Steve Matheson and Darrel Falk, just to name a few have written treatises strongly rebutting this position held by Meyer, Dembski and Michael Behe. These have been ignored. Therefore, to continue to promote this misunderstanding of natural selection and its role in evolution constitutes, as they say, a terminological inexactitude. This would not be the first time the Discovery Institute was accused of that.
Why should your average scientist take this organization seriously when they continue to misunderstand basic evolutionary theory and repeat falsehoods time and time again?

What really pains me about this is that books that emanate from the Discovery Institute are being read by my kids in school. That has got to stop.


  1. Mike Haubrich8:43 AM

    DI books are in school? First, I thought that the Darwinist Conspiracy was censoring everything that would cast doubt on common descent? Second, who the hell are on these textbook selection committees?

    As a non-scientist, I have been learning as much as I can from paleontologists, biologists, cosmologists ever since I first found out about the Discovery Institute years ago. It has led me on a journey of excitement to gain an understanding of our origins. It has been enlightening, and I owe it to the DI for shaking my complacency in thinking that I had a good grasp of how evolution works in its myriad processes. I love this, and it frustrates me to no end that intelligent people such as those who work for DI would rather gloss over, deny, lie and rework basic science concepts in order to achieve a political goal when they could be expending their effort towards a better understanding.

  2. My kids don't actually go to public school. We do a homeschool curriculum called classical conversations. For most things the education is exceptional. The bad thing is that, for science, they have bought into intelligent design in some misguided belief that it is good science and, more importantly, an alternative to the big, bad "E".