Magazine | September 30, 2013, Issue

Letters

Further Debate on the Origin of Species

As an avid reader of National Review, I’m honored that you would review my book Darwin’s Doubt. Unfortunately, longtime intelligent-design critic John Farrell wildly misrepresents my argument and the current state of scientific evidence (“How Nature Works,” September 2).

Contrary to what Mr. Farrell claims, Darwin’s Doubt does not argue for intelligent design primarily based on the brevity of the Cambrian explosion, nor does it exaggerate that brevity. It affirms the widely accepted figure among Cambrian paleontologists of about 10 million years for the main pulse of morphological innovation in the Cambrian period that paleontologists typically designate as “the explosion.” Nor does the book base its case for intelligent design upon “personal incredulity” about the creative power of materialistic evolutionary processes. Instead, it presents several evidentially based and mathematically rigorous arguments against the creative power of the mutation/natural-selection mechanism, none of which Farrell refutes.

The main argument of the book is not, as Farrell implies, a purely negative and, therefore, fallacious argument from ignorance. Instead, the book makes a positive case for intelligent design as an inference to the best explanation for the origin of the genetic (and other forms of) information necessary to produce the first animals. It does so based upon our experience-based knowledge of the power that intelligent agents have to produce digital and other forms of information. In formulating the argument as an inference to the best explanation, the book employs the same method of scientific reasoning as Darwin used in his Origin of Species.

Rather than engaging the actual arguments of the book, Farrell offers a spurious claim of out-of-context quotation, which has been amply refuted elsewhere by geologist Casey Luskin (see: www.evolutionnews.org). A genuine engagement with the debates currently taking place in evolutionary biology would have been far more interesting. Neo-Darwinism is fast going the way of other materialistic ideas such as Marxism and Freudianism, but  readers of Farrell’s review sadly were not able to learn why.

Stephen Meyer

Discovery Institute

Seattle, Wash.

John Farrell replies: Stephen Meyer writes that his book “makes a positive case for intelligent design as an inference to the best explanation for the origin of the genetic (and other forms of) information necessary to produce the first animals.”

 But this presupposes something Dr. Meyer has never in fact demonstrated in a compelling fashion, either in this book or in his previous one: that new complex information cannot be generated by purely natural processes.

His inference to the best explanation — while one that some of his lay readers may be convinced of — to scientists is a copout. It is the job of scientists to find out how apparent design in nature can be explained by natural processes. The best explanation right now is Darwinian evolution.

Correction

The photograph of Arnold Palmer and Dwight D. Eisenhower on page 26 of the September 2 issue was dated 1950. In fact, it was taken in 1960.

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