Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Wikipedia on Stephen Meyer

"Darwin's Doubt" is the latest book by Stephen Meyer. In it, he explains why the Cambrian explosion is a problem to a purely naturalistic understanding of evolution.

In the Wikipedia article on Meyer, this criticism is included:
In a review published by The Skeptics Society titled Stephen Meyer's Fumbling Bumbling Amateur Cambrian Follies,[40] paleontologist Donald Prothero points out the number of errors, cherry-picking, misinterpretation and misinformation in Meyer's book. The center of Meyer's argument for intelligent design, Cambrian Explosion, has been deemed an outdated concept after recent decades of fossil discovery. 'Cambrian diversification' is a more consensual term now used in paleontology to describe the 80 million year time frame where the fossil record show the gradual and stepwise emergence of more and more complicated animal life, just as predicted in Darwin's evolution. Prothero explains that the early Cambrian period is divided into three stages: Nemakit-Daldynian, Tommotian and Atdabanian. Meyer ignores the first two stages and the fossil discoveries from these two periods, instead he focuses on the later Atbadbanian stage to present the impression that all Cambrian live forms appeared abruptly without predecessors. To further counter Meyer's argument that the Atdabanian period is too short for evolution process to take place, Prothero cites paleontologist B.S. Lieberman that the rates of evolution during the 'Cambrian explosion' are typical of any adaptive radiation in life's history. He quotes another prominent paleontologist Andrew Knoll that '20 million years is a long time for organisms that produce a new generation every year or two' without the need to invoke any unknown processes. Going through a list of topics in modern evolutionary biology Meyer used to bolster his idea in the book, Prothero asserts that Meyer, not a paleontologist nor a molecular biologist, does not understand these scientific disciplines, therefore he misinterprets, distorts and confuses the data, all for the purpose of promoting the 'God of the gaps' argument: 'anything that is currently not easily explained by science is automatically attributed to supernatural causes', i.e. intelligent design.
To this, I added the following comment:

However, Bethell, writing in a review in The American Spectator points out that Prothero demonstrates in the criticisms that he raises that he hadn't read the sections of the book where Meyer had already addressed those criticisms.

Hardly a big deal, or an attempt to close down the debate, one would have thought. It did not, however, get past the gate-keepers (or at least one of them), who deleted it, commenting:
The referenced article written by Bethell is not a critical review of the book, rather an advocacy of Meyer’s philosophy. Given Bethell’s history of supporting fringe scienceAIDS denialismman-made global warming denial and intelligent design, I view his article as biased and should not be included per WP: NPOV Giving "equal validity".
So, basically, the review might be flawed, but criticism of the review is not allowed because the reviewer doesn't disagree with the author, and has some controversial opinions. Personally, I'd have thought that Wikipedia's NPOV (neutral point of view) policy ought to mean that neither side of the debate is favoured - and yet it seems that regardless of the negative review's provenance, it is allowed to stand unchallenged.

Unfortunately, there are many more naturalist gate-keepers than me, and this is a pointless battle for me to embark on. I do look forward to the day when the discussion of these books becomes focussed on science, rather than what seems to amount to political attempts to suppress fair consideration. But I'm not holding my breath.

In the meantime, if you are interested in an interesting, thought-provoking book on why the appearance of substantial amounts of biological information challenges a naturalistic understanding of evolution, and also some insight into the Kitzmiller vs Dover and Sternberg cases, then I'd recommend Meyer's book. Unfortunately, given how quickly any dissent to naturalism is struck from Wikipedia's pages, I can't really recommend those links ....

No comments: