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ENV’s Top Three (of the Top Ten) evolution stories of 2013

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Evolution News and Views

I wrote “Why I’m calling Darwin’s Doubt the news event of 2013” , and was starting to post it before I went to see what our friendly competitor Evolution News & Views thought was their top story for 2013. Turned out DD was their #s 1–3 as well, no surprise:

#1: Responding to Charles Marshall’s Review of Darwin’s Doubt:

Rather than treating our present experimentally based knowledge as the key to evaluating the plausibility of theories about the past, Marshall uses an evolutionary assumption about what must have happened in the past (transmutation) to justify disregarding experimental observations of what does, and does not, occur in biological systems. The requirements of evolutionary doctrine thus trump our observations about how nature and living organisms actually behave. What we know best from observation takes a back seat to prior beliefs about how life must have arisen.

In short, UC Berkeley paleontologist Marshall is one of Darwin’s followers, so evidence cannot be a priority by definition. The point of making Meyer’s riposte to  Marshall the #1 news story is probably to note that Science had to assign a hit piece to someone who might actually read the book. (And Piltdown Man was likely too busy.)

#2: What George Church, Famed Harvard Geneticist, Says About Darwin’s Doubt:

We were grateful to get back this gracious comment, which appears on the dust jacket.

Stephen Meyer’s new book Darwin’s Doubt represents an opportunity for bridge-building, rather than dismissive polarization — bridges across cultural divides in great need of professional, respectful dialog — and bridges to span evolutionary gaps.

While very gratifying to have his warm wishes, it’s not shocking that Dr. Church would share them with us. Back in 2008 he participated in a recorded seminar, “Life: What a Concept!,” with Freeman Dyson, Robert Shapiro, J. Craig Venter, and others. He said:

As a scientific discipline, many people have casually dismissed Intelligent Design without carefully defining what they mean by intelligence or what they mean by design. Science and math have long histories of proving things, and not just accepting intuition — Fermat’s last theorem was not proven until it was proven. And I think we’re in a similar space with intelligent design.

“We” in this case being intellectually curious people, not the zealous guardians of Darwin’s brand.

#3: Darwin’s Doubt Debuts at #7 on New York Times Hardcover Nonfiction Bestseller List:

The Times even has a remarkably accurate summary of what’s in the book — something to which we’re not entirely accustomed when dealing with the media:

DARWIN’S DOUBT, by Stephen C. Meyer. (HarperOne.) The theory of intelligent design best explains the appearance of animals in the fossil record without apparent ancestors.

That is referring to the geologically sudden eruption of complex animal life in the Cambrian explosion, about 530 million years ago, a thread that Meyer pulls in the first third of the book and that results in the conclusive unraveling of Darwinian theory in the final two-thirds.

The book also opened at #10 on the Publishers Weekly bestseller list.

Would it help if more of Darwin’s followers did read the book instead of just attacking it? Aw, probably not. As I noted elsewhere

Even if they read it, they wouldn’t have read it, Timothy. It’s only worth reading Darwin’s Doubt if one is in principle willing to agree that a circumstance could present a dilemma for the beliefs of Darwin’s followers. In my experience, most sects are more honest with themselves about that than they are. Unless, of course, they have been hired to play a role. I have sometimes wondered. But no, they do so well that Central Casting would be sure to give them more screen time in bigger venues.

Another thing you can be sure of is that they won’t read it now.  Prediction: They’ll run out to double down on the colossal threat to “science” posed by a clear exposition of the issues the Cambrian period presents to current interpretations of evolution. We can watch this play out in formula science news writing, museum guide patter, and tax-funded textbook schlock over the next year.

Readers, please forward tips. It’s fun as well as interesting.

Here are the other seven, with our comments.


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