You may or may not know that Books on Amazon.com come with a place where you can review books and also comment on other reviews. Recently I have been engaged on several reviews of Stephen C. Meyers "Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design". Needless to say I think the book is nothing but a re-statement of old arguments using more obfuscation and tons of words and prose to really say nothing new. The topic I have been involved with recently is "This book should be listed under religion". Of course not everyone agrees. Just yesterday I posted this comment there:
"Most of you know what I think of Meyer's book. I made no bones about my expectations and how disappointed I was when he lived up to them. Rather than re-hash the discussion over information. How about head over to Chapter 7,"Of Clues to Causes". This is chapter basically says that ID is a possible explanation, I will even go as far as agree that his wording of ID being a possible scientific explanation is a perfectly valid opinion to make. My issue is it's too general to be useful. Time-traveling aliens are also a possible scientific explanation, so what? How many other 'possible' explanations are there for just about anything. Do we have to accept all of them?Just today I can across a commentary on the book by Dr. Francisco Ayala, University Professor at the University of California, Irvine. Among other things he is also an ordained Catholic priest and has been critical of Intelligent Design (http://biologos.org/blog/on-reading-the-cells-signature/). I was intrigued by a couple of things he said:
I think the real issue here is expectation and usefulness. Can we 'expect' divine intervention? Is there utility is using divine intervention as an explanation?
Let me see if I can explain my point better. In science when you form an explanation and you support it. It becomes accepted because it is repeatable and useful. We can take the explanation and use it to . . . well anything! We build things based on engineering, which is an applied application of science. Can we build things based on the expectation of divine intervention? I don't believe so.
Supernatural causation has always been a poor explanation -- and not without reason. It's not repeatable nor particularly useful -- in any hard engineering area. You aren't going to build a building and 'hope' that a supernatural causation will keep it standing. It stands as long as it was built on sounding engineering. It may collapse during an earthquake because the damage exceeds the engineering standards built into the building. Is this starting to make more sense?
From a philosophical view point considering ID as a possible scientific explanation for anything makes perfect sense. But as a realistic, acceptable, and useful explanation it doesn't add up.
Meyer's doesn't make the case for usefulness in any form. He wants people to equate the 'philosophical' with the 'scientific', to accept that 'possible' is the same as 'probable' and yet doesn't manage to support his argument outside the philosophical. Yes he uses a lot of words to make this claim, but he's not dazzling anyone with his 'brilliance'."
"The keystone argument of Signature of the Cell is that chance, by itself, cannot account for the genetic information found in the genomes of organisms. I agree. And so does every evolutionary scientist, I presume. Why, then, spend chapter after chapter and hundreds of pages of elegant prose to argue the point? It is as if in a book about New York, the author would tell us that New York is not in Europe, and then dedicate most of the book to advancing evidence that, indeed, truly, New York is not in Europe."
The rest of his article discusses a few of the problems with some of the implications of ID as an explanation.
"Christians and other people of faith should be troubled about Signature of the Cell for several reasons. One is that Meyer avoids consideration of the negative implications of ID as an explanation of the origin of genetic information, which is his main subject."
While I didn't cover his objections, I do like the idea that rather than tear into Meyer's book with a formal review, he's doing what folks at the DI NEVER do and looking at the larger picture. Lately they seem to spend more time tearing all the evidence of evolution into as many small pieces as they can -- and then posting arguments against the pieces themselves. They can seem to see the inter-related and interlocking evidence that builds a picture much more complete than any single piece of evidence.
BTW Dr. Ayala is also the most recent winner of the annual Templeton Prize (http://www.templetonprize.org/currentwinner.html). Interesting that the Templeton Foundation was also one of the original funding sources for the Discovery Institute and also the sponsors of a meeting last year at the Vatican on Science and Religion . . . to which the Discovery Institute was not invited.
I saw the announcement of the Templeton prize on PZ Myers blog and one of his commenters said
"Ohhhhhh, Ayala has been "mean" to Stephen Meyer over "Signature." Send in the attack gerbil, Disco Tute!" (link here)and lo and behold David Klinghoffer responded. Typically lame Klinghoffer sticking to the DI's party line. Nothing interesting or even original in anything he says. My guess is Toothless Casey will respond next. probably suck up to Klinghoffer and tell him how smart he is.