26 January 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapter 1

The chapter is called "DNA, Darwin, and the Appearance of Design." It's a poor start. Meyer sketches some key themes of the rest of the book in this sloppy chapter. Here are those themes (in my words) and some comments.

1. DNA stores information, using a code that is similar to that of a computer. We know a lot about how that works.

2. Life gives the appearance of design. No one disputes that. But the source of the design is, of course, controversial.

14 January 2010

A quick note about a hero

My chapter-by-chapter commentary on Signature in the Cell will resume shortly. But I can't resist writing a little about someone I know who did something extraordinary. Here's the short version.

This friend of mine, we'll call her "Susan," became inspired several months ago while reading accounts of people resisting Nazi occupation during World War II, and especially those who risked their lives (and often lost their lives) working to assist Jews and others targeted by the occupiers. She wondered how/if she would/could do such things. Subsequently, she read a story in our local paper about a grieving father who, in his son's name and honor, had donated a kidney to someone he didn't know, as part of a kidney donation chain. Susan thought, "I can do that." (She's married and has four kids ranging in age from 17 to 9.)

She contacted the local transplant program and found out that such altruistic donations had not occurred in Grand Rapids and that the center didn't have procedures for such an arrangement. But when the program realized Susan was serious, they put the procedures together and began the testing to determine Susan's suitability as a donor. It all culminated in the first altruistic kidney donation in West Michigan on Monday, 11 January. Both Susan and the recipient are doing really well.

Susan is my hero. Somehow, I'm lucky enough to be married to her. We celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary a little more than two weeks ago.

Please look into the kidney donation thing. Think of it as an anniversary gift.

09 January 2010

Signature in the Cell: preliminary observations and prologue

There's not much point in "reviewing" a prologue, so let's start instead with some impressions gleaned from reading the prologue and the first chapter while leafing through the rest of the book.

1. This is clearly a pop-science book and not a serious work of scholarship. That's not an insult, just an observation.

07 January 2010

Signature in the Cell: other reviews

Interestingly, Meyer's book is getting a lot of attention right now. At the Jesus Creed, the excellent RJS is also blogging through the book. At Biologos, a guest piece by Francisco Ayala focuses mostly on theological issues. (I like Ayala a lot. I dislike his post a lot.) The ASA has finally decided to establish some blogs, one of which will host discussions of books. The first book under consideration is Signature in the Cell. (Unfortunately, only ASA members can comment, and that excludes me.) And PZ Myers is reading the book right now. He has already concluded that "there's no poetry in creationism." Well, that's a low blow. Meyer mentions Donne on page 16. What more did PZ expect? A personalized limerick? The Digital Cuttlefish?

06 January 2010

Signature in the Cell: beginning the review

So Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute, a founder of the ID movement, wrote a book called Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. It came out last summer, and I ignored it. I ignored it because it didn't seem interesting or important or new, and there's always something interesting and important and new to read. (I recently finished The Road. Wow.) It didn't matter to me that the ID people said it was "groundbreaking" or "seminal" or "a blueprint for twenty-first-century biological science" since they said things like that about Behe's last book. And that is a terrible book, one that reflects very poorly on its author. It seemed reasonable to assume that the ID movement wasn't going to generate any serious new arguments, and that if they did it would be obvious. Signature in the Cell gave no indication that it contained anything new.