27 February 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapter 7

The chapter is called "Of Clues to Causes" and it's about scientific explanation. That's an interesting and important topic, one that opponents of evolutionary theory rarely understand. Meyer's summary is predictably fluffy but not inaccurate. Those seeking an introduction to philosophical questions pertaining to scientific explanation should look elsewhere, since Meyer says little in the 22-page chapter. His main points:
  1. There are indeed legitimately scientific means of understanding and seeking explanation for past events.
  2. These approaches validate ID as a "possible scientific explanation for the origin of biological information."
I don't disagree with either assertion. But neither is particularly helpful to ID in its quest for explanatory relevance. (Well, the main quest of the ID movement is to undermine naturalism by any means necessary, but its scientific challenge is to demonstrate that it can provide useful explanation.)

21 February 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapter 6

The chapter is called "The Origin of Science and the Possibility of Design." It's short, unimportant and uninteresting. Its purposes, along with Chapter 7, are twofold: 1) to counter the claim that ID theory is "not science" and 2) to establish that "historical science" (that which deals with the past) is not all that different from "operations science" (as defined by Charles Thaxton and others), specifically because the theorizing of "historical science" can be considered testable.

14 February 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapters 4 and 5 - errors and problems

Meyer's basic idea in chapters 4 and 5 is reasonably coherent. But I find further evidence in both chapters that Meyer is careless and underinformed on the subjects he addresses. (I explained before why I think this matters. If you think I'm not being nice enough to Meyer, consider providing me with the Rules of Engagement that apply when criticizing culture warriors who are proposing world-shifting new ideas.)

13 February 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapters 4 and 5 - major themes

Chapter 4 is called "Signature in the Cell." It's an important chapter for two reasons. First, along with chapter 5 ("The Molecular Labyrinth") it lays out Meyer's central question by pointing to the specific features of cellular information systems in need of explanation. Second, it exemplifies an aspect of ID thought that I want to highlight. I'll discuss these two themes here, then add some further critiques in a second post.

06 February 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapter 3

The chapter is called "The Double Helix," and there's not much to say about it. Meyer provides a fairly standard narrative of the discoveries that led to Watson and Crick and molecular biology. Anyone who's read The Eighth Day of Creation, along with a decent genetics textbook and/or a memoir by one of the principals (What Mad Pursuit by Francis Crick is a personal favorite) will already know everything here. Two observations.

03 February 2010

Signature in the Cell: Chapter 2

The chapter is called "The Evolution of a Mystery and Why It Matters." It's interesting and engaging, and I enjoyed reading it. The "mystery" in question is first described on page 35:
...most philosophers and scientists have long thought that Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection destroyed the design argument. Yet I also discovered that Darwin himself admitted that his theory did not explain the origin of life itself. [...] His theory assumed rather than explained the origin of the first living thing. Since this limitation of Darwin's theory was widely recognized, it raised a question: Why were nineteenth- and twentieth-century biologists and philosophers so sure that Darwin had undermined the design argument from biology?