Stephen C. Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt

A Review and Synopsis by Wayne Hammer, Author of Science Fiction Thriller, Shifts

Intelligent design is gaining popularity today because the inferred grounds upon which Darwinist evolution is based, the fossil record, seems to be in conflict with the theory. In Stephen Meyer’s landmark work, Darwin’s Doubt, Dr. Meyer thoroughly explores the philosophical and scientific flaws in the neo-Darwinian construct that increasingly reveal it to be unworkable as a theory of origins in light of a growing body of critical scientific opinion. As Meyers suggests, when a theory no longer provides a comprehensive and coherent explanation for observable reality, it ceases to be workable.

The renowned scientist and author of the highly regarded, Signature in the Cell, maintains that the Cambrian explosion, the relatively short evolutionary event during which most major animal phyla appeared beginning around 542 million years ago, poses two key challenges to contemporary neo-Darwinian evolutionary themes—the first of which Darwin himself recognized in 1859 as an unresolved issue plaguing his original theory. Meyer argues that the sudden appearance of novel animal life forms during the Cambrian timeline, and the absence of fossilized precursors for most of these animals in lower Precambrian strata, cast serious doubt that the gradualist picture of evolution envisioned by both Darwin and neo-Darwinian proponents has sufficient scientific standing. The popular and readily accepted model fails to account for a conceptual shortcoming that many paleontologists have long acknowledged.

If one is to believe that each new phylum appearing during the Cambrian explosion evolved through a process of natural selection, then at least some transitional fossils (of the multitude and variety that should have existed from the three Precambrian phyla) ought to have been unearthed by now. This lack of fossilized evidence defies the notion that there is an unbroken evolutionary chain from which all species evolved. Alas, the required molecular sequences and anatomical similarities in the fossil record are missing, and the precise time of deep divergence (species origination) cannot be identified.

Neo-Darwinian evolution works gradually over millions of years. It is a trial-and-error process of mutation and selection in which an organism must obtain and maintain a functional advantage in a series of incremental steps. But the timelines required for these distinctly different body plans to evolve are too extensive and wouldn’t allow for the emergence of new genetic traits. Dr. Meyer claims that proponents of the neo-Darwinian evolutionary model can’t adequately explain how vast numbers of possible combinations of coded symbols could both organize themselves in a predictable linear progression and then generate the complex types of genes and proteins found in living organisms today. Tightly integrated networks of genes, proteins, and other complex molecules are required to arrive at the right place at the right time in and around the embryonic cells. For such processes to arise, a materialistic theory of evolution would require vastly more time than has passed on earth since life began.

More importantly, Meyer contends that the neo-Darwinian mechanism lacks the creative power (the intelligence) to produce the diversity of distinct animal life forms that first appear in the Cambrian period, a view that many contemporary evolutionary biologists share. Meyer believes that insufficient genetic and epigenetic information would prohibit random mutations and natural selection from giving rise to the variety or quantity of the sophisticated new body plans that appear in the fossil record. And now there’s overwhelming evidence that mutations, able to generate large-scale changes in an organism, are mostly deleterious and destroy many more fledgling life forms than they create. He’s willing to acknowledge the phenomenon of natural selection as an important filter, but not the driving mechanism—not an adequate construct to account for the influx of new information required to transition from one species to another.

Many would conclude, based on this new scientific evidence, that it’s unlikely the information at the molecular level required for animal development was generated and replicated by accident. Yet there’s no explicit reference to an observable intelligent cause in Meyer’s book. Rather, the actions of an intelligent designer can be inferred from today’s observable evidence, and arguments opposed to Darwin’s theory can no longer be relegated to leaps of faith.

Even when we think we’ve mastered our understanding of how the human body works, we’re still baffled by its mysteries. For instance, we know that special cells in your bones, osteoclasts (bone breakers), and osteoblasts (bone builders), draw several millimeters of material from your bone’s interior and then uses this natural plaster to coat your bone’s exterior each week for twenty years. This structural transformation is duplicated in every human being until maturity.

But how does the human body know how much material to transfer, where it’s to be deposited, and when to stop? Where did the roadmap to regulate and replicate our body’s myriad of specialized design features come from? One thing we know for sure is that with regard to our skeletal system, the end result (the size, integrity, and density of our bones), is critical to survival on a planet with earth’s gravity profile.

When fully formed, your skeletal structure is many times larger than its original size and eight times stronger than reinforced concrete. Like rods of steel, fibers of collagen crisscross your bone’s calcium filling for reinforcement at a tensile strength greater than cast iron. Your shin bone can support a weight of nearly two tons and be subjected to pressures up to twenty thousand pounds per square inch. Yet bone is flexible and amazingly light—light enough to float in water. If steel were used instead, a 160-pound man would weigh nearly eight hundred pounds. And in your body’s most protected confines, the bone’s interior, blood, our most important life-sustaining ingredient, is manufactured.

The key to the design of all of our dynamic, self-perpetuating bodily systems is the imbed coding that triggers and maintains its critical functions—coding that is much easier to explain if we attribute its origins to an intelligent source rather than a series of random accidents in DNA replication.

Your heart is the only bodily organ in a closed cardiovascular system. It tends to its life-sustaining work aided by arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules, and veins. A miracle of high-intensity performance, the heart beats between 60 and 70 times per minute, 93,000 times per day, 655,000 times per week, 34 million times per year, and 2.4 billion times in an average lifetime. It fuels itself, paces itself, repairs itself, and alters itself in response to lifestyle and environmental changes, with no conscious effort by you. Whether you’re a sprinter or couch potato, complex nervous and hormonal regulation maintains your heart’s optimal rate and output. At any particular time, the functioning organs of your body receive a share of blood in proportion to their need, and those that are resting quietly receive theirs in metered measure.

Your red blood cells, oval shaped to maximize their transportation of oxygen, are manufactured and destroyed at an alarming rate. Approximately ten million red blood cells are produced every hour, while an equal number self-destruct. Blood cell supply variations of as little as 1 percent can shut down your normal bodily functions. The imbalance created when your blood gets so thin that oxygen transport is insufficient (anemia) or so thick that it can no longer circulate (polycythemia) represent life threatening conditions. Blood clotting is similarly complex requiring the coordinated function of at least eleven chemical factors. Blood that clots too readily or too slowly is problematical; clots that fail to dissolve can prove fatal.

These additional facts highlight your cardiovascular system’s efficiency and resiliency:

  • On average, the heart pumps between 430 to 460 gallons of blood every day.
  • A baby’s body holds about a quart of blood at birth while an adult stores about 1.3 gallons.
  • It only takes twenty seconds for blood to completely circulate through the human body.
  • One drop of blood contains ten to thirteen thousand white blood cells and five million red blood cells.
  • Some sources estimate that if all of the arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules and veins were laid end to end, they would measure somewhere between fifty thousand to one hundred thousand miles in length.
  • Most blood cells are produced in the bone marrow while plasma is manufactured in the liver.

Scientists agree that the human heart is a masterpiece of mechanical, chemical, and bioelectrical design. It continues to tick away, pumping vital nutrients and oxygen to every part of the body, with no visible source of power, no cord to plug into the wall. With all our technical knowhow, even the most sophisticated artificial hearts manufactured today can’t compete with the real thing in terms of performance or longevity. As a pump, regulator, and power generator, the heart has no rivals and would win any of today’s most prestigious design competitions.

Can the incredibly intricate and sophisticated design of the human body be simply the result of random alterations in DNA?

Are we just a one-off accident in the vast cosmos, or is the biological diversity on this planet part of a plan with some greater purpose?

Is the human race still evolving? And if so, will future changes enable man to have more mastery over his environment or lead to his destruction?

These are the questions raised in Shifts, my first science fiction thriller, and Senders, the exciting new sequel. Threaded through the story’s plotline is the concept of intelligent design, the belief that life, or the universe, cannot have arisen by chance, but instead, was created and designed by some intelligent entity.

Although the theory may have a relatively new name, the notion that the complexity and sophistication in design we see in nature, and in particular human beings, cannot simply be the result of a series of random accidents (mutations) that ultimately proved beneficial to the survival of a species, has been heavily debated almost since the debut of Darwin’s milestone work, Origin of Species, in 1859.

My fiction novels were written primarily to entertain, and oh yes, to inform, but not to beat the drum in support of one side of this heated issue or the other. There are plenty of creationists, neo-Darwinians, and present-day evolutionary biologists who can aptly perform that function.

In my search for answers, I found the latest and most convincing argument in favor of the concept to be presented by Stephen C. Meyer in his landmark work, Darwin’s Doubt, published in 2013. It is this compilation of scientific evidence that rings most true in support of a directed evolutionary process. The more I delved into the subject, the more intrigued I was with the merits of his argument. But alas, I’m just a story-teller who found the subject to be ripe fodder for a science fiction thriller. And although I’m sympathetic to the creationist’s view, I do not blindly support the doctrine by faith alone as some do.

I choose to write science fiction that presents plausible ideas and concepts rooted in real science. With those self-imposed restrictions, I explore the concept of intelligent design through the eyes and minds of fictional characters. In Shifts, as Dr. Herman Walenz, the renowned medical doctor and physicist under siege by the scientific community says, “If one accepts the premise that the external influence of experience and sensory inputs in animals alters their DNA over time, then perhaps external energy sources with distinct wave signatures can affect man’s genetic code and anatomical development as well.”

Neither Stephen Meyer in his non-fiction masterwork nor I in my fiction thrillers identify the ‘external energy source’ responsible for the miraculous creation and evolution of our species. We leave that to you, our readers, to decide.

To help you formulate an informed opinion about this controversial subject, I plan to present a series of blogs having to do with the design of the human body. After reading these posts, ask yourself if you think the intricate web of life on this planet could have arisen as the result of purely undirected material processes, or could there have been a guiding or designing intelligence that played a role?

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