Thursday, October 03, 2013

What Do You Do When All the Reviews Are Bad?

Charles Marshall has reviewed Darwin's Doubt in last week's issue of Science. The title says it all: When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship.

Here's a sample of what a bad review looks like.
... when it comes to explaining the Cambrian explosion, Darwin's Doubt is compromised by Meyer's lack of scientific knowledge, his "god of the gaps" approach, and selective scholarship that appears driven by his deep belief in an explicit role of an intelligent designer in the history of life.
Ouch!

So far the Intelligent Design Creationists have a perfect record. Every single review of Darwin's Doubt by a scientist has been negative. None of them like the book.

What do you do under those circumstances? Remember, that the minions of the Discovery Institute aggressively hyped this book in the Spring before it was published. It was supposed to be the book that destroyed Darwinism.1

Not to worry. The IDiots have an excuse ... in fact they have several.
  1. Ignore the main criticism and focus on details. This is what Stephen Meyer is doing in his response to Charles Marshall's review: When Theory Trumps Observation: Responding to Charles Marshall's Review of Darwin's Doubt.
  2. Most reviewers ignore the main arguments. This is the defense offered by David Klinghoffer, that well-known defender of Intelligent Design Creationism, and a non-scientist: A Taxonomy of Evasion: Reviewing the Reviewers of Darwin's Doubt.
  3. At least we got their attention. This is what makes David Klinghoffer proud, "Marshall's review stands out. It's important. Not only because Marshall is a distinguished paleontologist writing in one of the world's two most importance science journals ..." [Stephen Meyer Answers Charles Marshall on Darwin's Doubt]. Casey Luskin uses the same excuse in when he writes [Teamwork: New York Times and Science Magazine Seek to Rebut Darwin's Doubt,
    It's now evident that, their previous denials notwithstanding, Darwin defenders have been unnerved by Darwin's Doubt. On the same day last week, both the world's top newspaper (the New York Times) and one of the world's top scientific journals (Science) turned their attention to the problem posed by Stephen Meyer.
  4. Publicize reviews by non-scientists That's what Denyse O'Leary does in Astonishing innovation: Bethell’s review of Darwin’s Doubt defies tradition, tells you what is in the book. David Klinghoffer does it too: The American Spectator Warmly Welcomes Darwin's Doubt.
That's what you do if all the reviews and bad and you are an IDiot.


1. There were half-a-dozen earlier books that were also supposed to have destroyed Darwinism.

26 comments :

  1. Larry,

    All you have to do is explain the Cambrian explosion. If you are not qualified to that, even though you constantly criticize the book, maybe one of the critics can explain what caused the "explosion", instead of just claiming that Meyer simply lacks scientific knowledge. I mean, wouldn't that be fair?

    How would you feel, if I called you are a moron who lacks scientific knowledge because you think genetic drift is one of the main mechanisms of evolution, without proving you wrong? Do you know what I mean?

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    1. Larry is dealing with Meyers claims surrounding molecular biology, where Larry actually has some expertise. How does this fit into your question?

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    2. maybe one of the critics can explain what caused the "explosion"

      I'll answer for Larry. We don't know. We may never know, because we have limited data about events that far in the past. However, we have plausible hypotheses, none of which Meyer gives even the slightest mention to. And we may not know the cause(s), but we do know quite a bit about the timing, which Meyer takes pains to disguise. And we know the phylogenetic background, which Meyer tries to impugn. If you would like to know any details on any of that, let me know and I'll mention some references.

      I suppose you might be thinking "if we don't know the cause, then God must have done it." Meyer clearly would agree with you, which is why Charles Marshall mentions that "god of the gaps" thing.

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    3. LouiseG writes: "instead of just claiming that Meyer simply lacks scientific knowledge." No "Louise", that is not the main argument against Meyer's book.

      The main argument(s) are that Meyer gets his facts wrong. If he doesn't know his facts are wrong, then he is ignorant and posing as an expert. If he does know his facts are wrong, then he is deliberately lying.

      Both John Harshman and Larry and Nick Matzke have pointed out several major problems pointed out with Meyer's claims-- all of Meyer's major assertions logically and critically depend on fact-claims that are factually false. Without these false fact-claims, he has NO criticism of evolutionary theory.

      The IDiots at Evolution News and Views have not responded to the rebuttals by Harshman, Moran or Matzke with accurate facts. Luskin responded to Matzke with some of the usual lying BS-- but defending some falsehoods with still more falsehoods is not a real response.

      The exposure of Meyer's ignorance of the sciences he criticizes is, frankly, collateral damage. As far as the scientific facts are concerned, it doesn't matter if he got his fact-claims through stupidity or lying.

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    4. I am really beginning to hate the term 'Cambrian explosion'. It fails to take future discoveries into account; we may discover that rather than an explosion it may have been more like a gradual process in real time, simply appearing like an explosion because we don't yet have all the data. I still hear people saying that there are no Precambrian fossils, showing that their knowledge is over fifty years out of date.

      Dave Bailey

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    5. John H, Don't be so "Harsh mon" wrote,


      "I'll answer for Larry. We don't know. We may never know, because we have limited data about events that far in the past. However, we have plausible hypotheses, none of which Meyer gives even the slightest mention to. And we may not know the cause(s), but we do know quite a bit about the timing, which Meyer takes pains to disguise. And we know the phylogenetic background, which Meyer tries to impugn. If you would like to know any details on any of that, let me know and I'll mention some references.

      I suppose you might be thinking "if we don't know the cause, then God must have done it." Meyer clearly would agree with you, which is why Charles Marshall mentions that "god of the gaps" thing."

      John, Please imagine an agnostic looking for TRUE ANSWERS. Why do you label everyone who questions evolution-I'm not even going to get into the chemical evolution, because I was warned that some pretty big shot creationists and evolutionsts are about to publish some "stuff"

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    6. I have no idea how to respond to that. If you're looking for true answers, you're looking in all the wrong places. I offered to tell you some of the right places, but you didn't respond to that. The fact that unspecified people are going to publish unspecified stuff doesn't impress me much either. Why do you post?

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    7. John wrote: "I'll answer for Larry. We don't know. We may never know, because we have limited data about events that far in the past. However, we have plausible hypotheses, none of which Meyer gives even the slightest mention to. And we may not know the cause(s), but we do know quite a bit about the timing, which Meyer takes pains to disguise. And we know the phylogenetic background, which Meyer tries to impugn. If you would like to know any details on any of that, let me know and I'll mention some references."
      John, I'm interested in the references you talk about, please post them.

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    8. You could do worse than just take a look at Valentine & Erwin's book. I mean actually reading it, not just looking for sentences to quote-mine. Among other things, they review suggested causes of the Cambrian radiation, as well as the timing.

      As for phylogeny, the basic division of bilaterians into deuterostomes, lophotrochozoans, and ecdysozoans is very well corroborated. I don't immediately see a good, recent review, but here's one reference: Simakov, O., et al. 2013. Insights into bilaterian evolution from three spiralian genomes. Nature 493:526-531. For the paleontological perspective, I still like Budd, G. E., and S. Jensen. 2000. A critical reappraisal of the fossil record of the bilaterian phyla. Biological Reviews 75:253-295. The weird thing is that Meyer cites -- which is to say quote-mines -- both Valentine & Erwin and Budd & Jensen.

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    9. "All you have to do is explain the Cambrian explosion."

      Does Meyer so this? *Explain* the Cambrian explosion, I mean?

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  2. BTW, that title "Darwin's Doubt" was a section heading in Plantinga's warrant and Proper Function; the bit where he quote-mines Darwin to pretend that Darwin's doubts about an evolved animal's ability to tell whether there's a God were actually doubts about whether it could decide whether or not it would enjoy being eaten by a tiger.

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  3. Don't forget David Snoke's positive review on Amazon.

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  4. A nice review would be:
    Well, you have read Darwin's Doubt. Good for you. Learn even more about the Cambrium and read Erwin and Valentine's The Cambrium Explosion.

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  5. I'm really puzzled by Meyer's response to Marshall's main critique. I mean, if you want to invoke Lyell's Uniformatarianism in the case of dGRNs, you have to show good reasons why present causes or observations can be reasonably extrapolated to explain past events. When I invoke wind and erosion to explain what I observe in geology, I do so precisely because I have many good reasons to believe that these causes are applicable to past events (wind and other forces have always been there). But whether the specificity of dGRNs was the same before and during the Cambrian as it is now, that's the question that we're trying to answer. And for all intents and purposes, all experts in the field, including the people you're quoting, don't think that they were as specific and inflexible as they are now.

    Let's take the example of steroid receptors, for instance. We know that they are very specific in their binding pattern now. But is that enough to know how they acted a few million years back? Of course not, and in fact, research has shown that they were less rigid than they appear to be today.

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  6. Didn't George Church give it a positive review?

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    1. - George Church, Scott Turner, Russell Carlson and Mark McMenamin. People with what you might call relevant qualifications.

      - David Snoke, not a biologist.

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    2. It's on the backcover. I saw it at a bookstore. I am still pondering if that is really something George said, or what the hell.

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    3. Here's an interview w/ Church, by David Klinghoffer of all people, that touches Meyer's books:

      http://social-epistemology.com/2013/06/15/where-do-we-come-from-what-are-we-where-are-we-going-an-interview-with-george-church-ryan-cochrane/

      TBH, that doesn't really clarify things much for me. The impression I get is that he's trying to be as accomodating and non-commital as possible to avoid offending anyone on either side. Jerry Coyne has his own thoughts on Church's views of ID:

      http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/bizarre-endorsements-of-meyers-intelligent-design-book/

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  7. I have overheard that evo-lunatics defend junk DNA because of Halden's Dilemma...Larry might be one of them but Larry s fluid their stuff is ever confirmed,

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    1. You should stop overhearing and start reading actual scientific literature. It's "Haldane", and no, that isn't the main reason for thinking that most of the human genome is junk, though the related notion of genetic load is a minor part of the argument.

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  8. These professional evolutionists are not the ones to judge such a great modern revolution in biology ideas. they would defend the old faith. Its classic.

    Remember this reviewer is accusing Meyer's motives. Well right back at them. these reviewers, maybe, are blinded by a deep faith in evolutionism.
    Monkey see, monkey do.
    its unkind to say a scientist is not faithfully looking and judging the evidence.
    This decree that Meyer is flawed in motives is a big accusation.
    What if motivation is NOT affecting him??
    does that give more credit to his ideas?
    Why not just say his ideas are flawed and leave off psychology?
    if psychology affects man in his research then everyone can say that about everyone!
    Judging motives is a big step for book reviewers.

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  9. From Klinghoffers complaint:

    6. The Review, or Other Response, to the Book Whose Name One Dare Not Speak

    Casey Luskin points out an interesting strategy employed by a team writing in Current Biology, led by Michael S.Y. Lee (University of Adelaide, Australia). In offering a purported solution to what they call “Darwin’s dilemma," they "make reference to 'opponents of evolution,' and critique a very Meyer-esque argument, but...refuse to cite Meyer or Darwin's Doubt by name."


    Klinghoffer conveniently ignores the fact that the paper in Current Biology, although published in September, had a chronology as follows:

    Received: May 14, 2013
    Revised: June 19, 2013
    Accepted: July 16, 2013
    Published: September 12, 2013

    As Darwin's Doubt was not published until June 18th (which would have been Jun 19th in Australia) it seems rather unlikely that Drs. Lee et al. were even aware of the book. Perhaps they were rather sadly lacking in supernatural intervention.

    Of course, as he doesn't publish in scientific journals himself, Klinghoffer is probably unaware that there is any lag time between the submission of a paper and its publication.

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  10. I'm the guy who wrote about the Cambrian in the New York Times. In reality, I was writing about a commentary in the journal Science by a couple paleontologists that synthesized a lot of recent scientific research. But the Discovery Institute is utterly convinced that I was *secretly* writing about this book, despite never mentioning it. I can only conclude that they are making spectacular progress on their telepathy machines at the Discovery Institute Labs.

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    1. Or someone is suffering from delusions of reference.

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