Eddie and ID books

I’ll chime in after someone else first reads, and provides a review of the whole book – a balanced review, that takes time to talk about the good points of the book as well as the weak ones. Once I see that someone here – anyone here – is willing to read an entire ID book, and give a fair appraisal of it, I’ll be glad to join in and talk about some of the specifics, including possible weak points.

You did not make such a requirement in your initial offer. That suggests that it was not made in good faith.

That presumes that there are good points. I haven’t seen any good points and I will not be bothered to read a book that includes none. Therefore, Puck’s review appears to be balanced.

If YOU think that there are good points, excerpt them.


I expended scores of hours and equivalent chunks of innocence reading and reviewing ID books (yes, entire ID books) in a previous life. Admittedly it helped me deconvert, a glorious outcome indeed, but on balance it was awful. Just in case you want to acknowledge that someone here has done that. (And yes, I was fair.)


Not fun, is it?

One of the funny features of that world is that it used to be that every time I would express to someone just how awful this stuff was, the answer would come back: oh, yes, some of the writers are no good, but book X, which you haven’t read yet, is the good one, and when you read that, it will become clear how meritorious this case is. Then I’d go read book X, and rinse and repeat. It amazes me that a subject which is so comprehensively filled with rank dishonesty – see, for example, my block quote from the Design of Life, above – nonetheless still is able to persuade someone of something.

Indeed, my whole interest in this subject began when a creationist pastor, on hearing me comment upon the intellectual poverty of creationism, told me that the new creationists were really amazing, and that specifically, I should read Michael Behe. Evidently he hadn’t gotten the memo “Ixnay on the Eationismcray.” So I bought Darwin’s Black Box, and a long session of viewing the dark underbelly of anti-intellectualism and its cultural consequences began.


I believe you. I remember your columns. I don’t believe the same is true of a good number of people here – that they’ve read very many ID books all the way through. I’m sure it’s true of some.

My initial offer was to discuss the book. But to clarify, that meant to discuss the book – not isolated arguments from the book. That is, it presupposed that people would read the book, and then discuss individual points from within a broad framework of understanding derived from reading the whole.

I don’t know how many complete books I have read in my lifetime. I didn’t keep count. Maybe it’s 3,000, or 4,000, or 5,000. But of all those books, I don’t think I encountered even as many as 10 that have no good points. But to read any review of any ID book by any blogosphere opponent of ID, you’d think that ID books alone, of all the books in the world, are the very special ones that have no good points at all.

Anyhow, I’ll discuss any book that I’ve read with anyone else who has (a) read it, and (b) read it with a truly open mind, and willing to admit that it has some value, even if only a little. But I won’t rewrite the arguments of a book in brief form so that people who are too lazy to read it can play the usual game around here, of “Shoot down the argument.” A book isn’t a list of statements for a True or False test. It’s a coherent whole. It needs to be understood as a whole. If people don’t think The Design of Life is worth reading, then they should not read it. But I’m not going to give them an excuse for not reading it by doing their homework for them.

So for me, either the book gets the full seminar treatment, with everyone participating in the discussion reading a certain amount of it each week, and then discussing it, or I don’t discuss it at all.

If this particular book isn’t worth that much trouble, then maybe someone could suggest another book that is. Something written in a way that’s accessible to people who aren’t trained biologists. Maybe one of Scott Turner’s books. I’m open to suggestions.

I’m game but maybe not till after the first of the year. My specific interest is to read about design. IMO Simon Conway Morris begins a worthy exploration of design in biology. But you mention Scott Turner’s books, none of which I have read; those seem like very interesting possibilities and my browsing of the dust jacket of The Tinkerer’s Apprentice suggests that it is worth a hard look. The newer followup, Purpose and Desire, seems less promising but definitely worth a look.

If you or others have more specific preferences or recommendations, great, but Turner looks pretty interesting to me and I’d join that reading group.

I gave the latter a try and largely devoid of content. Your mileage may vary.


No, it wasn’t. Your initial offer was to discuss any flaws in the Book.

A charitable interpretation would be that you forgot what you had written, and didn’t see it quoted at the top of the thread.

You could instead give people an excuse for reading it, by highlighting any good points.


That’s consistent with my impressions from the dust jacket-level description online. It doesn’t help that I think vitalism is goofy. And it’s interesting to see that this kind of conversation has already happened, 2 years ago. This suggests that @Eddie isn’t quite right about our community’s interest in reading ID work. But my interest remains in that second book of Turner’s and I’m still up for a book clubby thing as long as I get some reassurance that the book doesn’t turn out to be as vacuous as that vitalism one seems to be.

Speaking of what it means for a book to be vacuous, one ID tome I read and reviewed was Nature’s Destiny by Michael Denton. Loudly and triumphantly trumpeted as a history-making world-changing scholarly achievement, it is in fact vacuous and has had exactly the scholarly impact that we should expect from a stack of reheated leftovers from a tedious meal of Platonism served a century before. It’s the kind of ID book that is not dishonest but is also not worthy of a detailed consideration. Its take-home message is straightforward and IMO uninteresting. If Turner’s arguments are similar, then reading his book won’t be an infuriating slog through toxic bullshit, but it also won’t be a thought-provoking exploration of ideas about design. I’m staying optimistic, but I hope I’m making my expectations somewhat clear.


You beg the question by presuming it has any good points worth discussing. While, at the same time, providing yourself with a ready excuse to weasel out of your previous offer.

Nothing more to see here.


I did remember that Glipsnort was the only person willing to try to read at least part of Turner’s book, instead of simply denouncing it as wrong or not worth reading based on hearsay. I give him points for at least trying, though his comments, if I recall, were wholly negative, and the book, while far from perfect, deserved some credit for raising some interesting questions on the borders of philosophy and biology. I got the feeling at the time from Glipsnort’s remarks that he not only thought the book contained technical errors but that even the broader issues and questions raised in the book weren’t worth raising. That part of his reaction I found more disappointing than any actual technical criticisms. But it’s almost uniformly the reaction that I’ve seen to “big picture” books from those whose main interest in evolutionary theory is population genetics. On the other hand, paleontologists, such as Gould or Conway Morris, often seem more interested in the bigger questions. (When I was in high school and first year of university, deciding on a major, paleontology and animal classification were two of my big interests, but the vast majority of biology and biochemistry majors that I rubbed shoulders with for four years of undergrad (they remained my social circle even after I switched to humanities stuff) were uninterested in things like that.

Turner’s book did not defend classical vitalism, but only vitalism in a modified sense. I myself found the line of thought questionable at points, but at least the book was interesting to people interested in wider questions raised by evolutionary biology. That’s more than can be said for a good number of books and articles written about evolution, which are clearly in-house specialist shop talk only. And this is a general discussion group, including many from sciences outside of biology and many from outside the natural sciences altogether, e.g., people in computer science, people with degrees in Classics, business, psychology, philosophy, theology, etc. So books or articles that bridge fields are potentially useful.

As for Denton, I don’t think he was trying for “scholarly impact.” He was writing a book for a general audience – albeit a general audience with some scientific education. But he did make a good case for the existence of fine-tuning (a notion he has developed in more details in four more books since), and he did show that one could argue for design in nature without arguing for miraculous intervention. You know, Carl Sagan wasn’t trying for “scholarly impact” when he produced Intelligent Life in the Universe (with Shklovskii), but that doesn’t mean that the book was not worth reading back in its day. Sagan’s book, with its Big Bang-to-Man perspective, was (along with Robert Jastrow’s writing) my Bible back in those days. (My high school days.) I would reread such things again and again, the way a fundamentalist would reread Genesis, or The Genesis Flood. (In fact, whenever I could find fundamentalists to debate with, I would hit them with Sagan or Jastrow or Asimov.)

The general literate public is always going to be more interested in books about evolution that give evolution some broader significance, as opposed to books that do nothing but talk about mechanisms at the minute, technical level.

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I don’t actually care whether nor anyone here reads it. If you recall, it came into the discussion when some people here pretended that it was just the Pandas book with a minor facelift; my main point was that it was almost a totally new book, even though also published (initially) by FTE. And in that new form, it was definitely an ID book, not a creationist book. Anyone who takes the time to read it will see that, though I doubt any here will do so.

And yes, I did say initially that I would discuss flaws, but later added context to that, indicating that I would consider flaws after being convinced that people had a good idea of the overall argument of the book. You know, it’s a complete waste of time discussing Meyer’s Signature in the Cell with Mercer, because the only topic he wants to discuss in the book is whether or not Meyer misnamed a molecule on one page of the 500 pages in the book. Similarly, it would be a waste of time to discuss the alleged “error” that Puck thinks he has found in two paragraphs of the Dembski-Wells book, without first trying to assess whether the book overall has any merits. And to do the latter, one has to read the book, not just “erroneous” passages cherry-picked by known-to-be-hostile reviewers like Puck.

Wow. That is a truly spectacular misrepresentation, Eddie.

Meyer misrepresented the strongest evidence for the RNA World hypothesis, to which he devoted an entire chapter of his book. They (and you) cannot come up with an ID explanation for that relic. Dembski and Wells made the same misrepresentation in the book you’re recommending.

The demonstration that the core of the ribosome is entirely RNA won the Nobel Prize in 2009 for its evolutionary and biomedical importance.

And your description of the ribosome as “a molecule” is objectively false. Do you really not know that ribosomes are composed of rRNAs and more than 80 proteins? If not, you’ve established that you have a less-than-Wikipedia understanding of the ribosome.

That suggests a lot about the accuracy and quality of books you’re recommending.


Puck had nothing good to say about the book. To someone with @Eddie’s mentality, that is prima facie evidence of bias. Eddie will not consider the possibility that the book might actually just be that awful.


No merits? The Mendelssohn review refuted every single point made in the book?

I was not referring to the ribosome as a totality, but to peptidyl transferase, which you went on and on about. It’s an enzyme (an aminoacyltransferase enzyme to be exact), and enzymes are proteins, and proteins are biomolecules or macromolecules. My terminology was correct. It’s bad enough that you are a pedant who tries to catch people out on tiny “errors”, but a least you could be an accurate pedant.

Even if Meyer’s alleged “error” regarding this molecule destroyed the entire argument of its chapter – which it didn’t – it didn’t destroy the entire argument of his book – a fact which you have routinely evaded. In fact, I can’t recall anything, in the thousands of words your wrote against Meyer’s book on BioLogos or here, about any flaw in his book other than this one. This is why it could never be profitable to discuss books with you. You simply seem to be unaware of how scholars discuss and review books. They don’t seize on one error and say, “Therefore this book is worthless.” They don’t just go through books looking for flaws in hopes of being able to dismiss everything an author says or argues. They read with open minds and bend over backwards to make sure they are giving the author a fair chance to make his case. Only when this scrupulous fairness is observed can the motivations of the reviewer be trusted.

Lack of good points in The Design of Life noted.

So, Amazon will now publish as reviews 1000-page tomes?

When @Puck_Mendelssohn says “no merits”, I am happy to grant that he has considered every single point, and provided an accurate summary of his evaluations. @Eddie, if you beg to differ, then maybe you could provide @Puck_Mendelssohn with an aspect of the book that has merit.


I do encounter that quite often. But it does raise the question: what should one say when a book truly is horrendous? Do horrendous books have a kind of immunity from criticism: that nobody can say they are horrendous because to say so is to betray fatal bias? I can’t think that that makes a great deal of sense.

And publications by the DI’s principal authors really do fall in that category, again and again. It needn’t be so. For example, if Stephen Meyer had wanted to write an educational book about the Cambrian explosion, AND include his bizarre take on the explosion therein, one could praise the educational content and pan the pseudoscientific garbage. But when the presentation on the Cambrian explosion is so highly dishonest as it is in Darwin’s Doubt, surely the fact that some isolated sentences in the book here and there make true, and genuinely educational, statements about the Cambrian explosion is no vindication of the book in general. Nobody who would like to know anything about the CE would be well advised to read Meyer, when other works are available.

One could sort of reverse-nit-pick a book like The Design of Life, isolating small portions of it which are not wholly false. But what would be the point? If one is assessing the book as a whole, one cannot do that – the book can do no good for anyone except for a student of the rhetorical tactics of pseudoscience, and it is not a lack of objectivity to point that out.


Peptidyl transferase is the core function of the organelle named the ribosome. You’re still spectacularly wrong and digging yourself deeper in a hole.

You’re also demonstrating why one should not get one’s information from ID books.

Yes, but so what?

Wrong. This enzyme is a ribozyme, not a protein. That’s the whole point, man.

It’s not a protein. The ribosome is not a molecule.

The whole point of this is that it is consistent with being a relic from an RNA World, as predicted. Despite all of the proteins framing it, the entire active site is RNA. It demonstrates how evolution is highly constrained in ways that no omnipotent designer ever could be. It can’t just replace essential functions with better designs.

No, it was not. It is, however, entertaining.


Wait. Are you saying that the anonymous EN&V author who described it as an error was lying?