How to have a fruitful and respectful conversation

I appreciate the kind words. Hopefully I can continue to be a part of this experiment!


If your information is coming from Darwin’s Doubt, that’s unfortunate. Very little in that book is actually true. You have been deceived, though to be charitable, the author was probably deceiving himself first.

Here’s a critique written by my favorite author. I would be interested to know what core concepts you learned about evolution are wrong or out of date; I’m suspecting that may not be true for a great many of them. The echo chamber is a dangerous place to get your information.


That’s really sad to hear because Meyer’s Darwin’s Doubt was one of the worst pieces of pseudoscience garbage to come down the pike in years. Meyer is a Philosopher of Science, not a scientist and certainly not a paleontologist. DD was absolutely eviscerated by actual professional paleontologists for its many errors and flat out falsehoods.

Here is a review of DD written by Dr. Donald Prothro, an actual highly respected and published paleontologist.

Stephen Meyer’s Fumbling Bumbling Cambrian Amateur Follies

One of the main reasons many of us here can’t stand the DI is exactly for cases like yours. They publish pseudoscience trash in the popular press and end up giving very false impressions of science to honest but unsuspecting laymen. It sometimes takes years to undue the damage these DI charlatans produce.


Someday I hope you get an apology for how you were misled so badly by that author. If you sought to learn about biology, you were betrayed. I’m really sorry that happened to you. I do know what that’s like.

Props to you. Good luck, and count me in if you want to learn about evolution. FWIW, I think there is a lot of room to think about design and creation without the damaging poison of science denial and distortion. (I’m an apostate, happily free now of religion, and I think that design is interesting and real.) No one, Christian or otherwise, should be forced to choose between a vision of design or goodness or divinity and an honest understanding of the biological world. You are at a disadvantage because you started with sources that are not credible. But it doesn’t have to end there.


Wow that is a scathing review, but also substantive and devastating…


Thanks, I’ll check out your review.

As far as I can tell, every review by a non-creationist has been substantive and devastating. Look at Charles Marshall’s in Science for another example. (Go UC).

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Thank you

Interesting. I’m curious if you would consider purpose and intent as part of design? Or are you referring to a conception of design which is wholly separated from any sort of intelligent agency?

I think that’s a healthy perspective.

I have discovered myself to be mistaken enough times that I now try to consider my current positions as tentative. This is why I keep seeking alternate views. Of course, challenging one’s own world views is never easy…


Meyer and others have offered responses to at least some of Charles Marshall’s critiques in: Debating Darwin’s Doubt. I read it, but that was a long time ago.

Meyer responds to Dr. Prothero in Debating Darwin’s Doubt.

I’m currently reading and thinking about this very question: the book I’m reading now is From Darwin to Derrida by David Haig, subtitled “Selfish Genes, Social Selves, and the Meanings of Life.” Things like intent and purpose do exist, he seems to claim, arising from the existence of organisms who/that make choices.

For me, “purpose” is clearly part of the universe and especially part of the biosphere. “Intent” is squishier and smacks of future-looking teleology but in fact that is what organisms do. Since organisms affect and even direct evolution, it seems to me that we should not be hesitant at all to talk about these things. There is no necessary implication of the involvement of gods, and more importantly, there is no clear departure from norms of scientific thought.

Well, yes and no. Intelligent agency has arisen on earth, so we can’t separate it from design and evolution. But you probably mean to ask whether I’m referring to design without a designer, and yes I am. Gods are human creations, a mixed bag like all human creations, and supernatural designers do not currently have any explanatory value. (Yes, that can always change, but not by gazing at protein sequences or whatever the latest non-scholarship from the ID movement is about.) But more to the point is this: we know that design can emerge from “mindless” processes.

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The mere existence of a response doesn’t make it a valid argument.

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Of course not!

Thanks for the explanation, this helps me better understand where you are coming from.

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While each of the reviews above have their merits, in my opinion the single best critique of Darwin’s Doubt I’ve read is the one Nick Matzke did on pandasthumb. IIRC it’s a three-part series. Though pandasthumb is down atm so I’ll see if I can dig up some links from the wayback machine.

Edit: Found a working link to part II:
And to part III:

Part I is all the way back from 2004, so is a response to older works of Meyer’s.

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I’m interested in this, if you have time could you elaborate a little bit on a few examples? I can think of things that are ordered and elaborate, but I struggle to think about things I’d recognize as “design”.

I have in mind any process in which design emerges from a process that uses random (or even partially random) variation and selection. Here are a few examples:

Directed evolution of proteins

Genetic algorithms

We probably think of ‘design’ differently, then.

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These are intriguing (the details are over my head, but I think I get a general sense) but I struggle to see design, probably because …

That’s why I asked for examples, unfortunately it only helped a little (perhaps because I’m not a biologist) . I would like to understand better how you think about it because it seems quite different from the way I normally think about it. I would really like learn more about how you see it and expand my understanding of “design”.

10 posts were split to a new topic: Design Without a Designer?