Puck's Review of "Return of the God Hypothesis"

The book title is Return of the God Hypothesis: Three Scientific Discoveries That Reveal the Mind Behind the Universe.

What I cannot seem to find, and is not explicit in the table of contents, is, “specifically, what three discoveries?”. Did I miss something relevant to the God Hypothesis from CERN, the COBE project, or some other unheralded result? What has changed in the past few years?

The title’s implication is that three recent discoveries have occasioned a shake up, and a return to some sort of fundamental cosmology inferring the Mind of God. What seems to be more the case is, while amazing progress has been made in terms of details, precision, and confirmation, physics and cosmology has been rather stuck for the past decade or so in terms of resolving outstanding questions such as dark energy, dark matter, and what may be beyond the standard model. Fine tuning has been discussed by some of the best minds on the planet for the most part decades ago and it is what it is; nothing much has recently been added to the conversation so far as I know. If, as your review suggests, much of this volume is a rehash of his earlier books on life origins, and his cosmology brings nothing fresh to the fine tuning discussion, maybe the book should be titled, Rehash of Tired Intelligent Design Arguments: Nothing New but it’s Time to Publish". If this is an unfair characterization, it would be nice to be informed what content to expect otherwise.

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That would seem to further confirm that the DI is no longer interested in even appearing to be trying to make a case to scientists and the scientifically informed. It’s just full on preaching to the choir.

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If you mean your .pdf image above, it looks fine on my computer.

You know, I hadn’t focused on that either. I suspect, putting my textual criticism hat on for a moment, that this is a holdover from an earlier version of the work where that was made more explicit. The nearest thing I find to it is at p. 15-16, where he seems to identify three things – not really “discoveries” exactly – as the beginning of his formulation of the problem. These three things are (paraphrasing, I hope not unfairly) that the universe seems to have had a beginning, that the universe seems fine-tuned, and that abiogenesis seems impossible.

Those, of course, are old arguments and hardly blockbusters, for various reasons.

That’s probably their best strategy, I would think. It’s certainly useful for them to PRETEND to be making a case to scientists. But I think that they’ve figured out that their audience believes deeply in its own persecution complex, and that the fact that the scientific community responds with a combination of contempt and giggling to the DI’s monstrous notion is therefore good; it confirms the idea that the atheistic, materialistic science baddies are keeping God out of science only because they’re mean and don’t want to share or admit that they’re wrong.

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Huh? The origin of the mammals is without a doubt one of the best documented examples of evolution in the fossil record. Where do they get this stuff from?

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He used the temporal paradox to argue against archy in Icons and then in
Zombie Science he used the fossil discovery (a pre archy feathered dinosaur) that solved the temporal paradox (which wasn’t really a paradox) to say archy wasn’t even the first bird and therefore not the ancestor of birds. Yep. He took a dinosaur and called it a bird.

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Well, yeah. The audacity of these people is just astonishing sometimes.

Oh, that’s right! I’d forgotten that. Hilarious own-goal on that one…

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If Meyer’s new book is a rehash of Darwin’s Doubt, the third “thing” is possibly the supposed foundational role of information in biology. This would encompass abiogenesis as well as other obsessions (such as the Cambrian Explosion).

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Yes, that’s possible. Oddly, though it’s the subtitle of the book, I have yet to find a passage where he says, “yo, look, here are the three discoveries I’m talkin’ about.”

As it often is with this stuff, he dances around a lot. One minute it’s “where’d all this chemistry come from,” and the next it’s “yeah, well, but even if you DID explain where all this chemistry comes from, where’s the INFORMATION come from? Nyaaah, nyaah!” It’s the sort of argument that could only make sense to someone who was already a DI True Believer.

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This is just “common knowledge” among creationists.

Well, at least Thinking about Evolution had a source for some (though not all) of their claims, even though the sources didn’t actually support the claims.

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…and it would have been more in Meyer’s usual pattern of things to have produced a large number of citations, all buried in endnotes, none of which supported the claim but which would enable his supporters to enthusiastically declare how thoroughly all this is supported by citation to the scientific literature.

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It would seem that David Klinghoffer has clarified this for us:

From the article:

…The key findings of modern science that support the hypothesis are that:

  1. The universe has a beginning.

  2. The universe has been finely tuned for the possibility of life.

  3. There have been huge bursts of information into our biosphere.

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Ah! Indeed. So you were right about (3).

It seemed to me, in reading the book, that there were four, not three, subjects on which Meyer focused. But what I forgot was that since creationists always get abiogenesis mixed up with evolution, Meyer would do likewise, and so my third and fourth items were, from his point of view, one and the same.

It’s sort of funny, though. His argument about evolution is the naive Axe-based thing, but his argument against abiogenesis can’t bloody well be based on the non-availability of mutational opportunity in a DNA-based world, when the issue is how life got started in the first place.

“Information” is pretty much the ID Creationist’s version of “elan vital.” And that obsession of theirs has always seemed comical to me. When I first started to engage in discussion over this sort of thing, I was surprised, time and again, to run into ID Creationists who would introduce the topic by talking about the things Darwin couldn’t have known. If you’d asked me what I thought about “things Darwin couldn’t have known” I’d have said that it was astonishing what a good job he did of arriving at central insights in biological evolution without having access to a great deal of the data we now have that confirm it. But these people meant just the opposite: that “things Darwin couldn’t have known” spelled the death of evolutionary theory.

But, ask them what that is, and they’d say something painfully dim, usually along the lines that the discovery of DNA demonstrated that living things were full of “information” and that evolution couldn’t account for this.

After a number of unfortunate trips to the emergency room, I finally took the precaution of purchasing a forehead-slapping helmet, so that I could put it on before speaking to any ID creationists. I have cracked the front panel on a few of them, so violent is the force with which my palm reflexively flies up when they say things like this. The fact that these pseudo-arguments actually apparently get some traction with the world’s witless people really fills me with despair for humanity.

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Just to be clear: have you cracked the front panel on the helmets or on the creationists?

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Alas, on the helmet. Though I have made the DI squeal a few times. I still laugh when I read the bizarre attempt by Jonathan Wells to rescue Marcos Eberlin after I pointed out that Eberlin didn’t know that homology and homoplasy weren’t synonyms.

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Link please?

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OK, you’re going to have to explain that one. Who is Marcos Eberlin, what did he say about homology/homoplasy, where did he say it, and what does Jonathan Wells have to do with it?

Marcos Eberlin, a chemist in Brazil, wrote a DI-published book called Foresight, in which he offered the low-rent version of Behe’s argument. My review of it is here:

In that review I commented on a few mind-roasting things said by Eberlin, including this:

“As Aaron Ellison and Nicholas Gotelli wrote, Charles Darwin pioneered the modern research of carnivorous plants with his 1875 work Insectivorous Plants. There Darwin applied his idea of homology (which modern evolutionary biologists call “homoplasy”)…”

I tried to find any way to construe this passage other than that Eberlin simply didn’t know the difference between homology and homoplasy. Couldn’t find one. Tried looking at the Ellison and Gotelli paper cited, to see if he’d misunderstood them. Tried looking at Darwin’s writings, likewise. But, no. Eberlin just couldn’t figure this out, evidently.

The DI, bereft of reviews by actual scientists, had Jon Wells write this stinker in response: An Unintended Endorsement of Marcos Eberlin’s New Book, Foresight | Evolution News

I think it annoys them that these reviews of mine keep rating so highly on Amazon. For Eberlin I have the “most helpful” rated review, and for Behe’s latest I am topped only by one highly credulous five-star review, so the doggoned things just keep getting seen by Amazon shoppers.

The intellectual and moral depravity of ID Creationism, I think, is best viewed by seeing this type of dreck: the lowest and worst garbage the DI is willing to put its name to. When the deficiencies of a Behe are being debated, it has to be remembered that, bad as that is, it’s absolutely the best and brightest of the ID literature and that the only answer to how low the DI will go is that it’s turtles all the way down.

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This isn’t so cut-and-dried. “Homology” did once have a looser meaning, and “homoplasy” didn’t exist until Lankester defined it. Then again, I can find only two references to “homologous” in Insectivorous Plants, and both of them seem appropriate to the modern usage. Further, swim bladders in fish are generally considered homologous to lungs.

At the very least, Eberlin is guilty of bad writing, since Darwin’s idea of homology is not equivalent to homoplasy, though it might encompass homoplasy (but if it did, I would like to see evidence).

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