Debating Darwin’s Doubt

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By Jon Covey, BA, CLS(ASCP)
Edited by Anita Millen, MD, MPH, MA


Debating Darwin’s Doubt was edited by David Klinghoffer and authored by several intelligent design advocates, including Stephen Meyer. The purpose of this book was to refute opposing remarks about the 2013 edition of Darwin’s Doubt by outspoken evolutionists who may or may not have actually read it be-fore publishing their critiques. Many of their comments can be found at the Evolution Views and News website along with many articles related to both books.

Introducing Debating Darwin’s Doubt, Klinghoffer says, “If anyone tries to tell you there’s ‘no debate’ about Darwinian theory, hand him a copy of Debating Darwin’s Doubt. That should settle the matter.”

Klinghoffer suggests that Debating Darwin’s Doubt could be thought of as a supplement to what Dr. Meyer wrote in the epilogue of the 2014 paperback version of Darwin’s Doubt. In the epilogue, Meyer answers his more influential critics, including Nick Matzke, Donald Prothero, and Charles Marshall.
Nick Matzke, who received his PhD in integrative biology shortly after Darwin’s Doubt debuted, claims the Cambrian explosion took place over a 30-million-year period and criticized Meyer for saying it was instantaneous. If Matzke had read Darwin’s Doubt he would have read Meyer’s actual comment concerning the length of the Cambrian explosion:

An analysis by MIT geochronologist Samuel Bowring has shown that the main pulse of Cambrian morphological innovation occurred in a sedimentary sequence spanning no more than 6 million years. Yet during this time representatives of at least sixteen completely novel phyla and about thirty classes first appeared in the rock record. In a more recent paper using a slightly different dating scheme, Douglas Er-win and colleagues similarly show that thirteen new phyla appear in a roughly 6-million-year window.1

Creationists, as opposed to some intelligent design advocates, don’t believe the Cambrian period ever ex-isted. Rather, God created all living organisms in the final two days of creation week (Genesis 1:20-27). The Genesis flood destroyed the original creation, and the Flood plus the aftermath events, such as the ice age and the breakup of a pre-Flood supercontinent,2 rapidly produced the geologic strata and fossil record.

The second critic mentioned above, Donald Prothero, is a paleontologist at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. He argues that the Cambrian explosion lasted 80 million years. Meyer dis-cusses Prothero’s 80-MY claim in Darwin’s Doubt (p. 72) and sketches in some details about how Prothero arrived at his claim. If paleontologists include 1) the origin of Ediacaran organisms of the late Precambrian, 2) the small shelly fish at the base of the Cambrian, 3) the main pulse of the early Cambrian explosion, and 4) the diversification of these organisms to the end of the Cambrian period. This would cover nearly 80 million years. Meyer, however, focused on the main pulse of the Cambrian explosion, to which most paleontologists ascribe 10 million years. Meyer says the biological innovation that produced 20 major body plans would re-quire nearly an infinitude of new genetic information over a very brief time, evolutionarily speaking. The neo-Darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection, cannot account for so much information.

No one has ever shown that this mechanism is capable of producing anything more than trivial changes and it cannot account for new body plans. For instance, mutations in the early-acting developmental genes are nearly always lethal, and the rest are prohibitively debilitating. For instance, legs appearing where eyes should be in a fruit fly might allow the creature to survive in a controlled environment, but such an organism would be unable to survive in nature.

In chapter 3, Casey Luskin explains two major problems evolutionists have with Darwin’s Doubt. The first problem is the geologically sudden appearance of 20 disparate phyla. Darwin wrestled with this problem and considered it a difficulty for his theory. These 20 Cambrian phyla contain many thousands of species, and with the possible exception of sponges, they have no hint of evolutionary ancestors in the Precambrian. For example, the Encyclopedia Britannica says of the class Trilobita, “Many hundreds of genera and thousands of species of Cambrian trilobites have been described world-wide.”

The second problem is that the lack of intermediate forms from the supposed common ancestors of these phyla does not support the gradual progression Dar-win’s theory supposes. Darwin realized this seriously challenges his theory.

Luskin says Meyer argues that the neo-Darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection lacks the creative power to produce the new animal forms that first appear in the Cambrian period, and many evolutionary biologists also agree. Mutation and natural se-lection cannot produce the genetic and epigenetic (“beyond the gene”) information necessary to build the animals that arise in the Cambrian explosion.

In Darwin’s Doubt and in Debating Darwin’s Doubt Meyer repeatedly insists that no known natural processes are capable of generating the tremendous amounts of specified information needed to produce the phyla appearing abruptly in the Cambrian, and that we know of only one source that can: intelligent agents. Michael Behe’s The Edge of Evolution gives practical examples that illustrate this, such as the ina-bility of the malaria parasite to mutate around sickle hemoglobin as it did with anti-malarial drugs (p. 43).

Epigenetic mutations not like DNA
Luskin says that Matzke does not attempt to ex-plain how the neo-Darwinian mechanism of mutation and natural selection could ever produce new body plans. Causing mutations in the early-acting body-plan genes, “the very mutations that would be necessary to produce whole new animals from a pre-existing animal body plan,” consistently causes the death of the experimental embryos or produces profound life-threatening disabilities.
He also criticizes Matzke for not addressing “Meyer’s critique of the neo-Darwinian mechanism by explaining how mutations could alter developmental gene regulatory networks to produce new developmen-tal regulatory networks, though the production of such a new regulatory network is an important requirement for building any new animal body plan from a preexisting body plan. Finally, Matzke does not explain how mutations in DNA alone could produce the epigenetic…information necessary to build new animal body plans, a problem that has led many evolutionary biologists to seek a new theory of and mechanism for major evolutionary innovation.”

In Darwin’s Doubt, Meyer says that he always gets the same question from the audience about epigenetic mutations. They want to know if epigenetic mutations could supply the variation and innovation natural selection needs to generate a new form. Epigenetic in-formation is unlike genetic information. It resides in the structures of the cell, such as the cytoskeleton and membrane patterns, not in DNA and comes from cell structures in the zygote.

These cellular structures are much larger than the individual nucleotide bases of DNA and aren’t affected by mutation-producing chemicals (mutagens) and radiation the same way DNA is. If cell structures are altered, the results are always catastrophic, either lethal or severely debilitating. Epigenetics reinforces Louis Pasteur’s law of biogenesis that living things only come from living things and not by spontaneous generation from non-living chemicals.

Meyer says, “Altering the cell structures in which epigenetic information inheres will likely result in embryo death or sterile offspring—for much the same reason that mutating regulatory genes or developmental gene regulatory networks also produces evolutionary dead ends. The epigenetic information provided by various cell structures is critical to body-plan development. Many aspects of embryological development depend upon the precise three-dimensional placement and location of these information-rich cell structures.

“For example, the specific function of morphogenetic proteins [The proteins that cause differentiation and growth of the structure of an organism (or a part of an organism)], the regulatory proteins produced by master regulatory (Hox) genes, and developmental gene regulatory networks (dGRNs) all depend upon the location of specific, information-rich, preexisting cell structures. For this reason, altering these cell structures will in all likelihood damage something else crucial during the developmental trajectory of the organ-ism.”3

Why read Debating Darwin’s Doubt?
Many people, especially young students, spend much time on the Internet where misinformation and disinformation are common. Militant atheists and anti-Christian bloggers are doing everything they can on many websites to disturb or destroy the faith of Christians and cool the curiosity of those exploring Christianity. The students read this misinformation, or hear about it, and are misled about the nature of the Cambrian explosion. However, if they, their friends, and their parents are aware of the material contained in Debating Darwin’s Doubt, they are less likely to be misled.

Apologetics and Logic
At Creation Ministries International Shaun Doyle offered these remarks:
1. Everything that has a beginning has a cause.
2. Affirming the above also affirms: Everything that has no cause has no beginning. If we turn the claim into an ‘if-then’ statement, it becomes: If something has a beginning, then it has a cause.

Doyle says that if we negate both parts of the statement and flip them around, we get what’s known as a contrapositive: If something has no cause, then it has no beginning. Contrapositives always have the same truth value as the original statement. In other words, if everything that has a beginning has a cause, then all uncaused beings have no beginning.

He says this means that if the claim is true, there are only two possible options for ending the causal chain of beings: either an uncaused cause (which must be eternal if the first premise is true) or an infinite regress of causes with beginnings. Calling the latter option ‘possible’ is a huge stretch! The uncaused cause is clearly the better option—it’s simpler, explains all the data, and avoids an infinite regress.

In Doyle’s argument we can see deductive argument at work too: if the premises are true, the conclusion must also be true.
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause,
2. The universe had a beginning,
3. Therefore the universe had a cause.
Consider this evidence for the existence of God:
1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause,
2. God did not begin to exist,
3. Therefore, God did not have a cause.
There are many arguments that deal with the skeptics’ question, “Who created God?” Frank Turek and Wil-liam Lane Craig provide great answers for this.

1 Meyer, Stephen, Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, 2013), p. 73.
2 Sarfati, Jonathan, J Creation, 24(3):46-53, “Flood Models and Biblical Realism,” 2010

About the Author
Jon Covey and is wife Anita have been long-time members of the South Bay Creation Science Association. Jon and Anita write the monthly Creation in the Crossfire newsletter and have been invaluable in adding great research and insight into the creation articles we send out.