[We admit—these books are both pretty cranial. But these are really fantastic resources if you’ve encountered tough questions about creationism and evolution.]
Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. New York: HarperOne, 2013.
Darwin’s Doubt is a sequel to Meyer’s Signature in the Cell. The earlier book told the story of the discovery of DNA and made the argument that the origin of life (with its information-bearing DNA) could not be explained apart from an intelligent designer. Meyer also argues in that book that Intelligent Design qualifies as science. In the prologue to Darwin’s Doubt Meyer notes that most of the critiques to Signature argued that mutation and natural selection could account for biological evolution. These critiques missed the point, Meyer notes, since Signature was addressing the origin of life rather than the evolutionary development of life. It is this latter topic that he addresses in Darwin’s Doubt.
The central story in Signature was the discovery of DNA. The central story in Darwin’s Doubt is the discovery of the Cambrian explosion and subsequent attempts to explain these fossils. The Cambrian explosion is so called because a wide variety of different forms of life appear in the fossil record with no developmental precedents in the fossil record. Meyer guides the reader through the various theories that have been proposed to explain or explain away the Cambrian explosion. He explains why, even according to Neo-Darwinists, these theories are found wanting. Meyer concludes that Neo-Darwinism cannot account for the new genetic information necessary for the Cambrian explosion “because: (1) it has no means of efficiently searching combinatorial sequence space for functioning genes and proteins, and (2) it requires unrealistically long waiting times to generate even a single new gene or protein. It has also shown that the mechanism cannot produce new body plans because: (3) early acting mutations, the only kind capable of generating large-scale changes are also invariably deleterious, and (4) genetic mutations cannot, in any case, generate the epigenetic information to build a body plan” (411). As with Signature, Meyer concludes that the new information must come from a designer.
Young earth creationists reading Meyer’s work must recognize the extent of both their agreement and disagreement with Meyer. Meyer is an ally in his critique of Neo-Darwinism. This is so not only in the major thesis of the book but also, perhaps, on the issue of common descent as well. He also notes that Intelligent Design does not necessarily reject common descent (411). Nevertheless, he does seem to provide a critique. He notes that Darwinists have proposed multiple conflicting trees and have resorted to convergent evolution to explain similarities that in divergent branches. Meyer notes that “invoking convergent evolution negates the very logic of the argument from homology, which affirms that similarity implies ancestry, except—now we learn—in those many, many, cases when it does not” (133). It was left unclear as to whether Meyer himself embraced common descent, but his arguments seemed to provide ammunition against it.
Despite the helpful information provided by Intelligent Design, Christians must recognize that it is not sufficient. Reconciling science and the Bible has to go far beyond simply affirming the existence of a designer–even a Designer believed to be the God of Scripture (which Meyer, an evangelical, affirms). The Bible also contains exegetical information that explains how creation takes places and theological teaching about the goodness of the original creation and the effects of the fall into sin. Because Intelligent Design simply affirms the existence of a designer, it often accepts accounts of origins that remain at odds with Scripture. Nevertheless, Meyer provides an eminently readable, well-argued critique of Neo-Darwinism.
Nagel, Thomas. Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo Darwinian Is Almost Certainly False. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.
Thomas Nagel is a philosopher who teaches at New York University. The gist of Nagel’s argument is that Neo-Darwinism cannot provide a materialist explanation for consciousness, cognition, and values. The explanations Neo-Darwinists offer to explain these realities actually undermine our ability to have confidence in our reason―including the reasoning for Neo Darwinism. This is not the argument of a creationist; Nagel is an atheist. He says he is “strongly averse” to the idea of God. His view seems to be a teleological evolutionary approach that embraces panpsychism rather than materialism. In lay terms, he seems to believe that evolution is guided by some kind of mind.
I found Nagel’s critique of Neo-Darwinism compelling. And this book is primarily a critique rather than the exposition of an alternative paradigm. Nagel said a paradigm shift in science would be necessary to develop his alternative theory. In other words, it is unreasonable to expect a critic of Neo-Darwinism to provide a positive vision as fully developed as the one proposed by Darwinists since he does not have the scientific resources to develop a full alternative. This is a point worth remembering when creationists are criticized for failing to have a scientific system as fully developed as the Neo-Darwinists.
Is this a book that every Christian should read? No. It’s a sometimes abstruse philosophical work by an unbeliever. But it is a work that Christians should be aware of. It is a critique of one of the prevailing worldviews that challenges Christianity.