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Why Are Darwinists Scared to Read Signature in the Cell?

David Klinghoffer

It’s somehow cheering to know that while the pompous know-nothingism of Darwinian atheists in the U.S. is matched by those in England, so too not only in our country but in theirs the screechy ignorance receives its appropriate reply from people with good sense and an open mind. Some of the latter include atheists who, however, arrived at their unbelief through honest reflection rather than through the mind-numbing route of fealty to Darwinist orthodoxy. Such a person is Thomas Nagel, the distinguished NYU philosopher. He praised Stephen Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design in the Times Literary Supplement as a “book of the year,” concluding with this enviable endorsement:

[A] detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter — something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin….Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.

Nagel’s review elicited howls from Darwinists who made no effort to pretend they had even weighed the 611-page volume in their hand, much less read a page of it. On his blog, Why Evolution Is True, University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne complained that they hadn’t ought to let such an opinion even appear in the august columns of the TLS:

“Detailed account”?? How about “religious speculation”?
Nagel is a respected philosopher who’s made big contributions to several areas of philosophy, and this is inexplicable, at least to me. I have already called this to the attention of the TLS, just so they know.

No doubt the editors appreciated his letting them know they had erred by printing a view not in line with the official catechism. Coyne then appealed for help. Not having read the book himself, while nevertheless feeling comfortable dismissing it as “religious speculation,” he pleaded:

Do any of you know of critiques of Meyer’s book written by scientists? I haven’t been able to find any on the internet, and would appreciate links.

Coyne was later relieved when a British chemist, Stephen Fletcher, published a critical letter to the editor in the TLS associating Meyer’s argument with a belief in “gods, devils, pixies, fairies” and recommending that readers learn about chemical evolution by, instead, reading up on it elsewhere from an unimpeachable source of scientific knowledge:

Readers who wish to know more about this topic are strongly advised to keep their hard-earned cash in their pockets, forgo Meyer’s book, and simply read “RNA world” on Wikipedia.

Responding in turn with his own letter to the editor, Nagel seemed to express doubt whether the chemist had actually read Signature in the Cell before writing to object to Nagel’s praise:

Fletcher’s statement that “It is hard to imagine a worse book” suggests that he has read it. If he has, he knows that it includes a chapter on “The RNA World” which describes that hypothesis for the origin of DNA at least as fully as the Wikipedia article that Fletcher recommends. Meyer discusses this and other proposals about the chemical precursors of DNA, and argues that they all pose similar problems about how the process could have got started.

Nagel’s letter appeared beside another from a different British chemist, John C. Walton at the University of St. Andrews, who presumably did read the book since he blurbs it on the back cover as a “delightful read.” In his letter, Walton reflects:

It is an amusing irony that while castigating students of religion for believing in the supernatural, [Fletcher] offers in its place an entirely imaginary “RNA world” the only support for which is speculation!

Are you noticing a pattern here at all? All the people who hate Meyer’s book appear not to have read it. So too we have the complaint of Darwinian-atheist agitator P.Z. Myers, a popular blogger and biologist. Myers explains that he was unable to read the book, which he slimes as a “stinker” and as “drivel,” due to his not having received a promised free review copy! But rest assured. The check is in the mail: “I suppose I’ll have to read that 600 page pile of slop sometime…maybe in January.”
Dr. Myers teaches at the Morris, Minnesota, satellite campus of the University of Minnesota, a college well known as the Harvard of Morris, Minnesota. So you know when he evaluates a book and calls it “slop,” a book on which he has not laid on eye, that’s a view that carries weight.
In all seriousness, what is this with people having any opinion at all of a book that, allow me to repeat, they haven’t read and of which, as with Jerry Coyne, they admit they haven’t so much as read a review? Even a far more measured writer like Jonathan Derbybshire, reporting for the New Statesman on the Nagel-TLS dustup, concedes, “I haven’t read Myer’s book, nor am I competent to assess Fletcher’s contention that Nagel had simply got the science wrong.” Honesty counts for something, though Derbyshire (not to be confused with National Review‘s John Derbyshire) might have at least taken the trouble to spell Steve Meyer’s name correctly.
Alas, carelessness and dishonesty are hallmarks of the Darwinian propagandists. Hordes of whom, by the way, have been trying to overwhelm Signature‘s Amazon page. They post abusive “reviews” making, again, little pretense of having turned a single page even as they then try to boost their own phony evaluations by gathering in mobs generated by email lists and clicking on the Yes button at the question, “Was this review helpful to you?” Per Amazon’s easily exploited house rules, this has the effect of boosting the “review” to enhanced prominence. It’s a fraudulent tactic, and sadly typical.

David Klinghoffer

Senior Fellow and Editor, Evolution News
David Klinghoffer is a Senior Fellow at Discovery Institute and the editor of Evolution News & Science Today, the daily voice of Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture, reporting on intelligent design, evolution, and the intersection of science and culture. Klinghoffer is also the author of six books, a former senior editor and literary editor at National Review magazine, and has written for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Seattle Times, Commentary, and other publications. Born in Santa Monica, California, he graduated from Brown University in 1987 with an A.B. magna cum laude in comparative literature and religious studies. David lives near Seattle, Washington, with his wife and children.