Stephen Meyer’s book Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design has reached 700 customer reviews on Amazon.com. It’s the most-reviewed book in the categories of Organic Evolution and Paleontology. It’s the 7th most-reviewed non-fiction book in Evolution, a category that includes over 50,000 titles. It’s even in the top 200 of most-reviewed books in Science & Math, a top-level category that includes over 1.3 million offerings. Meyer’s book now joins Michael Behe’s book Darwin’s Black Box as the two most-reviewed books on Amazon on the topic of biological origins.
By comparison, similar books by the two leading proponents of the other two leading theories in the debate over biological origins have fewer reviews than Darwin’s Doubt and have been out longer. Representing the neo-Darwinian perspective, Richard Dawkins’s The Blind Watchmaker, published in 1996, has been reviewed 453 times on Amazon. Dawkins’s The Greatest Show on Earth, out since 2010, has 611 reviews. Meanwhile, Francis Collins’s The Language of God, promoting the theistic evolutionary perspective, has garnered 678 reviews since its publication in 2006.
I point this out because, slowly but surely, Darwin’s Doubt has taken root in the collective consciousness of Amazon customers, and by extension, the American public at large. According to a 2014 poll from Pew Research, 87 percent of American adults use the Internet. Of those, 61 percent use the Internet to shop, and Amazon attracts business from 86 percent of adults shopping online. So Amazon stats mean something. Darwin’s Doubt has regularly been a #1 bestseller in Organic Evolution, Paleontology, and other related Amazon book categories.
Although Amazon reviews are by no means the most critical measure of a book’s success, it does reveal one thing of note. Our effort to communicate the arguments for intelligent design through alternative channels, beyond what often seems like the echo chamber of mainstream science media, is paying off. Although the book was reviewed in such notable publications as Science, The New Yorker, National Review, and The American Spectator, most science journals and the mainstream media have maintained a wary distance. Despite this, Darwin’s Doubt is a national bestseller and continues to engender intense interest and debate.
And it’s not just laypeople who are enjoying it. One recent five-star review comes from a PhD biochemist and former director of the Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Department at the Southern Research Institute/UAB, Birmingham, AL. He recommends that both critics and proponents of intelligent design read the book. This is to say nothing of the dozens of PhD scientists and other professional scholars who have endorsed the book before or after its publication in 2013.
Not everyone is happy with Darwin’s Doubt, and a browse through the Amazon reviews reveals a passionate minority who are critical of Meyer’s work (15 percent are one- or two-star reviews). All the usual tired arguments against intelligent design are rehearsed, but a recent detractor broke new ground with a lament for the trees that were used to create the book: “Utter trash. Complete nonsense. I feel sorry for the trees that have lost their life to print these words on the paper made from their sacrifice. Please do not allow your children to read this.” It’s interesting that this individual would warn against children being exposed to alternative viewpoints on important scientific topics. That is more revealing than the reviewer probably realizes.
Has the enigma of the Cambrian explosion been solved? Can scientists now demonstrate how natural processes alone can build an animal? No on both counts. And while the debate over the evidence goes on, Darwin’s Doubt continues to have its important impact, making steady, incremental progress just like that of science itself.