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Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design
by Stephen C. Meyer
Publisher: Harper One
Retail Price: $19.99
The foundations of scientific materialism are in the process of crumbling. In Signature in the Cell, philosopher of science Stephen C. Meyer shows how the digital code in DNA points powerfully to a designing intelligence behind the origin of life.
Unlike previous arguments for intelligent design, Signature in the Cell presents a radical and comprehensive new case, revealing the evidence not merely of individual features of biological complexity but rather of a fundamental constituent of the universe: information. That evidence has been mounting exponentially in recent years, known to scientists in specialized fields but largely hidden from public view. A Cambridge University-trained theorist and researcher, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture, Dr. Meyer is the first to bring the relevant data together into a powerful demonstration of the intelligence that stands outside nature and directs the path life has taken.
The universe is comprised of matter, energy, and the information that gives order to matter and energy, thereby bringing life into being. In the cell, information is carried by DNA, which functions like a software program. The signature in the cell is that of the master programmer of life.
In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin never sought to unravel the mystery of where biological information comes from. For him, the origins of life remained shrouded in impenetrable obscurity. While the digital code in DNA first came to light in the 1950s, it wasn’t until later that scientists began to sense the implications behind the exquisitely complex technical system for processing and storing information in the cell. The cell does what any advanced computer operating system can do but with almost inconceivably greater suppleness and efficiency.
Drawing on data from many scientific fields, Stephen Meyer formulates a rigorous argument employing the same method of inferential reasoning that Darwin used. In a thrilling narrative with elements of a detective story as well as a personal quest for truth, Meyer illuminates the mystery that surrounds the origins of DNA. He demonstrates that previous scientific efforts to explain the origins of biological information have all failed, and argues convincingly for intelligent design as the best explanation of life’s beginning. In final chapters, he defends ID theory against a range of objections and shows how intelligent design offers fruitful approaches for future scientific research.
Appearing in this year of Darwin anniversaries—Darwin’s 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his Origin of Species—Signature in the Cell could only have been written now that the data of biology’s dawning information age has started to come in. Meyer shares with readers the excitement of the most recent discoveries, as the digital technology at work in the cell has been progressively revealed. The operating system embedded in the genome includes nested coding, digital processing, distributive retrieval and storage systems. It is very extraordinary—the terminology is all recognizable from computer science.
The appearance of Meyer’s book is timely in two other ways. First, bestselling atheist writers like biologist Richard Dawkins have insisted that because Darwin buried the traditional argument for design in nature, religious belief has been shown to be irrational in our modern scientific age. Meyer reveals that, on the contrary, it is precisely our modern scientific age that is in the process of burying materialist theories of life’s development.
Second, since a federal judge in Dover, Pennsylvania, ruled in 2005 that intelligent design may not rightfully claim the designation of “science,” Judge John E. Jones has become the hero of Darwinian activists and their supporters in academia and the media. The Dover decision has been hailed as the death knell of intelligent design. Hardly so! Speaking from the more relevant perspective of the philosophy of science, Meyer responds that federal judges were never given the job of defining what is scientific and what is not.
As a philosopher and a scientist himself, having worked in the field of geophysics for Atlantic Richfield, Meyer is able to step back from the fray of competing views about Darwinian theory and offer a searching, compelling investigation of life’s beginning.
About the Author:
Stephen C. Meyer is director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC) and a founder both of the intelligent design movement and of the CSC, intelligent design’s primary intellectual and scientific headquarters. Dr. Meyer is a Cambridge University-trained philosopher of science, the author of peer-reviewed publications in technical, scientific, philosophical and other books and journals. His signal contribution to ID theory is given most fully in Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, published by HarperOne in June 2009.
"The Crumbling of a Theory. In my opinion this book is the most important volume on the strength of the intelligent design arguments and the weaknesses of the currently dominant "theory" that has been written to date. Dr. Meyer's investment in time over a number of years in its preparation, as evidenced by its 33 page bibliography, will reap great rewards through the clarity and easy to understand descriptions for the layman of the arguments and evidence for both sides, as well as the graciousness he demonstrates in addressing the treatment ID proponents have received from the other side."
(R. A. - VA)
"A Significant Contribution. Meyer has made a significant contribution to two of the great unsolved mysteries in science: the origin of life and the evolution of life forms. He uses probability theory and information theory as powerful, scientific tools to explain the inadequacy of Darwinian theory and to present a compelling case for intelligent design. The book also provides a thorough analysis of the history of evolution theories and the advances in biology since Darwin's time. It is a thorough review of the issues related to life's origin and evolution and a detailed response to critics of ID. Meyer emphasizes the science involved, not religious aspects. He makes a strong case for the scientific validity of ID, and states that "The theory of intelligent design does not claim to detect a supernatural intelligence possessing unlimited powers."
(C. P. - LA)
"A fantastic book that clearly answers expressed objections to ID as science. It presents arguments in a very readable form, in a journey that considers the known speculative scenarios from chance to necessity (law, biological predestination, self-organization, etc.) for the origin of the information in life The biological details and complexities are presented in a manner that can be followed and appreciated by most people. Meyer builds the case that ID is real science, based on empirical evidence and established scientific principles (and supported by peer-reviewed literature). He also makes predictions of findings that would support ID."
(D. J. - NC)
"First, I must say that I was a product of my government education that could only teach that the complex organisms we see around us are the fruit of natural processes given enough time to produce what we observe today. For many years I was comfortable with the Darwinian paradigm and yet what I found was unnecessary complexity, symmetry and non-functional beauty in the world that was not explainable through the prevailing scientific model. This means that modern scientists must deny what they actually see and exchange these truths for implausible explanations so that they can protect their model. It is no wonder that many of the scientists who have reviewed the book are slamming the science because the concept of a designer cannot be accommodated by the current scientific model. This isn't a problem with science; it is, at its core, a problem of honesty. And as the movie Expelled revealed, ID presents a genuine threat in the academic world because it would jeopardize grants, cause retractions and add a branch to the science department that it knows nothing about - something outside of nature - something supernatural. Dr. Meyer demonstrates that he is no scientist wanna-be. His thorough research and analysis are only matched by his sound reasoning and, although there are profound implications to his conclusions, he has been honest enough to say that which has heretofore been covered over with gibberish. Dr. Meyer proves that he has the capital to go thought-by-thought with modern academia and does so with humility and clarity. This is an excellent read and I would highly recommend it. Clearly, as evidenced by all those who are taking shots at the book, the time was perfect for a work of this caliber."
(B. B. - WA)
"This book is, without doubt, the best positive (as opposed to polemic) argument I've yet read for intelligent design as a legitimate scientific theory of the origin of life. Dr. Meyer's approach is to begin with the epistemological principles that historical scientists (such as geologists, paleontologists, cosmologists, and evolutionary biologists) use to evaluate the strength of scientific theories of past events, and to apply those principles to evaluate the common explanations for the origin of life, including intelligent design. To be more precise, he evaluates the various explanations of how the mechanism of gene expression and protein manufacture arose in such a way that it seems to be already almost fully developed in even the simplest prokaryotes. In the process of doing this, he presents a very convincing argument that, according to these very well-established scientific epistemological principles, the theory of an intelligent designer is at least as good a theory of the origin of life as other theories currently being propounded. It will be interesting to see how the rabidly anti-ID folks respond to his book. His argument is very difficult to dismiss, unless one adds an additional a priori postulate to the rules of evaluation for scientific theories, viz., that no theory involving an intelligent designer can be an acceptable theory. But the adoption of this postulate as a criterion for acceptable scientific theories certainly seems more emotionally than logically motivated. Said another way, this book will make it very difficult for those who claim to be unbiased, disinterested truth-seekers to hold a dogmatically anti-ID view in that they would have to rule out anti-ID theories a priori, as opposed to based on evidence. Highly recommended!"
(T. G. - CA)
Creation Biology is the study of biological processes and organisms, while operating under the assumption that God created life on Earth. The discipline is premised on the idea that God created a finite number of discrete created kinds or baramin. While these forms of life have the ability to vary and even undergo speciation, they cannot arise spontaneously from non-life, cannot interbreed outside of their kind, and cannot increase in genetic complexity.
Intelligent Design (ID) theory holds that; “certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.” ID theorists draw exclusively upon empirical evidence to support the existence of a creative intelligence or designer. ID purports that design can be detected without any understanding of who the designer is or why the agent acted, or even how the phenomenon in question was actually produced.