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Darwin's Doubt Bundle
(includes The Cambrian Explosion & A Critique of Darwinist Icons DVDs)

Stephen C. Meyer

HarperOne, 512 pp., 2013

Item# B152
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DARWIN'S DOUBT

When Charles Darwin finished The Origin of Species, he thought that he had explained every clue, but one. Though his theory could explain many facts related to microevolution, Darwin knew that there was a significant event in the history of life that his theory did not explain. During this event, what scientists today know as the “Cambrian explosion”, most of the major animal body plans (e.g. phyla) suddenly appeared in the fossil record without apparent ancestors in earlier layers of rock. Thus Darwin's theory explained data that was missing from natural history's fossil record while it failed to address the evidence showing the stability and conservation of life's fundamental body plans.

In Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen C. Meyer tells the story of the mystery surrounding this explosion of animal life—a mystery that has intensified, not only because the expected ancestors of these animals have not been found, but because scientists have learned more about what it takes to construct an animal. During the last half century, biologists have come to appreciate the central importance of biological information—stored in DNA and elsewhere in cells—to building animal forms, and the implausibility of chance to explain the arrival of life's fundamental building blocks: functional proteins.

Expanding on the compelling case he presented in his last book, Signature in the Cell, Meyer argues that the origin of this information, as well as other mysterious features of the Cambrian event, are best explained by intelligent design, rather than purely undirected evolutionary processes.

THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION (DVD)

The Cambrian explosion is a term often heard in origins debates, but seldom completely understood by the non-specialist. This lecture by Meyer and Ross is one of the best overviews available on the topic and clearly presents in verbal and pictorial summary the latest fossil data (including the recent finds from Chengjiang China).

The term Cambrian explosion describes the geologically sudden appearance of animals in the fossil record during the Cambrian period of geologic time. During this event, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five (of forty total) phyla made their first appearance on earth. Phyla constitute the highest biological categories in the animal kingdom, with each phylum exhibiting a unique architecture, blueprint, or structural body plan. The word explosion is used to communicate that fact that these life forms appear in an exceedingly narrow window of geologic time (no more than 5 million years). If the standard earth's history is represented as a 100 yard football field, the Cambrian explosion would represent a four inch section of that field.

For a majority of earth's life forms to appear so abruptly is completely contrary to the predictions of Neo-Darwinian and Punctuated Equilibrium evolutionary theory, including:
• the gradual emergence of biological complexity and the existence of numerous transitional forms leading to new phylum-level body plans;
• small-scale morphological diversity preceding the emergence of large-scale morphological disparity; and
• a steady increase in the morphological distance between organic forms over time and, consequently, an overall steady increase in the number of phyla over time (taking into account factors such as extinction).

After reviewing how the evidence is completely contrary to evolutionary predictions, Meyer and Ross address three common objections: 1) the artifact hypothesis: Is the Cambrian explosion real?; 2) The Vendian Radiation (a late pre-Cambrian multicellular organism); and 3) the deep divergence hypothesis.

Finally Meyer and Ross argue why design is a better scientific explanation for the Cambrian explosion. They argue that this is not an argument from ignorance, but rather the best explanation of the evidence from our knowledge base of the world. We find in the fossil record distinctive features or hallmarks of designed systems, including:
• a quantum or discontinuous increase in specified complexity or information
• a top-down pattern of scale diversity
• the persistence of structural (or morphological) disparities between separate organizational systems; and
• the discrete or novel organizational body plans

When we encounter objects that manifest any of these several features and we know how they arose, we invariably find that a purposeful agent or intelligent designer played a causal role in their origin.

A CRITIQUE OF DARWINIST ICONS (DVD)

Following Jonathan Wells's acclaimed book, Icons of Evolution, this video lecture/interview with Dr. Wells focuses on 6 of the 10 icons in the book. Wells shows how biology textbooks distort the scientific evidence to promote Darwinian evolution and the naturalistic philosophy that underlies it.

Darwin called his theory “descent with modification”. In the first half of his lecture Wells tackles “descent” by examining three textbook icons: Darwin's Tree of Life, Homology in Vertebrate Limbs, and Haeckel's Embryos. In the second half of his lecture Wells examines “modification” with a close look at three more icons: the Peppered Moths, Darwin's Finches, and Four-Winged Fruit Flies.

Some of these icons of evolution present assumptions or hypotheses as though they were observed facts. Other icons conceal raging controversies among biologists that have far-reaching implications for evolutionary theory. Worst of all, some are directly contrary to well-established scientific evidence.

The video concludes with an exclusive interview with Dr. Wells in which he answers a series of questions about his book and the surprising reaction of the scientific community to his work.

This video is recommended for all students and educators who are studying biological and evolutionary topics, and it is a great study aid for those who are reading the book Icons of Evolution.

Jonathan Wells is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute's Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture in Seattle. He earned his first Ph.D. from Yale University in religious studies where he wrote a book about the nineteenth-century Darwinian controversies. He earned his second Ph.D. in molecular and cell biology from the University of California at Berkeley where he also did post-doctoral research.


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