What DNA Has to Tell Us About the Origins of Life
There's an outstanding review of Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell by Terry Scambray in the New Oxford Review, which highlights a bit of relevant history for the reader on both Dr. Meyer and Darwin's theory:
Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design is a testament to the fact that, fortunately, such advice ["don't ask questions"] never sank in with Meyer. After abandoning his life as a geophysicist in search of oil for Atlantic Richfield, and then earning a Cambridge doctorate, he continued to ask questions as he humbly but resolutely began his new quest: the search to understand the origins and basis of life.
This is, of course, an ancient quest. From then to now, most people have believed that the sublime order that we see in nature must have been designed. But Charles Darwin argued that design was an illusion: Nature alone, by a process of accidental trial and error over eons of time, had produced this ineffable harmony.
Despite the fact that Darwin's theory of natural selection was accepted by most educated people, the theory itself was weakly supported from the beginning. It gained acceptance mainly for cultural rather than scientific reasons. Progressive ideas had gained dominance by the nineteenth century; correspondingly traditional institutions -- mainly religion -- were taking their lumps. Against this background, criticisms of Darwin were castigated as regressive and religiously motivated, despite their scientific objectivity and rigor. Such polemical treachery continues to this day.
In this sense, Meyer's sweeping compendium provides a final, annihilating assault on the Darwinian Po temkin village. That his remarkable treatise should be published in 2009, which is both the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth and the 150th anniversary of The Origin of Species, adds a rounded finality to this destructive Darwinian episode in Western history.
Traveling to strange, exotic places profoundly influenced the visions of both Darwin and Meyer -- Darwin to South America, Meyer to the interior of the organic cell. Though in his adventures Darwin saw the great prolixity of life, he had no idea of the microscopic complexity within each cell, of which we have trillions in our bodies. To him, cells were mere blobs of protoplasm, blunt instruments like building blocks. But for Meyer and modern science, cells are dauntingly complicated and provide the basis for life.
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