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Current Trends in Darwinian Book-Reviewing

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When Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell came out, prominent Darwinian scientists at least waited till the book was published before reviewing it without reading it first. You may recall the famous Francisco Ayala review at the BioLogos website that gave no evidence -- in fact, gave counterevidence -- that Dr. Ayala had even cracked open the book to read the Table of Contents, so grossly did he misstate the argument.

Now they're going after Meyer's forthcoming book, Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design, not only without having read it or held a copy in their hands but without even waiting for the publication date.

With a pub date of June 18, naturally no books are available. (Though you can preorder at a nice discount, for now, better than Amazon, over at DarwinsDoubt.com.) Nevertheless, at Why Evolution Is True, University of Chicago biologist Jerry Coyne assumes he knows what will be in the book. His absurd summary: "Yes, baby Jesus made the phyla!"

Well, Steve Meyer is in good company. Coyne also attacked Thomas Nagel's Mind & Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False before acquiring a copy, insinuating that Nagel was "losing his critical abilities." Coyne promised to read it ("I am eager to read this"), but that check got lost in the mail. Later Coyne wrote that he had got hold of Nagel's book but decided not to read it after all, and was relieved that he had not.

Well, I never got around to reading Mind & Cosmos: I acquired a copy, but upon opening it and skimming it I was so disheartened that I just put it aside for the sake of my kishkas. So many books and so little time; did I really want to read another argument against evolution?

Now I'm glad I didn't, for several people with the right expertise have read the book and they proffer a unanimity of opinion: thumbs way down.

Keep in mind, Mind & Cosmos is a pretty short book that has been the subject of intense controversy touching directly on Coyne's own field. Writing in The New Republic, Leon Wieseltier said of Nagel, "His troublemaking book has sparked the most exciting disputation in many years."

Jerry Coyne's book-reviewing practice, though ruder, is in line with University of Washington geneticist Joe Felsenstein's response to Darwin's Doubt, in posts at Panda's Thumb, likewise writing without having seen the book but based again on assumptions.

Darwinists have a curious way of responding to serious scientific and intellectual challenges to their beliefs. And it's getting more curious, isn't it? It's sort of evolving. If they had answers to ID's challenges, surely they would wait till they read the book, then accurately characterize what it says, and then tell us why Steve Meyer is wrong. But so far, and wasting no time, they have signaled in this strange prophylactic manner their unwillingness to do so.