Home » Intelligent Design, Origin Of Life » Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL — one of Thomas Nagel’s top two books of 2009

Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL — one of Thomas Nagel’s top two books of 2009

Steve Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL continues to garner the praise it deserves. This from Thomas Nagel in The Times Literary Supplement:

Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell: DNA and the evidence for Intelligent Design (HarperCollins) is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin. The controversy over Intelligent Design has so far focused mainly on whether the evolution of life since its beginnings can be explained entirely by natural selection and other non-purposive causes. Meyer takes up the prior question of how the immensely complex and exquisitely functional chemical structure of DNA, which cannot be explained by natural selection because it makes natural selection possible, could have originated without an intentional cause. He examines the history and present state of research on non-purposive chemical explanations of the origin of life, and argues that the available evidence offers no prospect of a credible naturalistic alternative to the hypothesis of an intentional cause. Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.

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7 Responses to Meyer’s SIGNATURE IN THE CELL — one of Thomas Nagel’s top two books of 2009

  1. Looking forward to the audiobook version.

  2. 2

    “Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.”

    Fiendishly difficult? I thought it was as simple as a little mix of chance, with a smidgion of necessity, saute’d in a buttery sauce of selection for a few billion years, and voila! Suddenly it all seems rather hard to swallow.

  3. This is a real breakthrough for ID, and all hats off to Steve Meyer!

    So far major anti-naturalistic, non-theistic philosophers like Nagel and Fodor have drawn attention to Darwinism’s shortcomings but have stopped short of pointing to ID as a viable alternative. For this line to have been crossed — and in a high profile, generally pro-evolution venue like the TLS — may turn out to be a major turning point in the argument.

  4. Is there a larger review of which this brief passage penned by Nagel is an excerpt or summary?

    As it stands, I see nothing in the above that does any more than note that Meyer has skillfully drawn attention to the severe challenges entailed in attaining a natural explanation of the OOL. While Meyer has also pointed to the ID as an alternative, Nagel does not, at least not in this passage. So I don’t see crossings of lines.

    But perhaps he has done so elsewhere.

  5. Voice Coil, you’re really missing the point — which has to do with the context in which Nagel is saying what he’s saying. Every year various opinion leaders are asked to nominate books as most significant. The fact that he nominated it says more than the reasons he gives for doing so. After all, ‘Signature in the Cell’ was never reviewed by the TLS, or for that matter (at least as far as I know) any periodical that wasn’t already conservative and/or anti-evolution. Yes, the book has turned out to be one of Amazon’s top 10 science best sellers but not because of its reviews in the mainstream media. Nagel’s voice in the TLS adds enormous legitimacy. To be honest, he could have expressed some criticism of the book, and it would still count as a major coup for ID.

    My guess is that Nagel will take a lot of flak for this (check out the letters to the TLS over the next few weeks — they’re available on-line).

  6. Of course you are correct to underscore that there is some impact implicit in this particular author making this statement in this venue. I am simply observing that there is no explicit content in this passage that may be characterized as “pointing to ID as a viable alternative,” or anything here that goes beyond his essay “Public Education and Intelligent Design” (Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 36, issue 2).

    IIRC, Nagel’s skepticism vis the explanatory powers of orthodox evolutionary theory was plainly evident as far back as “The View From Nowhere” (1986). And, as he explicitly indicates in the above cited essay, he is a layman so far as these questions are concerned. So I don’t see the above as anything new, or particularly game changing.

  7. We’ll see, Voice Coil, we’ll see…

    I don’t think Nagel will cause any dogmatic Darwinists to change their spots, but they’ll never change. The people he potentially attracts are the many silent fence-sitters. By focusing on a specific book (not simply a general idea), and one that is by someone who is undeniably pro-ID, and without criticism — those are all important rhetorical moves. And given that Nagel writes for a broad range of venues, I’m pretty sure he knows what he’s doing.

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