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Praise for Darwin’s Doubt

Darwin’s Doubt represents an opportunity for bridge-building, rather than dismissive polarization—bridges across cultural divides in great need of profes- sional, respectful dialog—and bridges to span evolutionary gaps.”

—Dr. George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and author of Regenesis

Darwin’s Doubt is an intriguing exploration of one of the most remarkable pe-

riods in the evolutionary history of life—the rapid efflorescence of complex body

plans written in the fossils of the Burgess Shale

one holds about evolution, Darwinism, or intelligent design, Darwin’s Doubt is a book that should be read, engaged, and discussed.”

No matter what convictions

—Dr. Scott Turner, professor of biology at the State University of New York and author of The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself

“Meyer elegantly explains why the sudden appearance of animal forms in the Cambrian period gave Darwin pause. He also demonstrates, based on cutting- edge molecular biology, why explaining the origin of animals is now not just a problem of missing fossils, but an even greater engineering problem at the mo- lecular level. With mathematical precision, he shows why the neo-Darwinian mechanism cannot produce the genetic information and novel proteins—or sys- tems for regulating their expression—that are required to build new animals. An excellent book and a must read for anyone who wants to gain understanding of the very real—though often unreported—scientific challenges facing neo-Dar- winism.”

—Dr. Russell Carlson, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology and director of the Complex Carbohydrate Research Center at the University of Georgia

Darwin’s Doubt is by far the most up-to-date, accurate, and comprehensive review of the evidence from all relevant scientific fields that I have encountered in more than forty years of studying the Cambrian explosion. An engaging inves- tigation of the origin of animal life and a compelling case for intelligent design.”

—Dr. Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, senior scientist emeritus (biologist) at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany

“It is hard for us paleontologists, steeped as we are in a tradition of Darwinian analysis, to admit that neo-Darwinian explanations for the Cambrian explosion have failed miserably. New data acquired in recent years, instead of solving

Darwin’s dilemma, have rather made it worse. Meyer describes the dimensions of the problem with clarity and precision. His book is a game changer for the study of evolution and points us in the right direction as we seek a new theory for the origin of animals.”

—Dr. Mark McMenamin, paleontologist at Mt. Holyoke College and author of The Emergence of Animals

“With the publication of On the Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin acknowledged that there wasn’t an adequate explanation for the pattern in the fossil record in which a wide diversity of animal life suddenly appeared in the Cambrian geologi- cal period. His doubt about the ‘Cambrian explosion’ centered on the wide range

of body forms, the missing fossil intermediates and the lack of evidence for ante- cedents. Meyer’s book examines the implications of the ‘Cambrian explosion.’ It is a fascinating story and analysis of Darwin’s doubt about the fossil record and

the debate that has ensued. It is a tour de force

carefully researched, up-to-date, and powerfully argued. Its value is that it con- fronts Darwin’s doubt and deals with the assumptions of Neo-Darwinism. This book is much needed and I recommend it to students of all levels, to professionals, and to laypeople.”

This book is well informed,

—Dr. Norman C. Nevin, OBE, BSc, MD, FRCPath, FFPH, FRCPE, FRCP; professor emeritus in medical genetics, Queen’s University, Belfast

“Another excellent book by Stephen Meyer. I particularly like his refutation of the concept of self-assembly of biological systems. The book explains the dif- ference between specified complexity and order and shows that natural forces cannot generate the kind of complexity we see in living systems. I know from my personal work in the Systems Centre at Bristol University that complex sys- tems do not create themselves but require an intelligent designer. Stephen Meyer has clearly listened to the arguments of those who are skeptical about intelligent design and has addressed them thoroughly. It is really important that Darwinists read this book carefully and give a response.”

—Dr. Stuart Burgess, professor of design and nature, head of mechanical engineering at Bristol University

“I spend my life reading science books. I’ve ready many hundreds of them over the years, and in my judgment Darwin’s Doubt is the best science book ever writ- ten. It is a magnificent work, a true masterpiece that will be read for hundreds of years.”

—George Gilder, technologist, economist, and New York Times bestselling author of Wealth and Poverty

“Meyer writes beautifully. He marshals complex information as well as any writer

I’ve read

ence and excites in me the hope that the origins-of-life debate will soon be largely

a wonderful, most compelling read.”

free of the ideology that has long colored it

This book—and his body of work—challenges scientism with real sci-

—Dean Koontz, New York Times bestselling author

“Dr. Meyer makes it clear that these well-documented facts of paleontology pose

a serious challenge to Darwin’s theory, the view that has held sway in biology

(and well beyond) for nearly 150 years. The issue on the table is not now, nor has

it ever been, the fact of evolution (change over time); the issue has always been

the mechanism of evolution—is it blind and undirected or is it under the control of an intelligence that had a goal in mind? That’s the nub of the question, and in Darwin’s Doubt, Stephen Meyer has masterfully laid out one of the most com- pelling lines of evidence for the latter.”

—Dr. William S. Harris, professor at Sanford School of Medicine, University of South Dakota

“Dr. Meyer has written a comprehensive and up-to-date analysis on the mas-

sive scientific evidence revealing the total failure of the neo-Darwinian explana- tion for life’s history. Darwin’s Doubt is important, clearly written with sound arguments, excellent illustrations, and examples that make the topic easily un-

derstandable even for non-specialists

innovations is a present day paradigm and its supporters have too much at stake to give it up easily. The vague claims of Darwinian evolution refer to historical developments and as such are hard to prove. However, molecular biology has given us tools to experimentally test its claims. As so convincingly shown by Dr. Meyer the experimental evidence refers to intelligence—not randomness.”

Randomness as a source for biological

—Dr. Matti Leisola, professor of bioprocess engineering, Aalto University, Finland (emeritus); editor in chief of Bio-Complexity

“It is no secret among professionals that recent findings by developmental and molecular biologists are challenging current Darwinian theories of evolu- tion. Meyer has condensed the research, made it accessible to the non-specialist and put it in the context of the debate over the origins of biological novelty. He makes a case for intelligent design as the only currently viable scientific theory for the origin of biological novelty, as found in the explosion of new species during the Cambrian geologic era. Meyer’s challenge to the dominant paradigm of natu- ralism will no doubt be strongly resisted by those committed to a materialist world view, but provide food for refection for those who are searching for truth.”

—Dr. Donald L. Ewert, molecular biologist, associate member (retired), Wistar Institute

“A truly remarkable book. [Meyer] presents evidence associated with the seri-

ous weaknesses of materialistic theories of biological evolution, and positive evi-

Meyer’s attack is really against what

is called ‘macroevolution’ (large scale population change). Michael Behe (in his Edge of Evolution) points out that there is abundant evidence for ‘microevolu- tion’ (smaller population change), but there is a boundary at which the evidence for microevolution stops and evidence for macroevolution either doesn’t exist, or any clues that do exist are beset with problems so serious that explanatory

dence for the theory of intelligent design

attempts boil down to ‘just-so-stories.’ This leaves macroevolution sitting atop

a boundary (or wall) with an outlook no better than that of Humpty Dumpty.”

—Dr. Mark C. Biedebach, professor emeritus, department of biological sciences, California State University, Long Beach

“A great book on the origin of animal life and crises of Darwin evolution; very clear, factual, comprehensive, logical, and informative. An enjoyable reading for both non-expert and expert.”

—Dr. Change Tan, molecular biologist/developmental biologist, associate professor, University of Missouri-Columbia

“Darwinists keep two sets of books. The first set is the real record within the peer- reviewed literature that discusses why the mechanism of the origin of life and the mode and tempo speciation are more baffling today than they were two centuries ago. The second set of books is the popular literature that promotes to the public

a soothing, fanciful narrative claiming that the grand history of life is fully ex-

plained with only minor but exciting details left to be filled in. Steven Meyer gives an insightful and thoughtful treatment to this state of affairs, auditing the second set of books using the data found in the first. Justice Louis Brandies taught us that ‘Sunlight is the best disinfectant,’ and Dr. Meyer lets the sun shine in.”

—Dr. Stephen A. Batzer P.E., forensic engineer

“Buckle your seatbelts and brace yourself for tremors from the world of science. The evolution debate is about to undergo a major shakeup, and the world is be- ginning to listen in. Steve Meyer’s book is a much anticipated bombshell that details the swarm of problems of Darwinian evolution that come from Cambrian fossils. It also clearly presents the case for intelligent design. Ask yourself: how often does a book of this kind receive a warm welcome from leading geneticists and paleontologists? Never, until now! Darwin’s Doubt has been praised by Dr. George Church, a geneticist at Harvard University; by Dr. Mark McMenamin,

a Cambrian fossil specialist at Mt. Holyoke College, and by Dr. Scott Turner, an

evolutionary theorist at the State University of New York. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Charles Darwin’s own Origin of Species launched a revolution in

1859 whose scientific, cultural and spiritual effects are still with us. Now a new revolution is on the horizon.”

—Dr. Tom Woodward, research professor, Trinity College, and author of Darwin Strikes Back: Defending the Science of Intelligent Design

“Stephen C. Meyer is brilliant and his latest book, Darwin’s Doubt, is a must read.”

—David Limbaugh, syndicated columnist and author

“Stephen Meyer’s new book, Darwin’s Doubt, is a fascinating and rigorous study demonstrating not only that biologists and paleontologists do not have an ad- equate explanation for the Cambrian Explosion, but that there is an alternative view that makes more sense. Those who are open to the possibility of intelligent design will find a treasure trove of supporting evidence for their view in this book. Those who oppose intelligent design owe it to themselves to read this book to understand Meyer’s position and to grapple with his arguments.”

—Dr. Richard Weikart, professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus and author of From Darwin to Hitler

“Meyer is a talented writer with an easygoing voice who has blended interesting history with clear explanations in what may come to be seen as a classic presenta- tion of this most fundamental of all debates.”

—Terry Scambray, New Oxford Review

Darwin’s

Doubt

The explosive origin of AnimAl life And The CAse for inTelligenT design

Stephen C. Meyer

HarperOne

Darwin’s Doubt The explosive origin of AnimAl life And The CAse for inTelligenT design Stephen C.

Copyright

Copyright darwin’s doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Copyright

darwin’s doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design. Copyright © 2013 by Stephen C. Meyer. Epilogue © 2014 by Stephen C. Meyer. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. For information address HarperCollins Publishers, 195 Broadway, New York, NY 10007.

Interior figures herein have been used by permission. For a listing of credits, please see pages 525–29, which constitute a continuation of this copyright page.

HarperCollins books may be purchased for educational, business, or sales promotional use. For information, please e-mail the Special Markets Department at SPsales@harpercollins.com.

HarperCollins website: http://www.harpercollins.com

HarperCollins®,

website: http://www.harpercollins.com HarperCollins®, ®, and HarperOne™ are trademarks of HarperCollins

®, and HarperOne™ are trademarks

of HarperCollins Publishers

Illustrations © 2013 Ray Braun, Seattle, WA.

first harpercollins paperback edition published in 2014

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Meyer, Stephen C. Darwin’s doubt : the explosive origin of animal life and the case for intelligent design / by Stephen C. Meyer. — First edition. pages cm Includes bibliographical references. isbn 978–0–06–207148–4 1. Life-Origin. 2. Evolution (Biology) 3. Darwin, Charles, 1809–1882. 4. Intelligent design (Teleology) I. Title.

QH325.M47

576.8'2—dc23

2013

2013004594

Cover photograph:

Courtesy Chen, J. Y., G. Q. Zhou, M. Y. Zhu, and K. Y. Yeh. The Chengjiang Biota—A Unique Window of the Cambrian Explosion. Taichung, Taiwan: National Museum of Natural Science (1996), 149, Figure 186. Used by permission.

14 15 16 17 18 rrd(h) 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents

Prologue

 

v

 

p

A r T

one

THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING FOSSILS

 

1

Darwin’s Nemesis

3

2

The Burgess Bestiary

26

3

Soft Bodies and Hard Facts

50

4

The Not Missing Fossils?

77

5

The Genes Tell the Story?

98

6

The Animal Tree of Life

114

7

Punk Eek!

136

p

A r T

T w o

HOW TO BUILD AN ANIMAL

 

8

The Cambrian Information Explosion

155

9

Combinatorial Inflation

169

10

The Origin of Genes and Proteins

 

185

11

Assume a Gene

209

12

Complex Adaptations and the Neo-Darwinian Math

230

13

The Origin of Body Plans

255

14

The Epigenetic Revolution

271

 

p A r T

T hree

 

AFTER DARWIN, WHAT?

15

The Post-Darwinian World and Self-Organization

291

iv

Contents

17 The Possibility of Intelligent Design

336

18 Signs of Design in the Cambrian Explosion

353

19 The Rules of Science

382

20 What’s at Stake

404

Epilogue: Responses to Critics of the First Edition of Darwin’s Doubt

415

Acknowledgments

449

Notes

450

Bibliography

493

Credits and Permissions

523

Index

530

prologue

When people today hear the term “information revolution,” they typically think of silicon chips and software code, cellular phones and supercom- puters. They rarely think of tiny one-celled organisms or the rise of animal life. But, while writing these words in the summer of 2012, I am sitting at the end of a narrow medieval street in Cambridge, England, where more than half a century ago a far-reaching information revolution began in biology. This revolution was launched by an unlikely but now immortal- ized pair of scientists, Francis Crick and James Watson. Since my time as a Ph.D. student at Cambridge during the late 1980s, I have been fascinated by the way their discovery transformed our understanding of the nature of life. Indeed, since the 1950s, when Watson and Crick first illuminated the chemical structure and information-bearing properties of DNA, biologists have come to understand that living things, as much as high-tech devices, depend upon digital information—information that, in the case of life, is stored in a four-character chemical code embedded within the twisting figure of a double helix. Because of the importance of information to living things, it has now become apparent that many distinct “information revolutions” have oc- curred in the history of life—not revolutions of human discovery or in- vention, but revolutions involving dramatic increases in the information present within the living world itself. Scientists now know that building a living organism requires information, and building a fundamentally new form of life from a simpler form of life requires an immense amount of new information. Thus, wherever the fossil record testifies to the origin of a completely new form of animal life—a pulse of biological innova- tion—it also testifies to a significant increase in the information content of the biosphere. In 2009, I wrote a book called Signature in the Cell about the first “infor- mation revolution” in the history of life—the one that occurred with the origin of the first life on earth. My book described how discoveries in mo- lecular biology during the 1950s and 1960s established that DNA contains

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information in digital form, with its four chemical subunits (called nucle- otide bases) functioning like letters in a written language or symbols in a computer code. And molecular biology also revealed that cells employ a complex information-processing system to access and express the infor- mation stored in DNA as they use that information to build the proteins and protein machines that they need to stay alive. Scientists attempting to explain the origin of life must explain how both information-rich mol- ecules and the cell’s information-processing system arose. The type of information present in living cells—that is, “specified” in- formation in which the sequence of characters matters to the function of the sequence as a whole—has generated an acute mystery. No undirected physical or chemical process has demonstrated the capacity to produce specified information starting “from purely physical or chemical” precur- sors. For this reason, chemical evolutionary theories have failed to solve the mystery of the origin of first life—a claim that few mainstream evolu- tionary theorists now dispute. In Signature in the Cell, I not only reported the well-known impasse in origin-of-life studies; I also made an affirmative case for the theory of intelligent design. Although we don’t know of a material cause that gener- ates functioning digital code from physical or chemical precursors, we do know—based upon our uniform and repeated experience—of one type of cause that has demonstrated the power to produce this type of informa- tion. That cause is intelligence or mind. As information theorist Henry Quastler observed, “The creation of information is habitually associated with conscious activity.” 1 Whenever we find functional information— whether embedded in a radio signal, carved in a stone monument, etched on a magnetic disc, or produced by an origin-of-life scientist attempting to engineer a self-replicating molecule—and we trace that information back to its ultimate source, invariably we come to a mind, not merely a material process. For this reason, the discovery of digital information in even the simplest living cells indicates the prior activity of a designing intelligence at work in the origin of the first life. My book proved controversial, but in an unexpected way. Though I clearly stated that I was writing about the origin of the first life and about theories of chemical evolution that attempt to explain it from simpler pre- existing chemicals, many critics responded as if I had written another book altogether. Indeed, few attempted to refute my book’s actual thesis that

Prologue

vii

intelligent design provides the best explanation for the origin of the infor- mation necessary to produce the first life. Instead, most criticized the book as if it had presented a critique of the standard neo-Darwinian theories of biological evolution—theories that attempt to account for the origin of new forms of life from simpler preexisting forms of life. Thus, to refute my claim that no chemical evolutionary processes had demonstrated the power to explain the ultimate origin of information in the DNA (or RNA) necessary to produce life from simpler preexisting chemicals in the first place, many critics cited processes at work in already living organisms—in particular, the process of natural selection acting on random mutations in already existing sections of information-rich DNA. In other words, these critics cited an undirected process that acts on preexistent information- rich DNA to refute my argument about the failure of undirected material processes to produce information in DNA in the first place. 2 For example, the eminent evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala at- tempted to refute Signature by arguing that evidence from the DNA of humans and lower primates showed that the genomes of these organisms had arisen as the result of an unguided, rather than intelligently designed, process—even though my book did not address the question of human evolution or attempt to explain the origin of the human genome, and even though the process to which Ayala alluded clearly presupposed the ex- istence of another information-rich genome in some hypothetical lower primate. 3 Other discussions of the book cited the mammalian immune system as an example of the power of natural selection and mutation to generate new biological information, even though the mammalian immune system can only perform the marvels it does because its mammalian hosts are already alive, and even though the mammalian immune system depends upon an elaborately preprogrammed form of adaptive capacity rich in genetic information—one that arose long after the origin of the first life. Another critic steadfastly maintained that “Meyer’s main argument” concerns “the inability of random mutation and selection to add information to [pre- existing] DNA” 4 and attempted to refute the book’s presumed critique of the neo-Darwinian mechanism of biological evolution accordingly. I found this all a bit surreal, as if I had wandered into a lost chapter from a Kafka novel. Signature in the Cell simply did not critique the theory of biological evolution, nor did it ask whether mutation and selection can

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add new information to preexisting information-rich DNA. To imply otherwise, as many of my critics did, was simply to erect a straw man. To those unfamiliar with the particular problems faced by scientists trying to explain the origin of life, it might not seem obvious why invok- ing natural selection does not help to explain the origin of the first life. After all, if natural selection and random mutations can generate new in- formation in living organisms, why can it also not do so in a prebiotic environment? But the distinction between a biological and prebiotic con- text was crucially important to my argument. Natural selection assumes the existence of living organisms with a capacity to reproduce. Yet self- replication in all extant cells depends upon information-rich proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and the origin of such information-rich molecules is precisely what origin-of-life research needs to explain. That’s why Theodosius Dobzhansky, one of the founders of the modern neo- Darwinian synthesis, can state flatly, “Pre-biological natural selection is a contradiction in terms.” 5 Or, as Nobel Prize–winning molecular biologist and origin-of-life researcher Christian de Duve explains, theories of pre- biotic natural selection fail because they “need information which implies they have to presuppose what is to be explained in the first place.” 6 Clearly, it is not sufficient to invoke a process that commences only once life has begun, or once biological information has arisen, to explain the origin of life or the origin of the information necessary to produce it. All this notwithstanding, I have long been aware of strong reasons for doubting that mutation and selection can add enough new informa- tion of the right kind to account for large-scale, or “macroevolutionary,” innovations—the various information revolutions that have occurred after the origin of life. For this reason, I have found it increasingly te- dious to have to concede, if only for the sake of argument, the substance of claims I think likely to be false. And so the repeated prodding of my critics has paid off. Even though I did not write the book or make the argument that many of my critics cri- tiqued in responding to Signature in the Cell, I have decided to write that book. And this is that book. Of course, it might have seemed a safer course to leave well enough alone. Many evolutionary biologists now grudgingly acknowledge that no chemical evolutionary theory has offered an adequate explanation of the

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origin of life or the ultimate origin of the information necessary to pro- duce it. Why press a point you never made in the first place? Because despite the widespread impression to the contrary—conveyed by textbooks, the popular media, and spokespersons for official science— the orthodox neo-Darwinian theory of biological evolution has reached an impasse nearly as acute as the one faced by chemical evolutionary theory. Leading figures in several subdisciplines of biology—cell biol- ogy, developmental biology, molecular biology, paleontology, and even evolutionary biology—now openly criticize key tenets of the modern ver- sion of Darwinian theory in the peer-reviewed technical literature. Since 1980, when Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould declared that neo- Darwinism “is effectively dead, despite its persistence as textbook ortho- doxy,” 7 the weight of critical opinion in biology has grown steadily with each passing year. A steady stream of technical articles and books have cast new doubt on the creative power of the mutation and selection mechanism. 8 So well es- tablished are these doubts that prominent evolutionary theorists must now periodically assure the public, as biologist Douglas Futuyma has done, that “just because we don’t know how evolution occurred, does not justify doubt about whether it occurred.” 9 Some leading evolutionary biologists, particu- larly those associated with a group of scientists known as the “Altenberg 16,” are openly calling for a new theory of evolution because they doubt the creative power of the mutation and natural selection mechanism. 10 The fundamental problem confronting neo-Darwinism, as with chem- ical evolutionary theory, is the problem of the origin of new biological information. Though neo-Darwinists often dismiss the problem of the origin of life as an isolated anomaly, leading theoreticians acknowledge that neo-Darwinism has also failed to explain the source of novel varia- tion without which natural selection can do nothing—a problem equiva- lent to the problem of the origin of biological information. Indeed, the problem of the origin of information lies at the root of a host of other acknowledged problems in contemporary Darwinian theory—from the origin of new body plans to the origin of complex structures and systems such as wings, feathers, eyes, echolocation, blood clotting, molecular ma- chines, the amniotic egg, skin, nervous systems, and multicellularity, to name just a few.

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At the same time, classical examples illustrating the prowess of natural selection and random mutations do not involve the creation of novel ge- netic information. Many biology texts tell, for example, about the famous finches in the Galápagos Islands, whose beaks have varied in shape and length over time. They also recall how moth populations in England dark- ened and then lightened in response to varying levels of industrial pol- lution. Such episodes are often presented as conclusive evidence for the power of evolution. And indeed they are, depending on how one defines “evolution.” That term has many meanings, and few biology textbooks distinguish between them. “Evolution” can refer to anything from trivial cyclical change within the limits of a preexisting gene pool to the creation of entirely novel genetic information and structure as the result of natural selection acting on random mutations. As a host of distinguished biolo- gists have explained in recent technical papers, small-scale, or “micro- evolutionary,” change cannot be extrapolated to explain large-scale, or “macroevolutionary,” innovation. 11 For the most part, microevolutionary changes (such as variation in color or shape) merely utilize or express ex- isting genetic information, while the macroevolutionary change necessary to assemble new organs or whole body plans requires the creation of en- tirely new information. As an increasing number of evolutionary biolo- gists have noted, natural selection explains “only the survival of the fittest, not the arrival of the fittest.” 12 The technical literature in biology is now replete with world-class biologists 13 routinely expressing doubts about various aspects of neo-Darwinian theory, and especially about its central tenet, namely, the alleged creative power of the natural selection and mu- tation mechanism. Nevertheless, popular defenses of the theory continue apace, rarely if ever acknowledging the growing body of critical scientific opinion about the standing of the theory. Rarely has there been such a great disparity be- tween the popular perception of a theory and its actual standing in the rel- evant peer-reviewed scientific literature. Today modern neo-Darwinism seems to enjoy almost universal acclaim among science journalists and bloggers, biology textbook writers, and other popular spokespersons for science as the great unifying theory of all biology. High-school and college textbooks present its tenets without qualification and do not ac- knowledge the existence of any significant scientific criticism of it. At the same time, official scientific organizations—such as the National Acad-

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emy of Sciences (NAS), the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS), and the National Association of Biology Teachers (NABT)—routinely assure the public that the contemporary version of Darwinian theory enjoys unequivocal support among qualified scientists and that the evidence of biology overwhelmingly supports the theory. For example, in 2006 the AAAS declared, “There is no significant controversy within the scientific community about the validity of the theory of evo- lution.” 14 The media dutifully echo these pronouncements. As New York Times science writer Cornelia Dean asserted in 2007, “There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth.” 15 The extent of the disparity between popular representations of the status of the theory and its actual status, as indicated in the peer-reviewed technical journals, came home to me with particular poignancy as I was preparing to testify before the Texas State Board of Education in 2009. At the time the board was considering the adoption of a provision in its science education standards that would encourage teachers to inform students of both the strengths and weaknesses of scientific theories. This provision had become a political hot potato after several groups asserted that “teaching strengths and weaknesses” were code words for biblical creationism or for removing the teaching of the theory of evolution from the curriculum. Nevertheless, after defenders of the provision insisted that it neither sanctioned teaching creationism nor censored evolutionary theory, opponents of the provision shifted their ground. They attacked the provision by insisting that there was no need to consider weaknesses in modern evolutionary theory because, as Eugenie Scott, spokeswoman for the National Center for Science Education, insisted in The Dallas Morning News, “There are no weaknesses in the theory of evolution.” 16 At the same time, I was preparing a binder of one hundred peer- reviewed scientific articles in which biologists described significant prob- lems with the theory—a binder later presented to the board during my testimony. So I knew—unequivocally—that Dr. Scott was misrepresenting the status of scientific opinion about the theory in the relevant scientific literature. I also knew that her attempts to prevent students from hear- ing about significant problems with evolutionary theory would have likely made Charles Darwin himself uncomfortable. In On the Origin of Species, Darwin openly acknowledged important weaknesses in his theory and

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professed his own doubts about key aspects of it. Yet today’s public defend- ers of a Darwin-only science curriculum apparently do not want these, or any other scientific doubts about contemporary Darwinian theory, re- ported to students. This book addresses Darwin’s most significant doubt and what has become of it. It examines an event during a remote period of geological history in which numerous animal forms appear to have arisen suddenly and without evolutionary precursors in the fossil record, a mysterious event commonly referred to as the “Cambrian explosion.” As he acknowl- edged in the Origin, Darwin viewed this event as a troubling anomaly— one that he hoped future fossil discoveries would eventually eliminate. The book is divided into three main parts. Part One, “The Mystery of the Missing Fossils,” describes the problem that first generated Darwin’s doubt—the missing ancestors of the Cambrian animals in the earlier Precambrian fossil record—and then tells the story of the successive, but unsuccessful, attempts that biologists and paleontologists have made to resolve that mystery. Part Two, “How to Build an Animal,” explains why the discovery of the importance of information to living systems has made the mystery of the Cambrian explosion more acute. Biologists now know that the Cambrian explosion not only represents an explosion of new animal form and struc- ture but also an explosion of information—that it was, indeed, one of the most significant “information revolutions” in the history of life. Part Two examines the problem of explaining how the unguided mechanism of nat- ural selection and random mutations could have produced the biological information necessary to build the Cambrian animal forms. This group of chapters explains why so many leading biologists now doubt the creative power of the neo-Darwinian mechanism and it presents four rigorous cri- tiques of the mechanism based on recent biological research. Part Three, “After Darwin, What?” evaluates more current evolutionary theories to see if any of them explain the origin of form and information more satisfactorily than standard neo-Darwinism does. Part Three also presents and assesses the theory of intelligent design as a possible solution to the Cambrian mystery. A concluding chapter discusses the implications of the debate about design in biology for the larger philosophical questions that animate human existence. As the story of the book unfolds, it will become apparent that a seemingly isolated anomaly that Darwin acknowl-

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edged almost in passing has grown to become illustrative of a fundamen- tal problem for all of evolutionary biology: the problem of the origin of biological form and information. To see where that problem came from and why it has generated a crisis in evolutionary biology, we need to begin at the beginning: with Darwin’s own doubt, with the fossil evidence that elicited it, and with a clash be- tween a pair of celebrated Victorian naturalists—the famed Harvard pa- leontologist Louis Agassiz and Charles Darwin himself.

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