Thursday, December 31, 2009

Throwing coconuts at Stephen Meyer

Bradford at Telic Thoughts makes a great point about the convulsive response in the ape section of the science park to Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell, a book that argues the case for Intelligent Design, in response to the most recent review of the book by Darrel Falk:
Here's a challenge for those of you who agree with Falk. Cite something Meyer said in his book, show that there is a problem with Meyer's citation of facts or his reasoning from them and then back up your claim with links to papers supporting your position. This might be difficult for many of you because it requires that you actually take the effort to read Signature in the Cell. Then you would have to use your brains to analyze a specific passage from it and support your arguments with outside references. But why not break from the mold and give it a shot. Don't be afraid to lock horns with harmless tards. You have nothing to lose but your pride.
Just go around and look at the reviews of the book by its detractors and see if you can find much evidence that the people who criticize it actually read the book. Instead what you will find is the usual howling and chest beating characteristic of those who think they are merely a form of higher ape and who seem enthusiastic about proving it.


Art said...


Martin, since you've read the book, maybe you can tell us how many pages Meyers spends discussing the paper that appeared in the Annual Review of Biochemistry in 2005 (Yarus M, Caporaso JG, Knight R. Origins of the genetic code: the escaped triplet theory. Annu Rev Biochem. 2005;74:179-98.) - a review that cuts the very heart out of Meyer's book.

I expect, seeing as Meyer is of the opinion that he has refuted Yarus' theory, that Meyer spent many pages, and perhaps even enlisted his biochemistry colleagues at the DI to disprove Yarus. I'm dying to know just how detailed is Meyer's rebuttal.

Page numbers and perhaps a ca. 500 word summation of the most important points would be nice.


One Brow said...

Nick matzke has also offered an example at Panda's Thumb.

Thomas said...

Bradford apparently did not read the article. Falk repeatedly cited specific arguments (and page numbers), and then uses outside references. The article is short, and it revolves around these examples, so I can only think that Bradford either did not read the article, or is hoping others don't, since what he's demanding of critics is precisely what Falk did.

TomH said...

Does Koonin reply to Yarus? I don't have journal access.

When I saw the following in the abstract, it seemed that Koonin wasn't buying Yarus' story: "However, such scenarios for the code evolution are based on formal schemes whose relevance to the actual primordial evolution is uncertain, so much caution in interpretation is necessary. A real understanding of the code's origin and evolution is likely to be attainable only in conjunction with a credible scenario for the evolution of the coding principle itself and the translation system."

Art said...

TomH, I believe the technical objections Koonin has are addressed in the more recent paper by Yarus that I discuss here.

I'm rubbing my eyes, but the quote you give seems to be saying, basically, "we won't know until we know". Yarus' work is one step along the path of knowing, Koonin's odd remark notwithstanding.

TomH said...


Thanks. Your site makes it plain that Yarus is talking about theoretical chemistry, not "wet work." Yarus overreaches tremendously, calling his theoretical explanation "likely," while Koonin merely points out the overreach. Koonin isn't an ideologue and urges caution about whether wet work will bear out the theory.

Yarus doesn't refute Meyer in the slightest.

KyCobb said...

Well, the last paragraph was a lie, since the second post on this thread linked to a review in which Meyer's book was quoted and refuted. Not really surprising, since cdesign proponentsists do little except to regurgigate bunk then whine that they aren't taken seriously.

Art said...

TomH, I have no idea what site you are referring to. Yarus draws upon, not theoretical chemistry, but structural biochemistry (that's still a wet-bench field) to delineate rules for RNA-amino acid interactions. These rules are the physical underpinnings of the amino acid-triplet correspondence that wet-bench (NOT theoretical) chemistry demonstrates. In other words, the polar rules and secondary atomic interactions Yarus discusses are the basis of the genetic code. You obviously don't like it, but that does indeed cut the heart out of Meyer's book.

As for Koonin, he has his own horse in this race. Even so, if you read his papers, you will find that he has had to begrudgingly acknowledge Yarus as the years have gone on. There's a clue in the evolution of Koonin's writings, if you care to pay attention.

TomH said...


"You obviously don't like it"

I don't know if "I like it." First I need to understand it. I was limited by the quotations on your site, which didn't indicate any wet work to test Yarus' theory. Maybe they are elsewhere in the paper. My hands are both tied behind my back here because I can't read the whole article. It's frustrating.

I read what Falk had to say about some new work which showed that in vitro RNA was developed which had two functions which supposedly undercut one of Meyer's statements. I don't even have Meyer's book yet.

I'm actually not tremendously interested in OOL studies. Leslie Orgel's analysis of the metabolic pathways approach was discouraging and others have written similarly about Orgel's approach, so it all looks pretty feeble. The hurdles are enormous, but the rhetoric hides the problems.