For your convenience:
The following is a list of debunkings of Stephen C. Meyer’s Signature in the Cell, arranged more or less in chronological order. I have not included every blog post I’ve seen on the topic; as I did for Behe’s The Edge of Evolution, I’ve focused on the most substantive remarks, rather than keeping track of every time somebody just quoted somebody else. (I’ve also probably overlooked, forgotten, mistakenly thought I’d already included or never been made aware of some worthwhile essays.) In some cases, additional relevant posts can be found by following links within the essays I have listed.
EARLY ANTICIPATION AND ADVANCE PUBLICITY
I went up to Meyer at the conference and asked him, “You wrote that ‘information theorists’ (plural) talk about specified complexity. Who are they?” He then admitted that he knew no one but Dembski (and Dembski himself is not much of an information theorist, having published exactly 0 papers so far on the topic in the peer-reviewed scientific literature). So the use of the plural, when Meyer knew perfectly well that information theorists do not use the term “specified complexity”, was just a lie — and a lie intended to deceive the reader that his claims are supported by the scientific community, when they are not.
- B. Stacey, “Shorter Stephen C. Meyer” (15 July 2009).
- PZ Myers, “Any 5 year olds want to explain the problem to the Discovery Institute?” (15 July 2009).
- J. Shallit, “Stephen Meyer’s Honesty Problem” (16 July 2009).
- J. Rosenhouse, “Stupidity from the Boston Globe” (16 July 2009).
- S. Pinker, “Creationism piece no way to honor Darwin’s birthday” (20 July 2009).
- O. Sholes, “Invoking Jefferson on intelligent design doesn’t cut it” (20 July 2009).
- R. Watson, “Creationism in the Boston Globe” (21 July 2009).
- J. Grus, “Hell in a Cell: An evening with the Discovery Institute” (21 July 2009).
- J. Coyne, “Stephen Meyer lies again” (22 July 2009).
- PZ Myers, “More Discovery Institute bulldung on the way to my door” (23 July 2009).
- M. C. Chu-Carroll, “Disco Goes Digital” (12 August 2009).
BOOK TALK AT THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA
[Meyer’s] talk/Q&A was like listening to a kid who had a test on ‘Origins’… but played HALO3 all night instead of studying.
REVIEWS, REPLIES, ETC.
In the prologue to his book Signature in the Cell, Stephen Meyer states that it is an attempt to make a comprehensive, interdisciplinary argument for the Intelligent Design view of the origin of life. But as the author himself concedes (in an appendix on page 496), the discovery of a precursor to DNA (such as RNA) would demolish the whole edifice. A “key prediction” is that “Future experiments will continue to show that RNA catalysts lack the capacities necessary to render the RNA world scenario plausible”. It is Stephen Meyer’s bad luck to have published his book in 2009, the very year that the RNA world scenario became eminently plausible. In February of that year came the discovery of the self-sustained replication of an RNA enzyme, by Lincoln and Joyce [Science, Vol 323, pp1,229–32]. In March came the identification of the prebiotic translation apparatus (a dimer of self-folding RNA units) within the contemporary ribosome, by Yonath et al [Nature Precedings, March 4, 2009]. Finally, in May came the discovery of the synthesis of activated pyrimidine ribonucleotides in prebiotically plausible conditions, by Powner et al [Nature, Vol 459, pp239–42]. I am afraid that reality has overtaken Meyer’s book and its flawed reasoning.
- Jeffrey Shallit, “Stupid Philosopher Tricks: Thomas Nagel” (25 November 2009).
- PZ Myers, “You know it’s a stinker when they’re afraid of the reviewers” (11 December 2009).
- Nick Matzke, “Signature in the Cell: self-contradiction and repetition” (31 December 2009).
- Arthur Hunt, “Signature in the Cell?” (3 January 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: beginning the review” (6 January 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: preliminary observations and prologue” (9 January 2010).
- Jeffrey Shallit, “Stephen Meyer’s Bogus Information Theory” (13 January 2010). Also available at Talk Reason.
- Jeffrey Shallit, “More on Signature in the Cell” (14 January 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: Chapter 1” (26 January 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: Chapter 2” (3 February 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: Chapter 3” (6 February 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: Chapters 4 and 5 – errors and problems” (14 February 2010).
- Richard B. Hoppe, “Two analyses of Meyer’s Signature in the Cell” (24 April 2010). Good summary with many useful links.
- Steve Matheson, “Signature in the Cell: Chapters 9 and 10” (24 April 2010). The entries from Matheson’s marathon I’ve linked directly were my personal favourites, but he’s written more besides.
- Arthur Hunt, “Well that was interesting” (17 May 2010)
- Steve Matheson, “Bread and circus: Signature in the Cell at Biola (Part I)” (22 May 2010).
- Jeffrey Shallit, “Stephen Meyer – More Honesty Problems?” (26 May 2010)
- Steve Matheson, “Bread and circus: Signature in the Cell at Biola (Part II)” (28 May 2010).
- Jeffrey Shallit, “A Much-Too-Credulous Review of Signature in the Cell” (28 May 2010)
- Jeffrey Shallit, “Casey Luskin: Information Theory Expert” (28 May 2010).
- PZ Myers, “The Discovery Institute is desperately patching Meyer’s mind-numbing magnum opus” (1 June 2010). Includes links.
- M. Marshall, “Biologists create one of life’s first enzymes” (7 April 2011).
- A. Wochner et al. “Ribozyme-Catalyzed Transcription of an Active Ribozyme” (8 April 2011). In Science, Vol. 332, no. 6026: pp. 209–12. Subscription required.
[The] entire book peddles this idea that no one has demonstrated a natural mechanism for producing specified information. But of course, any one with any competence in this subject can tell you all kinds of ways a genome can produce increases in information, the kind that has a few mathematical definitions and is measurable, so Meyer tosses in that magic modifier, specified, to throw away a big chunk of the literature that troublingly contradicts him.
If it helps to grasp the rhetorical game he’s playing, just substitute the word “magic” for “specified”. It’s perfectly equivalent.
- Larry Moran, “Creationists, Introns, and Fairly Tales” (3 June 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “In rage deaf as the sea, hasty as fire” (5 June 2010).
- Steve Matheson, “Open Letter to Stephen Meyer” (6 June 2010).
- Larry Moran, “IDiots Do Arithmetic a Second Time – Same Result” (4 July 2010).
- PZ Myers, “The vacuity of Stephen Meyer” (17 August 2010).