Creationism 3.0: Meet Intelligent Design’s Huckster
His arguments are, for the most part, precise, his research is extensive, and many of his points echo those made by leading biologists. Like many other proponents of intelligent design, he’s not committed to defending the details of Genesis. He accepts that the world is old, and that evolution does happen—at least in a limited way. As a result, he not only sounds like a scientist, but for much of the book he almost acts like one.
All of which is to say that a laundry list of errors doesn’t get to the meat of Darwin’s Doubt. Meyer is the finest kind of huckster: he doesn’t tell lies, he merely rearranges truths. Darwin’s Doubt is a toxic blend of hasty conclusions, cracked arguments, and terminological confusions. It’s also, for those who are keeping count, a New York Times bestseller. More plausible than the arguments of 6,000-year-old-earthers, and much slicker than the earlier, bumbling efforts of intelligent design-ers, creationism 3.0 has arrived.
Two things about Darwin’s Doubt are misleading from the start. The first is the book’s billing as a study of the Cambrian explosion (which, for those who dozed off in paleontology class, is a period in geological history known for the rapid diversification of animal life). By the standards of the fossil record, things happen pretty quickly: from a soup of small, soft-bodied organisms arises an impressive array of marine animals, such as trilobites. Darwin himself recognized that this sudden emergence of animal diversity posed a problem for his idea of gradual evolution—thus Meyer’s title.
His book may have a photo of a trilobite on the cover, but Meyer’s argument involves far more than the Cambrian period. As he begins to question the idea that natural selection can produce new proteins and new body plans, it becomes clear that Meyer is gunning for all of evolutionary theory. The book’s initial Cambrian focus, it seems, is just a way to usher readers into a more expansive critique. It’s as if Karl Marx, worried about alienating potential followers, had called his most famous tract “Some Minor Problems with the Bourgeoisie.”