Those who follow the debate over evolution will remember 2009 as the year Stephen Meyer's Signature in the Cell convincingly made a new scientific case for intelligent design. In fact, according to Doug Groothuis, "Its publication may prove to be a decisive moment for the Intelligent Design movement.
One could not ask for more in a philosophy of science treatise than what we find in The Signature in the Cell. The book is no less than magisterial, an adjective that curmudgeons such as myself seldom use. At every level--philosophical, scientific, historical and literary--it is a superb treatise.
Reading every word of its 508 pages of text (not counting end notes)--as I did--repays the reader greatly. Meyer thoroughly examines a most significant topic--how life came about--and does so in an engaging, warm, and philosophically rigorous fashion. (Few books ever do such a thing.) In fact, I have never read a book that goes so deep while remaining so welcoming to the reader. It does do by using a minimal narrative structure--there is no obtrusive autobiography here--to guide us through the issues and arguments pertaining to the nature and origin life at the genetic level. The reader is lead step-by-step into the question of the origin of biological information, and so receives a hearty education in the history of science in general and the scientific question to understand life itself. (emphasis added)
Of course, it's difficult to be objective when it seems everyone has a stake in the debate over the origin of life itself. As another reviewer observes:
This reviewer, Ignazio de Vega of Open Letters Monthly, notes how Meyer takes on arch-atheist Richard Dawkins ("his serial dismantling of Dawkins throughout the book is conducted with a very satisfying mandarin delicacy") and concludes by noting that "The author is concerned only with scientific fact -- and the limits of some of those facts."
Certainly in our own day such inquiries are made with apostolic fervor, both by those who adhere to science and by those who follow faith -- and by that segment of every population, quieter than the first two and by far more numerous, who believe it's possible to live in both mindsets simultaneously. These are the great and rancorous 'God Debates' of our beleaguered modern moment, with battle-ready contestants on both sides, writers like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Michael Behe, and Kenneth Miller squaring off on TV screen and town hall stage to wrestle with eschatological questions as old as Abraham. The fool sayeth in his heart 'there is no God' -- the wise man, apparently, sayeth it on Larry King Live.
Into this supercharged atmosphere Cambridge-educated chemist and scientific historian Stephen Meyer puts forth his own case in his new book Signature in the Cell. In its calmly-reasoned 400 pages (with an extra 100 tightly-packed endnotes), Meyer constructs the strongest argument yet made for the theory of Intelligent Design, and he does it without once advocating any living God.
Read the rest of this substantive review here.