Signature in the Cell: A Letter to Our Readers
The comments are flowing quite freely and in many ways that is healthy. However, I think it is important that we not let this evolve into personal attacks, or even judgments. As a scientist, my read of Signature in the Cell is that it has declared the science of early life to be bankrupt. The book is clearly and articulately written. My colleague Gordon Glover is correct--this is a thoroughly engaging book. With the possible exception of Michael Behe’s two books (which are also engagingly incorrect) never have the arguments been laid out more succinctly. Dr. Meyer says with near certainty that the science has now reached a dead end and since there is nothing else left, he says, the only other possibility is that there is a mind behind the code of life.
So there is one simple question to be addressed. Is the science at a dead end? Has Dr. Meyer demonstrated this or not?
Dr. Meyer has chosen to take this question to a general audience, but it is purely a scientific question. I have asked Dr. Meyer to respond to my review with an answer we could post on our site. We’ll see if he does. I also have a response from the Nobel laureate, Jack Szostak, which I will post soon. I expect responses from other scientists as well.
A couple of commenters have read Dr. Szostak’s article. That is a wonderful start. They have declared, however, that Dr. Szostak’s work is not testable and thereby is not scientific. It is important to emphasize that an article in Scientific American is not where the science is done; this is where the science is summarized. To know whether it is science, one needs to go back to the original articles themselves. Let me assure you, please trust me, the science is still proceeding and some of the best minds on the planet are working on this problem. It is a fascinating scientific problem; they are thoroughly engaged.
Some commenters have become personal. Nothing is to be gained by this. I have said it before and I will say it again, my experience is that these people are sincere. They make mistakes like we all do. However, I find I love these people, even though I have deep concerns about the quality of their science. Please try your best not to question their integrity. If you were to sit down with each of them over coffee, you would find they are not out to deceive.
All of that, however, is beside the point. We can just focus on the science. Dr. Meyer makes a simple proposition. Is he right or is he wrong? It is my opinion that he has been so engagingly clear, everyone with a four year degree in biology should be able to see that there is no dead end. Those of you who don’t have such a degree may have to trust the rest of us; the science is not dead.
We who believe in a Mind that is above all and through all still have very good reasons to believe. We need not base our belief on what happens in culture dishes and test tubes. I have written in other places why I choose to believe. My reasons are very strong and yours can be too. We can still kneel in reverence and awe as we read John 1 and as reflect on the majesty of the Creator. We can wait with “baited breath” as truly great scientists like Jack Szostak, Jerry Joyce and Mike Lynch work through the details of how the creation command came to be realized. But in the famous words of one of my great boyhood heroes, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The last twenty years of biology have been characterized by the filling in of one gap in our knowledge after another. Meyer has focused on the biggest gap of all and declared that no one will fill this one in! In the words of that same boyhood hero “this feels like déjà vu all over again.” Trust me. It ain’t over.
Darrel Falk is former president of The BioLogos Foundation. He transitioned into Christian higher education 25 years ago and has given numerous talks about the relationship between science and faith at many universities and seminaries. He is the author of Coming to Peace with Science.