Dawkins vs. Marshall vs. Meyer: Place Your Bets

Amazon reviewer Gordon posted this question:

Perry, why have you not referenced any of Stephen Meyer’s books (“Darwin’s Doubt” or “Signature in the Cell”) or William Dembski’s books (“Debating Design” or “Signs of Intelligence”)? Please respond.


In Chapter 17 of Evolution 2.0 I give a full explanation:

In 2009, the famous atheist Richard Dawkins published his thick, best-selling book The Greatest Show on Earth. In it, he states that evolution is driven by random changes in genes.

It is worth noting that in all of 450 pages of The Greatest Show on Earth . . .

  • Symbiogenesis is never mentioned.
  • Horizontal Gene Transfer is briefly touched on once, downplayed and presented as scarcely ever crossing from one species to another.
  • Epigenetics gets one tiny footnote in chapter 8. He breezily shrugs it off as a “modest buzzword” and “confused theory that will enjoy 15 minutes of fame.” (At the time of this writing, “Epigenetics” is a major focus in genomics and appears 129,000 times in Google Scholar. The number of entries has doubled in the last two years—clearly a hot field of research.)
  • Transposition is never mentioned.
  • Genome Duplication is never mentioned.

Why didn’t Dawkins grant so much as three pages to the five best- documented mechanisms of evolution? Why does he act as though the last 50 years of microbiology and billions of dollars of research never happened?

Oxford University’s former “Professor of the Public Understanding of Science” wrote one of the most popular evolution books of the last decade, for which he received large advances and rode huge waves of media publicity.

So why isn’t he disclosing this?

On the other side of the fence, Stephen Meyer, in his pro–Intelligent Design book Darwin’s Doubt, makes an eerily identical set of omissions.

Epigenetics gets decent airtime, but there’s no explanation of Lynn Margulis’ work on Symbiogenesis. Barbara McClintock, Transposition, Horizontal Gene Transfer, and Genome Duplication are touched on only briefly, mostly in footnotes.

I debated Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute last year and afterward wrote a blog post called “Is Intelligent Design Really Just Old-Earth Creationism?”

Much of the scholarship in Meyer’s books is very good, but in the end he concludes that evolution and common descent are not true.

I firmly disagree.

Meyer and Dawkins are both missing the biggest story in the history of science. It’s the spectacular engineering capabilities of cells.

Most ID people immediately reply “Sure, but that engineering has to come from somewhere.” And I say: Yes it does have to come from somewhere, so I have a $5 million prize for finding out.

I’m searching for an ANSWER. Not just a philosophical framework.

And even if we give the ID guys the benefit of the doubt – let’s suppose all life does not come from a common ancestor, and life has appeared multiple times, even miraculously – they’re still taking an anti-evolution stance and missing the biggest story in science! After all, we DO observe dazzlingly sophisticated evolutionary steps every day, and we only understand 5% of what’s going on.

If the ID guys want to say the prize will never be won, they should make that bet. Someone should put skin in the game and set up a wager on www.longbets.org.

Similarly, any self-respecting atheist should vote that the prize WILL be won. It’s just a question of when. Atheists, place your bets. (If you believe naturalistic Origin Of Life is real science and not just pseudo-scientific myth-making.) 

Meanwhile, no scientist can earn a dime by saying “God did it.” A scientist gets paid to understand exactly how evolution works. Right now we only have maybe 5% of the answer.

So while the ID guys point out many flaws in old-style evolutionary theory that I often agree with, ultimately they are out to win a philosophical argument more than they’re interested in furthering the science.

This is why I was in the ID camp ten years ago but am not now.

P.S.: A longbets.org wager is a great idea. Will anyone win the Evolution 2.0 Prize in 1 year? 5 years? 10 years? 25 years?

Set up a wager and throw your hat in the ring.







20 Responses

  1. Richard Redmond says:

    I’m struggling to understand a couple of things: (1) Are Marshall and Meyer actually on the same side but both of you cant admit it? (2) What exactly does Meyer take issue with in evolutionary theory that Marshall agrees with? (3) What exactly does Marshall take issue with in evolutionary theory that Dawkins would agree with? (4) Does Marshall believe in God( Bible God)? Thats it!

    • 1) Depends on what you mean. I believe in intelligent design lower case i, lower case d. id writ large. I believe in God and I believe the universe is divinely ordered. This is fairly different from Discovery Institute Intelligent Design which is a somewhat political movement which is anti-evolution.

      2) Meyer does not believe that internal cellular systems are capable of producing large-scale evolutionary change, but rather that injections of information from an external source are required to explain the Cambrian explosion for example.

      3) I take extreme issue with Dawkins’ selfish gene theory, his insistence that mutations are random, and that natural selection is the only directional force in evolution. All of that has been shown to be wrong for 70 years and this fact has been well known for more than 20.

      4) Yes I believe in God and I trust the Bible.

      • Marcel says:

        Would you be interested to have the fourth person that would take the most reliable information from each of you and put them into the most probable explanation of life origins?

        • You’re welcome to send in a submission for the prize if you have something big or post your ideas here on the blog as you wish.

          • Marcel says:

            I have been doing research in the subject of life origins for about 20 years and I am in the process of writing a book about it. I am familiar with your research (already studied your book Evolution 2.0) and agree with it. In my research i go even further to identify the originator of life and its purpose.

          • Neil Caithness says:

            Except that the balance of the $5 million prize is payable if your company (Natural Code LLC) successfully files a patent. If the solution is posted here this puts it in the public domain, which means it becomes unpatentable.

      • Jon Peterman says:

        are you speaking of adaptation when you say evolution, because they are not the same

        we OBSERVE animals adapting to environmental and population conditions but not kinds to kinds evolution

        a bird never will be nor has ever been a reptile, amphibians are not nor have ever been reptiles or fish

        similarities do not constitute progression and none has ever been proven

        if you trust God as you say then TRUST GOD not mans very fallible ideas

        • How do you get from the number of animals that can fit on Noah’s ark to all the species now on earth, without MASSIVE amounts of evolution? As far as I can tell, it requires a bare minimum of 100X more species. Probably more like 1000X. Anything on such a large a scale would not be adaptation, it is evolution. In fact it puzzles me that traditional creationists are always fighting about evolution since their theory requires it.

  2. Wow, many of the things that you say are neglected in other books are included in my textbook, “Integrated Molecular Evolution”, 2nd edition. In particular, there is a great deal of coverage of endosymbiosis (i.e., symbiogenesis), transposition, recombination, polyploidy, and many others. Epigenetics is covered, but not in great detail.

  3. Dighton Head says:

    The game is going to come down to the definition of evolution/speciation. Wide variation occurs in populations, sometimes resulting in non-mating sub-populations, or “species”. However, new body types appear abruptly. Epigenetics and symbiogenesis are better examples of ID than naturalistic evolution.

  4. Rick Doninger says:

    Foolish endless debating. Every human knows the reality of the Living God because He makes himself known to each one. Denial of His existence is not grounded in science at all. Denial originates in rebellion to to the accountability that our Creator presents to each one of us. Accepting the forgiveness and Grace offered in Christ requires responding with an acknowledgement of our rebellion. A simple matter of pride that will never be solved by the arrogance of deflection and cunning debate. Dawkins and everyone else knows. The mystery of God is has never been one of hiding but rather the opposite. He reveals Himself to all who humbly accept His offer revealed in The Truth His Son Jesus Christ freely came and shared. Mr. Dawkins knows.

  5. Frank says:

    If it can be shown that non life has somehow become living…then evolution could have a chance of being a real theory. Baring that…it doesn’t seem to make a whit of difference. What makes ID so promising is that is I obvious that only intelligence has ever been shown to “create”…anything we experience in this world. Of course if true randomness can ever do the job, all bets are off.

  6. John Reffit says:

    If “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth”, isn’t the most reasonable statement to origins, than I Don’t know what is! Even “science,” uses lodgic and reason to test hypotheses and theories. Where ever the evidence leads one should follow. This includes, ” In the beginning God” or In the beginning Gas.” We would not know that unless someone or something reveals that information to us who were not here in the beginning of all things.

  7. Mark says:

    What many evolutionists and atheists never acknowledge except the honest ones, is that creation and now intelligent design have always stated that life can only come from life and each species from its own.

    And this can be 100% evidenced and observed in any science laboratory to lay man to children in their back yards and has been observed and measured over the 1000s of years of recorded human history. Can the same be said for the theory of evolution since its conception??

    • Each species does not have to come from its own. Look up hybridization and symbiogenesis. Botanists create new species literally every day.

      Creationist literature makes this claim but it is demonstrably not true and it does not help your case to be repeating it.

      Please use your full first and last name from now on.

      • Marcel says:

        Sometimes people are unaware or even neglect the difference between the answer to the question “what?” and “how?.” When one reads “according to its kind” that’s the answer to the question “what,” was done, not to “how” it was done. According to the Bible there is info about “what” was created (its kind) but it leaves out “how” it was accomplished. The fact that science is able to create new species it’s a good clue that chances are, when species were created, it has been used a “master blueprint” which includes enough information in its DNA to allow a large variety of possible species to derive from it. Much like car manufacturers are doing today. The GMC Corporation makes Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac and Chevrolet. Many of these different cars have basically the same frame structure even the same engines and transmissions, but outside are totally different cars.

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