Atheism/Dr Stephen Meyer

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Question
Having completed his book at this stage, while never meeting the man, Dr. Stephen Meyer, whom holds a PHD from Cambridge in the philosophy of science, refutes your claims concerning abiogenesis and several, but perhaps not all, of your theories regarding evolution. You don't have a PHD, to my understanding. My question for you, ONCE AGAIN, is why do you preach your belief system as FACT? To Darwin's own credit, he did not ever preach his own belief system as fact. Thank you, sir.

Answer
I have a BS in Physics and Math, a MS in Physics and I'm in a program to receive my Physics PhD a year and a half from now. I have two peer-reviewed published papers, one in mathematics and one in physics. That's what I have.

Of course, it doesn't prove anything for you to find one person on the Internet who supports evolution but doesn't have a PhD. You mentioned a Stephen Meyer. For the nine Steves with a PhD who supports Intelligent Design[1], I can name 1,344 people named Steve with a PhD who support Evolution[2][3][4]. Given that Steves are about 1% of the population, this represent a list of approximately 134,400 individuals with PhDs who support evolution. So expert opinion very much lies with evolution. Stephen Meyer is not a scientist so much as individual engaged in a conspiracy theory about science [5]. How did all these different biology PhDs all come to the same conclusion about evolution? They include Christians and non-Christians, Democrats and Republicans, all different races, old and young, people from different countries, etc. No conspiracy could possible explain the motivations for all of these people, the people have come to the same conclusion because the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.

Of course, I can also show Stephen Meyer's points are wrong. It sounds like your read Darwin's Doubt. Here is Nicholas Matzke, who has a PhD in evolutionary biology, doing a point-by-point rebuttal of the entirety of Darwin's Doubt [6]. And here is a negative review of the book by distinguished science writer and biologist Don Prothero (PhD in paleontology)[7] and another negative review of the book by Berkeley professor and biologist Charles R. Marshall (PhD in evolutionary biology)[8]. Here is a whole blog full of just negative reviews of Darwin's Doubt and detailed rebuttals[9]. All these reviews have references so that readers can independently verify that they represent the point of view of the entire biology community and are a faithful representation of the evidence.

I put most of my thoughts of the “Cambrian explosion” in my original post[10], so I won't re-hash it here. Earlier you expressed a concern that you didn't understand my explanations (you might not understand everything in the reviews either, that's okay). If you don't understand something, I think you have to hear out the experts before you dismiss it. Stephen Meyer doesn't understand evolution well enough to teach it. I still recommend a book by a real biologist. Here is a list of books[11] and this time I even managed to find PDFs of some of them. All these books are aimed at an audience that does not have a science background and they are able to present the evidence in greater detail than I can allude to.


Darwin & Evidence:
I think Darwin did believe in his own theory. Even so, most of the evidence for evolution that we have now came after Darwin. For instance, Darwin's theory required inherited traits - Origin of Species was published in 1859 but it wouldn't be until 1866 until Mendel's experiments revealed the existence of genes[12]. Now genetics forms the strongest evidence for evolution[13]. Darwin's inferences were based on the breeding of domesticated animals[14], observations of living animals, and fossils. But the amount of fossil evidence has also rapidly expanded as paleontologists were motivated to find transition fossils and new methods for obtaining fossils were developed[15][16]. Now we have examples in which we've seen evolution as it has occurred[17][18][19]. We can even study how various parameters affect the rate and nature of evolution by manipulating the parameters in a laboratory and watching evolution unfold[20].


Abiogenesis:
I wouldn't worry about abiogenesis just yet. Evolution is easier to understand and science understands the details of evolution much more thoroughly. If you wanted to believe God created the first cell and evolution proceeded from there, that's fine. I'd still disagree, but you at least wouldn't be carrying around misinformation about evolution[21]. Learn about evolution first, then you can start arguing with people about abiogenesis.


Links:
[1] http://www.talkreason.org/articles/Steve.cfm
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Steve
[3] http://ncse.com/taking-action/project-steve-faq
[4] Not only Steves, but also Stephens, Stevens, Stephanies, Stefans, and so forth. Etiennes, Estebans, Istvans, and Tapanis allowed as well (all for forms of Steve are allowed). At least half of these names are individuals named Steve with a PhD in biology (compared to none from ID). I should also point out that about half of these individuals believe in God (and evolution). At least 15 are members of the National Academy of Sciences. The list include Nobel prize winning physics Stephen Weinberg and Stephen Chu, as well as notable scientists Stephen Hawking and Stephen Pinker.
[5] You may think I'm being hyperbolic, but this is the approximately the same fraction of “experts” who believe aliens built the pyramids.
[6] http://pandasthumb.org/archives/2013/06/meyers-hopeless-2.html
[7] http://www.skepticblog.org/2013/08/28/stephen-meyers-fumbling-bumbling-amateur-c
[8] http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6152/1344.1.full
[9] http://darwinsdoubtreviews.blogspot.com/
[10] http://en.allexperts.com/q/Atheism-2724/2014/8/dear-jeff.htm
[11] Jerry Coyne: “Why Evolution is True”
http://finedrafts.com/files/CUNY/biology/Jerry%20Coyne%20-%20why%20evolution%20i
Neil Shubin: “Your Inner Fish”
Carl Zimmer: “Evolution: Triumph of an Idea”
Kenneth Milller & Joseph Levine “Biology”
Richard Dawkins: “Greatest Show On Earth”
www.qiraat.net/media/downloads/process/?f=sciences/richard_dawkins_the_greatest_show_on_earth.pdf
Don Prothero: “Evolution: What the Fossils Say”
http://elibrary.com.ng/UploadFiles/file0_10096.pdf
Kenneth Miller: “Only a Theory”
Bill Bryson: “A Short History of Nearly Everything”
http://cdn.preterhuman.net/texts/history/A%20Short%20History%20Of%20Nearly%20Eve
Richard Dawkins: “The Blind Watchmaker”
http://terebess.hu/keletkultinfo/The_Blind_Watchmaker.pdf
[12] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_genetics
[13] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evidence_of_common_descent
[14] http://www.literature.org/authors/darwin-charles/the-origin-of-species/chapter-0
[15] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_paleontology#Late_19th_century
[16] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil#History_of_the_study_of_fossils
[17] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppered_moth_evolution
[18] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ensatina
[19] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antibiotic_resistance#Mechanisms
[20] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/E._coli_long-term_evolution_experiment
[21] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nothing_in_Biology_Makes_Sense_Except_in_the_Light_

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Jeffrey Ellsworth

Expertise

I am well versed on the arguments for both sides about the existence of God and am especially aware of the philosophical ramifications and psychological reactions to atheism. Also, if you have a question about atheism as that pertains to Science or Skepticism, I may be an especially good pick. However my knowledge of non-Judeo-Christian religions and Biblical archaeology is generally limited to knowledge about directions to more informative resources.

Experience

I've been an atheist for 14 years now, open about it for 9 years after being raised in a Roman Catholic family. In that time I have held many different philosophical perspective on the subject and had different emotional and psychological reactions to atheism. I have absorbed many internet articles, video debates, atheist publications, and secular podcasts in my process of understanding and supporting the atheist movement. I routinely hold conversations on the subject.

Publications
One article in If Journal, an interfaith publication.

Education/Credentials
I have a BS in Physics and Mathematics from the College of William & Mary I am pursuing my Ph.D in Physics at Indiana University at Bloomington. I have very little formal training in philosophy or sociology.

Awards and Honors
I was president of the William & Mary Students for Science & Secularism before graduating.

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