I read Stephen Meyer's book with mounting astonishment. For me it was a true page-turner since every stage in the argument constituted an illuminating discovery that I had not expected to make. I found it impossible to put it down, despite the complexity of the argument and the uncompromisingly scientific style of the prose. The book is, for all its measured, rational tone, a real sensation. It is also refreshingly free of polemic and propaganda.
I was acquainted with the central argument of the book - that the digital information encoded in DNA is so complex, specific and finely-tuned that the only explanation for its origin that we possess has to be the action of a creative intelligence - before I began to read. I was also profoundly skeptical of this argument since I believed it to be a variant of the stock creationist case with regard to living systems, i.e. that the products of life are so exquisite and effective that they just have to be the result of intelligent design. I have never been convinced by these Paley-style arguments from analogy and was fully prepared to find no more than this in Stephen Meyer's book.
I was wrong, completely and gloriously wrong!
Meyer's book is an exploration of the nature of the information content of the genome and it argues with relentless logic that this information could never have arisen from mere random chemical mixing since there is nothing chemical at all involved in the arbitrary sequence of bases that constitutes the essential information-storing capacity of DNA. The author also explores - with mathematical arguments designed by William Dembski - the probability that such information could have arisen from purely random shuffling and finds that, even on the most conservative of calculations, the entire probabilistic resources of very many universes could not have accomplished the feat. The interweaving of these two eminently rational threads of argument convinced me that the old materialist tale of the neo-Darwinist synthesis had to be wrong. After reading this book, the neo-Darwinist synthesis is for me dead science. R.I.P Darwin.
I have discovered that Richard Dawkins has resolutely and steadfastly refused to debate these issues with Meyer either publicly or privately and I must say, I'm not surprised. A cool consideration of Meyer's purely scientific argument has converted me away from the neo-Darwinian beliefs I grew up with and I can't imagine Dawkins wanting to go through the same experience. More open minds will, however, gain a great deal from this work. Reading this book has been a great liberation for me. I no longer have a tidy sewn-up theory of how life came to be and evolved, but this is exhilarating. Without realising it, I was tired of the materialist account of life and of the meaningless, pointless character of existence it entails. Meyer's book is a breath of fresh air precisely because it presents a wholly new case without abandoning the rigor of science.
This is an indispensable read for anyone who wants a new take on life without abandoning rationality.