How “Sudden” Was the Cambrian Explosion? Nick Matzke Misreads Stephen Meyer and the Paleontological Literature; New Yorker Recycles Misrepresentation
Casey Luskin July 16, 2013 11:14 AM
On June 19, the day after Darwin’s Doubt was first available for purchase, Nick Matzke published a 9400-word “review” of the book in which it appears that he tried to anticipate many of Stephen Meyer’s arguments. Unfortunately, he often either guessed wrong as to what Meyer would say or — assuming he actually read the book as he claims — misread many of Meyer’s specific claims. As I showed in a previous response to Matzke, Matzke repeatedly misquoted Meyer, at one point claiming he referred to the Cambrian explosion as “instantaneous,” when Meyer nowhere makes that claim. Indeed, Matzke faulted Meyer for not recognizing that the Cambrian explosion “was not really ‘instantaneous’ nor particularly ‘sudden.'” Oddly, he also criticized Meyer for not recognizing that the Cambrian explosion “took at least 30 million years” — despite expert opinion showing it was far shorter.
Since Matzke published his review, The New Yorker reviewed Meyer’s book. Gareth Cook, the science writer who wrote the piece, relied heavily on Matzke’s critical evaluation, even though Matzke is a graduate student and not an established Cambrian expert. Cook uncritically recycled Matzke’s claim that the Cambrian explosion took “many tens of millions of years,” even saying that the main problem with Darwin’s Doubt is that Meyer failed to recognize this alleged fact.
So, was Matzke right about the length of the Cambrian explosion? In fact, Matzke’s preemptive — or hastily written — review not only misrepresented Meyer’s view, it also misrepresented the length and character of the Cambrian explosion as numerous authoritative peer-reviewed scientific sources on the subject clearly show.