Monday, October 5, 2009

The Cambrian Explosion, the Discovery Institute, and James Valentine


Professor Valentine has endorsed the use of his statement on this site.

I intend to write a set of blog posts addressing the comments and thoughts on Darwin’s Dilemma from people who have seen the film. This is useful because people who do not have a background in the Cambrian Explosion or palaeontology are the people that the Discovery Institute is hoping to mislead. So what such people are taking away from the film, the messages that the Discovery Institute is hoping to instill, the questions raised in people’s minds, etc., are worth addressing.

Previous posts can be found here, here, here, and here.

Dr James Valentine appears in Darwin's Dilemma and has released a statement regarding his participation.

24 September 2009

What James Valentine Really Thinks About Evolution

Dr. James Valentine, an evolutionary biologist and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California at Berkeley, is featured in the intelligent design movie Darwin’s Dilemma.

I wish to clarify my role in the new film Darwin’s Dilemma. When I was interviewed about a decade ago for the material used in this movie, I was unaware that this interview might appear in a film promoting intelligent design. My appearance should not be misconstrued as support for any creationist agenda.

I support evolution.

I disagree with the view that the best explanation for the Cambrian record is the action of an “intelligent designer” instantaneously creating phyla. Had the filmmakers bothered to read my book On the Origin of Phyla, they would have understood that I do not support a creationist interpretation of the Cambrian explosion or the fossil record. Scientific findings in many fields, including my own (paleobiology) as well as geology, geophysics, geochemistry, developmental biology, and systematics, have led to a synthesis of the events surrounding the Cambrian explosion that is in full accord with well-established evolutionary principles.

When watching Darwin’s Dilemma, I ask viewers to note:
  • My interview statements do not criticize evolution
  • My interview statements do not promote creationism or intelligent design
  • Even though my interview is interspersed with several intelligent design advocates, I do not share their interpretation of the Cambrian record
I would like viewers to know:
  • I think evolution is the best scientific interpretation of the fossil record
  • While the religious views of individuals should be respected, scientists also merit respect earned by generations of hard work in their fields.
Dr. James Valentine
University of California,

Apparently the film makers also forgot to tell Simon Conway Morris (who also appears in the film) the true reason for the interview and intent of the film.

So the experts on palaeontology and palaeobiology that appear do not support the central creationist tenet of the film, which is why, of course, they have Prof Chien as the spokesperson - someone with no background in palaeontology or palaeobiology.

What is it with creationism film makers and their inability to tell the truth about their intentions?


  1. Hi Chris -- did Valentine send you this, or is did he put it on a website somewhere or something?

  2. I'm checking up to see if this has been posted elsewhere

  3. Sad that the anti ID brigade don't simply do open debate and let their ideas do the talking. When someone says that they would not have been interviewed in a piece with a contrary point of view it makes me wonder if their own ideas are not just a little mute.

  4. There is no debate. ID is religously motivated and scientifically vacuous. Like it's Young Earth Creationism cousin, the evidince speaks for itself.

    When people are misled into appearing in order to provide some credece for your views, when the only people you can get to actually support your views are philosophers and an environmental/marine biologist, when your claims contain falsehoods such as those exposed here, doesn't that tell you something about ID?

    We do not debate flat earthers, geocentrics and ID for the same reason

  5. Please read "ignorant" as "bad". I dont want to be too harsh.. I cant edit it.

  6. I note that Dr Valentine doesn't specifically endorse Darwinian evolution. He uses the vague term "evolution" instead. Many ID proponents are happy to accept that some form of evolution occurred, they all accept microevolution and many accept common descent.

    The main point about Valentines comments is not that he accepted ID. It is that his findings are a nail in the coffin of the specifically neo-Darwinian picture of evolution. He doesn't need to be an ID proponent to make that point.

    When I watched Darwins Dilemma, Inew that some of the testimony would be from people who doubt neo-Darwinian acounts of the Cambrian explosion, but also reject ID. The fact that Valentine doesn't accept ID as an alternative makes his testimony about the Cambrian phyla in DD all the harder to dismiss by the ruling orthodoxy.


Sorry to use registration, but the site is plagued with link spanners. Please either sign in or send your comment by email and I'll add it to the site.