The Discovery Institute needs your help! (To make people think their book is good!)

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If you follow the good folks over at the Discovery Institute (and who doesn’t?), then you know that today is a very exciting day. That’s right, intelligence design fans, it’s finally here: “Darwin’s Doubt,” Stephen Meyer’s new book on the Cambrian explosion.

It’s understandable if you haven’t heard about it; the Disco Tute, after all, has only been posting articles about the new masterpiece every couple of hours or so for the past two months. To hear them gushing over this collection of ink on paper (disclaimer: do not click through if you have a weak stomach) makes one think it must most assuredly be without equal in all of Bookdom. To sum up the Disco Tute’s coverage: If Bruce Wayne joined forces with the Terminator, Captain Jack Sparrow and Iron Man to battle Adolf Hitler and Freddy Krueger in the Dream World, and the whole story was recorded in a book inked in dragon blood and bound with unicorn hair, it would pale in comparison to “Darwin’s Doubt.”

Needless to say, our expectations are pretty high.

Now, I haven’t read the book, so I can’t comment on it yet (though that didn’t stop Jerry Coyne or the Sensuous Curmudgeon). But I will make a few observations.

First of all, it’s being shepherded to market by a large and reputable publisher (HarperCollins, through its imprint HarperOne), which means nothing more and nothing less than 1) it can be reasonably expected that the book got a decent round of editing, and 2) the people that run HarperCollins thought they could make money off of it.

But while we’re on the subject, it shouldn’t go unsaid that HarperOne isn’t exactly known as an epicenter of groundbreaking scientific research. As the Curmudgeon correctly points out, the imprint’s own website says it publishes “books across the full spectrum of religion, spirituality, and personal growth, adding to the wealth of the world’s wisdom by stirring the waters of reflection on the primary questions of life while respecting all traditions.”

In other words, not what I would expect as the source of a book that is advertised as “solving” the Cambrian explosion and which was hailed (by Disco Tute Director David Klinghoffer) as “a major landmark” for its “scientific critique of Darwinism.”

My final thought at this point is based on these emails that the Disco Tute keeps sending me:


That one hit my spam folder last week. You’ll notice that it contains, in addition to a lot more fawning and cooing, a plea for help.

“We think Dr. Meyer’s book can be a ‘game changer,’ but only if we have sufficient resources to promote it,” writes Kelley Unger, the Disco Tute’s fundraising director. “We have set the ambitious goal of making ‘Darwin’s Doubt’ a critical success.”

An “ambitious goal,” indeed. One might have better luck making “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” a critical success. But I digress.

Unger goes on to say the Disco Tute wants to raise a whopping $50,000 to finance a media blitz of the new book that includes “online and print advertising, radio interview campaigns and more.” She also inexplicably describes this as “grassroots promotion.”

I work in the newspaper business, which absolutely depends on advertising for its survival. I understand that the principles behind advertising are more complicated than “If you have a good product/service, you don’t need to advertise” and vice versa. But still, we’re not talking about the local hardware store here. This is a book that is claimed, unequivocally, to be able to stand on its own scientific merits, while at the same time, its promoters are passing around the donation plate so they can help “make sure” it’s a critical success.

I don’t fault Meyers for wanting to raise buzz around his book and sell more copies. If I were publishing a book, I’d probably want the exact same thing. But, if I were truly interested in writing something that would be well-received by critics (which I define as people who know what they’re talking about), I think the key would be to make a book that is actually good, not one that’s bolstered by a well-financed multi-platform marketing strategy.

That’s my opinion; what’s yours? Have you read the book? Do you plan to? Why or why not? You know what the comments are for.

Tyler Francke

  • Mark Germano

    Answers to your questions:

    My opinion is identical to yours.
    I haven’t read it.
    I don’t plan on reading it.
    After giggling through Kent Hovind’s magnum opus, I don’t think my laughing parts can handle this one.

    You didn’t say whether you would read the book. Will you?

    • Hey Mark, thanks for reading, and for your thoughts! I do plan on reading it at some point. Though I have a few more pressing matters in the queue ahead of it (and don’t really relish in the idea of adding to the Disco Tute’s perceived “success” by adding to its sales), I think it’s important to keep tabs on what the other side is crowing over.