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Appendix D -
Panicked Evolutionists: The Stephen Meyer Controversy
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Appendix D -- Panicked Evolutionists:
Stephen Meyer Controversy
Published: Sep 14, 2004
Author: Albert Mohler
Speaker, President of the Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary
Post Date: 2005-01-28 19:54:02
The Stephen Meyer Controversy
The theory of evolution is a tottering house of ideological cards that
is more about cherished mythology than honest intellectual endeavor. Evolutionists
treat their cherished theory like a fragile object of veneration and worship--and
so it is. Panic is a sure sign of intellectual insecurity, and evolutionists
have every reason to be insecure, for their theory is falling apart.
The latest evidence of this panic comes in
a controversy that followed a highly specialized article published in an
even more specialized scientific journal. Stephen C. Meyer, Director of
the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, wrote an article
accepted for publication in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.
The article, entitled "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher
Taxonomic Categories," was published after three independent judges deemed
it worthy and ready for publication. The use of such judges is standard
operating procedure among "peer-reviewed" academic journals, and is considered
the gold standard for academic publication.
The readership for such a journal is incredibly
small, and the Biological Society of Washington does not commonly come
to the attention of the nation's journalists and the general public. Nevertheless,
soon after Dr. Meyer's article appeared, the self-appointed protectors
of Darwinism went into full apoplexy. Internet websites and scientific
newsletters came alive with outrage and embarrassment, for Dr. Meyer's
article suggested that evolution just might not be the best explanation
for the development of life forms. The ensuing controversy was greater
than might be expected if Dr. Meyer had argued that the world is flat or
that hot is cold.
Eugenie C. Scott, Executive Director of the
National Center for Science Education, told The Scientist that Dr. Meyer's
article came to her attention when members of the Biological Society of
Washington contacted her office. "Many members of the society were stunned
about the article," she told The Scientist, and she described the article
as "recycled material quite common in the intelligent design community."
Dr. Scott, a well known and ardent defender of evolutionary theory, called
Dr. Meyer's article "substandard science" and argued that the article should
never have been published in any scientific journal.
Within days, the Biological Society of Washington,
intimidated by the response of the evolutionary defenders, released a statement
apologizing for the publication of the article. According to the Chronicle
of Higher Education, the society's governing council claimed that the article
"was published without the prior knowledge of the council." The statement
went on to declare: "We have met and determined that all of us would have
deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings." The
society's president, Roy W. McDiarmid, a scientist at the U.S. Geological
Survey, blamed the article's publication on the journal's previous editor,
Richard Sternberg, who now serves as a fellow at the National Center for
Biotechnology Information at the National Institute of Health. "My conclusion
on this," McDiarmid said, "was that it was a really bad judgment call on
the editor's part."
What is it about Dr. Stephen Meyer's paper
that has caused such an uproar? Meyer, who holds a Ph.D. from Cambridge
University, argued in his paper that the contemporary form of evolutionary
theory now dominant in the academy, known as "Neo-Darwinism," fails to
account for the development of higher life forms and the complexity of
living organisms. Pointing to what evolutionists identify as the "Cambrian
explosion," Meyer argued that "the geologically sudden appearance of many
new animal body plans" cannot be accounted for by Darwinian theory, "neo"
Accepting the scientific claim that the Cambrian
explosion took place "about 530 million years ago," Meyer went on to explain
that the "remarkable jump in the specified complexity or 'complex specified
information' [CSI] of the biological world" cannot be explained by evolutionary
The heart of Dr. Meyer's argument is found
in this scientifically-loaded passage: "Neo-Darwinism seeks to explain
the origin of new information, form, and structure as a result of selection
acting on randomly arising variation at a very low level within the biological
hierarchy, mainly, within the genetic text. Yet the major morphological
innovations depend on a specificity of arrangement at a much higher level
of the organizational hierarchy, a level that DNA alone does not determine.
Yet if DNA is not wholly responsible for body plan morphogenesis, then
DNA sequences can mutate indefinitely, without regard to realistic probabilistic
limits, and still not produce a new body plan. Thus, the mechanism of natural
selection acting on random mutations in DNA cannot in principle generate
novel body plans, including those that first arose in the Cambrian explosion."
In simpler terms, the mechanism of natural
selection, central to evolutionary theory, cannot possibly account for
the development of so many varied and complex life forms simply by mutations
in DNA. Rather, some conscious design--thus requiring a Designer--is necessary
to explain the emergence of these life forms.
In the remainder of his paper, Meyer attacks
the intellectual inadequacies of evolutionary theory and argues for what
is now known as the "design Hypothesis." As he argued, "Conscious and rational
agents have, as a part of their powers of purposive intelligence, the capacity
to design information-rich parts and to organize those parts into functional
information-rich systems and hierarchies." As he went on to assert, "We
know of no other causal entity or process that has this capacity." In other
words, the development of the multitude of higher life forms found on the
planet can be explained only by the guidance of a rational agent--a Designer--whose
plan is evident in the design.
Meyer's article was enough to cause hysteria
in the evolutionists' camp. Knowing that their theory lacks intellectual
credibility, the evolutionists respond by raising the volume, offering
the equivalent of scientific shrieks and screams whenever their cherished
theory is criticized--much less in one of their own cherished journals.
As Dr. John West, Associate Director of the Discovery Institute explained,
"Instead of addressing the paper's argument or inviting counterarguments
or rebuttal, the society has resorted to affirming what amounts to a doctrinal
statement in an effort to stifle scientific debate. They're trying to stop
scientific discussion before it even starts."
When the Biological Society of Washington
issued its embarrassing apology for publishing the paper, the organization
pledged that arguments for Intelligent Design "will not be addressed in
future issues of the Proceedings," regardless of whether the paper passes
From the perspective of panicked evolutionists,
the Intelligent Design movement represents a formidable adversary and a
constant irritant. The defenders of Intelligent Design are undermining
evolutionary theory at multiple levels, and they refuse to go away. The
panicked evolutionists respond with name-calling, labeling Intelligent
Design proponents as "creationists," thereby hoping to prevent any scientific
debate before it starts.
Intelligent Design is not tantamount to the
biblical doctrine of creation. Theologically, Intelligent Design falls
far short of requiring any affirmation of the doctrine of creation as revealed
in the Bible. Nevertheless, it is a useful and important intellectual tool,
and a scientific movement with great promise. The real significance of
Intelligent Design theory and its related movement is the success with
which it undermines the materialistic and naturalistic worldview central
to the theory of evolution.
For the Christian believer, the Bible presents
the compelling and authoritative case for God's creation of the cosmos.
Specifically, the Bible provides us with the ultimate truth concerning
human origins and the special creation of human beings as the creatures
made in God's own image. Thus, though we believe in more than Intelligent
Design, we certainly do not believe in less. We should celebrate the confusion
and consternation now so evident among the evolutionists. Dr. Stephen Meyer's
article--and the controversy it has spawned--has caught evolutionary scientists
with their intellectual pants down.
R. Albert Mohler, Jr. is president of The Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. For more articles and resources by Dr.
Mohler, and for information on The Albert Mohler Program, a daily national
radio program broadcast on the Salem Radio Network, go to www.albertmohler.com.
For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, go to www.sbts.edu.
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