Intelligent Design's Latest Sneaky Assault on Science
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Last month, while speaking at McLean Bible Church, a megachurch in McLean, Virginia, intelligent design superstar Dr. Stephen Meyer rolled out a magnetic white board adorned with block letters spelling out “DC ROCKS.” John Donahue, the head of McLean’s apologetics ministry and a domineering man whose closely trimmed beard makes him look more like Chuck Norris than Jeremiah, introduced Meyer. A self-described “celebrity-geek,” Donahue first warning the attendees that “our faith has come under attack” and that “no doctrine or ideology has had a more negative effect that the ‘so-called’ theory of evolution.” Evolution, Donahue continued with the passion of a true believer, was supported by “fraudulent research, cherry-picked data, fabricated drawings, and scientific fraud.” Meyer, Donahue insisted, was “one of the finest scientific authors of our time,” and was there to show how the “scientists” got it all wrong.
Meyer’s “DC ROCKS” demonstration served to show what all those evolutionary scientists were missing. The fact that the letters stuck down the board was the result of the laws of magnetism, Meyer said, but the letters arrangement, in a way that bore meaningful information, was the product of intelligence.
This is the core argument that Meyer makes in his new book about an old debate. The book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design , is perhaps the longest, most detailed, and most “scientific” of any works produced by the Intelligent Design movement. And it’s not surprising that Meyer is the author of this doorstop work. He co-founded the Center for Science and Culture ( CSC) at the Discovery Institute, the Seattle-based think tank that has been at the center of the ID debate for more than a decade. Despite Meyer’s self-presentation as someone who derives his belief in an intelligent designer purely from observable scientific evidence, Meyer’s connections to the religious community show he can’t abide the theory of evolution because of its purported ideological consequences.
If there were ever anyone that could put a respectable face on the Intelligent Design movement, it’s Meyer. He began his scientific carrer as a geophysicist, and he went on to Cambridge where he received a doctorate in the History and Philosophy of Science in 1991. Meyer wrote his dissertation on the different explanations of the origin of life. And while his background in the methodology and history of biology gives a certain heft to his arguments, it’s also important to note that he isn’t a biologist. His defense of intelligent design and his attack on Darwinian evolution is not entirely scientific, no matter what Meyer might purport.
The origins of the ID movement can be found in the so-called Wedge Document, a founding manifesto and fundraising document for the CSC, which lays out a broadly ideological agenda. It sets out a multi-decade plan for “the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies” and for the acceptance of “the proposition that human beings are created in the image of God.” Although the Wedge Document inveighs against secularism and materialism, Meyer still presents himself as a scientist who is just following the evidence.
Since Kitzmiller v. Dover , the 2005 court case in which Judge John Jones ruled that the city of Dover, Pennsylvania could not teach intelligent design in their classrooms because “the religious nature of ID would be readily apparent to an objective observer, adult, or child,” the question seemed to be put to rest. But Meyer -- despite authoring a “ Note to Teachers” in the discredited textbook -- has kept on promoting the theory that evolution and natural selection are not sufficient explanations for the appearance of life on earth and, moreover, insisting that his work is purely scientific.