Stephen C. Meyer

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Stephen C. Meyer
Born1958 (age 54)
USA
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationDirector of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute and Vice President and Senior Fellow at the DI
Known forAdvocate of intelligent design
 
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Stephen C. Meyer
Born1958 (age 54)
USA
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
OccupationDirector of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute and Vice President and Senior Fellow at the DI
Known forAdvocate of intelligent design

Stephen C. Meyer (born 1958) is an American scholar, philosopher of science and advocate for intelligent design. He helped found the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the Discovery Institute (DI), which is the main organization behind the intelligent design movement.[1][2][3] Before joining the DI, Meyer was a professor at Whitworth College. Meyer is currently director at the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture and Senior Fellow at the DI.

Biography[edit]

Meyer graduated with a degree in physics and earth science in 1981 from Whitworth College[4] and worked as a geophysicist for the Atlantic Richfield Company.[5] Shortly after, Meyer won a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Dallas to study at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. Meyer earned his Ph.D. in history and philosophy of science in 1991 at the University of Cambridge.[6] His dissertation was entitled "Of clues and causes: A methodological interpretation of origin of life studies."[6] After graduating, Meyer taught philosophy at Whitworth,[7] then at the Christian Palm Beach Atlantic University.[6] Meyer later ceased teaching to devote his time to the intelligent design movement.[8]

Meyer is married and has three children.

Intelligent design[edit]

Meyer is one of a small group of prominent intelligent design creationist advocates. Other well known creationist advocates include William Dembski, Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Wells.[9] Meyer's involvement in intelligent design (ID) can be traced to his participation in the 'Ad Hoc Origins Committee' defending Phillip E. Johnson's Darwin on Trial in 1992 or 1993 (in response to Stephen Jay Gould's "devastating"[10] review of it in the July 1992 issue of Scientific American), while with the Philosophy department at Whitworth College.[10] He was later a participant in the first formal meeting devoted to ID, hosted at Southern Methodist University in 1992.[10]

In December 1993 Bruce Chapman, president and founder of the Discovery Institute, noticed an essay in the Wall Street Journal by Meyer about a dispute when biology lecturer Dean H. Kenyon taught intelligent design in introductory classes.[11][12] Kenyon had co-authored Of Pandas and People, and in 1993 Meyer had contributed to the teacher's notes for the second edition of Pandas. Meyer was an old friend of Discovery Institute co-founder George Gilder, and over dinner about a year later they formed the idea of a think tank opposed to materialism. In the summer of 1995 Chapman and Meyer met a representative of Howard Ahmanson, Jr. Meyer, who had previously tutored Ahmanson's son in science, recalls being asked "What could you do if you had some financial backing?" [11] He was a co-author of the "Wedge strategy", which put forth the Discovery Institute's manifesto for the intelligent design movement.[13][14]

In 1999, Meyer with David DeWolf and Mark DeForrest laid out a legal strategy for introducing intelligent design into public schools in their book Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum.[15] Meyer has co-edited Darwinism, Design, and Public Education (Michigan State University Press, 2000) with John Angus Campbell and co-edited Science and Evidence of Design in the Universe (Ignatius Press, 2000) with Michael J. Behe and William A. Dembski. In 2009, his book Signature in the Cell was released and in December of that year.

Meyer has been described as "the person who brought ID (intelligent design) to DI (Discovery Institute)" by historian Edward Larson, who was a fellow at the Discovery Institute prior to it becoming the center of the intelligent design movement.[16] In 2004, the DI helped introduce ID to the Dover Area School District, which resulted in the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case where ID was ruled to be religion. Discussing ID in relation to Dover, on May 6, 2005 Meyer debated Eugenie Scott, on The Big Story with John Gibson. During the debate, Meyer argued that intelligent design is critical of more than just evolutionary mechanisms like natural selection that lead to diversification, but of common descent itself.[17]

He has appeared on television and in public forums advocating intelligent design. Notably he wrote and appeared in the Discovery Institute's 2002 film Unlocking the Mystery of Life[18] and was interviewed in the 2008 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed movie. Has also been an active debater such as in April 2006 with Peter Ward, a paleontologist from the University of Washington held an open online discussion on the topic of intelligent design in the Talk of the Times forum in Seattle, WA.[19] Meyer has also debated atheists Peter Atkins and Michael Shermer.

In March, 2002, Meyer announced a "teach the controversy" strategy, which alleges that the theory of evolution is controversial within scientific circles, following a presentation to the Ohio State Board of Education.[20] The presentation included submission of an annotated bibliography of 44 peer-reviewed scientific articles that were said to raise significant challenges to key tenets of "Darwinian evolution".[21] In response to this claim the National Center for Science Education, an organisation that works in collaboration with National Academy of Sciences, the National Association of Biology Teachers, and the National Science Teachers Association that support the teaching of evolution in public schools,[22] contacted the authors of the papers listed and 26 scientists, representing 34 of the papers, responded. None of the authors considered that their research provided evidence against evolution.[23] On March 11, 2002 during a panel discussion on evolution Meyer publicly told the Ohio Board of Education that the "Santorum Amendment" was part of the Education Bill, and therefore that the State of Ohio was required to teach alternative theories to evolution as part of its biology curriculum. Professor of Biology, Kenneth R. Miller replied that Conference Reports do not carry the weight of law and that in implying that they do, Meyer factually mistated the nature and gravitas of the Santorum Amendment.[24]

Peer review controversy[edit]

On 4 August 2004, an article by Meyer appeared in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.[25] On September 7, the publisher of the journal, the Council of the Biological Society of Washington, released a statement retracting the article as not having met its scientific standards and not peer reviewed.[26] The same statement vowed that proper review procedures would be followed in the future and endorsed a resolution published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID.[27]

The journal's reasons for disavowing the article were denied by Richard Sternberg, the managing editor at the time.[28] As evidence they cite that Sternberg is a fellow of International Society for Complexity, Information and Design (ISCID), a group dedicated to promoting intelligent design,[29] and presented a lecture on intelligent design at the Research And Progress in Intelligent Design (RAPID) conference.[30]

Meyer alleges that those who oppose "Darwinism" are persecuted by the scientific community and prevented from publishing their views.[31] Such assertions have been refuted, disputed or dismissed by a wide range of scholarly, science education and legislative sources. In a 2006 article published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, a group of writers defending Darwinian evolution that included historian of science Ronald L. Numbers (author of The Creationists), philosopher of biology Elliott Sober, Wisconsin State Assemblywoman Terese Berceau and four members of the department of biochemistry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, dismissed such claims as a "hoax".[32] In their website refuting claims of persecution contained in the film Expelled (which featured Meyer), the National Center for Science Education states that, in contrast to the many new good scientific ideas that win out when they are proven to be sound, "Intelligent design advocates ... have no research and no evidence, and have repeatedly shown themselves unwilling to formulate testable hypotheses; yet they complain about an imagined exclusion, even after having flunked the basics."[33] In analysing an Academic Freedom bill, that was based upon a Discovery Institute model statute, the Florida Senate found that:

According to the Department of Education, there has never been a case in Florida where a public school teacher or public school student has claimed that they have been discriminated against based on their science teaching or science course work.[34]

Signature in the Cell[edit]

On June 23, 2009, HarperOne released Meyer's Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. Philosopher Thomas Nagel submitted the book as his contribution to the "2009 Books of the Year" supplement for The Times, writing "Signature in the Cell...is a detailed account of the problem of how life came into existence from lifeless matter – something that had to happen before the process of biological evolution could begin ... Meyer is a Christian, but atheists, and theists who believe God never intervenes in the natural world, will be instructed by his careful presentation of this fiendishly difficult problem.".[35]

Stephen Fletcher, chemist at Loughborough University, responded in The Times Literary Supplement that Nagel was "promot[ing] the book to the rest of us using statements that are factually incorrect."[36] Fletcher explained "Natural selection is in fact a chemical process as well as a biological process, and it was operating for about half a billion years before the earliest cellular life forms appear in the fossil record."[36] In another publication, Fletcher wrote that "I am afraid that reality has overtaken Meyer’s book and its flawed reasoning" in pointing out scientific problems with Meyer's work by citing how RNA "survived and evolved into our own human protein-making factory, and continues to make our fingers and toes."[37]

Darrel Falk, former president of the BioLogos Foundation and a biology professor at Point Loma Nazarene University, reviewed the book and used it as an example of why he does not support the intelligent design movement.[38] Falk wrote that the book contains many incorrect claims such as "Meyer correctly concluded that no RNA molecule had ever been evolved in a test tube which could do more than join two building blocks together."[38] Falk was critical of Meyer's declaration of scientists, such as Michael Lynch, being wrong without Meyer conducting any experiments to falsify the established work in the field.[38] Falk wrote, "the book is supposed to be a science book and the ID movement is purported to be primarily a scientific movement—not primarily a philosophical, religious, or even popular movement."[38] Falk concluded, "If the object of the book is to show that the Intelligent Design movement is a scientific movement, it has not succeeded. In fact, what it has succeeded in showing is that it is a popular movement grounded primarily in the hopes and dreams of those in philosophy, in religion, and especially those in the general public."[38] Meyers has since published Signature of Controversy: Responses to Critics of Signature in the Cell.

Darwin's Doubt[edit]

Meyer published Darwin's Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design on 18 June 2013.[39] In this book, he describes the mysterious explosion of animal life around the Cambrian period, 530 million year ago, found in the fossil record. The sudden emergence of large number of animal life during this period, termed the 'Cambrian explosion', is suggested by Meyer to contradict Darwin's evolutionary process. Meyer argues that the Cambrian explosion of animal life is best explained by intelligent design.

In a review published by The Skeptics Society titled Stephen Meyer's Fumbling Bumbling Amateur Cambrian Follies,[40] paleontologist Donald Prothero points out the number of errors, cherry-picking, misinterpretation and misinformation in Meyer's book. The center of Meyer's argument for intelligent design, Cambrian Explosion, has been deemed an outdated concept after recent decades of fossil discovery. 'Cambrian diversification' is a more consensual term now used in paleontology to describe the 80 million year time frame where the fossil record show the gradual and stepwise emergence of more and more complicated animal life, just as predicted in Darwin's evolution. Prothero explains that the early Cambrian period is divided into three stages: Nemakit-Daldynian, Tommotian and Atdabanian. Meyer ignores the first two stages and the fossil discoveries from these two periods, instead he focuses on the later Atbadbanian stage to present the impression that all Cambrian live forms appeared abruptly without predecessors. To further counter Meyer's argument that the Atdabanian period is too short for evolution process to take place, Prothero cites paleontologist B.S. Lieberman that the rates of evolution during the 'Cambrian explosion' are typical of any adaptive radiation in life's history. He quotes another prominent paleontologist Andrew Knoll that '20 million years is a long time for organisms that produce a new generation every year or two' without the need to invoke any unknown processes. Going through a list of topics in modern evolutionary biology Meyer used to bolster his idea in the book, Prothero asserts that Meyer, not a paleontologist nor a molecular biologist, does not understand these scientific disciplines, therefore he misinterprets, distorts and confuses the data, all for the purpose of promoting the 'God of the gaps' argument: 'anything that is currently not easily explained by science is automatically attributed to supernatural causes', i.e. intelligent design.

In his article Doubting "Darwin's Doubt" published in The New Yorker,[41] Gareth Cook discusses that this book is another attempt by the creationist to rekindle the intelligent design movement, another go-around in masquerading religious belief as science. Decades of fossil discovery around the world, aided by new computational analytical techniques enable scientists to construct a more complete portrait of the tree of life which was not available to Darwin (hence his 'doubt' in Meyer's words). The contemporary scientific consensus is that there is no 'explosion'. Cook cites Nick Matzke's analysis that the major gaps identified by Meyer are derived from his lack of understanding of the field's key statistical techniques (among other things) and his misleading rearrangement of the tree of life.[42] Cook references scientific literature [43] to refute Meyer's argument that the genetic machinery of life is incapable of big leaps therefore any major biological advancement must be the result of intervention by the 'intelligent designer'. Like Prothero, Cook also points out the absurdity of Meyer's stance on knowledge: if something cannot be fully explained by today's science, it must be the work of a supreme deity. Calling it a 'masterwork of pseudoscience', Cook warns that the influence of this book should not be underestimated. Cook opines that the book, with Meyer sewing skillfully together the trappings of science, wielding his credential of a Ph.D. (in history of science) from the University of Cambridge, writing in a seemingly serious and reasonable manner, will appeal to a large audience who is hungry for material evidence of God or considers science a conspiracy against spirituality.

From a different perspective, paleontologist Charles Marshall wrote in his review When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship published in Science that while trying to build the scientific case for intelligent design, Meyer lets his deep belief to steer his understanding and interpretation of the scientific data and fossil records collected for the Cambrian period. The result (this book) is selective knowledge (scholarship) that is plagued with misrepresentation, omission and dismissal of the scientific consensus; exacerbated by Meyer’s lack of scientific knowledge and superficial understanding in the relevant fields, especially molecular phylogenetics and morphogenesis. The main argument of Meyer is the mathematically impossible time scale that is needed to support emergence of new genes which drive the explosion of new species during the Cambrian period. Marshall points out that the relatively fast appearance of new animal species in this period is not driven by new genes, but rather by evolving from existing genes through 'rewiring' of the gene regulatory networks (GRNs). This basis of morphogenesis is dismissed by Meyer due to his fixation on novel genes and new protein folds as prerequisite of emergence of new species. The root of his bias is his 'God of the gaps' approach to knowledge and the sentimental quest to 'provide solace to those who feel their faith undermined by secular society and by science in particular'. [44]

Bibliography[edit]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Forrest, Barbara (May,2007). Understanding the Intelligent Design Creationist Movement: Its True Nature and Goals. A Position Paper from the Center for Inquiry, Office of Public Policy (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Center for Inquiry, Inc. Retrieved 2007-08-06  .
  2. ^ Small Group Wields Major Influence in Intelligent Design Debate ABC News, November 9, 2005
  3. ^ "ID's home base is the Center for Science and Culture at Seattle's conservative Discovery Institute. Meyer directs the center; former Reagan adviser Bruce Chapman heads the larger institute, with input from the Christian supply-sider and former American Spectator owner George Gilder (also a Discovery senior fellow). From this perch, the ID crowd has pushed a "teach the controversy" approach to evolution that closely influenced the Ohio State Board of Education's recently proposed science standards, which would require students to learn how scientists "continue to investigate and critically analyze" aspects of Darwin's theory." Chris Mooney. The American Prospect. December 2, 2002 Survival of the Slickest: How anti-evolutionists are mutating their message. Retrieved on 2008-07-23
  4. ^ "Curriculum Vitae". stephencmeyer.org. 
  5. ^ "Stephen C. Meyer, Senior Fellow - CSC". Discovery Institute. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  6. ^ a b c "Stephen Meyer Biography". Access Research Network. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  7. ^ Forrest & Gross 2004, p. 205
  8. ^ Allene Phy-Olsen (2010). Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design (Historical Guides to Controversial Issues in America). Westport, Conn: Greenwood. pp. 68–9. ISBN 0-313-37841-X. 
  9. ^ Pennock, Robert T. (2000). Tower of Babel: the evidence against the new creationism. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-262-66165-9. 
  10. ^ a b c Forrest & Gross 2004, p. 18
  11. ^ a b Politicized Scholars Put Evolution on the Defensive Jodi Wilgoren. The New York Times, August 21, 2005.
  12. ^ Stephen C. Meyer (1993-12-06). "Open Debate on Life's Origins: Meyer, Stephen C.". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-08-27. 
  13. ^ Johnson, PE (1999). "The Wedge Breaking the Modernist Monopoly on Science". Touchstone. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  14. ^ Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (1999). "The Wedge Document" (pdf). Discovery Institute. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  15. ^ "Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curricula: A Legal Guidebook". Access Research Network. 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-17. 
  16. ^ Mooney, C (2005). "The Republican War on Science, Chapter 11: "Creation Science" 2.0". 
  17. ^ "CSC - Kansas Debates Evolution: Stephen C. Meyer, Eugenie Scott (transcript)". Discovery Institute. 2005-05-06. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  18. ^ "Unlocking the Mystery of Illustra Media". National Center for Science Education. June 30, 2003. Retrieved 2008-12-24. 
  19. ^ "Town Hall presents Talk of the Times: Intelligent Design vs. Evolution". Washington State Public Affairs TV Network. 2006-04-26. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  20. ^ Meyer, Stephen. "Teach the Controversy". 
  21. ^ Meyer, SC (2002-03-30). "Teach the Controversy". Discovery Institute. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  22. ^ "About the NCSE". National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  23. ^ "Analysis of the Discovery Institute’s Bibliography". National Center for Science Education. 2002-06-01. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  24. ^ "Is There a Federal Mandate to Teach Intelligent Design Creationism?" (pdf). National Center for Science Education. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  25. ^ Meyer, SC (2007-05-18). "Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories". Discovery Institute. Retrieved 2010-11-23. 
  26. ^ Statement from the Council of the Biological Society of Washington at the Wayback Machine (archived September 26, 2007)
  27. ^ "AAAS Board Resolution on Intelligent Design Theory". 
  28. ^ "Home page of Dr. Richard Sternberg". 
  29. ^ "ISCID Fellows". 
  30. ^ "RAPID Conderence Schedule". 
  31. ^ "100 Scientists, National Poll Challenge Darwinism".  (also known as A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism)
  32. ^ "Another plea often articulated by ID proponents is the idea that there is a community of ID scientists undergoing persecution by the science establishment for their revolutionary scientific ideas. A search through PubMed fails to find evidence of their scholarship within the peer-reviewed scientific literature. In the original Wedge document, a key part of the plan to displace evolutionary biology was a program of experimental science and publication of the results. That step has evidently been skipped." Attie, A. D.; Sober, E.; Numbers, R. L.; Amasino, R. M.; Cox, B.; Berceau, T.; Powell, T.; Cox, M. M. (2006). "Defending science education against intelligent design: a call to action" (Full free text). Journal of Clinical Investigation 116 (5): 1134–1138. doi:10.1172/JCI28449. PMC 1451210. PMID 16670753.  edit
  33. ^ Challenging Science, Expelled Exposed, National Center for Science Education
  34. ^ Bill Analysis and Fiscal Impact Statement, The Professional Staff of the Education Pre-K - 12 Committee, Florida Senate, March 26, 2008
  35. ^ 2009 Books of the Year, The Times
  36. ^ a b Fletcher, Stephen (December 2, 2009). "TLS Letters 02/12/09". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  37. ^ Fletcher, Stephen (February 3, 2010). "TLS Letters 03/02/10". The Times Literary Supplement. Retrieved 2010-03-28. 
  38. ^ a b c d e Falk, Darrel (December 28, 2009). "Science & the Sacred » Signature in the Cell". BioLogos Foundation. Retrieved 2009-12-28. 
  39. ^ Meyer SC (2013). Darwin’s Doubt. New York: HarperOne. p. 512. ISBN 978-0062071477. 
  40. ^ Prothero, Donald (7 August 2013). "Stephen Meyer's Fumbling Bumbling Amateur Cambrian Follies". The Skeptics Society. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  41. ^ Cook, Gareth (2 July 2013). "Doubting "Darwin's Doubt"". The New Yorker. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  42. ^ Matzke, Nick (19 June 2013). "Meyer's Hopeless Monster, Part II". Panda’s Thumb. Retrieved 13 August 2013. 
  43. ^ Long, Manyuan; Betran, Esther; Thornton, Kevin; Wang, Wen (2003). "The origin of new genes: glimpses from the young and old". Nature Reviews Genetics (Nature) 4: 865–875. doi:10.1038/nrg1204. 
  44. ^ Marshall, Charles (2013). "When Prior Belief Trumps Scholarship". Science (AAAS) 341 (6152): 1344. doi:10.1126/science.1244515. 

References[edit]

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