Believers in human-caused global climate change have been placed under an uncomfortable spotlight recently. That is thanks to the Climategate scandal, centering on e-mails hacked from the influential Climate Research Unit (CRU) at England’s University of East Anglia. The e-mails show scientists from various academic institutions hard at work suppressing dissent from other scientists who have doubts on global warming, massaging research data to fit preconceived ideas, and seeking to manipulate the gold standard “peer review” process to keep skeptical views from being heard.
Does this sound familiar at all? To me, as a prominent skeptic of modern Darwinian theory, it sure does. For years, Darwin-doubting scientists have complained of precisely such abuses, committed by Darwin zealots in academia.
There have been parallels cases where e-mail traffic was released showing Darwinian scientists displaying the same contempt for fair play and academic openness as we see now in the climate emails. One instance involved a distinguished astrophysicist at Iowa State University, Guillermo Gonzalez, who broke ranks with colleagues in his department over the issue of intelligent design in cosmology. Released under the Iowa Open Records Act, e-mails from his fellow scientists at ISU showed how his department conspired against him, denying Dr. Gonzales tenure as retribution for his views.
In 2004, a peer-reviewed biology journal at the Smithsonian Institution published a technical essay of mine presenting a case for intelligent design. Colleagues of the journal’s editor, an evolutionary biologist, responded by taking away his office, his keys and his access to specimens, placing him under a hostile supervisor and spreading disinformation about him. Ultimately, he was demoted, prompting an investigation of the Smithsonian by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel.
The public has been intimidated into thinking that “non-experts” have no right to question “consensus” views in science. But the scandal in at the University of East Anglia suggests that this consensus on climate may not be based on solid evidence.
But what about the Darwin debate? We are told that the consensus of scientists in favor of Darwinian evolution means the theory is no longer subject to debate. In fact, there are strong scientific reasons to doubt Darwin’s theory and what it allegedly proved.
For example, contrary to Darwinian orthodoxy, the fossil record actually challenges the idea that all organisms have evolved from a single common ancestor. Why? Fossil studies reveal “a biological big bang” near the beginning of the Cambrian period (520 million years ago) when many major, separate groups of organisms or “phyla” (including most animal body plans) emerged suddenly without clear precursors.
While all scientists accept that natural selection can produce small-scale “micro-evolutionary” variations, many biologists now doubt that natural selection and random mutations can generate the large-scale changes necessary to produce fundamentally new structures and forms of life.
Thus more than 800 scientists, including professors from such institutions as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Yale and Rice universities and members of various national (U.S., Russian, Czech, Polish) academies of science have signed a statement questioning the creative power of the selection/mutation mechanism.
Increasingly, the Darwinian idea that living things only appear to be designed has come under scrutiny. Indeed, living systems display telltale signs of actual or intelligent design such as the presence of complex circuits, miniature motors and digital information in living cells.
The information and information-processing systems that run the show in cells point with a particular clarity to prior design. The DNA molecule stores instructions in the form of a four-character digital code, similar to a computer code. As we know from our repeated experience -- the basis of all scientific reasoning -- systems possessing such features always arise from minds, not material processes.
Thus, despite the orthodox view that Darwin showed “design could arise without a designer” there is now compelling scientific evidence to the contrary.
The question of biological origins has long raised profound philosophical questions. Have life’s endlessly diverse forms been the result of purely material processes or did a purposeful intelligence play a role? It’s not surprising that such an ideologically charged issue would illicit strong passions, leading even scientists to suppress dissenting views with which they disagree.
All the more reason -- in this debate as in the one about global warming -- to let the evidence, rather than the consensus of experts, determine the outcome.
Dr. Meyer is director for the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture. He is author of Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, honored in the Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2009. He received his Ph.D. in the Philosophy of Science from Cambridge University.