For more information on this issue:
- "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories," by Dr. Stephen Meyer
- Media Backgrounder: Intelligent Design Article Sparks Controversy
Sept. 13, 2004
To the editor:
I would like to contest two aspects of Rich Monastersky’s interesting September 10th article in the Chronicle ("Biology Journal Says It Mistakenly Published Paper That Attacks Darwinian Evolution").
First, Mr. Monastersky reports that my article in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington was the first peer-reviewed scientific publication advocating the theory of intelligent design. Actually, I don’t own that distinction. Scientists and philosophers of science have made the case for intelligent design in many peer-reviewed publications: in scientific books1, peer-reviewed philosophy of science journals2, peer-reviewed3 or peer-edited scientific anthologies4 and scientific conference proceedings5. My piece was merely the first peer-reviewed article to advocate intelligent design openly in a science journal.
Secondly, Mr. Monastersky’s story suggests that The Biological Society of Washington council criticized the publication of the article mainly because it addressed a topic that lies beyond the scope of the journal. Yet, the inside page of the journal provides the following information for contributors: “The Proceedings . . . contains papers bearing on systematics in the biological sciences (botany, zoology and paleontology).” My essay discussing the origin of the higher animal taxa clearly falls within this broad mandate.
Lest there be any doubt about this consider: Would the council have convened to pass a public resolution criticizing an article on the same topic—the origin of the higher taxonomic categories—if that article had affirmed a conventional evolutionary perspective?
The real reason for the council’s statement has little to do with topic and everything to do the paper’s conclusions. The council itself made this clear in their public declaration by affirming the 2002 AAAS statement repudiating the theory of intelligent design as unscientific by definition.
This is curious behavior for a scientific body. Rather than inviting a critique of my article, the council attempted to settle the issues it raises by appealing to an authoritarian policy statement.
Of course, adherence to this exclusionary policy at scientific editorial boards explains why those who see evidence of design in living systems cannot discuss this openly in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The National Center for Science Education and others have repeatedly insisted that the theory of intelligent design is not scientific because it has not been published in peer-reviewed science journals. Yet when an article proposing design does appear in a peer-reviewed science journal we are told that it should not have been published because it isn’t scientific.
Unfortunately, this tidy circularity does nothing to address the mounting evidential difficulties facing neo-Darwinism. Nor does it get the unwanted elephant out of the room. If all living systems look though as they were “designed for a purpose”6 as neo-Darwinists have long acknowledged, and if neither neo-Darwinism nor any other materialistic evolutionary theory accounts for the most striking appearances of design in living systems (such as, say, the cellular information processing system), then perhaps livings systems look designed because really were. I would invite those willing to consider this possibility to read the article at the center of this controversy. Debates about journal guidelines, peer-review and the definition of science are ultimately diversions.
Dr. Stephen Meyer
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture
1 Dembski, W.A. (1998). The design inference. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.; Behe, M. (1996). Darwin’s black box. New York: The Free Press; Bradley, W.L., Olsen, R.L., & Thaxton, C.B. (1992). The mystery of life’s origins. Dallas: Lewis and Stanley.
2Behe, M. J. (2000, March). Self-organization and irreducibly complex systems. Philosophy of Science, 67, 155-162.
3Campbell, A. & Meyer, S. C. (Eds.). (2003). Darwinism, design and public education. Lansing: Michigan State University Press.
4Dembski, W.A. & Ruse, M. (2004). Debating design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
5Brebbia, C. A. & Collins, M. (Eds.) (2004).Design & Nature II: Comparing design in nature with science & engineering. Southhampton: Wessex Institute Press.
6Dawkins, R. (1986). The blind watchmaker. London: Penguin Books.