Meyer Article Attracts Unprecedented Attention Thanks to NCSE

Discovery Institute
September 22, 2004
Print ArticleThe NCSE has a new posting on its website headlined “ID paper continues to attract scrutiny.” The paper in question is Dr. Stephen Meyer’s article advancing intelligent design theory that was published in the peer-reviewed science journal Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (BSW).

Because of the increased attention and the need for complete and accurate information Discovery Institute has published a backgrounder on the controversy over the publication of Dr. Meyer’s piece. It provides concrete details about the fact that the article went through the standard peer-review process and was appropriate for publication in the Proceedings as well as answering many of the frequently answered questions about the article. Click here to get the facts. Or click here for another detailed, factual response.

Science magazine reported on the controversy over the article saying: "Promoters of intelligent design, the "scientific" wing of creationism, are gloating over a tactical victory this summer: the appearance of a critique of Darwinian evolution in a peer-reviewed biology journal. But the current editors say the journal shouldn't have published it."
We are not gloating. In fact, Discovery didn't promote the publication of the paper until it was necessary to respond to media coverage that began appearing several weeks after the paper was published. Not that we’re complaining -- one big reason Dr. Meyer's paper continues to attract attention is the amazing amount of free publicity it has received from the NCSE. Their attention to the article has fueled an unprecedented number of requests for offprints of the article and new levels of traffic to the CSC website. Again, there is a thorough backgrounder that responds to ridiculous charges, such as Science magazine's assertion that intelligent design is the "scientific wing of creationism."

The Chronicle of Higher Education last week published an article by Richard Monastersky titled "Biology journal says it mistakenly published paper that attacks Darwinian evolution." The CoHE quotes NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott as saying, "People who would be appropriate to review the paper would be evolutionary biologists, and I doubt that any evolutionary biologists reviewed the paper."
One wonders why Ms. Scott thinks no evolutionary biologists reviewed the paper. She is an anthropologist, not an evolutionary biologist, and yet felt qualified enough to the tell The Scientist recently that Dr. Meyer’s paper was “substandard science.” On his personal website, Dr. Richard Sternberg who was the editor of the Proceedings for the past three years clearly shows that he is in fact an expert in evolutionary biology: “I hold two PhDs in the area of evolutionary biology,” writes Sternberg, “one in molecular (DNA) evolution and the other in systems theory and theoretical biology. I have published more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed scientific books and publications. My current areas of research and writing are primarily in the areas of evolutionary theory and systematics.” Dr. Sternberg is more than adequately qualified to decide if the article is proper for the journal he edited.

According to the CoHE’s article the president of the BSW, Roy McDiarmid, claimed that the editor’s decision to publish the piece “was a really bad judgment call on the editor's part."
Dr. Sternberg has rebutted this on his own website writing: "after the controversy arose, Dr. Roy McDiarmid, President of the Council of the BSW, reviewed the peer-review file and concluded that all was in order. As Dr. McDiarmid informed me in an email message on August 25th, 2004, 'Finally, I got the [peer] reviews and agree that they are in support of your decision [to publish the article].'" Furthermore, Mr. McDiarmid is not questioning Dr. Sternberg’s professional scientific judgment, which was to publish the Meyer piece. (It should also be noted that in a separate article in Nature, McDiarmid confirmed that the “paper had been reviewed by three scientists and had been recommended for publication pending revisions.”) Rather, he seems to be saying the editor showed bad political judgment. Since when is there a political correctness litmus test for publishing science pieces?

The NCSE is helping to spread the misquotes and mischaracterizations from the CoHE’s story, that Meyer is claiming this article is "the first time that proponents of intelligent design have published an argument for the theory in a peer-reviewed scientific publication."
Dr. Meyer was misquoted and misrepresented on this issue by Monastersky. He has submitted a letter to the editor about this which you can read here in its entirety. Specifically, Meyer’s letter states: "My piece was merely the first peer-reviewed article to advocate intelligent design openly in a science journal. 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 books, peer-reviewed philosophy of science journals, peer-reviewed or peer-edited scientific anthologies and scientific conference proceedings." Dr. Meyer made this point explicitly to Mr. Monastersky during the interview, but Monastersky misreported his comments.

The NCSE persists in their new spin on peer-review. “In any case, peer review -- as scientists know -- is necessary but not sufficient for scientific respectability.”
Following their lead, the Darwinian choir is now all singing the same --albeit new and different -- tune about peer-review. After complaining for years that intelligent design theory was not appearing in peer-reviewed science journals, Darwinists are now claiming that its appearance in such a journal doesn’t really signify anything important.
  • Chris Mooney writes: "we shouldn't exaggerate the benefits of peer review or pretend it's an absolute guarantor of scientific truth…”
  • And in an interview in Nature biologist Ken Miller proclaimed: "Peer review isn't a guarantee of accuracy."

Intelligent design theorists have never claimed otherwise. In fact it is the Darwinists who have long upheld peer-review as a magical guarantor of scientific legitimacy. Now that intelligent design scholars are beginning to publish peer-reviewed work, Miller and other Darwinists suddenly are dismissive of peer review. After upholding peer review as the ultimate arbiter of science, this is a welcome admission. We’ve never said that peer review was the end-all be-all, Darwinists did. They want this to be the only means by which you judge an argument. You judge an argument based on its evidence, not based on who approved it.

In a Discovery press release Dr. Meyer sums it up thusly: "Until a few days ago," says Dr. Meyer, "Darwinists have argued that intelligent design isn’t science because it hasn’t been published in peer-reviewed journals. But now that an increasing number of scientists are making their case for design in scientific publications, Darwinists are ready to disown peer-review."