In her Dec. 15 letter responding to my December 6th editorial-page piece “A Scopes Trial for the ’90s” Eugenie Scott claims that Prof. Kenyon and I misunderstand the nature of science. What she means, of course, is that we understand it — and its current arbitrary prohibitions — all too well. The Kenyon case underscores a fact that Dr. Scott and others in the full-time evolution lobby would prefer not to face: highly-qualified colleagues now contest her rigidly materialistic view of science.
Instead of responding to this challenge, Dr. Scott simply reasserts her methodological credo — all scientific explanations must be materialistic — as if that should settle the matter. Yet questions of appropriate method must be debated every bit as much as competing theories. Origin-of-life scientists must now decide whether theorists are free to follow evidence wherever it might lead or whether they may consider only certain kinds of explanations as Dr. Scott insists.
This debate will not go away. With recent developments in probability and complexity theory, the detection of intelligent design has already entered science proper. NASA’s $100 million search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is based upon the ability to detect the statistical and mathematical signature of intelligently encoded messages.
To Prof. Kenyon the presence of biochemical messages and a corresponding molecular grammar in the cell strongly suggests a prior intelligent design. He may be wrong or he may be right. What is certain is that his argument is based neither on ignorance nor religious authority. Instead, he has made an inference from biological data informed by a sophisticated consideration of the informational sciences.
It no doubt serves the purposes of Dr. Scott and Dr. Hafernick at SFSU to portray Prof. Kenyon as a religious fundamentalist unwilling to revise dogma in the face of new evidence. By now it must be clear that it is their fundamentalism, not Prof. Kenyon’s, that is on trial.
Stephen C. Meyer, Ph.D.
Philosophy of Science, Cambridge University
Assistant Professor of Philosophy