Skip to comments.2009 Daniel of the Year (World Magazine Selects Stephen C. Meyer, Proponent of Intelligent Design)
Posted on 12/07/2009 10:43:28 AM PST by SeekAndFind
Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, fights to show that all lives have eternal value because they are the work of a Creator and not the product of chance.
WORLD's 12th annual Daniel of the Year does not save lives abroad, as Britain's Caroline Cox and Sudan's Michael Yerko do. Nor does he regularly save lives of the unborn, as Florida's Wanda Cohn does through her pregnancy center work. No, Stephen C. Meyer, director of the Discovery Institute's Center for Science and Culture, fights to show that those lives have eternal value because they are the work of a Creator and not the product of chance.
This fall Meyer came out with a full account of what science has learned in recent decades: Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Harper One, 2009) shows that the cell is incredibly complex and the code that directs its functions wonderfully designed. His argument undercuts macroevolution, the theory that one kind of animal over time evolves into a very different kind. Meyer thus garners media scorn for raining on this year's huge celebration of the birth of Charles Darwin 200 years ago and the publication of On the Origin of Species 150 years ago.
Meyer's Seattle-area office is filled with books and papers, drawings of the interior of plants, and trilobite fossilsobviously evolved, a Darwinist would say. Hanging from the ceiling is an obviously created mobile that displays sets of eyes along with pictures of people from many cultures. That mobile, made by Meyer's teenage daughter, reminds him of the passage from 2 Chronicles 16 that notes how "the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward Him." Those with biblical faith in God see both fossils and the mobile as works of intelligence.
From his office Meyer has ventured forth to debate at least nine prominent Darwinians on CNN, NPR, FOX, the BBC, and other venues. In it he has written numerous newspaper and magazine columns in defense of Intelligent Design (ID), as well as an academic article that became notorious five years ago when Richard Sternberg, a Smithsonian-affiliated scientist, agreed to publish it in the peer-reviewed Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Darwinian higher-ups demoted Sternberg for allowing the other side to have its say. They interrogated him about religious and political beliefs.
ID proponents regularly receive that type of harassment: No lion's den, but denials of tenure and media depiction as anti-science. Ironically, scientific advance is now backing ID, which starts with the idea thatin Meyer's words"certain technical features in a physical system reveal the activity of an intelligence or a mind. A simple example might be Mount Rushmore: You drive into the Dakotas and you see carvings of the presidents' faces up on the mountainside, and you immediately recognize that you're dealing with a sculpture, an intelligence, rather than an undirected process like wind and erosion."
Our new ability to peer into cells also shows ID: Meyer says, "We don't see little faces but we do see other indicators of intelligent activity, such as the digital code that's stored in a DNA molecule, or the tiny little miniature machines, the nanotechnology, the sliding clamps and turbines and rotary engines that biologists are now finding inside living cells." Darwin did not know any of that and Meyer, 51, did not always know it. His career shows the four-stage pattern that is common among intellectual Daniels: Questioning, discernment, courage, and perseverance.
Meyer's questioning stage came in the 1970s and 1980s. He grew up nominally Catholiche, his wife, and their three children now attend Covenant Presbyterian in the Seattle areaand as a teenager "had a long and tortuous conversion experience. I was constantly asking myself questions and over-thinking things. In my junior year in high school I vowed that I would not think about Christianity for two whole weeks and I broke the vow within a day. I probably was already a Christian but I had so many questions and I wasn't sure."
At Whitworth College in Spokane, Professor Norman Krebs introduced Meyer to books by Francis Schaeffer that helped him answer theological questions and also led him to a philosophy of science: "I was very taken with Schaeffer's argument from epistemology that the foundation of the scientific enterprise itself rested on certain assumptions that only made sense within a theistic worldview, in particular, assumptions about the reliability of the human mind."
Meyer after graduation kept thinking about "the big questions" and "was first inclined to accept the evolutionary explanation of things mainly because all of my college science professors did." While working as a geophysicist in Texas, he dropped in on a conference concerning the origin of the universe and of life: "Nearly all the panelists acknowledged that there was no materialistic, evolutionary explanation for the origin of the first life . . . the veneer of objectivity in the discussion broke down and some of the scientists started scolding and lecturing this other scientist about his giving up on science. . . . It got really personal and kind of ugly."
Non-questioning minds would have steered clear of what looked like trouble. Meyer's reaction: "I want to know more about this debate"so he accepted a fellowship that allowed him to study at the 800-year-old University of Cambridge, which includes among its alumni Isaac Newton, Darwin himself, and 85 Nobel Prize winners.
The question that occupied Meyer at Cambridge was, "Could this intuition of a connection between information and intelligence be developed into a rigorous scientific argument?" He "began to study the scientists who had developed a scientific method for studying biological origins. That led me, obviously, to Darwin, and from Darwin to his mentor, the famous 19th-century geologist Charles Lyell, who had pioneered the method of studying events and causes in the remote past. . . . Lyell had a way of distilling this principle of reasoning: He said we should be looking for presently acting causes, or as he put it, 'causes now in operation.'"
Meyer recalls the beginning of his discernment stage: "When I saw that phrase, 'causes now in operation,' the light went on, because I thought, 'What is the cause now in operation that's responsible for the creation of digital code, of alphabetical information in a digital form?' There's only one: intelligence. So I realized that by using Darwin and Lyell's principle of reasoning, you could make a compelling scientific case for Intelligent Design." That type of evidence assessment is different from the standard scientific method emphasis on laboratory analysis and experimentation, but it's what historians use in looking at singular past events and inferring their causes from evidence left behind.
When Meyer completed his dissertation, "Of Clues and Causes: A Methodological Interpretation of Origin of Life Studies," the University of Cambridge in 1991 awarded him its prestigious Ph.D. Meyer, having proceeded through questioning and discernment stages, had to decide whether to enter the courage stage. Everyone knows that microevolutionchange within speciesoccurs, but the critical issue is whether the descendants of dinosaurs become birds through natural selection. Denying macroevolution leaves scientists unprotected even at some Christian colleges.
Meyer says, "You ask how someone gets the moxie to take something like this on. Part of the answer is that I didn't know any better when I was young. I was just so seized with this idea and these questions: 'Was it possible to develop a scientific case? Were we looking at evidence that could revive and resuscitate the classical argument from design, which had been understood from the time of Hume and certainly the time of Darwin to be defunct?' If that was the case, that's a major scientific revolution."
Courage becomes a determinant once we count the cost and see that it's great. Meyer's first inkling came when "talking about my ideas to people at Cambridge High Table settings, and getting that sudden social pall." But the cost was and is more than conversational ease: San Francisco State University in 1992 expelled a professor, Dean Kenyon, who espoused ID, and other job losses have come since. Meyer and other ID proponents saw "that this would be very controversial. One of the things that emboldened all of us who were in the early days of this movement was meeting each other. In 1993 we had a little private conference [with] 10 or 12 very sharp, mostly younger scientists going through top-of-the-world programs in their respective fields who were all skeptical. I think the congealing of this group gave everyone the sense that this was going to be an exciting adventure: Let's rumble."
Meyer taught from 1990 to 2002 at his alma mater, Whitworth. Then he and his family moved to Seattle and full-time work at the Center for Science and Culture, which he had planted in 1996 following "an electric conversation" with famed free market economics writer George Gilder, a Discovery Institute leader. Gilder understands that the creative ingenuity of the human mind, and not material stuff by itself, leads to wealth creation. Similarly, biological functions arise from information in DNA, which points to a designing mind. Our computer age knowledge of the role of information technology helps us to grasp what Darwin did not: That matter does not matter unless someone or Someone precisely arranges it.
Many who enter the courage stage at first think that the war in which they find themselves will end in a few years. There comes a time in many lives, though, when a hard realization sinks in: It will not be over in my lifetime. That's when some give in while others proceed to the perseverance stage. That's where Meyer is: Signature in the Cell ends with a long list of testable predictions concerning the direction of science over the next several decades. Meyer predicts that further study will reveal the importance of "junk DNA" and the reasons for what seem to be "poorly designed" structures: They will reveal either a hidden functional logic or evidence of decay from originally good designs.
Life for ID Daniels may even grow harder as some Darwinists realize that time is not on their side. As ultrasound machines have undercut abortion, so information revolutions have led more scientists to embrace ID. As Meyer says, "When we encounter a computer program we can always trace it back to a computer programmer. . . . So the discovery of information in DNA points decisively back to an intelligent cause, to a mind, not a material process."
That discovery undermines the current Darwinian empire, which is and will be striking back. Meyer's wife Elaine occasionally asks him, "Is it too late for us to still be farmers?" It looks that way: Meyer is way past the point of no return for a placid academic life. And today's Daniels hang in there, as their predecessor two-and-a-half millennia ago did.
For those interested, click here :
To see past recipients of the DANIEL OF THE YEAR AWARD.
World magazine is an outstanding publication.
I nominate myself as Daniel of the Year. Of all the Daniels I know I like me best.
Intelligent Design is foundational to true conservatism.
Why is this in Gen/Chat, it’s from World Magazine for goodness sakes!
I wasn’t sure where to put this information. Are you saying this belongs to the main news thread ?
Thanks for the ping!
Amen to that!!!
See the following from Jim Robinson regarding Creation/Intelligent Design. He was responding to a complaint about Creation/ID posts being banished from News/Activism to Gen/Chat.
All the best—GGG