More on Meyer


The controversy about the publication of "intelligent design" advocate Stephen C. Meyer's article "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories" in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington is now attracting attention in the press.

First, a brief UPI story "Creationist article stirs debate" appeared in the Washington Times on August 30. The story explained that "Intelligent design supporters believe living creatures show patterns of design that are evidence of a creator. ID backers also have sought to weaken the teaching of evolution in schools. Although the claims of Discovery Institute's CSC have been rebuffed by the scientific community at large, the group has sought to get papers published in scientific journals," and also repeated NCSE's report that members of the Biological Society of Washington are "concerned about the reputation of the society and its journal after the publication of such a piece of substandard work in the apparent service of a non-scientific ideology."

Second, The Scientist published Trevor Stokes's story "Intelligent design study appears: Publication of paper in peer-reviewed journal sparks controversy" on September 3. Stokes quoted NCSE executive director Eugenie C. Scott as describing "intelligent design" as "an evolved form of creationism that resulted from legal decisions in the 1980s ruling that creationism can't be taught in schools" and as commenting, "There hasn't been anything in peer-reviewed literature about intelligent design ... Members of the intelligent design community are very hungry to get articles in peer-reviewed journals." Stokes also quoted the Panda's Thumb critique of the article as "a rhetorical edifice [constructed] out of omission of relevant facts, selective quoting, bad analogies, and tendentious interpretations."

Stokes also interviewed Richard Sternberg and Meyer for his story. Sternberg, the editor of PBSW at the time the article was published, stated that the paper underwent peer review; he also expressed concern that "some in the science community have labeled him and Meyer as creationists." The article then described Sternberg's work with the Baraminology Study Group at Bryan College. (The article provides a link to the BSG's Occasional Papers, which "is committed to publishing constructive scientific research in creation biology"; Sternberg is on its editorial board.) Stokes might have also mentioned that Palm Beach Atlantic University, with which Meyer is now affiliated, requires its trustees, officers, faculty members, and staff to believe that "man was directly created by God."

The story gives the last word to Meyer, who comments, "Public reaction to the article, however, has been mainly characterized by hysteria, name-calling and personal attack." It is worth pointing out that the Panda's Thumb critique "Meyer's Hopeless Monster" spends about 6000 words patiently explaining the scientific shortcomings of the paper. When the Discovery Institute first posted Meyer's article on its web site, it acknowledged the existence of "Meyer's Hopeless Monster" (without linking to it) and commented, "We trust that the Panda's Thumb critique of Meyer’s article will seem a good deal less persuasive, and less substantive than Meyer’s article itself, once readers have had a chance to read Meyer’s essay. Dr. Meyer will, of course, respond in full to Gishlick et al. in due course." Perhaps significantly, no response has yet appeared, and the promise to respond -- along with any reference to "Meyer's Hopeless Monster" -- has disappeared.

(Update October 4, 2004: on September 29, 2004, the Discovery Institute posted "One Long Bluff" -- the first installment of a prospective response to "Meyer's Hopeless Monster." Future updates as events warrant.

Update October 13, 2004: a second installment of "One Long Bluff" appeared on October 11, 2004.)

("Intelligent design study appears" in The Scientist)