Unfashionable genes

Science | Darwinists lash out as ID scientist makes an important inroad

Issue: "Kerry praying for votes," Oct. 9, 2004

SEATTLE -- Last month the Intelligent Design (ID) team pushed a run across the plate, and its Darwinist opponents promptly promised not to let it happen again.

The ID breakthrough came when a paper titled "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Stephen Meyer appeared in Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. A peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings only prints articles approved by scientists at mainstream institutions-and until now the Darwinian establishment has excluded from such journals all ID articles.

Mr. Meyer, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, argues in the paper that Darwinian mechanisms cannot explain the production of new information needed for novel genes and proposes ID as a better explanation. The ID movement already has produced peer-reviewed books: William Dembski's The Design Inference and Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box. But publication of Mr. Meyer's paper means that Darwinians will no longer be able to dismiss the ID movement by saying that such articles cannot pass muster.

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Darwinists reacted to the publication quickly and harshly. The Biological Society of Washington (BSW) called it "a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year history. It was published without the prior knowledge of the council." BSW called the paper "inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings" and promised the topic of design "will not be addressed in future issues."

Proceedings published Mr. Meyer's article with the approval of former editor Richard Sternberg, who resigned for unrelated reasons in October 2003 but continued to serve until a new editor was selected in May 2004. Mr. Sternberg insists he followed the standard peer-review process, submitting Mr. Meyer's paper for examination to three qualified evolutionary and molecular biologists teaching at well-known institutions. Mr. Meyer confirms that he revised his original paper based on recommendations from the three peer reviewers.

Darwinians have lambasted Mr. Sternberg for allowing Mr. Meyer's paper to see the light of day. Some scientists have called Mr. Sternberg a closet creationist; Mr. Sternberg calls himself a process structuralist who does "not subscribe to the claims of young-earth creationism." Darwinians have also found Mr. Sternberg, who holds two Ph.D.s in evolutionary biology and has written more than 30 articles for peer-reviewed scientific books and publications, guilty by association: He met Mr. Meyer at an ID conference in 2002 and the two-both skeptical of neo-Darwinism-discussed the possible publication of an article calling into question the widely accepted theory.

Upon learning its journal had published the paper, BSW alerted Eugene C. Scott, executive director for the National Center for Science Education. A leading opponent of ID, Mr. Scott lamented the journal's decision. But Mr. Meyer said he was pleased that his article had "breached that barrier. The controversy creates a tremendous platform to get our message out to scientists." More than 60 scientists from around the world have requested copies of the article and an accompanying packet of reference materials.


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