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Photo by John Keatley/Genesis

2009 Daniel of the Year

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

Issue: "2009 Daniel of the Year," Dec. 19, 2009

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 fossils-obviously 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.

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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 that-in 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 Catholic-he, his wife, and their three children now attend Covenant Presbyterian in the Seattle area-and 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."


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