Cover Story

2009 Daniel of the Year

"2009 Daniel of the Year" Continued...

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

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 microevolution-change within species-occurs, 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.


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