Editor’s note: Stephen C. Meyer is the director of the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute. A former geophysicist and university professor, he also authored the 2009 book touting the case for intelligent design, Signature in the Cell, and the more recent Darwin’s Doubt, a 2013 New York Timesbestseller. Daniel James Devine interviewed Meyer at the recent WORLD Weekend event in Asheville, N.C., headquarters of World News Group.
I guess the impression I get when I hear Darwinists talk is that just a mutation or a few mutations can produce a new body plan, or a new organ, or some new trait in a creature. Is that true? Well, this is the second mystery that I address. … The first mystery has to do with the missing fossils that bothered Darwin. But at a certain point, I make a turn, and I show that there’s actually a deeper problem … and that problem has become very much more acute because of what we’ve learned in the last 50 or 60 years about the primacy of information to living systems. … Here’s maybe a way that would help: When I was teaching, I used to ask my students the question, if you want to give your computer a new function, what do you have to give it? Software. Code. Information. Instructions. So it turns out the very same thing is true in life. To build a new animal requires a huge infusion of new information into the natural world, into the biosphere. And that’s the critical question: Where did that information come from? … I show based on what we now know that [Darwin] didn’t know—namely, that life depends critically on these big infusions of information—that intelligence is the best explanation. In fact, whenever we see information and we trace it back to its source, we always come to an intelligent agent, whether we’re talking about a hieroglyphic inscription, or a paragraph in a book, or a section of software, or information embedded in a radio signal, information always issues, it originates from an intelligent source.
So let’s move to your latest book, Darwin’s Doubt. What exactly did Darwin doubt? Well, the doubt that Darwin had has to do with an event in the history of life known as the Cambrian explosion, in which the first major animal forms suddenly emerged in the fossil record. And they appear very abruptly. And so instead of seeing life very gradually morph from a very simple one-celled organism through lots of intermediate forms and then finally animal, … what we see in the fossil record is the sudden appearance of these complex animal forms. … And he expressed doubt about this right in [On the Origin of Species]. … Our modern biology textbooks don’t even learn about the Cambrian explosion, but they certainly don’t learn that Darwin himself was concerned that his theory couldn’t explain this evidence.
So, we would all like some reassurance that the theory of intelligent design is gaining some acceptance on the university level among academia. Can you give us that reassurance? Right, you want to know whether anyone actually agrees with us. Here’s what’s happening. I’m actually very optimistic because Thomas Kuhn, the famous historian of science, said scientific revolutions don’t happen when the old guard suddenly changes their mind. They happen one funeral at a time. And what we have found is we’re attracting an awful lot of young talent. We had an experience a couple years ago where some of the Discovery scientists were traveling with one of our supporters. So that night, we were at this cowboy steakhouse feeding the troops. So I jumped in and offered the Discovery Institute credit card to pay for the Discovery Institute scientists, and this young waitress came back with the bill and the credit card. And she looked left and looked right and lowered her voice and said, “Can you tell me what the Discovery Institute is?” Well, I said, we’re a scientific think tank, and we’re investigating the evidence for intelligent design and challenging standard Darwin. She says, “I thought so!” She said, “Our professors hate you.” And then she motioned to three other waiters and waitresses. She says, “I’m a bio major at the U, and so are they, and, I’m telling you, our professors hate you. But then we go on your website and we see those animations of all those little machines and we say, ‘No way did that evolve.’” So this is a little, in microcosm, a picture of what’s happening. The establishment is terrified of this idea. But students can’t help, they can’t help tumbling to it just by learning the facts of biology without even learning our arguments.
Hear more from Daniel James Devine’s discussion with Stephen C. Meyer on The World and Everything in It: