Review Of The Sixth Chapter Of Signature In The Cell, by Stephen Meyer
A sound approach to scientific investigation does not necessarily bring with it a mandatory requirement to be a ‘nose to the grindstone’ experimentalist. Indeed scientists can and often do take data that others have amassed and interpret it in light of their own understanding of the matter at hand. Therein lies a lesson that, as science historians will note, is backed by an impressive list of prominent cases. In fact Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton and even Charles Darwin challenged the viewpoints of their day through their own theoretical interpretations of reality. For Darwin this meant for the most part collecting data from botanists, breeders, ecologists, and paleontologists and constructing a paradigm-shifting synthesis on the evolution of life that did not necessarily hinge on his own data. Both Einstein’s two papers on relativity and Newton’s opus Principia were theoretical manifestos that at the time they were published had little experimental support.
In recent years followers of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement have been called to task over their own perceived lack of direct involvement in experimentation. Stephen Meyer observes that ID’s fiercest critics dismiss these same followers as being less than qualified to engage in scientific debate because of their presumed absence from experimental science. And yet in light of what we know about the influences of Einstein, Newton and Darwin one might be excused for countering that such criticisms hardly seem justifiable. Truth be told the Discovery Institute, a key ID nerve center, today supports a facility where scientists are actively involved in laboratory-based research.
As the director of the Center for Science & Culture at the Discovery Institute, Meyer has been personally exposed to a barrage of anti-ID hostility, evidenced for example in his televised encounters with prominent self-asserting secularists such as Eugenie Scott and Michael Shermer. But as Meyer makes clear, his own exposure to anti-ID sentiments extends back much further to his days as a graduate at Cambridge. With the exception of a handful of notable scientists, few at the time were willing to acknowledge ID as a serious alternative to the deeply-entrenched Darwinian orthodoxy.
One might be excused for feeling somewhat baffled by such a reluctance to embrace design in light of the Judeo-Christian framework upon which modern science owes its origins. Others before Meyer have made this point (1). Two years ago, for example, zoologist and biophysicist Jeff Hardin brought the Judeo-Christian influence on science to the attention of his audience during the Science And Christianity conference in Madison, WI (2). According to Hardin historical icons such as Robert Boyle, Johannes Kepler and Newton himself saw the reliability and intelligibility of nature as “testifying to God’s glory”. Quoting from Nobel Laureate Melvin Calvin’s Chemical Evolution, Hardin concluded that “[the Hebrew] monotheistic view seems to be the historical foundation for modern science” (2).
But it is in citing the relevance of a non-religious form of these foundations to ID that Meyer supplies a fresh and unparryable case against those who out of hand wish to exclude ID from scientific circles. His closing remarks on how the singular actions of intelligent agents parallel sudden events in biology, notably the origin of life, draw on inferences made by Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen in their exemplary text The Mystery Of Life’s Origins (3). In short, one can no longer deny that the design premise represents a foundational ‘cross beam’ for contemporary science.
1.Nancy R. Pearcey and Charles B. Thaxton (1994), The Soul of Science- Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, pp.17-42
2.Jeff Hardin (2007), Thinking Bibically About Nature And The Nature Of Science, in Science And Christianity: Friends Or Foes?; Conference held on the 24th March, 2007, Blackhawk Church, Madison, WI
3.Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley and Roger Olsen (1984), The Mystery of Life’s Origin Reassessing Current Theories, Published by Lewis and Stanley, Dallas, Texas