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Charles W. Colson

You Can’t Have It Both Ways
The Intelligent Design Controversy Heats Up

BreakPoint with Chuck Colson

November 23, 2004

This summer, the Intelligent Design movement achieved an important goal. For years, evolutionists have been saying that the theory couldn’t be taken seriously, because no articles explicitly advocating it had been published in any peer-reviewed scientific journal. Well, now one has been.

And evolutionists are still crying foul.

In August, Dr. Stephen Meyer of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture published an article in a peer-reviewed journal, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. Meyer’s article argued that materialistic theories of evolution can’t account for the “origination of new biological forms” during the period known as the Cambrian Explosion, and suggested intelligent design as an alternative.

This article had to go through the same peer-review process as any other scientific paper. But that wasn’t enough for many Darwinists. Members of the Biological Society of Washington, as well as the National Center for Science Education, wrote to the journal protesting that the article was “substandard”—before they’d even read it. Even the Biological Society’s governing council distanced themselves from the article, saying that had they known about it beforehand, they “would have deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings.”

And it gets better. The statement went on to declare that “Intelligent Design . . . will not be addressed in future issues of the [journal].” The whole subject is just off-limits. As Dr. John West of the Discovery Institute says, “Instead of addressing the paper’s arguments or inviting counterarguments or rebuttal, the society has resorted to affirming what amounts to a doctrinal statement in an effort to stifle scientific debate.”

How can a respected scientific organization get away with that kind of censorship? Simple: by portraying the subject as non-scientific. Never mind that three scientists approved Meyer’s article, as did the journal’s editor, who is an evolutionary biologist.

You see, materialistic evolutionists can’t afford to think that Intelligent Design could possibly explain life. They can’t even acknowledge it, for fear it would turn their whole philosophy—yes, philosophy, not science—upside down. To believe in design means believing in a Designer, and that belief wouldn’t fit at all with the closed universe that’s essential to the naturalistic worldview.

So they take what they see as the only possible answer—cut off debate, forget about academic freedom. It’s frightening to see scientists deliberately decide that a line of scientific inquiry doesn’t deserve to be pursued because it doesn’t fit their beliefs. Who is putting dogma before science here?

The scientists who complained about Meyer’s article need to learn that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t, on the one hand, maintain that a scientific movement must publish a peer-reviewed article in order to be considered legitimate, and then turn around and claim that it wasn’t legitimate for a journal to publish any peer-reviewed article from that movement. If this is the kind of argument our Ph.D.s are coming up with, I think we’d better start requiring that all science majors take a few courses in logic.


For further reading and information:

Stephen C. Meyer, “ The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories ,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington117, No. 2 (2004). Reprinted at the Discovery Institute website.

Note: On October 16, Meyer defended Intelligent Design in a debate with Dr. Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, on Lee Strobel’s new PAX program, Faith under Fire.

Mark Hartwig, “ Bitten,” Discovery Institute News, 25 September 2004 .

Meyer Article Attracts Unprecedented Attention Thanks to NCSE ,” Discovery Institute News, 22 September 2004 .

Scientists Impose Gag Rule on Science ,” Discovery Institute News, 8 September 2004 .

NCSE Flip-flops as Controversy over Peer-Reviewed Article Continues ,” Discovery Institute News, 8 September 2004 .

Media Backgrounder: Intelligent Design Article Sparks Controversy ,” Discovery Institute News, 7 September 2004 .

You can read the statement put out by the Biological Society of Washington  at the National  Centerfor Science Education’s website.

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040921, “ Overlapping Territory: How Science Supports Theism .”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040920, “ Putting God out of a Job: The Case for a Creator.”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 040804, “ Unconvinced Intellectuals: Putting Darwin on the Witness Stand .”

BreakPoint Commentary No. 041119, “ Following Our Noses: A Nobel for Smell .”

See BreakPoint’s Intelligent Design research and information page .

See Chuck Colson’s Ten Questions about Origins , a helpful tool for students.

Lee Strobel, The Case for a Creator  (Zondervan, 2004).

The new DVD/video“The Privileged Planet” is a useful resource for students and teachers in learning about the evidence of design in the universe.