Peer review is a standard process by which proposed papers for scientific
journals, presentations at scientific meetings, or requests for research
funding are evaluated in terms of their scientific appropriateness and
possible contribution to the advancement of science. The reviewers are
experts in the relevant scientific fields who have no conflict of interest
with or especially close personal relationships to the authors or requestors.
One of the criticisms that the so-called "intelligent design movement"
(ID) has had to face is that papers supporting an ID position have not
appeared in peer reviewed scientific journals. In fact, the one online
"journal" of the virtual association
[ISCID] created by ID advocates is critical of standard scientific
peer review, charging that it impedes the introduction of novel ideas.
This is why, in the light of broad scientific criticism of the ID position,
advocates have consistently published outside the normal scientific literature.
However, in June 2004, a paper by Stephen Meyer advocating ID was published
in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (i.e., DC).
The Society was founded in 1880. Its journal, The Proceedings, describes
itself as "a quarterly publication consisting of articles focusing on
systematic biology, taxonomy, biogeography, and phylogenetic studies."
The Society has a membership of approximately 250.
critique of the paper concludes that the paper is "a rhetorical edifice
[constructed] out of omission of relevant facts, selective quoting, bad
analogies, knocking down strawmen, and tendentious interpretations."
In addition, the governing Council of the Biological Society of Washington
issued a statement which declared:
"The paper by Stephen C. Meyer in the Proceedings ("The origin of biological
information and the higher taxonomic categories," vol. 117, no. 2, pp.
213-239) represents a significant departure from the nearly purely taxonomic
content for which this journal has been known throughout its 124-year
history. It was published without the prior knowledge of the Council,
which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, or the
associate editors. We have met and determined that all of us would have
deemed this paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings.
We endorse the spirit of a resolution
on Intelligent Design set forth by the American Association for the
Advancement of Science, and that topic will not be addressed in future
issues of the Proceedings. We are reviewing editorial policies to ensure
that the goals of the Society, as reflected in its journal, are clearly
understood by all. Through a web
presence and contemplated improvements in the journal, the Society
hopes not only to continue but to increase its service to the world community
of taxonomic biologists."
Stephen Meyer, the author of the paper, is Director of the Discovery
Institute's Center for Science and Culture (DI/CSC), the primary institutional
advocate of ID. He earned a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science
from Cambridge University. He is also University Professor of the Conceptual
Foundations of Science at Palm Beach
Atlantic University, a theologically conservative Christian institution.
The editor for the issue of the Proceedings in which the Meyer article
appears was Richard Sternberg, Research Associate in the Department of
Systematic Biology (Invertebrate Zoology) of the National Museum of Natural
History, Smithsonian Institution. He is also a Fellow of the International
Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID), which promotes
intelligent design, and serves on the Editorial Board of the Baraminology
Study Group, a creation science group. Given these associations, Dr.
Sternberg would appear to be, at very least, an advocate for "intelligent
design" and critical of standard peer review processes as they bear on
the scientific assessment of the "intelligent design" hypothesis.
The external reviewers of the paper are unknown.