Thursday, October 14, 2004

Evolution versus Intelligent Design

The story so far ... would actually take far too long to tell. So let me confine myself to recent (i.e. since this summer) history - and see if I can do justice to the science, but explain it in terms that non-scientists can understand.

"The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Stephen C. Meyer was published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington on September 29, 2004. Remember that living things are organised hierarchically? - with species being the lowest level of organisation, but there are also genera ("genuses"), phyla, kingdoms and so forth. These are "taxa" or "taxonomic categories". Most of the higher taxa - bits of the hierarchy at the level of phylum - appeared fairly suddenly in evolutionary history - in the Cambrian era - this phenomenon is known as the "Cambrian Explosion".

Now, the new body plans that are represented by the higher taxa, argues Meyer, require large numbers of new proteins and hence genetic information. The various traditional evolutionary models - which include neo-darwinism, self-organisation, punctuated equilibrium, and structuralism - don't have any mechanism that explains how this big increase in information could have come about. Meyer suggested that a new mechanism was required; he proposed that if the traditional options were not able to explain how evolution might have come about, then it might be an appropriate time to suggest that design had been at work.

This would have been just another paper - not the first on Intelligent Design - not the first in a journal - or anything - but somebody in evolution-world noticed it and got the bit between their teeth.

Allegations were made about whether the paper was within the scope of the journal (it was); whether a peer-review process had been carried out by people qualified to review the paper (it had); whether the editor had either ignored or not sought the counsel of the Biological Society of Washington's council (he had acted in accordance with his authority). The allegations were made predominantly by the NCSE - the National Center for Science Education - an apparently neutral title of an organisation that is basically dedicated to pushing for evolution to be taught in public schools in America. Incidentally, one of the many odd things about this organisation is that the evolutionist community alleges that there is a conspiracy to get Intelligent Design into schools!! How ironic!

There has been no formal response to Meyer's paper so far, except on Panda's Thumb, another evolutionist website, that has strong links with NCSE. They, in the form of
Alan Gishlick, Nick Matzke, and Wesley R. Elsberry wrote a paper called "Meyer's Hopeless Monster" (posted August 24, 2004). This has in turn been responded to by the Discovery Institute in two papers, with more to follow - their website is at http:/www.discovery.org/csc .

1 comment:

Liz said...

World Magazine recently wrote a good article on that....
You can read it online at www.worldmag.com
World Magazine is written from a Christian perspective.