Stephen C. Meyer, Ph.D.
August 21, 1998, Seattle, Washington
I would like to thank the commissioners for the opportunity to
share my perspective on this important issue. My name is Stephen
Meyer. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge in England
in the History and Philosophy of Science, where I did research specifically
on the methodological ground rules of the biological origins controversy.
I currently direct Discovery Institutes Center for the Renewal
of Science and Culture here in Seattle. We have some thirty-five
scientists and philosophers of science as fellows, many of whom
are doing active scientific research relevant to the origin of life
Let me start with a scientific question as old as humankind. How
did the astonishing diversity and complexity of life on earth come
to be? In particular, did a directing intelligence, or mind, have
anything to do with the origin of biological organisms?
Darwinian evolutionary biologists say "No." They contend
that life arose and later diversified by entirely naturalistic processes
such as random variation and natural selection. They say the scientific
evidence weights against the theory that a designing intelligence
or creator played a role in the history of life.
But if there can be evidence against a theory, it must be possible
at least for there to be evidence for that same theory. If so, then
as Charles Darwin himself argued, intellectual honesty requires
consideration of both possibilities. He wrote, in the Origin of
Species (1859, p. 2), that a fair result can be obtained only by
fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides
of each question.
But is there any scientific evidence supporting the idea that an
intelligence played a role in the origin and development of life?
In fact there is. During the last forty years evidence (much of
which was unknown to Darwin) has come to light that supports the
design hypothesis. The breathtaking intricacy and complexity of
even the simplest bacterial cell, with its highly specified molecular
machines, the fossils of the "Cambrian explosion" which
show all the basic forms of animal life appearing suddenly without
clear precursors, and the encoded information in DNA which Bill
Gates has recently likened to a software code -- all these lines
of evidence, and many others, suggest the prior action of a designing
Is any of this evidence discussed in publicly-funded science classrooms?
Almost never. As I have documented elsewhere, both high school and
college biology textbooks make very selective presentations of the
scientific evidence relevant to this issue. For example, only one
of the standard high school biology texts even mentions the Cambrian
explosion, arguably the most dramatic event in the history of life.
Not a single text discusses the challenge that Cambrian fossils
post to Darwinian evolutionary theory, despite extensive discussions
of this very point in technical paleontology journals, and popular
publications such as Scientific American, Time magazine and ironically,
Peoples Daily in Communist China.
Why does this selective presentation persist in a nation known
for its liberal intellectual traditions?
Very simply the opponents of full disclosure in science education
insist, often backed by threat of law suit and other forms of social
intimidation, that any deviation from a strictly neo-Darwinian presentation
of biological origins constitutes an establishment of religion.
They insist that the concept of intelligent design is inherently
religious; whereas Darwinism (with its denial of design) is a strictly
But how can this be? Darwinism and design theory do not address
two different subjects. They represent two competing answers to
the very same question: how did life arise and diversify on earth?
Biology texts routinely recapitulate Darwinian arguments against
intelligent design. Yet if these arguments are philosophically neutral
and strictly scientific, why are evidential arguments for intelligent
design inherently unscientific and religiously charged?
The acceptance of this false asymmetry has justified an egregious
form of viewpoint discrimination in American public science instruction
at both the high school and college level. I enclose a diagram showing
the relationship between evidence, scientific interpretation and
the larger world view considerations that invariably come into play
when discussing biological origins. This diagram, and to a much
greater extent my published work in the philosophy of science, suggests
an equivalence in status between Darwinism and design theory --
both these theories are interpretations of biological data; both
(we must all admit) have larger philosophical or world view implications.
If design theory is religious, then so is Darwinism. If Darwinism
is science, then so is design theory.
Despite this equivalence, the public school science curriculum
generally allows students access to only one theoretical viewpoint
and only to those evidences that support it. Students receive little
exposure to scientific problems with neo-Darwinism and still less
to evidence that might support a contrary interpretation.
Yet because origins theories have incorrigibily philosophical implications,
this imbalance in effect favors and promotes a naturalistic world
view over a theistic one. Indeed, many texts openly explain the
naturalistic and anti-theistic implications of Darwinian theory.
For example, in Douglas Futuymas text (Evolutionary Biology,
3rd edition) he writes: "By coupling the undirected, purposeless
variations to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection,
Darwin made the theological or spiritual explanations of the life
processes superfluous." Purvis, Orians and Heller, (in Life:
The Science of Biology, 4th edition) tell students that, "the
living world is constantly evolving without any goals . . . evolutionary
change is not directed."
Students skeptical about such overtly materialistic perspectives
who wish to develop a view of the scientific evidence more consonant
with a theistic world view are often silenced. Indeed, the influential
California science framework advises teachers to tell such students,
to "discuss the question further with [their] family or clergy."
For students and teachers wanting to consider or express a theistic
viewpoint on this scientific subject, as opposed to advocating a
religion per se -- and this is a critical legal distinction -- the
present imbalance in public science instruction represents a clear
form of viewpoint discrimination. In many cases, such discrimination
has also entailed the abridgement of academic freedom for teachers
and professors and the free speech rights of individual students.
I ask the Commission to consider such practical measures as they
have at their disposal to help rectify this situation.