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Designed for controversy: The ID movement’s latest signature

NORMAN—The Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the University of Oklahoma’s campus is an entrance into a world of profound ideas. The museum attempts to educate all who enter to adopt a perspective accepted as fact by most scientists.
To question these facts is not only thought to be remarkably unintelligent, but downright absurd. The research of Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) is believed to have ended all discussion of origins that challenges natural (or random) selection through an evolutionary process as the only true explanation for the origin of all life on Earth.
Darwin’s most famous work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, was published in 1859. He argued for natural selection among various species by way of a common “tree of life”, thereby rendering all life on Earth as the result of one common ancestor. This process is thought to have taken millions of years and is supported in large part by research gleaned from fossil records.
Fossils (originally from the Latin fossus, meaning “having been dug up”) are the remains of animals, plants or other organisms from the past discovered through scientific examination of rock formations and the various layers of the Earth’s surface. They remain the roadmap for ongoing study of the origins of human life. Fossils are important because they provide key data points for everything from dating the actual age of the Earth to the progression of life over time. The fossil record is the focus of paleontologists and biologists who use these remains as windows into the development of various species. It is widely accepted fact, however, that the fossil record is incomplete. Yet, most scientists believe that fact does not render the idea of evolution void. While some concede that gaps of time are obviously present, the fossil record remains adequate to determine how the evolution of life on Earth originally took place.
A particular focus for Darwin was on what is known by scientists as the Cambrian period. The Cambrian explosion, as it is often called, refers to the sudden appearance of an array of life quite different from anything seen prior to that moment in time. The abruptness and variety of life seen in the fossil records that date from the Cambrian period pose problems for Darwin’s theory. The variety and suddenness of life that this fossil record demonstrates contradicts the gradual development of life that Darwin’s theory requires to remain credible. This has caused some paleontologists and other scientists to reconsider the reigning Darwinian theory, leading some to consider the possibility that intelligent design was responsible for the immense complexity and variety of life during this period.
By “intelligent,” proponents of this theory do not necessarily mean a personal God as revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture. While some Intelligent Design (ID) advocates are professing theists others are not and emphasize, in the words of Christian apologist Thomas Woodward, “there is no made by Yahweh” engraved on the side of any cell. Nevertheless, ID has been publicly ridiculed as “junk science,” religion in disguise, and more ideological than truly scientific.
Accusations against leading proponents of ID focus on the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, whose research and programs are privately funded to advance the intelligent design movement. One of their goals is to distinguish themselves from creationism and present their data as dispassionate scientists following wherever science takes them.
“It is wrong, therefore, to think of ID as creationism,” states Stephen C. Meyer, author of the new book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.
“Intelligent design is an inference from biological data while creationism is a deduction from a theological text,” Meyer says. The movement’s credibility was advanced in 2004 when an article by Meyer appeared in a little-known journal called Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (DC). In that article, he demonstrates how the plausibility of an intelligent source could actually be true and defended in rigorous scientific debate.
The fallout from his article resulted in the demotion of the journal’s editor, Richard Sternberg—an employee of the Smithsonian Institution (the journal’s publisher). While the U.S House Committee on Government Reform later investigated his case and concluded that interrogations regarding Sternberg’s personal political and religious views were inappropriate, the actions taken against Sternberg by Smithsonian officials served as a warning to anyone who would rise to challenge the dominant view of Darwinian evolution. The incident was later chronicled by Ben Stein in the movie, “Expelled.”
The open hostility against ID as a legitimate scientific theory capable of withstanding attacks against its veracity was certain to be on full display when Meyer himself was present at the Noble Museum for a showing of “Darwin’s Dilemma”—a documentary purporting that Darwin’s research is inconclusive about the origin of life. The film challenges Darwin’s premise that there was one (and only one) cause resulting in random mutations with the end result being the various categories (known scientifically as phyla) of species.
“I am not certain as to why there is such an aversion and overt hostility against this scientific theory,” Meyer stated. “Scientifically, the research can be tested and remain as viable.”
Meyer’s new book even goes so far as to assert that DNA possesses a certain code that is not randomly matched, but intelligently designed to bring about certain results.
Such statements were not taken well during the Q&A after the film. Voices were raised and questions were posed in a manner which suggested a scandal was taking place rendering science a victim of mere political maneuverings.
“The stakes are very high in this debate because they point to a possibility that some force outside the normal boundaries of science actually worked to make what is seen possible,” Meyer said. “If true, the implications could be quite unsettling.”
This is precisely the answer Ryan Polk and the congregation of Norman, Trinity wanted to hear. The reason the church was involved with student clubs and other campus organizations to bring Meyer to OU’s campus was, in Polk’s words, “to provide an opening for the Gospel.” Polk believes most people do not believe the Christian faith can be rationally presented in ways that forge an understanding of Christianity and science.
While Meyer’s research builds the capacity for ID to be sustained as a legitimate category of ongoing discourse in the scientific community, Polk also believes it has  great promise for the church in that the very question of human existence and meaning finds a resolution in the Christian worldview. As a pastor to many college students, he often quotes the famous modern evolutionist, Richard Dawkins: “Without gradualness, we are back to a miracle.”
That miracle is what Polk works to advance through his ongoing teaching ministry. Meyer’s work is helping the church bring a signature to the visible creation that Polk would state is the very handiwork of the God who created the heavens and the Earth.

IMG_2875 for webNORMAN—The Sam Noble Museum of Natural History on the University of Oklahoma’s campus is an entrance into a world of profound ideas. The museum attempts to educate all who enter to adopt a perspective accepted as fact by most scientists.

To question these facts is not only thought to be remarkably unintelligent, but downright absurd. The research of Charles Robert Darwin (1809-1882) is believed to have ended all discussion of origins that challenges natural (or random) selection through an evolutionary process as the only true explanation for the origin of all life on Earth.

Darwin’s most famous work, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, was published in 1859. He argued for natural selection among various species by way of a common “tree of life”, thereby rendering all life on Earth as the result of one common ancestor. This process is thought to have taken millions of years and is supported in large part by research gleaned from fossil records.

Fossils (originally from the Latin fossus, meaning “having been dug up”) are the remains of animals, plants or other organisms from the past discovered through scientific examination of rock formations and the various layers of the Earth’s surface. They remain the roadmap for ongoing study of the origins of human life. Fossils are important because they provide key data points for everything from dating the actual age of the Earth to the progression of life over time. The fossil record is the focus of paleontologists and biologists who use these remains as windows into the development of various species. It is widely accepted fact, however, that the fossil record is incomplete. Yet, most scientists believe that fact does not render the idea of evolution void. While some concede that gaps of time are obviously present, the fossil record remains adequate to determine how the evolution of life on Earth originally took place.

A particular focus for Darwin was on what is known by scientists as the Cambrian period. The Cambrian explosion, as it is often called, refers to the sudden appearance of an array of life quite different from anything seen prior to that moment in time. The abruptness and variety of life seen in the fossil records that date from the Cambrian period pose problems for Darwin’s theory. The variety and suddenness of life that this fossil record demonstrates contradicts the gradual development of life that Darwin’s theory requires to remain credible. This has caused some paleontologists and other scientists to reconsider the reigning Darwinian theory, leading some to consider the possibility that intelligent design was responsible for the immense complexity and variety of life during this period.

By “intelligent,” proponents of this theory do not necessarily mean a personal God as revealed in the pages of Holy Scripture. While some Intelligent Design (ID) advocates are professing theists others are not and emphasize, in the words of Christian apologist Thomas Woodward, “there is no made by Yahweh” engraved on the side of any cell. Nevertheless, ID has been publicly ridiculed as “junk science,” religion in disguise, and more ideological than truly scientific.

Accusations against leading proponents of ID focus on the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, whose research and programs are privately funded to advance the intelligent design movement. One of their goals is to distinguish themselves from creationism and present their data as dispassionate scientists following wherever science takes them.

“It is wrong, therefore, to think of ID as creationism,” states Stephen C. Meyer, author of the new book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design.

“Intelligent design is an inference from biological data while creationism is a deduction from a theological text,” Meyer says. The movement’s credibility was advanced in 2004 when an article by Meyer appeared in a little-known journal called Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (DC). In that article, he demonstrates how the plausibility of an intelligent source could actually be true and defended in rigorous scientific debate.

The fallout from his article resulted in the demotion of the journal’s editor, Richard Sternberg—an employee of the Smithsonian Institution (the journal’s publisher). While the U.S House Committee on Government Reform later investigated his case and concluded that interrogations regarding Sternberg’s personal political and religious views were inappropriate, the actions taken against Sternberg by Smithsonian officials served as a warning to anyone who would rise to challenge the dominant view of Darwinian evolution. The incident was later chronicled by Ben Stein in the movie, “Expelled.”

The open hostility against ID as a legitimate scientific theory capable of withstanding attacks against its veracity was certain to be on full display when Meyer himself was present at the Noble Museum for a showing of “Darwin’s Dilemma”—a documentary purporting that Darwin’s research is inconclusive about the origin of life. The film challenges Darwin’s premise that there was one (and only one) cause resulting in random mutations with the end result being the various categories (known scientifically as phyla) of species.

“I am not certain as to why there is such an aversion and overt hostility against this scientific theory,” Meyer stated. “Scientifically, the research can be tested and remain as viable.”

Meyer’s new book even goes so far as to assert that DNA possesses a certain code that is not randomly matched, but intelligently designed to bring about certain results.

Such statements were not taken well during the Q&A after the film. Voices were raised and questions were posed in a manner which suggested a scandal was taking place rendering science a victim of mere political maneuverings.

“The stakes are very high in this debate because they point to a possibility that some force outside the normal boundaries of science actually worked to make what is seen possible,” Meyer said. “If true, the implications could be quite unsettling.”

This is precisely the answer Ryan Polk and the congregation of Norman, Trinity wanted to hear. The reason the church was involved with student clubs and other campus organizations to bring Meyer to OU’s campus was, in Polk’s words, “to provide an opening for the Gospel.” Polk believes most people do not believe the Christian faith can be rationally presented in ways that forge an understanding of Christianity and science.

While Meyer’s research builds the capacity for ID to be sustained as a legitimate category of ongoing discourse in the scientific community, Polk also believes it has  great promise for the church in that the very question of human existence and meaning finds a resolution in the Christian worldview. As a pastor to many college students, he often quotes the famous modern evolutionist, Richard Dawkins: “Without gradualness, we are back to a miracle.”

That miracle is what Polk works to advance through his ongoing teaching ministry. Meyer’s work is helping the church bring a signature to the visible creation that Polk would state is the very handiwork of the God who created the heavens and the Earth.

Author: Douglas Baker

View more articles by Douglas Baker.

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