Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#276: Stephen Meyer

Stephen C. Meyer is a philosopher and one of the hotshots of the Discovery Institute. And like some philosophers and all Discovery Institute people, he likes to make grand claims about scientific fields about which he must be counted as an illiterate. Meyer helped found the Center for Science and Culture (CSC) of the Discovery Institute (DI), which is the major hive for the ID creationist movement. Meyer is currently vice president and a senior fellow at CSC, and a director of the Access Research Network. He has been described as “the person who brought ID (intelligent design) to DI (Discovery Institute)”, he contributed to the second edition of Dean Kenyon’s “Of Pandas and People”, wrote (with Ralph Seelke) the ID textbook “Explore Evolution”, was appointed by the Texas Board of Education to be on the committee reviewing Texas’s science curriculum standards, is the primary link to DI sponsor and Taliban theocrat loon Howard Ahmanson, and was partly responsible for the Wedge Strategy, as well as an active speaker and debate panelist.

In 1999, Meyer (with David DeWolf and Mark DeForrest) designed a legal strategy for introducing intelligent design into public schools in the book “Intelligent Design in Public School Science Curriculum.” (I mean, the point of ID is to get creationism and religion into the schools, not to do science). He is perhaps most famous for trying to realize the strategy through helping to introduce ID to the Dover Area School District (more extensively here), and for his ridiculous 2009 book “Signature in the Cell” (which a probably drunk/dementia suffering Thomas Nagel actually praised, flaunting his own ignorance of science). PZ Myers was offered a review copy by Meyer’s assistant Janet Oberembt, but never received it. The book actually makes twelve “predictions” for ID (although they are not predictions in the ordinary scientific sense because they are not derived from any concrete theory, and they all concern testing the theory of evolution, not ID). He also offers a “theory”. The theory is unrelated to the predictions. He derives no predictions from his theory. He offers nothing resembling a coherent justification either, so the book didn’t receive much positive feedback from actual scientists. He has offered some appeals to authority, however (“Thomas Jefferson wasn’t a Darwinist”).

In March 2002 he announced the “teach the controversy” strategy aimed at promoting the false idea that the theory of evolution is controversial within scientific circles, following a presentation to the Ohio State Board of Education. Since Meyer knows this is false, he was lying, but dishonesty isn’t exactly a surprising trait in ID advocates. The presentation included a bibliography of 44 peer-reviewed scientific articles that were said to raise significant challenges to key tenets of what was referred to as "”Darwinian evolution”. When NCSE contacted the authors, none of the authors who responded (the authors of thirty-four of the papers) thought that their research provided evidence against evolution. Meyer also publicly claimed that the “Santorum Amendment” was part of the Education Bill, and therefore that the State of Ohio was required to teach alternative theories to evolution as part of its biology curriculum. Which is demonstrably false, but tells you a lot about the DI creationists.

Of course, he thinks there is active persecution of the purportedly fast-growing number of scientists rejecting evolution in Academia (probably because he cannot find any). He was interviewed about those claims in Expelled.

Diagnosis: One of the staunchest, most influential, most dishonest anti-science advocates in the world. Crackpot and complete hack.


  1. Here's Stephen Meyer laying out 12 ID-Inspired Predictions. They are predictably not predictions in the usual scientific sense. The majority are either i) not testable predictions of ID at all but at best test for undirected evolution (and remember that even if undirected evolution were to fail, which nothing indicates (the “predictions” would primarily be unsolved questions rather than predictions if they even made sense or weren’t partially or fully solved), that by itself would not be evidence for ID); ii) or they rely on undefined, vague terminology. Indeed, if anyone had any doubts, the inanity of these “predictions” are pretty conclusive when it comes to showing that ID just isn’t a scientific theory. (I haven't checked whether that link occurs in the text itself, though. Maybe this comment is superfluous.)

  2. A good review of Meyer's recent book can be found here.

    Donald Prothero reviews it here.

  3. A pretty ambitious process of reviewing Meyer's newest book in detail can be found here. Sandwalk has also given a series of posts on the book, e.g. here, here, and here. Meyer's appearance on Medved is discussed (preemptively) here.