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Scientist Says His Peer-Reviewed Research in the Journal of Molecular Biology “Adds to the Case for Intelligent Design”

John G. West

In the New Scientist profile last month of the new intelligent design research lab, there was discussion of two technical articles published in the Journal of Molecular Biology by protein scientist Doug Axe (for abstracts, see here and here). As the New Scientist acknowledged, funding for the research underlying these peer-reviewed articles was provided by Discovery Institute’s research fellowship program—thus disproving the twin canards that Discovery Institute does not support scientific research, and that pro-ID scientists do not publish peer-reviewed research. Yet the New Scientist tried its best to downplay the relevance of the articles to the theory of intelligent design, contrasting the positive interpretations of Axe’s research offered by intelligent design theorists William Dembski and Stephen Meyer with the dismissive views of unnamed “scientists.” The implication seemed to be that Dembski and Meyer have misrepresented Axe’s research by claiming that it provides evidence against neo-Darwinism and corroboration for intelligent design. Interestingly, the one person whose voice is left out of the New Scientist’s discussion of Axe’s research is Dr. Axe himself. One might have hoped that the New Scientist would be interested in what Dr. Axe thought of the relationship between his own research and intelligent design. It turns out that the reporter for the New Scientist did ask Dr. Axe for his view, but she then chose not to disclose Axe’s response to readers.

Dr. Axe was asked via e-mail by writer Celeste Biever to respond to the charge

[t]hat you have neither confirmed nor denied claims by William Dembski (in his book “Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA” and in several articles he has written) that a paper you published in 2000 (J Mol Biol, 2000 Aug 18; 301(3):585-95) is evidence for ID, or by Stephen Meyer, in his paper “The origin of biological information” (PROCEEDINGS OF THE BIOLOGICAL SOCIETY OF WASHINGTON 117(2):213-239. 2004), that your 2004 paper (J Mol Biol. 2004 Aug 27;341(5):1295-315) is evidence for ID.

Dr. Axe wrote back the following, which the New Scientist declined to quote:

I have in fact confirmed that these papers add to the evidence for ID. I concluded in the 2000 JMB paper that enzymatic catalysis entails “severe sequence constraints”. The more severe these constraints are, the less likely it is that they can be met by chance. So, yes, that finding is very relevant to the question of the adequacy of chance, which is very relevant to the case for design. In the 2004 paper I reported experimental data used to put a number on the rarity of sequences expected to form working enzymes. The reported figure is less than one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. Again, yes, this finding does seem to call into question the adequacy of chance, and that certainly adds to the case for intelligent design.

Hmm. The author of the articles in question agrees with Dembski and Meyer that his research “adds to the case for intelligent design.” But the New Scientist didn’t think that fact important enough to report to its readers.

John G. West

Senior Fellow, Managing Director, and Vice President of Discovery Institute
Dr. John G. West is Vice President of the Seattle-based Discovery Institute and Managing Director of the Institute’s Center for Science and Culture. Formerly the Chair of the Department of Political Science and Geography at Seattle Pacific University, West is an award-winning author and documentary filmmaker who has written or edited 12 books, including Darwin Day in America: How Our Politics and Culture Have Been Dehumanized in the Name of Science, The Magician’s Twin: C. S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, and Walt Disney and Live Action: The Disney Studio’s Live-Action Features of the 1950s and 60s. His documentary films include Fire-Maker, Revolutionary, The War on Humans, and (most recently) Human Zoos. West holds a PhD in Government from Claremont Graduate University, and he has been interviewed by media outlets such as CNN, Fox News, Reuters, Time magazine, The New York Times, USA Today, and The Washington Post.