Does ID Get a Pass?

On Friday, Feb. 3rd, I was able to pose a question to Greer-Heard Forum headliners Michael Ruse and William Dembski. Here’s a transcript of that segment:

WRE:Actually I’m interested in a public policy aspect of this whole thing. Last month, I got on the Web of Science database search and looked up the term “cold fusion” and it came up with 900 papers there. “Cold fusion” is the poster child for the “not-ready-for-prime-time” physics theory, something that is not ready for going into 9th grade biology, no, physics textbooks. We see the process of science in things like plate tectonics, and the endosymbiotic theory, the neutral theory, and punctuated equilibria, these are things that have earned a place in the textbooks, because the people put in the work, they convinced the scientific community that they had a point, and that’s why they’re in the textbooks. So, what I’d like to hear from both of you is, is there a justification for giving intelligent design a pass on this process?

Ruse: No.

Dembski: That was short, but I think I can expand on that a little bit. A few years back, I wrote a paper, in fact I think I delivered it at a conference that I think that you attended, what was the title, Becoming a Disciplined Science, Pitfalls, Problems, various things confronting intelligent design, and in that paper I addressed what I thought a real concern for me that intelligent design would become an instrumental good used by various groups to further certain ends, but that the science would get short-shrifted, and I argued that the science was the intrinsic good, and indeed that’s my motivation, ultimately. I could make my peace with Darwinism if I had to, and I’m sufficiently theologically astute to do the fancy footwork, but it’s the science itself that I don’t think holds up, and that’s what motivates me to critique Darwinism and develop intelligent design. But as I argued in that paper, intelligent design has to be developed as a scientific program, otherwise you, you can’t get a pass, I’m with you on that. And I was not a supporter of this Dover policy. Once it was enacted, once the Thomas More Law Center was going ahead with it, I did agree to be an expert witness there, but I think it is premature.

The conference mentioned was the 2002 “Research and Progress in Intelligent Design” conference at Biola. I was at the pre-conference dinner and public event, courtesy of conference organizer Jed Macosko, but was also kept out of the conference because, he said, the conference was only for ID supporters. Richard Sternberg presented there, I should note.

There is an appreciable difference between the motivation given by Dembski at the forum last Friday and the one he gave to a Sunday School class two years ago. If this represents a change over time, it is in the right direction.

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33 thoughts on “Does ID Get a Pass?

  1. bodkin

    So, why doesn’t Dembski just pipe down and actually do the science and remove himself from public discourse until he has something worth publishing?

  2. Dene Bebbington

    Wesley, I think Dembski just threw a sop to that particular audience. Over at Uncommon Descent he’s offering money to any teacher who defies a Wisconsin policy by teaching ID as science and subsequently gets fired and goes to trial.

    It seems to me that Dembski does indeed want ID to have a pass on the normal process by which science gets accepted and ends up being taught in school.

  3. Dene Bebbington

    Wesley, I think that Dembski just threw a sop to that particular audience. Check out Uncommon Descent where he’s offering money to any teacher in Wisconsin who teaches ID as science against policy, gets fired and goes to trial. Of course he wants ID to get a pass on the normal process of science being accepted and then being taught in schools.

  4. a maine yankee

    Perhaps ‘doing the science requires work, dedication, sometimes obscurity, negative results, dirty hands, long hours, intense competition (financial selection?)–, and humility before the beauty and natural complexity of the natural world.

    Maybe that’s part of the why.

  5. Renier

    Yes, they are offering 1000$ to the first teacher to get fired over breaking the law and then going to court. Sal Cordova seems to also realy want a court case, based on his remarks about the two questions he posed. I smell a rat. So what has changed?

    DaveScott now accepts commen descent. He also trumpets being agnostic.
    JAD (Davison) has biology credentials and are joining their camp. He also actually published papers on …uh… saltation I think. I think more than one.

    Now all of a sudden they are looking at an excuse to get into court? They appear to be regrouping and are keen for another round in the courtroom.

  6. Michael

    I go back and forth on whether these ID leaders are sincere or hucksters, or some of both. After reading the above, I find myself leaning towards the “just plain liars” side, particularly in Dembski’s case. But it’s so hard teasing something coherent out of the various statements they make that I’m not sure which way the pendulum will swing tomorrow.

  7. jane

    It’s pretty obvious that Demski tailors his message to the audience. It’s the usual lies and the usual situational ethics that many pseudo-Christians have.

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  9. Shirley Knott

    Dembski is offering to pay money for the violation of a law.
    This is illegal.
    It would be beyond delightful to see him actually served with papers and brought up on charges for this.
    Why is this not being done?

    hugs,
    Shirely Knott

  10. Marie

    Did you notice he will pay someone to break the law but he himself wont he is looking for a goon to do dirty work for him. Looks like this Attention all goons you can make yourself a couple of easy bucks to do dirty work for me. He wont get dirty but hell pay someone else to. {Aint that something, wow what a guy!

  11. Rolf Manne

    What Wesley doesn’t tell are the Web of Science
    counts for “intelligent design”. I made a quick search and got 204. This is to be compared with
    907 for “cold fusion” and 86 for “creation science”. I have only partially checked how many of the “intelligent design” entries are about ID creationism. Most of them are, however.

    I should add that these counts are not for
    peer-reviewed scientific reports but for all kinds of articles (news reports, book reviews, letters to the editor etc.) in journals which are included in the Web of Science database.

    Google, on the other hand, gives 17.3 million hits for “intelligent design”, and only 9.75 million for “cold fusion”. “Creation science” is far behind, as expected, with 974.000.

  12. Rolf Manne

    I betray my European origin and whereabouts by writing 940.000 – should be 940,000.

  13. Albion

    Is he backtracking on the stuff he wrote in his article “Then and Only Then” where he said, “Why should ID supporters allow the Darwinian establishment to indoctrinate students at the high school level, only to divert some of the brightest to becoming supporters of a mechanistic account of evolution, when by presenting ID at the high school level some of these same students would go on to careers trying to develop ID as a positive research program? If ID is going to succeed as a research program, it will need workers, and these are best recruited at a young age. The Darwinists undestand this. So do the ID proponents. There is a sociological dimension to science and to the prospering of scientific theories, and this cannot be ignored if ID is going to become a thriving research program.”

    Now he’s saying that ID needs to have the science behind it before it should be taught in schools? Whatever.

  14. worldwide pants

    Dembski’s $1000 reward is another bit of street theatre, and a transparent one at that. Obviously, nobody’s going to flush their career down the toilet for $1000, but by making the offer Dembski can claim that he’s putting his money where his mouth is. Watch out, folks! He’s really serious now!

  15. Tice with a J

    Cold fusion has more papers published than ID…boy, does that put thing into perspective.

  16. Mike Elzinga

    Dembski’s babbling is so characteristic of hucksters. The less he is able to show results, the more he babbles. It reminds me of the excuses made by people with various psychological disorders. There is never a argument they can’t refute (at least in their own minds), so there is never a cure that will work for them except for the obsessive compulsive track they are currently on.

  17. Austringer Post author

    I get 264 hits for “intelligent design”. Most of the articles are, by the titles, commentaries on intelligent design as a movement. If you use the list from the Discovery Institute, you’ll find that they are claiming a total of 34 entries. Of course, Stephen Meyer’s PBSW article is in there twice, and two other substantially similar versions of the same article make it into the list.

    Just for fun, let’s compare the first ten results in each case…

    1. Adamian GG, Antonenko NV
    Transfer-type products accompanying cold fusion reactions
    PHYSICAL REVIEW C 72 (6): Art. No. 064617 DEC 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    2. Ackermann D
    Beyond darmstadtium – Status and perspectives of superheavy element research
    EUROPEAN PHYSICAL JOURNAL A 25: 577-582 Suppl. 1 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    3. Liu ZH, Bao JD
    Effects of isospin equilibrium on cold fusion of superheavy nuclei
    CHINESE PHYSICS LETTERS 22 (12): 3044-3047 DEC 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    4. Kalman P, Keszthelyi T
    Attractive d-d interaction via phonon exchange in deuterated Pd
    NUCLEAR INSTRUMENTS & METHODS IN PHYSICS RESEARCH SECTION B-BEAM INTERACTIONS WITH MATERIALS AND ATOMS 240 (4): 781-789 DEC 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    5. Gherghescu RA, Greiner W
    Synthesis of (298)114 within isobaric reaction channels
    JOURNAL OF PHYSICS G-NUCLEAR AND PARTICLE PHYSICS 31 (11): 1225-1231 NOV 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    6. Carpenter MP, Kondev FG, Janssens RVF
    Studies of neutron-deficient nuclei near the Z=82 shell closure via cold fusion reactions
    JOURNAL OF PHYSICS G-NUCLEAR AND PARTICLE PHYSICS 31 (10): S1599-S1604 Sp. Iss. SI OCT 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    7. Zhong XH, Li L, Ning PZ
    On Q values and other energy parameters for superheavy element synthesis
    COMMUNICATIONS IN THEORETICAL PHYSICS 44 (4): 679-683 OCT 15 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    8. Wei L, Liu YX
    Shape evolution of the compound nucleus in the superheavy element synthesis reaction via the BUU model
    CHINESE PHYSICS LETTERS 22 (9): 2222-2225 SEP 2005
    Times Cited: 1

    9. Karwowski J
    Influence of confinement on the properties of quantum systems
    JOURNAL OF MOLECULAR STRUCTURE-THEOCHEM 727 (1-3): 1-7 AUG 16 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    10. Gupta RK, Manhas M, Munzenberg G, et al.
    Theory of the compactness of the hot fusion reaction Ca-48+Pu-244 ->(292)114
    PHYSICAL REVIEW C 72 (1): Art. No. 014607 JUL 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    Ten out of ten are technical articles.

    1. Eastman G
    The cosmic landscape: String theory and the illusion of intelligent design.
    LIBRARY JOURNAL 131 (1): 150-150 JAN 2006
    Times Cited: 0

    2. Trock BJ
    Intelligent design? Misclassification as a critical limitation of biomarker studies.
    CANCER EPIDEMIOLOGY BIOMARKERS & PREVENTION 14 (11): 2711S-2711S Part 2 Suppl. S NOV 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    3. Powell CS
    The cosmic landscape – String theory and the illusion of intelligent design.
    NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW : 16-16 JAN 15 2006
    Times Cited: 0

    4. Mervis J
    The Dover ID decision – Judge Jones defines science – And why intelligent design isn’t
    SCIENCE 311 (5757): 34-34 JAN 6 2006
    Times Cited: 0

    5. [Anon]
    Is intelligent design worth debating?
    LANCET 367 (9504): 2-2 JAN 7 2006
    Times Cited: 0

    6. Bracken JA
    God, the devil, and Darwin: A critique of intelligent design theory
    JOURNAL OF RELIGION 85 (4): 686-688 OCT 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    7. Weissmann G
    Intelligent design: Hooke and the lynxes
    FASEB JOURNAL 19 (14): 1933-1935 DEC 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    8. Cronstein B
    Response to RFP: “Rigorous test of intelligent design”
    FASEB JOURNAL 19 (14): 1936-1937 DEC 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    9. Marris E
    Intelligent design verdict set to sway other cases
    NATURE 439 (7072): 6-7 JAN 5 2006
    Times Cited: 0

    10. Ellis G
    The cosmic landscape: String theory and the illusion of intelligent design
    NATURE 438 (7069): 739-740 DEC 8 2005
    Times Cited: 0

    I see one possible technical article, and the rest are letters and commentary.

    I wasn’t aware that Google hits had anything to do with making things science. If so, then consider this:

    Results 1 – 10 of about 24,800,000 for astrology

  18. Christopher Letzelter

    “Jane Says:
    February 9th, 2006 at 8:43 am

    It’s pretty obvious that Demski tailors his message to the audience. It’s the usual lies and the usual situational ethics that many pseudo-Christians have.”

    Jane, I like that, except – maybe it can be called “ethical relativism?”

  19. Andreas

    Actually, most of the 10 CF papers you cite have nothing to do with Fleischmann-Pons. They talk about “cold” (low-energy)heavy-ion fusion reactions to produce “superheavy” elements. They are v. legitimate.

  20. Austringer Post author

    Andreas, thanks for the information. Is there a citation that would be useful in figuring out how many actual “cold fusion” papers are extant?

  21. mark

    Compare wordcounts for the Ruse & Dembski answers. No doubt what Ruse said (“No”). You have to wade through Dembski’s self-citations and congratulations, but how does he answer the question? “No.” Perhaps he intended his wordiness to imply that there really is some science there, somewhere, that can be done; but we know there’s no science there and we also know that Dembski himself won’t be trying to do any science.

  22. Austringer Post author

    Andreas, I don’t see even work done in the wake of Fleischman-Pons to be illegitimate. I just don’t think that the work has yet convinced the scientific community that “cold fusion” is a theory that is consistent with the test of the evidence. Maybe they will do so, and maybe they won’t, but it should be noted that beyond the initial press stunt, the field seems to have stuck to the usual scientific process.

  23. mark

    After the initial announcement of cold fusion, a lot of experimenters tried to replicate the process, as good scientists will do. There were a lot of negative results. That certainly was not bad science.

  24. Spike

    Shirley Knott Says:
    February 9th, 2006 at 8:51 am
    Dembski is offering to pay money for the violation of a law.
    This is illegal.
    It would be beyond delightful to see him actually served with papers and brought up on charges for this.
    Why is this not being done?

    hugs,
    Shirely Knott

    Shirely is right. Inciting commission of a crime is itself a crime. Especially if offering money to do so.

    Even if someone is supporting moral civil disobedience (which Dembski may think he is doing, but others may disagree). If I made a public offer to pay the fines and court costs of anyone who violated some Bush adminsitration “no-protest zone,” I would be just as liable for that crime as the people who broke the rule.

    What State is Dembski in?

  25. Ed Darrell

    Cold fusion is still alive, and a wonderful example of a science that has not earned the mantle of “good science” and how its advocates behave.

    There are at least 8 research projects at major universities and research centers on cold fusion right now. The researchers do not claim that it works; they claim only that there is something that happens sometimes that they cannot yet explain. Last year the Department of Energy took these efforts seriously enough to do a review of their decision not to fund any of the projects. Energy ultimately determined there isn’t enough in cold fusion to merit federal funding.

    In no case, however, has any cold fusion advocate appeared before any school board or church congregation to ask for money for a campaign to get cold fusion into high school physics books. In no case has any cold fusion advocate asked a state legislature to pass a law saying it is legitimate science (and when Utah passed a law providing funding to work on the idea, advocates didn’t complain when the state backed off a few years later).

    On ethical grounds, cold fusion advocates have it all over intelligent design advocates. What faith do they profess?

  26. Steviepinhead

    Spike:
    “What state is Dembski in?”

    I not sure about the state Dembski is in (the Disco Institute is in Seattle; his BBQ restaurant is in Texas), but I’m quite certain on the river–
    De Nile.

  27. Dave M

    Spike says:
    > Shirely is right. Inciting commission of a crime is
    > itself a crime. Especially if offering money to do
    > so.

    > Even if someone is supporting moral civil
    > disobedience (which Dembski may think he is doing, > but others may disagree). If I made a public offer
    > to pay the fines and court costs of anyone who
    > violated some Bush adminsitration “no-protest zone,”
    > I would be just as liable for that crime as the
    > people who broke the rule.

    > What State is Dembski in?

    I don’t think the Wisconsin bill is a law quite yet, so charging Dembski w/ inciting lawbreaking is premature. Dembski could simply withdraw the offer if/when the WI bill becomes law. There’s also the matter of state lines that would make serving/charging Dembski difficult (is publicly inciting lawbreaking a crime that one could be extradited for?), the jurisdictional issues, and the fact that Dembski could easily (and legally) welsh on the offer w/o (legal) penalty. (Assuming Dembski’s offer is, in fact, illegal, a contract for performance of illegal actions is void/unenforceable.)

    And Dembski is in Kentucky, I think.

  28. Spike

    Well, here is what it says in the kentucky Revised Statutes:

    506.030 Criminal solicitation.
    (1) A person is guilty of criminal solicitation when, with the intent of promoting or
    facilitating the commission of a crime, he commands or encourages another person
    to engage in specific conduct which would constitute that crime or an attempt to
    commit that crime or which would establish the other’s complicity in its
    commission or attempted commission.
    (2) A criminal solicitation is a:
    (a) Class C felony when the crime solicited is a violation of KRS 521.020 or
    521.050;
    (b) Class B felony when the crime solicited is a Class A felony or capital offense;
    (c) Class C felony when the crime solicited is a Class B felony;
    (d) Class A misdemeanor when the crime solicited is a Class C or D felony;
    (e) Class B misdemeanor when the crime solicited is a misdemeanor.

    506.040 Criminal conspiracy.
    (1) A person having the intention of promoting or facilitating the commission of a
    crime is guilty of criminal conspiracy when he:
    (a) Agrees with one (1) or more persons that at least one (1) of them will engage
    in conduct constituting that crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such
    a crime; or
    (b) Agrees to aid one or more persons in the planning or commission of that crime
    or an attempt or solicitation to commit such a crime.
    (2) Except as provided in a specific statute to the contrary, a criminal conspiracy is a:
    (a) Class C felony when the conspiratorial agreement is a violation of KRS
    521.020 or 521.050;
    (b) Class B felony when the object of the conspiratorial agreement is a Class A
    felony or capital offense;
    (c) Class C felony when the object of the conspiratorial agreement is a Class B
    felony;
    (d) Class A misdemeanor when the object of the conspiratorial agreement is a
    Class C or D felony;
    (e) Class B misdemeanor when the object of the conspiratorial agreement is a
    misdemeanor.

  29. Rolf Manne

    This is in reply to Austringer’s (Wesley’s)
    comment No. 17. It was not my intention to say that a high Google count could tell whether anything was science or not. Neither does the
    ISI data base (Web of Science) tell that. What one can tell is about the interest in various topics among those who supply material to Google
    or the ISI data base.

    Here are some more counts from the ISI data base:

    astrology 664 (mostly historical work)
    homeopathic 733
    dowsing 82 (some relating to a person named
    William Dowsing)
    intelligent design 264 (same number as Wesley’s, my 204 may have been a misprint)

    The original paper on cold fusion, M. Fleischmann and S Pons, J. Electroanalytical Chemistry 261 (1989) 301-308 has been cited 689 times in the
    literature covered by the ISI data base.

    Michael Behe’s book “Darwin’s black box” has been cited 43 times in the ISI data base. He may have a few more citations for his ID work in other publications. He has a decent number of citations for his conventional work in science.

    For W Dembski I find a total of 37 citations in the ISI data base. One of these is obviously to work by a different person. There are a total of 2 (two) citations to his paper in Journal of Theoretical Probability 3 (1990) 611. One citing paper is about mathematics, the other is a paper by FJ Beckwith on science and religion 20 years after McLean v Arkansas, published in Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy 2003.

    I cannot say for sure that my counts are correct to the last digit. It is now quite late, Central European Time…

  30. Gerry L

    I did an author search today in ISI Web of Science on “Behe, M.” Plenty of hits, but I suspect that few if any were Michael Behe. Anyone want to try it and report back?

  31. Rolf Manne

    In my previous post on citations of Michael Behe, I overlooked that most of his contributions to the scientific literature appear under “Behe MJ”.
    Thus there are about 81 citations of “Darwin’s Black Box” under that name. The total is thus
    about 124.

    Most citations under “Behe M” are to
    a different person, working in the field of nuclear medicine at the University of Marburg,
    Germany. However, judging from the titles, there are a few papers by the American Michael J Behe
    from the early 1980′s which are listed under
    “Behe M”. One of these, from 1982 has been cited
    820 times, a very respectable number.

    For William Dembski I got 5 contributions to the literature under “Dembski WA” and about 91 more
    citations under that name. Adding that to those
    under W Dembski I get about 127 citations.
    I did not find any more citing papers in the field of mathematics.

    The 5 contributions are about various aspects of ID. One, called “Randomness by design” from 1991, has been cited 4 times, another, from 1998, has been cited once, by FJ Beckwith.

  32. Renier

    Reply to Whoever (JAD?) – Comment 34

    I think you are mistaken about DS always seeing the light of Common Ancestry. I recall a discussion on PT where he was arguing the opposite (normal creationist junk of “kinds”).

    So, you think having an agnostic blogger in favour of ID will convince the court it is no longer religious? I know a church where there are at least 5 agnostic people. This must mean that church is not about religion. There are thousands of Christians that are scientists. Does this mean science is Christian?

    You think having a cranky, over the wall, crazy, insulting biologist to testify in court will convince the judge that this “professor emeritus” is right and the rest of the scientific community is wrong? JAD under crossfire. I would pay a monthly salary to get a video of that. Saltation, front-loading is better than RM+NS? Wishful thinking. At least we have witnessed RM, and we have witnessed NS. We know it exists. Nobody else seems interested in front-loading (just “cdesign proponentsists”). But hey, JAD is the new Mule that the ID people might be riding into court.

    Oh, and at the next court case, is Dembski going to be a coward and run away again, or actually do the right thing and stick with his “friends”?

    But hang on, I thought ID people did not want it taught in schools, and now you do? You bunch used to be indecisive, but now you are not sure anymore!

    Change your handle to “Captain Positive” if you think anything has really changed. The same old lies, just different clown suits for it.

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