A Certain Looseness of Standards

“It isn’t Jones that Luskin has an issue with, it is Behe. Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe did speak the truth there, truth that Casey Luskin wants to call a lie. For Jones had to rely upon the evidentiary record of the case in making his decision. He couldn’t just pop off to visit the Discovery Institute’s web page to get a quick fix of Bizarro World.”

Over on the Discovery Institute’s blog, Casey Luskin takes exception to some statements from John Derbyshire. He uses the opportunity to take some more pot-shots at Judge John E. Jones III, whose decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover case still apparently rankles. Luskin simply can’t stop picking at it, like a kid with a scab on a scraped-up elbow.

Regarding peer-review, Derbyshire claims that “Judge Jones has way the better of the argument.” Let’s see exactly what Judge Jones says regarding ID and peer-review:

“It has not generated peer-reviewed publications” (Kitzmiller v. Dover, 400 F.Supp. 707, 735 (M.D. Pa. 2005)

“A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory.” (Id. at 744)

“The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.” (Id. at 745)

“In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals…” (Id. at 745)

“It has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals” (Id. at 745)

Thus in no fewer than five locations, Judge Jones claims that ID has published zero peer-reviewed publications. That is an easy claim to verify. The question of “complete absence of peer-reviewed publications” is a simple black and white, binary question: either ID has published peer-reviewed publications, or it hasn’t. This is a difficult question to miss, yet Judge Jones missed it. Any of the following publications (published before the release of the Kitzmiller ruling) refute Judge Jones’s statements:

(1) W.A. Dembski, The Design Inference: Eliminating Chance through Small Probabilities (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

(2) S.C. Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2) (2004): 213-239.

(3) M.J. Behe and D.W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues,” Protein Science, 13 (2004): 2651-2664.

(4) W.-E. Lönnig & H. Saedler, “Chromosome Rearrangements and Transposable Elements,” Annual Review of Genetics, 36 (2002): 389-410.

(5) D.K.Y. Chiu & T.H. Lui, “Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis,” International Journal of Fuzzy Systems, 4(3) (September 2002): 766-775.

(6) Lönnig, W.-E. Dynamic genomes, morphological stasis and the origin of irreducible complexity, Dynamical Genetics, Pp. 101-119. In Dynamical Genetics by V. Parisi, V. de Fonzo & F. Aluffi-Pentini, eds.,(Research Signpost, 2004)

If Judge Jones can miss so simple a question as “have ID proponents published any papers,” then how can we trust his findings on more complicated issues?

If we were to want to “see exactly what Judge Jones says regarding ID and peer-review”, though, Luskin has demonstrated himself to be an unreliable source on the matter. I’ll provide the complete paragraph from the transcript that comes closest to matching what Luskin offers as quotes.

Jones via Luskin Jones via transcript
“It has not generated peer-reviewed publications” (Kitzmiller v. Dover, 400 F.Supp. 707, 735 (M.D. Pa. 2005) After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting [43]supernatural causation; (2) the argument of [44]irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community. As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research.

[Note that “it” is not at the beginning of the sentence, nor does Luskin provide the rest of the sentence. — WRE]

“A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory.” (Id. at 744) A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory. Expert testimony revealed that the peer review process is “exquisitely important” in the scientific process. It is a way for scientists to write up their empirical research and to share the work with fellow experts in the field, opening up the hypotheses to study, testing, and criticism. ([190]1:66-69 (Miller)). In fact, defense expert Professor Behe recognizes the importance of the peer review process and has written that science must “publish or perish.” ([191]22:19-25 (Behe)). Peer review helps to ensure that research papers are scientifically accurately, meet the standards of the scientific method, and are relevant to other scientists in the field. ([192]1:39-40 (Miller)). Moreover, peer review involves scientists submitting a manuscript to a scientific journal in the field, journal editors soliciting critical reviews from other experts in the field and deciding whether the scientist has followed proper research procedures, employed up-to-date methods, considered and cited relevant literature and generally, whether the researcher has employed sound science.
“The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications.” (Id. at 745) The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. ([193]17:42-43 (Padian); [194]11:32-33 (Forrest)). On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” ([195]22:22-23 (Behe)). Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. ([196]21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), [197]23:4-5 (immune system), and [198]22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are “irreducibly complex.”^[199]17 ([200]21:62, [201]22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. ([202]28:114-15 (Fuller); [203]18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)).
“In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals…” (Id. at 745) The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. ([193]17:42-43 (Padian); [194]11:32-33 (Forrest)). On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” ([195]22:22-23 (Behe)). Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. ([196]21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), [197]23:4-5 (immune system), and [198]22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are “irreducibly complex.”^[199]17 ([200]21:62, [201]22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. ([202]28:114-15 (Fuller); [203]18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)).
“It has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals” (Id. at 745) After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to a void the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.

[Again, Luskin starts somewhere in the middle of a sentence and fails to quote to the end of the sentence. –WRE]

Going back to Luskin, he says, “Thus in no fewer than five locations, Judge Jones claims that ID has published zero peer-reviewed publications.”

What Luskin offers by his partial quotes and mis-formulation of the relevant question is a strawman. Jones’s claim has qualifications to it that Luskin ignored. Let’s look at the three paragraphs from the “ID Is Not Science” section of Jones’s decision that include four of Luskin’s partial quotes:

A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory. Expert testimony revealed that the peer review process is “exquisitely important” in the scientific process. It is a way for scientists to write up their empirical research and to share the work with fellow experts in the field, opening up the hypotheses to study, testing, and criticism. ([190]1:66-69 (Miller)). In fact, defense expert Professor Behe recognizes the importance of the peer review process and has written that science must “publish or perish.” ([191]22:19-25 (Behe)). Peer review helps to ensure that research papers are scientifically accurately, meet the standards of the scientific method, and are relevant to other scientists in the field. ([192]1:39-40 (Miller)). Moreover, peer review involves scientists submitting a manuscript to a scientific journal in the field, journal editors soliciting critical reviews from other experts in the field and deciding whether the scientist has followed proper research procedures, employed up-to-date methods, considered and cited relevant literature and generally, whether the researcher has employed sound science.

The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. ([193]17:42-43 (Padian); [194]11:32-33 (Forrest)). On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.” ([195]22:22-23 (Behe)). Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. ([196]21:61-62 (complex molecular systems), [197]23:4-5 (immune system), and [198]22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade) (Behe)). In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are “irreducibly complex.”^[199]17 ([200]21:62, [201]22:124-25 (Behe)). In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. ([202]28:114-15 (Fuller); [203]18:22-23, 105-06 (Behe)).

After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. Accepting for the sake of argument its proponents’, as well as Defendants’ argument that to introduce ID to students will encourage critical thinking, it still has utterly no place in a science curriculum. Moreover, ID’s backers have sought to a void the scientific scrutiny which we have now determined that it cannot withstand by advocating that the controversy, but not ID itself, should be taught in science class. This tactic is at best disingenuous, and at worst a canard. The goal of the IDM is not to encourage critical thought, but to foment a revolution which would supplant evolutionary theory with ID.

What we see is that Jones is concerned with what publications supporting ID might have been published. And Jones was led to his conclusion by testimony from the defense’s star witness: On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.”

Q. [Rothschild] Now you have never argued for intelligent design in a peer reviewed scientific journal, correct?

A. [Behe] No, I argued for it in my book.

Q. Not in a peer reviewed scientific journal?

A. That’s correct.

Q. And, in fact, there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred, is that correct?

A. That is correct, yes.

It isn’t Jones that Luskin has an issue with, it is Behe. Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe did speak the truth there, truth that Casey Luskin wants to call a lie. For Jones had to rely upon the evidentiary record of the case in making his decision. He couldn’t just pop off to visit the Discovery Institute’s web page to get a quick fix of Bizarro World. Should Michael Behe have testified otherwise given the books and articles that Luskin lists? Dembski’s “The Design Inference” is about eliminating regularity and chance, not about supporting ID. Meyer’s paper likewise urges the acceptance of ID based upon eliminating natural explanation, and gives nothing to support ID. Behe and Snoke’s paper, as developed in testimony, was about the capacity of a particular incomplete model of evolution to accomplish a particular task, and did not even mention ID:

Q. And this paper, let’s be clear here, doesn’t say anything about intelligent design?

A. Yes, that’s correct. It does imply irreducible complexity but not intelligent design.

Q. But it doesn’t say it?

A. That’s correct.

Lönnig includes ID advocates in laundry lists of alternative views and asserts that “irreducible complexity” and “specified complexity” are the correct view of certain biological phenomena. Neither of the papers supports ID in the way Jones stated, since both IC and SC work by eliminating natural cause, not supporting ID. Chiu and Lui is a similar case, wherein they mention ID advocate Dembski and his “design inference”, but do nothing to support ID. No, Behe could not answer otherwise than he did on the stand: there are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred. Luskin certainly provides no references that do any such thing, nor can he.

All in all, it’s much easier for Luskin to claim that this or that publication signifies this or that thing when he knows that Eric Rothschild won’t be along to cross-examine him on all those points… under oath. Pity Michael Behe, who at least showed up to the trial and did undergo that cross-examination, who now has to put up with Casey Luskin calling him a liar. It’s not like we’re expecting Behe to make a fuss about it. Any collateral damage on the antievolution side is simply the price one pays there to stick it to the “Darwinists”.

And there’s the final bit from Luskin: “If Judge Jones can miss so simple a question as “have ID proponents published any papers,” then how can we trust his findings on more complicated issues?”

Luskin has a collection of strawmen so large that he’s having difficulty figuring out which one he’s gotten out of the warehouse. Before, it was: “Thus in no fewer than five locations, Judge Jones claims that ID has published zero peer-reviewed publications.” Now, it’s: “have ID proponents published any papers”. Bait-and-switch, and the only things being swapped are strawmen. That’s rhetorical excess, Casey. And it has nothing to do with what Jones was talking about or what Behe testified to. As for the implied argument Luskin makes concerning “proponents” and publication, Emperor Hirohito published various articles in marine biology, does that mean that his policy of Japanese military aggression was science, too?

But I do want to thank Casey for the idea of a TalkOrigins Archive bumper sticker. The wording is a bit different from what Casey provided:

The link goes to my CafePress site where you can order one or a dozen of the things. The image is from the public domain NASA collection.

11 thoughts on “A Certain Looseness of Standards

  1. Austringer Post author

    I’ve already received comments in email that I was too nice here.

    Dembski’s “The Design Inference”, for instance, isn’t a “peer-reviewed article”. It’s a book from an academic publisher. As Jeff Shallit noted in his expert report, Cambridge Univ. Press books get about as much commentary in total as a single journal article might. The level of scrutiny is far more intense for journal articles.

    The Meyer paper was a really crappy review paper, and even the society that published it repudiated it afterward. The society also noted irregularities in the review process for that paper, and insisted upon changes to tighten up the review process there for the future.

    OK, folks, is that better?

  2. Nick (Matzke)

    There is also an important distinction between reviews of other people’s work, and actual original research.

  3. bdeller

    Wow! With Luskins lack of ability to properly cite material and quotaions, its no wonder he thinks ID has peer review. Think of a peer review comment. “ID has no real scientific validity.” Luskin would quote this as, “Real scientific validity.”

  4. Alien Being 315R8

    Well done, Wesley.

    I wonder what Luskin thinks he’s accomplishing by smearing a well-regarded Federal Judge as a liar and/or moron?

    It’s pretty easy for us to see that Luskin is merely digging a deeper hole for himself and his creationist friends at the Discovery Institute.

    Eventually, of course, the ID peddlers will manage to get some of their garbage into a peer-reviewed journal. It’s bound to happen. My guess is that it will be a mathematics-laden pile of gobbledy-gook with some clever ID-friendly soundbites buried inside. At the Kornell Kreationist Klub Klass blog hosted by Allen McNeil and Hannah Maxson, you can practically hear the sound of the promoters scurrying about to find the most baffling collection of statistical gibberish and test it out on sincere mathematicians. Something very ugly and depressing is in the works, I fear.

  5. shiva

    “Something very ugly and depressing is in the works, I fear.”

    That would be interesting and as funny as the RATE papers on radioactive decay from the PALEO-CREOS.

  6. Corkscrew

    Any chance of getting that design as a mug? Would look really good.

  7. Pieter B

    I’d like it on a t-shirt or baseball jersey.

  8. GuyeFaux

    “My guess is that it will be a mathematics-laden pile of gobbledy-gook…”

    And of course it will not be in a math journal.

Comments are closed.