TOA and Peer-Review

Further on in his “Part 1” post that I considered recently, Luskin is trying to impugn the TalkOrigins Archive page concerning ID and peer-review.

John Derbyshire points to TalkOrigins as a refutation of all of these papers. He quotes the website saying, “[t]he point which discredits ID is not that it has few peer-reviewed papers, but why there are so few.” Ignoring that the rest of the quote is false, TalkOrigins thus concedes that ID has a “few” peer-reviewed papers. “Few” is more than zero, which means that Derbyshire’s TalkOrigins URL concedes that every single one of Judge Jones statements above is false.

Let’s see the whole numbered point, shall we?

1. Even by the most generous criteria, the peer-reviewed scientific output from the intelligent design (ID) movement is very low, especially considering the long history and generous funding of the movement. The list of papers and books above is not exhaustive, but there is not a lot else. One week’s worth of peer-reviewed papers on evolutionary biology exceeds the entire history of ID peer-review.

Virtually none of the papers show any original research. The only paper for which original data was gathered is Axe (2000), and see below regarding it.

The point which discredits ID is not that it has few peer-reviewed papers, but why there are so few. ID proponents appear to have no interest in conducting original research that would be appropriate for peer-reviewed journals, and other researchers see nothing in ID worth paying attention to. Despite empty claims that ID is a serious challenge to evolution, nobody takes ID seriously as a science, so nobody writes about it in the professional literature.

Luskin again ignores relevant qualifications on what was said. “Even by the most generous criteria” indicates that Mark Isaak was accepting, for the sake of argument, that what ID advocates claim as peer-reviewed materials meet that standard and are relevant. Judge Jones, as I pointed out last time, was looking for something specific, and what was established in the trial record by Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Michael Behe was that no instances of peer-reviewed articles supporting ID existed. Isaak in the section quoted above isn’t considering the same criteria, and thus the claim that the TOA article “concedes” anything about what Jones said is a complete non sequitur.

That’s our point: if Judge Jones can miss a simple question like “have ID proponents published any peer-reviewed papers?”, then how can we trust his answers to questions which do not have “black-and-white” answers?

As mentioned in my previous post, the question Luskin asks has nothing to do with the point at issue in the trial. ID advocates have published peer-reviewed papers. They just haven’t been on the topic of supporting ID “by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred”. One might be tempted to reflect upon what such obvious confusion implies about Luskin’s cognitive capabilities. I’ll resist. However, I’ll have to note that it that really is Luskin and DI and Co.’s point, they are nowhere close to making relevant commentary on Jones and the Kitzmiller decision.

Derbyshire thus exhibits typical Darwinist-goalpost-moving over the issue of peer-review. Darwinists used to argue that ID-proponents have published no peer-reviewed papers. Then a bunch got published. Now they concede that some papers have been published, but argue that this fact doesn’t matter because “there are so few.” They’re sliding down a slippery slope and will continue to slide down it as ID-proponents continue to publish more and more research.

Earlier this year, I asked Michael Ruse and William Dembski a question.

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 in 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.

Luskin slides by the point. How do you tell that something isn’t ready for inclusion in high school textbooks? If there is no scientific literature on it, that’s a slam dunk. But even when there is a body of literature, the mere fact of its existence doesn’t mean that textbooks authors should stop the presses and get out a revision. There are quite a few fringe ideas that are nowhere close to textbook ready (cold fusion and homeopathy come to mind) with hundreds of actual research papers bearing upon those concepts. It takes more than just publication. It takes making a convincing case to the scientific community for an idea. This is something that ID is very far away from yet. So far, publication that touches upon ID remains relentlessly negative: eliminate natural causes, and accept (for no clear reason) “intelligent design”. That’s not how science gets done. The goal post has remained in place all along: convince the scientific community that you have a good idea. When there are no publications, that says that you aren’t even trying. When there are a few that don’t do anything to support the idea, that indicates that you don’t know how to go about making a convincing case. When most of your effort goes into public policy programs, that’s an indication that you don’t have a clue about what is right.

The TalkOrigins webpage cited by Derbyshire concludes that “ID proponents appear to have no interest in conducting original research that would be appropriate for peer-reviewed journals.” To see some examples refuting that accusation, leading pro-ID scientists such as Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, Scott Minnich, William Dembski, and many others have all done laboratory, computational, theoretical, and mathematical research as well as literature-reviews of current data, all relevant to the scientific evidence supporting ID. The reputation TalkOrigins recommends for ID is completely unwarranted. John Derbyshire should check his sources, and be more skeptical of the myths that TalkOrigins wants its believers to accept and promote.

Have Jonathan Wells, Michael Behe, Scott Minnich, William Dembski, or any others published any original research supporting ID in the sense Behe, Rothschild, and Jones were considering? Not that I know of. Neither does Michael Behe. He testified under oath that no such thing had been published. Luskin insists that Behe lied to us.

ID’s reputation remains the same. Its first appearance as a concept worthy of defining and discussing at length was in the 1989 “Of Pandas and People” textbook, and last year the general public found out that was all a sham to put the same old body of creationist arguments in front of school children. Luskin’s post demonstrates that things are not improving.

Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Data scientist in real estate and econometrics. Blogger. Speaker. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

3 thoughts on “TOA and Peer-Review

  • 2006/07/28 at 8:23 pm

    Another nice post.

    I’m glad to see these basic facts about the vacuousness of ID being pointed out and hammered on.

    Luskin and the 2nd tier promoters like Sal Cordova and his (yuck) followers tend to retreat from these sort of arguments into babbling about how “design” is in fact being used all the time by scientists and “everybody does it” and its a “valuable heuristic” etc. None of this babbling is responsive, of course, to the basic charge which is that for all their complaining about evolutionary biology isn’t convincing (to them), the ID promoters have precisely nothing useful to add to scientists’ understanding of biology.

  • 2006/07/28 at 10:49 pm

    I think Dembski has flip-flop disease. Not long before the paper he mentions (in which he says they are ready to start building an ID curriculum even though ID hasn’t got the pass it needs!) he said this in a response to Mike Gene:

    “Mike, along with S&B, takes the “high road” that ID must first be developed further as a scientific and scholarly program before it may be legitimately taught in public school science curricula. Before the dissolution of my ID think tank at Baylor, my sentiments were largely the same. But I’ve come to reject this view entirely.”

    Dembski must think we just fell out of a tree to take his word that for him science is the intrinisic good. I’d have less trouble believing George Bush loves to read high brow literature.

  • 2006/07/30 at 8:35 am

    If we change the definition of science to include the supernatural, as many creationists have called for, perhaps we might also change the definition of “peer review” to include the dazzling reviews of articles and books that mention Intelligent Design written by fellow Intelligent Design Creationists

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