Guest Column, by Mark Isaak

| 21 Comments

This is a guest column written by Mark Isaak. Mark is a long time follower and participant in the origins debate and the author of the Index of Creationist Claims.

Am I Being Censored?

by Mark Isaak

Creationists sometimes complain that they are prevented from publishing in peer-reviewed journals. I have addressed the falsehood of that claim elsewhere. But what about non-creationists getting published in creationist journals? As I recall, Glenn Morton was prevented from publishing in a creationist journal after he stopped being a young-earth creationist. Here I recount my own experiment in this area.

Origins & Design is published by Access Research Network as part of their attempt to look respectable. It is “an interdisciplinary, peer-reviewed journal with two related goals: (1) to examine theories of origins, … and, (2) to examine all aspects of the idea of design. … [W]e welcome contributions from all interested persons.”

I am an interested person, so in February 2001, I submitted an article titled, “Some Neglected Aspects of Design.” This article makes the following points: The design argument from incredulity is convincing only to those who already want to believe it, and Dembski’s methods are fatally flawed because they neglect chance and regularity operating together as an ongoing process. More importantly, design arguments don’t talk about real design at all. By looking at known designs, we can determine a few common properties common to designed things. These properties include relative simplicity, creation by manufacture rather than reproduction, form following function, and evidence of a design process. Design theorists consider none of these. Indeed, by representing design as complexity and denying its nature as a process, they misrepresent design as much as they misrepresent evolution. (Most of the ideas in this article have since been published in “What Design Looks Like,” RNCSE 23(5-6): 25-26,31-35, 2003).

After I mailed the manuscript, six months passed without my hearing anything from ARN. I emailed Paul Nelson to verify that they had received it, and he replied that they had, and it was undergoing review. Another seven months of silence. Nelson replied to my next email, in March 2002, saying that my article was scheduled to be printed in the next issue of Origins & Design.

So where is the possible censorship? The latest issue of Origins and Design (issue 39) is dated Summer 2001. Three years have passed, and the “next issue” has never come. I wonder if it will ever come. This is particularly curious in light of the facts that (1) ARN had apparently been publishing one or two issues per year before that; and (2) in their 2000/2001 annual report, ARN announced plans to increase the frequency and distribution of Origins & Design (cited by Forrest and Gross, 2004, Creationism’s Trojan Horse, p. 167).

Part of the explanation for O&D’s neglect may be that ARN has diverted resources to ISCID, which has its own on-line journal PCID. But whereas O&D was interdisciplinary, covering biology, history, theology, and philosophy among other topics, ISCID is focused on “design” and complexity. In practice, PCID seems mainly devoted to taking Hovind-quality creationist arguments and wrapping them up in technical and pseudo-philosophical mumbo-jumbo. For those unfamiliar with Hovind, his arguments are so bad that they embarrass even other creationists. ISCID seems to be a crackpot magnet, and I suspect its being published on-line with lax editing contributes to that attraction.

So did ARN stop publishing O&D rather than have my article appear in it? I would like to think so, but I doubt it. O&D’s subscription page says they are switching to an on-line format. Probably the delay concerns the switchover. Nelson also told me that there was a switch in editors, too (to Nancy Pearcey). I find it curious, though, that receipt of my article was not acknowledged until I asked about it, and that it passed through peer review, almost certainly with reviewers hostile to its views, with no comment. I would guess–and I would hope–the submissions they usually receive are treated better. Now, it looks like pieces are falling in place for O&D to go the way of PCID. Then ARN will have sunk to a pitiful level indeed.

21 Comments

The story is simple, Mark: O & D lost its funding. In the years when it appeared semi-regularly, the journal was supported by foundation grants. When those were not renewed, due to the death of a long-time ARN supporter, ARN sought alternate sources of funding. This was during a period, however, when the portfolios of many private foundations were shrinking (stock market decline). The search for financial support goes on.

I liked your article, and found it challenging. (Incidentally, my failure to acknowledge your submission should be put down to my chronic over-commitment and poor organizational skills.) The article is still in the queue, along with several other good pieces. [Since ARN is an entirely volunteer organization, I don’t know when the web version of the journal will be up.]

No cash for the printer and postage. There’s not much more to the story than that. I’m sorry.

The Link to Answers in Genesis doesn’t work. It appears to be formatted incorrectly.

Paul, I think the point here is that ID proponents cry about being censored and unable to get published, when most authors do not have their papers accepted one time or another. When they don’t, they get a rapid review and a polite response from the editor, even if it is going out of publication. These things are academic courtesy, and three years is the height of discourtesy. It is inexcusable. Mark has more right to claim censorship than any ID proponent whose paper has been rejected. I note, though, that he stopped short of claiming it.

Moreover, it is often common for editors of journals that are publishing papers with a slant to invite hostile critics to comment. I have not seen this in my rather cursory skim through ID publications and websites. Many people on t.o and various lists I am on constantly complain about the ways in which the ISCID moderators arbitrarily and inconsistently censor articles and even knock critics off the site entirely. I simply don’t see the standards of fairness and openness to criticism in ID that is the baseline in academic debate amongst, yes, evolutionary biology. [Cladistics journals may be another matter.]

We all sympathise about the volunteer nature of these media - both talkorigins.org and this blog are entirely volunteer sites.

By the way, when is your book coming out? I am looking forward to reading it. Who knows, I may even agree with some of it.

ISCID’s already failing quality has gone down significantly recently when the moderator closed down threads which he considered to be unsuitable, at the same time leaving open threads in which people can be heard repeating “Darwinism is dead” chants with not much response or action from the moderators.

More recently the moderator has, without any stated reason, blocked my access to ISCID. Despite several emails to the moderator requesting an explanation as to why my access has been disabled, I have yet to hear from them.

One would expect at least some courtesy to inform its members and contributors as to the reason and extent of their ban.

Finally I decided to cc Micah who did respond to an email of mine asking for clarification and he said he would look into the matter. Micah also confirmed that my access had been disabled by a moderator. So far I have yet to hear further as to the reason for and extent of my ban.

This is especially ´painful´ since I was addressing some of the flaws and shortcomings in Engle’s contribution to ISCID (I wonder if it will be published ‘as is’ without any revisions or if peer review is actually taken seriously by the editors of ISCID). I will likely move my evaluation of Engle’s claims to Pandasthumb were they can be discussed in a more mature environment.

For a site which supposedly is fair and balanced in its treatment, ISCID has lost a lot of credibility.

From the “About ISCID” page

The International Society for Complexity, Information, and Design (ISCID) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization which provides a forum for free and uncensored inquiry into complex systems.

What does it say about a person when he performs an action in full knowledge that it will have very little effect? My only reservation with posting at the PT is that judging from the content thus far, there is little room for peer dialogue.

In any case, I thought I’d drop in to do some error-correcting. Brayton suggests that “Part of the explanation for O&D’s neglect may be that ARN has diverted resources to ISCID.” As the managing director of ISCID I can assure you that ARN has not diverted an ounce of resources to ISCID. At least as far as I’m aware (and I tend to be the conscience of ISCID).

Regarding John and Pim’s comments about those who “constantly complain about the ways in which the ISCID moderators arbitrarily and inconsistently censor articles.” These are legitimate concerns that we hope to deal with. Especially the fact that at the current time we largely do our moderating in response to particular concerns from our users (i.e. when we are flagged down). What I can say without hesitation is this: our moderators have banned and deleted more posts from the likes of John Davison, Warren Bergeson and those who the Panda’s Thumb might refer to as “anti-evolutionists” than we’ve deleted or banned “non-anti-evolutionists.” Make sure not to cherry pick your data.

Pim, I’m working on your situation and if I don’t hear anything by tomorrow (Wednesday) I’ll release your ban until I hear more details on why it occurred in the first place.

Finally, I’d just like to make a note about PCID. On several occassions, I’ve tried in earnest to solicit papers from non-anti-evolutionists. I’ve even tried to solitic guest editors for entire issues dedicated to a thorough, authoritive critique. Now, while I understand the fact that these people have time committments and also worry about legitimizing an illegitimate publication, it is disingenuous to include PCID within a conversation on censorship. If a paper comes our way that we feel meets a minimal level of scholarship (and when I say minimal, I’m not kidding), we’ll post it on our Archives. I’m the guy who sees all the papers posted to ISCID and directs them to the proper authorities. Thus far we’ve not received a single submission from the non-anti-evolution crowd. We’ve gotten a few tongue-in-cheek submissions, but they don’t count.

Let me just reassert: I’d personally love to post a critique of Dembski or Behe or Mike Gene or John Bracht or Paul Nelson or any of those guys because I personally think that there is plenty to critique.

http://www.beyondbinary.org

Micah: I am not sure that PT is meant to be a site for “peer dialogue”. It is a blog by people who hold a pro-science position in the evolution/ID/Creationism argument, written for like-minded people, or open-minded fence-sitters. Among other things, it is meant to inform, raise awareness, criticize ID and Creationist claims, stimulate ideas, have some fun, and to some extent discuss issues. However, this is not a discussion board, and while anyone is welcome to post their comments, people who make erroneous, groundless or plain silly arguments should expect to be treated with less patience than is usually accorded to them on boards like ARN, ISCID, etc. Frankly, the last thing I’d personally want here is to encourage endless and completely hopeless diatribes by characters like those you mentioned.

That said, I think Beckwith was (with minor exceptions) treated quite respectfully. I suspect you would be treated the same way, if you cared to post comments. Paul’s “ontogenetic depth” argument was strongly criticized, but people did engage him in discussion too (OK, he was made fun of after his “be-back-later” move, but can you blame us, with his record? ;) ).

As for PCID, no one has accused it of censorship, just of low quality. Of course it is safe to say that most of us would not contribute to it on principle, and that indeed its poor record is a very good argument for the scientific emptiness of ID (and that we like it that way). While I believe you are sincere in your desire to make PCID a bona fide scholarly journal for open discussion of design issues, including those not strictly related to ID, or even critical of it, you know perfectly well that any even minimal sign of success or “engagement” would be spun into triumphalistic hype by the DI P.R. machine and the militant ID advocates - it has happened before. I know you have invested quite a bit of effort into it and I do empathize - alas, it is not us who should be blamed for the failure.

In any case, I thought I’d drop in to do some error-correcting. Brayton suggests that “Part of the explanation for O&D’s neglect may be that ARN has diverted resources to ISCID.” As the managing director of ISCID I can assure you that ARN has not diverted an ounce of resources to ISCID. At least as far as I’m aware (and I tend to be the conscience of ISCID).

Just a bit of error-correcting on your error-correcting - I did not make this claim, Mark Isaak did. I merely posted his words as a guest column.

Micah: Pim, I’m working on your situation and if I don’t hear anything by tomorrow (Wednesday) I’ll release your ban until I hear more details on why it occurred in the first place.

I appreciate your efforts here and I may be as frustrated as you about the lack of communication with the moderators. I have to admit that I have no visibility as to the moderation policies towards other participants other than the presence of countless postings in which Darwinism is declared dead. I used to be a paying member of ISCID because I liked the quality of postings and the member only threads which went in depth on certain issues/books but I have been reluctant to renew due to what I see some issues with ISCID. Nevertheless I am convinced that Micah is serious about his efforts to make ISCID a quality place to discuss ID relevant issues

ISCID moderator seems to be after Ron this time.

This thread shows how Nosivad is allowed to repeat his mantra of ‘Darwinism is false’ but when Ron responds with a substantial contribution he is warned about the ‘tone’ of his posting.

Is ISCID in control of its own moderators I wonder? From Micah I understand that I had been banned without any explanation from the moderator. In fact Micah seemed to be having some problems getting his moderator to explain why I had been banned. What’s going on here? This situation is not helping to make ISCID a place where critic and proponent of ID alike can discuss the arguments on equal footing.

Micah has updated the toleration policy on ISCID

Interesting tidbits

2. Any tendency to pull threads off topic or to drag them down in “canned” responses (read: Pim van Meurs) will lead to a ban for three months.

Funny how Micah seems to consider such a snipe to be necessary.

Thus when Micah states

5. Character/personal attacks will lead to a three month ban.

and

If you post in a spirit of civility, open-mindedness, and humility (principle of charity) you have nothing to worry about.

does this imply that Micah will be banned for three months? Or do these rules not apply to Micah?

:-)

Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate Micah’s attempt to clean up the ISCID boards but the lack of quality and content should hardly be blamed on me.

Did is miss something, Mark? Where was the link to it? Why don’t you just present it here. I would feel there are people lurking who are quite capable of addressing your ideas, and we all can learn from one another, don’t you agree?

What are you talking about Jerry? Mark did present hus arguments and ideas here.

But I am sure that you missed something Jerry, if we only knew what exactly though :-) Tell us Jerry what part did you miss and perhaps we can help you. After all, that’s what we are here for.

*****Don’t get me wrong, I do appreciate Micah’s attempt to clean up the ISCID boards but the lack of quality and content should hardly be blamed on me.*****

Much of it can be. You’re the biggest troll to come on the Net in years, IMHO. You present nothing but smoke and mirrors, make up math as you go and hope no one notices to challenge you and cloak all of this dishonesty in some kind of weird religion you have. You, my friend, are quite dangerous to truth.

Jerry seems to take another stab at irony

Much of it can be. You’re the biggest troll to come on the Net in years, IMHO. You present nothing but smoke and mirrors, make up math as you go and hope no one notices to challenge you and cloak all of this dishonesty in some kind of weird religion you have. You, my friend, are quite dangerous to truth.

Let’s ignore for the moment the total ad hominem approach chosen by Jerry and look at his claims.

Make up math as you go: Jerry must be confusing his entropy ‘math’ attempts with me pointing out how real scientists calculate entropy in the genome.

Dishonesty: Unproven accusation and ad hominem. Thank Jerry for undermining your own ‘argument’

Dangerous to truth: Assuming that Jerry would recognize ‘truth’. In fact what Jerry most likely means is that I am dangerous to any poorly argued concepts of entropy. There is a good thread on Popper on this blog which documents some of Jerry’s whoppers.

I am glad though that Jerry is showing us some of his better attempts at logic and reasoning. I am sure the readers of these boards will be equally impressed.

Oh Jerry, while you’re on a ‘roll’, could you perhaps support your accusations of dishonesty or making up math?

Thought so.

Actually, you forgot to follow all that up with the Bible scriptures you normally spew. Please don’t try to convince people this is not some weird new religion you’ve invented. You don’t deny that Christ is running all your posts in the background, do you?

Jerry: Actually, you forgot to follow all that up with the Bible scriptures you normally spew. Please don’t try to convince people this is not some weird new religion you’ve invented. You don’t deny that Christ is running all your posts in the background, do you?

You are truely not making much sense Jerry.

Take care Jerry and stop arguing with yourself, it tends to frighten people.

*****You are truely not making much sense Jerry.****

Really? I just don’t seem to see the scripture you normally introduce into this ‘science.’ Remember. You started all of this as a staunch YECer. Do you still feel your arguements are of God?

Actually, Mark Isaak comes across as a whiner. I think everyone reading this thread can see this. Note that he refuses to present anything here that could possibly be challenged. He can’t take that chance and keep up the image with the tribe called Talk-Origin. We understand, Mark.

Jerry, your true colors are quickly shining through here. Tell us more about your issues, we are here for you to help you.

If you believe Mark comes across as a whiner, imagine what people may think of you.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Ed Brayton published on May 7, 2004 9:55 AM.

Scientist shortage in the US was the previous entry in this blog.

“Dances With Popper”: An Examination of Dembski’s Claims on Testability is the next entry in this blog.

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