How can you tell it isn’t science?

| 78 Comments

Let’s say that you are someone who is interested in science, knows a bit about it, but aren’t an expert. You might be someone who reads a lot of popular science books, or who watches a lot of science programs on tv. You might read a lot of science fiction. It’s even possible that you are a science fiction author.

You have heard a bit about the whole intelligent design thing, but you may not have been following it closely - particularly when it’s not in the news. You are also at least a bit disposed to root for the underdog. It’s a better story, and you know that it has been real sometimes. People really did laugh at Fulton and the Wright Brothers, and some scientific theories have faced opposition from entrenched opponents. So how do you know that this isn’t the case with Intelligent Design? Why should you trust us when we tell you that the ID people aren’t really doing science, and that their real motives are much, much more political than scientific. Why shouldn’t you believe the DI’s claims that we represent an entrenched “Darwinian orthodoxy?”

Read More (at The Questionable Authority):

78 Comments

Great analysis. Had creationists any honor, they would be embarrassed to be part of such a movement.

My only quibble with your article is the phrase, ““A simple Bayesian probability analysis…”, such a contratiction in terms makes my head spin.

The February 2006 issue of The Reader’s Digest included an article by Randall Sullivan. The article had nothing to do with evolution but did have a comment that seemed very pertinent here.

Sullivan wrote about an intern named Melvin Morse. Morse has a medical degree from George Washington Universe and a research fellowship funded by the Nation Cancer Institute. His work with near death children surprised him so that he became intriqued with their experiences and began a long term study. It is not the study that I wish to share here, but rather a remark that he is quoted with. As he began to be confronted with the very real sense of a Person or Intelligence that children met on the other side, he said, “…I’m deliberately holding back from dealing with it, because I know that once I cross that line, I’m no longer a scientist.”

I often hear the people who oppose the mention of ID in a favorable light use this doctrine. It has become acceptable within the “scientific community” that the two are mutually exclusive. If a person believes there is an Intelligence and a design behind our universe, they are not accepted within the scientific community. Will one ever find truth by beginning with a conclusion and then setting about to prove it? If a scientist stumbles upon something that is not popular with the scientific community, must he, like Dr. Morse, cease to be a “scientist”?

I don’t know a *lot* of history about ID and I’ve been corrected on a previous post that I’m a “theistic evolutionist” or some such title…but I’m having trouble with the arguments presented in the article you’re speaking about.

I think I fit into the category of someone interested in science, but not an expert. The article only proves that there’s a disparity between the number of supporting “press releases” vs “scientific documents” released by an ID-advocating organization (DI)

To be totally frank, I felt like the entry on “The Questionable Authority” was unconvincing to your average layperson (me) as to whether or not ID = science. I was only convinced that the author counted up the number of documents and articles, did some math, and decided that ID != science because there’s a disparity between the numbers.

In your defense, you’re very specific in saying that the ID people aren’t doing “science” but have more political motivations; which the article demonstrated by nitpicking the inconsistencies in the presentation of their materials.

However the arguments presented make me feel like I’m reading one of those, “My dad can beat up your dad” types of evaluations that don’t *mean* anything to the average Joe. Once again I’m revealing some of my ignorance because I don’t have a full grasp of what the ID agenda really is and isn’t. But I guess comparing the amount of publications seems trivial to me.

If the question were “Which of these people is the better student?”, and we compared their grades on the same coursework, and one consistently received ‘A’s while the other received ‘C’s:

Would you say that the difference in grades is trivial and nitpicking, or that you don’t see the difference in their performance?

Comment #75882

Posted by Jan on January 26, 2006 08:19 AM (e)

The February 2006 issue of The Reader’s Digest included an article by Randall Sullivan. The article had nothing to do with evolution but did have a comment that seemed very pertinent here.

Sullivan wrote about an intern named Melvin Morse. Morse has a medical degree from George Washington Universe and a research fellowship funded by the Nation Cancer Institute. His work with near death children surprised him so that he became intrigued with their experiences and began a long term study. It is not the study that I wish to share here, but rather a remark that he is quoted with. As he began to be confronted with the very real sense of a Person or Intelligence that children met on the other side, he said, “…I’m deliberately holding back from dealing with it, because I know that once I cross that line, I’m no longer a scientist.”

I often hear the people who oppose the mention of ID in a favorable light use this doctrine. It has become acceptable within the “scientific community” that the two are mutually exclusive. If a person believes there is an Intelligence and a design behind our universe, they are not accepted within the scientific community. Will one ever find truth by beginning with a conclusion and then setting about to prove it? If a scientist stumbles upon something that is not popular with the scientific community, must he, like Dr. Morse, cease to be a “scientist”?

Ah, yes, I read about someone else experiencing this “unexplainable” occurrence, therefore it must be a true vision of the Lord!

It’s not unexplainable.

When a person is dying, all kinds of weird things are going on. Unfortunately, since doctors are trying to save the person’s life instead of conducting a broad spectrum of tests on the dying person, science remains stunted in this area (and (properly) hopefully will probably remain so forever).

However, there are a number of theories as to why, including the body releasing it’s own anesthetics (the only one I’ll touch upon). I personally favor this aspect as a primary (but not necessarily exclusive) cause in the it’s “just biology” theory of NDEs because it’s been shown the body does have the capacity to self-anesthetize AND that certain common anesthetics (such as Ketamine HCL) administered in controlled experiments (and in hospitals) produce the same subjective experience as those who report NDEs.

So, why would I go down the “this proves God” road when controlled experiments have produced the same euphoric visions? And we’re talking the white light, meeting God, etc. So, why would I abandon rationality when rationality gets me rational results?

Jon, I understand your comment, and it might help you to place things into context. The DI, which has a strong interest in promoting the idea that Intelligent Design is scientific, could only come up with 34 publications which were arguably scientific covering a twenty year span, and that number included a lot of double counting. In contrast, thousands of articles are published by scientists in peer reviewed journals every year which use evolutionary theory in their research. If intelligent design was an accurate scientific model of the real world, one would expect that scientists would find it very useful in their research, and it would start generating exciting insights into biology leading to breakthroughs in medicine, genetics and other fields. If evolutionary theory were false, one would expect that scientists would discover they were getting poor results using it, and grants would start drying up. The fact that scientists find virtually no utility to ID in research, while in contrast evolutionary theory is an invaluable tool, argues very strongly that IDism is not scientific.

It’s standard scientific procedure to release papers, not press releases, because scientists are supposed to be primarily concerned with the verification and replication of their results.

If the DI is concerned with the verification and replication of their results, why is their article/press release ratio so very, very low? That ratio implies negligible concern for the workings of science and a very great concern with public perception.

Caledonian #75884 Wrote:

If the question were “Which of these people is the better student?”, and we compared their grades on the same coursework, and one consistently received ‘A’s while the other received ‘C’s:

Would you say that the difference in grades is trivial and nitpicking, or that you don’t see the difference in their performance?

I don’t think that’s comparing apples to apples. If I were to summarize the conclusions in the article:

Since DI produces a press release at the rate of 1 every 2 days and a scientific document at the rate of 1 every 217 days, they obviously have a more political agenda.

The title of the article, “How can you tell it isn’t science” leads me to believe that the author is going to show me why ID isn’t science…not tell me how many different papers that DI has published. If the article was titled, “Why the DI has a political agenda” would be more fitting or even a broader title like, “ID is more politics than science”.

Reading the opening paragraph and the title misled me to believe that I was going to learn something that I didn’t. That’s why it felt like nitpicking about “how many papers come from DI” rather than actually explaining how I can tell that ID != science.

The fact that so little is being published about or in reference to their “work” indicates in itself that ID is highly unlikely to have scientific merit. (That’s just a fairly reliable indicator, of course - it’s merely circumstantial and thus doesn’t prove anything. A rudimentary examination of the claims proves it’s not scientific or useful.)

The article then goes further to identify the motivation for the constant claims of scientific breakthroughs, and produces a fairly reliable indicator of that. But as far as the main point goes, it’s already been made.

Jan:

If you had the responsibility of medically treating a severely ill child who thinks he might have just seen God, which of the following would you do:

A) Tell the child and his parents that God is in charge, and to see Him for further advice and treatment, or

B) Continue the course of therapeutic or palliative care and not let the patient’s visions affect the treatment strategy.

Which would you consider the scientific approach? Why should your opinion of the source of the vision affect your clinical decisions?

Aagcobb Wrote:

–snip– The DI, which has a strong interest in promoting the idea that Intelligent Design is scientific, could only come up with 34 publications which were arguably scientific covering a twenty year span, and that number included a lot of double counting. In contrast, thousands of articles are published by scientists in peer reviewed journals every year which use evolutionary theory in their research. If intelligent design was an accurate scientific model of the real world, one would expect that scientists would find it very useful in their research, and it would start generating exciting insights into biology leading to breakthroughs in medicine, genetics and other fields. –snip–

Now I do agree that it’s apparent that the DI is more concerned about their image than producing actualy scientific evidence. It’s also obvious to me that ID, regardless of how strongly the advocates believe in it, have a hard time ‘proving’ their theories. I think that the article is definitely geared towards people who have already drawn the conclusion that ID is false and Darwin was right. This is “one more chink in the armor” of ID by proving that they can’t produce anything tangible.

My best analogy to the article is: “Cadillac is better than Lexus because they sold more vehicles in the US” We all know that the conclusion doesn’t fit the statement because of several factors (cost, availability, etc). But arriving at that conclusion based solely on the number of vehicles sold paints a very narrow picture.

Comment #75883

Posted by Jon on January 26, 2006 08:27 AM (e)

However the arguments presented make me feel like I’m reading one of those, “My dad can beat up your dad” types of evaluations that don’t *mean* anything to the average Joe. Once again I’m revealing some of my ignorance because I don’t have a full grasp of what the ID agenda really is and isn’t. But I guess comparing the amount of publications seems trivial to me.

Really? To me it seems obvious. Where is the effort focused? PR in the culture war of their making or in their stated purpose of developing ID?

The DI is not really much different than any other charitable-political organization. They spend little effort on their “purpose” and a lot in PR because they’re not about their “purpose,” they’re about the politics. And politics takes a lot of PR and little (or no) science.

If they were interested in making ID a viable scientific theory, they’d be channeling their resources to the development of ID. They’re not.

Jan: the intern doing this research probably felt that he would be “no longer a scientist” because he would have been dealing with purely subjective and unverifiable claims and experiences – not because he would have been crossing some atheistic orthodoxy by doing so.

Quite frankly, I’m not sure why this intern had a problem; he may have felt, as a mere intern, that he was acting outside the bounds of his own competence. In any case, research into NDEs could have qualified as “psychology,” with the understanding that such experiences could, like hallucinations or other convictions induced by physical or emotional stress, be subjective and “real” (to the patient at least) at the same time.

PS: are you the same as “Jon?”

Wislu Plethora: you forgot to mention option C: continue treatment, but encourage the kid to talk or write about his experience.

The ratio of press releases to to scientific papers for get-your-hands-dirty empirical work in pretty much every legitimate area (evolution especially) is less than 1 to 1.…FAR, FAR less. That’s something I think a lot of lay people don’t realize…that every area has an enormous volume of peer-reviewed work that is just as high quality as anything else, but never makes it the popular press because it isn’t deemed novel or sexy enough.

For ID to be almost 100 to 1 indicates it’s not even in the same universe as science.

I think I would probably be classed as one of those people who while not being an expert, know at least something about science.

Although I don’t have a degree I have done degree level science, and in my time I have had experience of scientific methods of analysis such as infra-red spectroscopy,UV spectroscopy,gas chromatography and organic synthesis etc. so I think that qualifies me to make some sort of judgement on ID and creationism and why they are not science but philosophy.

You are correct Mike in assuming people like myself watch a lot of science programmes on TV. Two of the best here in the UK in my opinion are the BBC’s Horizon along with the monthly astronomy series the sky at night. Guess what the title of tonight’s Horizon is ? A war on science. It’s all about the ID movement and creationism in the US and according to AIG will feature a bit on their creation museum as well as ID proponents such as Philip Johnston and Michael Behe atc. Should be interesting for those of us in the UK.

Sullivan wrote about an intern named Melvin Morse… His work with near death children surprised him so that he became intriqued with their experiences and began a long term study… As he began to be confronted with the very real sense of a Person or Intelligence that children met on the other side, he said, “…I’m deliberately holding back from dealing with it, because I know that once I cross that line, I’m no longer a scientist.”

First of all, the intern was speaking to a writer, not writing a scientific paper, so I’d cut him considerable slack on his choice of words. I’d interpret his quote as, “… Once I cross that line, I’m no longer doing scientific research into the physiology or psychology of life-threatening illness, but rather considering philosophical or religious questions about death and dying.” Not all individuals are inclined to do both, but there’s nothing that says a specific individual can’t do both.

There is a clinical literature on NDEs, and I’d be surprised if Dr. Morse isn’t familiar with it. The Readers Digest, of course, is a very different kind of publication – it’s known for, among other things, its sentimental human-interest stories. Quotes from the medical literature won’t sell copies of the RD, but stories about a physician who works with dying children certainly will.

I’ve also commented at The Questionable Authority about some different red flags that distinguish science from pseudoscience. Publication count over time may be one, but the key words are “over time”, since every real scientific advance was new at one time. The things that peg the needle of my own frass detector (see below) are more along these lines:

* Grandiose claims about the potential of their scientific ideas by people who have never set foot in the lab or field.

* Claims that only an outsider can fix what’s “wrong” with a different field. Note that this doesn’t mean that someone can’t make significant contributions to a field in which s/he doesn’t have advanced degrees. But if I claimed I could revolutionize astrophysics by applying evolutionary theory to planetary motion and had the Ph.D. in biology to prove it, I’d hope that listeners would be skeptical!

* Constant complaining about being shut out of mainstream scientific practice and publication by people who don’t seem to have a clear concept of how scientific research is done. (The mechanical establishment won’t let me get a job repairing cars, by the way. They just keep telling me that I first have to learn how engines and transmissions and things like that work!)

There are others, but if you want a more comprehensive (and entertaining) read than I can provide, I’d suggest Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science for starters. The book is nearly 50 years old, but is still timely.

(“Frass”, for those wondering, is a term that an entomologist would use for those little plops of undigested leaf remnants often seen dropping from the caudal end of a caterpillar. I figured it wouldn’t tweak the scatology detector too badly.)

Raging Bee Wrote:

PS: are you the same as “Jon?”

Nope…Jan and Jon are different people :)

Pretty on target…

Jon, what’s really wrong with ID being science is simple:

-ID appeals to supernatural authority.

-ID does not make testable and falsifiable predictions based on empirical data.

-ID has, as of yet, not published significant research or performed research about their theories.

-ID does not have any scientific utility in predicting or generating future results.

The article largely deals with #3, but generally when #3 is missing, it’s a good indicator that there are other problems. Hardly an open and shut case without more investigation, but if you want more investigation, just google the Dover opinion and read that. For a lay-person, the bit about “Is ID science or not?” should be pretty quick and understandable.

Jon -

I haven’t read the Questionable Authority article because the text shows up as gobbledy-gook on my computer. So maybe I should stay quiet, but I’ll try to be helpful.

I too am really just an interested layman when it comes to evolutionary theory, but I think I have a good idea of what science in general should be.

You will hear the DI and other ID advocates talk a lot about the “flaws” in evolutionary theory. There’s just once catch - there are no flaws in evolutionary theory in the sense that no data has yet been found that is inconsistent with evolutionary theory. While it’s true that our knowledge of the evolutionary history of the descent of life, biochemical structures and reaction pathways, etc, is incomplete, this is not justification for claiming that evolutionary theory is flawed and needs to be replaced. Our knowledge of Gravity is also incomplete, yet no one seriously claims that there’s a “conroversy” in Physics.

How is a theory found to be defective or incomplete? The first step is that data is found that is incompatible with current theory - such as what happened at the dawn of Big Bang cosmology, or the problem of Black Body Radiation which led to the beginnings of quantum theory.

At present there are no “problems” with evolutionary theory that are analagous to the “problems” in Physics at the start of the 20th Century. There are no “anamalous” biological data, and ID “theorists” have not formulated a dependable method to tell us how or where to detect design. The “theoretical” construction of a Designer is completely superfluous because there are no “problems” that a “Designer” can solve (not to mention the more metaphysical implications of the “Designer” concept).

This is why the publication record of ID is so sparse. No useful research results have been published in professional journals - where the methods and results of researches are critiqued and evaluated, and where good ideas and results inspire other researchers to expand on those results.

Unless and until ID “researchers” can generate evidence that is truly anomalous to evolutionary theory, or formulate a theory that reliably tells us how and where to detect design, there will be no “other side” to the debate.

So why should a “theory” with no working model and no data be taught in science classes? Here we enter the political arena - and it is indeed a politcal issue because there is no scientific issue -and I have to stop now ‘cause I’m out of time.

Oh, and one more thing, Jon.

You’ll notice that the vast maojority of the prominent ID advocates are not practicing evolutionary biologists.

The one with perhaps the most impressive scientific credentials is Michael Behe - a biochemist. But at the Dover trial he admitted to being ignorant of recent work that utterly destroyed his own examples of irreducible complexity.

These people are armchair critics - lawyers, theologians, a few engineers perhaps. This is like you telling your electrician what’s wrong with his methods (assuming of course that you’re not an electrician.)

True scientific paradigm change comes from within - it was physicists who discovered the problems with classical physics and formulated new theories, not lawyers who demanded to “teach the controversy” in public schools.

If a person believes there is an Intelligence and a design behind our universe, they are not accepted within the scientific community.

Cattle effluence. You seem to be saying that science and religion are mutually exclusive. This is not the case, and the counter-examples are numerous. Scientists may be religions. There is only a problem if they confuse their religion with their science.

If a scientist stumbles upon something that is not popular with the scientific community, must he, like Dr. Morse, cease to be a “scientist”?

Bleep no. Example: the idea that ulcers are caused by bacterial infection was very unpopular amongst the relevant medical specialists when it was first proposed. The proponents came up with lots and lots of evidence to support their proposal. The more radical a scientific idea, the greater the rewards. There’s that pesky little issue of evidence though, and testability, and other scientific concepts.

rdog29 writes;

“So why should a “theory” with no working model and no data be taught in science classes? Here we enter the political arena - and it is indeed a political issue because there is no scientific issue…”

It may be of interest to the British lurkers (like me) that tonight (26th)at 9pm (UK time, Horizon on BBC2) has a documentary on intelligent design. To the point made by rdog29, the “blurb” for the show reads:

“A thought provoking look at the theory of intelligent design, whose followers seek to replace science with religion”.

A perfect summation, if you ask me.

Thordaddy, in answer to why you aren’t posting for now at PT.

-I posted this over at the questionable authority but it didn’t show up so I am doing it again here, sorry about the double post if it shows up there.

It seems that Larry/Thordaady/M/pro from dover has derailed this thread a little. If you are just finding this article and are seriously wondering what all the hoopla is about, skip his posts.

The main idea I think is that science is a discipline where we measure things, draw inferences from the data, make hypotheses (guesses) about mechanisms that might have led to the data we measured, then if it’s really cool science, we get to test our guesses by designing experiments that attempt to prove or disprove our mechanistic guesses.

That’s it. Science can not collect data on god The scientific discipline can not test hypotheses about god so scientists don’t. (if you figure out how it will be a big deal) However, the discipline can make lots of measurements of living organisms so we can design lots of tests to see whether evolution as a hypothesis washes out or stands up to the tests.

So far, 100% of the data and experiments have supported the hypothesis of evolution. Some experimental results have modified and enhanced our understanding of the mechanistic properties of evolution and some have merely supported it but none have provided evidence that it doesn’t happen. At some point, especially when the data and experiments come from lots of different sub disciplines in science (geology, biology, archeology, astronomy, physics, genetics, physical geography, etc.)and the hypothesis has stood up to all the critical analysis that other scientists have thrown at it, it becomes a theory, meaning you can safely use the mechanistic inferences as true in other experiments.

For example, I am currently working on a project examining what effect sport fishing has on various groundfish in the Pacific Northwest at various depths; I can assume that there will be selective pressure so I am looking for what the effects of that are. But all I do at first is gather a bunch of data. Now if my data showed that the different species aren’t adapting whatsoever, I could say, hey maybe this is worth its own experiment. What we might be finding is actually the opposite, the rate of mutation appears to increase sharply as populations become stressed. But I cannot say that right now with assurance because that is sort of a little statistical anomaly we are noticing. To measure that more accurately we will have to run DNA scans on a lot more fish and figure out how to design that experiment.

But the important thing is that we started by collecting data. We will design experiments to try to figure out what the data means. So there is this cycle. 1 want to know something 2 collect data 3 guess possible meanings of the data 4 design experiments to test your guesses 5 goto line 2

And it loops until you are either satisfied, run out of money, or the IDists win.

What data is ID using? The eye is complex? What experiments could I design around that? How would I test it?

I can’t using the discipline of science. If the fellow with apparent multiple personalities wants to bitch and moan about how pitiful science is at philosophy then just let me reply that philosophy doesn’t do well with science either.

-And in reply to this thread: The article is talking to scientists. I too deal with fairly narrow topics and I can find sometimes thousands of peer-reviewed published articles on similar things so I can use data that someone else has gathered, use conclusions that someone else has arrived at, look at methods someone else has devised and employ those methods and conclusions in experiments I might design. ID doesn’t have any data or methods I might be able to use to help me design an experiment to test whether things have been specifically designed so I am walking into totally uncharted territory if I want to use science to test for design. Not that that in and of itself is bad necessarily, but for an organization to claim that there is a controversy, you would expect them to have a reason to make that claim and they don’t have one. So, the lack of science in their publications is, in fact, evidence that they don’t have any.

Mike wrote on TQA

I think that attitude says a little something right there - slap a new label on it, and everything will be fine.

That’s a common ID creationist tactic. Consider the sequence creationism to scientific creationism to creation science to intelligent design to teach the controversy to critical analysis of evolution. That sequence of labels used by anti-evolutionists starting in the 1960s and culminating in 2003 in Ohio, all describe exactly the same content.

A librarian in Ohio Citizens for Science, Tom McIver, has traced the much of the content (and occasionally nearly the same wording) of the creationist “critical analysis of evolution” model lesson plan in Ohio directly back to creationist tracts published in the 1960s and 1960s. Ecclesiastes was right: There is nothing new under the sun, at least not in creationist circles.

Not long ago Henry Morris, emeritus director of the Institute for Creation Research took William Dembski to task for stealing creationist ideas without attribution:

Our other hesitation to get on this bandwagon is their use of the same arguments and evidences we Biblical creationists have used for years, while simultaneously trying to distance themselves from us. Our adherence to Biblical literalism is ridiculed by evolutionists, and the ID advocates would be embarrassed to be tarred with the same brush. In fact, Dembski goes so far as to say belief in evolution itself is okay, as long as it’s not naturalistic.

Dembski responded by arguing (among other sidesteps) that ID advocates are just formalizing creationist ideas:

The problem with creationism’s approach to design detection and ruling out chance is that its relevant concepts (like “organized complexity”) were never developed beyond the intuitive, pretheoretic level (and this is true even of A. E. Wilder-Smith’s ideas about information). Morris confirms this charge near the close of his book review: “A school child can easily tell a rounded stone from a crafted arrowhead–one shaped by natural forces, the other by skilled human hands. Just so, the incredible organized complexity of even the simplest one-celled organism speaks clearly of intelligent design, and one should not need sophisticated rhetoric or math to recognize this.”

By contrast, much of my own work on intelligent design has been filling in the details of these otherwise intuitive, pretheoretic ideas of creationists.

Sure enough. Same old garbage in a shiny new trash can.

RBH

Perhaps Jon’s questions would be better addressed by explaining the importance of publications in science. This can be summed up as follows: Science, as currently practiced, *is* publication. As a scientist, you might have the most revolutionary new insights in the history of the discipline, but until you publish it in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, you don’t exist. You might get earth-shaking empirical data from an experiment you just performed, and you might present this data at 50 scientific conferences and write 3 books about it, but until you publish it in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, the data don’t exist for the rest of the scientific community to evaluate. As a graduate student in ecology, my future job prospects are tightly correlated with how many peer-reviewed articles I publish and with how well-respected are the journals in which I get published. There are a number of reasons for this. First, peer-reviewed articles are required to follow a certain format which requires intelligible presentation of assumptions, data, methodology, etc. Having this standardized means of presentation ensures that other scientists are given the information required to critically evaluate your work. Thus, shoddy work or fraud (I’m thinking about a certain cloning researcher), or remarkably good or groundbreaking work seldom go unnoticed for long. Also, the peer-review that occurs prior to publication ensures that other scientists with relevant expertise have already vetted the work for problems that the original researcher might not have addressed. This maintains quality and also helps reduce fraud. The importance of publication to science has been addressed elsewhere in more detail, I believe. Hopefully my little summary gives an idea of why scientists make such a big deal about publications. In science, until you publish in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, your work does not exist. Among the ID publications, the few that are even remotely tied to modern science are a few philosophical pieces mostly in science/philosophy journals. Thus, acording to the standards of modern science, the ID cabal has accomplished exactly nothing.

For an interesting aside on near-death experiences, take a look at the work of irrepressible academic Susan Blackmore. She started out on her scientific career investigating paranormal phenomena, and took a particular interest in NDEs. Her findings are summarised here - but the rest of her site is worth half an hour of anyone’s time.

R

(PS - according to a friend who was at a party with her last night, “Sue Blackmore’s hair has gone quite white — and green, and red, with only a few yellow streaks left.”)

Thanks everyone for the “knowledge nuggets”. I only maintain a passing interest in the ID versus Evolution debate; but I enjoy reading what everyone posts here on Panda’s Thumb and I’m glad that I don’t get flamed for my ignorance :)

Hm. Something else to emphasize is that scientific papers consist of data AND the conclusions/inferences that scientists daw from that data.

Creationists forget this (or obscure it). They treat scientific papers solely as rhetoric and think you can argue against the words and dismiss the argument. They forget all about the data that scientists base their words off of…and that’s how they can fool the public, who also forget about that data.

Re: Voie’s paper…

It’s a tricky read, especially considering that English is not his primary language. I can’t really see how it would qualify as primary research in the traditional scientific sense. It reads more like a review paper or philosophical treatise.

It also isn’t clear from the journal site (granted, I don’t have a subscription) that the article was actually peer reviewed.

And finally, I have difficulty taking seriously any “peer reviewed” article that cites Wikipedia(!) as a reference.

Dan,

Hear! Hear! I was going to bring that up, also. I’m not an expert in Wikipedia, but my understanding is that it amounts to just a little more than a well-moderated and cross-referenced open source blog.

Martin,

I would agree with your differentiation between ultimate/proximate causes. This gets back to the NDE researcher that Jan posted about: He would not, indeed, be doing science, and, therefore, no longer be a scientist (regarding that issue) if he “crossed the line” and pursued ultimate causes.

Thanks, everyone!

And finally, I have difficulty taking seriously any “peer reviewed” article that cites Wikipedia(!) as a reference.

We should be a bit careful here. For the most part, Wikipedia tends to be accurate. In case this article turns out to be one of their primary set pieces, we should avoid less-substantial criticism like this, and focus on the heart of the argument. Specifically, we should address their attempt to refute empirical evidence using speculative philosophy.

Martin Zeichner asked:

I have a question for the PT regulars; would it be reasonable to say that a major difference between ID and scientific investigation is that ID appeals to an ultimate cause while science must restrict itself to proximate causes?

ID claims that certain features of living organisms are so complex that they could only have arisen through direct intervention by an intelligent agent. That sounds a lot more proximate than ultimate, to me.

The proximate/ultimate question seems more applicable to something like theistic evolution. Am I misunderstanding your point?

Actually, one of the best resources, if not the best resource on how to develop your own built in baloney and pseudo science detector is perhaps Carl Sagan’s “The Demon Haunted World”.

Anyone who has trouble distinguishing pseudo-science from the real thing should read this book.

Excuse me BWE but the pro does not derail threads particularly when the topic is relgious assaults on education. If you feel you must compare me to someone try Stein Ericksen or Jeremy Bloom but Larry??!!??!! Science does not reject first causes outright, but it is restricted to those phenomena that are amenable to investigation via the scientific method. When someone (hear me Phil Johnson) develops a methodology to detect the mechanism of action of supernatural powers that is publishable and peer reviewable I guarantee you scientists will beat a path to his door. Right now these powers occupy default positions which the scientific method does not accept. All scientific theories stand or fail by their own usefulness. One does not win by the other’s loss. This is why science cannot be held hostage to the lawyerly debate /trial format.

One does not win by the other’s loss. This is why science cannot be held hostage to the lawyerly debate /trial format.

It’s also why ID’s “critical analysis” BS will never get anywhere.

Two books on my library shelf of Must Reads are Sagan’s Demon Haunted World and The Ascent of Man by Jacob Bronowski.

What better examples of the Human Condition?

quetzal Wrote:

ID claims that certain features of living organisms are so complex that they could only have arisen through direct intervention by an intelligent agent. That sounds a lot more proximate than ultimate, to me.

Really? Okay, this is why I threw out the question. I wanted to get a sense of whether or not it made any sense to frame the question this way.

It strikes me that this statement of ID is precisely what I mean. Let me examine what this statement is saying. First it is making a negative assertion: that so called materialistic or naturalistic explanations cannot suffice for certain observed phenomenon. It then proposes its own explanation; an undefined entity called a designer (or as you put it, an intelligent agent). Leaving aside the false dichotomy, how can an undefined entity be considered an explanation for anything? How can we tell what the capabilities or the intentions of the designer are (and whether or not they are up to the task) if it is deliberately left undefined? Right there is the non sequitur that I mentioned, the “poof”, the “right here a miracle happens”, the vacuum that is left so that certain religious people can plug in their own conception of the intelligent agent (wink, wink, we didn’t say the g word).

So that’s why ISTM that that innocent little statement of ID does express an ultimate cause; I don’t see anything proximate between the IDists proposed explanation and the phenomenon that it supposed to be explaining.

roddg, Re “How does one find a comment by number in this forum i.e comment no. 74973?”

Main page of Panda’s Thumb, in that column of “boxes” on the right there’s one called “Archives” - just punch 74973 (or I guess any string one might wish to find) in the “Google Search” box and click “search”.

Anyhoo, comment no. 74973 is in Luskin: Humans did evolve

Henry

Pro, my humble appologies, there is a long and convoluted reason I put your name on the end of that string but it’s based on bad info. THordaddy, a very nutty kind of nut was who I was talking about and he was posting at AtBC and I was resonding here because … it’s a long story, please accept my appologies. AOL. IP addresses, THordaddy, banned posts, it’s all very simple but I appologize.

And I really meant it when I said, “And it loops until you are either satisfied, run out of money, or the IDists win.”

Which is why we hope they don’t win.

More thoughts on why ID isn’t science: Using the scientific method, you observe a phenomenon that you want to understand better, form a hypothesis, and test it through experiment or further observation. It is important to have an open mind, and to follow the evidence. If you let preconceived notions influence your interpretation of data, you are in substantial danger of coming up with the wrong answer.

ID has a historical trail; almost all of the current manifestations have a connection to the Discovery Institute and/or the Thomas More Law Center. The history of ID is the opposite of science. The steps taken in the development of ID have been 1. Observe (wrongly) that evolutionary theory is a mortal threat to religion, 2. Starting from the fact that we KNOW that God created all life, try to find evidence in nature showing that life was created by an intelligent being.

By the way, this process for doing “research” meshes seamlessly with the goals and activities of creation “science”.

What has it produced?

1. The notion of “irreducible complexity”, which is an argument that has existed in some form for thousands of years. The only recent “advancement” is that Behe has come up with biological structures and processes that he can’t explain in evolutionary terms. Mind you, this would not be proof whatsoever for intelligent design, just against natural selection, and many of his central examples have been at least partly explained and/or shown not to be irreducibly complex!

2. Dembski’s “explanatory filter”, which has been shown to be faulty, and been published only in the popular literature.

3. One peer reviewed paper that was essentially retracted, with the editor of the journal being released

4. Another maybe peer reviewed paper.

The objection is that “no scientific journals will publish us - so we have to publish in books instead”. Science is not done that way. Journals come first, books later!

As a homework assignment to anybody interested in whether the “no one will publish us” excuse is valid, I’d suggest searching for papers published that severely question mainstream scientific beliefs and that are published in scientific journals (for instance, look for “cold fusion”). You will find that there is no scientific cabal that defends orthodoxy. I’m sure that hundreds of articles can easily be turned up. But they all have to contain arguments that cannot be summarily dismissed by reviewers!

Summing up in a nutshell, science is not a tool for confirming that the world is the way we may wish it to be. It is for determining what actually IS. We cannot turn it into the former without destroying it completely. At the present time, we are probably the only country on the planet where a not-insignificant portion of the population apparently wishes to do so - to turn the very root of our economic abundance into a paltry political tool.

I’d should be more specific when I say

orrg1 Wrote:

try to find evidence in nature showing that life was created by an intelligent being.

And say instead “try to find evidence in nature showing that all organisms were created by an intelligent being”

Recently Mark Brown, campus director for the Campus Crusade for Christ at the University of Kansas, had this to say at an appearance featuring Bill Dembski:

Scientists shouldn’t be scared of divine intervention in the natural world…

Hmmm.… Is ID not religion rather than science?

Science is not scared of ‘divine intervention’. It just has not found any evidence of it! The Bible gives many examples of direct manifestations of supernatural beings that for some reason we never seem to see today. If you happen to see any, and can furnish physical evidence - take it to James “the Amazing” Randi, and he will give you $1,000,000. If we did see choirs of angels floating in the heavens, you had better believe that science would sit up and take notice. And in fact, science as we know it could probably never have existed, because an intelligent being or beings would change the outcome of experiments at their whim.

I just don’t get why people are so obtuse about this.

Martin,

I agree with what you wrote in #76102. The proximate/ultimate terminology just had a different connotation to me.

What you describe as proximate causes is what I prefer to call predictable, verifiable observations.

IMHO, the point of all science is to understand things in a way that allows us to successfully predict future observations. That’s why science is so enormously useful. It says, “This is how X works. Not just on certain arbitrary occasions, either. Every time we encounter the appropriate conditions, we can expect to see X, and not Y.”

The theory of evolution does that. As just one example, it allows us to predict the genetic relationships between organsims, even before we perform the necessary DNA sequencing.

ID doesn’t do that. ID says “The Designer” intevened directly to create various organisms, or features of organisms. But we can’t make any useful predictions from that. As you note, ID doesn’t tell us how The Designer did it, or whether he did it the same way in all cases, or whether we can expect him to ever do it again, or anything else.

ID makes no predictions, so it’s scientifically useless.

qetzal Wrote:

ID makes no predictions, so it’s scientifically useless.

Yes, and if you want another reason that ID is useless here is a thought that I have always found amusing:

If there were anything at all to ID besides apologetics every scientist, every technologist, every corporation, every government in the world would be clamoring for research funding for ID. After all, who wouldn’t want to investigate the methods and abilities of a god-like designer with the hope of getting some tips on designing life forms, creating universes and otherwise manipulating reality with snap of the fingers? The DOD could stop researching nukes and simply smite our enemies with a copy of “God-Like Powers for Dummies”. It’s paradise on earth time and we can’t get there because the evil conspiracy of atheistic scientists are so worried about their tenure. Yeah, right.

MZ

Martin Zeichner Wrote:

If there were anything at all to ID besides apologetics every scientist, every technologist, every corporation, every government in the world would be clamoring for research funding for ID. After all, who wouldn’t want to investigate the methods and abilities of a god-like designer with the hope of getting some tips on designing life forms, creating universes and otherwise manipulating reality with snap of the fingers?

I’ve always been amazed at how close science can come to such power in some cases. Being able to directly manipulate reality through sheer force of will or thought is almost certainly impossible, of course, but something like a nuke is still utterly awesome. And fission isn’t even a total conversion of matter to energy. A perfect matter/antimatter reaction would dwarf familiar scales almost beyond imagination.

As far as copying designs, we often strive to replicate a natural system as perfectly as possible because it is so powerful or well-adapted (limb replacements and neural computing come to mind), but we also routinely use technology of our own design to enhance ourselves and compensate for physical limitations: night vision, IR/UV imaging, RADAR, medical tomography, telescopes, microscopes - the list goes on. We are even learning to decode and manipulate genes, including our own.

And not a single bit of this comes from ID. All of it, without exception, comes from empirical science.

I love the take…sometimes there is a lack of sympathy for people who might be leaning ID. I think that this is an excellent strategy for framing an anti-ID approach that embraces those they are interested in persuading.

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on January 26, 2006 3:33 AM.

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