Padian & Matzke in Biochemical Journal

| 40 Comments

In case you missed the NCSE news feed, Kevin Padian and I did a review of the Dover case and the status of evolution education. The editors were kind enough to put it online for the public, so spread the word!

Kevin Padian and Nick Matzke (2009). “Darwin, Dover, ‘Intelligent Design’ and textbooks.” Biochemical Journal, 209(417), 29-42.

40 Comments

Excellent. Love those editors for making the paper available to the public for free.

Superb. This is the stuff we need. P and M deal with the issue both very rigorously and with great sensitivity to some poor delude students , who in the words of a Wheaton College student have been brainwashed by their youth pastors (and everyone else)

Thanks! I was actually writing this comment to start a Talk.Origins thread:

Excellent non-technical assessment of ID. Padian and Matzke mince no words.

I’m often annoyed by the “us vs. creationists” tone of most criticisms of ID/creationism, so this statement was a breath of fresh air:

Approx. 25–30% of Americans, depending on how the question is asked, identify themselves as conservative, evangelical or fundamentalist Christians, i.e. those who would be expected to reject evolution and support creationism. The rest of the alleged ‘pro-creationism’ opinion is more a matter of unfamiliarity or a post-modernist view that all knowledge is relativistic and culturally conditioned (see more details of this survey in [11]).

Of course only a tiny fraction of the 25-30% are well-read anti-evolution activists who know enough science (and much more rhetoric) to keep the not-so-hopeless 20-40% doubting evolution and/or in favor of teaching the “controversy.” It is that 20-40% that we must reach, not the hopeless.

This part, however, was puzzling:

Because ID proponents are notoriously evasive about some of their views, even many critics are under the impression that ID proponents accept common ancestry and the ancient age of the Earth. But almost all reject common ancestry in favour of the notion that only minor evolution can occur, and only within the specially created “kinds” commanded by God to reproduce “after their kind” in Genesis [43,44]. A substantial proportion are ‘young-earthers’, or even profess agnosticism on the age issue [25,43,44].

I’ll have to check the references to see who these “many critics” are, because I’m the only critic that I’m aware of who regularly speculates that ID proponents might privately accept common ancestry (and possibly all of evolution). But even I take pains to note that Behe is the only major IDer to explicitly admit it, and that all IDers, including Behe, tailor their arguments to promote YEC if the audience is pre-disposed to prefer it. If the Kansas Kangaroo Court is any indication, most major IDers are OECs who deny common ancestry. If anything, most of what I hear from critics tends to suggest that most IDers are YECs.

The bottom line is that, when it comes to anti-evolution activists, especially of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ID variety, what they personally believe, what they say they personally believe, and what they effectively promote, may be 3 very different things.

Excellent piece of work Nick.

However, it’ll do nothing to convince the fundies that Dover was a milestone. Over on Premier Radio’s discussion forum I’ve had the ludicrous comment that ID failed at Dover because it was badly presented and that they needed a better brief. Other comments have questioned Professor Ken Miller’s ability both as an expert witness and as a leading researcher/teacher.

Infuriating, I know, but it does highlight the divide between fundamentalist Christians and those who take more liberal viewpoints. The fundies are unfortunately in the majority in evangelical circles now (and not just in the US either).Nothing will persuade them that they failed at Dover and groups like AiG will continue to spend (and receive) millions of dollars putting out their crap to well meaning Christians.

Peter Henderson said: Over on Premier Radio’s discussion forum I’ve had the ludicrous comment that ID failed at Dover because it was badly presented and that they needed a better brief.

There’s a grain of truth there. From reading the transcripts I think its fair to say that while Behe did a very good job of describing his own ideas clearly and accurately (which is why the Judge rejected them…), the other defense experts were a bit murky.

I think another true statement is that everyone - whether creationist or mainstream scientist - would have been happier if Dembksi and Meyer had testified. Creationists think this would’ve made their case stronger, while mainstream folks would’ve been happy with the chance to expose all the nonsense and religious underpinnings in one fell swoop.

The paper was generally familiar ground to those who have followed the issue (not a criticism, just a descriptive comment, those folks were clearly not the target audience) but the items on the polls were very interesting.

Since polls and surveys are extremely sensitive to the way questions are phrased, they are easily manipulated and misinterpreted. I’ve long been suspicious of the citations that the majority of Americans are sympathetic to creationism. The 28% cited in the People for the American Way poll seems much more in line with my personal experience. I would bet that even a good chunk of those aren’t really creationists – they don’t have a problem with evo science as such, they’re just put off by Dawkins and those like him.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

actually this link is not active anymore; i also did a google search and none of the listings of this story had active links either;

has this article been removed?

eric said: I think another true statement is that everyone - whether creationist or mainstream scientist - would have been happier if Dembksi and Meyer had testified. Creationists think this would’ve made their case stronger, while mainstream folks would’ve been happy with the chance to expose all the nonsense and religious underpinnings in one fell swoop.

While Dembski’s and Meyer’s testimony would have helped nail the coffin lid down, I can’t wait for Phil Johnson to testify under oath, with a junkyard-dog lawyer asking him questions about the post-1987 US Supreme Court decision origin of intelligent design creationism. That would be the end of the whole farce right there.

Jamie said: actually this link is not active anymore; i also did a google search and none of the listings of this story had active links either; has this article been removed?

What specific link are you referring to?

The links to the NSCS news feed ( http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/01/pad[…]dover-003612 ) and the Biochemical Journal article ( http://www.biochemj.org/bj/417/bj4170029.htm ) both work for me. Are you sure you’re online? (grin)

Paul Burnett said:

Jamie said: actually this link is not active anymore; i also did a google search and none of the listings of this story had active links either; has this article been removed?

What specific link are you referring to?

The links to the NSCS news feed ( http://ncseweb.org/news/2009/01/pad[…]dover-003612 ) and the Biochemical Journal article ( http://www.biochemj.org/bj/417/bj4170029.htm ) both work for me. Are you sure you’re online? (grin)

Yes, those links work, but the actual document they wrote titled “Darwin, Dover, ‘Intelligent Design’ and textbooks” is not available via any links. Was it printed in the biochemical journal? If so, does it require a membership to access such material?

I guess its really not available for free.

I did find the pdf link. my error. thanks for helping.

iml8 said:

I would bet that even a good chunk of those aren’t really creationists – they don’t have a problem with evo science as such, they’re just put off by Dawkins and those like him.

At an even more basic level, I’m sure that many hear evolution and equate it with atheism (a misconception heavily promoted by cdesign proponentsists), and have a knee-jerk negative response.

Peter Henderson Wrote:

However, it’ll do nothing to convince the fundies that Dover was a milestone.

Of course not, and given the first excerpt in my comment of 6:59, the authors don’t expect it to. It’s the other 20-40% that can, and need to be, convinced. I was one of them in the ’90s (accepted a caricature of evolution and thought it was OK to teach “both sides”) and technically even a creationist back in grade school 30+ years earlier.

iml8 Wrote:

I would bet that even a good chunk of those aren’t really creationists – they don’t have a problem with evo science as such, they’re just put off by Dawkins and those like him.

I suspect that a lot of them do have a problem with evolution, either by being unsure of it, or thinking that “some other explanation” might be better. But they’re not “creationists” in the sense of thinking that one of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis must be that “better explanation.”

One poll I saw 2-3 years ago showed an increase of “undecideds” from 7 to 21% in the last ~20 years, with a corresponding drop in both those who accept and deny evolution.

By invoking (and quote mining) Dawkins and other atheists as much as possible, and ignoring the likes of Miller, Collins, etc. (such as in “Expelled”), the activists keep the “evolution = atheism” meme alive. I often say that the media unwittingly helps the activists with that, but the Padian & Matzke paper, and other references, suggest that the media has been getting wise to the activists’ antics since Dover.

Spotted one typo in the original article:

The policy was to go into effect in January 2005, prompting eleven parents to bring suit against the district on December 14, 2005.

Given that the date on the decision is 12/20/05, I believe the December date in the above quote should be 2004. Unlike the Genesis story, the whole legal process from filing to decision took (IIRC) a tad more than six days.

Frank J said:

suspect that a lot of them do have a problem with evolution, either by being unsure of it, or thinking that “some other explanation” might be better. But they’re not “creationists” in the sense of thinking that one of the mutually contradictory “literal” interpretations of Genesis must be that “better explanation.”

I think the 28% who see incompatibility between evo science and their religious beliefs is very believable. I think a fair percentage of those are still open to argument – if they got a good pitch they’d have no problems. But most of them? Forget it, they’ll give up Darwin-bashing when they pry it from their cold dead fingers.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

Here’s another quote from the paper that I think is extremely important:

A portion of those who agreed with this answer [that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10000 years or so”] might, for example, feel that God chose a specific moment to invest humans with a soul, at which point they would have pretty much achieved their present form. It is also likely that a substantial proportion of the public has not thought much about the difference between 10000 years and millions, and just automatically lumps them together into a ‘long time ago’.

I can actually remember being a child and “lumping” those numbers into “a long time ago.” And even then I had much greater than average interest in science and fascination with large numbers. Even in my 20s, at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, I would see those charts of geologic ages and think “one of these days I’ll sit down and read up on that stuff.” Not until my Grand Canyon hike at age 34 (20 years ago) did I do just that.

Unfortunately most people don’t have even the limited the interest I had in the past, but if they did, I’d bet that less than half of the ~45% that choose the “10000” answer on the Gallup poll would be committed YECs if they gave it some thought. Even many (most?) of the 25-30% fundamentalists (I saw a 23% estimate in “Scientists Confront Creationism”) are likely to concede at least OEC if William Jennings Bryan is any indication.

Iml8:

I don’t disagree with your opinion of the 28%. The ones who are open to changing their mind are mostly outside that group, and outside of the “fundamentalist” group.

Nick,

My thanks to you and Kevin Padian for such a majestic, quite extensive - if terse - review, and I have had time only to glance at it. Am delighted you received some invaluable input from Eric Rothschild too.

Appreciatively yours,

John

Dear Nick,

We have our work cut out for ourselves if there are many in colleges, like this student from a private PA college, who have this opinion of evolution and Intelligent Design:

“John,

I will attend Ken Miller’s presentation at Penn… and try to read his book in the midst of my classes.… “

“I do understand why you believe what you believe. You’re right, though, we have not worked out all the steps in evolution. Thus, there is no sound, logical reason to rule out the need for intelligent design in the grand scheme of the universe or the development of organisms. I think it’s highly unlikely…almost wishful thinking…to say that the universe and complex life evolved by chance without the guidance of a creator that transcends our understanding.”

“Perhaps it is a philosophical idea/truth that can’t be proved through science. Perhaps, as well, there always be holes in the evolutionary theory that we cannot fill in. We’ll have to will wait and see.”

“Good luck.

Jane”

I know the situation is, in some respects, dire even at mine and Ken Miller’s undergraduate alma mater, since there are a sizeable number of Christian fanatics studying there too.

John

John,

With all due respect, I really don’t see Jane’s quoted statements as evidence of Christian fanaticism. I would suggest instead that she represents one of the people who needs to be led to a better understanding of what science does and doesn’t do. I suspect that she could quite possibly reconcile her religious/philosophical understanding with an accurate, realistic understanding of the scientific process. If I were confronted with such a note, I would treat it as a “teachable moment.”

I am trying to do just that (“teachable moment”), so we’ll see what happens:

SWT said:

John,

With all due respect, I really don’t see Jane’s quoted statements as evidence of Christian fanaticism. I would suggest instead that she represents one of the people who needs to be led to a better understanding of what science does and doesn’t do. I suspect that she could quite possibly reconcile her religious/philosophical understanding with an accurate, realistic understanding of the scientific process. If I were confronted with such a note, I would treat it as a “teachable moment.”

Frank J said: I’ll have to check the references to see who these “many critics” are, because I’m the only critic that I’m aware of who regularly speculates that ID proponents might privately accept common ancestry (and possibly all of evolution). But even I take pains to note that Behe is the only major IDer to explicitly admit it, and that all IDers, including Behe, tailor their arguments to promote YEC if the audience is pre-disposed to prefer it. If the Kansas Kangaroo Court is any indication, most major IDers are OECs who deny common ancestry. If anything, most of what I hear from critics tends to suggest that most IDers are YECs.

The bottom line is that, when it comes to anti-evolution activists, especially of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” ID variety, what they personally believe, what they say they personally believe, and what they effectively promote, may be 3 very different things.

I, as do many others I’m sure, tend to think the same of clergymen.

The ID critics I was talking were the more superficial types who tend to say things with an air sophistication like “well, ID advocates are wrong, but they aren’t really creationists because they accept the old earth and common ancestry.” This is wrong on several levels, basically it takes Behe as representative of ID advocates, which he’s not, and also uncritically accepts various secular sounding talking points that the DI puts out for public consumption but which mostly serves to hide what they really think.

Nick (Matzke) said:

This is wrong on several levels, basically it takes Behe as representative of ID advocates, which he’s not, and also uncritically accepts various secular sounding talking points that the DI puts out for public consumption but which mostly serves to hide what they really think.

I’ve always thought that nobody could possibly read Luskin, O’Leary, and Egnor and possibly be able to tell any real difference between them and classical creationists. The other revealing thing is that, having used the public talking points as a thin entering wedge, the payload then shoved in is a textbook like EXPLORE EVOLUTION that is basically a secularized and “big tent” generalized subset of classic creationist arguments.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

Nick Matzke Wrote:

This is wrong on several levels, basically it takes Behe as representative of ID advocates, which he’s not, and also uncritically accepts various secular sounding talking points that the DI puts out for public consumption but which mostly serves to hide what they really think.

I too thought that Behe was representative of ID until 2000, when I heard of “Icons of Evolution.” Since then, the “center” of ID seems to be OEC, minus the occasional criticism of YEC that may or may not undermine the “big tent” (lately I’m noticing that fans of pseudoscience tend to be very tolerant of internal weaknesses and contradictions). But even recently I probably gave the wrong impression by emphasizing how IDers who apparently disagree with Behe never challenge him directly. The strategy of avoiding internal debates says nothing either way about whatever private beliefs they may have. I strongly suspect, but can’t prove of course, that if Behe could start over, he’d not commit to common descent, and possibly even play dumb about the age of earth, life, etc.

mrg (iml8) said: I’ve always thought that nobody could possibly read Luskin, O’Leary, and Egnor and possibly be able to tell any real difference between them and classical creationists.

Yeah I tend to agree. You only need to superficially scan UD on a random day and you’ll quickly figure out that, for ID folks, its all about religion.

Its almost like a moth to the flame. They have to know all the religious talk undermines their claim to not be creationists, but they just can’t stay away from it.

John Kwok Wrote:

I will attend Ken Miller’s presentation at Penn.

If you mean the one on 12 Feb. I just ordered a ticket - I think. I’m never sure that these online sites are legitimate. The event is free, correct? If so, I’d like to attend several talks. Hope to see you there.

eric Wrote:

Yeah I tend to agree. You only need to superficially scan UD on a random day and you’ll quickly figure out that, for ID folks, its all about religion.

The problem of course is that we read UD, and the hard-line fundamentalists go see “Expelled,” where IDers also admit that it’s all about religion. But the “rest of the alleged ‘pro-creationism’ opinion” (which I estimate at 20-40% of the public) is mostly unaware of UD and “Expelled”. But many of them still get misled by some blurb about someone claiming not to be a “creationist”, but having a “scientific” challenge to “Darwinism.”

Sorry Frank J, but I won’t be attending. It will be the college student I was “conversing” with over on Facebook:

Frank J said:

John Kwok Wrote:

I will attend Ken Miller’s presentation at Penn.

If you mean the one on 12 Feb. I just ordered a ticket - I think. I’m never sure that these online sites are legitimate. The event is free, correct? If so, I’d like to attend several talks. Hope to see you there.

If your schedule permits, I strongly encourage you to attend the all-day sessions on evolutionary biology on February 12th and 13th sponsored by Penn - and held at the same venue as Ken’s talk - since the speakers and topics look quite terrific. These are free and don’t require any online preregistration.

eric said:

You only need to superficially scan UD on a random day and you’ll quickly figure out that, for ID folks, its all about religion.

It’s not just the religion that’s the giveaway (though it’s hard to ignore). It’s also the “no stone left unthrown” logic, the reliance on the negative argument, and the staggering lack of curiosity in the details of how things actually work.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

Frank J,

Here’s the link to the schedule of speakers at the two day Darwin symposium at Penn:

http://www.phillyfunguide.com/event.php?id=20232

One of the speakers in Thursday’s afternoon session will be University of Chicago evolutionary geneticist Jerry Coyne, whose brand new book, “Why Evolution is True”, I am in the midst of reading (I received a review copy from his publicist.) and highly recommend it.

Regards,

John

Thanks, John,

I’d like to catch Coyne’s talk too. I read his review of “Darwin’s Black Box” in 1997, before I had any idea of the lengths that anti-evolution activists would go to misrepresent evolution. Reading of Behe’s insertion of the period in Coyne’s sentence, and of Coyne’s confidence (since proven to be warranted) that Behe would not retract his views, was probably the key event that changed my mind about “teach both sides.” And as my previous comment notes, that was when I still thought that Behe was the “center” of the ID movement, and before I realized the extent of ID’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell what the designer did, when or how.”

Frank J,

Yes, unfortunately, it doesn’t begin and end with Behe:

Frank J said:

Thanks, John,

I’d like to catch Coyne’s talk too. I read his review of “Darwin’s Black Box” in 1997, before I had any idea of the lengths that anti-evolution activists would go to misrepresent evolution. Reading of Behe’s insertion of the period in Coyne’s sentence, and of Coyne’s confidence (since proven to be warranted) that Behe would not retract his views, was probably the key event that changed my mind about “teach both sides.” And as my previous comment notes, that was when I still thought that Behe was the “center” of the ID movement, and before I realized the extent of ID’s policy of “don’t ask, don’t tell what the designer did, when or how.”

In some respects a more prominent player has been my “buddy” Bill Dembski, whose antics have included apparently both larceny (stealing the XVIVO-produced Harvard University cell animation video) and making false accusations regarding terrorist activity (by reporting Dr. Eric Pianka to the Federal Department of Homeland Security).

All the best,

John

mrg (iml8) said:

eric said:

You only need to superficially scan UD on a random day and you’ll quickly figure out that, for ID folks, its all about religion.

It’s not just the religion that’s the giveaway (though it’s hard to ignore). It’s also the “no stone left unthrown” logic, the reliance on the negative argument, and the staggering lack of curiosity in the details of how things actually work.

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

I’m always struck by how inane the site is. A few minutes of browsing there leave one feeling like all the air is being sucked out of the room.

Mike,

I assume you mean UD, not vectorsite.net, correct?

Anyway this is just an excuse to post an analogy that came to mind this morning. Dover is like the bad guy shooting at Superman and running out of bullets as they bounce off the “man of steel”. “Expelled” is like the guy panicking and throwing the gun at Superman. That still cracks me up after all these years. Unfortunately in the real world, ~50-70% of the people are still rooting for the bad guy, and ~25-30% would no matter what we say or do.

Frank J said:

I assume you mean UD, not vectorsite.net, correct?

Oy, watch where you’re pointing that thing, matey. Incidentally, try this:

http://www.vectorsite.net/tadarwinw.html

THE DARWIN WARS – needs a bit of proofing, I’ll have to let it sit for a week or two. Just added my own forum, now I get to be a megalomaniac forum moderator myself. BWAHAHAHA!

Cheers – MrG / http://www.vectorsite.net

I found the article to be generally excellent. One error I saw was the cited doctoral degrees of William Dembski. Padian and Matzke wrote that Dembski’s doctorates were in “mathematics and theology” when in fact they were in mathematics and philosophy. Dembski has a masters in theology from Princeton (IIRC).

Nice article, couple of oops…

“George Gallup, the eminence grise of pollsters, is an evangelical Christian who sees his polling operation as his ministry to understand God’s will for his people on Earth” Died in 1984, is he seeing his polling operation from a Better Place?

Also, the article is a bit too positive about Darwin’s belief in a First Cause and creation by “an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man” – he was careful to say it was hard not to believe in these things, and sometimes he did but other times he wasn’t so sure.

dave s Wrote:

Died in 1984, is he seeing his polling operation from a Better Place?

Hmm. The 1st poll was in 1982, and the results haven’t changed much, so you might be on to something. ;-)

I noticed that too and e-mailed Nick earlier today, noting that Dembski’s theology degree is a master’s from Princeton Theological Seminary (I believe it has no official ties now to the university.):

Gary Hurd said:

I found the article to be generally excellent. One error I saw was the cited doctoral degrees of William Dembski. Padian and Matzke wrote that Dembski’s doctorates were in “mathematics and theology” when in fact they were in mathematics and philosophy. Dembski has a masters in theology from Princeton (IIRC).

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Matzke published on January 8, 2009 12:06 AM.

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