Guest Column, by Mark Isaak

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.