Wedgie's World: Stung not bitten

ID proponents are stumbling over themselves in their haste to come to the defense of the Meyer 2004 review paper. But rather than defending the paper (given the critiques, an unenviable task now delegated to unnamed ‘DI Staff’), they quickly readjusted their sights and settled for strawmen to shoot down (see for instance the ‘response’ by DI Staff to Meyer’s hopeful monster. Only by creating a strawman argument as to what Gishlick et al were arguing can they even hope to make their case. And I won’t even mention the poor reading comprehension of the papers which were given to Meyer as examples of relevant papers missed by Meyer in his ‘review paper’.

Another example is a recent article by Mark Hartwig.

Although the article itself has received a share of the abuse–mostly in the form of a “critique” published on the Panda’s Thumb blog–the main target has been the editor who published the piece, Richard Sternberg.

Mark Hartwig in Bitten

I understand that to ID proponents, peer review can feel like ‘abuse’ but that is mostly because typical ID ‘research’ tends to be based on appeal to ignorance and a restricted view of science. Unfamiliar with peer review, it may come as a shock when scientists expose the many flaws and shortcomings in what some may have hoped would be a glorious entry of ID into the world of science. But as the critique on Panda’s Thumb has shown, ID cannot really withstand the scrutiny of critical peer review. (A conclusion further supported by the response by the DI staff)

And that must sting…

Contrary to the musings of other ID proponents Hartwig seems to consider the Meyer 2004 paper as the first peer reviewed ID paper)

For years, now, the anti-ID party line has been that intelligent design should not be considered legitimate science because it has never been published in peer-reviewed scientific publications. This claim surfaces over and over again–whenever the origins controversy makes the news.

Right now, however, many of them may be regretting that line.

Mark Hartwig in Bitten

Hartwig misses the point. Science proponents are not regretting the publication of the first peer reviewed article (isn’t it time that ID proponents get their story straight as to what counts as peer reviewed articles?). On the contrary, the paper serves to strengthen the argument by science proponents that ID is scientifically meaningless and even detrimental to scientific research as it has to rely on ignorance and incomplete scientific knowledge to make its case. Most importantly the paper shows that ID is unable to present a positive hypothesis of intelligent design. Even ID proponents like Del Ratzsch are highly critical of the eliminative appeal to ignorance approach chosen by ID

I think that some are certainly too far in the materialist direction, and they claim that science backs them up on that. ID can at least serve a ‘keeping em’ honest’ function, even if nothing else. I think that ID may very well have things to offer science, but I think that it is too early for ID to claim that it has done so. I don’t think that it is just obvious that ID will contribute substantively to science, but I think it has that potential, and that it should be pushed as far as it can be made to legitimately go.

Del Ratzsc on ISCID chat

Hartwig then continues to focus on a strawman namely the disagreement between the claims by the editor of the Journal in question and the Council of the Biological Society of Washington. Contrary to the statement by the Council, Hartwig repeats the assertion by Sternberg that the article was well within the scope of the journal. A quick perusal of the journal’s content shows that it focuses mostly on taxonomy.

Hartwig, rather than addressing the scathing rebuttal and critique by Gishlick et al tries to refocus the issue:

At every point in the process, then, Sternberg acted ethically and adhered to customary practice at the journal. Because of this, Meyer’s piece is a bona fide peer-reviewed article.

Mark Hartwig in Bitten

But contrary to Hartwig’s assertion the journal’s Council clearly ruled that the article was outside the scope of the journal. And given that science proponents have documented the many flaws and omissions in the paper, a conclusion that it is a bona fide peer-reviewed article seems to be suffering from the observation that peer-review does not end with the publication but rather starts. In this case peer-review has presented a compelling case that Meyer’s article is scientifically irrelevant.

ID opponents have invested heavily in portraying ID proponents as being unable to publish in peer-reviewed literature, which allegedly proves that ID is inherently bad science.

Mark Hartwig in Bitten

Hartwig misses the point once again. The lack of peer review is just indicative of the scientific irrelevance of ID. The recent paper exemplifies and strengthens this observation because it shows that when ID is provided with an opportunity to present its best case, it is a scientific failure. A failure because it cannot and does not present any scientifically relevant hypothesis of design. A failure because it is flawed in its representation of scientific knowledge. A failure because it relies on appeal to ignorance. Hartwig may argue that the paper was reviewed by three reviewers and found to be acceptable. I would be interested for these reviewers to explain why they considered Meyer’s paper to be acceptable.

In this context, the story of the Scorpion and the Frog is quite appropriate. The scorpion, despite being fully aware that, by stinging the frog who is carrying him across the river, he is going to die, still stings the frog. When asked by the dying frog “why? Now we are both going to die”, the scorpion responds

“I could not help myself. It is my nature.”

And such is the nature of ID. The paper has become ID’s scorpion sting. ID was presented an opportunity to make its case and failed miserably on at least two fronts. First, it pretends to be an “extensive review essay” when in fact it fails to reference much of the research which undermines its claims. But more devastating, the paper fails to present any scientific hypothesis relevant to ID.

Finally let’s remember the real argument of the Meyer paper

In the article, entitled “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories”, Dr. Meyer argues that no current materialistic theory of evolution can account for the origin of the information necessary to build novel animal forms.

Introduction to the Meyer paper on Discovery’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture website

When looking at the Meyer 2004, Gishlick et al and others have shown that not only do many of the papers quoted not support the thesis but additionally that many papers which show how science proposes testable hypotheses for the origin of the information necessary to build novel animal forms. Even more ‘shocking’ is that Meyer fails to present ANY scientifically relevant hypothesis of ID.

Even in ID friendly ‘peer-reviewed’ publications such as PCID, the absence of much of any ID relevant scientific contributions is self evident. The site has mostly turned into a ghost town since the decision to limit posting to invited contributors only, even after ISCID had lowered its acceptance standards. ID, even when in friendly waters, cannot really produce much of anything scientifically relevant. But one would have expected that it would have shown more interest in presenting its best case in the mainstream peer reviewed literature. When such an opportunity arose, ID failed once again to make its case scientifically.

And that is ‘the wedge’ of the story…

Wedgie’s world is an irregular contribution to discuss and explore how ID is pulling a ‘wedgie’ [1] on science.

  • wedgie: 2. The condition of having one’s clothing stuck between the buttocks, often from having had one’s pants or underwear pulled up as a prank. Inspired by David Farley’s Dr Fun
  • Quote Mining: The definition is clear enough. It is the use of a (usually short) passage, taken from the work of an authority in some field, “which superficially appears to support one’s position, but [from which] significant context is omitted and contrary evidence is conveniently ignored” .