Springer gets suckered by creationist pseudoscience

Note: The Springer webpage for the book was taken down about 24 hours after this post; see update post.

It looks like some creationist engineers found a way to slither some ID/creationism into a major academic publisher, Springer. The major publishers have enough problems at the moment (e.g. see the Elsevier boycott), it seems like the last thing they should be doing is frittering away their credibility even further by uncritically publishing creationist work and giving it a veneer of respectability. The mega-publishers are expensive, are making money off of largely government-funded work provided to them for free, and then the public doesn’t even have access to it. The only thing they have going for them is quality control and credibility – if they give that away to cranks, there is no reason at all to support them.

(A note: even if you bought the ridiculous idea that ID isn’t creationism, they’ve got John Sanford, a straight-up young-earth creationist for goodness sakes, as an editor and presumably author!)

Here’s the summary:

Biological Information: New Perspectives

Series: Intelligent Systems Reference Library, Vol. 38

Marks II, R.J.; Behe, M.J.; Dembski, W.A.; Gordon, B.L.; Sanford, J.C. (Eds.)

2012, 2012, XII, 549 p.

Hardcover, ISBN 978-3-642-28453-3

Due: March 31, 2012 $179.00

About this book

Presents new perspectives regarding the nature and origin of biological information

Demonstrates how our traditional ideas about biological information are collapsing under the weight of new evidence

Written by leading experts in the field

In the spring of 2011, a diverse group of scientists gathered at Cornell University to discuss their research into the nature and origin of biological information. This symposium brought together experts in information theory, computer science, numerical simulation, thermodynamics, evolutionary theory, whole organism biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, genetics, physics, biophysics, mathematics, and linguistics. This volume presents new research by those invited to speak at the conference.

The contributors to this volume use their wide-ranging expertise in the area of biological information to bring fresh insights into the explanatory difficulties that biological information raises. Going beyond the conventional scientific wisdom, which attempts to explain biological information reductionistically via chemical, genetic, and natural selective determinants, the work represented here develops novel non-reductionist approaches to biological information, looking notably to telic and self-organizational processes.

Several clear themes emerged from these research papers: 1) Information is indispensable to our understanding of what life is. 2) Biological information is more than the material structures that embody it. 3) Conventional chemical and evolutionary mechanisms seem insufficient to fully explain the labyrinth of information that is life. By exploring new perspectives on biological information, this volume seeks to expand, encourage, and enrich research on the nature and origin of biological information.

Content Level “ Research

Keywords “ Biological Information - Computational Intelligence - Genetical Information - Neo-Darwinian Theory

Related subjects “ Artificial Intelligence - Computational Intelligence and Complexity - Systems Biology and Bioinformatics

Table of contents

Dynamics of Charged Particulate Systems.- Biological Information and Genetic Theory.- Theoretical Molecular Biology.- Biological Information and Self-Organizational Complexity Theory.

Speaking of Sanford – if you didn’t know, he has a bizarre argument which only “makes sense” from a young-earth creationist perspective. The claim is basically that natural selection can’t remove enough bad mutations from the human population (he forgets about recombination and soft sweeps – whoops!), and therefore the human genome has been decaying rapidly ever since Adam and Eve (with perfect genomes, I guess) started breeding.

Do you think Springer commissioned any actual population geneticists to peer-review his work and his editing? Any actual biologists at mainstream institutions anywhere? Or was it creationist engineers peer-reviewing theologians masquerading as information theoreticians? Does the volume actually address any of the detailed and technical rebuttals of the favorite ID arguments? (key references summarized here) Wouldn’t this be a minimal requirement, even if a publisher like Springer decided to publish pseudoscientists on the everyone-deserves-to-be-heard-even-cranks theory, or whatever?

As for “a diverse group of scientists gathered at Cornell University to discuss their research into the nature and origin of biological information”, a few posts from attendees tell us what actually happened – the conference wasn’t advertised, mainstream scientists with relevant expertise were not invited to attend, and participants were told several times to suppress their apparently otherwise overwhelming tendency to bring in their religion and do fundamentalist apologetics like they do in most other venues. It was basically just another fake ID “conference” where the ID fans get together and convince each other that they are staging a scientific revolution, all the while ignoring the actual science on how new genetic “information” originates.

Here is one of the “diverse group of scientists” who attended and reported on the event – Sid Galloway BS, M.Div., who I gather is the Director of the Good Shepherd Initiative at www.soulcare.org, which is devoted to “Education, Counseling, & Animal-Assisted Apologetics.” Here’s his summary of the meeting (or his talk?).

He’s apparently a former zookeeper who started an evangelical ministry based on animals. And hey, anything introducing the public to the animal kingdom has some positive virtues – it sounds a lot better than some of the evangelical ministries I’ve heard of. But it’s not exactly the sort of person that you would expect to be on the highly exclusive, invitees-only list for a real “scientific” meeting. But then again, animal-assisted apologetics is basically what creationism/ID is all about at bottom, anyway, so I guess it makes sense in a weird way.