Archive for the ‘Intelligent Design’ Category

Three views of ID

May 25, 2010 8 comments

Christianity Today has three pieces on ID (and where it may be going) from Karl Giberson (theistic evolutionist), Steve Meyer (old earth creationist) and Marcus Ross (young earther). Highlights:


ID is not a comprehensive theory of Earth and the history of life.


[T]o keep building a scientific research community, we ID advocates must expose the prejudicial rules of reasoning that preclude consideration of our theory, and keep explaining ID’s strong foundation in evidence.


Stop trying to prove that Darwin caused the Holocaust or that evolution is ruining Western civilization. Agree among yourselves that the earth is old, since science has proven that. Do not call world-class scientists “cranks,” as Meyer implies in Signature in the Cell. Do not claim that evolution is collapsing, when everyone in the field knows it isn’t. Stop claiming that you cannot get your work published in conventional journals when you aren’t submitting papers to these journals.

Instead, roll up your sleeves and get to work on the big idea. Develop it to the point where it starts spinning off new insights into nature so that we know more because of your work. Then the academy will welcome you with open arms. Science loves rebels.

Giberson is channeling me.

Signature in the Cell

May 22, 2010 1 comment

SITC+cover.jpg I’ve a copy of Meyer’s Signature in the Cell that I keep picking up and putting down. Steve Matheson has been more persistent and has been reading the book on and off over the past few months and has blogged his reaction (intro, chapter 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5 [more], 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10). Unfortunately for Steve, he still has a further 10 chapters to get through!

Steve has also begun a short series on his experience, along with Art Hunt, in offering some counterpoints to Meyer’s position at a recent ID love-fest at Biola. Part I is up, and two others will follow. As you can imagine, the DI’s spin on this is probably very different from what happened.

Lastly, the Discovery Institute has produced a new (downloadable) book, Signature of Controversy, which they claim rebuts criticism of Meyer’s masterpiece. It’s largely a collection of posts from various ID-friendly blogs.

Update: Art Hunt’s recollections of the Biola event are here.

Update (5/27): Part II of Steve & Art at Biola is here.

Update (5/31): Part III is online.

Footprints of nonsentient design

May 6, 2010 4 comments

John Avise has a paper upcoming in PNAS. Here’s part of the abstract:

Here, I highlight several outlandish features of the human genome that defy notions of ID by a caring cognitive agent. These range from de novo mutational glitches that collectively kill or maim countless individuals (including embryos and fetuses) to pervasive architectural flaws (including pseudogenes, parasitic mobile elements, and needlessly baroque regulatory pathways) that are endogenous in every human genome. Gross imperfection at the molecular level presents a conundrum for the traditional paradigms of natural theology as well as for recent assertions of ID, but it is consistent with the notion of nonsentient contrivance by evolutionary forces.  

Article is here. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0914609107  

A new ID journal.

May 1, 2010 24 comments

Looks like the DI-funded Biologic Institute (see here and here) has come up with its ownID-friendly” journal, BIO-Complexity with the usual suspects on the editorial team. The DI chimes in that the “editorial board is composed of an international group of scientists with differing views about the merits of ID. But all are committed to a fair and honest assessment of the question.” I’m willing to guess that most (all?) Twenty-two of the 29 have signed the Dissent from Darwin list. Of course, this isn’t the first time that Dembski and buddies attempted to start their own journal – and that first attempt didn’t exactly end in glory.

The good news is that maybe the promised Nelson & Dembski paper could be submitted to the new venue as it is surely the “best peer-reviewed biology journal we can find” ?

Update: I’ve just remembered that there is another ID-friendly, peer-reviewed journal out there, one that is a “professional, peer-reviewed technical journal for the publication of interdisciplinary scientific and other relevant research”.

Origins: Is There A Theory of Design?

April 17, 2010 7 comments

This week we’re examining Behe‘s claims regarding “irreducible complexity” and Dembski‘s “explanatory filter” and “complex specified information“. If there’s a theory to ID, surely we will find it in these ideas. Am I right?

Origins: Icons of Evolution

April 12, 2010 5 comments

A brief foray through some of Jonathan Wells’ arguments in Icons of Evolution.

Beckwith on ID

March 20, 2010 3 comments

I’ve had reason to discuss Francis Beckwith before. Now over at the BioLogos website, he presents a two part statement of the philosophical weakness of core ID arguments. I haven’t had a chance to read this yet, but am passing the links on none-the-less. I expect a fulmination from Dembski …

Origins: History of American Creationism (Parts II & III)

February 14, 2010 3 comments

This week we’re going to be examining the origins and evolution of Intelligent Design Creationism. The above slides actually cover two days of lectures.

These are going to be the last slides I post until March 22nd. As I said last week, the class follows this with two weeks of viewings and then we have the mid-term examination. Following the break, we will start examining the claims of both YEC and IDC proponents.

Origins: The Design Argument

February 3, 2010 3 comments

Today’s class is an introduction to the history of the argument to and from design.

Signature in the Cell: Matheson takes one for the team

January 6, 2010 Comments off

I’ll admit to owning a copy of Steven Meyer’s Signature of the Cell – a book that according to ID proponents is the last nail on the coffin of naturalistic science. I’ll also admit to not having read it. I browsed it. I started it. But I couldn’t get very far into it, primarily because it was identical to every damned piece of ID propaganda I’ve read since the mid-90′s. None of them convinced me then, so I fail to see how Meyer’s “new” argument would now. That said, I’m happy to note that Steve Matheson is going to blog his chapter-by-chapter trek through Meyer’s Big Book of ID.

Update (1/10): First installment is up. First major point: “This is clearly a pop-science book and not a serious work of scholarship. That’s not an insult, just an observation.” Laugh-out loud moment: “Nowhere in the book does Meyer cite or mention The Edge of Evolution, where Behe tries to create evidence for intelligent design by calculating mutation rates in, you know, DNA. Hmmm. I’ll bet that was an interesting meeting of the Fellows.” And money shot: “If this book is about building a case for intelligent design by repeatedly restating the fact that we don’t yet understand the origin of the first life on earth, then this book is not an argument for intelligent design. It is more likely the death rattle of the movement of the same name.”

Dembski, Marks and peer review

December 14, 2009 6 comments

Bill Dembski appears to have been busy and 2009 appears to be the year in which he finally began to publish in the peer reviewed literature. You’ll remember his infamous comment from 2001 regarding publication in peer reviewed journals:

I’ve just gotten kind of blase about submitting things to journals where you often wait two years to get things into print. And I find I can actually get the turnaround faster by writing a book and getting the ideas expressed there. My books sell well. I get a royalty. And the material gets read more. [Chronicle of Higher Education, December 21, 2001]

Dembski has certainly been writing books (and one assumes getting royalties) – he has produced at least ten books this decade alone.

With that antipathy to normal scholarly outlets (at least with regards math and science) in mind, it is interesting to note that Dembski (and, Robert Marks, his buddy at the “Evolutionary Informatics Laboratory“) has managed to publish four papers this year:

  1. “Life’s Conservation Law: Why Darwinian Evolution Cannot Create Biological Information” in Bruce L. Gordon and William A. Dembski, eds., The Nature of Nature: Examining the Role of Naturalism in Science (Wilmington, Del.: ISI Books, 2009).
  2. “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans, vol.39, #5, September 2009, pp.1051-1061.
  3. “Bernoulli’s Principle of Insufficient Reason and Conservation of Information in Computer Search,” Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. San Antonio, TX, USA – October 2009, pp. 2647-2652.
  4. “Evolutionary Synthesis of Nand Logic: Dissecting a Digital Organism,” Proceedings of the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. San Antonio, TX, USA – October 2009, pp. 3047-3053.

Paper #1 is in the proceedings of an ID conference that occurred in Baylor in 2000. (I wasn’t aware that Marks was involved with ID back then as his association seems only to have started in the mid-part of this decade. I thus don’t know whether this paper was given at the conference or whether Dembski used his editorial privilege to get the paper included – I suspect the latter.) The proceedings were published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, a conservative group that “was founded in 1953 to further in successive generations of American college students a better understanding of the economic, political, and moral principles that sustain a free and humane society.” Even the most charitable reader of Dembski’s body of work has to agree that ISI is hardly a suitable outlet for studies in information theory or biological engineering which Dembski claims real biology to be a branch of:

If I ever became the president of a university … I would dissolve the biology department and divide the faculty with tenure that I couldn’t get rid of into two new departments: those who know engineering and how it applies to biological systems would be assigned to the new ‘Department of Biological Engineering’; the rest, and that includes the evolutionists, would be consigned to the new ‘Department of Nature Appreciation’ (didn’t Darwin think of himself as a naturalist?).

The best that can be said about paper #2 is that at least it appears in a peer-reviewed journal albeit one devoted to issues unrelated to biological evolution. IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man and Cybernetics A, Systems & Humans is devoted to

[t]he fields of systems engineering and human machine systems: systems engineering includes efforts that involve issue formulation, issue analysis and modeling, and decision making and issue interpretation at any of the lifecycle phases associated with the definition, development, and implementation of large systems. It also includes efforts that relate to systems management, systems engineering processes, and a variety of systems engineering methods such as optimization, decision making, modeling, and simulation. Human machine systems includes cognitive ergonomics, system test and evaluation, and human information processing concerns in systems and organizations

One could perhaps argue that this journal is a suitable outlet as it deals with the issue of optimization, however that would commit the mistake of considering selection to be a process that leads to optimization (it isn’t). In any case, reaction to the paper has hardly been positive and, given the outlet, it is unlikely to influence theoretical biology in any way and I’m willing to bet that five years from now will not see a single positive citation of this paper in the relevant literature.

The less said about papers 3 & 4 the better. They look impressive, appearing as they do in the proceedings of an international conference. To find out more, I asked a number of colleagues within bioengineering about the status of papers that appear in these conferences. As one commented, “the peer review is pretty much a yay/nay affair. You will get either an acceptance or a rejection, and then, depending on the meeting, will be ‘published’ online and on CD … these do not generally get printed.” Another noted that the status of these papers was a little above an abstract and less than a published paper when considering tenure files. In other words, what we have here is a classic example of papers that appear to be “the real deal” but actually received minimal review. The peanut gallery is unlikely to realize that, of course.

Given the above, it is clear that this year did not bring anything new regarding the publication record of either Dembski or the ID community as a whole. However, we can expect ID supporters to act like a major breakthrough occurred in 2009.

Another ID publishing triumph

December 11, 2009 3 comments

It appears that Dembski and Marks (and a student of Marks by the name of Winston Ewert) have a third paper [pdf] which Dembski describes as “a thorough deconstruction” of the AVIDA program. Unsurprisingly, it was presented at an engineering conference, the 2009 IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics. I’m unsure as to how much peer review was involved for this one and I’m unqualified to comment on the content, so I’ll leave that to others.

Update (12/14): See here for further comments on the IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics.

The Year in ID (2009)

December 9, 2009 4 comments

As is traditional, I like to take some time at the end of the year to look back on some of the triumphs of the ID movement (see 2008, 2007, and 2006). Frankly, not much really happened and if you look at the scribblings over at Uncommon Descent or Evolution News and Views (both surely the pulse of the movement), you’d think that ID has something to do with global warming denialism.

Let’s start with what probably will be seen as the highlight – Steve Meyer was named World Magazine “Daniel of the Year” (following in Phil Johnson’s footsteps who received the award in 2003). Meyer produced a big book that received a crush note from (that well known scientist) Thomas Nagel in the Times Literary Supplement but is unlikely to have any impact on the biological community. Equally as unlikely to have an impact on biology are the two papers published in engineering journals by Dembski & Marks. The Biologic Institute – now with additional YEC goodness – appears to have not produced any research. In fact, that whole research thing is continuing to be a bit of an embarrassment for the movement. If anything, the year was marked by ID forays into rewriting history (see here, here & here), bad pedagogy, science envy, publishing nine year old conference proceedings, abject stupidity, and using the bible to make scientific points. Oh and defeat … lots of defeat.

So as always, this gives me an excuse to post my annual list of things we didn’t see from the main players of the ID movement. I’ve had to modify it a little given Dembski’s tremendous success publishing in engineering journals:

  • A peer-reviewed paper in the relevant literature by Dembski, Wells, Nelson, Meyer …
  • Or for that matter, a single peer-reviewed article offering either (a) positive evidence for design, (b) a method to unambiguously detect design, or (c) a theory of how the Designer did the designing, by any fellow of the DI.
  • An exposition of Nelson’s theory of “ontogenetic depth” (promised in March 2004)
  • An article by Nelson & Dembski on problems with common descent (promised in April 2005).
  • Nelson’s monograph on common descent (currently MIA since the late 90’s).

See you next year for an update!

Update (12/11): Looks like D&M have done it again and gotten a third engineering paper published. Exciting times for ID. It really is a new science for a new century. A revolution, even.

It has nothing to do with religion … honest!

November 6, 2009 1 comment

Screen shot 2009-11-06 at 11.54.33 AM.png

Dembski “uses the Bible” to illustrate a scientific point. From here:

After a time of musical praise and worship, Dembski took the stage and began a clear, concise analysis of the necessity for Intelligent Design studies. He highlighted the similarities and differences between Intelligent Design and Creation Theory and explained why there was a need for both and how science and religion go hand in hand. Dembski’s investigative research and insightful lecture was met with appreciative applause as he concluded with prayer. … The topics that Dembski discussed at The Baptist College of Florida were grounded in Biblical faith and doctrine ranging from Darwinism to Information Theory.

HT to John Pieret

Abuse of Copernicus

October 13, 2009 7 comments

From a review of Stephen Meyer’s latest attempt at science-by-popular-book:

Meyer’s book, if he can successfully carry the burden of proof, is probably one of the most important books since Copernicus challenged the prevailing scientific notion 566 years ago that the Earth was the center of the universe.

A tad hyperbolic, don’t you think?

*head explodes*


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