New Scientist on Biologic

New Scientist has this article about the latest attempt by ID proponents to pretend they care about science:

This is my second attempt to engage in person with scientists at Biologic. At the institute’s other facility in nearby Fremont, researchers work at benches lined with fume hoods, incubators and microscopes – a typical scene in this up-and-coming biotech hub. Most of them there proved just as reluctant to speak with a New Scientist reporter.

The reticence cloaks an unorthodox agenda. “We are the first ones doing what we might call lab science in intelligent design,” says George Weber, the only one of Biologic’s four directors who would speak openly with me. “The objective is to challenge the scientific community on naturalism.” Weber is not a scientist but a retired professor of business and administration at the Presbyterian Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. He heads the Spokane chapter of Reasonstobelieve.org, a Christian organisation that seeks to challenge Darwinism.


Apparently Weber should have kept his mouth shut:

Last week I learned that following his communication with New Scientist, Weber has left the board of the Biologic Institute. Douglas Axe, the lab’s senior researcher and spokesman, told me in an email that Weber “was found to have seriously misunderstood the purpose of Biologic and to have misrepresented it”. Axe’s portrayal of the Biologic Institute’s purpose excludes religious connotation. He says that the lab’s main objective “is to show that the design perspective can lead to better science”, although he allows that the Biologic Institute will “contribute substantially to the scientific case for intelligent design”.

One wonders what all the secrecy is about. It might be nice to know, if only in a vague sort of way, what sort of research they could possibly be doing from a design perspective. It’s not like they could be worried about other labs beating them to important results. After all, every other lab is laboring under naturalistic blinders that will prevent them from carrying out genuinely important research in biology.

One suspects that what will emerge from the lab is the sort of milquetoast, run-of-the-mill research that fills the back pages of second-tier journals. They’ll produce results like, “Point mutations in the obscurity gene, which codes for the protein esotericase, leads to a catastrophic loss of function.” Then the shills at the DI will shamelessly peddle this as cutting-edge research in support of ID. Such results clearly show that esotericase couldn’t possibly have evolved, right? The conscienceless lickspittles at the various ID blogs will wield it with comical indignation the next time a scientist points out that there is no research in support of ID.

The rest of the article is worth reading, though I think it’s a bit too soft on the ID folks. Go have a look!

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey
    December 13, 2006

    They’ll produce results like, “Point mutations in the obscurity gene, which codes for the protein esotericase, leads to a catastrophic loss of function.” Then the shills at the DI will shamelessly peddle this as cutting-edge research in support of ID. Such results clearly show that esotericase couldn’t possibly have evolved, right?

    Best protein name — ever! Clearly, it catalyzes the breakdown of esotericin to esotericol.

  2. #2 Pseudonym
    December 13, 2006

    Jason, I think you’re being unfair on “run of the mill” research. Someone has to do the low-visibility, unsexy research. If it’s done scientifically, it’s still good research.

    Yes, I wonder what’s the point of all the secrecy. Yes, I wonder why this research can’t be done in an existing institution. And yes, I dread to think what horrible spin DI is going to put on it. But even if this lab is only a source of interesting questions for other scientists to answer, it has a certain value. There’s nothing wrong with adding to the body of world knowledge, even if it’s only in a small way.

  3. #3 Gerard Harbison
    December 13, 2006

    Douglas Axe has published one paper since 2001. It’s good DI are paying him; no one else in the world would support a postdoc with that level of productivity.

  4. #4 ZacharySmith
    December 13, 2006

    Ummm, here’s a question for the Biologic folks: How the hell do you investigate the non-materialistic with materialistic methods (fume hoods, microscopes, etc.)?? I mean, isn’t the casting off of materialistic shackles the goal of ID?

    Non-religious, you say Dr. Axe? Well, if life on this planet required a designer, then what chance in hell do we of inferior intelligence and technology have of learning anything about design? After all, if we exist pretty much as we were created and evolution doesn’t occur, then surely we will never have the capability of understanding the principles of design, let alone being able to do any designing ourselves.

    Not to mention, the old chestnut of “who designed the designer?’

    Unless of course you leave the door open for some kind of deity, but this is supposed to be non-religious, er, umm, oh dear… here we go round again.

    So just what do those folks do all day long in that lab?

  5. #5 Torbjörn Larsson
    December 14, 2006

    So they do have a lab, and they put an Axe to it. That has interesting implications on the “stealth approach” that Sarkar has noted, where DI’s new PR firm pushes design arguments into physics instead. It seems they are not quite that desperate about earlier failures in biology after all.

    And the way IDiots use Axe’s proteinfolding paper according to NS is appalling. To ask if a random chain can fold well is like claiming evolution is putting a number of organs randomly in a creature to see if it could live well. Not a fun picture. Of course, if I imagine it is like putting legs randomly on a creature to see if it could walk well it is slightly funnier.

  6. #6 mark
    December 14, 2006

    He says that the lab’s main objective “is to show that the design perspective can lead to better science”, although he allows that the Biologic Institute will “contribute substantially to the scientific case for intelligent design”.

    Of course they’re keeping it secret! Just think of the fantastic wealth they will amass, when they have the patents on the process of “poofing” things into existence!

  7. #7 Fred
    December 14, 2006

    Here’s what I don’t understand about ID. The ID folks say that:

    1) We can never learn how it was done.
    2) We can never learn who did it.
    3) We can never learn when it was done.

    Well what exactly CAN we learn from ID then? As far as I can tell, all they’re saying we can learn is merely that it happened. How is that science? How is that actually a theory? If ID was taught in class, how long would the class be, two minutes?

    The ID folks keep saying they have a theory but I’ve never seen it. I’d like to see a timeline and explanations for what we see. Not comments on what *couldn’t* happen, but rather, what they’re saying DID happen. “Things were designed” is not a theory.

  8. #8 dogscratcher
    December 14, 2006

    “The ID folks keep saying they have a theory but I’ve never seen it. ”

    I believe the “theory” is: Something happened, somehow, somewhere, somewhen, somewhy, that can’t be explained by (current) science. Therefore, by implication, God exists.

    Hope that clarifies things.

  9. #9 Pseudonym
    December 14, 2006

    dogscratcher: Damn straight.

    And that’s the reason, of course, why ID isn’t merely wrong, but irritatingly anti-scientific. ID is the claim that there are some things in nature that science can never discover or reason about. It doesn’t provide any answers, instead preferring to encourage us to give up when we see something sufficiently complicated.

    Complicated things aren’t a fatal problem, they’re a challenge, a mystery to be solved. That’s science at its best.

  10. #10 bob
    December 15, 2006

    Digscratcher;

    That’s too detailed. It’s actually: Somehow, somewhere, somewhen, somewhy, something happened, maybe.

  11. #11 dogscratcher
    December 15, 2006

    Digscratcher; (that’s Dogscratcher to you)

    That’s too detailed. It’s actually: Somehow, somewhere, somewhen, somewhy, something happened, maybe.

    You’ve out “Occamed” me. Fair enough.

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