The Discovery Institute is apparently going to come out with a report tomorrow outlining 14 “false facts” in my book. I hope that the first I hear about the contents of this report is not on the air with Michael Medved. We’ll see.
Still, we can start with Discovery’s press release announcing the so-far-unpublished report, and see what kinds of critiques they’re promising. Let’s take the first:
Mooney writes: “Wherever uncertainty remains in the current evolutionary account–and as we have seen, uncertainty can never be fully dispelled in science–ID theorists swoop in and claim, “God must have done it.”
This blatant misrepresentation claims intelligent design as merely a negative argument against evolution or argument from ignorance which appeals to God. This is false. The theory of intelligent design simply states that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.
This is not an error of fact; at most, it’s a disagreement over how to characterize the ID movement’s overarching strategy, and in the quotation above I simply provide my opinion of that strategy. You can disagree with my point here, but I don’t see how you can call it a “false fact.”
Mooney also claims that “literature searches have failed to turn up scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals that explicitly present research that supports the ID hypothesis.” This is false. ID proponents have published a number of scientific publications supporting their arguments in peer-reviewed scientific venues. A complete list is available on Discovery Institute’s website and includes such pieces as:
* Stephen Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2004):213-239.\
* Jonathan Wells, “Do Centrioles Generate a Polar Ejection Force?,” Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum 98 (2005): 37-62.
* Michael J. Behe and David W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues,” Protein Science, 13 (2004): 2651-2664.
First, in context, it’s clear from my book that this statement is referring to the situation that existed prior to the publication of the Meyer paper cited above. Furthermore, the Discovery Institute is moving the goalposts. I refer to “scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals that explicitly present research that supports the ID hypothesis.” This is not the same as “scientific publications supporting their arguments in peer-reviewed scientific venues.” To refute a claim of fact, you have to take it on directly, not redefine it and then refute the redefinition.
Judge Jones, in the Dover decision (PDF), examined the ID “literature” using a similar criterion to my own. (Such a rigorous criterion is needed to prevent ID promoters for taking credit for publications that don’t explicitly present data undermining evolution or supporting ID.) Jones found the following (citations replaced by ellipses):
The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID….On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: “There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred.”…Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed….In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe’s argument that certain complex molecular structures are “irreducibly complex.”….In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing….
After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community.
Jones’ conclusion is more or less the same as my own. Note also his footnote on why the Behe and Snokes paper referenced above doesn’t refute that conclusion:
The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an article written by Behe and Snoke entitled “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues.” (P-721). A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically
realistic population size were used.
As for the Meyer paper cited above, it was a literature review–and a commentary on the existing literature. Not a presentation of new research data.
As for the Wells paper cited above, it proposed a hypothesis. It did not present data to refute evolution.
So, we’ll have to see what other 12 “false facts” DI will accuse me of. It’s quite possible that they might indeed catch an error in the book–I am not perfect, though I try to be very careful–but this isn’t an auspicious start. I may or may not respond to the other claims, depending on whether they merit it. These really don’t, especially the first one.
In any event, let’s hope the debate tomorrow isn’t down in the weeds over technical stuff like this. That would be most unfortunate.