Pharyngula

The DI has long had this goal of getting their work published in mainstream science journals; unfortunately, they don’t want to bother with that unpleasant business of trying to do real research. Give Up Blog has examples of their prodigious output: 5 abstracts that have been published in science journals. That’s it.

They’ve managed this feat by exploiting a loophole. Here’s how to get published in a major journal: 1) Write an abstract about just about anything. 2) Send the abstract and your registration fee to a conference organized by the scientific society behind the journal. 3) Watch your abstract get accepted and published in an issue of the journal that lists presentations at the meeting.

That’s it. There’s no peer review involved, except that, ideally, people at the meeting will come by your poster or talk and critique it. Everything is open and not monitored for quality at all, which is exactly how the crap the DI does can get in.

I’m going to disagree with Give Up a bit here: I think this is a good thing, and I don’t want the journals to tighten up the standards. Meetings like that are very helpful, especially for students, because you can show preliminary results (stuff that would be very difficult to publish) and get immediate feedback from your peers, criticisms of what’s wrong in your work, and suggestions about new approaches to take. This is incredibly useful.

The real test is whether a presenter pays attention and uses that feedback to improve and polish the work to make it suitable for formal publication. The work by Nelson and Wells that I’ve seen at these meetings is terrible, so bad that most of the people attending might gawk incredulously at it, but don’t bother to make suggestions, or as I did with Nelson at the DB meetings, might just stop to tell the author that he is completely wrong.

Rather than changing the culture of these meetings, I think we just have to inform the public that the publications in a meeting list are meaningless and do not represent any kind of legitimization of their work…and that actually, their work gets razzed at these events.

Comments

  1. #1 Charlie Wagner
    February 28, 2006

    Paul wrote:

    “unfortunately, they don’t want to bother with that unpleasant business of trying to do real research…5 abstracts that have been published in science journals. That’s it.”

    Well, that’s 5 more than neo-darwinian evolutionists have published in support of their theory. Go ahead, comb the literature. There are few, if any papers that present empirical evidence that supports the view that mutation and selection are the mechanisms of evolution. There is no real research being done by biologists to defend the darwinian paradigm.
    In fact, rather than supporting neo-darwinism, most of the research that I’ve seen supports the notion of intelligent input and argues against a random, accidental and non-directed mechanism.

  2. #2 Caledonian
    February 28, 2006

    Bwa ha ha ha ha!

    Ever consider trying stand-up, Wagner?

  3. #3 BronzeDog
    February 28, 2006

    In fact, rather than supporting neo-darwinism, most of the research that I’ve seen supports the notion of intelligent input and argues against a random, accidental and non-directed mechanism.

    Sorry, Charlie, but I seem to be missing out on that evidence. Care to share?

    As for empirical evidence, what do you think fossils are? What do you think shared DNA sequences are?

  4. #4 Orac
    February 28, 2006

    This reminds me of what the Geiers do with their “evidence” that mercury causes autism. They publish in a non-peer-reviewed journal (Medical Hypotheses), which is dedicated to publishing “radical” ideas outside the mainstream and not actual scientific reports and is listed in Medline, even though it shouldn’t be, or Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, a cesspool of antivaccination and antifluoridation articles that has published a number of articles supporting the lie that shaken baby syndrome is often due to vaccine reactions. Then they and their followers cite these papers in order to make it look as though their ideas are taken seriously by mainstream scientists and physicians.

  5. #5 Sean Foley
    February 28, 2006

    Charlie raises a good point: why does Chewbacca live on Endor with a bunch of Ewoks?

  6. #6 steve s
    February 28, 2006

    Indeed, Charlie’s point cuts right to the heart of the matter. Why would a Wookiee, an eight-foot tall Wookiee, want to live on Endor, with a bunch of two-foot tall Ewoks? That does not make sense.

  7. #7 BronzeDog
    February 28, 2006

    Dead on, Sean.

  8. #8 Mark Paris
    February 28, 2006

    You neo-crypto-pseudo-retro-darwinians keep dragging the Wookie red herring across the path of science. Chewbacca chooses to live on Endor. He was not born there. Now the why of that is certainly a reasonable subject for psychological research (I suggest “fetishes of the wookie” as a topic), but it has nothing to do with ID.

  9. #9 ScienceInUtah
    February 28, 2006

    I wasn’t sure where to put this, but I thought folks here would be interested to know that the Utah House did not pass Senator Buttars’ bill:

    http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=1668775

    Senator Buttars was disappointed, but didn’t think the vote meant that the House members believed in Darwin’s theory of evolution, saying:

    “I don’t believe that anybody in there really wants their kids to be taught that their great-grandfather was an ape.”

    ahem….

  10. #10 BronzeDog
    February 28, 2006

    I don’t believe that anybody in there really wants their kids to be taught that their great-grandfather was an ape.

    This is one of the nonsensical things that really annoy me. I’ve compared Behe to Homestar Runner in a lab coat, but this smacks of someone else.

  11. #11 Paul Koeck
    February 28, 2006

    Actually, I think Mr. Wagner’s defense is a brilliant example of the “Nuh uh!” defense. The best example of this was produced by Monty Python in the “Argument” sketch, followed closely by the “Dead Parrot” sketch. Mr. Wagner is obviously an apt pupil of the best of Monty Python, albeit not quite as humorous.

  12. #12 PZ Myers
    February 28, 2006

    We also saw this in Behe’s testimony at Dover, when he was shown a large stack of books and papers, and then began to rock back and forth with his eyes closed, muttering “this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening…”

  13. #13 Kristine
    February 28, 2006

    Off-subject, but Utah has just defeated another one of those “teach the alternatives” bills, sponsored by that nincompoop Republican state Sen. Chris Buttars, who is quoted as saying, “I don’t believe that anybody in there really wants their kids to be taught that their great-grandfather was an ape.”

    The article ends: “In fact, evolutionary theory does not assert that humans were descended directly from apes, but rather holds that apes and humans–and all other species–are descended from common ancestors.”
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11598998/from/RS.5/

  14. #14 Troutnut
    February 28, 2006

    Well, that’s 5 more than neo-darwinian evolutionists have published in support of their theory.

    Charlie, here’s how to convince yourself that you’re wrong, step-by-step:

    1.) Find a scientific journal. They’re like books, and you can find them in libraries, which are large buildings with lots and lots of books. Ask around and see if anybody knows where to find a library.
    2.) Open it up by grabbing the front and back covers and slowly pulling them away from each other, revealing pages.
    3.) Read the words on one of the pages.
    4.) When you run out of words, turn the page and there will be more words. Read those. Repeat.

    Follow these simple steps and you’ll realize your claims are batsh*t insane.

  15. #15 James R
    February 28, 2006

    And these wakos get federal funding to do (research)? I’m just a little pissed that this kind of nonsense can be funded in the first place. But more importantly when it is known that they are not researching science why do they still qualify for funds. It seems very dishonest to me and should be investigated by someone who knows how these things work. It also occurs to me that this is part of the faith based type of idiocy that we can expect unless we raise our cummulative voices and denounce this type of psuedo-science. Afterall isn’t this just money poorly spent?

  16. #16 Brian
    February 28, 2006

    Someone mentioned Monty Python. so..

    Dead ID sketch

    http://home.austarnet.com.au/stear/ID_dead_id_sketch.htm

  17. #17 carlie
    February 28, 2006

    Wow. I had my college students look up articles in evidence for mechanisms of evolution today, in fact. 18 students, all non-biology majors, all not really knowing a bacterium from a bird apart from what they’ve had in class so far this semester. They were restricted to peer-reviewed articles using databases they’d never used before. I thought it would take them at least a half hour to come up with good, solid papers, easy for them to read and understand, that clearly demonstrated evolution in a population by one of the subset of mechanisms I provided for them (sexual selection, kin selection, drift, migration, mutation, natural selection, nonrandom mating, classic Hardy-Weinberg stuff).

    The slowest students took 20 minutes. The rest were done in 10. And they came up with great papers, too.

  18. #18 Madam Pomfrey
    February 28, 2006

    PZ: “We also saw this in Behe’s testimony at Dover, when he was shown a large stack of books and papers, and then began to rock back and forth with his eyes closed, muttering “this can’t be happening, this can’t be happening…”

    And then afterwards: “That stack of books and papers doesn’t really exist, you know. You only *thought* you saw it.”
    🙂

  19. #19 dc
    February 28, 2006

    I’m legitimately confused: Are the “publications” just abstracts or do the abstracts describe actual published articles? I’m not a scientist, but in law people post abstracts on SSRN, a web-based method of getting feedback on an idea or article in progress. An article posted on SSRN may be in the process of being published in a journal, but no one would claim that posting an abstract is the same as actually publishing an article. So I return to the question: Are there actually articles behind those abstracts, or are the only abstracts? If they are only abstracts, I can hardly imagine any DI person actually touting them as “publications” in major journals. (Actually, I take that back. I can imagine such ridiculousness).

  20. #20 Pete Dunkelberg
    February 28, 2006

    The topic of Disco output brings to mind this old lament.

  21. #21 Kagehi
    February 28, 2006

    They are, if I am reading it right, abstracts of what one intends to present at a convention, not abstracts of papers. Sort of:

    I plan to talk to you about a lot of nonsense and make a fool out of myself.

    vs.

    I wrote this paper on some nonsense, please don’t laugh at me.

  22. #22 Jonathan Badger
    February 28, 2006

    I’m legitimately confused: Are the “publications” just abstracts or do the abstracts describe actual published articles?

    It really depends on the field of inquiry. Although I’m a biologist, I did a postdoc in a Computer Science department (working on algorithms for phylogenetic analysis), and in CS, meetings are a big deal — a presentation that gets into a meeting is considered published — but that’s because it is peer reviewed just like a journal article would be.

    In biology, this is generally not the case. Pretty much anybody can present anything at a meeting and there is no peer review. Nothing at a meeting “counts” — biology meetings are mostly for networking, meeting potential collaborators, etc.

  23. #23 Torbjorn Larsson
    February 28, 2006

    If memory serves, PZ has forgotten to mention other uses of conference posters or presentations: to get everyone informed of what is going on at the fuzzy border of each groups investigations, and to get to go and have a good (and productive) time.

    Speaking of Monty Python, Charlie reminds me most of

    “The Wagnerian Inquisition:

    – EVERYBODY expects the Wagnerian Inquisition!

    Our chief weapon is repetition… repetition and dullness… dullness and repetition…

    Our two weapons are dullness and repetition… and ruthless inefficiency…

    Our three weapons are dullness and repetition and ruthless inefficiency… and an almost fanatical devotion to the Cause…

    Our four… no… Amongst our arguments… Amongst our argumentation… are such elements as dullness, repetition…

    – I’ll come in again. (Exit)”

  24. #24 Charlie Wagner
    February 28, 2006

    carlie wrote:

    “Wow. I had my college students look up articles in evidence for mechanisms of evolution today,…”

    I’m sure they found lots of evidence for mutation, natural selection, chromosome duplication, drift and common ancestry. No one is arguing this fact. What they need to look for is evidence that these effects are somehow linked to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes, systems and adaptations. They need empirical support for the claim that mutation, selection, drift etc. are capable of generating these highly organized structures, processes and systems.
    You can comb the literature until you are purple in the face and you will not find a single paper that establishes such a link or even suggests that it might be possible.
    The papers that I have read start with the assumption that neo-darwinism is the mechanism and proceed to interpret the data in that light. There is no data to support the notion that the underlying assumption is true.

  25. #25 BronzeDog
    February 28, 2006

    Charlie continues to amuse. The creation of complex structures is a natural extension of mutation, natural selection, and so forth. There’s nothing to stop them from forming complex systems, unless you’d like to present evidence for a magic stop sign. If you want to propose that a different system did it, present your evidence.

    We may or may not have witnessed the events directly, but it’s better to have a series of known mechanisms combine in a plausible way than it is to say “It’s magic!” and be done with it.

    I’ll leave it up to the more knowledgeable, but I suspect someone will provide a lab example that you’ll ignore.

  26. #26 Dennis Lynch
    February 28, 2006

    As mentioned in other threads; no such thing exists as neo-evolutionist, evolutionist, darwinist, neo-darwinist or other labels that include ist or ism. These are fabrications of the creationists. Who labelled themselves many years ago. We don’t need any new labels, we don’t have to accept them.

    Scientists study data, if the data supports a conclusion (yes or no or maybe), they publish the results. Sometimes it takes some balls, some guys get slapped around. Scientists love to dissagree. A hypothesis either stands on its own merrit or collapses in a heap.

    Creationists study the bible, there is no data, no conclusion to be inferred, nothing to publish. Creationists have no balls, they never dissagree with each other. If the DI wants to be scientists, they need to get some balls, act like scientists, and publish something in a peer reviewed journal. They need something that stands on its own merrit, all else is crap.

    Thanks to those who researched papers but there was never any doubt that they existed. Great class project though for undergraduates.

  27. #27 Pastor Bentonit
    February 28, 2006

    You can comb the literature until you are purple in the face and you will not find a single paper that establishes such a link or even suggests that it might be possible.

    No, Charlie, only you can (absent company of IDCs, YECs and the like, excluded). Since you obviously will never learn, please go away. Now.

  28. #28 Torbjorn Larsson
    February 28, 2006

    “- EVERYBODY expects the Wagnerian Inquisition!

    Amongst our weaponry are dullness and repetition and ruthless inefficiency, an almost fanatical devotion to the Cause, and nice red uniforms.”

  29. #29 Carlie
    February 28, 2006

    “What they need to look for is evidence that these effects are somehow linked to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes, systems and adaptations. They need empirical support for the claim that mutation, selection, drift etc. are capable of generating these highly organized structures, processes and systems.”

    And this is where lesser zealots such as I usually get tired and quit, not because there is nothing to say, but because there is so much that it’s difficult to know where to start, and we know that you will come up with some objection no matter what. Verne Grant in the 1950s backcrossing to make a new species of Gilia in 20 generations? Lorne Riesberg in the 1990s re-creating existing species of Helianthus by hybridizing other existing species? Oh, those are just changes “in the same kind”. Fossil records of transitional whales with legs, occurring in exactly the strata and exactly the transitional stages (Pakicetus, Ambulocetus, Rhodocetus, etc.) that the evolutionary hypothesis predicted in the first place? Oh, that doesn’t count, because each transitional fossil found just “creates twice as many new gaps that have to be explained”. Computer models based on physiological specifics, with only mild selection parameters in place, that evolve from completely eyeless to fully functional eyes within 200 generations, that have intermediate stages that match actual known animal sight systems? With apologies to Monty Python, “It’s only a model”.
    No matter how many examples stack up, the ID response is a variant on “lalalalalaI’mnotlistening”. Most of us are doing other things, like our jobs, and don’t have the time to compile lists of studies that are already readily available to anyone looking for them (see post above about these things called “libraries”), especially knowing they will be dismissed without examination.

  30. #30 vandalhooch
    February 28, 2006

    Torbjorn,

    That Monty Python bit is spot on! Loved it!

  31. #31 Charlie Wagner
    February 28, 2006

    Carlie wrote:

    “Verne Grant in the 1950s backcrossing to make a new species of Gilia in 20 generations?”

    Ah! Verne Grant. One of my favorites! A man ahead of his time.
    Dauermodifications. Dauermodifications are the kind of modifications which are observed in living things in response to environmental pressures and which, when they occur in one generation, appear to be inherited by the next.
    He wrote in “The Architecture of the Germplasm” (pg 15)
    “We are forced to conclude that particles with a gene-like property of self-reproduction exist in the cytoplasm. Inheritance through the cytoplasm has been verified for a number of plants, animals, protista, and fungi.” Certainly a rebellious notion in 1964, to which I was naturally attracted.
    Here’s a bulletin for you:
    Speciation is NOT evolution. While speciation leads to new varieties of existing forms, there is no empirical evidence that it can ever lead to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes or systems.
    As for transitional fossils, that’s a non-issue. There’s no question in my mind that large numbers of structures, processes and systems are used over and over across a braod spectrum of forms. All living things are closely related and probably had a common origin. This fact, however, tells us nothing about the mechanism by which these structures, processes and systems emerged.

  32. #32 BronzeDog
    February 28, 2006

    The empirical evidence is the mechanisms of change. They exist, we’ve observed them, and there’s nothing stopping those small changes from adding up in plausible ways, unless you’d like to show me your magic stop-sign.

  33. #33 Carlie
    February 28, 2006

    Evolution is change. If speciation is not evolution, what on earth is????? Sure, evolution doesn’t happen if you exclude from your definition anything that is actually evolution.

  34. #34 Torbjorn Larsson
    February 28, 2006

    [Cut to torturing a dear old blog]

    “Now, old blog — you have one last chance. Confess the heinous sin of heresy, reject the works of the ungodly — *two* last chances. And you shall be free — *three* last chances. You have three last chances, the nature of which I have divulged in my previous utterance.”

  35. #35 Dustin
    February 28, 2006

    You know, the DI’s method of publication is EXACTLY the same as those bored MIT grad students who wrote a random computer science paper generator. EXACTLY.

    I think its telling that the only way that the DI can publish something is in the same way as one can go about publishing a string of gibberish put together, more or less randomly, by a computer… AND THAT THEY ONLY MANAGED TO DO THIS 5 TIMES.

  36. #36 Ronald Brak
    February 28, 2006

    I think the whole eight foot Wookie plus two-foot tall ewok debate only serves to reinforce the devastating creationist refutation of evolution, “What about dwarfs + pygmies?”

  37. #37 Quitter
    February 28, 2006

    Thanks for linking PZ. I have enjoyed the Chewbacca/Ewok discussion immensely.

    However, don’t think that I’m advocating peer-review Nazism for scientific meetings. It’s just a matter of degree. I think we should increase the amount of scruting from (a) just making sure the abstract is in English, to (b) making sure the abstract is in English and it doesn’t come from the Discovery Institute.

    The question you may ask is then, is it unfair to single out a single group to discourage publication of their material?

    My answer, is of course no. It is perfectly fair to exclude bullshitters, just like Hwang Wo Suk isn’t getting any abstracts into meetings these days, neither should anyone associated with the DI. They are a discredited and dishonest institution (just read the Dover decision). Screw those guys.

    Have fun!

  38. #38 MJ Memphis
    March 1, 2006

    Ronald Brak,

    “I think the whole eight foot Wookie plus two-foot tall ewok debate only serves to reinforce the devastating creationist refutation of evolution, “What about dwarfs + pygmies?””

    Ah, but there is a deeper question still- if you were to compare a dwarf Wookie to an antediluvian giant Ewok (from before Endor’s Fall), could you tell the difference?

    Hmm… that could explain why Wookies are on Endor. Perhaps Wookies are just very, very old (and correspondingly tall) Ewoks from before their Fall.

  39. #39 Jake
    March 1, 2006

    Speciation is NOT evolution

    Next up from Wagner:

    Evolution is NOT evolution

  40. #40 wamba
    March 1, 2006

    Speciation is NOT evolution

    That depends on what the definition of is is.

  41. #41 BronzeDog
    March 1, 2006

    Speciation is NOT evolution

    Kind of funny. First, they said “micro-evolution” isn’t evolution. Now Wagner says “macro-evolution” isn’t evolution. So, is “super-mega-power-neo-evolution” evolution?

  42. #42 Caledonian
    March 1, 2006

    Speciation is NOT evolution. While speciation leads to new varieties of existing forms, there is no empirical evidence that it can ever lead to the emergence of highly organized structures, processes or systems.

    Speciation is a subset of all the changes evolutionary processes can bring about. Do you need us to draw you a Venn diagram, Wagner?

    Evolutionary algorithms are known to produce mind-boggling ordered structures, processes, and systems. They frequently produce results that are beyond human comprehension, in fact. It’s obvious that mutation and selection can produce profound organization — it’s how we developed our crop varieties, our livestock and pets, and our garden cultivars. Yet only recently has ‘design’ become a factor in the process — for essentially all of our history, we manipulated the genetic information of those organisms blindly.

  43. #43 Francis
    March 1, 2006

    And, just to show how you can get some very complex seeming patterns out of incredibly simple rules, there’s always Langton’s Ant.

    (I think the point about speciation not being evolution is that for evolution, the Creationists want extra information to be provided and they consider speciation to be devolution. Of course they’ll come up with another objection next time…)

  44. #44 BronzeDog
    March 1, 2006

    Nifty link, Francis. Think I might start dinking around with all these cellular automata.

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