Pharyngula

Oh, great. Nelson is at it again. You know the DI is sweating bullets when Paul Nelson emerges to state his lugubrious ‘truths’, make his unfulfilled promises, and start citing mysterious, unnamed ‘senior scientists’ with profound insights into Intelligent Design’s promising destiny. He’s kind of the Thomas Friedman of the Discovery Institute, and just as trustworthy.

He once again argues that “legal, legislative, or public policy action” aren’t “meaningful or relevant”—I agree—but it’s interesting how they trot out this same sour grapes line every time they lose, and when they win, it becomes an “important legal victory” or “at least as important, if not more important, than the Dover school district case”.

What else do we get from Nelson? Promises that there really is research going on quietly, behind the scenes, backed by the Discovery Institute.

Now, Discovery actually funds a great deal of primary research — go ahead, snicker — but those receiving the support and their specific projects have become a very quiet business indeed, and that need for secrecy may continue for a long time. So I’m not griping about DI’s failure to support scientific research. I know what’s happening safely away from the relentless gaze of the Panda’s Thumb.

I’m afraid this is not credible, especially coming from Nelson—look up the term ontogenetic depth to see what I mean. He has a reputation for promising what he never delivers, and for having a very poor understanding of what “research” actually means.

Then we get another common ploy, the ‘senior scientist,’ his name hidden to protect him from some mysterious Darwinian threat—I expect he will become a new staple of the ID crowd, much like the “Chinese scientist” followers of Phillip Johnson milked for years. I read this senior scientist’s remarks, though, and see someone who clearly knows nothing about evolutionary biology.

The problem today for Intelligent Design (ID) is not that of getting out its message. It is getting to where there is a message that justifies the proposed policy of teaching about ID along with Darwinian evolutionary theory in biology classes. The problem is the historical accident that ID came on the scene just as the problems with Darwinian evolutionary theory were becoming evident through modern biology.

Uh, “Darwinian evolutionary theory”? “Darwinian” refers to a specific subset of evolutionary theory. To quote Fisher from 1930, “Natural selection is not evolution,” and I would add, neither is Darwin the whole of evolution. This was plainly stated three score ten and six years ago, and when you find some anonymous quote cited by some creationist that muddles it up, you know the source is not competent in the field.

Now I follow the evolutionary biology literature fairly closely, and I read specifically in those disciplines of “modern biology,” developmental biology and molecular genetics, that are beginning to make major new contributions to evolutionary biology, and when this mystery man says that problems are becoming evident as a result of that work as if it is a flaw in the science, I know he’s full of it. Longstanding problems in evolution are becoming more prominent precisely because these new methods are providing avenues by which they can be addressed. This is the nature of science. At the cutting edge of research, scientists talk loudly and freely about the interesting questions…because we’re seeing ways to answer them. What kind of scientist would see a whole new discipline, evo-devo, rising up to address complex problems in gene regulation, development, and comparative molecular biology, and think that is a sign of a growing weakness in the evolutionary approach?

This researcher then lists genomics, proteomics, and cellular imaging as revolutionary new techniques and strategies that—get this—offer major potential opportunities to IDists.

This exponential growth in capabilities, combined with an increasing use by biologists of a systems biology approach, offers an extraordinary opportunity for ID to make a fresh start to address mainstream biology. ID will in fact be a viable contributor to biology if the major concepts (Irreducible Complexity and Complex Specified Information) can be shown to help biologists in their work. This has not happened yet, but biologists will welcome ID if it does happen.

Here’s another strike against the credibility of this anonymous Wise Man. Irreducible Complexity is a dead issue; it just doesn’t offer any strategies for research (it’s a negative claim that merely asserts that evolution is impossible) and it’s known to be false—ICness isn’t a barrier of any kind. Complex Specified Information is pseudo-mathematical handwaving from Dembski that has no practical application, either; try asking Dembski to calculate this quantity for anything.

Sure, biologists would leap to ID’s claims if they offered any kind of pragmatic edge in getting results. They don’t. In fact, all of the techniques and strategies this mystery man praises are being actively used by biologists, and the results are reinforcing the primacy of evolution as a conceptual framework for understanding biology.

Once again, the claims of the IDists are transparently rotten to the core. This is another example of playing to the uninformed and ignorant, their major constituency, in a way that makes anyone who knows any of the biology involved entirely aware that they’re lying their butts off. This is not the way to build an actual research base.

(via Stranger Fruit)

Comments

  1. #1 Sean Foley
    August 4, 2006

    Now, Discovery actually funds a great deal of primary research — go ahead, snicker…

    Thank you. I believe I shall.

  2. #2 Great White Wonder
    August 4, 2006

    This researcher then lists genomics, proteomics, and cellular imaging as revolutionary new techniques and strategies that–get this–offer major potential opportunities to IDists.

    I think I saw the Virgin Mary in some mitchondrial protoplasm!!!

  3. #3 Great White Wonder
    August 4, 2006

    ID will in fact be a viable contributor to biology if the major concepts (Irreducible Complexity and Complex Specified Information) can be shown to help biologists in their work. This has not happened yet, but biologists will welcome ID if it does happen.

    This is Lying Sal Cordova’s endlessly recited mantra over at the Kornell Kreationist Klub blog. It’s difficult to imagine anything less vapid.

    Yes, [insert impressive name of theory here] will be a viable contributor to biology if the major concepts ([insert technical-sounding bullshit here]) can be shown to help biologists in their work.

    It’s the “if” that is singularly important here. I suppose we should credit skanky Nelson for admitting that those “concepts” are stillborn and rotting on the operating room table as of 2006. That evinces a pathetically low level of honesty and self-awareness that many other ID promoters (Hannah Maxson, Casey Luskin, Sal Cordova) are somehow unable to achieve.

  4. #4 dorkafork
    August 4, 2006

    Monkeys flying out of my butt will in fact be a viable contributor to biology if the major concepts (Monkeys and My Butt) can be shown to help biologists in their work. This has not happened yet, but biologists will welcome it if monkeys fly out of my butt.

  5. #5 Great White Wonder
    August 4, 2006

    Just a quick follow-up: the “plan” of the Discovery Institute shmucks is rather transparent.

    They will keep reciting this script about the The Arrival of ID hinging on ID being “useful” to biologists, because they have heard scientists complain about ID’s vacuity from day one.

    The ID peddlers trick down the road is going to hinge on this term, “useful.” Right now, as we speak, the peddlers are identifying and lining up some “biologists” (and most definitely an engineer and a mathematician or two) to publish some garbage which will include statements relating to how their work was “inspired” by “the design paradigm”.

    And they’ll likely cite statements by careless and verbose biologists who, out of some strange compulsion to play pattycake with the ID peddlers, will make comments to the effect that listening to “design theorists” spout their baloney was “enlightening” and/or “highlighted nuances” in “the issues.”

    And when scientists respond that “this wasn’t what we were talking about when we said that ID needs to be ‘useful’ to scientists,” the ID peddlers will accuse scientists of moving the goalposts.

    Just watch.

  6. #6 QrazyQat
    August 4, 2006

    This has not happened yet, but biologists will welcome it if monkeys fly out of my butt.

    If for no other reason than to be able to call something “butt monkey” without giving offense.

  7. #7 frank
    August 4, 2006

    Back in my satellite operations days I worked the daily operations side of the house for APEX, the Advanced Photovoltaic and Electronics eXperiments. One day I walked into the payload area and one of the experimenters came up to me and said, “My instrument isn’t giving me the numbers I expect.” The average non-scientist or employee of the Discovery Institute would be upset. This guy was thrilled. Sure he would have to do diagnostics on the box to make sure it was working properly, but if it checked out he would be able to publish a paper, give presentations, and so on. It would mean fame, fortune, and girls. Well, it would mean that the next time he asked for funding he’d probably get it.

    I assume that if a real biologist found something that casts doubt on evolution during their research, they’d be all over it, too. It seems to me (as a non-scientist) that being able to replace a major theory like evolution would be their holy grail. The fact that evidence keeps piling up in favor of evolution, and zero against it is a pretty strong indication to me that the Discovery Institute’s dreams of unseating evolution with “an invisible man who lives in the sky did it” in mainstream biology is forever out of reach.

  8. #8 steve s
    August 4, 2006

    While Salvador and his kind will eagerly tell you that ID has destroyed darwinism, Paul Nelson at least admits that ID has not contributed anything. It’s pitiful that his religious beliefs compel him to support it, in hopes of some future success, but in a world of lying Dembskis and delusional Cordovas, perhaps he’s the best ID advocate we can hope for.

  9. #9 BlueIndependent
    August 4, 2006

    This is the best part of the whole thing:

    “…ID will in fact be a viable contributor to biology if the major concepts (Irreducible Complexity and Complex Specified Information) can be shown to help biologists in their work…

    Yes, Irreducible Complexity, a “major” ID concept, will allow plenty of good biologists to advance work in areas they are, by definition, patently incapable of understanding or discovering further.

    This line is hilarious to any brain with two cells to rub together. A concept formulated to tell the user he/she is incapable of producing further, more minute discoveries and deductions on a given test subject, will in fact ADVANCE deductions in that area. Wow. That’s a paradox for the ages.

  10. #10 Keanus
    August 4, 2006

    Successful research in ID is as likely to be realized as the end-of-the-world predictions regularly made by other elements of fundamentalist Christianity.

  11. #11 ferfuracious
    August 4, 2006

    “This has not happened yet, but biologists will welcome it if monkeys fly out of my butt.”

    “If for no other reason than to be able to call something “butt monkey” without giving offense.”

    Stephen King is already lightyears ahead of anyone else in this field, publishing Dreamcatcher in 2001. He describes the ass-weasels, an alien infestation similar to the one in ‘Aliens’ in frightening detail. Instead of ripping their way through their victim’s chest, they come tearing out of their bowels. The scariest part of the whole book is when a character is stuck on the toilet seat, with an ass-weasel trapped in the bowl and fighting to get out.

  12. #12 Tukla in Iowa
    August 4, 2006

    I know what’s happening safely away from the relentless gaze of the Panda’s Thumb.

    Right. Because everyone knows the most successful scientific theories are those that have to be hidden away from critical analysis.

  13. #13 Matt
    August 4, 2006

    So if a Friedman is the unit of time we perpetually wait until things get better in Iraq (equal to 6 months, I believe) what is the “Nelson”, that is, the unit of time that we perpetually wait until we see the results of ID research?

    Five years?

    We’ve waited a full Nelson (at least) for the publication of his dissertation in “Evolutionary Monographs”

    It’s been for about half a Nelson that we’ve been expecting the definition of Ontogenetic Depth.

    Other examples?

  14. #14 Troy Britain
    August 4, 2006

    Paul Nelson at least admits that ID has not contributed anything. It’s pitiful that his religious beliefs compel him to support it, in hopes of some future success, but in a world of lying Dembskis and delusional Cordovas, perhaps he’s the best ID advocate we can hope for.

    Paul might slip up and make an honest statement about ID from time to time, but he is no more to be trusted that the rest of the antievolutionists. See:

  15. #15 Graculus
    August 4, 2006

    If for no other reason than to be able to call something “butt monkey” without giving offense.

    It’s already happened.

    “The Rainbow Butt Monkeys” are a quite popular alt-rock band. You may know them as “Finger Eleven”.

  16. #16 Great White Wonder
    August 4, 2006

    A concept formulated to tell the user he/she is incapable of producing further, more minute discoveries and deductions on a given test subject, will in fact ADVANCE deductions in that area.

    Biologists can use the time they save to concentrate on all those fascinating non-irreducibly complex problems, like “What percentage of a cell is water?”

  17. #17 Ed Darrell
    August 4, 2006

    I know what’s happening safely away from the relentless gaze of the Panda’s Thumb.

    Um, that’s one of the Seven Warning Signs of Crank Science (#6). Better see your ethicist, Paul.

    (See Robert Park’s other warning signs here: http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i21/21b02001.htm)

  18. #18 Scott Hatfield
    August 4, 2006

    GWW:

    I think your comment about IDevotees attempting to make a case for the utility of ID is dead-on. Very perceptive. I’ve been following this for some time. The first hint that such an approach might be tried, I think, occurred when the Reverend Wells published a speculative paper on centrioles in an obscure journal edited by the pseudocreationist Giuseppe Sermonti. You can read that here:

    http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/filesDB-download.php?command=download&id=490

    It’s actually an interesting paper that does not refer to any belief system that I can see, though its hypothesis is plainly motivated by design. But one could just as well ascribe the apparent design to natural selection.

    Less sophisticated are Dembski’s attempts at drawing inferences of design apparently by scanning the abstracts of recently published work, such as this:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/index.php/archives/1343#comments

    Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I think you hit the nail on the head. They are going to attempt to infer their version of design where it was never intended or not explicitly stated, then when we protest, raise the canard of anti-supernatural bias.

    Cheers…SH

  19. #19 Chiefley
    August 5, 2006

    I am the secret scientist. I am currently engaged in ID research in a dark corner of my basement (out of sight of the dangerous PT people.)

    My experiment consists of an empty cardboard box sealed up with duct tape and sitting on a postage scale. Each morning I go down there to record the reading on the scale. ID predicts that at some point in the experiment, The Designer is going to design something and poof it into existence in the same volume of space occupied by my box.

    I am expecting a big jump in the scale reading when that happens. You guys will be the first to know it, I promise.

  20. #20 dale
    August 5, 2006

    I have found that when I have monkeys and cud chewing coneys flying out of my butt I always end up in the psych ward down at the hospital. It’s ok though. They are good people down there.
    I try to tell them that the universe is 14.5 billion years old and they say, “yes mister, and I suppose you have seen some talking snakes too.” and I said, as a matter of fact I have. The lord jesus is always trying to get me to repent. But I don’t because I have a lot more fun when I don’t repent, you know what I mean right?

  21. #21 Patrick
    August 5, 2006

    Not a clue, dale.

  22. #22 CaptainMike
    August 5, 2006

    Graculus: “The Rainbow Butt Monkeys” are a quite popular alt-rock band. You may know them as “Finger Eleven”.

    Hey Graculus, are you from the Hamilton area too?

  23. #23 Rey Fox
    August 5, 2006

    “The Rainbow Butt Monkeys” are a quite popular alt-rock band. You may know them as “Finger Eleven”.

    I’d just gone months without thinking of that “One Thing” song. Now you must die.

  24. #24 Bronze Dog
    August 5, 2006

    This researcher then lists genomics, proteomics, and cellular imaging as revolutionary new techniques and strategies that–get this–offer major potential opportunities to IDists.

    I think they’re taking one of the suggestions I left in a comment somewhere: They’re going to look at grape DNA to see if they can find a tiny, tiny wrench labelled “Property of Bacchus.”

  25. #25 Doozer
    August 5, 2006

    What kind of scientist would see a whole new discipline, evo-devo, rising up to address complex problems in gene regulation, development, and comparative molecular biology, and think that is a sign of a growing weakness in the evolutionary approach?

    An Alchemist?

  26. #26 BlueIndependent
    August 5, 2006

    GWW:
    “Biologists can use the time they save to concentrate on all those fascinating non-irreducibly complex problems, like “What percentage of a cell is water?

    What happens after that then?

    ferfuracious:
    …Stephen King is already lightyears ahead of anyone else in this field, publishing Dreamcatcher in 2001…

    That movie sucked.

  27. #27 Loren Petrich
    August 5, 2006

    I find it especially weird that Paul Nelson is claiming that the Discovery Institute is doing research in secret. Science is supposed to be something public, which makes me wonder about how honest Paul Nelson is.

    If ID is such a superior research program, than the DI ought to have some results to announce by now.

  28. #28 Les Lane
    August 5, 2006

    The rule of thumb in science is that research comes first and conclusions come later. When you begin with conclusions you run the risk that research will not confirm them. If you know the conclusion is right the temptation to fiddle results will eventually become irresistable.

    As far as “secret research” goes, “trolling” seems to fit the bill.

  29. #29 Kagehi
    August 5, 2006

    Well, you have to realize, this “kind” of research comes from the same morons that tried to argue that Groom Lake wasn’t a secret government research facility, even after pages of Russian satallite photos where provided to show that it in fact did exist. The same nit wits that needed to invent a weather baloon to explain Roswell, when anyone who pays the slightest attention to history knows that both the US and Russia aquired materials from a German project to develope suacer shaped fighter aircraft and at least two “likely credible” people have stated that a) the US airforce had built several additional models of them, and one of them even has $@$@#$ photos. Yet, the same morons refuse to admit the projects a) existed or b) might still exist. Showed that recently on the TV. I thought it was seriously funny, given the BS people make up to explain the aircraft they are seeing instead or the constant complaints by “all military contracted” experts that the design “won’t work”.

    Point being… Its the way these kinds of people think. If you are right, you spend years “developing” your super secret project, then when it does the most good, suddenly admit it exists. When you either a) can’t get it to work or b) its too valuable to let anyone know about, you deny it exists at all, make up every ludicrous BS excuse possible for why the facts that leak out are false or people are seeing things, and then pretend that no one has noticed you are lying to them. It helps of course, in the case of UFOs that digital cameras “haven’t” actually made it easier, but if anything harder, to film what your seeing at a distance, so the number of blury, non-military things, that “might” be UFOs has gone up. lol I am sure the Discovery Institute would “love” to have some technology come along that made it “easier” for people to see “design” too.

  30. #30 Heliologue
    August 5, 2006

    Secret research? Is that anything like Nixon’s super-top-secret plan to get us out of Viet Nam?

  31. #31 quork
    August 5, 2006

    Each morning I go down there to record the reading on the scale. ID predicts that at some point in the experiment, The Designer is going to design something and poof it into existence in the same volume of space occupied by my box.

    I do the same experiment, but I use a stocking instead of a cardboard box. I’ve been bad, so usually when something turns up in there, it is a lump of coal.

  32. #32 shiva
    August 5, 2006

    What kind of scientist would see a whole new discipline, evo-devo, rising up to address complex problems in gene regulation, development, and comparative molecular biology, and think that is a sign of a growing weakness in the evolutionary approach?

    Robert Laughlin? http://www.idthefuture.com/2005/04/laughlin_clarifies_his_views_on_evolutio.html

  33. #33 Halo Thane
    August 6, 2006

    Now, Discovery actually funds a great deal of primary research — go ahead, snicker — but those receiving the support and their specific projects have become a very quiet business indeed, and that need for secrecy may continue for a long time.

    and

    I know what’s happening safely away from the relentless gaze of the Panda’s Thumb.

    What is he saying here ? That the results of the research need to be kept secret too. Maybe this is how ID is going to be taught; we did the experiments. We really did. Trust us.

    On the other hand, I can understand why he wants do his experiments in secret. Many potentially ground-breaking experiments in ESP and PK have been ruined because of sceptical observers. PT regulars are such an enormous source of bad vibes against ID, that they could ruin an experiment just by being aware of it, even if they are several continents away from the experiment site.

  34. #34 Ed Darrell
    August 6, 2006

    Ethics.

    It is useful to remind all observers that Charles Darwin’s assigned task, on his around-the-world voyage, was to assemble once and for all the specimens of living things and other evidence necessary to verify the Genesis accounts of creation. When Darwin got the data assembled, however, they told a different story. The test of Darwin’s ethics was whether he’d tell what he found, or fudge the results. He told the truth.

    Now we get to see whether the Discovery Institute research group has the solid ethical foundation that Darwin had. Will they tell the truth about their research results? A lack of publication is tantamount to not telling the truth, for obvious reasons.

  35. #35 Glen Davidson
    August 6, 2006

    Nelson appears to be deliberately equivocating when he states that Discovery funds a great deal of primary research. While I’m not an expert on Discovery’s doings, it is apparent that it does fund a good amount of research, and I’ll assume he’s correct about much of that being primary research.

    The issue is what kind of biological research is being done, and I think we can guess that it is just about zero (one report had it that they are funding one guy who says he’s not really investigating ID). Otherwise, he’d have told us about it, instead of evoking vague requirements for secrecy and conflating Discovery’s research efforts with research into ID.

    If he is among the most honest of IDists, as some have suggested in the past, this would only speak ill of ID’s veracity.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

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