Cool — I’ve been written up in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It’s a good story by a journalist, Tom Paulson, who I just met this week, and who seems to know what’s up in the area. I’ve already had a relative call up and say she’s glad I’m famous, so it’s all just in time for the family reunion tomorrow — everyone will be prepared to take me down a peg and make sure I’m not too cocky.
Since I did say a few things about the Discovery Institute, he called them up and got their side of the story. This part is the typical creationist sidestep.
Not so, said John West, associate director of the institute’s center for science and culture. Intelligent design allows for the possibility of some kind of ultimate intelligence behind everything, West said, but their research “doesn’t start from a religious premise.” He rejected Myers’ contention that they are “creationists.”
West noted that one of their scientists, Douglas Axe at the affiliated Biologic Institute in Redmond, just this week had an article describing his computer simulation of protein evolution published in the prestigious online science journal, the Public Library of Science.
“We’re not proposing the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook,” West said. “We just think science and religion are friends, not enemies.”
Where to start?
ID doesn’t just allow for the “possibility” of an ultimate intelligence, it is their fundamental premise. Read the very first sentence of the Wedge document: “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built.” It declares that their goal is the “overthrow of materialism” and that they want to re-open the “case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.”
They are insulting our intelligence when they claim that they are not creationists. Of course they are. You have to be blind, stupid, or a dishonest scoundrel to say otherwise.
I never claimed that they were using the book of Genesis as a scientific textbook; however, their base, the people who are going rah-rah and trying to use ID as an angle to sneak their ideology in the public schools, would like nothing less. ID is a façade of pseudo-secularism erected to cloak the religious goals of their organization. If you followed the Dover trial exposed that plainly; there’s a reason we laugh and call these bozos “cdesign proponentsists“.
And of course West would bring up the recent PLoS paper — it’s an excellent example of their new attempts to patch up their secular cloak.
The paper is called Stylus: A System for Evolutionary Experimentation Based on a Protein/Proteome Model with Non-Arbitrary Functional Constraints. It’s a description of a new software package written by the secret Biologic Institute, which they argue will have utility in modeling protein evolution. The paper says absolutely nothing about Intelligent Design, makes no arguments against evolution, and is utterly untroubling to evolutionary theory, and it’s clear that the way they got it published was by studiously avoiding the kinds of stupid statements that are the hallmark of the Discovery Institute. It’s useful cover for them: they will now be announcing at every opportunity that they do too do science, and they deserve a cookie … hoping that the luster of a publication that does not address their core assertions at all can be redirected to put a little shine on the tawdry crap they advance elsewhere.
It’s actually not a bad paper, with an interesting idea at its center. They have designed an evolution simulator built on an analogy, that protein shape can be compared to the shape of Chinese characters. The virtue of the plan is that they can associate a complex morphology with an unambiguous functional criterion, its similarity to a representation in the vector world of of a Han character. It’s a clever idea, but the paper really doesn’t do anything with it yet, except propose it and make arguments for some similarities with natural processes. OK. Now if only I could trust the authors not to twist it in bizarre directions in the future, knowing that few of their critics will have bothered to plumb the arcana of their software, or that they know that all they have to do is claim that they’ve got some observation that disproves some facet of evolution, which will require that some people be distracted from real biology to address it.
Wesley already has some criticisms. I haven’t read it carefully enough to offer my own (I’m on vacation, dangit!), but I do have some general doubts…and suspect that if it works well at emulating biology, it won’t be supporting the scientific claims of Intelligent Design creationists, anyway. But no matter its successes, it is already being used by the Discovery Institute as a political tool to prop up their sham operation.