The Discovery Institute: Still Dishonest about Peer Review

The DI has, predictably, issued a press release spinning yesterday's announcement from the board of the Biological Society of Washington. Also predictably, it contains several misrepresentations. That's what you have to do when the facts are against you, so it's hardly a surprise. The distortions being with the very first sentence:

For the past few years the Darwinian lobbyists at the National Center for Science Education (NSCE) have falsely complained that scientists who support the theory of intelligent design don't publish peer-reviewed articles and don't make their case at scientific conferences.

Bzzt. False. The NCSE has rightly complained that scientists who support ID don't published any research that supports ID or even an actual model of ID that might be able to spawn any research in any peer-reviewed journals (or anywhere else for that matter). That is not the same thing. No one has ever denied that supporters of ID have published in the scientific literature. Michael Behe, Douglas Axe, Henry Shaefer and other ID advocates have published lots and lots of articles, but not one of them actually mentions or supports ID (though Behe just did publish an article that could be construed that way in Protein Science, but it doesn't attempt to make the case for ID). When challenged over the last few years to produce some actual articles that support ID, they have instead pointed to articles not about ID but written by ID advocates. This is a constant equivocation on their part, so it's no surprise to see them building this straw man for 10,000th time.

"Until a few days ago," says Dr. Stephen Meyer, "Darwinists have argued that intelligent design isn't science because it hasn't been published in peer-reviewed journals. But now that an increasing number of scientists are making their case for design in scientific publications, Darwinists are ready to disown peer-review--temporarily, I'm sure."

Another quote, another straw man. No one has ever argued that because it hasn't been published in peer-reviewed journals it "isn't science". The argument, rather, has been that ID was simply irrelevant because nothing supporting had actually been published. It may "be science" and still not be good science, or still not be well supported. Lots of ideas can be stated in a scientific manner but still be completely unsupported. And the ID crowd still has yet to actually publish any positive research (everything they publish is only intended to show the insufficency of evolutionary mechanisms), or even a coherent model of ID from which testable hypotheses could be derived to prompt such research. They finally managed to get a review article published that contained no original research and was merely a repeat of already discredited negative claims about evolution, and even THAT article apparently had to be snuck in the back door by a friendly editor violating the publishing procedures of the journal.

As for the notion that an "increasing number of scientists are making the case for design in scientific publications", this is simply a lie. One scientist, Meyer, has made the case for design, with no actual research to report, in one journal in violation of its own review procedures. Year after year, we keep hearing about these hordes of scientists converting to ID, yet year after year we just keep hearing from the same old scientists publishing the same old claims, without a shred of actual research that supports ID, or even a model that could be supported by research if it was done.

A lot is made of the question of whether ID is creationism, but one thing can be said for traditional creationists over IDers - at least they have a model that can be tested. The young earthers will at least specify what they think happened, when it happened and how it happened, statements that can be tested against the evidence (it fails those tests, of course, but at least it IS testable). The IDers, on the other hand, simply refuse to actually give us a model of the natural history of the earth that can be compared to the evidence. Behe says he accepts common descent, but also that some features at the molecular level must have been placed there by God intentionally. So apparently life evolves, but requires intervention, but they can't say when or where or how. In other words, there's nothing testable to it.

The only argument they can make is "not x, therefore y" - "evolution can't explain this, so God must have done it". But that argument has been made throughout history and turned out to be false, and it could continue to be made in any number of areas without validity. We can't explain every single facet of the behavior of hurricanes; that doesn't mean that God controls the weather and decides whose homes will be destroyed and whose will not. We can't explain every single facet of the behavior of micro-organisms; that doesn't mean we should believe that God decides who gets sick and dies and who doesn't.

There are lots of things we can't explain yet, but if we stop with "and therefore God must do that", all research stops. This is classic god of the gaps reasoning - if we can't explain it yet, God must have done it. But the history of science shows that this argument has always been overcome by actual research. It has never been compelling for very long. And it's not now.

More like this

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…
Lawrence VanDyke has left a comment below, which I would like to bring up here to address in more detail. Lawrence wrote:I left out the "in support of ID" because I assumed that much was obvious in context. You make it sound like I was trying to make Leiter say ID proponents haven't published any…
Crux magazine is a new publication with a virtual who's who of ID advocates as contributors and editors. It also has three blogs associated with it, with contributions from those same people. While declaring itself the "last bastion of Truth" (yes, they even capitalized it), their contributors seem…
It seems the Worldnutdaily has taken notice of my side project blog, The Panda's Thumb. In an article entitled Anti-evolution paper met with 'hysteria, name-calling', the most consistently wrong news source this side of Pravda has a link to us. A little background is probably necessary. Steven…

Ed, you mentioned "One scientist, Meyer, has made the case for design, with no actual research to report, in one journal in violation of its own review procedures." Meyer actually isn't even a scientist. As I recall, his Ph.D. is in history and philosophy of science. That's a very different animal.


The only argument they can make is "not x, therefore y" - "evolution can't explain this, so God must have done it".

And when called upon to offer proof for "therefore y," the all-too-common reply is "you prove not y" or (another of my all-time favorites) "because God says so." Then the following week, in WorldNutDaily or some similar forum, there appears a headline: "Evolutionists Cannot Deny God!" Then we hang out here at Ed's blog, scratching our heads and saying "What the f--- was THAT???"

A little faith, mixed with a healthy willingness to engage in outright intellectual dishonesty, has taken some IDers a long way.


"A little faith, mixed with a healthy willingness to engage in outright intellectual dishonesty, has taken some IDers a long way."

Yeah. And the hell of it is that religion ends up with a black eye.

As a religious person, that really pisses me off!

By Guitar Eddie (not verified) on 08 Sep 2004 #permalink

Sadly, it isn't the scientists they care to convert. Scientists can immediately see through the veiled half truths and spin. They simply want to be able to use it in their attempt to further the business of christianity. It's amazing how people can rationalise even the most dishonest acts (how many of the professional ID'ers really believe in ID?), lieing through their teeth just because it's in the name of god.
Man I hate religion (with apologies to non-atheists in this thread). The way these ID/DI Christians manipulate their own followers is sickening.

From the post

>There are lots of things we can't explain yet

(emphasis added)

JTPO (just to point out), if you phrase it like this, you have let them win the discussion.

"There are a lot of things that we have not yet been able to explain" would be much better. Not only is it more accurate, but also, instead of conceding the "can't explain" part (the "can't" would be heard, but the "yet" at the end would fall on deaf ears), the alternate phrasing suggests an optimisim that we will eventually be able to explain phenomena for which we currently have no explanation. (BTW, while writing this comment, I originally wrote "phenomena we can't explain now," but I caught myself. The "can't" word is verboten.)

BTW, I'm not sure who the ID advocates think they are kidding. If their purported "intelligent designer" isn't "God," who or what is it? Q from the Q-continuum? If that's the case, how is that supposed to be distinguished from "God"? Because it's Q? GMAB (give me a break).