New DI Spin

In the wake of Bruce Chapman's public statement about the double secret probation research allegedly going on at a secret lair on a south pacific island comes this DI press release claiming to have funded millions of dollars worth of research. But notice how vague the wording is:

"So we started the Center, and now, just ten years later, we've put over $4 million directly into scientific and scholarly research on intelligent design and evolution."

"Scientific and scholarly research." Interesting combination of words. The latter category undoubtedly includes the salaries of all the DI fellows, which they would say supports them in their "scholarly research", i.e. in their writing of popular books like Darwin's Black Box, which contains not a shred of actual scientific research. It no doubt includes supporting Jonathan Wells' "research" on Icons of Evolution, which consisted of mining the scientific literature in order to figure out how to distort it so completely that its mama wouldn't recognize it.

This is how the DI defines "scientific and scholarly research". Notice that the press release does not point to a single actual research project. Indeed, the press release says that they've "supported research and writing by more than 50 scientists and scholars in the sciences, social sciences and humanities." So they're almost certainly also counting here the funding they gave to Richard Weikart for writing his book claiming that Darwin led to Hitler. I doubt any reasonable person would consider that "scientific research" on intelligent design.

Since the only actual peer reviewed research paper put out by a DI fellow about any ID concept (Behe and Snoke, 2004) actually proves that (allegedly) irreducibly complex biochemical systems can evolve without intelligent intervention, even when the input factors are skewed strongly against that happening, it seems fairly obvious that combining "scientific and scholarly research" in this manner is a bit like the 12th guy off the Bulls bench saying that he and Michael Jordan combined for 35 points a game; Jordan, of course, had 34.5 of those points.

Where is the actual scientific research that they've supposedly funded? Well I'm sorry, they can't tell you that unless you're in the special room of the treehouse with the magic decoder ring. But trust them, it's coming. You know, like they said that Axe's paper on perturbations was going to blow the doors off evolution, and like when they said that the Behe and Snoke paper was going to be the "nail in the coffin" of evolution.

ID is sounding more and more like one of those 7'5" centers from Bulgaria that an NBA team drafts in the top 5 and they keep talking about what great potential they've got, just you wait and see. The problem is, the guy can barely put one foot in front of the other without tripping and falling. Only in this case, the DI has him working out in secret at a hidden location deep in an underground bunker in Fiji. Somehow I don't think Shaq is quaking in his boots over the prospect, and neither are evolutionary biologists.

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4 million dollars and, as Behe was forced to admin under oath in Dover, not a single published paper supporting scientific evidence for ID.

The DI has become so transparently pathetic someone should help them find real jobs and so they can stop embarrassing themselves.

Skip said:

The DI has become so transparently pathetic someone should help them find real jobs and so they can stop embarrassing themselves.

Why get a real job, when the ID gravy train continues at full speed? To adapt a quote from Dan Ackroyd in the movie Ghostbusters:

"Personally I liked the DI. They gave us money and facilities, we didn't have to produce anything! I've worked in a science lab. They expect results!"

This is biology, right? The question is where is the researcher's lab, and failing that, where is the researcher doing field work? Yeah, a computer scientist can do real research holed up in an attic with a broadband connection. Yeah, a mathematician can do without the broadband connection.

But a biologist? Their research is done either in a lab or outside.

The South Pacific lair makes me think of a Bond villain. I am picturing a Dr. No type volcano lair - or are they under the ocean - preparing to unleash a deadly plague that only effects "darwinists?"

Hmmm.... sounds like something I remember from awhile back... did someone get a nasty boo boo ... you mean those other kids wanted you to play by their rules... you couldn't change the game by yourself... well let's just let them play their game of .... and we'll play our own game of... with our own rules... don't worry if it's just you and me we can have fun without all of those other nasty little children ...

50 scientists and scholars? Wow, I'm impressed. Actually, I am; they really found that many educated people willing to compromise their intellectual integrity for a ride on the gravy train.

By Buffalo Gal (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink

Well, that "scholars" includes lawyers and preachers, so I'm not really impressed with the 50 number.

By MJ Memphis (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink

Question for the actual researchers:

Is four million dollars spent over ten years even a braggable amount? How much actual research would $400,000 a year buy? Even assuming all of that money was being spent on science, that doesn't sound like that much to me.

By Jeff Rients (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink

This makes 400000$/year. In our institute we calculate 15000 to 30000$ just for consumables per postdoc or PhD student plus salaries plus running costs for electricity, water, heating, library etc. Thus, the real costs per scientist are in the range of 70000 to 100000$ per year. Therfore we would have problems to pay more then 4 to 5 scientists with this amount of money. Not included are the setup costs for a lab. With about 100000$ you can only install a small molecular biology lab, good enough to make some PCRs, grow some bacteria and run some gels and a small cell culture lab. If you need some fancy techniques (that indeed are obviously required if you want to disprove all of biology) like FACS, sequencing, DNA arrays, uptodate microscopy, in vivo imaging, bioinformatics, systems biology 4000000$ is nothing, especially if you have to start from the scratch.
To me whole DI statement is abusive since the majority of my colleagues and myself are on fixed term contracts that wouldn't be elongated if we had a scientific output like these ID guys.

If ID were science you'd have some publications.

"We haven't published anything because the mean ol' Darwinists keep kicking us out of labs and strangling our babies!"

Oh, you haven't actually done any research, then. So I guess it isn't science after all.

"No no, we've spent millions of dollars on research!"

If ID were science you'd have some publications.

da capo

By Johnny Vector (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink

Well I'm sorry, they can't tell you that unless you're in the special room of the treehouse with the magic decoder ring.


This one's a keeper.

Do Dembski Web pages count as research? C'mon, give the kids a break, you can't expect as much out of them as you do out of grownups.

Why do I see the guy up in the treehouse with is decoder, working feverishly...




Buy more ovaltine? Son of a bitch, it's a commercial!

By dogmeatIB (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink

So in other words we can separate the DI's research into two categories:

1. "Research" which is released directly to bookstores and pushed on the public with the full force of a publicity campaign
2. "Research" which is so super duper secret we can't tell ANYBODY about it

Don't you think they could find... I don't know... some kind of middle ground?

You guys are so mean to the Discovery Institute!

Just this year they sponsored Radio Advertisements to help Kansans see through the diabolical Darwinian plot.

Radio. Electro-magnetic radiation. That's a scientific word, you know.

And you say they're not doing science. Ha!


I am reminded of the Simpsons.
"Our newspapers contain a certain percent recycled paper."
Lisa: "How much?"
"Zero... zero's a percent!"

"So we started the Center, and now, just ten years later, we've put over $4 million directly into scientific and scholarly research on intelligent design and evolution."

In other words, $4 million into "Scholarly research" and $0 into scientific research is compatible with that statement.

"Financially supported a number of scientific and academic conferences"

Zero is a number, too.

Sparc wrote:
4000000$ is nothing, especially if you have to start from the scratch.

But they wouldn't have to start from scratch, would they? Behe, Minnich, Macosko, Axe etc, they all have/had labs in respectable institutions, which probably also support/ed a large chunk of their (and possibly students') salary via hard money.

The average NIH RO1 grant is probably in the order of $200K/year (not counting overhead, which the DI wouldn't have to pay if they chose not to) for 4 years, sometimes 5. You can do a lot of research with that (especially if you don't go into very high-tech projects or use mammalian systems, which IDists probably wouldn't), and by the end you'd reasonably be expected to have generated at least 3-4 good papers out of it. And RO1s are big grants by comparison - NSF and most private foundations pay significantly less, and still expect results.

I think for $400K/year for 10 years, there should be at least 10 ID bona fide research papers published by now, and many more in the pipeline. Certainly enough to justify funding by federal agencies at this point, if the idea is sound.

This actually makes ID's glaring productivity failure even worse - they had the money, and squandered it.

By Andrea Bottaro (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink

Thanks Skip, you got me thinking... which is always dangerous. I think of the DI researchers as similar to Bill Murray's charater in Ghostbusters. Dr. Venkman is like the DI Dr.s. They should both have quotation marks around the Doctor title, and they both profess to delve into the paranormal, although at least Venkman actually did some research. Granted, Venkman's research goal was just to get laid, but at least he did something. (Picture the ESP testing in the first movie).

The DI's got nothing but marketing, except for their new Super-Secret, cant tell anyone about it Project. I'll bet that's it! Proton Packs, so that they can capture Angels!

St. Michale is going to be one pissed off puppy, so DI had better be careful! Maybe they should stick to scamming another pot of gold from their supporters.

If they've got 50 "scholars" working 10 years supported by $4M, that's $8000/man year. If they took a while to get to 50 "scholars", you know found a reputation and build the institution, let's assume they only averaged 12 full time "scholars" over that decade. That's still a paltry $33,000/man year. That might barely buy a janitor to clean the "labs." Incidentally, it's not been mentioned but a press release today announces a 10th anniversary dinner for the DI ID "research" juggernaut at $100 a head. Anyone want to attend and fund further cutting edge research? I do think Chapman and his minions have been using Orwell as their management guide.

The cheapness of the "research" has been well pointed out, as well as the fact that almost certainly a large chunk of the 4 mil has been expended on useless (in the scientific sense) propaganda.

But one might suppose that some fairly cheap research could possibly be done in a truly new area of science (ignoring for the present the fact that there is nothing new in ID, except for the excuses). What we'd need to know about this purported research is just what is being done, and the bases upon which said research is proceeding. However cryptic they "must be" about who the researchers are, surely they could inform us about the directions being taken, and they could tell us for once just how "true ID research" is even possible.

Also, surely the sorts of persecution "ID researchers" could be told to us. I can even understand how it is that they might not tell us the specifics of these cases, if indeed they do exist. How, though, would it be impossible to give us the gist of the persecutorial trends going on out there? Or is it indeed poor Sternberg all over again?

Most of all, though, I'd return to the question of how ID research is, or can be, conducted? Are they calculating irreducible complexity? Looking for alien creators? Trying to disprove "Darwinism"? And why aren't the deep pockets ponying up large amounts of money to support the next huge breakthrough in biology, the discovery of design and how it can be used to design drugs and transform crops?

We've asked often enough how ID can be used in research. It is impossible to believe that they can't tell us, just because of some alleged (and unsupported) claims of persecution. Or is eliminative induction incapable of giving us a clear roadmap to biological research, just as those nasty persecuting Darwinists claim that it is?

That they never answer these questions demonstrates how bankrupt any alleged research on a shoestring budget simply has to be. We all know that they aren't doing any honest research, at best twisting some rather ordinary research into some alleged "impossibility" of evolution, with no chance of any evidence for design ever being tested. They'd be stupid even to try for evidence in favor of design.

In truth we know that no serious research is being done in ID at all. This is mainly because they have voided all legitimate design predictions, in order to eliminate the possibility of "design" being falsified. And the reason for this is that all serious proposals that organisms were designed in any investigable manner have already been falsified.

Or anyway, IDists, if this is not the case, please set us straight. We have asked for a coherent ID research strategy for many years, and never gotten one. If you want us to believe that serious ID research occurs we will need to know the parameters and standards of that research.

Glen D

I come here a couple of times a week to check out the ID stories, plus a few other places. What jumps out at me (not a scientist, but interested) is that all ID claims and "research" consists of trying to disprove evolution and either not succeeding or outright failing to do so. It's all they can do. Sound and fury, nothing more.

No matter what they spend, it all seems a terrible waste of funds that could be put to better use actually helping people.

Let 'em spend. Anything that they spend on "research" is not available for litigation.

Let's see: Fifty ID researchers, each at a typewriter, hitting 40 keys per second, 24 hours a day for ten years...

It that their goal: To demonstrate that plays from Shakespeare will not be generated in that period?

By Unsympathetic reader (not verified) on 06 Oct 2006 #permalink




Hee hee hee!

We can only hope for anything this coherent.

I think IDiers are carrying out their research in "Lost".

So they've taken 10 years and $4 million (they claim)...and have yet to publish anything.

As long as they're just spending their own money...that's fine with me. But shouldn't they shut up until they DO have something to show? Anything at all?

The Wizard of Oz had more style. Maybe the DI should should take a cue from him and invest in some green curtains and several smoke machines.