Monday, March 31, 2008

Answers in Genesis Gets Expelled.

Dear Discovery Institute,

Today we will be referencing Ben Stein's documentary "Expelled". It is ironic that Answers in Genesis, a Young-Earth Creationist-run website, has posted a review of the documentary, especially since you have worked so hard to distance yourself from self-proclaimed Creationists. Let's look at the review:

"Several weeks ago, the Answers in Genesis (AiG) staff was treated to a viewing of the director’s cut of the already-controversial film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.1 Expected to release April 18, Expelled is a hard-hitting, yet often humorous, documentary that chronicles how Darwin-dissenters have been ruthlessly expelled, or otherwise persecuted, in their professions. It is hosted by the very entertaining civil rights activist/economist/presidential speechwriter/cultural icon (actor and quiz-show host), Ben Stein, whom filmmakers follow as he goes on a personal quest to examine the origins question."

Answers in Genesis merits a special viewing even though you claim to want to distance yourself from so-called Creation Scientists? This is ironic. It seems like you're opening your doors to them. But then again, one of your fellows (Dean Kenyon) appears to have the support of Answers in Genesis to some degree, and also defended the validity of Creation Science in a court case (see my earlier blog discussing this). Something is a bit fishy here.

"In another segment, Michael Shermer, head of the Skeptics Society, described Intelligent Design (ID) as mostly nonsense and would not come to the defense of fellow-evolutionist Sternberg. Shermer bizarrely contends that Sternberg must have done something wrong to have been forced out (even though Shermer admits on camera that he did not know what that might have been).

An hour and thirty minutes later, we watch atheist Dawkins sniff that evolution is a “fact” and “securely” so, and thus dissenters are either not sane or are stupid—or (somewhat more charitably) ignorant. In keeping with the film’s ongoing Cold War metaphors of freedom under attack, Dawkins, earlier in the film, describes the origins debate as a “skirmish” and a “war.”"

What is not mentioned here is the fact that scientists interviewed for this documentary were not told of the nature of the documentary. Therefore, while scientists such as Richard Dawkins were interviewed for this film, they were not told that the film was a defense of Intelligent Design, but rather that was an attempt to equally portray both sides of the debate. What is telling about this is the fact that Dawkins had to sneak into the film in order to actually see it, which immediately leads one to question the accuracy/honesty of the film makers.,2394,Lying-for-Jesus,Richard-Dawkins

"At film’s end, Dawkins makes a remarkable concession—probably jaw-dropping for those who have read his books or watched his media interviews. When pressed by Stein, Dawkins allows for the possibility that life’s apparent design could have been produced by intelligent beings elsewhere in the universe—who themselves had evolved and then brought life here! "

This is not remarkable to anyone familiar to Dawkins' work. Richard Dawkins often makes the claim that life could have been created by intelligent aliens, then goes on to explain that this is not science because it only shifts the question of causality instead of attempting to answer it. This is a beautiful example of misquotation on the part of either the Discovery Institute/Ben Stein or Answers in Genesis.

"In the second half of the film, Expelled settles into a very serious tone, especially in those scenes when Stein visits World War II death camps and explores the connection between the Nazi worldview and Darwinian thinking. Stein is brilliant in these scenes as he goes with the flow of the story as it unfolds in front of him and as he carefully listens to the answers he receives—and then follows up with penetrating questions. He is obviously not working from a tight script."

Here it is. This is the commonly used Creationist tactic of claiming that Darwinian theory is responsible for Hitler's racist policies. This statement ignores the fact that Hitler used a massively twisted version of Darwinian evolution in an attempt to support his ideas (a version that is not accepted by mainstream scientists), and also the fact that Hitler also used Bible passages to give legitimacy to his cause. This shows that the Discovery Institute/Ben Stein, much like Answers in Genesis, have not done their historical research here.

"Expelled asks the question often posed by creation scientists: where does the new genetic information come from as a mechanism to drive molecules-to-man evolution? Natural selection cannot explain the rise of new genetic information."

So there is at least some connection, even though Answers in Genesis does not agree with all of Intelligent is a statement where the connection between Intelligent Design and Creationism slips through the cracks and is thus visible.

"AiG has not been sanguine about elements of the intelligent design movement and some of its well-intentioned activists. But having watched the movie twice now, we note that the film is not about trying to push ID on society, much less argue that ID should be mandated in schools (which AiG would not support).7 Also, the film makes it clear that the ID movement is not a Christian one (although many evangelicals are part of it). More than anything, the documentary seeks to expose the ruthlessness of radical atheists and evolutionists and their attempt to erode freedom in order to protect their own worldview. In its goal, Expelled has marvelously succeeded."

Here, we see Answers in Genesis arguing that they don't accept Intelligent Design in its entirity. However, Answers in Genesis appears to agree with at least some of the tenets of Intelligent Design, and also supports the goals of this film.

Now, the question is whether this showcases a tie between Creation Science and Intelligent Design. On its own, the viewing of Expelled by Answers in Genesis could be seen as an attempt to pick up on alternative perspectives for the film. However, both the fact that mainstream scientists such as Richard Dawkins had to sneak into a showing of the film to have a chance to view a film that they themselves were interviewed in raises questions about the legitimacy of the film. The connections between Creation Science and Intelligent Design already present within these blogs also bolsters the link between the Creationist movement and the ID movement. While this document does not prove that Creationism and Intelligent Design are linked, as another piece of evidence to add to our wedge attacking the claim that ID is not Creationism, it serves to streghten the proofs presented thus far.

Friday, March 28, 2008

peer reviewed ID publications?

Dear Discovery Institute,

Today we will be considering the validity of your claim that there is a strong base of peer-reviewed articles and books on Intelligent Design. The articles in question will be taken directly from your website ( ). The following question will be raised: do these publications truly qualify as peer-reviewed works in a valid sense (ie. a peer review system that doesn't include ID merely because it is ID, but rather on it's scientific merits?)/

The first questionable articles are those published in "Darwinism, Design, & Public Education, edited by John Angus Campbell and Stephen C. Meyer" (from your site). The fact that Meyer is both an editor of the book and also a major player in the internal politics of the Discovery Institute, it is apparent that there would, of course, be papers supportive of Intelligent Design included in this book. Therefore, it is not possible to consider this work an independent scientific publication due to the fact that ID is essentially guaranteed inclusion in the text with little or no regards to the validity of ID as a "science". Other ID-based or ID/evolution debate-based conference and journal publications are also removed with this group.

Removal of those sources strongly cuts down the base of "peer-reviewed" journal articles listed on your site. We will continue by removing "peer-reviewed" books, especially those that are either edited by strong ID proponents or attempting to cover both ID and evolution. While books may have valid information in them, the fact is that they are not required to be scientifically accurate, and thus are not admissible for consideration as scientific publication under our qualifications in this blog. This once again severly cuts down the list of so-called "peer-reviewed" publications.

Now we can begin to look at the scientific papers left. The first step in this process is to remove the journal articles that have been listed multiple times on your database (ie. multiple listings for single articles...almost seems like you're trying to make it look like you have more articles than you do...). Then we can begin looking at these papers (quotes taken from listed site unless stated otherwise:

"M.J. Behe and D.W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues,” Protein Science, 13 (2004): 2651-2664.
In this article, Behe and Snoke show how difficult it is for unguided evolutionary processes to take existing protein structures and add novel proteins whose interface compatibility is such that they could combine functionally with the original proteins. By demonstrating inherent limitations to unguided evolutionary processes, this work gives indirect scientific support to intelligent design and bolsters Behe’s case for intelligent design in answer to some of his critics. "

"Indirect scientific support" does not qualify as a scientific article on Intelligent Design. Nice try, but the ID movement needs to do more than this if they hope to gain scientific validity. We will now remove all articles providing only "indirect scientific support" for ID from our list.

The following article is introduced as if it provides a compelling peer-reviewed article supportive of ID, implying that ID has actually gotten through the peer-review process:

"D. A. Axe, “Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds,” Journal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 341 (2004): 1295–1315.
This experimental study found that functional protein folds are extremely rare, finding that, “roughly one in 1064 signature-consistent sequences forms a working domain” and that the “overall prevalence of sequences performing a specific function by any domain-sized fold may be as low as 1 in 1077.” Axe concludes that “functional folds require highly extraordinary sequences.” Since Darwinian evolution only preserves biological structures which confer a functional advantage, this indicates it would be very difficult for such a blind mechanism to produce functional protein folds. This research also shows that there are high levels of specified complexity in enzymes, a hallmark indicator of intelligent design. Axe himself has confirmed that this study adds to the evidence for intelligent design: "In the 2004 paper I reported experimental data used to put a number on the rarity of sequences expected to form working enzymes. The reported figure is less than one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. Again, yes, this finding does seem to call into question the adequacy of chance, and that certainly adds to the case for intelligent design." See Scientist Says His Peer-Reviewed Research in the Journal of Molecular Biology "Adds to the Case for Intelligent Design".

However, here it looks as if the author himself is stating that the article does not provide direct support for ID:

" concluded in the 2000 JMB paper that enzymatic catalysis entails "severe sequence constraints". The more severe these constraints are, the less likely it is that they can be met by chance. So, yes, that finding is very relevant to the question of the adequacy of chance, which is very relevant to the case for design. In the 2004 paper I reported experimental data used to put a number on the rarity of sequences expected to form working enzymes. The reported figure is less than one in a trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion trillion. Again, yes, this finding does seem to call into question the adequacy of chance, and that certainly adds to the case for intelligent design. " ( )

Here's another indirect article. Although the ID term "complex specified information" is used in description, this paper is still not a pure ID-supportive paper that has made it through peer-review:

"D.K.Y. Chiu & T.H. Lui, “Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis,” International Journal of Fuzzy Systems, 4(3) (September 2002): 766-775.
The opening paragraph of this article reads: Detection of complex specified information is introduced to infer unknown underlying causes for observed patterns. By complex information, it refers to information obtained from observed pattern or patterns that are highly improbable by random chance alone. We evaluate here the complex pattern corresponding to multiple observations of statistical interdependency such that they all deviate significantly from the prior or null hypothesis. Such multiple interdependent patterns when consistently observed can be a powerful indication of common underlying causes. That is, detection of significant multiple interdependent patterns in a consistent way can lead to the discovery of possible new or hidden knowledge.” "

Lets keep looking! Here's a math-based publication:

Ø. A. Voie, "Biological function and the genetic code are interdependent," Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, Vol 28(4) (2006): 1000-1004.
In this article, Norwegian scientist Øyvind Albert Voie examines an implication of Gödel’s incompleteness theorem for theories about the origin of life. Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem states that certain true statements within a formal system are unprovable from the axioms of the formal system. Voie then argues that the information processing system in the cell constitutes a kind of formal system because it “expresses both function and sign systems.” As such, by Gödel’s theorem it possesses many properties that are not deducible from the axioms which underlie the formal system, in this case, the laws of nature. He cites Michael Polanyi’s seminal essay, Life’s Irreducible Structure, in support of this claim. As Polanyi put it, “the structure of life is a set of boundary conditions that harness the laws of physics and chemistry their (the boundary condition's) structure cannot be defined in terms of the laws that they harness.” As he further explained, “As the arrangement of a printed page is extraneous to the chemistry of the printed page, so is the base sequence in a DNA molecule extraneous to the chemical forces at work in the DNA molecule.” Like Polanyi, Voie argues that the information and function of DNA and the cellular replication machinery must originate from a source that transcends physics and chemistry. In particular, since as Voie argues, “chance and necessity cannot explain sign systems, meaning, purpose, and goals,” and since “mind possesses other properties that do not have these limitations,” it is “therefore very natural that many scientists believe that life is rather a subsystem of some Mind greater than humans.”"

Looks promising at first glance. However, once the paper is looked at, it doesn't seem to argue in favor of ID. Here's the abstract and conclusion for the paper:

"Life never ceases to astonish scientists as its secrets are more and more revealed. In particular the origin of life remains a mystery. One wonders how the scientific community could unravel a one-time past-tense event with such low probability. This paper shows that there are logical reasons for this problem. Life expresses both function and sign systems. This parallels the logically necessary symbolic self-referring structure in self-reproducing systems. Due to the abstract realm of function and sign systems, life is not a subsystem of natural laws. This suggests that our reason is limited in respect to solve the problem of the origin of life and that we are left taking life as an axiom...

Subsystems of the mind as functional objects or formal systems are unique in respect to other phenomena that follows the laws of nature and are subsystems of the universe. Life express both function and sign systems, which indicates that it is not a subsystem of the universe, since chance and necessity cannot explain sign systems, meaning, purpose, and goals [26]. Quite contrary, the human mind possesses other properties that do not have these limitations, the property of creativity with ability to create through choice with intent. This choice doesn’t violate any laws. It merely uses dynamically inert configurable switches to record into physicality the nonphysical choices of mind. It is therefore very natural that many scientists believe that life is rather a subsystem of some Mind greater than humans or symbolic number cruncher referred to by [25]. At least as observers we are left taking life as an axiom as Nils Bohr suggested in a lecture published in Nature [27] “life is consistent with, but undecidable from physics and chemistry” [19]."

While this article appears, at first, to support ID, a close read of the article shows that it, in fact, does not. Hypothetical mathematical arguments are employed to give an idea of complexity to the origin of life. However, science has shown us time and time again that mathematical probability arguments are often misguided. The following site also shows us more rebuttals of ID peer-review claims:

The only articles left are either exceedingly difficult to access or continue to employ the same type of logic discussed above. If ID was a valid scientific entity, however, one would expect common, easily accessible, staunchly pro-ID papers published in mainstream journals such as Science or Nature rather than a few papers supposedly in support of ID that yet never seem to imply that ID is the cause behind these papers in obscure journals (for the most part). Publications in books put together by ID advocates or authors attempting to cover the ID movement and evolutionary theory do not count as independent peer-reviewed articles due to the fact that at least some pro-ID papers are guaranteed publication in these works by default. Somehow, the fact that the Discovery Institute repeats the listing of multiple articles multiple times on this list, as well as the fact that most of these publications are published specifically in bodies that are meant by nature to include ID theory publications, leads me to wonder about the validity of the Discovery Institute's claims. What is especially telling is the fact that many of the papers that the ID movement use for support don't even involve ID within the pagese of the papers involved. It seems like Discovery Institute is fishing for any possible citation in an attempt to buy credibility for their pet theory.