our way or the Highway

Posted: May 8, 2007 in Intelligent Design, Theo/Philo

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The Author Michael Crichton regarding consensus science:

“It is an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.”

This attitude is most easily seen in the peer review process, Mitchell J. Feigenbaum (inventor of chaos theory) writes of his experience which is not an uncommon occurrence, he says:

‘Both papers were rejected, the first after a half-year delay. By then, in 1977, over a thousand copies of the first preprint had been shipped. This has been my full experience. Papers on established subjects are immediately accepted. Every novel paper of mine, without exception has been rejected by the refereeing process. The reader can easily gather that I regard this entire process as a false guardian and wastefully dishonest.’

Peer review is used increasingly as a gatekeeper, rather than the role of scrutinising papers for quality assurance in terms of honesty and accuracy, it has been, and can be used to maintain the status quo; as such it is acting as a show stopper that maintains the consensus at the expense of research and development. Intelligent design is one such area where papers in support of the theory are seldom seen in front line journals, or in fact any journals as they lie outside of the consensus.

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Comments
  1. Ed Darrell says:

    But it would be error to think that intelligent design papers are not published because they are oppressed or suppressed. Quite the opposite: 100% of all intelligent design papers have been published in science journals.

    The problem is that there are very few of them. There are so few papers because there is no research program operating in ID, and so little to publish. There is no research program because ID is sterile as a scientific inquiry, offering no useful insights into nature, providing no useful avenues for research, closing off the seeking of knowledge with an authoritarian ‘God did it, shut up your questions!’

    This issue has been litigated in federal court on more than one occasion. Challenged to bring to the courts the evidence of any research into ID that has been suppressed, ID advocates have been utterly and totally unable to cite any such case. The courts have dismissed these claims as false.

  2. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Ed,
    cheers for the posts, again its going to take a bit of time to reply to all ,so bear with me.
    You said :
    ‘But it would be error to think that intelligent design papers are not published because they are oppressed or suppressed. Quite the opposite: 100% of all intelligent design papers have been published in science journals. ‘

    I disagree, scientists who seek to look at the question of design as a state which can be detected empirically, have been under pressure in one form or another,from established institutions and individuals to refrain from publishing and promoting IDT.
    The most obvious case is outlined in the report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform regarding the persecution of Dr Richard Sternberg .
    Details below:
    http://www.souder.house.gov/sitedirector/~files/IntoleranceandthePoliticizationofScienceattheSmithsonian.pdf

    More recently there is the sad denial of tenure to Dr Guilllermo Gonzalez, a scientist who has 3 papers which exceed 100 citations each,also a supporter of Id and joint author of ‘The Privileged planet’,it looks increasingly that his denial of tenure is down to his affiliations .
    Of Dr Guilllermo Gonzalez denial of tenure Dr. John G. West says:
    “The denial of tenure is all the more incredible given the fact that Dr. Gonzalez exceeds by 350% the number of peer-reviewed journal publications required by his department to meet its standard of excellence in research.”

    I would concede that Intelligent design theory needs time to develop,peer review is currently limited not because IDT is lacking in coherency or merit but because it represents a paradigm shift that many are not willing to see happen.
    Another problem with IDT is its implications,(whatever has been designed must have a designer) the false association promoted by opponents that IDT is akin to creationism and the use of IDT as apologetics have served to underline in the minds of peer review panels and the scientific community at large that IDT is outside the scope of empirical investigation and so must be rejected.
    I cannot comment on your assertion that 100% of ID papers are published, I have no idea how many papers are written and not published-where did you get that information from ?

    Ed you said:
    ‘The problem is that there are very few of them. There are so few papers because there is no research program operating in ID, and so little to publish. There is no research program because ID is sterile as a scientific inquiry, offering no useful insights into nature, providing no useful avenues for research, closing off the seeking of knowledge with an authoritarian ‘God did it, shut up your questions!’

    Your right Ed, Intelligent design theory is lacking in explicit research papers ,its a problem.
    Regarding the sterility of design detection as a mode of scientific inquiry I doubt it is as barren as you make out. Fields such as archaeology, forensics would be almost non existent without the means to detect and infer design.

  3. Ed Darrell says:

    Don’t get too deep into the “report from the U.S. House of Representatives.” You’ve been hoaxed just a bit.

    It’s a staff paper from an ID-friendly staffer to an ID-friendly congressman. It’s factually wrong, and it’s an ethical disaster (staffers and congressmen are rarely called to task for such stuff, but this violates several rules of the House, plus its slanderous).

    More to the point, Dr. Sternberg has had no threats made to him on any ground — this was litigated in Dover, by the way, and the defendants could offer zero evidence that anything at all happened to Sternberg — and his career has flourished. If you wish to offer an example, you should offer an example of someone who does research who didn’t have it published, not somebody who bent the rules of science in order to publish one of the two ID papers ever done. Sternberg published 50% of all the ID papers ever published. There simply is nothing to ID.

    Gonzalez is an interesting example, but its false to blame it on ID. In the past decade three other astronomers have been denied tenure at Iowa State, none of them ID advocates. If you’re wishing to use that as evidence of pressure, note that your example offers three times as much pressure on the non-ID advocates as on ID advocates. So your example fails. We don’t know why Gonzalez was denied tenure — such decisions are generally not publicized a lot — and he has his case on appeal. But there was a piece in the Cedar Rapids newspaper in the past couple of days that points out Gonzalez has apparently not brought in a single project in 11 years, while people getting tenure should be bringing in several sizable projects over that time, or a few enormous projects.

    In any case, Gonzalez has never had any papers refused for publication. So again, the facts falsify your claim that there is bias against ID in science publications. IF Gonzalez ever wrote something on ID, it was published. NOTA BENE here that Gonzalez is not a biologist, and none of his publications offers an iota of support for intelligent design in biology, nor does any of them raise the slightest issue of any problem with evolution.

    Where do I get my information on published papers? From the court documents, in McLean v. Arkansas and in Kitzmiller v. Dover Board of Education. There are other sources, too — I’ve interviewed Behe and had e-mail exchanges, and there is the study published by NCSE based on surveys of major journals since 1982. The canard that there is bias is an old one, a lie told often by creationists, debunked whenever we get them under oath.

    ID ‘needs time to develop?’ Poppycock. Einstein’s five great papers were published in 1905, after about five years of work. The first experimental confirmation of gravity bending light, confirming Einstein’s hypothesis, occurred during an eclipse of the Sun in 1919. That’s 14 years from publication to confirmation, on one of the greatest theories in the history of science.

    In contrast, ID was first proposed (as a replacement for the word “creationism” actually) in 1989. In the past 18 years, no one has offered any hypothesis for intelligent design, nor proposed any way of testing for it. 14 years proposal to confirmation for Einstein and gravity, 18 years not yet leading to a proposal let alone a confirmation for ID. We’ve had enough time, and ID has proven sterile.

    You know, there are about 10,000 papers published in science journals annually that confirm and advance evolution theory. Since 1989, that means there have been about 180,000 such papers on evolution, and two papers on ID. Intelligent design can’t even figure out what it’s supposed to be, let alone propose a hypothesis and conduct a search for evidence.

    ID advocates reject the methods of archaeology and forensics, so it’s rather pointless of you to bring them up — but the tests for design used in those sciences deny ID unequivocally, across the board, and completely. In forensics, we compare natural causes to human causes, to determine what could not be accidental. ID claims that anything that occurs is not accidental, but offers no method for distinguishing accident from non-accident.

    ID is sterile as a science pursuit, and it leads otherwise good people to make wacky, unwise, and dishonest claims. That makes it quite the opposite of both archaeology and forensics, or any other science.

  4. Mike Godfrey says:

    Hi Ed,
    thanks for the reply.
    Regarding the house of representatives report on Dr Richard Steinberg,its a bit worrying if a paper can be published under this elected body and be shot through with errors such that its premise is without any factual basis whatsoever!
    This report doesn’t just rely on opinion but opts for an evidence based approach:

    ‘In emails exchanged during August and September 2004, NMNH officials revealed their intent to use their government jobs to discriminate against scientists based on their outside activities regarding evolution. For example, Dr. Hans Sues, Associate Director for Research and Collections, suggested in emails on August 30, 2004, and again on September 9, 2004, that Dr. Sternberg would never have been appointed as an RA if Smithsonian officials had known about his non-governmental activities regarding evolution…Dr. Sues saying that he was considering hinting to Dr. Sternberg that he should “entirely desist or resign his appointment…Dr. Ferrari and Dr. Sues discussed the Smithsonian’s procedures for hiring and firing a Research Associate and how Dr. Sternberg was approved for his RA position. Sues lamented that “The Sternberg situation could not have been prevented by senior management because his CV looks credible and does not reveal his interactions with the creationist movement…Similarly, in an email on September 9, Dr. Sues blamed the scientist who nominated Sternberg as a Research Associate for not adequately investigating his background. “Sternberg is a well-established figure in anti-evolution circles, and a simple Google search would have exposed these connections.”
    In October, Dr. Coddington told Dr. Sternberg to give up his office and turn in his keys to the entire area, thus denying him access to materials he needs for his research. Dr. Sternberg was also assigned to the close oversight of a curator with whom he had professional disagreements unrelated to evolution. “I’m going to be straightforward with you,” said Dr. Coddington, according to the complaint. “Yes, you are being singled out.”
    From the wall street journal :
    Meanwhile, the chairman of the Zoology Department, Jonathan Coddington, called Mr. Sternberg’s supervisor. According to Mr. Sternberg’s OSC complaint: “First, he asked whether Sternberg was a religious fundamentalist. She told him no. Coddington then asked if Sternberg was affiliated with or belonged to any religious organization. . . . He then asked where Sternberg stood politically; . . . he asked, ‘Is he a right-winger? What is his political affiliation?’ ” The supervisor (who did not return my phone messages) recounted the conversation to Mr. Sternberg, who also quotes her observing: “There are Christians here, but they keep their heads down.”
    There are other examples,if you need them.
    Dr Steinberg is not mute he speaks for himself at his website http://www.rsternberg.net/
    Are you suggesting Ed, that the email traffic detailed in the report is made up and the actions Dr Steinberg details in his web site are untrue? If so, what evidence do you have?
    I don’t deny that Dr Steinbergs career has flourished,he was however intimidated, as he says:

    1.Efforts to remove me from the Museum.
    2.Efforts to get NIH to fire me.
    3.Smeared with false allegations.
    4.Pressured to reveal peer reviewers and to engage in improper peer review.
    5.Creation of hostile work environment. Inc. Supervisor replaced, office space changes.
    6.Unprecedented work requirements.
    7.Access to specimens limited.

    Ed you say:
    ‘f you wish to offer an example, you should offer an example of someone who does research who didn’t have it published, not somebody who bent the rules of science in order to publish one of the two ID papers ever done.’

    How were the rules bent? This is a peer reviewed paper ,that is it passed peer review so how were the rules bent ?

    Regarding Guillermo Gonzalez you say:
    ‘but its false to blame it on ID. In the past decade three other astronomers have been denied tenure at Iowa State, none of them ID advocates. ‘

    I ‘m not comparing Guillermo Gonzalez’s case with others who have lost tenure -there are reasons why I believe according to what has been released on the web, that tenure denial in this circumstance is down to discrimination against those supporting IDT.
    The DI provides a quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education :
    Mr. Gonzalez’s publication record, however, does list 21 papers since 2002, many in top journals. “It looks to me like discrimination,” said one astronomer, who did not want to be named, fearing a backlash for speaking up in favor of an intelligent-design proponent. “They can’t say that he doesn’t have a decent publication record, because he absolutely does,” said the astronomer of Mr. Gonzalez’s scholarship.
    As Mike Gene at TT says, why would this unnamed astronomer want to remain unnamed and be afraid of a backlash?
    Also another subtle form of intimidation :

    ‘In August, Avalos co-authored a statement signed by more than 120 faculty at ISU denouncing intelligent design as a science. Earlier this week, nearly 120 UNI faculty signed a similar statement. Neither groups say the statement was directed at Gonzalez.
    “It wasn’t supposed to be a deliberate undermining, it wasn’t meant to be an attack and the statement has nothing to do with him,” said Wendy Olson, a UNI faculty member who led the organizing of signatures in Cedar Falls.
    A poster-size copy of the statement hung on a wall outside the lecture hall during Gonzalez’s program. A table was also set up with stacks of free informative handouts denouncing intelligent design as a science and a clipboard for faculty who still wanted to sign the statement. ‘
    Ed you say:
    ‘ In any case, Gonzalez has never had any papers refused for publication. So again, the facts falsify your claim that there is bias against ID in science publications. ‘
    No not really, the fact that Gonzalez has not had a paper refused for publication does not stand as evidence that no papers have been refused on the grounds of expounding IDT. On that reasoning I could conclude that no one will ever die because I haven’t yet .Also Gonzalez’s may not have attempted to published any explicit papers on IDT.
    The reason for using the example of Guillermo Gonzalez loss of tenure is to underline the attitude towards IDT and those supporting it .Of course that is based on the assumption that his loss of tenure was due to his associations,it certainly was not due to his publishing career or the number of times he has been cited.
    ED you say:
    ‘ID ‘needs time to develop?’ Poppycock. Einstein’s five great papers were published in 1905, after about five years of work. ‘
    Einstein is a singular example of which there are perhaps one or two other individuals in history who have equalled his abilities ,using him as an example speaks volumes.
    ED you say:
    ‘ID advocates reject the methods of archaeology and forensics, so it’s rather pointless of you to bring them up ‘
    Can you clarify this for me please?Please avoid weak arguments regarding means and motive ,design can be inferred without invoking the need for what the means or motive was.
    I’m using these two examples as practical ways design has been attributed to a phenomena.
    Anyway this is interesting and getting me to think -so thanks for that,
    cheers,
    Mike

  5. Ed Darrell says:

    In this post, I’ll limit comments to the Sternberg hoax.

    1. The House “Report” is no such thing. Don’t take my word for it — call the committee listed and ask for such a report. It doesn’t exist. Notice that in nothing you get will there be a report number or anything else to suggest that the committee has looked at it. Check the committee calendars (they are public). The issue has never been on the agenda. The committee never voted or assented to such a report in any way.

    I’ve written hundreds of those papers myself, but never did I have the chutzpah or total breakdown of ethics to claim my work was as “committee report,” even when my responses were on official letterhead. “Committee report” carries a special meaning in legislation, it’s a legal term — and this letter does not rise to that level of authority, nor should it.

    You need to learn the ways of Congress and the way deceitful people will use them to create hoaxes. That report was nothing other than a compilation of Sternberg’s website claims typed on official stationery. The House committee did no new research or investigation, and I’ll wager the staffer who wrote the thing did nothing new, either.

    2. Sternberg was unable to document that anyone ever tried to “remove him from the museum.” He is still there, as a matter of fact. An early question was whether his unethical actions, publishing a secret paper in a journal of a science organization, was enough to merit firing under Smithsonian’s tough ethical standards. The early determination of people who wondered about firing him for his ethical violations was that, since he is not an employee of the Smithsonian, but is instead a guest there, he could not be fired. Now, Sternberg may claim he was “threatened with removal,” but of course, that would be just reward for his unethical actions, don’t you think? The society for whom he edited the journal in which he placed his stealth paper disavowed the paper. That’s quite embarrassing for any science group. Sternberg’s actions, had they been done on federal money and federal time, would have fallen under the criminal statutes designed to ensure research veracity. He’s lucky that he couldn’t be fired. But he’s dishonest when he raises that sequence of events as if he were the wronged person.

    You are aware, I trust, that Sternberg’s charges were the topic of testimony and cross examination at the Dover trial — and Sternberg’s claims were not backed by any evidence. You’d think that, in a case where the stakes really mattered, had there been anything to Sternberg’s claims, the evidence would have been produced by Sternberg’s allies. But no. Were they lying, or just criminally lazy?

    3. What false allegation was ever made against Sternberg? He’s a long-time creationist sympathizer, he took a journal from a science society dedicated to arcane issues of biology NOT including intelligent design, and he published as a research report a paper that offered no new research, and which was far afield of the topic of the journal and the purview of the society. In that publishing process he intentionally hid from four editors and the board of the society what he had planned. Even Sternberg agrees he published the piece. The false allegations are those coming from Sternberg. After having been stabbed in the back by a guy to whom researchers had literally given the keys to the museum, the Smithsonian researchers have good reason to be wary of Sternberg.

    3. “Pressured to reveal peer reviewers?” Well, such stuff should not be secret from the publishers, and under the rules of the journal, he should have divulged all of that information to other editors. He didn’t. Why shouldn’t he be “pressured” to live up to the standards he pledge to uphold? It’s not “pressure to divulge” when he’s merely asked to provide information to verify the integrity of the process. His failure to defend the integrity of the journal and the process is ANOTHER ethical lapse. If he can’t follow the rules of science, he shouldn’t expect to play without having fouls called on him.

    4. Hostile work environment? He is a loner who regularly took books and specimens out of the Smithsonian collection without noting their removal, failed to take care of them, and failed to return them. In a museum, those are great sins. If there is hostility, it’s not because he didn’t earn it. He shouldn’t be allowed to get off by whining.

    Supervisor replaced? Yes, his research sponsor at Smithsonian — the “supervisor” — died. What should he expect? Of course his sponsor was replaced. That’s a stupid charge, and that you repeat indicates you don’t know at all what was going on. People are not allowed to careen around the Smithsonian without proper supervision, especially when they are not employees of the museum.

    Offices were remodeled. Everybody had to move. Why is Sternberg, a guest who has no right to such space, whining about that? It was in that move, by the way, that it was discovered he had been hiding specimens incorrectly removed from their catalogued homes. Certainly he was irritated that his indiscretions were discovered. But that’s no rap on the movers. He should have followed procedures.

    “Unprecedented work requirements?” What in the world is that supposed to mean? He never had to live up to ethics before?

    His access to specimens was limited when it was discovered that the museum had trusted him way beyond what the rules allowed. He had a master key, which was not allowed to guests at all. So his key was replaced with the proper one. No restrictions were put on any specimens, however, the Smithsonian rightly required him to start following procedures. Everybody else has to do that — why can’t he? Why do you think cranks should get special rights over employee researchers, especially when they violate trust that had been put in them?

    5. An official investigation found nothing wrong by any Smithsonian employee; Sternberg had complained to the wrong investigating agency. He’s still smarting from that, I suppose. He asked a division of the OMB to investigate, but they lacked jurisdiction. A sympathetic ideologue at that agency wrote a letter to Sternberg which itself violates several ethical standards of government and the D.C. bar, but which in the end offered no evidence of any wrongdoing. Moreover, had the investigator from the wrong agency found any wrongdoing, he was obligated by lawyer’s ethics and by federal law to refer the evidence to a proper authority — the Smithsonian Inspector General in this case. Sternberg also could have asked the IG to look into the matter. But he didn’t, and the OCS made no referral to them either. If Sternberg was wronged, why didn’t he ask for an investigation? Of course, had he asked, the IG would have looked at Sternberg’s actions, too. My suspicion is that Sternberg didn’t want that. In any case, he failed to ask for a referral, and the group he asked to investigate made no referral on its own.

    6. The peer review rules were bent by Sternberg in these ways: The paper was not on a topic the society deals with; the paper was not in an area the journal covered; the paper covered several different biology topics which should have required a review by peers in each field, but most of those fields were left without review; the peer review process should have been carried out by the editor in charge of such stuff (not Sternberg), but that editor was cut out of the process; etc., etc., etc. When the society asked Sternberg to show them the peer review process, he was unable to provide them with assurances it had been done ethically, and they withdrew the paper with a public apology. Surely you know that, having checked the facts.

    There was not adequate peer review even for the journal in which the paper was published; there was not adequate peer review for the topics outside the journals scope; there was not a process of peer review that followed the set procedures to assure integrity; there was no peer review that could muster the support of the board of the society.

    And that’s 50% of all the peer-reviewed papers in ID.

    Are you sure you want to swim with people who depend on unethical actions to try to shore up their point?

  6. Ed Darrell says:

    Regarding Guillermo Gonzalez you say:
    ‘but its false to blame it on ID. In the past decade three other astronomers have been denied tenure at Iowa State, none of them ID advocates. ‘

    I ‘m not comparing Guillermo Gonzalez’s case with others who have lost tenure -there are reasons why I believe according to what has been released on the web, that tenure denial in this circumstance is down to discrimination against those supporting IDT.

    Poppycock. From the record, we’d have to say there is a bias against non-ID advocates. You “believe” there is discrimination against Gonzalez, but you have no evidence. Gonzalez doesn’t make the claim. There is no evidence to back the claim.

    Belief is a powerful thing, but when it flies in the face of the evidence, it’s not a good idea to hold on to it.

  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Ed you say:
    ‘ In any case, Gonzalez has never had any papers refused for publication. So again, the facts falsify your claim that there is bias against ID in science publications. ‘
    No not really, the fact that Gonzalez has not had a paper refused for publication does not stand as evidence that no papers have been refused on the grounds of expounding IDT. On that reasoning I could conclude that no one will ever die because I haven’t yet .Also Gonzalez’s may not have attempted to published any explicit papers on IDT.

    Well, then tell us what paper, where, has ever been refused publication. Look, you have strong beliefs, but as I noted earlier, this canard you’re pushing has been the subject of litigation in federal court. UNDER OATH your fellow travelers have never been able to cite any piece of research on ID that has ever been written up for a science journal that was refused publication. I challenge you to cite such a paper — and a thousand more, to show the bias. There are 10,000 papers on evolution published annually. If evolution is as vacant as you claim, why is it such a research-rich topic? Why is there so much research, and why so many papers? Why do ID advocates, when subject to penalty of perjury, say under oath that there are no suppressed papers, but then you claim there are? If you know of such papers, you have an ethical duty to name them. If you don’t know of such papers, I’ll take the sworn testimony in federal court as authoritative on the topic, thank you very much.

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