Friday, September 2, 2016

OK, Enough Politics and Back to Having Fun with the Discovery Institute

First off, let me remind you of something we have spoken about a number of times, the Sternberg Peer Review Controversy, where the outgoing editor of a small scientific journal published a paper by the Discovery Institute's Stephen C. Meyer that was later retracted with this comment [I added the emphasis]:
"The paper by Stephen C. Meyer, "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," in vol. 117, no. 2, pp. 213-239 of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, was published at the discretion of the former editor, Richard v. Sternberg. Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process. The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution on ID published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (, which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings." (Wayback Machine link)
Why am I reminding you of this?  Well today the DI mentioned it as well, only they forgot a few things.  They actually quoted the paper as if it was never retracted:
"Stephen Meyer explains in "The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories," published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington:" (To Practice Science, We Must Philosophize)
Do they mention anything about the peer review controversy?  Or how the paper was published without proper peer-review?  Or even the simple fact that it was retracted?  No, they make it sound as if this paper was published and is an accepted part of actual scientific peer-review publications.

What do you think would happen if a real scientist referenced a retracted paper after the retraction?  Exactly . . . most likely unemployment, and deservedly so!  As for what happened after Sternberg violated the peer review process and published his friend's paper?  Ever wonder where is Sternberg working now?  The Discovery Institute's internal lab, the Biologics Institute.

The rest of the article in which the DI tries to pass off Meyer's retracted paper is pretty useless and much the same typical ID nonsense.  For example:
"Intelligent design employs this method of reasoning by observing what humans produce in the present -- namely, complex (unlikely) and specified (matching a pattern) information -- or CSI. This type of information is found, among other places, in computer code and machines. When we find the same properties of complexity and specification in nature, such as in DNA code and molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum, we make an inference to the best explanation: design by intelligence"
Note that Sarah Chaffee, the author of this particular post, uses 'Complex Specified Information (CSI) as if it means something.  CSI is a concept, an unsupported idea.  Did you notice the use of parentheses to change the definition of the terms.  The DI interchanges 'complexity' with 'likelihood of occurrence', but no one else uses that way of defining complexity.  There have been many criticisms of this idea and no one, particularly at the DI has bothered to offer any support other than pushing their idea as if it was reality, just as Sarah does here.  If you are interested in more criticisms of CSI, you can check this out.

I am not going to argue the use of Philosophy in Science, but I do have to argue that while assuming the actions of a deity/designer is philosophical, it has no support in the reality of science.  For example Scientific Philosophers argue the validity of the scientific method and scientific theories, but do they insert the actions of a deity doing inexplicable things into the conversation in an obvious effort to formalize one specific set of religious beliefs?  No!  Just look at:
"For instance, philosopher Jay Richards and astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez argue in The Privileged Planet that the same conditions on earth that make scientific discovery possible also make habitability possible, and this points to design. They note, "Our situation is complex, certainly, but it is also exhibits a specification, a telling pattern, in which the rare conditions for habitability and measurability correlate." In other words, they are reasoning on the basis of CSI"
Aside from Richards and Gonzalez being Senior Fellows at the DI-- something Sarah fails to mention -- like Sarah, they assume complexity and specification in an unsupported way.  You can probably see why I refer to ID as nothing more than wishful thinking and conjecture!

I think we have a handle of the pseudo-scientific methodology of the DI:
  • Create a concept with no supporting evidence at all.
  • Make up some science-y sounding stuff about it.
  • Then just treat it like it means something.
Disagree?  OK, but then how do you explain everything we have seen from the DI since they were formed 20 years ago?  Have they deviated from this little three-step process?  Intelligent Design, CSI, Irreducible Complexity, Dembski's Design Filter, and Nelson's ontogenetic depth all fit perfectly.  Concepts that sound like real science and treated seriously only by the DI and their proponents.  The rest of us seem to be able to philosophize without the need for a deity to be involved.  The DI can't seem to do much without bending a knee.

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