Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Fear And Loathing In The Evolutionary Vanguard: Intelligent Design Papers Published In Peer Reviewed Scientific Journals

Opponents of Intelligent Design argue that ID has no scientific validity because it has not been the subject of peer-reviewed literature appearing in scientific publications. Three recent publications reveal that that argument has no truth to it.

Michael Behe has written a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the Quarterly Review of Biology entitled “Experimental Evolution, Loss of Function Mutations and ‘The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution.’” Its thesis is that “the most common adaptive changes seen…are due to the loss or modification of a preexisting molecular function.” (From Evolution News and Views via Uncommon Descent).

From Evolution News and Views via The ID Update: The International Journal of Molecular Sciences has published “The Capabilities of Chaos and Complexity” by David Abel. Abel’s paper asks “If all life depends on genetic instructions, how was the first linear digital prescriptive genetic information generated by natural process?” While not a proponent of ID, his article does suggest that a positive argument for design is feasible. Here is another quote from Abel from the Evolution News and Views Article: “‘No known natural process exists that spontaneously writes meaningful or functional syntax. Only agents have been known to write meaningful and pragmatic syntax.’ He notes that the kind of ‘sophisticated formal function’ found in life ‘consistently requires regulation and control,’ but ‘control always emanates from choice, contingency and intentionality, not from spontaneous molecular chaos.” (I have slightly edited this quote to correct some errors in grammar.)

From William Dembski’s blog Uncommon Descent: Dembski, George Montanez, Winston Ewert and Robert Marks have had a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Bio-Complexity. The title is “A Vivisection of the ev Computer Organism: Identifying Sources of Active Information.” Dembski provides the abstract on his blog which you can see here. (I could locate a link to George Montanez.)

These writers join the company of Stephen Meyer in having papers concerning ID published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Meyer’s paper, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” was published in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (117 (2): 213-239. 2004). It was the publication of the Meyer paper that caused the controversy over the editor responsible for the Meyer paper being published, Richard Sternberg. Sternberg was working for the Smithsonian Institution and as editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. The evolutionary vanguard of the scientific establishment, particularly the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), went ballistic over a paper from an ID proponent appearing in a respected scientific publication. The NCSE and some of Sternberg’s colleagues at the Smithsonian claimed that Sternberg allowed the Meyer paper to be published without the paper being subject to peer-review. An appendix to a report by the by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee of Government Reform vindicated Sternberg’s editorial procedures. The appendix contains written statements from the then president of the Biological Society of Washington affirming that the Meyer paper had been peer-reviewed. See the appendix here, scroll down to page 72. This controversy was featured in Ben Stein’s documentary, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. See the introduction and Part I of my series of articles Exposing Expelled Exposed in the links section of this blog.

I once had an exchange with an ID opponent in the comment section of the Christianity Today Magazine blog. (See here.) This person stated that no paper supporting ID had appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. When I referred him to the Meyer paper, he claimed that the paper had not been peer-reviewed. When I quoted from the appendix to the government report, he admitted his error. Then he demanded to know where the second paper supporting ID had appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. At the time I could not answer him. (Also, after winning the argument, I decided to rest on my laurels.) Now if he would ask me again, I could answer him. I could answer him again if he would ask concerning the third and forth peer-reviewed papers as well. As the present trend indicates, I will soon be able to give an answer when he wants me to identify the fifth, the sixth, the tenth, the twentieth and the hundredth.

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