Re: [asa] The Myth of the Rejected ID Paper (science stoppers and OOL)

From: Jim Armstrong <>
Date: Fri Jul 04 2008 - 19:31:06 EDT
This is the problem of the "plausibility" argument that I've mentioned from time to time. A plausibility argument is a natural resort when there is no data-supportable hypothesis to offer, but you still need an explanation to persuade lesser-informed folks to your way of thinking. It taps into faith in lieu of fact, emotion in lieu of ration, conviction in lieu of critique, persuasion in lieu of proof. All it need to is elicit a "that makes sense to me" response to accomplish its purpose.

The problem is that when a person is uninformed on a topic, plausibility argument is the only type of explanatory tool available to persuade. ID has gotten pretty good at that (practice makes perfect). The technically astute, informed crowd is drawn to data-supported evidence and proof structures, and naturally offers them to mount a counter-assault against ID arguments. But that does not connect with -- I dare say -- the majority of folks.

It strikes me that there is not a great deal of similarly leveled material with a more supportable, confidence inspiring, faith reinforcing, and effectively distributed message for everyman.

JimA [Friend of ASA]

PvM wrote:
The problem is that ID does stop with identifying areas which escape
our present day understanding and rather than provide evidence that ID
has a better explanation, ID falters because in order to take the next
step it has to show that its explanation can compete with ignorance.
Look for instance at the bacterial flagellum which was identified by
ID as 'designed', 'irreducibly complex' etc. While ID has to avoid any
research that would help explain how the flagellum came about, which
would cause the concept of design to collapse, science has made leaps
forward in showing how once the veil of ignorance is lifted. exciting
new homologies and other likely pathways are found that help explain
the origin and evolution of what once was believe to be an
unassailable evidence for 'design'.

For instance, when I pointed out the lack of scientific relevance of
ID, Collin responded that the paper by Wells clearly should fall in
that category and yet nothing relevant to ID was proposed other than
'it looks like a turbine so let's explore where this leads'. In other
words, nothing much different than matching something to our common
day knowledge to generate new hypotheses. But nothing here has any
relevance to the concept of ID really. It does not matter if one holds
to methodological naturalism or not, ID under any scenario remains
scientifically irrelevant or vacuous, even if one were to allow 'poof'
as a valid explanation. How does 'poof' compete with 'we don't know'?
ID does not give us any answers.

On Fri, Jul 4, 2008 at 9:47 AM, Murray Hogg <> wrote:
Hi All (and Rich in particular),

As a passing remark, I know Rich was responding to a specific question, but
I'd nevertheless suggest the first line in the below needs serious
revision-I think the substitution of "methodological naturalist" for
"atheist" would be a marked improvement. At least, I'm pretty sure Rich
wouldn't argue that one has to be an atheist in order to seek naturalistic
explanations for features which ID theorists claim to be irreducibly

Reflecting upon the question of ID as a science stopper, I have to say that
I'm not convinced. I would rather have suggested that the "limits" proposed
by ID result in scientific effort being driven in other directions (which
is, after all, what routinely happens when particular lines of scientific
inquiry are demonstrated to be most likely unprofitable).

From what I've seen ID doesn't merely stop at labeling something "too hard"
and then walking away altogether.

Rather, the approach seems to be something like (1) identify a feature which
appears unlikely on the basis of naturalistic explanations (i.e. which is
likely irreducibly complex), then (2) explain the extent to which "design"
is a more likely explanatory hypothesis than "chance". The next step would
then seem to be (3) expend one's scientific efforts in pursuing other
avenues of inquiry.

Given the degree of discussion which arises over (2) in the above, I should
have thought that once an ID theorist proposes that a feature is irreducibly
complex then the hard graft of constructing a design argument is really only
just beginning.

Now, I can't imagine that the average naturalist (methodological or
otherwise!) in rejecting (1) (identifications of irreducibly complex
systems) would see any point in (2). For such scientists ID would surely
stop science of the "seek a naturalistic explanation" sort.

But I do think that ID theorists could argue that their brand of science
 (i.e. science of the "investigating the likelihood of intelligent design"
sort) can nevertheless proceed AFTER an identification of irreducible
complexity has been made.

With the above in mind, I'd be interested to see how your proffered critique
(re the lack of published papers) then holds up. It seems to me that at
least one measure of the success of ID theory would have to be the extent to
which ID theorists can identify irreducibly complex features AND construct
substantial arguments in defense of this identification.

And the question would have to be: just how many peer reviewed papers are
there that defend an identification of irreducible complexity in respects of
specific biological systems/features?

I can't answer that question, but I suspect the answer is "not many". And if
that suspicion is right then it perhaps doesn't bode well for ID theory as a
successful explanatory hypothesis.

I do feel, however, that to claim that ID is a science stopper can only be
agreed to if one holds a commitment to methodological naturalism -- which
sort of commitment, of course, ID theorists reject.

Murray Hogg
Pastor, East Camberwell Baptist Church, Victoria, Australia
Post-Grad Student (MTh), Australian College of Theology

Rich Blinne wrote:
Bernie, it seems that it does take an atheist to move this science forward
because ID truly is a science stopper for those who hold to it. As I already
have shown all the areas which ID has posited as "problems" has spawned tens
if not hundreds of thousands of peer-reviewed studies the results of which
have been simply ignored by ID. (To this day, they keep repeating their
now-discredited talking points.) My own personal journey away from
YEC/OEC/ID was spawned partly by this list a number of years ago. As part of
my work, I have to navigate peer-reviewed studies so I got pretty good at
reading them and have done peer review myself of papers submitted by junior
colleagues. I subscribed to Science and Nature to see for myself the primary
literature. I was floored by the quantity and quality of the studies that
utterly decimated ID. Many people in ID say that people accept evolution
because of their "worldview". In my case it was *despite* my worldview
except for the part of my worldview that I go wherever the evidence leads
because I have the confidence that God is a God of truth and the truth is
nothing to be feared.

In 1998, the "Wedge Document" set a five year goal of 100s of
peer-reviewed papers for the DI's senior fellows. In 2004, Paul Nelson gave
the following evaluation of their progress towards that goal of a
full-fledged research program for Touchstone Magazine:

Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a
full-fledged theory of biological design.  We don't have such a theory right
now, and that's a real problem. Without a theory, it's very hard to know
where to direct your research focus. Right now, we've  got a bag of powerful
intuitions, and a handful of notions such as "irreducible complexity" and
"specified  complexity"— but, as yet, no general theory of biological
Over and over, when I ask for names I get pushed back with claims we are
being persecuted with the so-called documentary Expelled being used as
evidence. Fortunately, we have the trial record of Dover which put the ID
proponents -- specifically Michael Behe -- under oath. No more of these
vague, unsubstantiated claims. Here's some more from Judge Jones' opinion
(Kitzmiller v. Dover Decision, p. 88):

On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that:  "There are no
peer-reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported
by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous
accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred."
[22:22-23 (Behe).]  Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no
peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems,
like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune
 system, were intelligently designed. [21:61-62  (complex molecular
systems), 23: 4-5 (immune  system), and 22:124-25 (blood-clotting cascade)
 (Behe).] In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed  articles supporting
Professor Behe's argument that  certain complex molecular structures are
"irreducibly complex." [21:62, 22:124-25 (Behe).] In addition to failing to
produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific
research or testing.
Bernie, you will note that this covers a variety of potential research
areas that simply were never explored. One of the positive things that ASA
fellow Francis Collins did was insist that genetic data be in the public
domain. At the time he was competing against Craig Ventnor who most likely
would have privatized the info. Computer programs such as BLAST are open
source. Thus, there is no good reason why there isn't any research in the
problem areas already identified by ID. For example, Nick Matzke as a grad
student using BLAST showed homologies for most of the parts of the bacterial
Now I would move from the undeniable fact that ID is a science stopper to
why ID is a science stopper. It's the attitude concerning the gaps in our
knowledge. For normal science when we don't know something or there is a
shortcoming to a theory that's viewed as a "research opportunity". For ID,
it's a "talking point". It's one thing to point out that the bacterial
flagellum appears irreducibly complex but to be completely intransigent to
the evidence and to do no research yourself proves ID is not really
interested in truly advancing the science. Note I am not talking about
merely trying to make anti-evolutionism respectable. Rather, by attacking
methodological naturalism ID goes way beyond anything that so-called
scientific creationism dreamed about and goes to the heart of
science-in-general and well beyond the narrow confines of biological
evolution. Another thing that Behe admitted on the stand at Dover was the

Q In any event, in your expert report, and in your testimony over the
last two days, you used a looser definition of "theory," correct?

A I think I used a broader definition, which is more reflective of how
the word is actually used in the scientific community.

Q But the way you define scientific theory, you said it's just based on
your own experience; it's not a dictionary definition, it's not one issued
by a scientific organization.

A It is based on my experience of how the word is used in the scientific

Q And as you said, your definition is a lot broader than the NAS

A That's right, intentionally broader to encompass the way that the word
is used in the scientific community.

Q Sweeps in a lot more propositions.

A It recognizes that the word is used a lot more broadly than the
National Academy of Sciences defined it.

Q In fact, your definition of scientific theory is synonymous with
hypothesis, correct?

A Partly -- it can be synonymous with hypothesis, it can also include the
National Academy's definition. But in fact, the scientific community uses
the word "theory" in many times as synonymous with the word "hypothesis,"
other times it uses the word as a synonym for the definition reached by the
National Academy, and at other times it uses it in other ways.

Q But the way you are using it is synonymous with the definition of

A No, I would disagree. It can be used to cover hypotheses, but it can
also include ideas that are in fact well substantiated and so on. So while
it does include ideas that are synonymous or in fact are hypotheses, it also
includes stronger senses of that term.

Q And using your definition, intelligent design is a scientific theory,

A Yes.

Q Under that same definition astrology is a scientific theory under your
definition, correct?

A Under my definition, a scientific theory is a proposed explanation
which focuses or points to physical, observable data and logical inferences.
There are many things throughout the history of science which we now think
to be incorrect which nonetheless would fit that -- which would fit that
definition. Yes, astrology is in fact one, and so is the ether theory of the
propagation of light, and many other -- many other theories as well.

It's important to see where ID deviates from standard science. First,
let's look at the NAS definition:

In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the
natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, and tested hypotheses. The
contention that evolution should be taught as "theory, not as fact" confuses
the common use of these words through the accumulation of evidence. Rather,
theories are the end points of science. They are understandings that develop
from extensive observation, experimentation, and creative reflection. They
incorporate a large body of scientific facts, laws, tested hypotheses, and
logical inferences.
Note that the NAS point marks theory as the "end point" of science. Behe
and ID confuse it with the beginning point namely a hypothesis and they
apparently are very happy staying stuck at this beginning point of their
"inferences". The rest of the testimony that day was Behe's failed attempt
to extract himself from the pit he dug for himself. He said we used to
believe in astrology but no longer, for example. Nowhere did he say *why* we
abandoned the hypothesis which was we tested it and it was falsified. The
testing part I guess is just too close to that nasty concept of
"methodological naturalism" and that's the why behind the science stopping
as it goes against that base concept. So, now I will summarize:

The part of ID that is opposed to methodological naturalism is organically
a "science stopper" in that research that is based on that concept is not
done. Intelligent Design that is not opposed to methodological naturalism
does not have this flaw. Furthermore, those who hold to intelligent design
but not opposed to methodological naturalism also admit that our -- I
consider myself part of this group BTW -- current positions concerning such
things as fine tuning and abiogenesis may be falsified in the future and
thus we should hold on to these arguments lightly. One thing I learned while
researching this series of posts is the lesson from Euler. The science of
the time pointed to a young Universe and Euler -- unlike Newton -- could not
really be faulted for his position of a young solar system because of the
apparent problem of planetary instability. Nevertheless, it's a cautionary
tale for all of us whether we hold to ID or not.

Rich Blinne

Member ASA

On Jul 3, 2008, at 11:14 AM, Dehler, Bernie wrote:

RE: ID is a science stopper?
 I think it might be helpful to look at specific scientific details, too.
 For example, how did life originate? Should we investigate? We had the
Miller/Urey Experiment experiment.  Seems to me that those who love science
and want to investigate would say that it was a good start, and wonder what
we can learn from it and improve upon it.  Those who may think that God
designed life may think this is all a waste of time, and have nothing
positive to say- only negative.  They are science stoppers.  Now, what does
the ID movement say about the Miller/Urey Experiment?  Seems to me to be
nothing but negative (RE: the DI-blessed "expelled" movie)—not even any
suggestions on how to improve it or what can be learned from it.  Does it
take an atheist to move this kind of science forward?
*From:* <>
[] *On Behalf Of *Rich Blinne
*Sent:* Thursday, July 03, 2008 9:43 AM
*To:* ASA
*Subject:* [asa] The Myth of the Rejected ID Paper
 Over and over I have asked for evidence that this is occurring and over
and over I get offline complaints that somehow I was "exposing" ID
proponents or climate skeptics. So, I then asked for titles and journals.
But then the push back on submission policies of journals like Science and
the Sternberg incident which was about an**accepted** paper. See here if any
of you find this objectionable
 My patience has been exhausted. Rather than accept the fact that ID
proponents have not stepped up to the plate this myth continues to be
propogated. So, let me suggest one more avenue for the ID proponents to
prove their point. Poll your colleagues ask them how many papers were
rejected and from what journals. Summarize here with the number of
researchers polled and the results. We can compare the rejection rates with
people here that are not ID proponents. If I hear crickets, combining this
with what I have previously presented it should be patently obvious to all
that ID is truly a science stopper.
 Rich Blinne
Member ASA
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