The Big Picture

This article in the New York Times is a pretty useful overview of the political and financial support behind the Discovery Institute, the main anti-evolution think tank. It describes how the Institute has spent $3.6 million dollars to support fellowships that include scientific research in areas such as "laboratory or field research in biology, paleontology or biophysics."

So what has that investment yielded, scientifically speaking? I’m not talking about the number of appearances on cable TV news or on the op-ed page, but about scientific achievement. I’m talking about how many papers have appeared in peer-reviewed biology journals, their quality, and their usefulness to other scientists. Peer review isn’t perfect–some bad papers get through, and some good papers may get rejected–but every major idea in modern biology has met the challenge.

It’s pretty easy to get a sense of this by perusing two of the biggest publically available databases, PubMed (from the National Library of Medicine) and Science Direct (from the publishing giant Reed Elsevier). They don’t cover the entire scientific literature, but between them, you can search thousands of journals covering everything from geochronology to genetic engineering. Look for the topics that have won people Nobel Prizes–the structure of DNA, the genes that govern animal development, and the like–and you quickly come up with hundreds or thousands of papers.

A search for "Intelligent Design" on PubMed yields 22 results–none of which were published by anyone from the Discovery Insittute. There are a few articles about the political controversy about teaching it in public schools, and some papers about constructing databases of proteins in a smart way. But nothing that actually uses intelligent design to reveal something new about nature. ScienceDirect offers the same picture. (I’m not clever enough with html to link to my search result lists, but try them yourself if you wish.)

Here’s another search: "Discovery Institute" and "Seattle" (where the institute is located). One result comes up: a paper by Jonathan Wells proposing that animal cells have turbine-like structures inside them. It describes no experiments, only a hypothesis.

Perhaps the other prominent fellows of the Discovery Institute (Michael Behe, Stephen Meyer, and William Dembski) have published scientific papers that have a bearing on intelligent design, without identifying their affiliation. Aside from a couple letters to the editor, the databases yielded only one paper, in which Behe offers a simple model of gene duplication and expresses doubt that new genes could evolve by this process. Given that other scientists have published 2266 papers exploring gene duplication’s role in evolution, it’s safe to say that his is not a view held by most experts.

PubMed has a very nice feature that lets you get a rough gauge of how influential a paper has been. If you select "Cited in PMD" from the display option list, you get a list of papers in PudMed that have cited the paper you’re looking at. The 2001 paper revealing the rough draft of the human genome has already been cited 777 times in the past four years.

Try it on the Behe and Wells papers. Total citations? Zero.

Here’s one more way to put these results in perspective: compare the two papers I turned up to the work of a single evolutionary biologist. From the thousands I could choose from, I’ll pick Douglas Emlen, a young biologist at the University of Montana. He studies horns on beetles as an example of how embryonic development changes during evolution (a fascinating topic I blogged on a couple months back). I visited his publication web site and counted the papers that dealt directly with evolution (leaving out the book chapters and the papers on straight physiology and such). The total so far comes to 23. Over ten times the output I found from the entire Discovery Institute staff.

Someone’s not getting their money’s worth.

Update: Quallitative directs my attention to the Discovery Institute’s list of peer-review literature. The first item on the rather short list is a paper that has been retracted by the journal that published it, which stated that “contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by an associate editor.” Their statement also added that “there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID [Intelligent Design] as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity.” I don’t see much more that I could add.

Update, 8/23 11pm:Steven Smith reports on his own search on another scientific database, Biosys. An independent test of my hypothesis, in true scientific spirit–and with the same results.

0 thoughts on “The Big Picture

  1. I know a way they could get their money back, and then some. In fact, if they are listening, they can more than TRIPLE their money. And all they have to do is COME THROUGH. Just make good on the claims they make all over the web and on all those cable shows and talk radio, on all the claims that are distributed on their behalf in evangelical churchs throughout the land every Sunday. Here’s how – see this recent blog by John Hawks,

    It is a fairly long post and well worth the read, but this is the point he makes that applies to the money:

    “I propose the formation of a prize for the production of such a proof. The matter is of paramount importance to public education, and the prize should have a magnitude reflecting this importance. I suggest $10 million. Indeed I think the matter is so important that the prize should be offered by a public or governmental agency, as a voucher of trust in science. Naturally, a fully qualified judging committee must be formed; I would suggest the National Academy of Science. But to put to rest all question of a conspiracy, I propose that every attempted proof to be submitted should be published along with a scientific critique, if one exists.”

    Now, I can’t be sure of this of course, but I believe Professor Hawks is PERSONALLY offering the prize! Actually, he might as well. He’ll never have to pay off on it.

  2. In other words Qualitative, despite the millions thrown at ID, despite the fact that (as the DI always tell us) there are over 300 scientists who doubt darwinism, despite the fact that the ID movement in its current form has been around for years, despite the fact that the ID movement tell school boards there is a real controversy, despite all these things, the ID movement has essentially produced bugger all original research. Brilliant.

    My thesis supervisor has published more papers this year, with a fraction of the money.

    You really shouldn’t have produced that link. It made your political movement look rather silly.

  3. Qualitative’s link advises:

    “In fact, scientists routinely publish their work in peer-reviewed scientific journals, in peer-reviewed scientific books, in scientific anthologies and conference proceedings (edited by their scientific peers)and in trade presses. In fact, some of the most important and groundbreaking work in the history of science was first published not in scientific journal articles but scientific books, including Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Newton’s Principia, and Darwin’s Origin of Species”

    True, true. But the key word in all of this is “groundbreaking”. (And it’s kind of heart warming to see the Discovery Institute acknowledging Origin Of Species as “important and groundbreaking”). But Origin, and other such works, would have meant little but for the fact that it opened the floodgates of science, to explore the hypothesis by biologists, chemists, geneticists, anthropologists, etc. So I.D. “publishes”, and then what? If their work has truly insightful findings, others will scamper to do the work that will confirm and build upon it. If I were a scientitist in a related field, I would certainly like to make a name for myself by offering a test that backs up I.D. The great thing about science is – it just goes where the facts take it. It doesn’t have a pre-set supernatural belief that has to be upheld.

  4. Seems to me that the DI has already received a huge return on its benefactors’ investments, largely in the form of efforts by local, state and federal legislators to incorporate doubts about the validity of evolutionary theory into curricula in dozens of states. Then there’s the tacit endorsement of its “teach the controversy” mantra by none other than President Bush. So, yes Carl, measured by peer-review, DI isn’t doing well. But that’s not how think tanks measure success. And DI is, above all, a right-wing think tank, is it not?

  5. RE: the DI link.

    ‘Darwin’s Black Box’ was peer-reviewed? Are we using “peers” in the trade sense or in the sense of the guys that drink beers with Behe on the weekend?

    That list is nonsense, esp. the parts that hold up papers exploring non-Darwinian paradigms as if they somehow support creationism. Complete non-sequitur.

    There isn’t one peer-reviewed paper in that phony list that supports creationism.

  6. The whole ‘if it can’t be explained, then it must be proof of God’ line of thinking is such a tired old line. I can’t believe it is being dusted off again in the form of irreducible complexity. I thought this line of thinking was toast right about the time of hhmmmm… whats the best example …. well, how about plate tectonics, gravity, showing that that earth is not the center of the universe, that the earth is round etc.

    Come on, what a bloody joke! If we don’t know something, that is why we are researching it! DUH! Only intellectual midgets will go the cop-out routine and gleefully proclaim that it is sign of an almighty being.

    To be honest, I’m quite suprised that religion has survived its proven fallability. The whole sun/earth movement ‘debate’ should have done the trick but strangely religion persisted. The church even got away with murdering dissenting scientists! Today’s climate is starting to have the same stench of witch hunt.

    The belief in a religous after-life a lovely emotional security blanket since the concept of mortality is awful to comprehend. But hey, thats life! (Pun fully intended 😉 )


  7. I found this very very funny 😉


    Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory

    KANSAS CITY, KS˜As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held “theory of gravity” is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

    “Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, ‘God’ if you will, is pushing them down,” said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

    Burdett added: “Gravity˜which is taught to our children as a law˜is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, ‘I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.’ Of course, he is alluding to a higher power.”

    Founded in 1987, the ECFR is the world’s leading institution of evangelical physics, a branch of physics based on literal interpretation of the Bible.

    According to the ECFR paper published simultaneously this week in the International Journal Of Science and the adolescent magazine God’s Word For Teens!, there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone, including such mysteries as how angels fly, how Jesus ascended into Heaven, and how Satan fell when cast out of Paradise.

    The ECFR, in conjunction with the Christian Coalition and other Christian conservative action groups, is calling for public-school curriculums to give equal time to the Intelligent Falling theory. They insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue “so they can make an informed decision.”

    “We just want the best possible education for Kansas’ kids,” Burdett said.

    Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein’s ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

    “Let’s take a look at the evidence,” said ECFR senior fellow Gregory Lunsden.”In Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, ‘And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.’ He says nothing about some gravity making them fall˜just that they will fall. Then, in Job 5:7, we read, ‘But mankind is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards.’ If gravity is pulling everything down, why do the sparks fly upwards with great surety? This clearly indicates that a conscious intelligence governs all falling.”

    Critics of Intelligent Falling point out that gravity is a provable law based on empirical observations of natural phenomena. Evangelical physicists, however, insist that there is no conflict between Newton’s mathematics and Holy Scripture.

    “Closed-minded gravitists cannot find a way to make Einstein’s general relativity match up with the subatomic quantum world,” said Dr. Ellen Carson, a leading Intelligent Falling expert known for her work with the Kansan Youth Ministry. “They’ve been trying to do it for the better part of a century now, and despite all their empirical observation and carefully compiled data, they still don’t know how.”

    “Traditional scientists admit that they cannot explain how gravitation is supposed to work,” Carson said. “What the gravity-agenda scientists need to realize is that ‘gravity waves’ and ‘gravitons’ are just secular words for ‘God can do whatever He wants.'”

    Some evangelical physicists propose that Intelligent Falling provides an elegant solution to the central problem of modern physics.

    “Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the ‘electromagnetic force,’ the ‘weak nuclear force,’ the ‘strong nuclear force,’ and so-called ‘force of gravity,'” Burdett said. “And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus.”

  8. Normally I wouldn’t simply copy and paste someone else’s article however this seemed quite appropriate. The following article is AIG’s featured article of the day.

    The Smithsonian/Sternberg controversy
    Cast doubt on Darwin, get cast out

    by Pam Sheppard, staff writer, AiG–USA

    August 22, 2005

    What happens when an editor of a technical biology journal decides, along with others, to publish the first peer-reviewed technical article that casts doubt on Darwin and lays out the evidence for an intelligent designer?

    In the case of Richard Sternberg, a Smithsonian research associate and former managing editor of the independent journal called the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, it meant being cast out of the prestigious Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Shortly after publishing the article “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” senior scientists at the Smithsonian Institution lashed out at Sternberg, calling him a “shoddy scientist” and a “closet Bible thumper,” according to a Washington Post article (August 19).

    In August 2004, news agencies around the world reported on the controversy as Sternberg came under intense scrutiny and even persecution for publishing the article written by Stephen Meyer, a Discovery Institute fellow.

    “I was singled out for harassment and threats on the basis that they think I’m a creationist,” Sternberg said in a Washington Times article (February 14, 2004).

    Now, the incident is back in the international spotlight with the yet-to-be published report by an independent agency, the Office of Special Counsel. This group, which investigates cases of federal government employees who feel they have been unfairly treated or dismissed, reached the same conclusion—top scientists at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History (where the Proceedings is published) retaliated against Sternberg by investigating his religion and falsely labeling him as a creationist, as reported by the Washington Post (August 19). However, according to an article in the UK’s Independent (August 20), Sternberg insists that he is agnostic about intelligent design, is not a young earth creationist and believes that science only moves forward on controversy.

    As reported by the Washington Post, although Sternberg holds two PhDs in theoretical biology and molecular evolution, some Smithsonian scientists disseminated so much false information about him, James McVay, the legal adviser in the Office of Special Counsel wrote in his findings, that one of his colleagues had to circulate his résumé simply to dispel the rumor that Sternberg was not a scientist.

    According to an article in the National Review (August 16), the government’s findings were based largely on email traffic among top Smithsonian scientists. A lengthy and detailed letter from McVay to Sternberg includes some telling summaries, which include the following:

    Our preliminary investigation indicates that retaliation [against Sternberg by his colleagues] came in many forms. It came in the form of attempts to change your working conditions … . During the process you were personally investigated and your professional competence was attacked. Misinformation was disseminated throughout the SI [Smithsonian Institution] and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false. It is also clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.

    Also included in the National Review report was another email from a scientist at the museum who gave further evidence of the contempt some evolutionist scientists have towards Bible-believing Christians. The writer of the email told of how, after “spending 4.5 years in the Bible Belt,” he had learned how to deal with religious Christians. For example, he described the “fun we had” when “my son refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance because of the ‘under dog’ [meaning presumably the ‘under God’] part.”

    Furthermore, according to the Washington Post (August 19), the special counsel accused Darwinian lobbyist group, the National Center for Science and Education (NCSE), of orchestrating attacks on Sternberg.

    Eugenie Scott, the group’s executive director and herself a vocal anti-creationist, insisted that Smithsonian scientists absolutely had to explore Sternberg’s religious beliefs. “They don’t care if you are religious, but they do care a lot if you are a creationist,” Scott said in the Post article.

    Another criticism of the NCSE has been that scientists who support intelligent design don’t publish peer-reviewed articles and don’t make their case at scientific conferences.

    Dr. John West, Associate Director of Discovery Institute, spoke to this issue in a Discovery Institute News article shortly after Myer’s article was published in the journal (September 8, 2004). “Now an article has appeared in a biology journal that even the NCSE can’t find a way to spin out of existence.” He goes on to say, “So what does it do? Claim the article shouldn’t have been published despite the fact it was approved by peer-review. Apparently politicians aren’t the only ones who do flip-flops.”

    Speaking of doing flip-flops, this isn’t the first time the Smithsonian Institution has been accused of altering its stance after being pressured by Darwinists. In June 2005, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History reneged on its decision to co-sponsor a screening of the Discovery Institute’s film, “The Privileged Planet,” when they determined that the content was not “consistent with the mission of the Smithsonian’s scientific research.”

  9. I wonder why the following article and the controversy it produced was not mentioned in any of the author’s research?

    Probably because it was peer reviewed, Questioned Neo-Darwinism, and disproved his point.

    View: to see what happened to Richard Sternberg, a Smithsonian research associate and former managing editor of the independent journal called the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington after publishing the article “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories.”

    Do you think any publisher in his right mind is going to ever publish a paper questioning evolution again following this travesty?

  10. In response to david’s email: The paper he mentions, in which Stephen Meyer addresses the “Cambrian explosion,” does not appear in PubMed or ScienceDirect. As I explained in the original post, I looked at those two massive databases to get a sense of the scale of published research on intelligent design. This is also the same paper that I mention in the post as having been retracted by the journal that published it.

  11. This is all an old rehashed argument, but honestly, does ID have anything new to add to the scientific community? Will it impact science as we know it already? If it were a controversy, there would be testable data out of the ID community, but all it states is that “something” created life. No scientific benefit or new fields of research coming forth out of this movement.

    By the way, why don’t they teach astronomy next to astrology? Somebody needs to ‘teach the controversy’ there, as well

  12. Another useful scientific database is BIOSYS Previews.

    Searching for “evolution” yields more than 100,000 articles (there are more—this is the search software’s upper limit).
    Searching for “intelligent design” yields 22 articles, of which only two, both authored by Michael Behe, are pro-ID, and these do not appear in a scientific journal but the philosophical journals Biology and Philosophy and Philosophy of Science. The other articles that comment on the religious movement to teach intelligent design are perhaps best represented by this editorial in the Lancet:

    In the USA, creationists have produced an alternative theory to evolution—intelligent design—which concedes that evolution might have occurred, but argues that because the products are so complex, there must therefore have been some overseeing presence. …

    Creationism has no rightful place in science lessons. … to teach creationism as part of a science curriculum is absurd, simply because there is no credible scientific evidence for it. By contrast, many thousands of papers published in peer-reviewed scientific journals support the theory of evolution.

    Intellectual laziness is the most charitable explanation for not accepting the evidence for evolution. The idea that a benevolent deity oversaw the making of the universe is easy, whereas scientific explanations can be difficult to understand—even the vocabulary may be unfamiliar. However, the evidence for how the solar system developed from a mass of gasses, how animals evolved from single cells to the complex species of today, and how even now species change in response to environmental pressures is far more compelling than the idea that the world was made by a deity in a week.

    This huge database does contain the paper by Stephen C. Meyer that was retracted by the journal that published it. Under advanced search, enter AU=(MEYER STEPHEN C) to find it. This retracted paper is the only publication by Stephen C. Meyer that appears in the database.

    Based on a search of BIOSYS Previews containing 15,322,375 articles (that’s over fifteen million), I found three pro-ID articles, one by Stephen Meyer appearing in a scientific journal that was retracted because of the irregularities by which it was published, and two philosophical papers by Michael Behe whose arguments are rebutted in the Scientific American article 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense.

    Expressed as money spent per peer-reviewed scientific article, that’s $3.6 million/zero papers = an infinite cost per paper. That’s an expensive research program, but at least the page charges won’t seem so steep to the Discovery Institute!

  13. My two cents worth:

    Creationists don’t require – and don’t value – “scientific” proof and research; therefore, why should they bother with paperwork? Intelligent Design is an irrational construct, an evolution of the fundamentalist Christian belief in Adam and Eve, a authentic “word of God” Bible, and in Jesus the Saviour.

    Intelligent Design is a symptom of a complex societal change, in which increasing fear and insecurity (plus many other factors of modern times) breed superstition and a return to Dark Age unenlightenment, and the power-hungry manipulate the ignorant masses for their own ends. When “God” is written into the very fabric of American government (“in God we Trust”) and traditional American culture, Intelligent Design can be easily justified in Science classrooms. Likewise, the current movement by the Bush theocracy toward integration of Church and State and a “sharia-like” judicial system can also be justified given America’s religious foundation.

    Don’t waste energy arguing with Creationists or looking for thoughtful Intelligent Design research; one can’t argue logically with those who hold irrational belief systems. Rather, comprehensively and effectively attack the roots of the “dumbing-down” of America and the rest will follow.

  14. Scott,

    I thought this was a venue for discussion on evolution including alternative points of view. Many people are interested in hearing the other side of the story so to speak. Carl Zimmer’s response to my post appropriately clarified his position without resorting to an Ad hominem attack. I can appreciate this even though I don’t agree with his position on the matter. That is the beauty of living in this country, we can agree to disagree without resorting to killing off the dissenter as in some other areas of the world. I’m sorry that some evolutionists feel Ad hominem attacks are a valid approach to dissenting opinions. What do you think will happen to the scientists who sent an open letter to New Scientist Magazine opposing the big bang theory? Likely the same fate as Richard Sternberg.
    Incidently if your hanging your hat on 15 answers to creationist nonsense, try reading

  15. Response to David:

    As I was only commenting on Zimmer’s point regarding the value-received per DI dollar, I intended no individual “ad hominem attack” on you, David, and in fact didn’t realize Zimmer had been responding to you. My statements were directed at a more general audience.

    Dissenting opinions are welcome in the scientific community – when they are well-supported – for this is how the search for truth progresses. Papers are submitted for “peer review” so that others can test the validity of their findings. Creationism/Intelligent-Design provides no valid proof – as it cannot – and is merely an annoyance to those who pursue truth. Sunday school subjects have no place in public classrooms, especially not in science class!

    The article you referenced has so many errors in logical reasoning that I won’t waste my time. It makes me question the quality of your education, David.

    One can search for the “meaning of it all”, maintaining objectivity and rationality, without resorting to tribal myths and ghost stories for an explanation. The “goo-to-you” story of life may not be finished and completely understood, but it’s definitely won among critical thinkers over all the primitive “God-to-you” folk tales out there.

    I realize that superstition will probably never disappear from society … but I fear for civilization now that it’s becoming predominant in “America the Great”. ID is just a symptom of a diseased society.

  16. Being rather new to the ID controversy, and coming from a country where no-one gives a damn about it anyway, I’m not really up to speed with the the minutiae of the debate. However, I do find it rather disconcerting to read that a publisher refuses/retracts an article about ID because scientists tell them there’s no credible scientific evidence for ID; and how do scientists know there’s no credible scientific evidence, ah well, they’ve examined the literature! 🙂
    Circular reasoning anyone?

  17. Having read some years ago about Intelligent Design, I found it most amusing but the concept of Intelligent falling left me in hysterics. The most frightening thing is that somebody in authority and in a position of power and with the ability to influence others actually believes this. This is quite frightening. How anybody can believe and build such a ridiculous philosophical argument based on such an idiotic concept leaves me lost for words.

  18. Aren’t missing the point?
    It’s not a scientific debate, since the question was answered over a 100 years ago.
    It’s not a Christian debate, since mainstream churches (Catholic and Protestant) accepted the reality of evolution years ago. The religious voices we hear coming from the US are extremist.
    Surely is a Political one, an attempt to push creation in to the classroom to promote an extremist form of Christianity. Isn’t that the real problem with ID?

  19. Response to Dr. Bryan Grieg FFry’s

    “Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New ‘Intelligent Falling’ Theory”:

    My work is in the field of nuclear & particle physics. I’m thinking of abandoning the corrupted peer review process to begin my own “Intelligent Binder” theory of the atomic nucleus.

    The structure holding quarks together inside a proton or neutron has never been directly observed. Gluons, the supposed “gauge particles” that hold together nucleons have never been seen in particle accelerators. The theory of QCD (Quantum Chromodynamics) has failed miserably to produce closed form solutions describing the binding forces within nucleons; in fact “dirty tricks” such as renormalization, where infinite results that physicists don’t like are “swept under the rug”, are used to get the “correct” results that physicists want.

    Such a complicated binding force that we obviously can’t describe perfectly with science must be the product of an “Intelligent Binder”. After all, the Bible says:

    Christ, the Creator “Is before all things, and in him all things hold together”.
    -Col 1:17, NIV

    The Biblical evidence is clear. Also, traditional
    nuclear physics is the foundation of an immoral worldview, one that has killed millions of innocent people; nuclear physics can be blamed for the destruction of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, the Chernobyl Disaster, Three Mile Island and the creation of devastating super-mosters such as Godzilla and Mothra.

    It’s high time we teach the controversy about nuclear physics and give the Intelligent Binder theory equal time to the outdated, traditional nuclear theory.

    (Special thanks to the esteemed Jack Chick for inspiring the Biblical Selection)

  20. One of the above commenters gave the impression that he suffered a moment of gullibility regarding the “Intelligent Falling” article. For his sake, and any like him, I make the following obvious statement: the article is a piece of satire with no element of truth. Although, given the overwhelming belief in evolution, its not surprising that many would be “taken in” by such an obvious prank.

    I enjoyed Bob’s “sequal”. Very clever, even greater kudos if that was composed “off the cuff”.

    What surprises me is that physicists, in the field of such a powerful science, a field that enables incredibly accurate and amazing predictive power, would go to such lengths to defend evolution (speaking, of course, of molecules to man evoltution aka macro-evolution). The three general criteria often given as the measure of whether an idea is considered a “scientific theory” are (briefly): predictive power, repeatable obsevation and falsifiablity.

    Evolution holds no predictive power, excluding the science fiction genre of course. Even if one could make evolutionary predictions, who will be around to see the results. Fruit flies have been the subject of radioactive abuse for a hundred years with no results that show a predictive power of evolution. Bacteria has fared no better. While predictions may have been made, they have certainly not come true, other than the prediction that evolution occurs too slowly so we won’t see any significant evolutionary changes. Predictions about the fossil record are also inadequate. They are better termed interpretations. I have an incredible system for picking superbowl champions. I can tell you without fail every champion since the AFL-NFL Merger…my system isn’t nearly as powerful for years following my current almanac. Besides fossils that don’t fit are swept aside. It is therefore, at present, obvious, that evolution (molecules-to-man) fails this criteria.

    What about repeatabilty? Remember, we’re talking the common descent of all creatures great and small from one simple organism. We are not talking the change between dark and light moths. We are not talking anti-bacterial resistance. We are not talking bird beaks. These are all the result of simple natural selection and damaging mutations(regardless of any benefit observed) So back to the question of repeatablity:
    1. it can’t be produced in the lab
    2. it happens too slow to observe in nature
    3. all proposed evidence of evolutionary changes are circumstantial interpretations of the past based on evolutionary assumptions (fossil record, DNA comparisons)
    Conclusion: Not observable and therefore, not repeatable.

    Finally, is evolution falsifiable? Well according to Scientific American “It should be noted that the idea of falsifiability as the defining characteristic of science originated with philosopher Karl Popper in the 1930s. More recent elaborations on his thinking have expanded the narrowest interpretation of his principle precisely because it would eliminate too many branches of clearly scientific endeavor [namely Evolution].” Emphasis mine.

    That notwithstanding Sci Am does defend evolution’s falsifiability with the following:
    “If we could document the spontaneous generation of just one complex life-form from inanimate matter, then at least a few creatures seen in the fossil record might have originated this way. If superintelligent aliens appeared and claimed credit for creating life on earth (or even particular species), the purely evolutionary explanation would be cast in doubt. But no one has yet produced such evidence.”

    So that’s all it takes? If I look over to the loveseat and see a two-headed, freak of nature, with green scaly skin, waving the keys to what looks like the millenium falcon, parked in my front yard; either, he spontaneously generated or he makes the claim that he’s just checking on his high school biology experiment: us; and evolution has been disproved. Wow I wish i’d known it was so easy!

    Just so I’m not accused of quote mining the text preceding the exerpt discusses the fossil record. It sort-of suggests the “theory” could be falsified if one discovered hominid fossils dated at 144 mya (million years ago). What about fossils and/or evidence of fully modern humans dated at 4 mya (predating lucy by 1,000,000 years)…well, I guess that’s not even enough to stir a doubt.

  21. “Conclusion: Not observable and therefore, not repeatable.”

    Sounds like Doug needs to learn a little more about the range of evidence that supports evolution. Try reading one of Carl Zimmer’s books – that might be good start.

  22. I’ve read two of Carl’s books: At the Water’s Edge and Evolution: The triumph of an Idea. I even recommend them – with the caution that they are written in a tone suggesting absolute knowledge. If the “maybe’s” and “it is thought” and “Scientists suspect” etc. were included at every appropriate point, the books would double in size and Carl’s position would sound very weak, not to mention it would become very tedious to read. Imagine what that would do to the already overly verbose Richard Dawkins, but i digress…

    Please describe how one might observe and duplicate the hypothesized emergence of a fish to land, and the subsequent return to the sea. It hasn’t been done. Its a joke to suggest it. As you’ll point out it takes millions of years. The fact of the matter is that the only changes that can be observed can not legitimately be extrapolated into the vast productive changes required for molecules-to-man evolution. Find a good “tree of evolution,” one that shows solid lines for “known relationships and dotted lines for “hypothesized” relationships. You may be surprised how invisible the tree looks, as only the very tips of the branches are solid.

    The evidence for “macroevolutionary” changes is based on an evolutionary interpretation of the fossil record and comparisons of DNA – also interpreted within an evolutionary framework. There are thousands of anomalous fossils that trouble the evolutionary interpretation but they written off because they don’t fit the hypothesis. The fact that strains of DNA may match is only evidence of evolution if it is interpreted based on the “assumption” of evolution. If one interprets the similarities based on a common designer (God) they still make sense.

  23. “Please describe how one might observe and duplicate the hypothesized emergence of a fish to land, and the subsequent return to the sea.”

    If you’ve read Zimmer’s books you know the evidence that supports this contention. Since when was it considered necessary to recreate natural history to prove it is true? The evidence has been confirmed along multiple lines of inquiry.

    “The fact that strains of DNA may match is only evidence of evolution if it is interpreted based on the “assumption” of evolution. If one interprets the similarities based on a common designer (God) they still make sense.”

    But only the former of these conclusions provides any falsifiable results; hence only the former is a scientific conclusion.

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