Sunday, July 20, 2008

Biologists Wanted!

I have been enjoying an exchange with someone on another blog, who has essentially told me that only biologists are qualified to share an opinion on evolution/Intelligent Design, and that, for the most part, all biologists believe in evolution. He claims that the names of those on the Discovery Institute's lists, etc., are not biologists (which is not true!), but are in other scientific fields and, therefore, not qualified to speak about evolution.

I have a friend who is a professor of Chemistry at a very prestigious university, and he is a huge advocate of Intelligent Design. I recently asked him, via e-mail, about these allegations and this is part of his response. What he shares is very much in line with Ben Stein's recent movie, Expelled, and I suppose one could claim that he is a paranoid creationist, but I think you will come to an intelligent conclusion about what he proposes:
Actually I expect there to be very few professional biologists who believe ID. Many biology insitiutes and departments are called "evolutionary biology". Most biologists make their living by means of evolution. Their professional reputations, their jobs and, particularly, their research funding depend on them showing complete faith in orthodox neo-Darwinian evolution. Any who deviate are quickly ruined professionally. Find the website of Richard Sternberg and read what happened to him. He is a staunch evolutionist but was editor of a journal that published an ID article. They hounded him unmercifully in the Smithsonian Institution calling him a 'Crypto-Priest" and saying he took money to publish and did not follow proper refereeing policy - all untrue! In the present climate of opinion no ID or creationist will be appointed to a secular biology School and very few biologists can be expected to publicly support ID.
Is it out of the question that biologists have a vested interest in advocating evolution? Such a claim is leveled towards those on the other side of the aisle, but for some reason, evolutionary biologists are supposed to stand above any such questioning.

This guy is no dummy. He may be on to something.


Olorin said...

So you believe that a PhD chemist is as qualified to judge the genetic, biological, paleontological, and geological evidence as is an evolutionary biologist. Do you also believe that a PhD biologist who follows astrology is competent to judge the evidence for general relativity?

Do you really believe that 484,000 researchers and 61 government/professional institutions are in a worldwide conspiracy against 13 ID biologists and 1 public-health minister of Poland? You might try applying deMoivre’s equation to those numbers.

Do you really believe that 1,570 peer-reviewed papers on evolution published last year are nothing, compared to unsubstantiated claims by a few ID proponents? It took a graduate student a couple of weeks to show that the major claim of Michael Behe’s book “Edge of Evolution” was false, based upon HIV research that he should have investigated. Two days ago, an Answers in Genesis paper purported to show a high evolutionary cost for drug resistance. Less than a day later, it was shown to have an entirely flawed design, and did not even carry out an error analysis on its results. No wonder ID proponents know that it can’t survive peer review! They haven’t even published any papers in their own captive journal (PCID) for the past three years.

Any scientist who develops solid experimental evidence for intelligent design wouldn’t have to worry about peer review. He’d be too busy packing his bags for Stockholm to pick up his Nobel prize. But, so far....

John Richardson said...

"Many biology insitiutes and departments are called "evolutionary biology"."

As far as I know, ID has yet to give us an alternative for how life developed. On the micro mundane level, saying "God created that flower" may be true, but no one denies the process of photosynthesis. However, this is equivalent to what ID advocates are doing. They deny the process - but they still leave us with the problem that the plant was once a seed and now is a blossoming flower (comparing photosynthesis to the process of evolution). Of course there are "biologists" at the Discovery Institute - but I have also had professors at a leading university in North America who believe that sometime in the early first century CE, zombies came out of the ground in a major Palestinian city and walked around. Individuals can make judgments for all sorts of reasons. The fact of the matter is that ID has yet to deliver an actual scientific theory to explain what we call life.

Blake said...

Good job in bringing this out Shawn. I've long seen the hypocrisy and lack of solid logic in the neo-darwinist position. Here is their common tactic (which is what these guys on the blog are doing). They dismiss anyone who is not an evolutionary biologists as "unqualified." And if anyone is "qualified" (they have academic credentials in this field) they are dismissed as people with a religious agenda. What you end up with is a closed system of thought. Only the "qualified" are allowed to have a voice on the theory and only believers in the theory are allowed to be "qualified." Honestly, this is how cults operate. The evidence has poured in showing this neo-darwinian creation myth to be nothing but pure ideology under a mask of group think credibility. Toe to toe, logic to logic they are on the losing end of the argument every time. The issue is how they define science. If science is always defined in terms of naturalism then of course, the only option is darwinism! But who is to say there is a naturalistic explanation for everything? This is just simply a presupposition and they cling to this presupposition like radical fundamentalists because they feel that to lose it they are opening the gates to "magic." It's really all about worldview. You choose your presuppositions, thereby stacking the desk, and then deal yourself the hand you desire. The truth is obvious. Neo-darwinism is based on philosophy and not true science. Thanks again for the post Shawn.

Dingo said...

This has been a really stimulating read all around!

Maybe the wanted notice should include historians too. an overview of scientific journals and text books from, say, 1900 to now indicates that the answer is, "Yes, 484,000 researchers can indeed be wrong." As the scientific community's range, development, and equipment have grown (should I say evolved?) a great number of well established, well researched items have been dropped, severely modified, or replaced with different things entirely.

But it seems kind of strange to put matters of faith and science head to head and expect faith-based scientists to deliver a scientifically sound proof of ID. It's kind of like asking my neurologist to rewire my house. Two radically different fields, with different guidelines, different knowledge sets, different starting points, suppositions and biases.

Maybe that is why we get this double-barreled caution from Paul that spiritual things are "spiritually discerned" and "By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen." New Living Translation). Why look for visible, testable, laboratory evidence of something when God already said "I didn't do it with stuff you can see and touch in this world?

As one of my agnostic friends likes to say to his friends when they get uncomfortable because science is clashing with their faith - "It's a faith issue. Choose to embrace your beliefs on that footing".

holamickey said...

Shawn -- here's an interesting read

Shawn Brace said...


Thanks for your thoughts. They were very good. And thanks, too, Micheal, for the link. It was enlightening.

And thanks, Dingo, for your ideas. I don't think I am quite ready to say that we can't talk about these scientific issues, however, just because "spiritual things" are "spiritually discerned." I think that God has given us reasoning abilities to figure these things out. Yes, there is a certain level of mystery behind creation, but that shouldn't preclude us from trying to grapple with them from a scientific standpoint.

And Olorin, thank you for your stimulating thoughts.

But are biologists the only ones "qualified" (whatever that qualification means) to talk about biology, or paleontologists the only ones qualified to speak on paleontology, and geneticists genetics, etc., etc.? Of course a biologist is more well-versed in biology than a chemist is, but a chemist is "more qualified" to judge biology than a pastor is! And just because someone is educated in one field of science does not mean that he is disqualified to speak on another area.

At the same time, I would say that anyone is "qualified" to speak about the philosophy of science, which evolutionary biology really boils down to. Though no one will admit it in the scientific community, evolutionary biology starts with too many metaphysical presuppositions (read this previous post and its following comments that I wrote a few months back) which make its findings questionable at best.

Similarly, I do not think that truth is determined by popular vote. No, I am not implying that there is some grand "conspiracy" that has been elaborately hatched in the scientific community, but I am saying that too many people are eager to kill God and live autonomous existences, and evolutionary biology is a convenient way to go about doing that.