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Posted by on Apr 27, 2014 in Book Review, featured, Science, Skepticism | 24 comments

Darwin’s Doubt – Chapter 11 – Part 1

Apparently, Darwin’s Doubt, is the ultimate god of the gaps argument. The person who gave this to me was mad when I quit and said all my questions about ID would be answered in some chapters. I looked at those and found nothing. Now, all the questions will be answered in chapter 11… or chapter 13 when I finish it. So, let’s get back this complete and utter waste  of trees.

This chapter is entitled “assume a gene”.  I’m curious as to what Meyer means by this as there is no assumption about genes. But maybe he will explain using correct science, unlike what he has done in every other chapter so far.

Let me be clear here. I don’t particularly want to do this. It’s obvious that Meyer is a liar at this point. To trust him on anything he says by now just shows how desperate one is to reject actual science. Here’s the thing, even if Intelligent Design has a gram of truth to it, the proponents of it are so poor are supporting it, that it is a waste of time right now. No one, including our friend who gave me this book, or the denizens of the Discovery Institute have come up with  a consistent definition of intelligent design or any notions that tell us anything useful about it.

This book, is merely an attack on evolution. And Meyer is saying that if evolution doesn’t work, then design wins by default. So far (and I’ve asked for specific page numbers dozens of times now) there is NO EVIDENCE FOR ID IN THIS BOOK. It’s all a false dichotomy fallacy. “X” (which is incorrectly reported by Meyer) is wrong, therefore design is correct. But let’s see what Meyer says about genes.

His first paragraph opens with reference to Douglas Axe’s work. I find it interesting that, much like Meyer’s mention of Paul Nelson, Meyer does not mention that Axe’s work is in a lab called the Biologic Institute. This institute is completely sponsored by the Discovery Institute, of which Meyer is a leading figure. There’s some controversy about that institute as well, including a rather hilarious report in which a Biologic Institute ‘scientist’ found evolution happening in her own lab[1] and some confusion about what her lab actually looks like [2].

To comment here, these are not ad hominem attacks. These are legitimate concerns about a group of people who knowingly misrepresent themselves and their work in order to promote an ideological belief with zero supporting evidence.

Since Meyer doesn’t actually mention what paper of Axe’s he’s referring to here, I can’t comment on the actual work. But suffice to say that Axe’s work doesn’t mean what he thinks (or claims) it means. Here’s a detailed refutation of one of Axe’s papers. Suffice it to say that Axe’s paper really doesn’t do what he claims it does.

Now we get to the first false claim in chapter 11. I really cannot believe that Meyer still thinks his one paper, that was not peer-reviewed and was just a review paper and was subsequently removed by the publishing journal, most of which has been refuted anyway, is somehow a refutation of biology.

To sum up, a researcher named Richard Sternberg (or von Sternberg depending) was the lead editor for the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. This is a peer-reviewed journal specializing in taxonomic research. Sternberg had already declared his intention to step down as lead editor. In his second to last edition of the journal, he published Meyer’s paper. The paper was not peer-reviewed. Actually Sternberg stated[3] that

“As managing editor it was my prerogative to choose the editor who would work directly on the paper, and as I was best qualified among the editors I chose myself.”

While Sternberg claims that three scientists looked at the paper, he refuses to release the names of those scientists. There are some other issues with Sternberg as well, that leads me (and others) to think that he is not a reliable source.

So, the firs two things in this chapter are not what Meyer would have us think that they are. He’s taking material that was determined to be useless over a decade ago and still promoting as valid… and hoping no one calls him on it.

To Meyer’s credit, he does say that the paper caused a controversy. But he lets the reader assume that it was the material in the paper that caused the controversy. Not the underhanded way in which the paper was published.  Meyer says:

Museum scientists and evolutionary biologists from around the country were furious with the journal and its editor, Richard Sternberg, for allowing the article to be peer-reviewed and then published (page 210)

That’s not true. Scientists were furious that Sternberg ignored the peer-review process and published a paper without peer-review and in a journal that was not appropriate for the material.

Meyer then continues the lies by stating:

Recriminations followed. Museum officials took away Sternberg’s keys, his office, and his access to scientific samples. He was transferred from a friendly to a hostile supervisor.

When what really happened was that the museum moved his office and he requested and received a different office. Further, at the time of the publication of the original complaint, Sternberg was still researching at the Simthsonian. In other words, he complained about being fired from a organization that he wasn’t employed by and that he was kicked out, while at the same time, still having an office in the facility.

Indeed, let’s see what Sternberg’s website actually says about his work…

I served as a staff scientist at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, and from 2001-2007 I was a Research Associate at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I am presently a research scientist at the Biologic Institute, supported by a research fellowship from the Center for Science and Culture at Discovery Institute. I am also a Research Collaborator at the National Museum of Natural History. (my emphasis)

Note that the ‘controversy’ that Meyer mentions took place in 2004. So, he remained a research associate for another three years after that incident. Isn’t that interesting?

Finally, I also bolded his current status. Now where have we heard about the Biologic Institute?  Oh yeah, it’s the research arm of the Discovery Institute of which Meyer is the director of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture (CSC). I notice that Meyer doesn’t actually mention these associations in the book.

I wonder why…

So, here we have a bunch of lies, in the first three paragraphs of the chapter. How anyone can consider Meyer a reliable source at this point is beyond me.

The next part of the introductory part of this chapter goes into some actual science. Since we’re already over a 1,000 words, I’ll pause here.

The rest of the series.

_____________________________

[1] Here. In which this discussion happened: “. As reported by Daniel Brooks, “…she discussed “leaky growth,” in microbial colonies at high densities, leading to horizontal transfer of genetic information, and announced that under such conditions she had actually found a novel variant that seemed to lead to enhanced colony growth. Gunther Wagner said, “So, a beneficial mutation happened right in your lab?” at which point the moderator halted questioning.”

[2] Since a video of Dr. Gauger was shot on a green screen and a stock laboratory image was photoshopped in behind her.

[3] The statement made at Sternberg’s website has been removed, but this link is to a book by a fellow creationist.

 

  • Paul Burnett

    It should be mentioned that Douglas Axe’s PhD is in chemical engineering, not biology.

    • kraut2

      Which eminently qualifies him as a writer on biology.
      I am always astonished of the preponderance of engineers promoting ID especially in the US.
      I guess it is harder for an engineer who spends his live designing systems and processes to “believe” in an undirected evolutionary process leading to a variety of species than a scientist without preconceptions as to the emergence of life (definition needed) and it’s ongoing speciation.

      • SmilodonsRetreat

        I’ve noticed that as well. Engineers, for some reason, are the majority of creationists.

        I didn’t comment on it, because one’s degree shouldn’t determine (doesn’t determine) what one is an expert in. My degree is in Earth Science and I consider myself something of an expert in evolution, science education, and assessment. I’m not that good in geology.

        It’s the quality of the arguments that count. While I comment on Meyer frequently, it’s to emphasize that he doesn’t have the training AND chooses not to do the research in the field he’s writing about. Whereas I don’t have the training either, but I choose to do the research, read the papers, and actually think about them.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Pieret/100000023960330 John Pieret

        Heh! I loved this bit: “Sternberg himself even appeared on The O’Reilly Factor.”

        Nothing says scientific credibility like the approval of BillyO!

      • RexTugwell

        I am always astonished of the preponderance of engineers promoting ID

        That’s quite an insight, kraut2 and probably an accurate one. It’s true what they say: even a blind hog finds an acorn once in a while. But you shouldn’t be astonished. Engineers are very interested in nature and its design because nature has been engineered. Strictly speaking, science doesn’t do anything. Science merely investigates and that’s fine as far as it goes. However, you don’t science something into existence. You engineer/build something e.g. engineering drugs, cars, cilia (btw, cilia are vastly more complex than the flagella. If anyone has an evolutionary pathway for this masterpiece, let me know).

        Now we have the growing field of biomimetics. Engineers learning from nature. Nature teaching engineers how to build things better. The list is long. For example: honeycomb structure used for strong yet lightweight wings on planes, spider silk, woodpecker skulls helping to design safer bike helmets, neural computing and this gem Butterfly wings inspire new technologies: from fabrics and cosmetics to sensors

        • SmilodonsRetreat

          None of which means that nature was designed by an intelligence.

          If you have any evidence of that, then you are free to promote it. But we all know that you don’t. Meyer doesn’t have any. Behe doesn’t have any, either.

          • RexTugwell

            Hey guys, I’m just helping you understand why engineers see design where biologists don’t. Apparently blind, unguided processes are better engineers than the ones from GE. Who knew. I guess when you believe the universe created itself from nothing, you’ll believe anything.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            We’ve been over this, but I see that you continue to use false claims in a very antagonistical way. This implies that you are not interested in dealing in good faith, you are incapable of changing your mind, and you are not interested in learning, only preaching.

            It’s shame that a person contumaciously chooses to ignore evidence and reality is favor of their personal myths.

          • RexTugwell

            “false claims”

            Such as?

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Selection is not unguided. It’s just not guided by an intelligence. We’ve been over this frequently.

            Universe created from nothing, that’s also not entirely correct. The universe IS nothing.

            Of course, let me ask you this… how did the universe come into existence? and what is your evidence for it?

          • RexTugwell

            “The universe IS nothing”

            Sort of like Krauss’s bibliography. You accuse me of listening only to those who tell me what I want to hear. Did you ever read David Albert’s review of “A Universe from Nothing” in the New York Times that I recommended?

            As for selection: to paraphrase Behe, selection can do nothing but sit around and twiddle its thumbs until mutation steps up and does something meaningful. Yet mutation, which really has to do all the work, can’t do much of anything.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Tell me something. Why do philosophers of science have more validity than the scientists who actually do the work?

            To paraphrase Behe: ID is a mechanistic theory, but we have no mechanism. So what?

            So you take one thing, ignore it and attack the other thing. Then you ignore the other thing and attack the firs thing. I guess the concept of working together never occurred to you.

          • RexTugwell

            Oh forgot to mention, David Albert is a theoretical physicist too.

            Why do philosophers of science have more validity than the scientists who actually do the work?

            Because not only do philosophers have to know philosophy in general and philosophy of science in particular but they have to know the science about which they are speaking or specializing in; sometimes better than the scientists working in the field. Don’t take my word for it. That’s the opinion of Massimo Pigliucci, atheist, philosopher of science and rabid opponent of ID.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            It’s darn shame that Meyer doesn’t agree with you then. Because he obviously doesn’t know about the actual science of evolution or the evidence against his claims.

            What’s really sad is that he’s been publishing the same things for decades and it was wrong then and it’s still wrong now. But YOU love him to pieces and in spite of the dozens of locations in this book where he flat out lies, you still think he’s right.

            At this point, if Meyer said it was raining, I’d be forced to double check.

            Of course, I guess if you believe that something that can’t be seen, touched, felt, or heard did something that no one can identify sometime in the past and maybe currently and maybe at various points in time over the last 4.5 billion years and that something can’t be examined, detailed, or provided evidence for… heck even explained.

            Well, I guess you’ll believe anything to.

            What will change your mind? Me, I’ll change due to evidence (of which neither you nor Meyer has ever provided in spite of multiple requests for). But you won’t change your opinion of Meyer. Why is that?

          • Void Walker

            Rex…your mind must be ablaze with dissonance the likes of which most cannot fathom.

            You deny evolution, falsely believing that this somehow vindicates your belief in the christian God. Yes, I know you. I know that you mask your claims with verbosity and ambiguity in order to obfuscate your beliefs. You’re a Christian, pure and simple. I’m quite apt at eviscerating them, so why don’t we just cut the bullshit denial and attack your pitiable little beliefs, head on?

            I’d love to destroy you, so lets begin whenever you’re ready. :-D

            We can do the logical or natural problem of evil, the historicity of the bible, the incoherence of the trinity, etc. I’m waiting….

          • RexTugwell

            Void, tell me about your family life.

          • Void Walker

            (sigh) I should have figured as much. Avoidance.

          • RexTugwell

            Something must have happened to you to turn you into an insufferable turd; I’m just trying to find out what did it. Did you not get a pony for your birthday as a little boy? Help me out here.

          • Void Walker

            No, I got the pony. The problems began shortly after….my dad had to sh…sh-sh….shoot it! D-:

          • Doc Bill

            Engineers don’t see design in nature. That is absurdly wrong, but typical of the infantile creationist mind. If there was true design in nature then there would be more wheels. As for Krauss, old Tuggy’s going to have to pass the 8th grade to get through that book! Meanwhile, keep reading book reviews, Tuggy, well.

        • Doc Bill

          Hey, Tuggy, you forgot using ice to cool down drinks and fire to cook food! Or kangaroos that inspired pogo sticks. Cow hides and leather jackets. Wow, Tuggy, it’s a Miracle that there’s a longhorn cow AND a longhorn State! Now, I’m a believer! Clinching argument, Tuggy, I can feel myself clenching.

          • Void Walker

            I still say that Rex is mine to keep! I’d give it…er….him a much better home :)

  • Doc Bill

    Why does Meyer pad his books with this irrelevant junk and clutter? I suspect it’s because he has nothing original to say. The 2004 paper was a re-hash of an earlier ’97 or ’99 piece of Meyer fiction. “Doubt” is simply a longer, greatly padded, version of the 2004 paper.

    In the “ID community” which is akin to a leper colony, apologies to lepers, Meyer’s 2004 paper is hailed as a “peer-reviewed, published research paper on intelligent design” when, in fact, the entire paper is a negative argument against evolution with only the barest mention of “intelligent agents” at the very end.

    Oh, much like Doubt! Hundreds of pages of crapola and one paragraph describing the Intelligent Designer ™, blessed be he, as a supernatural god!

    The irony is that the bankruptcy of the notion of “intelligent design” creationism is in Chapter 11.