Tuesday, July 05, 2005

ID and research

A pretty consistent charge levelled against ID is that it isn't producing research, and it isn't publishing papers. Here's a couple of quotes from ARN
We await with anticipation the IDist research proposal to study how intelligent causation brings about convergent evolution.

Go to it. We've been waiting and waiting and waiting for some details from the "intelligent design" community.

... and one in response to an earlier post from me ...

What evidence is there from intelligent design? Even the few ID-favorable articles that have slipped into science journals admit they are reviews of arguments, not new data.

So why aren't papers being published? I think one only has to look at the furore that accompanied the publication of "The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories" by Stephen C. Meyer to know the answer to this. For those who don't know, the outgoing editor was accused of all sorts of misbehaviour by (amongst others) the National Center for Science Education and its co-belligerent, Panda's Thumb. The accusations were unfounded, but in most walks of life would be considered to be intimidation.

In most settings, a paper won't even get that far. A large proportion of the science community is still strongly committed to the idea that external agency lies outside the realm of science - despite the fact that the detection of external agency (which is what ID is all about) is precisely the nature of SETI, forensics and archaeology. So (in accordance with one of the arguments against ID given below!) ID isn't science. Therefore it won't be published.

Even if somebody with a position of influence is prepared to look at a paper which advocates Intelligent Design, the treatment meted out to people and organisations that are prepared to present this material would seriously discourage them. Again, I would point out that in any other walk of life, this behaviour would be called intimidation.

On the basis of what happened within creationism, of course, this won't make "the problem" for anti-ID'ers go away. What will happen, if what happened with creationism is anything to go by, is that an ID "counter culture" will be established. This would actually be a shame, in my opinion - ID has the potential of re-unifying strands of knowledge that became separate in the enlightenment.

As was remarked in Denyse O'Leary's book, it would have been unfortunate if the editors who reviewed Einstein's original papers on relativity had been bothered by the unorthodoxy of his background or ideas - but although relativity overturned the world of physics, they had nothing to prove.

However, despite the opposition, the body of ID-related literature is growing. See this list, on the Discovery Institute website.

Why isn't research happening? This kind of follows on. Obviously many scientists in universities will have a prior commitment against ID. But which head of department would be prepared to admit that staff were being funded to carry out research in an area related to ID? What would be the impact on that department when the first paper appeared? "Professor Steve Stevenson - he's the one who funded Dr Steph Stefano who tried to get the paper published demonstrating that the genetic code could not have arisen by any naturalistic process." "Oh yeah! Well, can't say much for what goes on in his labs, then, because anybody who argues that isn't being scientific." "Won't look at any papers from there in future." "Won't encourage students to go there in future." "Must have a word with the trustees and let them know that they are risking funding to the department." etc.