Posted by: Dan | November 30, 2006

Notes from Last Night’s ID Debate

David, one of my blogging patrons, has a graduation gift of sorts for me – notes from last night’s debate between the Cornell IDEA and ACLU clubs on “Should intelligent design be allowed in the public school science curriculum?”

My thoughts first:
Firstly, I thought the IDEA Center and Discovery Institute’s official policy wasn’t to teach their pet theory, but to teach “critical evaluation of evolution.” Apparently, IDEA members are no longer continuing that little charade.

Second, it’s a shame that the ACLU side didn’t appear to represent well. Even more of a shame, however, is how Hannah et al. continue to plod along, thinking that criticisms of evolution (well-founded or not) translate into evidence for alternatives. As I’ve said before, science is a meritocracy – if you find that a theory is contradicted by evidence, you revise or replace it with a theory that does fit the evidence. The ACLU apparently did not emphasize this enough – so-called anti-evolutionists have not actually experimentally identified anything outside of the realm of descent with modification or universal common descent; nor have they experimentally identified anything that ID explains non-trivially. Thus, ID fails to pass this basic standard of the scientific method.

And third, it’s a joke that Hannah and Sean tried to deny ID is steeped not in science, but in theistic philosophy. That’s blatantly clear to anyone who has even a rudimentary knowledge of what Billy Dembski’s, Phillip Johnson’s, and this guy’s motivations are. Hannah continues to deny the obvious here.

And fourth, why should Hannah et al. bother to argue whether ID was science, when they could be in the lab doing experiments to test their theory? Well-designed experimental methodologies solve all in science – words and rhetoric certainly will not get their pet theory into science classes.

Anyway, David’s notes and comments from the debate, below the fold:

An account of the Intelligent Design debate at Cornell on November 29, 2006
6:30 PM, 165 McGraw Hall
David J. Schuller

Question: “Should intelligent design be allowed in the public school science curriculum?”
(I didn’t take written notes, the wording may not be exact.)

In favor, the IDEA Club at Cornell: Hannah Maxson and Sean Francis-Lyon.
Opposed, Cornell ACLU: Everet Yi and Barbie Hsu.
I didn’t catch the affiliation or names of the moderators.

This event was very poorly attended in comparison to last year’s debate. I would guess less than 30 people in the room, including participants. No faculty were in attendance, I believe I was the senior person in the room. There was one post-doc, a few grad students, and the rest undergrads, most of whom seemed to be friends of the participants.

I was not impressed with the debating prowess of either side. The key issue is whether Intelligent Design (ID) is science, and most of the participants apparently had very little understanding of science. The one exception is Ms. Hannah Maxson, whom I have read is a triple major in Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. I was especially disappointed with the ACLU representatives, since I know how weak the ID case is, and the ACLU side did not do a good job of capitalizing on the weaknesses. Mr. Yi participated in last year’s debate, it is unfortunate that he has not done his homework in the interim.

There were the usual opening statements and rebuttals, with not a lot of action until the eventual audience participation portion of the program. Once audience participation was allowed, the moderators loosened control considerably. Closing statements followed.

The ACLU claimed that ID is religion, and that most proponents believe the “designer” to be God. That if ID is science, then so is astrology. That ID could be taught in a social studies or comparative religion class, but not in science class, due to laws on separation of church and state. They mentioned the Wedge Strategy, which spells out the religious motivations and goals of the ID movement. With the Kitzmiller v. Dover decision already on the books, the ACLU did not do a good job of making use of readily available material. Since the ACLU did not do a good job of rebutting ID claims, I will do so in the following account. I will even include a few links in case they wish to study up before the next debate. I will group comments topically rather than chronologically.

The IDEA Club started with definitions of science and religion, and claimed that ID is science, not religion. The definition of science was given by Mr. Francis-Lyon from, and was something like this (the #1 definition at that site): “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws: the mathematical sciences.” Oddly enough, later in the evening Mr. Francis-Lyon would claim that mathematics was not science. Mr. Francis-Lyon did not give a thorough definition of religion, just saying that it involves “faith.”

During the audience participation session, the post-doc present criticized Mr. Francis-Lyon for obtaining his definitions of science and religion from different sources. Apparently this is a violation of good debate protocol, a topic of which I do not know a great deal. I object to the definition of science for a different reason, which several questioners approached indirectly. Most scientists would not define science as a body of knowledge. Most scientists would define science as a method. The Scientific Method is “a method of research in which a problem is identified, relevant data are gathered, a hypothesis is formulated from these data, and the hypothesis is empirically tested.” This is very important because ID does not meet standards of scientific testability. If Mr. Francis-Lyon’s definition were used, then perhaps ID might qualify as a science, but so would astrology. Michael Behe, a biochemist who is the scientific darling of the ID movement, acknowledged under oath during the Kitzmiller trial that if his own expanded definitions for science and for theory were adopted, then ID would qualify as a scientific theory, and so would astrology.

The IDEA Club allowed that ID might not be good science (although they played both sides of that net on that issue), but that quality is not the issue, only the nature of ID. They stated that even if proponents have religious motivations, these do not matter. I agree with them on this; if ID had one ounce of validity as science, the religious motivations would not matter. But it doesn’t. For comparison, Mr. Francis-Lyon used the Big Bang theory. He stated that acceptance of the theory was resisted because the theory has religious implications. Fair enough. However, the Big Bang theory is now widely accepted in science, and is backed up by considerable evidence (e.g. The cosmic microwave background). ID cannot point to such acceptance or such evidence. Unless or until it can, ID is more comparable to the Flat Earth theory.

The ID side noted that some theories that are not accepted as good theories are taught in science classes. For example, a geology instructor might note the Flat Earth theory in class in order to dismiss it and state the evidence against. However, this has no bearing on any situation in which ID has been promoted. In Dover, PA, in Ohio, in Kansas, and everywhere else it has arisen, proponents have wished ID to be taught as a legitimate scientific theory and as a viable alternative to evolution. At this point an IDEA Club member in the audience mentioned that various Cornell biology instructors have discussed ID in class. I insisted that she make it clear that these instructors (MacNeill, Provine and others) do not support ID and do not consider it to be science. I will add here that “Free” Will Provine has taught a summer course on Creationism (the old-fashioned Creation Science version, not the watered-down ID) for years, and that Creationism is not considered to be science, a judgment to which the ID side has assented.

The ID side stated that ID is not a faith-based presupposition but rather a conclusion based on analysis of the evidence. Since ID has no evidence this claim has no foundation. Ms. Maxson claimed that ID is based on positive evidence, but she did not provide any. She is also at odds with leaders of the ID movement in that claim. George Gilder, senior fellow at the Discovery Institute (The leading proponent and funder of Intelligent Design) stated in an interview in the Boston Globe (July 27, 2005, Joseph P. Kahn):

“I’m not pushing to have [ID] taught as an ‘alternative’ to Darwin, and neither are [the Discovery Institute], What’s being pushed is to have Darwinism critiqued, to teach there’s a controversy. Intelligent design itself does not have any content.

Paul Nelson, Fellow of the Discovery Institute’s Center for Science and Culture has this to say about IDC’s scientific status: (via the Panda’s Thumb)

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 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 design.

Since no ID research is being carried out, proponents have no hope of accumulating any evidence. Here’s a clip from an article by Laurie Goodstein, NY Times, December 4, 2005: Intelligent Design Might Be Meeting Its Maker:

The Templeton Foundation, a major supporter of projects seeking to reconcile science and religion, says that after providing a few grants for conferences and courses to debate intelligent design, they asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research.

“They never came in,” said Charles L. Harper Jr., senior vice president at the Templeton Foundation, who said that while he was skeptical from the beginning, other foundation officials were initially intrigued and later grew disillusioned.

“From the point of view of rigor and intellectual seriousness, the intelligent design people don’t come out very well in our world of scientific review,” he said.

In an odd recent development, ID proponent such as Paul Nelson have claimed that the Discovery Institute is funding a secret research program.

Now, Discovery actually funds a great deal of primary research — go ahead, snicker — but those receiving the support and their specific projects have become a very quiet business indeed, and that need for secrecy may continue for a long time. So I’m not griping about DI’s failure to support scientific research. I know what’s happening safely away from the relentless gaze of the Panda’s Thumb.

(The Panda’s Thumb is a pro-science blog, and a good source of anti-ID information.)

Both presenters for the ID side used an analogy of a car as a designed object, which could be compared to complicated biological systems. I pointed out rather forcefully that the “argument from design” has been used for thousands of years, most famously by Rev. William Paley in the early 1800s, and that it has always been used as a religious argument for the existence of God. Now it is being passed off as as nonreligious scientific argument. The ID side acknowledged that Paley’s watch argument had been shot down (by Darwin’s theory of natural selection), but insisted that their use of the car analogy differed in some important respect from Paley’s watch, although they could not specify any difference that I could discern. Michael Behe has acknowledged under oath that his “purposeful arrangement of parts (a relatively recent term to replace his “irreducible complexity”, which has held up poorly under examination) is identical to Paley’s watch argument. This was an easy point against ID, and one the ACLU presenters should have made. At other times in the evening, the ID folks seemed to acknowledge that Behe’s irreducible complexity is not holding up well, and Ms. Maxson acknowledged at one point that randomness can generate complexity.

Ms. Maxson at one point raised an argument for “specified complexity”, a term fabricated by William Dembksi, (Who elsewhere has remarked, “ID is the logos theology of John’s Gospel in the idiom of information theory”) to support ID. She claimed there are actual equations! A questioner said that he had corresponded with Jeffrey Shallit, a widely acknowledged expert in information theory, who had dismissed the idea of specified complexity. (As have other experts in information theory.) Rather inconveniently, Ms Maxson stated that she had not read much of Shallit’s work.

Ms. Maxson stated that ID has a collection of 30 or so peer-reviewed publications. She did not provide a list, nor cite any publications from it, but from the number I gather she was talking about the Discovery Institute’s list of Peer-Reviewed & Peer-Edited Scientific Publications Supporting the Theory of Intelligent Design. The total number of publications in that list is not impressive. It would be easy to find more publications than that on cold fusion (920 in a recent search of the Science Citation Index), which I hope everyone would acknowledge is not ready for inclusion in the K-12 science curriculum. Also, many of the publications listed are books or book chapters. In fact, one book and many of its chapters are listed as separate entries. In scientific peer-review, publications are reviewed by acknowledged experts in the relevant field, not by your pals at a political think tank. Michael Behe has boasted, even under oath, that his book Darwin’s Black Box was peer-reviewed, and that the peer-review was even stronger than for typical journal publications (translation for the uninitiated: the first reviewers advised against publication, so the publisher sought additional reviewers). Michael Atchison of the University of Pennsylvania has commented publicly that he cast the deciding vote to publish Darwin’s black Box in a brief phone call with the publisher, and that at the time he had not read a manuscript of it. Book publishers are more concerned with marketability than scientific rigor and thus I discount the listed books and book chapters.

What of the actual publications in peer-reviewed science journals? The Discovery Institute list contains only about seven. Let’s look at a couple of them:

1) S.C. Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2) (2004): 213-239.

This is a review article and contains no new data. It is published in an inappropriate journal through the actions of a rogue editor, Richard Sternberg. The scientific quality of this article is so low that the publisher has issued a statement disowning it. Thorough dissections of Meyer’s paper can be found online.

2) M.J. Behe and D.W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues,” Protein Science, 13 (2004): 2651-2664.

Behe & Snoke contains no experimental data, only the results of a computer model. Michael Lynch, an acknowledged expert in population genetics published a response in the same journal:

3) Simple evolutionary pathways to complex proteins
Michael Lynch, Protein Science (2005), 14:2217-2225

Here are a couple of quotes from Lynch’s paper:

A recent paper in this journal has challenged the idea that complex adaptive features of proteins can be explained by known molecular, genetic, and evolutionary mechanisms. It is shown here that the conclusions of this prior work are an artifact of unwarranted biological assumptions, inappropriate mathematical modeling, and faulty logic.

And this:

Before proceeding, a fundamental flaw in the argument of Behe and Snoke needs to be pointed out. Although the authors claim to be evaluating whether Darwinian processes are capable of yielding new multi-residue functions, the model that they present is non- Darwinian.

So it seems that the authors literally did not know what they were writing about. (“Darwinian” refers to evolution through natural selection. Since the Behe & Snoke model removed did not include selection after a single mutation, it was technically about neutral drift, a non-Darwinian process.)

To sum up, very few peer-review publications support ID, and those that do are of extremely low quality.

At another point, Ms. Maxson attempted to claim that even if ID was a “science-stopper”, an idea that would stifle further inquiry, this was no reason to exclude it from science. As an example, she chose Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This is a startlingly bad choice. The uncertainty principle is not in any way a science stopper. It gives a relationship between conjugate properties of a particle, such as position and momentum. It has not stopped the progress of quantum mechanics, which has been fabulously successful over the last century. The uncertainty principle can also be measured, and it can be used as a basis for further research. It is in no way comparable to ID.

The ID proponents also stated that a judge has no business deciding what is science and what is not. Judge Jones has explained in interviews since his decision in the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial that both sides had asked him to rule on that very issue. The Discovery Institute submitted an amicus curiae brief and expert reports in an attempt to establish that ID was science. The judge ruled, as they had asked him to do; just not in their favor. They lost the case. Judge Jones found that 1) ID is essentially Creationism, which is subject to previous rulings in the separation of church and state. 2) ID is at its core religion. 3) ID is not science.

One of the ACLU’s combatants in the debate, Everet Yi, emailed me this morning (12/9), with a long post, including the following:

Additionally, I feel compelled to defend my honor. I read the post and it criticized me for my weak arguments in tying ID to a religious view. First of all, my debater and I had an agreement that she would show that ID is a religious ideology, while I would talk about the legal and constitutional aspect of teaching ID in Science classrooms. After all the debate’s title
was “Should Intelligent Design be Taught in Public Schools (Science Curriculum)” and not “Is Intelligent Design a Science?”

This followed a reminder that the ACLU is not a single-issue advocacy group like IDEA, nor were they experts on biology. And I do admit to a bit of chagrin, because he’s right, I’m sure that he and his partner on the ACLU side did an admirable job. That David (who was there) or I (who relied on David’s version of events, and am even less reliable on what happened) would be able to criticize them on nothing more than “not having emphasized [specific points] strongly enough” just goes to show that Everet and his partner put in an admirable effort. We, as biologists, will always chafe when creationism’s trojan horse gets any amount of fair time in a debate, while equally silly theories (e.g. “intelligent falling,” or “FSMism”) are not – but we should cut the ACLU team some slack for their stalwart attempt.

Anyway, I’m just about to reply with an apology, and ask to post his email here in full, to give his side of the debate.



  1. One of the ID guys early on referred to evolution as a “chance-driven process.” This would make any biologist cringe. Natural selection is anything but chance.

  2. ID will never be able to accumulate any evidence. This is because it makes no testable predictions. Testability, or falsifiability, is at the heart of science. In April 2006 the IDEA Club invited Cornelius Hunter of Biola Univerty to campus, where he participated in a panel discussion with Richard Harrison and Kern Reeve of Cornell. Reeve challenged Hunter to come up with any testable predictions made by ID “theory.” The only thing Hunter could come up with was black obelisks. (a la 2001: A Space Odyssey). Reeve let him ramble for a couple minutes before reminding him htat is a work of fiction.

  3. ID will never be able to accumulate any evidence.

    Of course – and the same goes for the infamous Flat Earth theory and Intelligent Falling. The larger point, or one of them anyway, is that any theory vying for validation must play by the rules of science – the scientific method.

    And Hannah et al. clearly are NOT interested in the “scientific method” – indeed, they criticize the concept of “methodological naturalism” – a synonymous term.

    But this is all just re-stating and paraphrasing what was originally posted above…

  4. Casey Luskin is the founder of the IDEA Center, the parent organization for the IDEA Clubs, which no longer require club officers to be Christian.

  5. The charge that “they never came in” is utterly false. The book “The Priveledged Planet” was the result of a proposal the Templeton foundation, Dembski won a templeton award for “Being as Communion: The Science and Metaphysics of Information”. This is actually a long list. You people need to check your facts.

  6. Hi Guts,
    “They never came in” was a quote in the cited NYTimes article, and “they” refers to proposals for actual research:

    …asked proponents to submit proposals for actual research…

    I haven’t read the book, but I did see the movie “Privileged Planet,” and it’s not based on any actual scientific studies, you know. And Dembski may have written a few pieces relating to the philosophy of science, but he has never done any “actual research.”

    That, plus, I would think that a senior VP in the Templeton Foundation would know whether or not any proposals for actual research were indeed ever submitted.

    So, no, I think that David’s facts are quite correct on this matter.

  7. “I haven’t read the book, but I did see the movie “Privileged Planet,” and it’s not based on any actual scientific studies, you know. ”

    But of course you would say that. Tempelton guys thought it was actual scientific study.

    “And Dembski may have written a few pieces relating to the philosophy of science, but he has never done any “actual research.””

    Actually his research led to the book “No Free Lunch” and is the mathematical foundation for mainstream ID.

    “That, plus, I would think that a senior VP in the Templeton Foundation would know whether or not any proposals for actual research were indeed ever submitted. ”

    The Templeton Award that Dembski and Gonzalez (for example) received is quite checkable.

    “So, no, I think that David’s facts are quite correct on this matter”

    They are quite wrong, he probably just took it from Pandas or Wikipedia and never bothered to check it out himself.

  8. mainstream ID.

    That’s a cute oxymoron. One of the links I provided was to William Dembski’s treatment of the
    No Free Lunch theorems is written in jello
    by David Wolpert. Wolpert is one of the original developers of the ‘No Free Lunch’ theorem. It’s a pity you never bothered to check it out for yourself.

    They are quite wrong, he probably just took it from Pandas or Wikipedia and never bothered to check it out himself.

    If you’re still talking about the quote from the NYTimes article, it is a direct quote and I gave a fairly complete reference, including a link for the article. What could I do to satisfy you, cut the article out a back issue of the paper and tape it to your monitor?

    The Templeton Award that Dembski and Gonzalez (for example) received is quite checkable.

    Sure. That’s why you provided a reference. I did find this: Fellowships/Awards
    Templeton Foundation Book Prize ($100,000) for writing book on information theory, 2000–2001.

    A prize for having written a book is not a grant for doing research.

    Wikipedia article on Templeton Foundation
    In addition to suggestions that the foundation has a conservative bent, controversy exists over the foundation’s support for intelligent design proponents. In 1996 the foundation awarded a prize to an Australian cosmologist who supports intelligent design, in 1999 provided a grant to the Discovery Institute, and has also funded the production of “The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery”, a 2004 book supporting intelligent design by Guillermo Gonzalez, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute

    Once again, funding for writing a book or producing a video is not a grant for conducting research. By which we mean original laboratory research, not library ‘research’.

    But of course you would say that. Tempelton guys thought it was actual scientific study.

    What is your source for this second-hand opinion of the “Templeton guys”? If there was an actual scientfic study, you would be able to provide us with a reference to a peer-reviewed journal article.

  9. By the way, Guts, in case I haven’t made it clear, I think it is extremely ridiculous for you to be questioning my sources when I have given exact quotes, full references, and URLs, while you provide none at all for your own assertions.

  10. Guts,
    Ivy is quite right – the original post is quite transparent (complete with links for independently confirmation of its claims), and accurate. And further, suggesting that the Privileged Planet and No Free Lunch concepts are “research” suggests that you don’t understand what scientific research actually entails.

  11. Ivy,
    By the way, did you see or read the Privileged Planet? My impression is that it was based on the sort of logic that Copernicus debunked – geocentrism – only applied to the topic of astrobiology. I think it’s pretty far-fetched, and Carl Sagan’s books Cosmos and Pale Blue Dot do a fair job of explaining a far more rational alternative to the notions in PP.

  12. No, I have not read PP. Life is short, one cannot do everything.

  13. I’m just curious.

    I’m just an undergrad taking a few units in biology and all the evidence presented in the stuff I’ve read or I’ve heard my professors discuss are non-experimental. Embryology, molecular biology, paleontology–fields all recognized as the primary contributors to evidence supporting evolution–didn’t seem to provide anything that established more than correlations.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m an agnostic and I’d like nothing more than see “intelligent design” crash and burn, but to criticize it for not having experimental support is a two-way sword, at least from my unenlightened point of view.

  14. Hi Nico,
    I think that is an appropriate way to describe how science is taught at the undergraduate and high school levels, describing the results of scientific discovery, not the process of it. To say that that is a dramatic shortcoming of science education is a very astute observation, I’d say. But research into these areas did come to their present state by thorough examination of previous knowledge, hypothesizing new connections, and looking to see whether those speculations were correct or not. I.e., the scientific method.

    For excellent treatises on the experimental history of embryology (esp. evo-devo) and molecular biology, I would direct you to two books that I regard highly – Endless Forms Most Beautiful (by Carroll) and The Plausibility of Life (by Kirschner and Gerhart), respectively. Many others are out there, to be sure, including Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, most famously.

    I apologize though for not having better references handy to directly list various experimental evidences of evolution in the areas that you list – but quick google searches turn up these scholarly articles:
    Experimental Strategies in Evolutionary Embryology
    Experimental Analysis of Molecular Events During Mutational Periodic Selections in Bacterial Evolution
    Does Biology Have Laws? The Experimental Evidence

    Again, I apologize for not being helpful at all on the paleontology, and for not having a more readable and comprehensive reference list readily available for the experimental evidences. If I find some I’ll link to them here.

  15. Ohh, right – sorry, I forgot about Theobald’s 29+ Evidences for Macroevolution:
    The Scientific Case for Common Descent
    (complete with a thorough bibliography for each section)

    Beyond that, hundreds of overly-specialized scientific studies come out every month evaluating aspects of evolutionary biology – perhaps if you’d like to choose something specific pertaining to evolution, we could look up the process by which it was discovered and tested.

  16. Embryology, molecular biology, paleontology–fields all recognized as the primary contributors to evidence supporting evolution–didn’t seem to provide anything that established more than correlations.

    And what does ID have to offer but bare assertions? I’ll take a correlation over a baere assertion any day.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m an agnostic and I’d like nothing more than see “intelligent design” crash and burn, but to criticize it for not having experimental support is a two-way sword, at least from my unenlightened point of view.

    In addition to the evidence already on the books, there’s the question of theoretical predictions that could be tested to find new evidence. Take for example the Tiktallik fossil reported last year. The researchers involved figured, using known fossils, dates and evolutionary theory, that there ought to be additional, undiscoveredl intermediates in the fish -> tetrapod series. They knew how old they ought ot be, and what sort of environment they might be found in. So, using geographical knowledge of where the appropriate aged rocks might be found, they went looking for it.

    ID, on the other hand, makes no predictions. Things were just introduced by some unnamable “intelligent designer” at times unknown with methods unknown. This leaves nothing to look for. The time saved can be used for singing hymns and moving goalposts.

  17. Take for example the Tiktallik fossil reported last year. The researchers involved figured, using known fossils, dates and evolutionary theory, that there ought to be additional, undiscoveredl intermediates in the fish -> tetrapod series. They knew how old they ought ot be, and what sort of environment they might be found in. So, using geographical knowledge of where the appropriate aged rocks might be found, they went looking for it.

    Not to mention the analyses done dating the fossils in controlled experiments, and modeling anatomical features of said fossils in controlled experiments, to name two very general ways of scientifically examining evidence. I’m sure if we were talking specifics, the list would go on and on.

    Indeed, while the conclusions disseminated by researchers to the public may make the fields that you mention “just so” endeavors, nothing could be further from the truth. Take radiocarbon-dating of fossils, for instance. This simple-sounding method has been, and continues to be, tested and compared with just about every other method that has been conceived for dating fossils.

    Similarly with molecular clock estimates – while this method is less reliable than radiocarbon-dating, it still has a lot that it can tell us.

    Likewise with studies on anatomical and molecular homology. Tremendous amounts of experimental evidence there.

    And the list goes on… like I said, hundreds of studies come out monthly on these topics…

  18. Sorry for the pile-on, but this is a great way for me to procrastinate from real work at them moment…

    For a more specific example of alternative “correlations” in molecular biology, let’s look at a case-study: Jonathan Wells’ centrioles – designed or evolved? (selected paragraphs quoted below)

    In 2005, Wells published a paper in which he claims that centrioles, small cylindrical structures associated with cell division and cilia, were turbines because, well, they look like human designed turbines to him (Wells, 2005). I will look at the turbine hypothesis in more detail later. As a design hypothesis it is fairly weak. The journal it is published in, Rivista di Biologia, is regarded as fringe publication, open to cranks. However, this did not stop the ID people from putting John Davisons’ barely coherent Rivista paper on the list. So why is Wells, hardly a marginal figure like Davison, excluded?

    Wells’s design hypothesis is based around a small organelle, the centriole (see image below). The role of the centriole is poorly understood, but it is thought to play an important (but not indispensable), role in aligning and separating chromosomes during cell division. It anchors long polymers of filamentous proteins called microtubules, which attach to the chromosomes. During mitosis, in a dividing cell, chromosomes are “pushed” towards the center of the cell, where they align, before being pulled back to the poles of the cell before the cell divides. The “push” that drives the chromosomes towards the center of the cell is called the “Polar Ejection Force” (PEF, or sometimes the spindle ejection force). Wells suggests that the centrioles are generating the PEF.

    So here we have a design driven hypothesis (however tenuous), with testable predictions. You would expect the year old ID “research center”, the Biologic Institute, to be on it. Or maybe this is the secret ID research that Paul Nelson is talking about. However, no follow up on this proposal has come from ID sources. Instead, the centrioles as turbines hypothesis has been firmly sunk by “reductionist neo-Darwinians ™”, completely unaware of Wells’s ideas, beavering away over a hot eppendorf tube.

    First though, I’ll briefly outline the leading hypothesis of the “reductionist neo-Darwinians ™”. Their idea is that “motor” molecules, which bind to the chromosomes and the microtubules, push the chromosomes away from the cells poles until they meet in the midline. There is quite a bit of evidence for this. They have identified a chromosome bound protein that attaches to microtubles (Kid in mammals, Xkid in frogs and KPL-19 in C. elegans see Yajima et al., 2003, Powers et al., 2004, Zhu et al., 2005, Tokai-Nishizumi et al 2005 and references therein), that is structurally similar to other motor proteins. They can show that antibodies to these proteins prevent chromosomes lining up properly. Some elegant work with small interfering RNA’s to stop Kid production abolishes the PEF (Zhu et al., 2005), and some beautiful work has shown that Kid coated glass beads zip down microtubules, so that Kid is an active motor (Yajima et al., 2003). This has been recently confirmed in another experiment with chromosome bound microtubules (Brouhard & Hunt 2005). While not completely rock solid, there is substantial evidence that the PEF is due to chromosome bound “motors” pushing chromosomes down the microtubules.

    So let us return to the centrioles as turbines hypothesis. While the evidence for the PEF being driven by chromosomal bound motors is substantial, it does not necessarily invalidate the centrioles as turbines hypothesis, although the almost complete wipe out of the PEF by Kid knockdown experiments is pretty compelling (Zhu et al., 2005). The fact that the majority of Kid is bound to the chromosome suggests it is not powering centriolar rotation. As I said, evidence gathered by “reductionist neo-Darwinians ™” has sunk the hypothesis. “Well,” the IDers will reply, “here we have a ID hypothesis generating fruitful research, even if it doesn’t support our side”. Sadly, the hypothesis was sunk as a by-product of researchers looking at completely different things, not checking if centrioles were turbines (Wells’s paper has gathered zero citations since its publication).

    [And towards the end,] So to summarise:
    1. C. elegans, with non-turbine centrioles, has a normal PEF
    2. Fruit flies with no centrioles have a normal PEF
    3. Cells with centrioles, but no Kid, have no PEF

    And there’s many times many more examples of this sort of research…

  19. […] Everet Yi, one of the ACLU team in the aforementioned debate, responded to me via email, to the post on the recent ACLU-vs-IDEA debate on ID. I’ve updated that original post with an addendum, and am putting up his response here as well. […]

  20. Tika, I also have sources that are quite checkable , with regard to the Tempelton awards that IDers have received, why ignore this?

  21. Oops meant Ivy

  22. I also have sources that are quite checkable , with regard to the Tempelton awards that IDers have received, why ignore this?

    Wait a sec – Ivy (and myself) are ignoring sources that you haven’t shown us? The horrors!…

  23. I also have sources that are quite checkable , with regard to the Tempelton awards that IDers have received, why ignore this?

    Ignore, my ****. You provided no sources earlier, and you still haven’t. I did some checking on associations of Dembski and Gonzalez with the Templeton Foundation, which I included above, and which Dan commented on as well. You seem to be ignoring that, even as you accuse me of ignoring your claims.

    To summarily repeat my response, an award for a book written or production money for a book or video are not the same as a grant for carrying out original scientific research. Both Bill and Hillary Clinton have received advances for books they were writing. Does that mean their books constitute scientific research?

  24. Ugh… more of Guts’ stupidity:

    Daniel, all you are doing is ignoring the tests and confirming what I stated at the beginning of this conversation, according to anti-ID activists, studies on gene sequence, molecular systems, fossils , paleontology, cosmology etc isn’t scientific research, unless it supports your position.

    He’s made it clear that this example of armchair theorizing constitutes “scientific research” in his opinion.

    What does it take for these creationists to get it through their thick heads that no one in the scientific community will ever take them seriously if they refuse to acknowledge the burden of evidence the scientific method rests upon?

    Stupid, stupid, stupid creationists. Also, stupid me, for thinking that Guts might start to actually comprehend what “scientific research” actually entails…

  25. Posuer Provocateurs: Intelligent Design’s “underground railroad”

    With the PR campaign for the anti-evolutionary film Expelled! ramping up, it seems like the Intelligent Design movement is well prepared for its next big PR campaign: whiny, content-free victimhood. While I, among others, missed it when it was first an…


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