Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Jonathan Wells Contradiction.


There are said to be well-documented occurrences of key ID proponents making statements that, even in full context, appear to be outright mistruths. The classic example apparently is Jonathan Wells statements here:

Statement 1:During my years as a physical science undergraduate and biology graduate student at the University of California, Berkeley, I believed almost everything I read in my textbooks. I knew that the books contained a few misprints and minor factual errors, and I was skeptical of philosophical claims that went beyond the evidence, but I thought that most of what I was being taught was substantially true.As I was finishing my Ph.D. in cell and developmental biology, however, I noticed that all of my textbooks dealing with evolutionary biology contained a blatant misrepresentation: Drawings of vertebrate embryos showing similarities that were supposed to be evidence for descent from a common ancestor. But as an embryologist I knew the drawings were false. Not only did they distort the embryos they purported to show, but they also omitted earlier stages in which the embryos look very different from each other.
Statement 2:
"Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism, just as many of my fellow Unificationists had already devoted their lives to destroying Marxism. When Father chose me (along with about a dozen other seminary graduates) to enter a Ph.D. program in 1978, I welcomed the opportunity to prepare myself for battle."

In the Book “Darwins Nemesis” in the chapter entitled “Common Ancestry on Trial” Jonathon Wells gives a more detailed account of his journey of doubts about Macroevolution.
By 1978 Wells claims that he had “become convinced that the neo-darwinian mechanism of evolution was scientifically unsupported.” In 1978 Wells was chosen by Rev. Moon for further study in theology and he entered a Ph.D. program in religious studies at Yale. During this period of study he says that he remained a “theistic evolutionist” Wells says he completed his Ph.D at Yale in 1986. In 1989 he entered the Ph.D. program at UC Berkeley. At this point he says that he “accepted the overall pattern of evolution” but was “skeptical of the neo-darwinistic mechanism”

He claims that his skepticism about evolution jumped a gear when he read Phillip Johnson’s book “Darwin on Trial” in 1991 so that he was at that point beginning to think that Darwinian evolution as a theory was more deeply flawed that he had ever imagined and wanted to seriously ask the question “What is really going on here?”

He claims that it was at UC Berkely that he claims to have experienced the shock of the distorted vertebrate embryo diagrams.

Thus according to Wells the watershed in his intellectual journey regarding Darwinism occurred as he read “Darwin on Trial” in 1991 as he was finishing his coursework and examinations for a Ph. D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology at UC Berkeley. Prior to this point he had been on a mission for Rev Moon to destroy the anti-theistic implications of Dawinism but accepted the “pattern” of evolution while rejecting the “process” as being essentially undirected. Up to the point of reading “Darwin on Trial” he had been comfortable with theistic evolution convinced that the neo-Darwinian mechanism of evolution was scientifically unsupported.

Thus the issue becomes the following:
Are the statements “I believed almost everything I read in my textbooks” and “I thought that most of what I was being taught was substantially true” consistent with a conviction that the neo-darwinian mechanism of evolution is scientifically unsupported.

I believe that they are and that it was the shock of what was actually fraud by a famous scientist which appeared to be deliberately continuing to be presented to the minds of the unsuspecting public which was the textbook shocker that Wells discovered.

The Darwinism that he was determined to attack in 1978 was the view of Dawkins that evolution occurs blindly without intelligence. He was happy with theistic evolution but not atheistic evolution and it was the atheistic version of the story that he was setting out to destroy.

23 Comments:

Blogger Lifewish said...

But his first statement indicates that he was in the possession of a decent number of evolutionary biology textbooks for some time before he received his "shock", and, by implication, that he broadly accepted the claims of those textbooks up til that point. Which conflicts with his claim in statement 2.

The only evolutionary biology textbook I'm aware of that doesn't strongly emphasise the effects of random mutation and natural selection is "Of Pandas And People", which IIRC was first published in 1983 (under the title "Creation Biology", incidentally).

7:16 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

He was careful to qualify his statement of confidence in textbook honesty and competence with a "most of what I was being taught" and "almost everything" is this consistent with a theistic view of evolution.

I had a quick look through several of my biology and biochemistry texts and there is very little that a theistic evolutionist would object to.

Would you expect a physical sciences undergraduate and a biological sciences graduate to purchase and read "a decent number of evolutionary biology textbooks" I bought several as an undergraduate and graduate but I was unusual in this respect.

5:52 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I had a quick look through several of my biology and biochemistry texts and there is very little that a theistic evolutionist would object to.

First point: if my understanding of the terminology is correct, there is nothing in the whole of evolutionary biology that a theistic evolutionist would object to. Theistic evolution just takes evolution and tacks "according to God's wishes" onto the end.

If Wells is putting "common ancestry on trial" then my understanding is that he would not be considered a theistic evolutionist. Similarly, Haeckel's embryo diagrams would be a non-issue to a theistic evolutionist. Of course, it's possible we have different definitions of theistic evolution - the way he uses the term seems similar to the way I'd use the term "old-earth creationist".

Secondly, my reason for assuming that Wells would have several evolutionary textbooks on hand is that he explicitly said so: "I noticed that all of my textbooks dealing with evolutionary biology contained a blatant misrepresentation". "All" in this context tends to imply that he had at least three, possibly more.

And there is no way that those textbooks didn't go into substantial detail on the mechanism Wells attacks as "Darwinism". Hence, he was lying when he said that he accepted their content as being substantially true.

11:00 pm  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

That's just one small example of Wells' dissembling, a clearcut case that can only be rationalized by those seeking to preserve his credibility for their own reasons.

His stories could not hold up in a court of law. And, not coincidentally, he doesn't get called to testify.

5:38 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Ed,

The "Liar Liar" call is the prelude to complete breakdown of communications. My point here is that we should seek to reserve it for when there is clearly no alternative. I think that in this case there is an alternative.

Have you got a well documented list of Dr. Wells'dissembling?

10:16 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

As I understand it there are three time periods here...

1. 1978ish - where Wells was a "theistic evolutionist" but felt that the darwinian mechanism of evolution was "scientifically unsupported"

2. The period at UC Berkeley doing graduate work on developement starting in 1989.

3. The "post Darwin on Trial" period where his scepticism of the evidence for macro-evolution deepened after 1991.

Statement 2 clearly refers to time period 1.

Statement 1 can be read as partly in time period 2 and 3 and could therefore be reconciliable in my view.

10:27 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I'm not sure what you're getting at - are you saying that, as of 1989, he lost all interest in fighting "Darwinism" and instead accepted his textbooks' claims that RMNS-style evolution was sufficient to explain the diversity of life? That is the only way I can see to plausibly unite the two statements, but it seems rather ludicrous given that he's busily fighting "Darwinism" today.

4:38 pm  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Check out Wells' chapter on Bernard Kettlewell's experiments with moths. Every statement of fact Wells makes is false. Every one.

Every one.

He presented this stuff to the Texas State Board of Education in 2003. It was shortly after the book about the real difficulties with Kettlewell's work had come out (Of Moths and Men, by Judith Hooper. Wells had listed in footnotes in his book references to the work of real scientists such as Jerry Coyne and others -- each of whom had publicly and in print disowned Wells' version of their work as contrary to the facts. Ms. Hooper included a couple of long passages in her book noting that scientists (probably burned by Wells) were wary about talking to her, and suggested that creationists would make use of her book. In the passages she points out that nothing in her book could support either intelligent design nor any other form of creationism.

Sure enough: Wells had listed Hooper as a citation to his claims, in the "update" to the Texas SBOE.

In each case, the work cited says exactly the opposite of what Wells claims. In each case, the authors of the works have explained that Wells got it wrong. And in each case, Wells has continued on his merry path, as if no one had pointed it out.

I'm not calling "liar, liar." I'm asking you to check out his footnotes. Wells' work does him in. It's a bold strategy, to cite the work that denies one's point, but it appears to work with those who don't know much about the science, and who fail to check the footnotes.

Peppered moths remain as a model of natural selection in action, all moth researchers and evolution researchers agree. There are questions about the selecting agents (tits don't normally eat peppered moths); it is false to claim that Kettlewell's work is anything less than the monument it is.

P.S. -- Yes, moths DO rest on the trunks of trees. All moth researchers agree.

5:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lifewish- in regards to of pandas and people. the term 'intelligent design' had not been thought up yet. they used the word 'creation' and 'creator' because of the fact they had a new paradigm and no full dictionary.

ed conflates two issues. he claims that wells is a liar in the peppered moth chapter and that the author of the book wells uses (HOOPER) says that her book doesnt support ID. but thats not wells uses her information for. Hooper can believe that ID isnt factual...she can believe its nonsense, but she does, indeed, show that the moths experiment was inaccurate.

this is plain to see from the reviews and the book summary (available at amazon.com)...


----------
From Publishers Weekly:
Journalist Hooper offers an engaging account of H.B.D. Kettlewell's famous field experiments on the peppered moth, which were widely known as "Darwin's missing evidence," proof of natural selection in action until 1998, that is, when biologist Michael Majerus showed Kettlewell's findings to be falsified and wrong. Hooper peers into the lives of Kettlewell and his mentor and eventual adversary, the imperious and brilliant E.B. Ford, revealing the human factors that don't get written into the research papers "recriminations, intrigue, jealousy, back-stabbing and shattered dreams." Ford, a Darwinian zealot hell-bent on proving natural selection, serves as a foil for the broader questions raised here about dogmatism in science. Natural selection had the dubious distinction of being as widely accepted as it was short on evidence, and the moth experiments were greeted as a pivotal victory; indeed, despite evidence to the contrary, many scientists today still embrace Kettlewell's findings, in part because denying them opens the door to "the bogeyman of creationism." As Hooper writes, the peppered moths provided "a damned good story, a narrative so satisfying, so seductive, that no one can bear to let it go. But a story alone is no substitute for truth." Hooper's lively history also traces the extinction of old-school natural history, embodied by Kettlewell, who was very much left behind with the synthesis of Darwinism and Mendelian genetics, and who died a suicide.
----------

so, wells was right to use Hoopers book, as she says basically the same thing about the experiment wells does. you can claim the original experiment was correct, but Hooper wouldnt back you up on that claim. even stephen gould concluded that the experiments were bogus! this was a famous, widely reported issue, when gould said that he learned the whole thing was bogus!

i really dont expect much from you ed, but when posting to every site on planet earth, at least TRY to be honest once in a while, will ya?

2:07 am  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Wells used the reference to Hooper to boost his own flagging credibility. Wells' book was out years before Hooper's. His citation was added AFTER every other person cited in the chapter had disowned Wells' account. Anonymous fails to note that Hooper's account is predicated on the statements of the real moth men -- and each and every one of them has disowned Wells' version, repeatedly, and with increasing irritation and vehemance.

Hooper disowned Wells' remarks before he made them. It was an amazing act of chutzpah for him to then pretend that she had endorsed his views in the material he submitted to a government agency, the Texas State Board of Education. Such an action would be tantamount to a crime in a federal hearing (which is one more reason, I suspect, that IDists, especially Wells, never competes for federal funding for research to support his views).

For example, Hooper cites the views of Michael Majerus, whom Wells cites incorrectly according to Majerus, noting that no problem in the reserch on peppered moths raises any issue to call evolution into question (let alone support ID). She concludes (on p. 312): Now the peppered moth's troubles are being seized upon as evidence against Darwin. But the fact that 'Darwin's missing evidence' is imperfect does not disprove the theory of evolution. Perhaps the peppered moths, like overburdened donkeys of some Greek islands, have simply had to carry too great a load. It is reasonable to assume that natural selection operates in the evoltuion of the peppered moth. Undoubtedly, it is an absorbing story, and a vitally important one, involving many factors besides bird predation as yet unidentified. It is a juicy puzzle that remains to be solved."

She had written a couple of pages earlier, prophetically: "By the time you read these words, passages from this book will be strewn across dozens of creationist tracts and propagated to the far corners of the internet, no doubt creating the impression that the book is creationist manifesto."

Wells' work is academically suspect. It is not up to the ethical standards of student papers in its citations. Those intellectual crimes are more important than his fibs about when he became creationist.

Wrongful actions deserve to be tracked down and called out. That's not "stalking," at least, not in any bad way. Law enforcement officers are not called "stalkers" when they pursue criminals. If Wells doesn't want me to point out his errors, he may issue an erratum. I've told him that to his face; he hasn't done it.

3:19 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Lifewish,

I must be failing completely to make myself clear. Sorry!

What I mean is that in Statement 1 the first "my textbooks" may not have included anything more than general science and biology text books. He may not have been referring to the evolutionary texts that he is referring to later after he read Darwin on Trial and completed his development PhD.

3:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Rowell claims:
"Statement 1 can be read as partly in time period 2 [1989-1991] and 3 [1991 onwards] and could therefore be reconciliable in my view."

However Wells has also said:
"I was convinced that
embryology is the Achilles’ heel of
Darwinism; one cannot understand how organisms evolve unless one understands how they develop. In 1989, I entered a second Ph.D. program, this time in biology, at the University of California at Berkeley."

This clearly places the viewpoint expressed in statement 1 prior to 1989 (as it expresses entering the PhD programme as a consequence of his conviction, rather than vice versa). Thus, the statements are still in clear conflict.

8:55 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The Darwinism that he was determined to attack in 1978 was the view of Dawkins that evolution occurs blindly without intelligence. He was happy with theistic evolution but not atheistic evolution and it was the atheistic version of the story that he was setting out to destroy."

Given that Darwin was an agnostic, not an atheist, how can "atheistic evolution" equate with "Darwinism"?

Also, what does the "view of Dawkins" have to do with embryology, which Wells has called the "Achilles’ heel of
Darwinism"? It is clear from this that he means "Darwinism" in a far broader sense than simply Dawkins' atheistic view of evolution.

That fact of the matter is that "Darwinism" is such a vague and perjerotive term as to be meaningless! Yet Creationists continue to use it. I think this might be because they have a morbid obsession with, and inferiority complex about, Darwin.

1:18 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous said:

That fact of the matter is that "Darwinism" is such a vague and perjerotive term as to be meaningless! Yet Creationists continue to use it. I think this might be because they have a morbid obsession with, and inferiority complex about, Darwin.

I could respond with:

That fact of the matter is that "Creationism" is such a vague and perjerotive term as to be meaningless! Yet Darwinists continue to use it. I think this might be because they have a morbid obsession with, and inferiority complex about, the Creator. ;-)

10:20 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous said:

"Given that Darwin was an agnostic, not an atheist, how can "atheistic evolution" equate with "Darwinism"?"

In my view agnostic = an atheist who lacks the courage or determination to defend an atheistic lifestyle. How many agnostics live as if God was real?

10:25 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I could respond with:

That fact of the matter is that "Creationism" is such a vague and perjerotive term as to be meaningless! Yet Darwinists continue to use it. I think this might be because they have a morbid obsession with, and inferiority complex about, the Creator. ;-)"

If it is perjerotive, then why do many "Creationists" self-identify as such?

And if it is "vague", it is by explicit policy (Phillip Johnson's "big tent" strategy, by which ID doesn't take a position on the age of the Earth, in order to make room for YECs within the movement).

But you will notice that advocates of the Theory of Evolution do not call IDers "Paleyites" or YECs "Morrisites", etc. So what is this creationist obsession with a guy who's been dead for over a century, and whose theory has been long superceded?

1:13 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous,
If it is perjerotive, then why do many "Creationists" self-identify as such?

ID people resent the classification of the whole field of ID as a category of Creationism which anti-ID people do at every possible opportunity... it is almost a first commandment of anti-ID ethics...Thou shalt always refer to ID as ID-Creationism.

Are there no real living Darwinists?

Have you got a better terminology?
Do you dislike the term neo-Darwinists?
Do you prefer macro-evolutionists?

1:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"In my view agnostic = an atheist who lacks the courage or determination to defend an atheistic lifestyle."

Well in my view, you = bigotted monotheist who is to damn egocentric to understand anybody else's viewpoint.

Did it never occur to you that an agnostic might genuinely believe that they have insufficient reason to either actively believe or disbelieve?

"How many agnostics live as if God was real?"

Which god? Yours, obviously. But why not Allah? Or Krishna? Or Odin? Why, lacking a reason to actively believe, should they automatically default to acting as though your God is real? Talk about breathtaking egocentricity!

1:22 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous,

In my experience agnostics generally tend to live a life which is indistinguishable from an atheist. Ie I can't tell which God is real or even if there is any God who is real ... so I will live as if there was no God to obey specifically.

1:34 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is that unreasonable, when the rules of religions conflict so radically on such mundane matters as whether you should eat beef or pork? Yes, most religions have prohibitions against things like killing other people (though most practice, often wide, exceptions to this), but I have seen no evidence that agnostics are more likely to commit murder than theists.

In fact what I have seen is evidence (in the form of American population studies) that evangelical Christians are no more likely to lead lives that are "moral" (in the terms of their own specific belief system, e.g. on issues such as divorce, teenage preganancy, pornography, etc) than the rest of the population. If theists themselves of often ignore these religious prohibitions, why should agnostics do any better?

2:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"ID people resent the classification of the whole field of ID as a category of Creationism which anti-ID people do at every possible opportunity... it is almost a first commandment of anti-ID ethics...Thou shalt always refer to ID as ID-Creationism."

Yes, and we have very good reason for this. This is a good summary for our reasons:
"Just because we occasionally refer to ourselves as creationists, and just because we global-searched-and-replaced "Creationism" with "Intelligent Design", and just because we've said Intelligent Design "Really means the reality of God", and just because we said christians are our 'natural allies', and just because we said our goal is to promote "traditional doctrines of creation", and just because I personally happen to be a creationist, and just because we called Intelligent Design "the Logos theology of John's Gospel", and just because the Intelligent Design club used to be named the Creation Science club, and just because we require the club officers to be christians, and just because we said the Intelligent Designer created the universe, is transcendent, is supernatural, and a subject for theology, and just because our theorists all happen to work at bible colleges, and just because we used to represent the Intelligent Designer as the christian god in our logo, that does Not Mean Intelligent Design is creationism at all, it's entirely different, purely scientific, no relationship to christianity. I don't even know how you got that idea." http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2006/06/luskin_id_and_creationism_take_1.php#comment-103025

Another good summary can be found in the Dover decision.

ID very closely resembles Progressive Creationism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_creationism) which gives reasonable reason to believe that it is simply an offshoot or rebranding (after SCOTUS branded teaching any forms of Creationism as science unconsitutional in public schools) of it.

"Are there no real living Darwinists?"
In terms of "people who accept Darwin's theory, in its unrevised form", no, not to the best of my knowledge.

"Have you got a better terminology?
Do you dislike the term neo-Darwinists?
Do you prefer macro-evolutionists?"

"Macro-evolutionist" is plainly out, as macro-evolution is just as factual as microevolution.

My first preference would be "Methodological Naturalist", as this represents my fundamental point of disagreement with ID.
"Evolutionist" is semi-acceptable, but misleading to the point that it represents evolution as an opinion not as a fact (the Theory of Evolution merely attempts to explain the facts of evolution).
"Neo-Darwinist" is less acceptable, as it over-emphasises Darwin's role in the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis.

8:55 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anonymous,
I did not realise that Methodological Naturalists were so anxious to distnace themselves from Darwin... A "Modern Evolutionary synthesist" is a bit of a mouthful.
In my experience most methodological naturalists are also philosophical naturalists.

Also I disagree with your statement:
macro-evolution is just as factual as microevolution...

10:05 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I did not realise that Methodological Naturalists were so anxious to distnace themselves from Darwin..."

I'm not. I think the guy was a revolutionary thinker. However his revolution is ancient history, in terms of Evolutionary thought, so leaving him on the masthead is more than a little of an anacronism.

"Also I disagree with your statement:
macro-evolution is just as factual as microevolution..."

Macroevolution (in the form of speciation, one species splitting into two) has been observed a number of times by modern science. http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/faq-speciation.html & http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/speciation.html have lists of examples.

11:12 am  

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