Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The idea of unintelligent abiogenesis.

Comments on the previous post focused on the terminology usage which is frustrating though I am partly to blame for this. Apologies.

Allow me to concede the semantic point to commenter “Anonymous” regarding the usage of the phrase “the theory of abiogenesis.” at present this “field of research” should not apparently be dignified with this title. Apologies.

May I call it the “scientific idea of unintelligent abiogenesis.”

Now…
What are the criteria for determining whether an idea is a scientific idea or not?

Is it necessary for the idea of unintelligent abiogenesis to be falsifiable for it to be considered a scientific idea or is the idea of unintelligent abiogenesis a simple axiom of scientific thinking with no other options permissible within science.

In other words is the following proposition necessarily true:

Life exists in the universe therefore it must have had an unintelligent origin at some point in time.

70 Comments:

Blogger William Bradford said...

"Life exists in the universe therefore it must have had an unintelligent origin at some point in time."

Bradford: That summarizes the views of anti-IDers. Of course the claim will be that intelligent causality is undetectable anyway. But scratch the surface and you'll find an aversion to secondary inferences drawn from ID.

1:21 am  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Unless one assumes some really odd origin for God, yes, that's true.

The issue becomes whether one assumes an origin for God, doesn't it?

1:53 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

There is a concurrent post in another ID blog which discussses the metaphysical roots of abiogenesis.

href="http://telicthoughts.com/?p=812"

This may not show whether the given proposition is true but it does indicate the philosophical mindset of the founding fathers of abiogenesis.

2:06 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"The issue becomes whether one assumes an origin for God, doesn't it?"

Bradford: The Judeo-Christian answer to this is that God has existed in eternity and therefore does not have a first cause. This in turn points to the actual issue which is cause and effect. An effect must be tracable to either to a first cause or an infinite series.

2:17 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Ed,

So...

the proposition is scientific because it is a necessary consequence of materialism rather than because it is falsifiable.

7:56 am  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Andrew,

The difficulty is that you're seeking an ultimate cause, and science -- especially the materialistic science ID loves to condemn while living of its fruits -- looks for proximate causes.

What I was attempting to do, poorly it appears, was to make you aware that you're asking a religious question where science has not trod.

So any answer you get cannot be used to criticize science.

A better "summary" of the view of anti-IDers would be "we have yet to discover any life form that is not descended directly from an ancestor." As to the question of how and where life began, the science answer is more nuanced than you appear to wish to allow. A summary of the science position would be, "We do not know for certain how life arose; the evidence points to certain conditions that are necessary precedent; in our search of the cosmos we ask, 'when those conditions exist, will life exist, too, or is there more required?'

Science, especially in looking at the origins of life, is a study of proximate causes, not a blue-sky conjecture on ultimate causes.

ID advocates tend to be people who appear to be disappointed that their conjectures on ultimate causes have been rejected by proximate causes actually found. Such disappointment is not cause to reject what creation shows us. God didn't promise we would like all of creation.

10:05 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"The difficulty is that you're seeking an ultimate cause,"

Bradford: Ed, you responded to the post proposition with the comment:

"The issue becomes whether one assumes an origin for God, doesn't it? "

Bradford: How does that response not invoke an ultimate cause?

"and science -- especially the materialistic science ID loves to condemn while living of its fruits -- looks for proximate causes."

Bradford: IDers do not condemn science. They have criticized a mindset that constrains inferences drawn from scientific data to comfortable philosophical frameworks. The proximate cause focused on in my comments is that which could have generated the unique specificity found in the polymers of nucleic acids and proteins in a prebiotic world.

"ID advocates tend to be people who appear to be disappointed that their conjectures on ultimate causes have been rejected by proximate causes actually found."

Bradford: What ultimate cause has been suggested as responsible for a specific phenomenon prior to a proximate cause being actually found? I've come across that line before and have yet to see it associated with a specific example that does not go back hundreds of years into history.

2:09 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Is it necessary for the idea of unintelligent abiogenesis to be falsifiable for it to be considered a scientific idea or is the idea of unintelligent abiogenesis a simple axiom of scientific thinking with no other options permissible within science.

No, ideas are more fuzzily defined than hypotheses. A better way of thinking of them would be as unifying themes of existing hypotheses. The themes (or "rarefied inferences", for a more IDish perspective) are validated by the success or failure of members of the class of hypotheses which they represent. If members of one class (say abiogenesis) consistently produce more interesting results than members of another class (say creationism), it's a valid heuristic technique to focus on the hypotheses linked to the more successful theme.

Currently, abiogenesis research has produced plenty of interesting results, mostly relating to novel and uncomplicated ways to catalyse essential reactions. I'm not aware of any success stories arising from any other approach. Hence it's heuristically valid to focus on abiogenesis.

(By heuristic I mean that, although there may be no fundamental Popperian criterion distinguishing two hypotheses, in practice one is significantly more likely to be fruitful than the other. For example, if a layman with no apparent scientific experience suddenly comes up with a Theory of Everything, it's heuristically valid to ignore it on the basis that he/she is almost certainly a crank)

11:58 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

If members of one class (say abiogenesis) consistently produce more interesting results than members of another class (say creationism), it's a valid heuristic technique to focus on the hypotheses linked to the more successful theme.

Bradford: More interesting results? In whose eye? Is this Hollywood science?

2:41 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"Currently, abiogenesis research has produced plenty of interesting results, mostly relating to novel and uncomplicated ways to catalyse essential reactions. I'm not aware of any success stories arising from any other approach."

Bradford: Each time a scientist manipulates biomaterial to attain an outcome that would not result from mere forces of nature you are witnessing an effect of intelligent design.

3:39 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"More interesting results? In whose eye? Is this Hollywood science?"

"More interesting" in the eyes of the scientific community - measurable in terms of things like number of references to it in other scientists' publications, number of follow-up experiments, etc.

"Hollywood science" would be a description more appropriately applied to the works of Dembski Behe, etc - considerable impact in the popular perception, but no scientific impact (beyond having their work shredded by scientific reviewers).

12:32 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Bradford: Each time a scientist manipulates biomaterial to attain an outcome that would not result from mere forces of nature you are witnessing an effect of intelligent design.

On the other hand, each time a scientist manipulates the initial conditions of an experiment and observes an interesting outcome, we are witnessing an effect that can be validly assumed to also occur in nature if those initial conditions hold.

The approach of abiogenesis research is to attempt to produce a series of experiments such that:

1) The initial conditions of the first experiment resemble those of prebiotic Earth
2) The initial conditions of each subsequent experiment are the same as the final conditions of one of the previous experiments
3) The final conditions of the last experiment are similar to those of post-biotic Earth

If such a series could be found in totality, would you accept the claim that the life we have on Earth could in principle emerge unassisted?

1:05 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"More interesting" in the eyes of the scientific community - measurable in terms of things like number of references to it in other scientists' publications, number of follow-up experiments, etc.

Bradford: Number of references to other publications. Hmmm. Good thing Newton, Maxwell, Einstein ... knew this was poor a poor means of a scientific breakthrough. Good to document sources though. Real interesting.

"Hollywood science" would be a description more appropriately applied to the works of Dembski Behe, etc - considerable impact in the popular perception, but no scientific impact (beyond having their work shredded by scientific reviewers).

Bradford: Darwinists are shredding the figments of their imagination. When was the mechanism counteracting the effects of supercoiling observed evolving? Where is the evidence for it? Assertions don't cut it.

1:59 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

On the other hand, each time a scientist manipulates the initial conditions of an experiment and observes an interesting outcome, we are witnessing an effect that can be validly assumed to also occur in nature if those initial conditions hold.

Bradford: Conditions which vary from experiment to experiment. We can establish that certain biomolules form outside cells. We can also establish that plactic and metals can be found apart from computers. It's about information, its origin and a means of conveying it and passing it on.

The approach of abiogenesis research is to attempt to produce a series of experiments such that:

1) The initial conditions of the first experiment resemble those of prebiotic Earth
2) The initial conditions of each subsequent experiment are the same as the final conditions of one of the previous experiments
3) The final conditions of the last experiment are similar to those of post-biotic Earth

If such a series could be found in totality, would you accept the claim that the life we have on Earth could in principle emerge unassisted?

2:04 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

If such a series could be found in totality, would you accept the claim that the life we have on Earth could in principle emerge unassisted?

Bradford: Clicked too soon. If science demonstrates the plausibility of cellular formation in prebiotic conditions I would accept this as valid scientific evidence.

2:07 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Darwinists are shredding the figments of their imagination.

Right, so "Darwinist" refers to evolutionary biologists, abiogenesis researchers, anyone who thinks the above disciplines are on the right track, anyone who thinks that trying to explain the origins of life is better than just saying "Goddidit"...

Is that an exhaustive list or is there more? Because the indiscriminate use of the term to characterise anyone who disagrees with WB is quite frankly getting bloody irritating. I'd at least like to pin down what it actually means.

When was the mechanism counteracting the effects of supercoiling observed evolving?

To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been yet. If we keep on looking, maybe we'll figure out how it could have happened.

If you have a better idea, do tell. Otherwise your position on this front would appear to be indistinguishable from a helpless shrug of the shoulders. That tends not to be a terribly helpful stance.

2:10 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Darwinists are shredding the figments of their imagination.

Right, so "Darwinist" refers to evolutionary biologists, abiogenesis researchers, anyone who thinks the above disciplines are on the right track, anyone who thinks that trying to explain the origins of life is better than just saying "Goddidit"...

Bradford: Darwinists refers to those with a non-scientific concern for evidence of natural history. Their attitude is Goddidnotdoit. Distinctly unscientific.

Is that an exhaustive list or is there more? Because the indiscriminate use of the term to characterise anyone who disagrees with WB is quite frankly getting bloody irritating. I'd at least like to pin down what it actually means.

http://tinyurl.com/rajef

When was the mechanism counteracting the effects of supercoiling observed evolving?

To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been yet. If we keep on looking, maybe we'll figure out how it could have happened.

Bradford: If you do you will have to trash natural selection notions.

If you have a better idea, do tell. Otherwise your position on this front would appear to be indistinguishable from a helpless shrug of the shoulders. That tends not to be a terribly helpful stance.

Bradford: The immediacy of a need for solution runs counter to paradigms based on gradualism, stochastic processes and natural selection. That is not a unique situation. The solution to this type of conundrum is intelligent problem solving.

2:23 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Number of references to other publications. Hmmm. Good thing Newton, Maxwell, Einstein ... knew this was poor a poor means of a scientific breakthrough. Good to document sources though. Real interesting."

Bradford, what the heck are you raving about? I was talking about number of references from other (scientists') publications (to a scientist's work, as well as followup experiments, etc), not "references to other publications." How else would expect to measure the level of scientific interest in a scientist's results? You seem to have completely missed the point here.


"Darwinists are shredding the figments of their imagination."

Are the No Free Lunch theorems of David Wolpert also a "figment of his imagination"? Because he has described Dembski's use of them in the book of the same name as "written in jello." I would think a mathematician would be qualified to judge the validity of uses of his own theorems.

But the validity, or otherwise, of such "shreddings" is beside the point. The real point is that ID has produced nothing of ANY interest to the scientific community. The scientific community regards ID as having zero predictive power, zero explanatory power, and zero usefulness generally.

3:34 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Bradford, what the heck are you raving about? I was talking about number of references from other (scientists') publications (to a scientist's work, as well as followup experiments, etc), not "references to other publications." How else would expect to measure the level of scientific interest in a scientist's results? You seem to have completely missed the point here.

Bradford: In the context of abiogenesis references to the works of others only demonstrates how bankrupt is the case for life through prebiotic chemical reactions. It is evidence not references that count. You seem to be missing this point.


"Darwinists are shredding the figments of their imagination."


But the validity, or otherwise, of such "shreddings" is beside the point. The real point is that ID has produced nothing of ANY interest to the scientific community. The scientific community regards ID as having zero predictive power, zero explanatory power, and zero usefulness generally.

Bradford: You consistently overstate the degree of unanimity among scientists. In any case an argument by show of hands is the weakest type. What we are really witnessing, in the case of abiogenesis, is ideological resistence. It is clearly not evidence based.

4:42 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"It is evidence not references that count."

The evidence is in the original articles. The scientific interest is in the number of scientific articles that reference these articles containing this evidence

"You consistently overstate the degree of unanimity among scientists."

Really? Then cite me some peer-reviewed scientific articles that cite Dembski's (or Behe's for that matter) work on ID, other than to shred it.

"In any case an argument by show of hands is the weakest type."

This is not a show of hands! It is scientists showing through their discussion of, or employment of, other scientists' ideas, that these ideas are scientifically interesting or useful.

What is good will be discussed, employed and elaborated upon, what is bad will be initially criticised and then ignored and forgotten. This is how academic communities work.

6:49 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

The evidence is in the original articles. The scientific interest is in the number of scientific articles that reference these articles containing this evidence

Bradford: The evidence shows that a small number of biomolecules can be found forming under specified conditions which vary according to the substance in question. The rest is extrapolation. There is no evidence that cells arise; only propaganda to that effect.

"You consistently overstate the degree of unanimity among scientists."

Really? Then cite me some peer-reviewed scientific articles that cite Dembski's (or Behe's for that matter) work on ID, other than to shred it.

Bradford: There are articles published by IDers including Behe. Again though it is the evidence that is relevant. Your responses have avoided substantive discussions of scientific data in favor of cheerleading. Any origins theory must address the cause of nucleic acid and protein encoding specificity; a topic repeatedly brought up and subsequently ignored.

8:14 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"There is no evidence that cells arise; only propaganda to that effect."

The scientific community would appear to believe otherwise. For myself, I prefer to accept their opinion over that of a single partisan such as yourself. Can you present any evidence that the scientific community is losing patience with Abiogenesis?


"There are articles published by IDers including Behe."

Firstly, are any of these articles on ID?

Secondly, and more importantly, are there any peer-reviewed scientific articles referencing their articles on ID (other than to shred them), that demonstrate interest from the scientific community in Behe's work on ID?

Lacking such articles referencing Behe's work on ID, it is reasonable to assume that this work has had zero scientific impact.


"Again though it is the evidence that is relevant."

What evidence? Behe presented no new evidence in Darwin's Black Box and has done very little since.


"Your responses have avoided substantive discussions of scientific data in favor of cheerleading."

Again, what evidence? ID proponents typically don't do orginal research, but merely cherry-pick from the results of genuine scientists.


"Any origins theory must address the cause of nucleic acid and protein encoding specificity..."

Before anybody would bother doing that, YOU would need to show that Dembski's conception of "specificity" has gained any acceptance whatsoever in the field of Information Theory. The general consensus in that field is that his use of the term is so garbled, loose and/or self-contradictory as to be utterly meaningless! I see no point in discussing the "cause" of a meaningless phantom attribute.

But getting back to the original point, which is that you claim that I "overstate the degree of unanimity among scientists" in claiming a lack of interest by the scientific community in work on ID. I have presented a lack of articles referencing this work in a positive or neutral manner as evidence of this lack of interest. It is now up to you to present evidence that ID is of interest to the scientific community.

Further harping on about "evidence" and "specificity" will be ignored. The "evidence" wasn't produced by ID proponents (so was already pre-existing in the scientific community's knowledge-set), and "specificity" is meaningless.

4:58 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"There is no evidence that cells arise; only propaganda to that effect."

The scientific community would appear to believe otherwise. For myself, I prefer to accept their opinion over that of a single partisan such as yourself. Can you present any evidence that the scientific community is losing patience with Abiogenesis?

Bradford: The vast majority of scientists do not spend much time considering abiogenesis. It is not a great concern to them. A very minute percentage of scientists are actually engaged in OOL research. OOL is valued mainly by non-scientists as a prop for philosophical pursuits like naturalism, atheism... Belief in abiogenesis is an expression of faith. It is self-delusion to consider life from non-life an empirically sustained belief.

8:11 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"OOL is valued mainly by non-scientists as a prop for philosophical pursuits like naturalism, atheism... Belief in abiogenesis is an expression of faith."

What a load of unsubstantiated, self-serving codswallop!

It is ID that "...is valued [entirely] by non-scientists as a prop for philosophical pursuits like..." Creationism, Biblical Literalism and Fundamentalism.


"It is self-delusion to consider life from non-life an empirically sustained belief."

Big bang: no life.
Now: life.

Therefore somehow, somewhere, somewhen, abiogenesis happened! This is an INCONTROVERTABLE FACT!

Therefore it is you Bradford who is delusional. ID is just one big crank delusion - that the vast majority of scientists are wrong, and your vacuous little religiously-motivated cabel is right.

I further note that you have provided no evidence of scientific interest in ID whatsoever. I will therefore consider that my original claim was not "overstated."

10:00 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Darwinists refers to those with a non-scientific concern for evidence of natural history. Their attitude is Goddidnotdoit. Distinctly unscientific.

Right, OK. Glad to know I'm not a Darwinist then (my attitude is "Goddidnotdoit, unless demonstrated otherwise").

If you do you will have to trash natural selection notions.

Why would the discovery of an evolutionary pathway for the function you describe require us to trash natural selection?

If you have a better idea, do tell. Otherwise your position on this front would appear to be indistinguishable from a helpless shrug of the shoulders. That tends not to be a terribly helpful stance.

Bradford: The immediacy of a need for solution runs counter to paradigms based on gradualism, stochastic processes and natural selection. That is not a unique situation. The solution to this type of conundrum is intelligent problem solving.


(First paragraph was mine; second paragraph was WB's reply)

I have absolutely no idea what you're talking about here. You seem to be saying that, since life evolves relatively slowly, we're justified in trying to find answers to major questions on the same timescale. Please please tell me my interpretation is wrong here.

If the solution to the problem is intelligent problem solving (by which I assume that you mean intelligent problem solving was responsible for the creation of life) then it should be relatively easy to put together good concrete hypotheses based on that precept. Maybe you could provide me with a couple? Then we can compare them to the abiogenesis hypotheses and determine which is better.

11:20 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"OOL is valued mainly by non-scientists as a prop for philosophical pursuits like naturalism, atheism... Belief in abiogenesis is an expression of faith."

What a load of unsubstantiated, self-serving codswallop!

Bradford: Sorry Anon but it is not scientists who tout the strength of scientific evidence for abiogenesis but rather internet junkies who use the sterling reputation of science in an attempt to link it to a what is for them a comfortable theory of origins.

It is ID that "...is valued [entirely] by non-scientists as a prop for philosophical pursuits like..." Creationism, Biblical Literalism and Fundamentalism.

Bradford: It is simply a lie to state that no scientists support ID. 'Darwin's Black Box was published in 1996. There were not a great many scientists supporting Darwinism within 10 years of the publication of the Origin.


"It is self-delusion to consider life from non-life an empirically sustained belief."

Big bang: no life.
Now: life.

Therefore somehow, somewhere, somewhen, abiogenesis happened! This is an INCONTROVERTABLE FACT!

Bradford: False in that abiogenesis artificially excludes intelligence as a causal component. The only incontrovertible fact is that life came into existence.

Therefore it is you Bradford who is delusional. ID is just one big crank delusion - that the vast majority of scientists are wrong, and your vacuous little religiously-motivated cabel is right.

Bradford: You can capitalize and shout all you want but the delusion is the belief that brute forces of nature create something as sophisticated as the language of the genetic code. But you are entitled to your dreams.

2:14 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Bradford: If you do you will have to trash natural selection notions.

Why would the discovery of an evolutionary pathway for the function you describe require us to trash natural selection?

Bradford: The above comment was made in reference to the coping mechanism employed by organisms to counteract the destructive effects of supercoiling. Supercoiling is inevitable due to the helical structure of DNA. When transcription or replication occur supercoiling is induced and without a complex of various proteins (and their encoding genes) the effect of supercoils would be rendering DNA dysfunctional. Unless natural selection has foresight how does this mechanism evolve?

2:23 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

I further note that you have provided no evidence of scientific interest in ID whatsoever. I will therefore consider that my original claim was not "overstated."

Bradford: Dealing with Darwinists requires much patience. Here you go:

http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2640

2:36 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"False in that abiogenesis artificially excludes intelligence as a causal component."

And where did this postulated intelligence originate from, if not from Abiogenesis? You have merely moved the problem to a different venue (and added the problem of how life got from this venue to Earth).


"http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command"

Let us take a look at the supposedly "peer-reviewed articles"the DI cites. Three articles in a pro-ID book (which they additionally cite in their "books" section), Meyer's infamous Sternberg-inserted article (published due to editorial malfeasance, and since disavowed by the journal in which it appeared), an article in an obscure Italian journal known for its support of fringe ideas, a paper presented at an ID conference, and an article in a book so obscure that it cannot be found in either Amazon or Addall.

All this demonstrates is the DI's determination to try to present some fig-leaf of "peer-reviewed" (they employ the term so loosely in applying it to this list that it is essentially meaningless) publication. It is certainly no evidence of scientific interest in this work. If such interest existed, then ID proponents would not have to work so hard, and find such obscure venues, in order to get their work published at all. You have not presented any evidence that any of these publications have sparked any interest from the scientific community.

7:39 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Let us take a look at the supposedly "peer-reviewed articles"the DI cites. Three articles in a pro-ID book (which they additionally cite in their "books" section), Meyer's infamous Sternberg-inserted article (published due to editorial malfeasance, and since disavowed by the journal in which it appeared)

Bradford: This is garbage. It was only disavowed after intense pressure was put on the editors by the NSA and special interest groups. What subsequently happened to Steinberg was a disgrace. His allegations of harassment were vindicated by an investigation. He is a solid scientist who never should have been subjected to the abuse heaped on him. It was an inquisition. He has since published at least one scientific article about which I personally communicated with him via e-mail. I've also read Meyer's article which was well written and which well documented its solid sources.

9:06 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

You have not presented any evidence that any of these publications have sparked any interest from the scientific community.

Bradford: It is very telling that in exchanges with Darwinists they typically make broad statements about the scientific community about which they are unqualified to judge and which amounts to a political point. At the same time my attempts at a dialog about scientific evidence is avoided. Prove me wrong by showing us point by point the reasons why Meyer's paper should not have been published. Specific reasons and references please.

9:17 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"In other words is the following proposition necessarily true:

Life exists in the universe therefore it must have had an unintelligent origin at some point in time"

Bradford: The answer from anonymous is clearly affirmative as evidenced by this comment:

Anon: Therefore somehow, somewhere, somewhen, abiogenesis happened! This is an INCONTROVERTABLE FACT!

Bradford: It is equally clear that anonymous has religious motivations disguised as scientific concerns. Ruling out this proposition a priori is indicative of religious fundamentalism taking the form of: 'there must be no scientific data favorable to an intelligent inference.' Misusing science as a stalking horse for atheism has a long and sordid history.

10:40 pm  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Mr. Bradford said: If science demonstrates the plausibility of cellular formation in prebiotic conditions I would accept this as valid scientific evidence.

It's been done. See the work of the late Sidney Fox.

Why don't you accept it already?

3:17 am  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Science is done on the workbench, as Feynman famously observed. Creationists do no experiments (the courts have determined this -- this is a finding of fact); IDists do no experiments (also determined in court). How could there be any science coming out of no experiments?

In contrast, evolution is integral to agriculture and medicine, with roughly 10,000 papers published on the topic each year.

At the present rate of publication for ID, we will get the first 10 papers by 2150 A.D.

By any standard one wishes to use -- ANY standard -- evolution is more fruitful, scientifically, than any form of creationism including ID.

3:21 am  
Blogger Paul Williamson said...

Creationists do no experiments (the courts have determined this -- this is a finding of fact); IDists do no experiments (also determined in court). How could there be any science coming out of no experiments?

The courts have determined this huh? Who was it- a lawyer or a court stenographer? Phil Skell, Phd chemistry, conducted research interviewing many actual researchers. The results indicated that evolution is mostly irrelevant to modern research. Advances in medicine and technology are made independently of evolutionary assumptions. Sorry to disappoint you but beliefs about evolution and abiogenesis are not essential to science.

In contrast, evolution is integral to agriculture and medicine, with roughly 10,000 papers published on the topic each year.

Baloney. You are under a false impression that 10,000 papers are based on Darwinian notions. They are not.

What you and some others do not understand is that personal convictions of scientists do not determine whether data can be used in support of or in opposition to those convictions. There are scientists who believe life was created. They don't wear their beliefs on their sleeves.

4:30 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is garbage. It was only disavowed after intense pressure was put on the editors by the NSA and special interest groups. What subsequently happened to Steinberg was a disgrace."

No Bradford. Your defense of this article is garbage.

1) The article was well outside the journal's normal fare.
2) It was put foraward by a non-scientist.
3) The editor at the time, Sternberg, was later revealed to have strong Creationist ties.
4) Normal editorial policies were not followed, in that the editor exercised sole editorial control over this article.

It was Sternberg's conduct that was disgraceful and thoroughly unprofessional.


"His allegations of harassment were vindicated by an investigation."

No they were not. This so-called "vindication" by an "investigation" was simply a "pre-closure letter" that admitted that the Office of Special Counsel had no jurisdiction on the matter and that the Smithsonian had therefore refused to respond (meaning that the OSC only had Sternberg's side of the story). That the heavily politicised OSC were so ready to jump into this controversy, lacking jurisdiction, argues against their objectivity in this matter.

I would also call your attention to this response by his Smithsonian 'sponsor' Jonathan Coddington: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2005/02/sternberg_vs_sm.html#c14871


"He is a solid scientist who never should have been subjected to the abuse heaped on him."

He is a member of a number of Creationist groups, including the Baraminology study group, and Dembski's International Society for Complexity, Information and Design. He has presented at RAPID, which was closed to people who weren't ID supporters. This clearly presents a conflict of interest when exercising sole editorial control over the article. The lack of professionalism he showed in allowing this conflict of interest to occur, fully justifies a degree of concern among his collegues as to his judgement and reliability.

"I've also read Meyer's article which was well written and which well documented its solid sources."

I'm not surprised that you do - you have already shown yourself to be an extremely biased creationist. Your opinion however has not been shared by the scientific community, which has rubbished this article.


"Darwinists they typically make broad statements about the scientific community about which they are unqualified to judge and which amounts to a political point."

You want specifics? Fine! According to the Science Citation Index there were only 224 articles using the key-phrase "Intelligent Design" in the last 16 years. Of these, only 98 were refering to it in a Biological context. Of these, the majority were letters to the editor critical of ID. Further searches for ID-related key-phrases "specified complexity" and "irreducible complexity" turned up 1 & 13 articles respectively. Althogether, this averages a megre 7 articles a year (the majority being critical of ID). This is a vanishingly small number - in fact it is less than twice the number of hits for "flat earth"!
http://www.geocities.com/lclane2/idlit.html

I believe that this is evidence of miniscule interest in ID from the scientific community.


"At the same time my attempts at a dialog about scientific evidence is avoided."

Yes, because you have demanded that this discussion be on the basis of Dembski's discredited concept of "specificity." Prove that this has any acceptance within Information Theory before I am willing to discuss anything on the basis of it.


"Prove me wrong by showing us point by point the reasons why Meyer's paper should not have been published. Specific reasons and references please."

No need, as this has already been done here: http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2004/08/meyers_hopeless_1.html


"It is equally clear that anonymous has religious motivations disguised as scientific concerns."

Is it? The claim I made is consistent not only with science, but with most major religions. The Genesis account itself is an Abiogenesis story (if a supernatural and thus unscientific one), in that it also presents non-life becoming life. This in fact shines light on the major problem for those attempting to claim the (original) Abiogenesis being due to intelligent action - for such an intelligence to pre-exist life, it almost certainly must be supernatural, thus rendering the hypothesis outside science.

8:09 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"This is garbage. It was only disavowed after intense pressure was put on the editors by the NSA and special interest groups. What subsequently happened to Steinberg was a disgrace."

No Bradford. Your defense of this article is garbage.

1) The article was well outside the journal's normal fare.
2) It was put foraward by a non-scientist.

Bradford: Do you deliberately attempt to deceive or is ignorance just second nature to you? Stephen Meyer has degrees in physics and geology. He was employed as a geophysicist by Atlantic Richfield Company before earning a PhD in the history and philosophy of science. Having a PhD in the history and philosophy of science does not negate familiarity with physics and geology. Nor does it erase work experince in the field.

3) The editor at the time, Sternberg, was later revealed to have strong Creationist ties.

Bradford: This is straight out McCarthyism. If Sternberg did have "creationist ties" it in no way detracts from his capacity as a scientist.

1:16 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"His allegations of harassment were vindicated by an investigation."

No they were not. This so-called "vindication" by an "investigation" was simply a "pre-closure letter" that admitted that the Office of Special Counsel had no jurisdiction on the matter and that the Smithsonian had therefore refused to respond (meaning that the OSC only had Sternberg's side of the story).

Bradford: You left this part out. It is taken from the letter acknowledging the jurisdictional basis for non-action but also indicating that the investigation supported the allegations made by Sternberg.

"I have carefully considered the information you provided. Based upon my evaluation of the facts and law applicable to your claim, I have made a preliminary determination to close our investigation into your allegations. My decision is not based upon the substance of your allegations; in fact, our preliminary investigation supports your complaint. My decision is founded upon a complicated jurisdictional puzzle and your position as a Research Associate (RA)."

Anon: That the heavily politicised OSC were so ready to jump into this controversy, lacking jurisdiction, argues against their objectivity in this matter.

The OSC did not "jump in." The OSC is obligated by law to respond to complaints and that is what they did. Jurisdiction is a legal boundary issue. It says zero about their objectivity.

"He (Sternberg) is a member of a number of Creationist groups, including the Baraminology study group, and Dembski's International Society for Complexity, Information and Design."

Your bias is evident. You demand that IDers publish in peer reviewed journals while simultaneously claiming that membership in organizations advocating ID is evidence of a conflict of interest. If it is then so too is a determiniation that life from non-life (without intelligence) is an established fact without empirical evidence to back the claim.

1:41 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"It is equally clear that anonymous has religious motivations disguised as scientific concerns."

Is it? The claim I made is consistent not only with science,

Bradford: It is an unsubstantiated empirical claim. That makes it your personal viewpoint; not to be confused with science.

but with most major religions. The Genesis account itself is an Abiogenesis story (if a supernatural and thus unscientific one), in that it also presents non-life becoming life.

Bradford: More lies Anon. The Genesis account also clearly indicates that life was the product of an intelligent cause. That is more consistent with ID than abiogensis.

This in fact shines light on the major problem for those attempting to claim the (original) Abiogenesis being due to intelligent action - for such an intelligence to pre-exist life, it almost certainly must be supernatural, thus rendering the hypothesis outside science.

Bradford: The hypothesis is not that the supernatural is detectable; only that intelligence is. There is no scientific basis for dogmatically asserting that that intelligence must only be an emergent property of life on earth.

1:52 pm  
Blogger Paul Williamson said...

"Therefore it is you Bradford who is delusional."

"3) The editor at the time, Sternberg, was later revealed to have strong Creationist ties."

"It was Sternberg's conduct that was disgraceful and thoroughly unprofessional."

"That the heavily politicised OSC were so ready to jump into this controversy, lacking jurisdiction, argues against their objectivity in this matter."

Mr. Anonymous, I notice you have a definite talent for insinuations and flat out insults. You like trashing people anonymously? One more thing. We all know that most scientists do not support ID. You repeat this over and over. Besides this do you have anything to offer?

3:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do you deliberately attempt to deceive or is ignorance just second nature to you?"

Stephen Meyer has no advanced degree is science and he does not work as a research scientist. I think that is sufficient basis to make a claim that he is not a scientist. Personal abuse from yourself will not change this.


"This is straight out McCarthyism. If Sternberg did have "creationist ties" it in no way detracts from his capacity as a scientist.

It certainly suggests a clear conflict of interest, in taking personal and sole editorial oversight over the article, and a lack of professionalism.


"The OSC is obligated by law to respond to complaints and that is what they did."

The OSC is under no obligation whatsoever to investigate cases outside their jurisidiction (a fact that even a cursorary inquiry into Sternberg's professional relationship to the Smithsonian would have revealed). Your claim is therefore false!


"You demand that IDers publish in peer reviewed journals while simultaneously claiming that membership in organizations advocating ID is evidence of a conflict of interest."

And given that Sternberg broke the journal's editorial rules, in order to get this article published, it would appear that my claim is a reasonable one.

"More lies Anon."

MORE BASELESS PERSONAL ABUSE, BRADFORD!

"The Genesis account also clearly indicates that life was the product of an intelligent cause."

Did I ever claim that this Abiogenesis hypothesis was "unintelligent"? NO! I would suspect that in most conceivable cases that Intelligent Abiogenesis = Supernatural Abiogenesis, and so be outside the realm of science.

"The hypothesis is not that the supernatural is detectable; only that intelligence is."

In order to claim this, you must first postulate a credible hypothesis of non-supernatural intelligent (original) abiogenesis.

Or to put it another way, how can a non-supernatural intelligence predate life (so as to be the original source of life's existence)?

4:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some context on the OSC:

http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?ItemID=7012
http://online.logcabin.org/news_views/log-cabin-calls-on-scott-bloch-office-of-special-counsel-to-resign.html
http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2005/Whistle-Blower-Protector31mar05.htm
http://www.peer.org/news/news_id.php?row_id=439
http://www.thecarpetbaggerreport.com/archives/3884.html

5:07 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"The OSC is obligated by law to respond to complaints and that is what they did."

The OSC is under no obligation whatsoever to investigate cases outside their jurisidiction (a fact that even a cursorary inquiry into Sternberg's professional relationship to the Smithsonian would have revealed). Your claim is therefore false!

Bradford: Between the time the case was filed and the decision rendered Fishbein v. D.H.H.S was decided. The result was the exempting of Title 42 Scientists from Title 5 protections. The jurisdiction dismissal was for technical grounds not immediately apparent. In addition even though they had the option to voluntarily allow a continuation of the investigation SI chose to resist rather than waive the exemption. Fairly dealing with the substance of the complaint was not the concern of SI.

The rest of your inaccuracies will have to await a later response time permitting.

6:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Between the time the case was filed and the decision rendered Fishbein v. D.H.H.S was decided. The result was the exempting of Title 42 Scientists from Title 5 protections. The jurisdiction dismissal was for technical grounds not immediately apparent."

Fishbein v. D.H.H.S & Title 42 would only have been relevant if the complaint had been against the NIH. The SI was not Sternberg's employer, so the OSC lacked jurisdiction to investigate a complaint against them irrespective of Fishbein v. D.H.H.S. Thus the OSC never had even the appearance of jurisdiction, so the SI were perfectly within their rights to tell them to butt out.

7:02 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Contrary to typical editorial practices, the paper was published without review by any associate editor; Sternberg handled the entire review process."
http://www.biolsocwash.org/id_statement.html

"The editorial system of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington is as follows: the Journal (Managing) Editor receives all manuscripts, provides editorial information regarding style, format, and organization, and selects the appropriate Associate Editor to handle the review process. Associate Editors select ad hoc reviewers, render decisions regarding acceptability of manuscripts, define the nature of the revision necessary, and if needed, edit the manuscript to improve precision and clarity. Manuscripts not accepted by the Associate Editors will be returned to authors. The Journal Editor receives accepted manuscripts, marks manuscripts for the printer, provides final editing, and organizes issues of the Proceedings. The Journal Editor is responsible for all matters about the publication of the Proceedings."
http://www.rsternberg.net/letter.htm

By deciding to handle the Meyer article personally and solely, Sternberg clearly broke editorial policy. Given his prior relationship with Meyer, this gives the strong appearance of a conflict of interest and favoritism.

7:48 pm  
Blogger Paul Williamson said...

Andrew wrote:

"In other words is the following proposition necessarily true:

Life exists in the universe therefore it must have had an unintelligent origin at some point in time."


Mr. Anonymous maintained that abiogenesis had to happen because life had to come from non-life. His words:

"Big bang: no life.
Now: life.

Therefore somehow, somewhere, somewhen, abiogenesis happened! This is an INCONTROVERTABLE FACT!"

Anonymous then posted this reference to Genesis:

"The claim I made is consistent not only with science, but with most major religions. The Genesis account itself is an Abiogenesis story (if a supernatural and thus unscientific one), in that it also presents non-life becoming life. This in fact shines light on the major problem for those attempting to claim the (original) Abiogenesis being due to intelligent action - for such an intelligence to pre-exist life, it almost certainly must be supernatural, thus rendering the hypothesis outside science"

Anonymous answered Bradford's point about Genesis being an example of an intelligent cause rather than abiogenesis with this:

"Did I ever claim that this Abiogenesis hypothesis was "unintelligent"? NO! I would suspect that in most conceivable cases that Intelligent Abiogenesis = Supernatural Abiogenesis, and so be outside the realm of science."

Stop and analyse this. Anonymous has finally answered Andrew's original proposition (Life exists in the universe therefore it must have had an unintelligent origin at some point in time.) with a no. By defining abiogenesis to include intelligence and then asserting that the intelligence would be undetectable Anonymous has included an indetectable cause into the definition of abiogenesis. This allows him to claim his statement (Therefore somehow, somewhere, somewhen, abiogenesis happened! This is an INCONTROVERTABLE FACT!") is true. The cost is that he does it by defining abiogenesis in a scientifically contradictory way. If science cannot detect intelligence then his definition of abiogenesis makes no sense or abiogenesis is not science.

8:44 pm  
Blogger Paul Williamson said...

Sternberg's side of the story:

http://www.rsternberg.net/

"To summarize what occurred after the Meyer paper was published:

Efforts to remove me from the Museum. After Smithsonian officials determined that there was no wrong-doing in the publication process for the Meyer paper and that they therefore had no grounds to remove me from my position directly, they tried to create an intolerable working environment so that I would be forced to resign. As the OSC investigation concluded, “[i]t is... clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI.” In addition, it was made clear to me that my current position at the Smithsonian will not be renewed despite my excellent record of research and publication.

Efforts to get NIH to fire me. Pressure was put on the NIH to fire me.

Perceived political and religous beliefs investigated. Smithsonian officials attempted to investigate my personal religious and political beliefs in gross violation of my privacy and my First Amendment rights.

Smeared with false allegations. My professional reputation, private life, and ethics were repeatedly impugned and publicly smeared with false allegations by government employees working in tandem with a non-governmental political advocacy group, the National Center for Science Education (NCSE).

Pressured to reveal peer reviewers and to engage in improper peer review. I was repeatedly pressured to reveal the names of the peer-reviewers of the Meyer article, contrary to professional ethics. I was also told repeatedly that I should have found peer reviewers who would reject the article out-of-hand, in direct violation of professional ethics which require editors to find peer reviewers who are not prejudiced or hostile to a particular author or his/her ideas.

Creation of hostile work environment. Supervisor replaced. I was transferred from the supervision of a friendly sponsor (supervisor) at the Museum to a hostile one.

Office space. I was twice forced to move specimens from my office space on short notice for no good reason, my name plate was removed from my office door, and eventually I was deprived of all official office space and forced to use a shared work area as my work location in the Museum.

Unprecedented work requirements. I was subjected to an array of new reporting requirements not imposed on other Research Associates.

Access to specimens limited. My access to the specimens needed for my research at the Museum was restricted. (My access to the Museum was also restricted. I was forced to give up my master key.)





In sum, it is clear that I was targeted for retaliation and harassment explicitly because I failed in an unstated requirement in my role as editor of a scientific journal: I was supposed to be a gatekeeper turning away unpopular, controversial, or conceptually challenging explanations of puzzling natural phenomena. Instead, I allowed a scientific article to be published critical of neo-Darwinism, and that was considered an unpardonable heresy.

Summary of key points regarding publication of the Meyer paper

Returning to the original dispute (and the reason for which I first created this web site): Many distortions and inaccuracies have circulated in the press and on the web regarding the publication of the Meyer paper. The key facts are:

I hold two PhDs in the area of evolutionary biology, one in molecular (DNA) evolution and the other in systems theory and theoretical biology. I have published more than 30 articles in peer-reviewed scientific books and publications. My current areas of research and writing are primarily in the areas of evolutionary theory and systematics.

In the case of the Meyer paper I followed all the standard procedures for publication in the Proceedings. 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, something I had done before in other appropriate cases. In order to avoid making a unilateral decision on a potentially controversial paper, however, I discussed the paper on at least three occasions with another member of the Council of the Biological Society of Washington (BSW), a scientist at the National Museum of Natural History. Each time, this colleague encouraged me to publish the paper despite possible controversy.

The Meyer paper underwent a standard peer review process by three qualified scientists, all of whom are evolutionary and molecular biologists teaching at well-known institutions. The reviewers provided substantial criticism and feedback to Dr. Meyer, who then made significant changes to the paper in response. Subsequently, after the controversy arose, Dr. Roy McDiarmid, President of the Council of the BSW, reviewed the peer-review file and concluded that all was in order. As Dr. McDiarmid informed me in an email message on August 25th, 2004, "Finally, I got the [peer] reviews and agree that they are in support of your decision [to publish the article]."

Following my resignation in October 2003, a new managing editor for the Proceedings was selected in May of 2004, and the transition from my editorship to the new editor has taken place over the past few months. By the time that the controversy emerged I was finishing up my last editorial responsibilities. Thus, my stepping down had nothing to do with the publication of the Meyer paper."

9:22 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"The hypothesis is not that the supernatural is detectable; only that intelligence is."

In order to claim this, you must first postulate a credible hypothesis of non-supernatural intelligent (original) abiogenesis.

Bradford: One need only postulate that there is nothing about a "supernatural being" that precludes him from acting within natural laws of his own creation. You can argue to the contrary but it is a theological not a scientific argument. The inference I have made centers on the nature of functional DNA. You can cite an unidentifiable "natural cause" that generated information where none existed, an unknown cause for the mechanism that conveys it and an encoding convention by which it functions without intelligence. It amounts to a miracle that is portrayed as the result of undefined chemical reactions. Convenient. And you're not biased?

Or to put it another way, how can a non-supernatural intelligence predate life (so as to be the original source of life's existence)?

Bradford: The only life we know of exists on earth. That does not preclude the possibility of it existing elsewhere or the concurrent possibility that conditions elsewhere were different from prebiotic earth thereby making an outcome possible in another part of the universe that was excluded by the different conditions on earth.


"Fishbein v. D.H.H.S & Title 42 would only have been relevant if the complaint had been against the NIH. The SI was not Sternberg's employer, so the OSC lacked jurisdiction to investigate a complaint against them irrespective of Fishbein v. D.H.H.S. Thus the OSC never had even the appearance of jurisdiction, so the SI were perfectly within their rights to tell them to butt out."

Bradford: Part of the investigation involved determining the official employer of Sternberg. The investigative agency is entrusted with not determining the outcome of this matter in advance of an investigation. The OSC did what was required of them by law- investigate the complaint before them. It is guttersniping on the part of critics to impute impropriety to this.

"The OSC investigated the situation and prior to it becoming clear that the SI were not officially the employer of Sternberg obtained copies of the fascinating emails that were flying around the museum and to and from other scientists from outside the museum."

http://idintheuk.blogspot.com/2006/02/wesley-elsberry-and-osc_28.html

10:05 pm  
Blogger Ed Darrell said...

Sternberg? Why would anyone in favor of ID defend that dead horse?

1. Even were it true that scientists retaliated against Sternberg after the article was published, the fact remains that Sternberg violated the procedures he was supposed to support, and the society that publishes the journal issued a statement that they don't support the article. It doesn't matter whether Sternberg was run out of town on a rail (and he wasn't), that could not justify his earlier violations of policy to publish a press release from the Discovery Institute as a journal article. Sternberg broke the rules, and the article can only be counted as a peer-review publication by those with larceny at heart.

2. The OCS fellow violated procedures in releasing the letter he released. He was bound, by law, to refer any findings he had which may have indicated malfeasance on anyone's part, to the Smithsonian's Office of Inspector General, the group that has jurisdiction. Since he did not, we must assume that he found nothing reportable. It is a violation of the OCS law, a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, a violation of the ethics canons of lawyers, and just poor form, for OCS to release a letter without offering the agency maligned an opportunity to respond to the charges contained therein. It is the Smithsonian that was victimized in this affair -- at least twice! I grow tired of ID advocates pointing to their urinating on the law and whining that their guy was wronged when there is not a shred of evidence to support that claim, and it was ID advocate wrongdoing that got the thing going in the first place.

3. Why Sternberg went to OCS, an agency known to be partisan, instead of the Smithsonian OIG suggests Sternberg had an agenda other than getting at the facts.

4. Look hard -- look very hard -- at the substance of the letter. It determines among other things: a.) Scientists were miffed at being stabbed in the back by Sternberg's violations of procedure and courtesy, but b.) discussions inside the Smithsonian revealed there was no official action that could be taken against Sternberg, especially since he was not employed by Smithsonian but was instead a guest researcher from another agency, but even if he had been an employee; and c.) when scientists took their discussions outside, to NCSE among other places, outside people advised that retaliation would be wrong and no disciplinary action was possible.

Gasp! A guy who refuses to follow the rules (Sternberg), is shocked! SHOCKED! when scientists follow the rules and do nothing.

That is why, ultimately, there was no referral to Smithsonian's OIG. ID advocates' cries of 'unfair!' are really specious, considering all the wrongdoing was on the ID side.

This stuff has been discussed at greater length in other fora -- Panda's Thumb for one -- but to the same conclusions: The paper was crappy, it shouldn't have been published in any case, the journal that published it was the wrong place for that type of paper, the editor broke the rules to sneak it into publication, and (this I just love) it involved no new research in any case, being just a survey of ID wishes.

Get back to discussing whether abiogenesis is testable: Why would it not be? Look at the work of the astrobiology folks at NASA and other places: Jim Ferris, Andy Ellington -- what about their laboratory work would one claim is not testable?

2.

10:24 pm  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Get back to discussing whether abiogenesis is testable: Why would it not be? Look at the work of the astrobiology folks at NASA and other places: Jim Ferris, Andy Ellington -- what about their laboratory work would one claim is not testable?

Bradford: Who claimed abio is not testable. The claims are that test results fall ridiculously short of the hypothesis that a cell "arises."

Panda's Thumb is an electronic rag.

10:58 pm  
Blogger Paul Williamson said...

Some of these exchanges are comical. Look at this one. It starts with Anonymous stating this:

2) It (Meyer's paper)was put foraward by a non-scientist (Meyers).

Then we see this Bradford answer:

Do you deliberately attempt to deceive or is ignorance just second nature to you? Stephen Meyer has degrees in physics and geology. He was employed as a geophysicist by Atlantic Richfield Company before earning a PhD in the history and philosophy of science. Having a PhD in the history and philosophy of science does not negate familiarity with physics and geology. Nor does it erase work experince in the field.

And Anonymous's answer to that is:

Stephen Meyer has no advanced degree is science and he does not work as a research scientist. I think that is sufficient basis to make a claim that he is not a scientist. Personal abuse from yourself will not change this.

So after learning that Meyers has two degrees in different scientific fields Anonymous moves the goalpost. Now he objects about the lack of an advanced degree. Anonymous, why did you not mention that at the begining?

Then he says that since Meyers is not now working as a researcher he does not qualify as a scientist. That's interesting. If you work in research and then go into another line of work say, teaching science at a university level are you no longer a scientist? I suppose the real problem is Meyer's convictions. Anyone interested in whether all published papers about evolution are done by active researchers?
Anyway, let's not take Anonymous's word as final without another look at this.

A person having expert knowledge of one or more sciences, especially a natural or physical science.
-American Heritage Dictionary

A scientist is an expert in at least one area of science who uses the scientific method to do research.
-Wikipedia

Anonymous has chosen Wikipedia's version. Of the two American Heritage is the better "peer review" process.

12:57 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous has finally answered Andrew's original proposition (Life exists in the universe therefore it must have had an unintelligent origin at some point in time.)"

Inaccurate. I stated that it would appear that it must have had an unintelligent origin or a supernatural origin at some point in time.


"By defining abiogenesis to include intelligence and then asserting that the intelligence would be undetectable Anonymous has included an indetectable cause into the definition of abiogenesis."

This is a misrepresentation. I never asserted that "intelligence would be undetectable," I merely asserted that supernatural intelligence would be outside the sphere of science.

5:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You can cite an unidentifiable "natural cause" that generated information where none existed, an unknown cause for the mechanism that conveys it and an encoding convention by which it functions without intelligence."

So, we're back to the information = intelligence canard again?

"The only life we know of exists on earth. That does not preclude the possibility of it existing elsewhere or the concurrent possibility that conditions elsewhere were different from prebiotic earth thereby making an outcome possible in another part of the universe that was excluded by the different conditions on earth."

Regardless of where it first happened, it requires either unintelligent Abiogenesis or supernatural Abiogenesis. And then you have to additionally explain how it got to Earth.


"Part of the investigation involved determining the official employer of Sternberg. The investigative agency is entrusted with not determining the outcome of this matter in advance of an investigation."

They are "entrusted" to not discover whether they have jurisdiction before launching a full investigation? This is just completely silly! And determining who was Sternberg's employer would be very simple (e.g. who hired him, who was actually paying his salary) and could almost certainly have been obtained from an initial interview with Sternberg himself.

5:28 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"So after learning that Meyers has two degrees in different scientific fields Anonymous moves the goalpost. Now he objects about the lack of an advanced degree. Anonymous, why did you not mention that at the begining?"

Paul Williamson, kindly cut the dishonest baiting! It is getting tedious.

Vast numbers of students gain undergraduate degrees in science each year. That does not make them "scientists" by any reasonable definition of the word. "Scientist" tends to be applied to those with either an advanced degree in a Science, who are working as research Scientists, or more commonly both. Meyer is neither.

But let us look at his undergraduate degrees: neither is in biology (the subject most relevant to the article he was attempting to publish). The Geology was at best tangental (to the paleontological aspect), and the Physics degree entirely irrelevant.

But all this is harping on about a minor point and avoiding the major one: Sternberg's breaking the editorial rules of the journal in order to smuggle a pro-ID article into a journal where it had little relevance (even if the article itself had merit, which is doubtful).

5:52 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

"You can cite an unidentifiable "natural cause" that generated information where none existed, an unknown cause for the mechanism that conveys it and an encoding convention by which it functions without intelligence."

So, we're back to the information = intelligence canard again?

Bradford: The canard is the story that information arises out of a prebiotic soup when you have not the slightest clue as to what non-intelligent cause would generate this.

"The only life we know of exists on earth. That does not preclude the possibility of it existing elsewhere or the concurrent possibility that conditions elsewhere were different from prebiotic earth thereby making an outcome possible in another part of the universe that was excluded by the different conditions on earth."

Regardless of where it first happened, it requires either unintelligent Abiogenesis or supernatural Abiogenesis. And then you have to additionally explain how it got to Earth.

Bradford: Supernatural abiogenesis is your personal bugaboo. How is it determined that an all-powerful God would be incapable of manipulating natural conditions according to natural laws when less capable beings can do so?

"Part of the investigation involved determining the official employer of Sternberg. The investigative agency is entrusted with not determining the outcome of this matter in advance of an investigation."

They are "entrusted" to not discover whether they have jurisdiction before launching a full investigation?

Bradford: The investgative office receives a complaint and investigates all the information and related facts. That includes dozens of items in addition to the employment conditions which stand out only with hindsight. There is no great right wing conspiracy.

6:03 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Sternberg's breaking the editorial rules of the journal in order to smuggle a pro-ID article into a journal where it had little relevance (even if the article itself had merit, which is doubtful).

You have some nerve complaining about Paul baiting you when you unrelentlingly attack a man not available to defend himself and do so with the comfort of anonimity. Sternberg's account reveals another side of this. Have you even read Meyer's article?

Sternberg: Pressured to reveal peer reviewers and to engage in improper peer review. I was repeatedly pressured to reveal the names of the peer-reviewers of the Meyer article, contrary to professional ethics. I was also told repeatedly that I should have found peer reviewers who would reject the article out-of-hand, in direct violation of professional ethics which require editors to find peer reviewers who are not prejudiced or hostile to a particular author or his/her ideas.

6:14 am  
Blogger William Bradford said...

Sternberg's breaking the editorial rules of the journal in order to smuggle a pro-ID article into a journal where it had little relevance (even if the article itself had merit, which is doubtful).

You have some nerve complaining about Paul baiting you when you unrelentlingly attack a man not available to defend himself and do so with the comfort of anonimity. Sternberg's account reveals another side of this. Have you even read Meyer's article?

Sternberg: Pressured to reveal peer reviewers and to engage in improper peer review. I was repeatedly pressured to reveal the names of the peer-reviewers of the Meyer article, contrary to professional ethics. I was also told repeatedly that I should have found peer reviewers who would reject the article out-of-hand, in direct violation of professional ethics which require editors to find peer reviewers who are not prejudiced or hostile to a particular author or his/her ideas.

6:15 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Supernatural abiogenesis is your personal bugaboo. How is it determined that an all-powerful God would be incapable of manipulating natural conditions according to natural laws when less capable beings can do so?"

I never claimed that unintelligent Abiogenesis and supernatural Abiogenesis were mutually exclusive causes, merely that they were collectively exhaustive.

You are still left with supernatural and/or unintelligent Abiogenesis. Supernatural Abiogenesis is outside Science's mandate. This leaves only Unintelligent Abiogenesis as a legitimate field for scientific inquiry.


"The investgative office receives a complaint and investigates all the information and related facts."

So you claim that they have to investigate everything before they are allowed to even ask the question whether they even have a mandate to investigate? This whole line of argument is just completely idiotic! Questions of jurisdiction are at the forefront of any investigative office's mind in opening an investigation - as investigations outside their jurisdiction are a waste of their resources.

9:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You have some nerve complaining about Paul baiting you when you unrelentlingly attack a man not available to defend himself and do so with the comfort of anonimity."

Sternberg's editorial misconduct is a matter of factual record, as I substantiated above. The man himself has been more than happy to sling mud around himself, so he can hardly complain about getting some back.


"Sternberg's account reveals another side of this."

Sternberg's account has been shown to be self-serving and disingenuous in the extreme. I see no reason to accept it.


"Have you even read Meyer's article?"

Why should I feel obliged to read a Creationist interpretation of the Cambrian Expansion by a man who has no expertise in either Biology or Paleontology, who presents no new evidence, nor apparently any new arguments (particularly when I have not seen a positive review of it by anybody outside the Creationist echo-chamber)?

I would remind you Bradford, that was you who made Meyer's article a central issue - to me it was just another member of DI's dodgey list of so-called "peer-reviewed articles", that you cited as "evidence of scientific interest in ID."

"I was repeatedly pressured to reveal the names of the peer-reviewers of the Meyer article, contrary to professional ethics."

Last I heard there was not a "professional ethic" guaranteeing anonymity to peer-reviewers. Sternberg's sudden and rigid adherence to editorial conduct therefore strikes me as more than a little late and more than a little self-serving.

10:20 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Mind if I take us back towards the original topic? In this post I mentioned that I wasn't sure what WB was getting at. I'd asked him for a concrete alternative to current abiogenetic hypotheses, and the response I'd gotten appeared to claim that coming up with new ideas wasn't necessary.

WB: could you confirm that my interpretation here is correct? If so, I'd note that the abiogenetic hypotheses would seem to win by default - even a bad hypothesis is better than no hypothesis (and, indeed, it's effectively impossible to label an hypothesis as being "bad" without something to compare it to).

If, on the other hand, you think you can provide the elliptics to our epicycles, please let me know.

11:09 am  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anon,

You said "Sternberg broke the rules"

This is not how the Biological Society of Washington describe the situation.

On their website they say it was:
"Contrary to typical editorial practices"

Sternberg maintains that this was not the first occasion that this was done and that on previous occasions there was no problem... (he does not say however whether he was the only editor who followed this procedure.)

There is a significant difference between saying someone "broke the rules" and someone "departed from the typical editorial practice."

8:43 am  
Blogger Lifewish said...

Of course, you're right that taking a shortcut with the established process is a far lesser offence than breaking the rules. As long as the spirit of the process was unaffected this wouldn't even be noticed.

However, the process would appear to be designed in part to avert allegations of misconduct. This means that, when those allegations are levelled and you haven't been following the process, you're legitimately stuffed.

In this case, Sternberg published a manuscript on behalf of the society that the society itself wouldn't have touched with a bargepole. He subverted an editorial process that would have prevented the manuscript being published. He apparently did this at least partly as a result of prior contact with the author.

That's about as far from the spirit of the process as it's possible to get. Hence I'd characterise his stuffedness as legitimate.

1:51 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This is not how the Biological Society of Washington describe the situation.

On their website they say it was:
"Contrary to typical editorial practices""


Andrew, are you claiming that "breaking the rules" would not be a subset of acting "contrary to typical editorial practices"? The BSW's statement in no way contradicts my own - it merely gives a more charitable assesssment of his actions.

My claim that Sternberg broke the rules is supported by his own form letter laying out the rules, quoted above.

"Sternberg maintains that this was not the first occasion that this was done and that on previous occasions there was no problem... (he does not say however whether he was the only editor who followed this procedure.)"

All that this means is that nobody was particularly concerned about him occasionally cutting corners until it also involved a conflict of interest. It is times when there is even the potential appearance of conflict of interest where it is most important to dot the "i"s and cross the "t"s, and where those in authority are most concerned that procedures are followed to the letter.

The fact that the article was only published after he had already left the journal (and therefore would not suffer any direct consequences) raised further suspicion that the whole thing was a set-up arranged between himself and Meyer.

2:49 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

On their website they say it was:
"Contrary to typical editorial practices""
Anon,
You said:
"Andrew, are you claiming that "breaking the rules" would not be a subset of acting "contrary to typical editorial practices"? The BSW's statement in no way contradicts my own - it merely gives a more charitable assesssment of his actions."

Of course breaking the rules is a subset of the much larger set of contrary to typical editorial practice. In just the same way as breaking the law is usually in the same set as behaving contrary to a typical citizen. However accusing someone of breaking the law when in fact they behaved atypically is a serious error. You made the same kind of error.

The distinction is a very important one.

It is not just a more charitable description it is an acknowledgement that Sternberg did not break the rules which is precisely what you accused him of doing.

6:22 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew:

The editorial rules are clearly set out by Sternberg's own form letter, quoted above.

Sternberg clearly broke these rules by retaining sole editorial control.

The fact that BSW phrased it less bluntly does not change this fact.

11:57 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Anon,

The words that I think are key are the following from Sternbergs website:

Then, depending on the subject matter, the managing editor would pass the paper to an associate editor with expertise in the appropriate field for soliciting peer reviews and then editing the paper as needed to prepare it for publication. The managing editor could also select an ad hoc associate editor for a particular paper if no member of the board of associate editors was suitable. Finally, the managing editor could take direct charge of a paper if that was appropriate.

Ie according to Sternberg there was no rule which forbad the managing editor from appointing himself as that lead editor for the paper. Such a rule needs to be indicated if your statement "he broke the rules" is to be seen as correct.

Where is the rule?

12:43 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The editorial system of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington is as follows: the Journal (Managing) Editor receives all manuscripts, provides editorial information regarding style, format, and organization, and selects the appropriate Associate Editor to handle the review process. Associate Editors select ad hoc reviewers, render decisions regarding acceptability of manuscripts, define the nature of the revision necessary, and if needed, edit the manuscript to improve precision and clarity. Manuscripts not accepted by the Associate Editors will be returned to authors. The Journal Editor receives accepted manuscripts, marks manuscripts for the printer, provides final editing, and organizes issues of the Proceedings. The Journal Editor is responsible for all matters about the publication of the Proceedings."
http://www.rsternberg.net/letter.htm

Sternberg's claim that "the managing editor could take direct charge of a paper if that was appropriate" is clearly an after-the-fact rationalisation, lacking any substantiation. Doing what he suggests clearly would negate the editorial oversight that is normally maintained by the Journal Editor over the Associate Editor.

If the Journal Editor takes direct charge, who is going to oversee his work to ensure that he is not exhibiting favoritism towards a particular article or author (which there is a strong suggestion of in this case)?

Sternberg's behaviour was in violation of the rules that he himself ennunciated in his form letter, and (given his relationship to the author) thoroughly unprofessional.

1:49 pm  
Blogger Andrew Rowell said...

Hmmmm,

I see what you are saying Anon... but I think it is stretching the language to say that Sternberg "broke the rules" particularly if there was a precident (which he manintains there was) for the Editor to select himself as associate editor when the paper was within his specialism.

2:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew:

We only have Sternberg's own word for this "precident." We have no way of knowing the circumstances of these prior incidents of him editing articles himself. It is certainly safe to assume that none of them involved the degree of controversy and suspicion of favoritism that this one involved.

It is in just such controversial situations that professionalism should demand that an editor adhere strictly to the editorial rules, even when he might grant himself some leeway in uncontroversial decisions.

His actions, quite legitimately, has brought him into disrepute, and less fairly has also besmirched the name of the BSW, to whom he owed a duty to fulfil his role as Editor with disinterested professionalism, a duty that he (apparently consciously and willfully) betrayed through his favoritism towards Meyer's article.

4:43 pm  
Blogger Lifewish said...

I'd note that, although the response to Sternberg seems somewhat disproportionate to the crime, that's absolutely standard in science.

The classic example here is probably Fleischman and Pons (of cold fusion fame). They discovered an apparently genuine effect, had a few ideas about what might be causing it, were talked into giving a press conference by their money-hungry university... and had their careers thoroughly trashed as a result.

It's harsh - but it's necessary. As with any system, it's fairly easy for senior members (such as important scientists... or journal editors) to play Silly Blighters. Hence, the SB detection systems need to be at peak performance, and the penalties for SB of any sort need to be extremely harsh. That way it's actually possible for scientists to trust each other.

Compare this to, for example, the ISCID journal, where "articles passed on by at least one ISCID fellow will be accepted for publication". How exactly does that system prevent SB on the part of the ISCID fellows?

5:43 pm  

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