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  Topic: ID and peer-review, Links, documentation, etc. on this< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2003,14:31   

Several discussions ongoing on the topic of whether ID has any support in the peer-reviewed literature, and whether this matters.

Cross-referencing other similar discussions:

From March (particularly good reply by RBH):

ID and Peer-Review (Dembski)

Tipler on Peer-Review

Dembski on Peer-Review;f=13;t=000783


Posts: 319
Joined: May 2002

(Permalink) Posted: July 02 2003,15:18   

Unfortunately, ID writers have a checkered history when it comes to citing peer-reviewed literature in their favor.

1. E.g., Dembski, in No Free Lunch, wrote (p. 270):


For the scientific community to take this concept [IC] seriously, the peer-reviewed scientific literature needs to address this concept explicitly and acknowledge it as a genuine problem for biology.  That has happened.  In 2000 Thornhill and Ussery published an article in the Journal of Theoretical Biology addressing "the accessibility by Darwinian evolution of irreducibly complex structures of functionally indivisible components." [61]

But ref. 61, if the reader happened to follow the footnote, look up the article, and read it, is:


J Theor Biol. 2000 Mar 21;203(2):111-6.
A classification of possible routes of Darwinian evolution.

Thornhill RH, Ussery DW.

2505 Tomin Tower, 3-10-1 Iidabashi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 102-0072, Japan.

A classification of four possible routes of Darwinian evolution is presented. These are serial direct evolution, parallel direct evolution, elimination of functional redundancy, and adoption from a different function. This classification provides a conceptual framework within which to investigate the accessibility by Darwinian evolution of complex biological structures. Copyright 2000 Academic Press.

...the whole article is online here:

...and, upon reading it, one discovers that it is in fact a refutation of Behe.  How can you cite papers that are refuting your position without mentioning that little fact?

2. In another vein, during the Ohio debate the DI put out a list of literature that supposedly questioned Darwinism, describing them as "publications represent dissenting viewpoints that challenge one or another aspect of neo-Darwinism (the prevailing theory of evolution taught in biology textbooks), discuss problems that evolutionary theory faces, or suggest important new lines of evidence that biology must consider when explaining origins" (quoted here):

DI list

...but NCSE contacted the authors and found that this wasn't the case:

NCSE response

3. The phrase "ID-relevant literature" seems to be tactically ambiguous, and in practice refers to:

(1) Standard biochemistry papers that happen to be published by ID supporters/sympathizers, but which have no obvious connection to the ID argument that intelligent design actually did something somewhere in biology (and certainly no such explicit connection is made).  Various papers by Axe, Behe etc. sometimes appear in this category.

(2) Standard papers by lots of scientists that happen to discuss complex systems.  In this mode of argumentation, ID advocates try to turn any paper on (say) the bacterial flagellum into a "paper supporting ID".

(3) Vague citations of Behe or Dembski, or even more obliquely, Denton, in what I might describe as "vaguely pro-teleology" review papers.  As far as I've seen no external intervention is argued for, usually neodarwinism is questioned and some version of orthogenesis is suggested.  

A case in point here is Dembski's seemingly strongest bit of evidence in his essay above, namely that he was cited in Annual Reviews in Genetics.  This paper is almost certainly:


Annu Rev Genet. 2002;36:389-410.

Chromosome rearrangements and transposable elements.

Lonnig WE, Saedler H.

Max-Planck-Institut fur Zuchtungsforschung, Carl-von-Linne-Weg 10, D-50829 Koln, Germany;

There has been limited corroboration to date for McClintock's vision of gene regulation by transposable elements (TEs), although her proposition on the origin of species by TE-induced complex chromosome reorganizations in combination with gene mutations, i.e., the involvement of both factors in relatively sudden formations of species in many plant and animal genera, has been more promising. Moreover, resolution is in sight for several seemingly contradictory phenomena such as the endless reshuffling of chromosome structures and gene sequences versus synteny and the constancy of living fossils (or stasis in general). Recent wide-ranging investigations have confirmed and enlarged the number of earlier cases of TE target site selection (hot spots for TE integration), implying preestablished rather than accidental chromosome rearrangements for nonhomologous recombination of host DNA. The possibility of a partly predetermined generation of biodiversity and new species is discussed. The views of several leading transposon experts on the rather abrupt origin of new species have not been synthesized into the macroevolutionary theory of the punctuated equilibrium school of paleontology inferred from thoroughly consistent features of the fossil record.

Both Behe and Dembski are referenced in the paper, but the citations are less than impressive:

In regard to the question of species formation in muntjac deer and cyclops, McClintock (90) suggested, “it is difficult to resist concluding that some specific “genomic shock” was responsible for origins of new species” in these genera. Despite the reservations and open questions noted above, her hypothesis is intrinsically attractive and a promising possibilty that warrants further investigation. However, if all the proof that is still lacking to substantiate her view on the origin of species were available, would that also give us the mode of origin of the higher systematic categories and types of life referred to by Schindewolf? To be more specific: If so, to what extent can any of the TE-incited rearrangements contribute to the origin of novel genes and new gene reaction chains as well as the genesis of irreducibly complex structures? All three of these may be especially relevant for the origin of higher systematic categories (3–5, 33, 69, 80–85, 121, 122, 130).


The Darwinian centennial in 1959 (138) provided the occasion for many voices to declare that all the basic problems of the origin of species and higher systematic categories had fully been solved by the modern synthesis. The speakers and authors of the centennial were, of course, aware of some outstanding problems, but itwould be only a matter of time and effort before these were also resolved within the frame of the synthetic theory. In any case, there was nothing of substance to be really worried about. This was in stark contrast to the many opposing views advanced in 1909 at the 50th anniversary celebration of the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species. TEs had no part in these discussions. Extrapolating from the wide range of current opinions (3–5, 14, 29, 30, 33, 38, 40, 55, 56, 64, 69, 71, 75–85, 89–93, 101, 109, 121, 122, 126–130, 132–138), we might safely predict that if similar meetings are held in 2009, the climate of opinion will be much closer to that of the 1909 semicentennial than to that of the 1959 centennial, and transposable elements will have played a special part in discussions on the origin of systematic species, from small to large chromosome rearrangements in muntjac deer to many different plant chromosome lines. However, in the face of the numerous scientific problems still unresolved in the context of the origin of species and higher systematic categories, we would probably be well advised to continue to welcome the plethora of different and diverging ideas and hypotheses on the origin of life in all its forms as well as to remain open-minded on real results of investigations, wherever they may lead.

Ref 5 is Darwin's Black Box and ref 33 is No Free Lunch.  Being mentioned in a laundry list of various perspectives on the prospects of neodarwinism, in a paper that appears to be trying to reinvigorate macromutation/saltation via transposons and chromosome rearrangements (rather than endorsing ID), is not exactly a vindication of ID.

But Dembski is evidently stuck grasping at the few straws he has, apparently.  This in itself says something about the record of ID in the literature.

Tom Ames

Posts: 238
Joined: Dec. 2002

(Permalink) Posted: July 03 2003,00:15   

Someone ought to ask Dembski when we might expect to see "Being as Communion: The Metaphysics of Information" (his Templeton Book Prize project) published.

It seems to me that someone who gets $0.1M free and clear to write their book should stop bitching about how unfair the system is. And maybe get around to delivering on past promises made.

-Tom Ames

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