"If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sin."
- Charles Darwin

Oct 4, 2007

Intelligent Design and Pseudoscience

Michael Behe joins the ranks of UFO conspiracy theorists

The Panda’s Thumb has linked to an excellent analysis by Duquesne University biologist David Lampe on the productive scientific work of Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe. While ID has long been criticized for not generating testable hypotheses (and therefore not involving the scientific method) Dr. Lampe has now shown that Behe has done almost no science at all since his first book Darwin’s Black Box was published in 1996.

Behe has been described as “a scientist of the first rank,” however a scientist is judged by how often he or she publishes in peer-reviewed journals and how often other researchers cite those publications. In a simple test Lampe compares Behe’s work with that of the widely acknowledged “scientist of the first rank” Sean Carroll.

Since 1996 Behe has published only a single peer-reviewed scientific article, and that article didn’t even mention “intelligent design.” Furthermore, Behe’s work since 1996 has been cited a total of 99 times (mostly for his first book) and of those the majority of the citations are negative views of his work or they don’t appear in scientific journals. This leaves 11 favorable citations in nine years of a work that wasn’t peer-reviewed.

In contrast Sean Carroll has published 36 primary research articles in peer-reviewed journals that were cited 1,508 times and nearly all of them in the scientific literature.

In summation, Lampe states:

I conclude, based on the evidence, that Michael Behe is obviously not a scientist of the first rank and appears not to be doing any serious work at the present time. More to the point, ID creationism is not an important idea in science. Science is a meritocracy where ideas earn their place. Until ID shows it can be used as a productive idea to perform scientific work it should not be presented as a viable alternative to well-established evolutionary theory. Academic freedom issues are simply not germane in this context. Short-circuiting the normal process used to establish the scientific ideas we teach to students is simply dishonest.

The evidence speaks for itself. Intelligent Design has had an appalling scientific legacy. Now, before someone claims that Intelligent Design is a new line of inquiry that takes time to gain acceptance, let me point out that Sean Carroll’s work is in the brand new field of evo-devo and has had no difficulty swaying his colleagues based on the evidence alone. ID advocates have tried to sneak in through the back door by appealing to courts and politicians instead of through the legitimate main entrance of the scientific literature. This speaks volumes about their scientific integrity.

Intelligent Design proponents are nothing but pseudoscience hucksters who attempt to trump experimental evidence through emotional appeals and untested criticism. When confronted by their lack of scientific rigor they’ll whine about a vast conspiracy that prevents them from publishing their work. This is the same position that so-called ufologists and other proponents of new age pseudoscience espouse. In the relatively near future Michael Behe’s work will be dumped in the bin housing such other erroneous claims as von Daniken’s Chariots of the Gods and Velikovsky’s Worlds in Collision. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is just ad hominem stuff. Why not deal the substance of his arguments?