Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A note from the Discovery Institute about the so-called Wedge Document

The following is a response by Rob Crowther on the so-called Wedge Document. What is interesting is that the Forrest and Gross book is recommended by people like Dawkins, Pinker, and E. O. Wilson.

What can be learned from this? The fact is that in their desire to defend science against ID, the people who should be expected to be proportioning their belief to the evidence have bought in on a ridiculous conspiracy theory. As I have written previously, nonspecialists have to rely, to large extent, on the credibility of the experts in the scientific community. Fiascos like these damage the credibility of the Darwinist community, and in the final analysis, of Darwinism itself.

The “Wedge Document”: How Darwinist Paranoia Fueled an Urban Legend



In 1999 someone posted on the internet an early fundraising proposal for Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture. Dubbed the “Wedge Document,” this proposal soon took on a life of its own, popping up in all sorts of places and eventually spawning what can only be called a giant urban legend. Among true-believers on the Darwinist fringe the document came to be viewed as evidence for a secret conspiracy to fuse religion with science and impose a theocracy. These claims were so outlandish that for a long time we simply ignored them. But because some credulous Darwinists seem willing to believe almost anything, we decided we should set the record straight.



1. The Background

§ In 1996 Discovery Institute established the Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture (now just the Center for Science & Culture). Its main functions were (1) to support research by scientists and other scholars who were critical of neo-Darwinism and by those who were developing the emerging scientific theory of intelligent design; and (2) to explore, in various ways, the multiple connections between science and culture.

§ To raise financial support for the Center, Discovery Institute prepared a fundraising proposal that explained the overall rationale for the Center and why a think tank like Discovery would want to start such an entity in the first place. Like most fundraising proposals, this one included a multi-year budget and a list of goals to be achieved.



2. The Rise of an Urban Legend

§ In 1999 a copy of this fundraising proposal was posted by someone on the internet. The document soon spread across the world wide web, gaining almost mythic status among some Darwinists.

§ That’s when members of the Darwinist fringe began saying rather loopy things. For example, one group claimed that the document supplied evidence of a frightening twenty-year master plan “to have religion control not only science, but also everyday life, laws, and education”!

§ Barbara Forrest, a Louisiana professor on the board of a group called the New Orleans Secular Humanist Association, similarly championed the document as proof positive of a sinister conspiracy to abolish civil liberties and unify church and state. Forrest insisted that the document was “crucially important,” and she played up its supposed secrecy, claiming at one point that its “authenticity…has been neither affirmed nor denied by the Discovery Institute.” Poor Prof. Forrest—if she really wanted to know whether the document was authentic, all she had to do was ask. (She didn’t.)

§ There were lots of ironies as this urban legend began to grow, but Darwinist true-believers didn’t seem capable of appreciating them:

Discovery Institute, the supposed mastermind of this “religious” conspiracy, was in fact a secular organization that sponsored programs on a wide array of issues, including mass transit, technology policy, the environment, and national defense.
At the time the “Wedge Document” was being used by Darwinists to stoke fears about Christian theocracy, the Chairman of Discovery’s Board was Jewish, its President was an Episcopalian, and its various Fellows represented an eclectic range of religious views ranging from Roman Catholic to agnostic. It would have been news to them that they were all part of a fundamentalist cabal.
Far from promoting a union between church and state, Discovery Institute sponsored for several years a seminar for college students that advocated religious liberty and the separation between church and state.
3. What the Document Actually Says

§ The best way to dispel the paranoia of the conspiracy-mongers is to actually look at the document in question. It simply doesn’t advocate the views they attribute to it.

§ First and foremost, and contrary to the hysterical claims of some Darwinists, this document does not attack “science” or the “scientific method.” In fact, it is pro-science. What the document critiques is “scientific materialism,” which is the abuse of genuine science by those who claim that science supports the unscientific philosophy of materialism.

§ Second, the document does not propose replacing “science” or the “scientific method” with “God” or “religion.” Instead, it supports a science that is “consonant” (i.e., harmonious) with theism, rather than hostile to it. To support a science that is “consonant” with religion is not to claim that religion and science are the same thing. They clearly aren’t. But it is to deny the claim of scientific materialists that science is somehow anti-religious.

§ Following are the document’s major points, which we still are happy to affirm:

(1) “The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization is built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all, of the West’s greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.” As a historical matter, this statement happens to be true. The idea that humans are created in the image of God has had powerful positive cultural consequences. Only a member of a group with a name like the “New Orleans Secular Humanist Association” could find anything objectionable here. (By the way, isn’t it strange that a group supposedly promoting “theocracy” would praise “representative democracy” and “human rights”?)

(2) “Yet a little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings, but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very throughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry, and environment.” This statement highlights one of the animating concerns of Discovery Institute as a public policy think tank. Leading nineteenth century intellectuals tried to hijack science to promote their own anti-religious agenda. This attempt to enlist science to support an anti-religious agenda continues to this day with Darwinists like Oxford’s Richard Dawkins, who boldly insists that Darwinism supports atheism. We continue to think that such claims are an abuse of genuine science, and that this abuse of real science has led to pernicious social consequences (such as the eugenics crusade pushed by Darwinist biologists early in the twentieth century).

(3) “Discovery Institute’s Center... seeks nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies.” It wants to “reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” We admit it: We want to end the abuse of science by Darwinists like Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson who try to use science to debunk religion, and we want to provide support for scientists and philosophers who think that real science is actually “consonant with… theistic convictions.” Please note, however: “Consonant with” means “in harmony with.” It does not mean “same as.” Recent developments in physics, cosmology, biochemistry, and related sciences may lead to a new harmony between science and religion. But that doesn’t mean we think religion and science are the same thing. We don’t.

(4) “Without solid scholarship, research and argument, the project would be just another attempt to indoctrinate instead of persuade.” It is precisely because we are interested in encouraging intellectual exploration that the “Wedge Document” identified the “essential” component of its program as the support of scholarly “research, writing and publication.” The document makes clear that the primary goal of Discovery Institute’s program in this area is to support scholars so they can engage in research and publication Scholarship comes first. Accordingly, by far the largest program in the Center’s budget has been the awarding of research fellowships to biologists, philosophers of science, and other scholars to engage in research and writing.

(5) “The best and truest research can languish unread and unused unless it is properly publicized.” It’s shocking but true—Discovery Institute actually promised to publicize the work of its scholars in the broader culture! What’s more, it wanted to engage Darwinists in academic debates at colleges and universities! We are happy to say that we still believe in vigorous and open discussion of our ideas, and we still do whatever we can to publicize the work of those we support. So much for the “secret” part of our supposed “conspiracy/”



§ A final thought: Don’t Darwinists have better ways to spend their time than inventing absurd conspiracy theories about their opponents? The longer Darwinists persist in spinning such urban legends, the more likely it is that fair-minded people will begin to question whether Darwinists know what they are talking about.



To see the complete original text of the document and read a more detailed response go to: The Wedge Document: So What? (http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=2101)


-----

Robert L. Crowther

Director of Communications

Center for Science & Culture

50 comments:

im-skeptical said...

I couldn't find the original Wedge document in the linked article, so here it is - in DI's own words.

http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf

This document speaks for itself. You don't need to invent any conspiracy theories. Just read the document.

Papalinton said...

Just another asinine attempt at revisionism in the effort to not accept responsibility for the original document. A somewhat oily, artful and unethical crack by the universally rebuked Discovery Institute endeavouring to salvage what little if any, of its utterly shattered credibility, they imagine might be in the offing.

To follow up Skep's referenced site, one can also CLICK HERE to read the original 'THE WEDGE' document.

Another devastating blow to the authority and integrity of Christian sponsored 'Think Tanks'[?]
Ya just gotta love their chutzpah.

Martin said...

I'm with im-skeptical and papa on this one. ID is an insidious movement built on a foundation of misinformation, disinformation, and lies. The core problem with it is that at its heart is William Paley's design argument.

In examining Aquinas's Fifth Way, here is what Christopher Martin says about the design argument:

>Because efficient explanations were lacking, the obvious final explanation was postulated as pre-existing as an idea in someone’s mind, which would then provide the required efficient explanation. The mind of the Great Architect is a cover for ignorance of efficient causality...

>The argument from design fails, then, because it is an argument from ignorance, because it confuses the final and efficient modes of explanation, and because even if it succeeded it would not prove the existence of God but of some Masonic impostor.

>But like other bad arguments, its defeat and death has left it to wander the world like a ghost, oppressing the spirits of those who are looking for other and better arguments.

JB Chappell said...

It's hard to see how "the" argument from design fails as an argument from ignorance, without any other argument FOR design also being an argument from ignorance. If I claim that ANY questioned system is designed, is that automatically an argument from ignorance? Well, there goes the fields of cryptology, archaeology, forensic science, etc. An argument for design is only an argument from ignorance insofar as it claims that things must be designed because we can't possibly conceive of an alternative. But that simply isn't how people argue any more. The argument for design are generally inductive, and while those are subject to all of those related shortcomings, it is hardly the case that inductive arguments originate from ignorance.

JB Chappell said...

I guess I shouldn't say "that's not how people argue any more". I'm sure that there are many who do, but it's generally not the tactic the more knowledgeable people will take.

frances said...

What makes DI so unscientific is that they come to the evidence with their agenda. The evidence is not to be followed where it leads. Where it's going to lead has already been determined. Now it just has to be made to fit......

Karl Grant said...

What makes DI so unscientific is that they come to the evidence with their agenda. The evidence is not to be followed where it leads. Where it's going to lead has already been determined. Now it just has to be made to fit......

So if a scientist approaches evidence with an agenda their work should be considered suspect? Fair enough; many scientists like Dawkins, Meyers, etc... approach science with the agenda of furthering atheism. Their work is now considered suspect.

im-skeptical said...

"So if a scientist approaches evidence with an agenda their work should be considered suspect?"

That's what peer review is for. Between Dawkins and Meyer, one has properly peer-reviewed work, and the other doesn't. Care to guess which on is which?

Karl Grant said...

That's what peer review is for. Between Dawkins and Meyer, one has properly peer-reviewed work, and the other doesn't. Care to guess which on is which?

That's the best you can come up with as a response? The fact Dawkins had work published in peer-reviewed journals does shit to my point. Dawkins has written several books were he has argued at length science has disproven God. PZ Meyers also makes the same argument. Both are trying to co-opt science to advance their atheism. Both are approaching their scientific work from their atheist ideological outlook.

im-skeptical said...

"Dawkins has written several books were he has argued at length science has disproven God."

I never read that. Citation?

frances said...

Karl,

So if a scientist approaches evidence with an agenda their work should be considered suspect?

Yes.

JB Chappell said...

Peer review is decidedly NOT for agenda-checking. It is for method and fact-checking, and checking other content (grammar, spelling, etc.). One can publish all sorts of scientific articles, despite whatever agenda you hold, so long as the study was done properly. Furthermore, it's just silly to use the Wedge Document as some sort of proof of a bias. DOes the fact that Dawkins holds to naturalism (and has said so) mean that he has an agenda, and therefore cannot publish scientific articles? No, because not only does his agenda not necessarily have any bearing on his work, nor does whatever inferences he has drawn necessarily mean that he has done so improperly. The same goes for the DI. Maybe they do want to rid the world of scientific materialism, and hold up design theory as the better alternative. So what? It doesn't mean they have drawn their inferences improperly, and simply assuming they have (and it certainly seems like most everyone is) is highly hypocritical, as its just as biased as it's what they're accusing the DI of.

im-skeptical said...

JB Chappell,

I agree that peer review is not for the purpose of determining whether the author of a pager has an agenda. It is for the purpose of determining whether the paper is scientifically sound, and if the author's agenda gets in the way of conducting scientifically sound work, the peer review should not allow it to pass. There is little or nothing that DI has published that represents scientifically sound work. That's why it is not peer-reviewed.

What they do is not science.

Crude said...

Martin,

>The argument from design fails, then, because it is an argument from ignorance,

It can't be, because the design argument as ID provides it relies on evidence. No one seriously disputes that intelligent agents are capable of creating, say... irreducibly complex things. And on the surface, that is evidence for their claims.

because it confuses the final and efficient modes of explanation, and because even if it succeeded it would not prove the existence of God but of some Masonic impostor.

And that is an absolutely fatal objection to ID - but it's fatal to the ID critic in this case.

'God or some Masonic impostor' does not matter to Behe and the rest, because - and they are extraordinarily explicit about this - their arguments are not meant to establish God's existence. They admit that the designer could be aliens, small-g gods, all manner of things. So this revelation cannot lay a glove on them.

As for the 'if a researcher has an agenda their work is suspect talk', that's grand. I love to see the entire scientific enterprise, top to bottom, rendered suspect in one fell swoop. If nothing else, it's a gutsy move.

Karl Grant said...

I never read that. Citation?

Really? Is that a joke? But then again you claim that the PDF Dr. Reppert linked to didn't contain the original Wedge document despite on pg 12, three lines from the top and big bold letters that are hard to miss saying:

5. WHAT THE DOCUMENT ACTUALLY SAYS(FULL TEXT)

But anyway here you go:

Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think, and here's why.

First, most of the traditional arguments for God's existence, from Aquinas on, are easily demolished. Several of them, such as the First Cause argument, work by setting up an infinite regress which God is wheeled out to terminate. But we are never told why God is magically able to terminate regresses while needing no explanation himself. To be sure, we do need some kind of explanation for the origin of all things. Physicists and cosmologists are hard at work on the problem. But whatever the answer - a random quantum fluctuation or a Hawking/Penrose singularity or whatever we end up calling it - it will be simple. Complex, statistically improbable things, by definition, don't just happen; they demand an explanation in their own right. They are impotent to terminate regresses, in a way that simple things are not. The first cause cannot have been an intelligence - let alone an intelligence that answers prayers and enjoys being worshipped. Intelligent, creative, complex, statistically improbable things come late into the universe, as the product of evolution or some other process of gradual escalation from simple beginnings. They come late into the universe and therefore cannot be responsible for designing it.

Karl Grant said...

Frances,

So Dawkins, Meyers, Harris, Coyne, etc... approach science with an agenda: furthering atheism. Is their work considered suspect?

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

"on pg 12, three lines from the top and big bold letters that are hard to miss ..."

As I said, I was looking for the original document in the site that Victor linked to, and I couldn't find it. Please learn to read.

"But anyway here you go:"

So somewhere in there, you imagine that Dawkins is claiming scientific proof? Please learn to read.

This gets tiresome.

JB Chappell said...

I'm-skeptical, I would agree that the DI is not science per se. More or less, they seem to aggregate scientific studies friendly to their own cause, while also highlighting studies that seem (to them, anyway) adverse to those who take a contrary position. Standard stuff, for those with an agenda. It does not mean that they inference they draw is invalid, that the scientific studies they cite are wrong, etc. But it's always wise to keep in mind the agenda, for sure.

None of this means that those who adhere to ID don't do science, or that ID itself is unscientific. I'd compare it to the NCSE, which doesn't "do science" and also has an agenda. Again, the Wedge Document reveals an agenda, sure, but that's it. Feel free to take what they say with a grain of salt (as with everyone else with an agenda), but it doesn't mean anything more than that.

Papalinton said...

J B Chappell
"Again, the Wedge Document reveals an agenda, sure, but that's it. Feel free to take what they say with a grain of salt (as with everyone else with an agenda), but it doesn't mean anything more than that."

You are absolutely right. The Wedge Document is and means nothing more than a grain of salt. An astute observation.

frances said...

Karl,

Anyone who approaches science with the intention that they will use it to support some pre-existing view they have formed is not being scientific. It will follow that their work should be treated as suspect (although JB Chappell is right: beware the ad hominem conclusion that this would falsify it).

I don't accept that the people you have listed do approach science with any pre-conceptions about what it will prove, but having said that I haven't read much of their work. My observation isn't belief-specific ("Oh, of course it's fine when an atheist does it!") Any person of whatever belief should leave their pre-conceptions outside the lab when they do science. If they don't, then they are not really doing science.

Crude said...

Any person of whatever belief should leave their pre-conceptions outside the lab when they do science. If they don't, then they are not really doing science.

So, out of curiosity...

How do you tell the research papers that are science from the research papers that aren't science? Can you tell from looking at them whether or not the author had any pre-conceptions?

Karl Grant said...

As I said, I was looking for the original document in the site that Victor linked to, and I couldn't find it. Please learn to read.

Oh, I read what you said and here is why it is bullshit. This is the first paragraph from your link:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all,of the West's greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

The first paragraph under the above referenced section 5 (which is stated to be the full text of the original document) of Dr. Reppert's link:

The proposition that human beings are created in the image of God is one of the bedrock principles on which Western civilization was built. Its influence can be detected in most, if not all,of the West's greatest achievements, including representative democracy, human rights, free enterprise, and progress in the arts and sciences.

They are one and the same. The second paragraph from your link:

Yet little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.

Second paragraph of Dr. Reppert's link under section 5:

Yet little over a century ago, this cardinal idea came under wholesale attack by intellectuals drawing on the discoveries of modern science. Debunking the traditional conceptions of both God and man, thinkers such as Charles Darwin, Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud portrayed humans not as moral and spiritual beings but as animals or machines who inhabited a universe ruled by purely impersonal forces and whose behavior and very thoughts were dictated by the unbending forces of biology, chemistry and environment. This materialistic conception of reality eventually infected virtually every area of our culture, from politics and economics to literature and art.

The text in both your link and Dr. Reppert's under section 5 is exactly the same. You would have realized this if you had actually read Dr. Reppert's link but I am willing to bet you haven't even read the copy of the Wedge Document you linked to either.

Karl Grant said...

So somewhere in there, you imagine that Dawkins is claiming scientific proof? Please learn to read.

And now I know you didn't read what I quoted or the article linked to. Notice the very first sentence:

Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available?

He states rather clearly he views the question of God as a scientific hypothesis and that scientific evidence for God as lacking while scientific evidence for atheism is quite strong. To quote Crude, quit bullshitting. You are not fucking good at it.

Karl Grant said...

frances,

I don't accept that the people you have listed do approach science with any pre-conceptions about what it will prove, but having said that I haven't read much of their work.

Wait, so you don't believe these people approach their work with any pre-conditions but you haven't actually read their work?

....

That is a complete and total Non-sequitur. You can't judge a person's work for ideological bias unless you actually examine it. You just admitted you haven't examined their work in detail, how the hell can you not accept that the people you have listed do approach science with any pre-conceptions about what it will prove? About the only reason you would make such a statement is ideological bias.

Any person of whatever belief should leave their pre-conceptions outside the lab when they do science. If they don't, then they are not really doing science.

And how exactly do you know if they left their pre-conceptions outside the lab?

im-skeptical said...

JB Chappell,

"None of this means that those who adhere to ID don't do science"

True. But it does reveal their approach to the issue, which is confirmed by examination of their work. To follow scientific method is crucial in conducting valid scientific practice. That method prescribes a sequence that starts with collection of evidence (or observation), develops a hypothesis that does the best job of explaining the available evidence, and then attempts to confirm (mainly by trying to disprove) the hypothesis.

The people at DI have a hypothesis that they want to prove before they even begin to look at evidence. That is their agenda. Consequently, they pass over mountains of evidence looking only for any bits that can be construed to fit their hypothesis. They array this carefully selected material and say "this confirms my case", without ever making an effort to verify that it holds up to experimental confirmation. They publish a (non peer-reviewed} paper containing lots of scientific-sounding terminology, and the scientifically illiterate {especially those who are ideologically sympathetic} swallow it.

I'm sorry to tell you, that's not science.

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

Give it up. Yes, I know they repeated the words from the original document in this paper, along with a lot of spin. I was looking for the original document. Is that so hard to understand?

Regarding Dawkins' view of the God Hypothesis, it should be clear from reading his words that it is not proof, but a matter of probability for him. Please learn to read.

Karl Grant said...

Give it up. Yes, I know they repeated the words from the original document in this paper, along with a lot of spin. I was looking for the original document. Is that so hard to understand?

If you know they provided the full text of the original document why do you need an exact copy of the original? What's the matter, you miss looking at the pretty picture on the title page of the original? Because literally that, and the formatting, is the only difference between your link and Section 5 of Dr. Reppert's link; the text content in both is exactly the fucking same. Or is this a rather pathetic attempt on your part to try and prevent people from investigating Dr. Reppert's link and by extension DI's rebuttal to atheist charges? Or are you just merely trying to get people to view a website you like? Because demanding an exact copy of the original Wedge document when they have provided the full text of said document makes no fucking sense.

Regarding Dawkins' view of the God Hypothesis, it should be clear from reading his words that it is not proof, but a matter of probability for him. Please learn to read.

This a rather rich coming from a guy who put two contradictory sentences back-to-back just yesterday. And while Dawkins may crouch his words in terms of probability it is clear he views science as haven disproven the concept of God and religion.

frances said...

Karl,

frances,

Wait, so you don't believe these people approach their work with any pre-conditions but you haven't actually read their work?

So? Your point is?

That is a complete and total Non-sequitur.(sic)

No it isn't. Go away and look up what it means.

And how exactly do you know if they left their pre-conceptions outside the lab?

I don't know. I never said I did. And your point is?

Karl Grant said...

So? Your point is?

The point is that you are making a value statement based not on evidence. It is like me saying "I think frances is incompetent at his job but I am not familiar with his work." Same kind of statement.

No it isn't. Go away and look up what it means.

Oh I know exactly what it means: it does not follow. You ever take Latin in high school? Now let's look at what you said:

1. You said I don't accept that the people you have listed do approach science with any pre-conceptions about what it will prove

1. A. This is a value judgement about a person's work

2. To make an accurate value judgement about a person's work you need to familiar with said work.

3. You follow statement (1) with this: but having said that I haven't read much of their work.

3. A. This is an admission that you are not familiar with said work.

4. If you are not familiar with said work then you cannot make an accurate value judgement about the quality and character of said work.

5. (3) does not support (1).

I don't know. I never said I did. And your point is?

Oh I just thought that if you are making statement that scientists approaching their work with ideological preconceptions is not doing science you might actually care about figuring how determine who is and isn't approaching their work with ideological preconceptions. Of course, if you can't determine who is and is not leaving their ideological baggage outside the lab doors how exactly can you determine scientists associated with the Discovery Institute aren't simply following where the evidence leads?

frances said...

Karl,

1. You said I don't accept that the people you have listed do approach science with any pre-conceptions about what it will prove
This is a value judgement about a person's work


No it isn't. Pretty much everything you say from this point on is irrelevant because you have failed to grasp what "I do not accept" actually means.

You can translate "non sequitur" but your attempt to show that I am guilty of one just illustrates that you do not understand the concept. A non sequitur arises when someone argues P therefore Q but there is no basis for inferring Q from P. If I had said: "(a) The people you have listed do not approach science with any preconceptions about what it will prove, but (b)I haven't read much of their work" then the observation (a) would be unreasonable in the light of (b). BUT it would not be a non sequitur. To be a non sequitur I would have to say something like "These people do not approach science with any preconceptions about what it will prove because I have not read much of their work."

how exactly can you determine scientists associated with associated with the Discover Institute aren't simply following where the evidence leads?

From the Wedge document.

Karl Grant said...

You can translate "non sequitur" but your attempt to show that I am guilty of one just illustrates that you do not understand the concept. A non sequitur arises when someone argues P therefore Q but there is no basis for inferring Q from P. If I had said: "(a) The people you have listed do not approach science with any preconceptions about what it will prove, but (b)I haven't read much of their work" then the observation (a) would be unreasonable in the light of (b). BUT it would not be a non sequitur. To be a non sequitur I would have to say something like "These people do not approach science with any preconceptions about what it will prove because I have not read much of their work."

Quit the bullshitting frances. If you do not accept the idea that these people approach their work with any preconceived notions or ideological baggage then it follows you accept the opposite: that they are free of ideological baggage when doing their work. If you wanted to take a pure neutral position you would have said something like: I don't know if these people approach their work with preconceived notions of how it will turn out because I have not read much of their work. But you said I don't accept these people do this - in other words you do not accept one possibility, which is not a neutral position - despite the fact you are not familiar with their work.

From the Wedge document.

The Wedge Document is a layout for a PR campaign not for predetermined lab results. Also, you would need to prove the people behind said document had their mind made up on the subject long before they began work in their respective fields; otherwise the possibility exists their work led them to come to the conclusions based in the wedge document not the other way around.

im-skeptical said...

It is frustrating trying to have a rational discussion with a dolt.

On the question of whether most scientists approach their work with preconceived notions or ideological baggage:

If person A claims they do and person B doesn't accept that, it is A who is making a value judgment, not B. Why? A is saying that the quality of their work suffers because of their 'ideological baggage'. That's a value judgment. B is not making a claim about it one way or the other. B says she has not seen the evidence. A hasn't presented any evidence either - he's just making a baseless accusation. And then ho goes on to say B is bullshitting and that B is actually making a claim that scientists DO NOT approach their work in this manner. B is actually doing no such thing, but A is incapable of understanding nuance. In fact, it is up to person A to make his case with real evidence.

Here's my perspective: I don't think it's the case that most scientists are encumbered by their ideological baggage. I'm not saying they don't have any ideologies or preconceived notions. I'm saying they don't let it get in the way of conducting valid scientific work. Obviously, this doesn't apply across the board. There are certainly some whose work is degraded due to their ideological approach. But if that were the case most of the time, science could never have achieved what it has.

The proof is in the pudding. There is a large body of valid, peer-reviewed scientific work. Science, as a whole, has been tremendously successful precisely because scientists follow scientific method and produce valid work. The peer review process is intended to validate their work, and to weed out work that does not meet scientific standards. Despite the conspiracy theories proffered by the likes of DI, peer review is not an ideological vetting process. The reason DI doesn't produce peer-reviewed material is because what they do is NOT VALID SCIENCE. They do not follow scientific method. What they do is push their religious beliefs, masquerading as science.

frances said...

Quit bullshitting Karl. You're wrong. Everyone can see it. Conversation over.

Karl Grant said...

Skeppy,

Your idea of a rational conversation is an echo chamber in which everybody agrees with you and there is no dissenting opinion.

If person A claims they do and person B doesn't accept that, it is A who is making a value judgment, not B...A hasn't presented any evidence either - he's just making a baseless accusation.

Here is little quote from PZ Myers about evidence for God:

So yes, I agree. There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.

Would you like to see similar quotes from Richard Dawkins on the subject? Ok, Here you go:

there is nothing beyond the natural, physical world...if there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it within the natural.

Would you like to see more? They are not exactly lacking quotes showing how their minds are already made up and how there is either A) no evidence for God / gods and B) any contradictory evidence must be made to fit their belief structure.

The proof is in the pudding. There is a large body of valid, peer-reviewed scientific work...The peer review process is intended to validate their work, and to weed out work that does not meet scientific standards.

Funny you say this because there has been a lot of articles criticizing the peer-reviewed process over the years. From the From the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine:

Some reviewers did not spot any, and most reviewers spotted only about a quarter. Peer review sometimes picks up fraud by chance, but generally it is not a reliable method for detecting fraud because it works on trust...People have a great many fantasies about peer review, and one of the most powerful is that it is a highly objective, reliable, and consistent process...They found it hard to accept that peer review is a subjective and, therefore, inconsistent process....The evidence on whether there is bias in peer review against certain sorts of authors is conflicting, but there is strong evidence of bias against women in the process of awarding grants.

It is known problem that peer-review flawed. Scientists rail about it all the damn time. They even conduct experiments to show how flawed it is:

But in many cases, it appears the study wasn't peer-reviewed at all by the journals that responded to the spoof submission. Many of the reviews were just requests to format the study for publication. And of 106 journals that performed any review, 70 percent accepted the study.

"If a bogus paper is able to get through peer review, think about how many legitimate, but deeply flawed, papers must also get through," says Michael Eisen of the University of California, Berkeley, a founder of the Public Library of Science family of open-access journals.

One of those journals, PLOS One, was the only one of the 255 journals that received the spoof that noted its ethical flaws and "meticulously" reviewed the bogus study before rejecting it.

Karl Grant said...

frances,

Quit bullshitting Karl. You're wrong. Everyone can see it. Conversation over.

Really? The only person coming to your defense is your little tag team buddy, Skeppy.

im-skeptical said...

Karl,

1. The beliefs of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins on evidence for the existence of God have nothing to do with this discussion.

2. Nobody disputes that the peer review process has problems. That's not to say that it is without merit. And there's a big difference between detecting cases of fraud in scientific research and detecting pseudo-scientific fluff the likes of the material published by the people at DI.

Karl Grant said...

The beliefs of PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins on evidence for the existence of God have nothing to do with this discussion.

Bullshit, the discussion is about whither these jokers's ideologies influence their work. Here we have PZ Meyer's saying (and bare in mind that he explicitly refers to the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis) no evidence will ever persuade him. Dawkins also views the existence of God as a scientific hypothesis and here Dawkins is saying that any contradictory evidence to his atheism / naturalism must be made to fit his worldview. So one is saying that his mind is made up, there can be no evidence to support this hypothesis he dislikes and there is nothing anybody else can do to persuade him otherwise and the other is saying any contradictory evidence must be made to fit his personal theories. Chew on that for a few seconds.

That's not to say that it is without merit. And there's a big difference between detecting cases of fraud in scientific research and detecting pseudo-scientific fluff the likes of the material published by the people at DI.

Really? News flash Skeppy, Pseudo-science is crap masquerading as legitimate science by definition or in other words it is scientific fraud. If they aren't too good at detecting one type of fraud why should they be good at determining what is and is not another type of fraud?

im-skeptical said...

"Bullshit, the discussion is about whither these jokers's ideologies influence their work."

So please point out which peer-reviewed parers by these guys are defective because of their ideology. I'm not talking about blog posts. Everybody is entitled to express their opinion. This discussion is about work that purports to be science.

And there certainly is a difference between reporting faked measurements or experimental results and the total failure to follow any established scientific procedure that we see from the DI folks.

If you'd like to see how far removed Stephen Meyer is from any semblance of scientific competence, read the series of reviews of "Darwin's Doubt" by Smilodon's Retreat. He's not finished reviewing the book yet, but he has made a dozen or so posts so far, and you can link to all of them from this one:

http://www.skepticink.com/smilodonsretreat/2013/12/07/darwins-doubt-chapter-18-part-1/

I urge you to read all of them to see what a fraud Meyer is. It's not about his beliefs. It's about his scientific ignorance and dishonesty in presenting his case. Check it out.

Karl Grant said...

So please point out which peer-reviewed parers by these guys are defective because of their ideology. I'm not talking about blog posts. Everybody is entitled to express their opinion. This discussion is about work that purports to be science.

Oh you want to play that game? Well then genius, you are not allowed to use the Wedge Document as evidence for the Discovery Institute being pseudo-scientific either if we are only gonna go just by peer-reviewed work; you need to provide peer-reviewed work by some of the scientists associated with DI and show that is defective. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander after all.

And there certainly is a difference between reporting faked measurements or experimental results and the total failure to follow any established scientific procedure that we see from the DI folks.

Excuse me? Reporting faked measurements and experimental data is a total fucking failure to follow established scientific procedure. What else is it? A damn misdemeanor? In fact, I can think of some instances where faking test results makes whatever missteps DI does look mild in comparison:

Fraudulent Researcher: "Gee Skep, I am sorry your grandfather died because I faked those test results and put medication on the market that actually increased blood pressure instead of decreasing it."

Skeppy: "Ah, no big deal. Everybody makes mistakes. At least you ain't working for those religious wackos over at DI!"

I urge you to read all of them to see what a fraud Meyer is. It's not about his beliefs. It's about his scientific ignorance and dishonesty in presenting his case. Check it out.

1. You don't read anything anybody links to that might challenge your cherished beliefs. You have admitted as much more than once. So why should I, or anybody else, rush over to take a look at whatever you link to?

2. But I took a look at it anyway and you know what? That is hardly a peer-reviewed journal you are linking to. If my quotes from Dawkins book and Myers blog don't count as proof of their ideological baggage than that piece of shit skeptic blog doesn't count as evidence that Stephen Meyer doesn't know science. Understand dumbass? Or do you want to shoot yourself in the foot again?

im-skeptical said...

"Oh you want to play that game? Well then genius, you are not allowed to use the Wedge Document as evidence for the Discovery Institute being pseudo-scientific either if we are only gonna go just by peer-reviewed work; you need to provide peer-reviewed work by some of the scientists associated with DI and show that is defective. Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander after all."

Yes, you're right. I didn't cite any peer-reviewed sources of Meyer's work. Why didn't I think of that?

Karl Grant said...

Yes, you're right. I didn't cite any peer-reviewed sources of Meyer's work. Why didn't I think of that?

Oh don't try and get cute Skeppy. Meyer's is but one man in an organization. He ain't even the head honcho and there are people associated with the Discovery Insistute that have works published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, Micheal Behe springs to mind. In fact, here is one of his articles in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Now why don't you point out where he isn't following standard scientific procedure and allowing his DI bias to dictate his work? And I don't want skeptic blog links as sources for your rebuttal.

Papalinton said...

I read the paper and not a god or irreducible complexity or creationism mentioned in dispatches throughout. Behe would do well to stick to the science and keep godstuff well and truly jammed behind the church door rightfully where it belongs. Locked preferably. Adult fetishes should not be left where children might inadvertently come across them.

Karl Grant said...

I read the paper and not a god or irreducible complexity or creationism mentioned in dispatches throughout. Behe would do well to stick to the science and keep godstuff well and truly jammed behind the church door rightfully where it belongs. Locked preferably. Adult fetishes should not be left where children might inadvertently come across them.

Ah, so you admit Micheal Behe, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, is doing real science. Congratulations Paps, you just torpedoed the bulk of Skeppy and Frances comments in this thread.

im-skeptical said...

"Ah, so you admit Micheal Behe, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, is doing real science. Congratulations Paps, you just torpedoed the bulk of Skeppy and Frances comments in this thread."

That paper was an academic study from 1991, before Behe was ever involved in DI. When he began his pursuit of religious pseudo-science, he abandoned scientific method altogether. I'm not claiming that nobody at DI has ever published a peer-reviewed paper. I'm claiming that what they do at DI is not science.

And Karl, if you think for a moment that my comments have been torpedoed, it's only because you're a dolt who lack even the most basic level of understanding.

You say that most scientists' work is degraded by their ideological approach - prove it. Show us that the bulk of scientific research is invalid or suspect.

You say that the people at DI do valid science - prove it. Show us some valid scientific work that they do.

Karl Grant said...

That paper was an academic study from 1991, before Behe was ever involved in DI. When he began his pursuit of religious pseudo-science, he abandoned scientific method altogether.

Or maybe his scientific work led him to intelligent design to begin with. After all, it isn't exactly that you have established what motivated him to join up with the Discovery Institute in the first place.

I'm claiming that what they do at DI is not science.

No, you are doing much more than merely claiming their work isn't scientific. You are claiming their highly public PR campaign is conspiracy to undermine science and the mere association of scientists with it should call their work into question.

You say that most scientists' work is degraded by their ideological approach - prove it. Show us that the bulk of scientific research is invalid or suspect.

Do you ever actually engage your opponent's points directly or is constructing straw-men the only thing you can do? I said Dawkins and PZ Myers(specific people) approach to science was degraded by their ideological convictions, provided quotes to back it up; and than pointed out that peer-review was flawed process, and most scientists are aware of that fact, when you started acting like it was the be-all-end-all authority of scientific work. Show me where I said "most scientists' work is degraded by their ideological approach."

You say that the people at DI do valid science - prove it. Show us some valid scientific work that they do.

You and Paps just admitted Micheal Behe did valid scientific work before becoming a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. What? Does all the guy's previous scientific work not count because he choose to be come a lobbyist at an advocacy group? Fine. Than all of Dawkin's scientific work is hereby thrown out the window since he set up his own advocacy group (The Richard Dawkins Foundation, which has about as much relation to hard science as the Discovery Institute) and became a public lobbyist for atheism.

im-skeptical said...

Ok, so you're referring to certain scientists and claiming that their approach to science makes their work invalid.

People like PZ Myers, Dawkins, and Coyne have bodies of work that include both scientific and non-scientific material. Surely we're not referring to the non-scientific stuff. You can't say that's not valid science if it doesn't purport to be science in the first place. So what material should be under consideration. Actual scientific research? - yes, definitely. Blog posts? - no. Books? - only if they claim to present scientific findings.

All three of then have peer-reviewed papers, so that material is on the table. All three have books, but those books don't necessarily purport to be science. Take for example "The God Delusion". Is is influenced by Dawkins' ideology? Yes, definitely. Does it claim to draw any scientific conclusions? No, Dawkins makes no such claim. It does use scientific facts as part of an argument against the existence of god. So does it distort or misrepresent scientific facts? Not that I'm aware of.

Contrast that with "Darwin's Doubt". Is is influenced by Meyer's ideology? Yes, definitely. Does it claim to draw any scientific conclusions? Yes, Meyer disputes accepted scientific facts and presents his own as alternative, to produce a conclusion that goes against accepted science. Does it distort or misrepresent scientific facts? Yes, that has been shown conclusively.

What you need to do, Karl, is separate what is (or what purports to be) scientific work from what isn't. Then if you think that scientific work has been compromised, go ahead and present your case. Or if you think the so-called scientific work of DI is valid, make your case for that. But don't try to tell us that because a guy there once produced a scientific paper, that validates the work of DI. It doesn't.

Karl Grant said...

Blog posts? - no. Books? - only if they claim to present scientific findings.

News flash dumbass, they do. If you had actually clicked on and read that blog post of Myer's you would see this:

but the existence of any phenomenon that science cannot explain would not discomfit science at all, since we know there is much we don’t understand already, and adding one more mystery to the multitude will not faze us in the slightest.

So yes, I agree. There is no valid god hypothesis, so there can be no god evidence, so let’s stop pretending the believers have a shot at persuading us.


Myers is going at length about how the existence of God is a scientific question and there can be no evidence that would make him change his mind on the subject. On Dawkins, remember that op-ed piece by him I linked to? Remember the very first line I quoted?

Accepting, then, that the God Hypothesis is a proper scientific hypothesis whose truth or falsehood is hidden from us only by lack of evidence, what should be our best estimate of the probability that God exists, given the evidence now available? Pretty low I think, and here's why.


Next up:

Does it distort or misrepresent scientific facts? Yes, that has been shown conclusively.

Shown conclusively? The only thing you did was link to a skeptic blog. What was that you said about blog posts two paragraphs up? Oh yes, it was Blog posts? - no. And what was that you said about blog posts in an earlier reply? Oh yes, it was I'm not talking about blog posts. Everybody is entitled to express their opinion. This discussion is about work that purports to be science.

You have made it quite clear that you don't think blog posts count as evidence, so that link to Smilodon's Retreat counts as jack-shit by your own standards. Unless, of course, you are saying blog posts that support your position count, in which case you are exercising a double-standard. Now Skeppy, let me explain what your options are here:

A. Continue down your present course; highlighting this double-standard and proving to everybody watching how intellectually dishonest you are.

B. Acknowledge that if blog posts are not considered sources for scientific information then Smilodon's Retreat is not a source of scientific information by definition; that you are prohibited from linking to any other blog in the future to prove your case and all prior posts of you linking to blogs as evidence are hereby dismissed as the crap they are.

C. Acknowledge blog posts are legitimate sources of information which allows you to keep your link to Smilodon's Retreat honestly but brings in Myer's and Dawkins' quotes in full force.

See Skeppy, this is what's called a Catch-22 position; you are damned if you do and your damned if you don't. Because your own shortsightedness and your desire to try and dismiss inconvenient atheist scientist quotes as evidence you have just put yourself into a position where your opponent wins something no matter what.

But don't try to tell us that because a guy there once produced a scientific paper, that validates the work of DI. It doesn't.

I never said it validated the work of the Discovery Institute, now did I? You and frances are the ones who said that anything purports to be scientific and was produced by a member of the Discovery Institute is automatically suspect. He is a peer-reviewed science paper by a big shot in the DI. Show me how it is suspect.

im-skeptical said...

OK, I'm done arguing with someone who doesn't understand a word I've said. This is ridiculous.

When I was five years old, I argued with my mother about having to take a nap. I wasn't tired at all. Why should I have to go to sleep? "Because I'm tired," she replied. This made no sense at all. "I have to take a nap every time YOU'RE tired," I complained. "That's right," she said. Her utter lack of logic was quite frustrating to my young mind.

JB Chappell said...

@im-skeptical

"But it does reveal their approach to the issue..."

Again, no it doesn't. That they are convinced now that it is correct does not mean that they arrived at that conclusion improperly or unscientifically.

"...which is confirmed by examination of their work."

This is the only thing that matters, really. If you've examined their work, and concluded that the only way they could have inferred what they did is by assuming it in the first place, then fair enough.

"The people at DI have a hypothesis that they want to prove before they even begin to look at evidence."

News flash: almost everyone does. In my experience, it's rare that a scientist conducting a study where s/he isn't hoping (even if secretly) for certain results. And many evolutionists aren't shy about saying that they hope this or that about research. The question is whether or not the data actually supports the hope, and if one can be objective enough to admit. But, sometimes, educated and informed people just disagree about what is the best interpretation of the data.

"I'm sorry to tell you, that's not science."

Well, considering I already said that DI does not really do science, this is hardly surprising. The more interesting question is whether there is adequate scientific data to support the inference.

im-skeptical said...

" it's rare that a scientist conducting a study where s/he isn't hoping (even if secretly) for certain results."

That's quite right. The question is how to they come to that point in their investigation? Is the hypothesis properly formed from a priori examination of the available evidence, or is it the result of some ideology - in spite of evidence to the contrary?

"Well, considering I already said that DI does not really do science, this is hardly surprising. The more interesting question is whether there is adequate scientific data to support the inference."

I think there's plenty of evidence to support the conclusion that their work is not valid science. I showed you a bit of it. The scientific community as a whole seems to agree.