Intelligent Design

Thinkquote of the day: Why career scientists cannot afford to consider challenges to Darwinism

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by Denyse O’Leary
ARN correspondent

Lawyer Edward Sisson writes with considerable insight about the career scientist’s dilemma:

There is also a unique reason why scientists are particularly averse to developing an opinion that the theory of unintelligent evolution cannot explain all of the diversity of life on earth, and that an intelligent-designer theory may be necessary to explain at least some of the diversity of life. In litigation, even if a lawyer does develop an internal belief about the data that conflicts with the presentation he or she needs to make in court, the lawyer is expected to keep that belief private. The lawyer’s obligation is not to be actually sincere but to appear sincere. Thus there is no danger to the lawyer’s livelihood if the lawyer develops a private understanding of the data that conflicts with the understanding to be presented in court. But in science the rule is different. Scientists are supposed to be actually sincere. They are supposed to develop genuine, individual opinions about the data and then express those opinions. Thus it is vital to a scientist’s career not to develop opinions which, if expressed, will end that career, because opinions once developed are supposed to be expressed, not hidden in favor of expressing opinions the scientist does not sincerely believe. For brevity’s sake, we may call this the `sincerity rule.’ Because of the fear that to admit the presence of intelligent design would undermine the social predominance of science (and thus its funding and prestige), no leader of a major American scientific institution can publicly abandon the paradigm of unintelligent evolution and yet retain his position of leadership. As in any human organization, the people who most effectively advance the interests of the scientific establishment are the ones chosen to lead the establishment. Those who impede the achievement of the establishment’s ends are rejected. Thus, there is simply no purpose for scientists to take the time to consider the challenges to the paradigm and develop an individual response, because if that response is a rejection of the paradigm, the scientist must either suppress it (and violate the rule that scientists should be sincere) or else express it (and likely end his career). Everyone below the top on the hierarchy ladder knows that to question unintelligent evolution will mean the end of career advancement; so for them, too, there is simply no incentive to consider that the challenges to unintelligent evolution might be valid. On the contrary, there are very strong incentives not to consider those challenges in any way that might lead to accepting them. The `sincerity rule’ means that if scientists develop a disbelief in unintelligent evolution, they must express it. Thus, preservation of career advancement opportunities is predicated on the maintenance of belief in unintelligent evolution…

(Sisson E., “Teaching the Flaws in Neo-Darwinism,” in Dembski W.A., ed., Uncommon Dissent: Intellectuals Who Find Darwinism Unconvincing , ISI Books: Wilmington DE, 2004, pp.87-88. Emphasis in original.)

19 Replies to “Thinkquote of the day: Why career scientists cannot afford to consider challenges to Darwinism

  1. 1
    Chris Hyland says:

    I can only speak for the UK, America might be different. If a scientist has a track record of good publications and grants in their current position, while holding certain beliefs, then it wouldn’t matter. What universities care about is getting grants. On the other hand, if they did not have a good publication record, or they were in a field such as evolutionary biology and had suddenly changed their position to one which does not have a good record of publications, then the university might be justifiably concerned that promoting/hiring this person would not bring them many grants. To change this ID needs to start doing good science, which will probably involve some people breaking the sincerity rule, but if they produce good science then they’ll get away with it.

  2. 2
    lucID says:

    Hi Chris

    I beg to differ with you. In my humble opinion, it appears that the only thing a “track record of good publications and grants” will do is limit the degree of animosity and the expediency to which the condemnations against your work are carried out.

    “To change this ID needs to start doing good science”. This statement is bollocks.
    What I’ve seen time and again is a complete non-examination (or misrepresentation) of the actual science in the publication and a sharp dismissal of the scientist as practicing ‘bad science’ simply for critiquing the supernatural powers of almighty evolution in support of ID. At this point absolutely nothing put forward by an ID’st will be regarded as ‘good science’ simply because it is at loggerheads with the ruling theory of the day. Outstanding work and scientific insight is lambasted and misconstrued because it doesn’t tow the monkey line. The only constructive/ non-adhominem critiques I’ve seen of ID work is by Michael Ruse.

    If you need examples simply do a quick search for reviews of Behe’s black box or Dembski’s No free lunch. Evolutionary critics don’t even TRY to properly understand the arguments and see the point the writers make but endeavor to discredit the work forthwith.

  3. 3
    Joseph says:

    I still don’t understand what the anti-IDists want IDists to do- For example do they want someone like Dr Behe or Minnich to go into a lab and design a bacterial flagellum?

    Isn’t it “good science” to make observations and (at least) attempt to understand what is being observed?

    To me science is our search for the truth, ie the reality, to our existence via our never-ending quest for knowledge. Therefore it would be “piss-poor” science to exclude ID just because, especially given what is accepted…

  4. 4
    mattison0922 says:

    Chris,

    I’m not sure how funding works in the U.K., but you do raise a valid point re: grants. Often times the safety of a researchers position is dependent upon their ability to bring in grant money. Even tenured individuals aren’t safe; I’ve known several tenured researchers who simply didn’t have adequate funding from the right sources, and were moved to satellite campuses, effectively ending their research programs. In any case, this ability to fund one’s research program is critical.

    However most grants are highly competitive, and are generally subject to some sort of ‘peer-review’ prior to being funded. In other words, in order to even get funding you must have the approval of other members of the research community.

    Perhaps things are different in the UK, but in the US, being an ID proponent is more-or-less the quickest way one can ostracize themself from the research community. Being an ID proponent is being an outsider in the science community, and they’re not likely to fund an outsider.

    You stated: “To change this ID needs to start doing good science”
    I am all for good science, but unfortunately, the mainstream science community has already labeled anything from an ID based perspective as ‘pseudoscience’ a priori.

    In a perfect world, I’d be inclined to agree with you… in a world where such distinct battle lines have been drawn… it’s not going to happen so easily.

    As unfortunate as it is for me to have to admit, the only choice for the ID proponent trying to make their way in the mainstream science community currently, is to stay in the closet.

  5. 5
    BarryA says:

    As an attorney, I would put a slight gloss on Sisson’s conclusion. Lawyers like to win. In order to win they have to appear to be sincere. After all, who’s going to believe someone who does not appear himself to believe what he is saying. The best way to appear to be sincere is to actually be sincere. This creates an enormous incentive for the lawyer to “convince himself.” I still remember my constitutional law professor commenting on this topic (back when Marbury v. Madison was still new law). He said when you are writing a brief for a position that may not be well supported by the law, the first one you convince is yourself. I was incredulous then, but after 20 years of practice I believe him now, and I have to take special care to remain detached from my clients’ interests. Professional objectivity is as important as it is difficult to maintain, because sometimes the best advice a lawyer can give his client is “give up you are going to lose.”

    I think the same thing happens with Darwinists. For obvious career reasons, they have a huge incentive not to look too critically at the neo-Darwinist paradigm. This does not mean they are being dishonest, just uncritical.

  6. 6
    Chris Hyland says:

    “I still don’t understand what the anti-IDists want IDists to do- For example do they want someone like Dr Behe or Minnich to go into a lab and design a bacterial flagellum?”

    If current researchers are operating under false assumptions, it should be pretty easy to show hpw the correct assumptions allows scientists to make better predictions that contradict the old assumptions but turn out to be true. There must be an awful lot of discoveries waiting to be made that scientists are just missing at the moment that ID advocates can predict and discover themselves. It will be very hard work but eventually a point should be reached where it is unarguable.

  7. 7
    sagebrush gardener says:

    This brings to mind the Upton Sinclair quote, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

    Regarding ID research, it is remarkable to me how much current research by professed Darwinists ends up invoking design principles. One recent example is here. And then there is the emergence of various Biologically Inspired Design programs. I predict that very few Darwinists will ever admit outright “I was wrong about evolution”, but that design principles will increasingly be seen as relevant while evolutionary storytelling slowly fades into well-deserved obscurity.

  8. 8
    johnnyb says:

    “but that design principles will increasingly be seen as relevant while evolutionary storytelling slowly fades into well-deserved obscurity”

    Oh how I long for the day when a statement which says “X evolved” actually _means_ something, besides “X exists”.

  9. 9
    mattison0922 says:

    Chris Hyland Wrote:

    “If current researchers are operating under false assumptions, it should be pretty easy to show hpw the correct assumptions allows scientists to make better predictions that contradict the old assumptions but turn out to be true.”

    You’d think, wouldn’t you? But is this the case? Take an example like the cambrian explosion. This isn’t something that NDT would have predicted, but falls perfectly within the realm of a design prediction. However, the Cambrian Explosion is generally dismissed as ‘not a problem’ for NDT, depsite it’s ‘explosive’ nature. A not even ‘just-so’ explanation has been utilized by NDT to explain away the Cambrian Explosion for sure.

    A good percentage of molecular biologists have been operating under false assumptions for decades now re: junk DNA. Junk DNA isn’t something that ID would have predicted. Perhaps this area of MolBio research wouldn’t have languished for so long if researchers had an ID perspective.

    Take the example of the ATP Synthase. The enzyme functions at or near 100% efficiency. A recent paper by W.D. Frasch’s group uses some slick mathematics and thermodynamic calculations to suggest that the enzyme operates at greater than 100% efficiency. In my mind, and probably the mind of many engineers, processes that are 100% efficient don’t arise via random processes.

    Chris Hyland wrote:
    “There must be an awful lot of discoveries waiting to be made that scientists are just missing at the moment that ID advocates can predict and discover themselves.”

    Probably so. But again, it’s tough to get funding for research that lies outside of the accepted paradigm. Very few agencies were funding ‘junk DNA’ research in the not too distant past. Why bother, it’s junk… leftover mistakes from evolution. What was there to study?

    Perhaps there are interesting discoveries to be made… maybe in the fields of IC or CSI. However, it’s likely we won’t know for sometime. Mainstream science considers IC to be Behe’s ‘argument from incredulity,’ and considers WmAD to be some sort of mathematical charlatan. In short, these ideas don’t hold any water with mainstream science (just like junk DNA having a function), and are unlikely to be well received by that same science community. Why would they fund these types of projects when they are considered to be non-problems by the mainstream science community?

    Chris Hyland Wrote:
    “It will be very hard work but eventually a point should be reached where it is unarguable.”

    The most difficult part of the process is inducing the paradigm shift that will permit ID research to be undertaken and … ‘evolve.’

  10. 10
    ofro says:

    sagebrush gardener wrote:

    “Regarding ID research, it is remarkable to me how much current research by professed Darwinists ends up invoking design principles.”

    It is also remarkable that a scientist is also expected to report his/her results without regard of how these might be interpreted by others.

    It would be great if ID-inclined scientists would latch onto ideas generated by the Darwinists’ findings. Search the (peer-reviewed) research literature for new principles that will convince the establishment. The PNAS paper you quoted is a perfect example: there were no experiments that required extensive research funding. Instead, the authors researched the literature, or, to quiote them, “by manual inspection of the literature, we have compiled a list of such “responsive backup circuits” in a diverse list of species”. I am still waiting.

  11. 11
    mattison0922 says:

    ofro wrote:

    “It would be great if ID-inclined scientists would latch onto ideas generated by the Darwinists’ findings. Search the (peer-reviewed) research literature for new principles that will convince the establishment. The PNAS paper you quoted is a perfect example: there were no experiments that required extensive research funding.”
    Meta-analysis certainly does have its place in origins biology, and science in general. Meta-analysis doesn’t truly drive science forward though. Secondly, for a meta based paper to be published usually requires that one has a good scientific reputation in the respective field. Not just anyone can compose a meta analysis and get it published. The authors of this PNAS paper had the support of Harvards Marc Kirschner, a member of the National Academy.

    Secondly, I don’t know where you get the idea that this research didn’t require “extensive funding.” Grad students have to be paid, the costs of publications have to be paid, and it’s likely that a portion of the PI’s salary is dependent on grant money. In fact, the paper very clearly states:

    “We thank the Ben May Charitable Trust and the Tauber Fund for grant support.”

    So this research doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It was funded by a couple of different organizations and has the support of a National Academy member.

    Instead, the authors researched the literature, or, to quiote them, “by manual inspection of the literature, we have compiled a list of such “responsive backup circuits” in a diverse list of species”. I am still waiting.

  12. 12
    johnnyb says:

    Chris —

    “it should be pretty easy to show hpw the correct assumptions allows scientists to make better predictions that contradict the old assumptions but turn out to be true”

    You are correct. It is very easy to show this. In every case where appropriate research has been done, evolution is governed by higher-order organismal rules.

    “There must be an awful lot of discoveries waiting to be made that scientists are just missing at the moment that ID advocates can predict and discover themselves.”

    Maybe, maybe not. Right now biology does a lot of “backdoor ID” which essentially makes ID assumptions in research without stating it explicitly. This leads to some rather amusing papers which we sometimes look at here.

    “It will be very hard work but eventually a point should be reached where it is unarguable.”

    I think that happened in the 60’s at the Wistar symposium. And again with No Free Lunch. And again with Darwin’s Black Box. And probably several other places I’m not thinking of.

    But the problem is not an “evidence” problem but a “worldview” problem. It’s hard to argue agency as a cause to people who don’t believe agency exists. For them the evidence does not matter as it is merely a category that doesn’t exist. You might look at my previous ID as a theory of causation.

  13. 13
    John A. Davison says:

    It is very true that it is our world view that determines our convictions, a view which I now believe is just as “prescribed” as our eye color. We are all victims. There is nothing new in this revelation. Einstein clearly recognized this when he addressed the Spinoza Society of America, September 22, 1932.

    “Our actions should be based on the ever-present awareness that human beings in their thinking, feeling, and acting are not free but are just as causally bound as the stars in their motion.”

    The studies on separated monozygotic twins support his blanket generalization even to include our political and religious convictions, our taste in beer, clothes, wives and pets. I recommend William Wright’s book – “Born That Way.” It really makes this investigator question the whole notion of free will. Naturally, I like to think it is just one more manifestation of the Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis.

    It certainly offers a rational explanation for the enormous intractibility with which the subject of our origins is apparently shackled. Imagine, Darwinians may just be “born that way.” Isn’t that scary?

    It is hard to believe isn’t it?

  14. 14
    Chris Hyland says:

    “You are correct. It is very easy to show this.”

    It should be very easy for the ID people to do good research and make lots of predictions. Do you have a link describing what you mean?

    “Right now biology does a lot of “backdoor ID” which essentially makes ID assumptions in research without stating it explicitly. This leads to some rather amusing papers which we sometimes look at here.”

    Ive read the papers you look at here I fail to see how any of them support ID. The fact that biological systems bear some resemblence to manmade systems has been well known for a long time.

    “I think that happened in the 60’s at the Wistar symposium. And again with No Free Lunch. And again with Darwin’s Black Box. And probably several other places I’m not thinking of.”

    I dont know much about the symposium, but people who Ive asked said that it involved several bad mathematical challenges to evolution that left out so much they ended up being useless. As for the books, I don’t see that at all. After reading them, my general impression was that while I didnt agree with there conclusions, I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and see what came of them. Especially as it was claimed at the time I read them, and still is, that there is ID research activity based on their ideas.

  15. 15
    Joseph says:

    Chris Hyland wrote:
    If current researchers are operating under false assumptions,…

    I don’t know any researchers who go into the lab operating under the assumption that all of life’s diversity owes its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms via some blind watchmaker-type processes. I also know there isn’t any predictions that premise can make- especially given Dan Dennett telling us “there is no way to predict what will be selected for at any point in time.”

    I have also read “evolutionary” papers. I fail to see how any of those papers support the assumption that all of life’s diversity owes its collective common ancestry to some unknown population(s) of single-celled organisms via some blind watchmaker-type processes.

  16. 16
    John A. Davison says:

    Joseph is correct. There is no compelling evidence for a single origin of life and plenty of evidence in favor of several creations. However I feel it is now firmly established that all members of the Order Primates had a common single original ancestor and that the entire diversity presented in this order has resulted from reorganizations of a single primordial chromosomal karyotype. Furthermore, there is no reason to postulate any role for natural selection to account for these transformations as they all seem to have originated from within the evolving genomes. Just as ontogeny is expressed strictly through the controlled release of edogenous information, so phylogeny has apparently done the same with no role for the environment beyond that of acting as a stimulus or “releaser” of contained “prescribed” highly specified information.

    Leo Berg had it right when, referring to both ontogeny and phylogeny, claimed in no uncertain terms –

    “Neither in the one nor in the other is their room for chance.”
    Nomogenesis, page 134.

    As near as I am able to ascertain, creative evolution is a phenomenon of the past. Only ontogeny remains.

    “A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. Davison

  17. 17
    es58 says:

    Chris Hyland wrote:
    “If current researchers are operating under false assumptions, it should be pretty easy to show hpw the correct assumptions allows scientists to make better predictions that contradict the old assumptions but turn out to be true.”

    Behe mentions that one has to consider what percentage of a thrust is considered advantageous before it would be selected.

    Darwinists can always answer, and for some reason, are not challenged when they do, that this is an invalid question, b/c we don’t know that it was selected for that reason at that time. It provided some *other* advantage, which since stopped being an advantage. They don’t have to identify what that advantage was, or how it somehow so improved the productivity of the organism as to be selected, no mathematical values are used. As long as you always havethis as an unassailable response, which sounds mighty tautological to me, but who am I anyway?, Behe will always come out as “unscientific”.

  18. 18
    John A. Davison says:

    “Science commits suicide when she adopts a creed.”
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    Darwinism is the slowest yet most certain form of suicide ever conceived by the human imagination and it has finally achieved its end.

    Praise the Lord!

    A past evolution is undeniable, a present evolution undemonstrable.”
    John A. avison

  19. 19
    scordova says:

    “Science commits suicide when she adopts a creed.”
    Thomas Henry Huxley

    Hear hear!

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