Sunday, September 17, 2006
Luskin Goes A-Quote Mining
[This is a revised article to be used as a sidebar to the Quote Mine Project. The Discovery Institute has become more sophisticated about quote-mining, but they, as good creationists, simply cannot resist the temptation.]
Casey Luskin of the Discovery Institute has reprised complaints, previously made by Keith Pennock, also of the DI, about the alleged mistake made by Judge Jones in saying there was no peer-reviewed scientific literature supporting Intelligent Design. Both articles involve a simple bait and switch with, particularly in Luskin's case, a touch of quote mining thrown in.
Luskin has posted three articles at the Discovery Institute's blog, Evolution News & Views, entitled "Peer-Review, Intelligent Design, and John Derbyshire's New Bumper Sticker" Part I, Part II and Part III. The purported occasion for the articles is "a brief review of Traipsing Into Evolution: Intelligent Design and the Kitzmiller v. Dover Decision by John Derbyshire at National Review Online." Derbyshire's blurb is less a "review" than it is an incidental mention of one claim contained in the book in a reference to an interview with the authors, including Luskin himself.
But the real business at hand for Luskin is an attack on the "Index to Creationist Claims: Claim CI001.4" at the Talk Origins Archive and, more importantly, on Judge Jones' decision. There are many valid objections to Luskin's arguments, not least of which is the real nature of the articles the Discovery Institute cites to, but I want to concentrate on the way the Discovery Institute is misrepresenting Judge Jones in aid of its bait and switch.
Essentially, both Pennock and Luskin make the claim that, since the Judge made a "universal generalization" that there have been no peer-reviewed articles supporting ID, he is "refuted" if a single counterexample is produced. Or, as Luskin put it, "[t]he question of 'complete absence of peer-reviewed publications' is a simple black and white, binary question: either ID has published peer-reviewed publications, or it hasn't."
In support of this contention that Judge Jones made that flat-out claim, Luskin quotes five passages from the decision. Luskin refers to these parts of the decision by the page numbers in the Federal Supplement Second, a case law reporter.  For those without access to a law library, I include below the page numbers from the original decision that can be found in a pdf file on the District Court site or in html format at The Talk Origin Archive. In addition, as a number of Luskin's examples are only sentence fragments, I give the full sentence that they are pulled from, with Luskin's quoted bits in bold:
As we will discuss in more detail below, it is additionally important to note that ID has failed to gain acceptance in the scientific community, it has not generated peer-reviewed publications, nor has it been the subject of testing and research. [p. 64]
A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory. [p. 87]
The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. [p. 87]
In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing. [Judge Jones cites to testimony by defense witnesses Steven Fuller and Michael Behe. Fuller's testimony on this point can be found in the transcript of the afternoon session of October 24, 2005 at pp. 114-15 and Behe's can be found in the transcript of the morning session of October 19, 2005 at pp. 22-23 and 105-06.]
After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. [pp. 88-89]
A final indicator of how ID has failed to demonstrate scientific warrant is the complete absence of peer-reviewed publications supporting the theory. Expert testimony revealed that the peer review process is "exquisitely important" in the scientific process. It is a way for scientists to write up their empirical research and to share the work with fellow experts in the field, opening up the hypotheses to study, testing, and criticism. In fact, defense expert Professor Behe recognizes the importance of the peer review process and has written that science must "publish or perish." Peer review helps to ensure that research papers are scientifically accurately, meet the standards of the scientific method, and are relevant to other scientists in the field. Moreover, peer review involves scientists submitting a manuscript to a scientific journal in the field, journal editors soliciting critical reviews from other experts in the field and deciding whether the scientist has followed proper research procedures, employed up-to-date methods, considered and cited relevant literature and generally, whether the researcher has employed sound science.
The evidence presented in this case demonstrates that ID is not supported by any peer-reviewed research, data or publications. Both Drs. Padian and Forrest testified that recent literature reviews of scientific and medical-electronic databases disclosed no studies supporting a biological concept of ID. On cross-examination, Professor Behe admitted that: "There are no peer reviewed articles by anyone advocating for intelligent design supported by pertinent experiments or calculations which provide detailed rigorous accounts of how intelligent design of any biological system occurred." Additionally, Professor Behe conceded that there are no peer-reviewed papers supporting his claims that complex molecular systems, like the bacterial flagellum, the blood-clotting cascade, and the immune system, were intelligently designed. In that regard, there are no peer-reviewed articles supporting Professor Behe's argument that certain complex molecular structures are "irreducibly complex." In addition to failing to produce papers in peer-reviewed journals, ID also features no scientific research or testing.
After this searching and careful review of ID as espoused by its proponents, as elaborated upon in submissions to the Court, and as scrutinized over a six week trial, we find that ID is not science and cannot be adjudged a valid, accepted scientific theory as it has failed to publish in peer-reviewed journals, engage in research and testing, and gain acceptance in the scientific community. ID, as noted, is grounded in theology, not science. ...
 The one article referenced by both Professors Behe and Minnich as supporting ID is an article written by Behe and Snoke entitled "Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues." (P-721). A review of the article indicates that it does not mention either irreducible complexity or ID. In fact, Professor Behe admitted that the study which forms the basis for the article did not rule out many known evolutionary mechanisms and that the research actually might support evolutionary pathways if a biologically realistic population size were used. (Citations omitted)
Thus it is clear that Judge Jones' point was not that there are no peer-reviewed articles that allegedly favor ID (since he discussed the Behe and Snoke article) but that those articles merely attack some aspect or other of evolutionary theory. The critical fact that Judge Jones found was that there are no articles that actively support ID, at least among those the ID advocates were willing to introduce at the trial and expose to cross-examination.  Even if there were such articles (and that is a matter of great dispute ), the Discovery Institute's complaints are hardly fair, since Judge Jones did not have them before him in evidence. Luskin's snippets did not reveal that context and that is the quote mining aspect of his article.
So now we see that Luskin's and Pennock's simple black and white, binary statement that Judge Jones found that there were no peer-reviewed articles at all has itself been falsified. Applying their own standards then, if they can miss so simple a question, how can we trust their understanding of issues which do not have "black-and-white" answers, such as whether those articles they cite really support ID? But let's not rest content with such feeble arguments.
Given that Luskin can only point to five articles after nearly two decades of ID "research," far less than the output of peer-reviewed papers supporting evolution in one week, the whole argument boils down, at most, to a quibble as to when "vanishingly small" counts the same as "none."
But, beyond that, there remains the issue of what it would take to actively support ID. The DI has been sensitive about accusations of argumentum ad ignorantium, as in this response by Jonathan Witt to an essay in the Wall Street Journal by Kevin Shapiro. Stephen Meyer’s article "Not by chance," which is regularly trotted out by the DI as an example of the positive evidence for a designer, has no such evidence at all. In point of fact, Meyer's contentions are a classic argument from ignorance layered over what Judge Jones rightly called a "contrived dualism":
The only "positive evidence" the article advances can be summed up in this analogy from Meyer:1) "Either life arose as the result of purely undirected material processes or a guiding intelligence played a role."
2) There is an "appearance of design."
3) This appearance is "unexplained by the mechanism -- natural selection -- that Darwin specifically proposed to replace the design hypothesis."
DNA functions like a software program. We know from experience that software comes from programmers.Indeed, Luskin just recently  defined ID itself in those very terms:
Luskin said the media often misidentifies intelligent design. He offered this definition: It's "a scientific theory that says some aspects of nature are best explained by an intelligent cause because they are identical to objects we commonly know were designed by human intelligence."
Professor Behe agreed that for the design of human artifacts, we know the designer and its attributes and we have a baseline for human design that does not exist for design of biological systems. Professor Behe’s only response to these seemingly insurmountable points of disanalogy was that the inference still works in science fiction movies (Citations omitted). 
Until they can come up with that, there is no reason at all to doubt Judge Jones' finding that ID completely lacks support in the scientific literature.
 As an aside, Luskin cites to the Federal Supplement, a case law reporter that is rarely available outside a law library rather than to the page numbers contained in the original decision which anyone can obtain on the web. After a pretty thorough search, it does not appear that a copy with the Supplement's pagination is available on the web. It has been frequently noted in connection with the Quote Mine Project that, if there are two possible citations to any work, the one cited by creationists is often, if not invariably, to the one more difficult to find.
 Lest anyone repeat Pennock's mistake (which Luskin, as an attorney, would not, of course) mere mention of citations in an Amicus Curia brief does not constitute evidence in Federal or any other court and Judge Jones properly limited himself to the evidence submitted during the trial.
 Concerning the actual nature of the books and papers the ID advocates point to, see "Claim CI001.4: Intelligent design in biology has been supported by several peer-reviewed journals and books" and, on a more mundane level, my article elsewhere, "On Whistling and Graveyards II."
Other articles generally on the claim of peer-reviewed ID research include:
EvoWiki article "Peer-reviewed ID articles"
The Panda's Thumb: "Peer Reviewed Research"
The Panda's Thumb: "Meyer’s Hopeless Monster"
 "Diverse voices discuss the forces at work on today’s faithful," by Bill Tammeus, The Kansas City Star, July 22, 2006. Accessed July 29, 2006 at:
PS: I personally have now been quote-mined by Luskin. He's got a sentence from the Pallen/Matzke flagellum article he likes, which he has already quoted once or twice without mentioning how the paper destroys the flagellum IC argument. Pretty funny.
(Email sent. Thanks)