maandag 9 december 2013

Intelligent Trickery

A Reflection on the tricks used by Intelligent Design fanatics

While browsing Scopus today, I came across a peculiar article by Mark Pretorius, entitled The remarkable cell: Intelligently designed or by evolutionary process? So, I sat back, relaxed and enjoyed the show. This article, published in a “peer-reviewed” journal (I’ll come back to that later…), was an advertisement for Intelligent Design. Despite the misleading argumentation, this article provides a nice insight into the tricks used by ID-fanatics.

1. Focus on your idea and briefly mention the other
This trick emerges in the first paragraph, where the author mentions how Genesis explains the origin of everything. Even with a quote from a recent article (compared to Genesis) by Keil and Delitszsch (1981). And then he briefly mentions the natural process in one sentence with one reference: “Conversely, there are many who believe that rather than a causal creator, one must appeal to random chance as the only explanation for the beginning of life (cf. Beatty 2009:64–70).”
2. Authority (= real scientists) said so
In the article there are several quotes of highly respected scientists, such as Stephen Hawking, expressing their view that everything is intelligently designed. I especially like the reference to Charles Darwin, who once stated: “I do not think that I hardly ever admired a book more than Paley’s Natural Theology.” (Paley is the philosopher who came up with the metaphor of the Watchmaker) So, if I would write I really enjoyed reading the Harry Potter series, does that mean I believe in magic?
Furthermore, he mentions an article published in Nature by Gribaldo et al. (2010). He explicitly writes Nature to show it is real science. This article “raises questions of whether an evolutionary perspective can adequately account for the complex birth of these cells in life’s history.” So, I took a look at the original article and found out it does not make such a claim. One sentence in the conclusion even states: “We encourage biologists working on Archaea to interpret their data in an evolutionary framework.”

 3. Give wrong information that fits your idea
It is strange to see that supporters of Intelligent Design are sometimes quite unintelligent. One section of the article is entitled, Anatomical Homology (Convergence). In the first paragraph he even indicates that convergence is common ancestry. This is a fundamental flaw. If you go to Wikipedia (which is open to everyone and provides simple information) and look up the definitions of homology and convergence. You will find this:
Homology: “existence of shared ancestry between a pair of structures, or genes, in different species. A common example of homologous structures in evolutionary biology are the wings of bats and the arms of primates. Evolutionary theory explains the existence of homologous structures adapted to different purposes as the result of descent with modification from a common ancestor.”
Convergence: “the independent evolution of similar features in species of different lineages. Convergent evolution creates analogous structures that have similar form or function, but were not present in the last common ancestor of those groups.”
This took me about 5 seconds… Why did the author not check his information properly? Oh, wait…

 4. It is a peer-reviewed journal
I promised to get back to this in the introduction. The article is published in a journal which is peer-reviewed. Moreover, the article appeared on Scopus! But a closer look at the journal ,called Verbum et Ecclisia (what’s in a name), reveals it is “ [a] theological research journal that challenges traditional discourses within and between the fields of biblical, religious, social and human sciences as well as the constructive engagement with the natural sciences. It is an instrument of engagement between theological disciplines, on the one hand, and theology and other disciplines, on the other.” ID'ers are creating (my excuses for the lame word play) their own journals, so beware!

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