Intelligent design (ID) proponents will often claim their ideas are well supported by science. When pushed for evidence they will sometimes list peer-reviewed scientific papers they claim support ID. I think that’s a step in the right direction as peer review does make these papers far more credible than the usual book or magazine article which receives no peer review at all.
The provision of peer-reviewed papers also enables them to be checked. That is, we can see for ourselves if the initial claims made by the ID proponent are really true.
A recent blog post (Does Intelligent Design Make Testable Predictions?) claimed “Intelligent design makes numerous predictions, which can be tested. In fact, much recent evidence supports intelligent design…”.
Testing the predictions?
The blog’s author provides a short list of papers in support of this. I have had a look at the papers and don’t find any evidence for these claims at all. In fact the papers don’t mention any prediction of ID at all – they all deal with issues within evolutionary science. The papers and my comments on each follow:
S.C. Meyer, “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories, Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, 117(2) (2004): 213-239.
Comment: This is a review paper with no empirical evidence. Stephen Meyer is one of the original fellows, and is currently the director of, the Centre for the Renewal of Science and Culture which is part of the Discovery Institute and the main Wedge organisation. He is not a working scientist. The peer review of the paper was criticised by the journal’s editorial board. The board believes that their review process had been subverted in this case and has taken steps to ensure proper reviews in future. (See the case of Richard Sternberg who was responsible for approving the paper’s publication).
M.J. Behe and D.W. Snoke, “Simulating Evolution by Gene Duplication of Protein Features That Require Multiple Amino Acid Residues, Protein Science, 13 (2004): 2651-2664.
Comment: This discusses a mathematical model for evolutionary genetic changes and makes conclusions about the population sizes required. It does not discuss ID and the authors stressed that it did not support “triumphant views in some circles that our paper disproved Darwinism” (see M.J. Behe & D.W. Snoke, A response to Miceal Lynch. Protein Science 14 (2005): 2226-2227 ).
W.-E. Lönnig & H. Saedler, “Chromosome Rearrangements and Transposable Elements, Annual Review of Genetics, 36 (2002): 389-410.
Comment: Again this doesn’t mention ID but reports work on gene mutations and chromosome reorganisation during evolution.
D.K.Y. Chiu & T.H. Lui, “Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis, International Journal of Fuzzy Systems, 4(3) (September 2002): 766-775.
Comment: This is listed only as a citation and no abstract is available. The title doesn’t appear to suggest that it concerns ID.
M.J. Denton & J.C. Marshall, “The Laws of Form Revisited, Nature, 410 (22 March 2001): 417.I.
M.J. Denton, J.C. Marshall & M. Legge, (2002) “The Protein Folds as Platonic Forms: New Support for the pre-Darwinian Conception of Evolution by Natural Law, Journal of Theoretical Biology 219 (2002):325-342.
Comment: These two papers don’t appear to discuss ID at all. The second paper discusses protein folding as a natural consequence of chemical properties of amino acids.
The authors of these papers may believe in intelligent design. They may actively promote these ideas politically. But, the papers in themselves are not about ID and do not provide any evidence to support the claim that ID predictions have been tested and that the evidence supports these predictions.
It’s just disingenuous for ID proponents to claim these, and similar, peer-reviewed papers as evidence supporting ID.
Giving Behe the last word
The lack of credible published peer-reviewed papers testing ID predictions is telling. ID proponents should take to heart the statement by one of their key activists Michael Behe in his book “Darwin’s Black Box”. He was criticising “Darwinian molecular evolution” theory – but the statement is surely valid for ID “theory”:
‘”Publish or perish” is a proverb that academicians take seriously. If you do not publish your work for the rest of the community to evaluate, then you have no business in academia (and if you don’t already have tenure, you will be banished). But the saying can be applied to theories as well. If a theory claims to be able to explain some phenomenon but does not generate even an attempt at an explanation, then it should be banished.’