Wesley R. Elsberry posted Entry 508 on September 26, 2004 11:56 AM.
Trackback URL: http://degas.fdisk.net/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/507

The story of the antecedents of the recent paper published by Stephen C. Meyer is turning into a saga of its own. Back on September 8th, 2004, I documented that Stephen C. Meyer’s recent paper in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington — a paper which is being trumpeted far and wide by the Discovery Institute — was in fact copied in substantial part from a previous “peer-reviewed” paper published in Darwin, Design, and Public Education. There are four variants of essentially the same paper that have been identified so far:

  • Meyer 2004, published in PBSW (2004b): Meyer, Stephen C. 2004. The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington 117(2):213-239.

  • Meyer 2004, published in “Debating Design” (2004a): Meyer, S. C. 2004. The Cambrian information explosion: evidence for intelligent design. Debating design: from Darwin to DNA. W. A. Dembski and M. Ruse. Cambridge, United Kingdom, Cambridge University Press: 371-391.

  • Meyer, Ross, Nelson, and Chien 2003, published in “Darwin, Design, and Public Education” (2003): Meyer, S. C., Ross, M., Nelson, P. and Chien, P. 2003. The Cambrian explosion: biology’s big bang. Darwinism, design and public education. J. A. Campbell and S. C. Meyer. Lansing, Michigan, Michigan State University Press: 323-402.

  • Meyer, Nelson, and Chien 2001, published to the World Wide Web (2001)

Here, I’m going to compare the various documents and report the proportions of text taken from earlier versions that appear in the later versions.

I am again using my Perl script to find sequences of words present in both a reference text and a possible source text. While I can set whatever length of runs of words as a minimum to regard as a hit, I’ve pretty much settled on using ten words in a row as a value that normally indicates copying. I’m using the text of Moby Dick as a control to show the proportion of false positives due to regularities of the English language, which in these cases were nil.

2004a 2003 2001 Moby Dick
2004b 45 % 38 % 13 % 0 %
2004a 72 % 24 % 0 %
2003 48 % 0 %
2001 0 %

Links go to the full report of matches in each case.

Notice that 72% of the text of Meyer 2004a is found to be due to the text of Meyer et al. 2003.

While some have made an apologetic that it is common to recycle introductory material in papers, it is the core sections of the Meyer et al. 2003 paper (some), Meyer 2004a paper (most) and Meyer 2004b
(most) papers that are copied between them.  Between Meyer 2004a and Meyer 2004b, the commonalities extend to section headings and almost entire sections.  These sections are almost completely copied:

  • The Cambrian Explosion

  • The Cambrian Information Explosion

  • Novel Genes and Proteins

  • Novel Body Plans

  • Self-Organizational Models

This means that the Meyer 2004b paper published in PBSW is the third time, not just the second time, that Meyer has published essentially the same paper, and there is no acknowledgment of previous sources.

Again, I don’t have any particular problem with this, because while Meyer 2004b is in a peer-reviewed venue, none of the other instances are peer-reviewed in my estimation. However, Stephen C. Meyer should think that there is a problem with this pattern of repeated publication of substantial parts of prior work, since Meyer 2004b, Meyer 2004a, and Meyer et al. 2003 are all claimed  to count as peer-reviewed publications by the Discovery Institute propaganda machine.

It is interesting to contrast Meyer’s lack of notice of recycling his text in “Debating Design” with the careful and complete notice given by Francisco Ayala in the same volume that portions of his chapter were due to prior published material.

[Endnote #1, p. 73; The endnote number [1] appears just after Ayala’s name, at the beginning of the essay on p. 55]

1. This paper incorporates most of my “Darwin’s Devolution: Design without Designer” in Evolutionary and Molecular Biology: Scientific Perspectives on Divine Action, ed. R. J. Russell, W. R. Stoeger, and F. J. Ayala (Vatican City: Vatican Observatory and Berkeley, CA: Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences, 1998), pp. 101-16.  The text has been updated and modified, and a new section (“Unintelligent Design”) has been added.  Accordingly, the original title has been changed.

(Ayala, Francisco J. "Design without Designer: Darwin's Greatest Discovery." Debating Design: From Darwin to DNA. Cambridge University Press, pp. 55-80.)

Thanks to Pim van Meurs and Nick Matzke for contributions to this article.

Comment #7997

Posted by mark duigon on September 26, 2004 03:59 PM (e) (s)

Aren’t the co-authors of the earliest paper getting shortchanged when their work goes unacknowledged? As a group, anti-evolutionists appear to have an enormous problem with quotations and citations—are they unclear on the concept?

Comment #7999

Posted by Gary Hurd on September 26, 2004 04:37 PM (e) (s)

You are quite correct Mark. It does become more and more likely that Stephen C. Meyer is not merely guilty of massive cut’n’paste in stead of scholarship, but has actively plagiarized his former co-authors. An alternate possibility is that none of Meyer’s co-authors have actually contributed anything of substance to the earlier publications. Either way, this can no longer be excused as I had attempted to do in the earlier text analysis by Wesley.

Comment #8005

Posted by Jim Foley on September 26, 2004 10:04 PM (e) (s)

According to Sternberg at www.rsternberg.net, “The reviewers provided substantial criticism and feedback to Dr. Meyer, who then made significant changes to the paper in response.”

It would be fascinating to know what these “significant changes” were, since they don’t seem to have prevented large segments of Meyer’s paper from remaining very similar to his earlier sources.

Comment #8006

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on September 27, 2004 12:48 AM (e) (s)

mark duigon wrote:

As a group, anti-evolutionists appear to have an enormous problem with quotations and citations—-are they unclear on the concept?

It is definatly true that there is a lack of academic integrity amongst anti-evolutionists. What I wonder at is why haven’t any “intelligent design” activists, who have academic integrity, been critical of the Meyer’s behavior with respect to this essay and the essays he cribbed from? Meyer claims to have retained the copyright to his PBSW paper. However, it is extremely irregular for a scientific journal to publish a paper without a copyright waiver. Assuming Meyer is being honest, then maybe the copyright waiver was not signed because he intends on publishing it again. He’ll probably keep doing it despite the fact that he’s been caught.

Comment #8062

Posted by Andrea Bottaro on September 28, 2004 02:10 PM (e) (s)

So, how much of the PBSW paper is actually original? Can you make a comparison of Meyer 2004a with the the other 3 papers combined?

Comment #8068

Posted by Matt Inlay on September 28, 2004 04:50 PM (e) (s)

Here’s an ethics question to consider. What if one of the reviewers was a co-author on one of Meyer’s previous publications. Would that constitute a breach of ethics?

Reed, you said:

it is extremely irregular for a scientific journal to publish a paper without a copyright waiver.

I found this on a Nature website:

Journals in the Nature family no longer take copyright on the articles we publish. Instead we ask authors to sign a license for us to publish their work.

Comment #8077

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on September 28, 2004 06:53 PM (e) (s)

Hmm, that is interesting, Matt. I hadn’t heard about Nature’s new policy.

Comment #8519

Posted by Josh Narins on October 8, 2004 11:03 AM (e) (s)

What neo-creationists have trouble with is getting published outside their own little world. They all understand that, so are willing to count rewrites getting published as two efforts.

Comment #8888

Posted by J.D. Lanfear on October 19, 2004 08:29 AM (e) (s)

Anti-evolutionist have trouble getting published in mainline scientific venues because “peer review” often means censorship of challeges to neo-Darwinism.

Comment #8903

Posted by Russell on October 19, 2004 10:30 AM (e) (s)

“peer review” often means censorship of challeges to neo-Darwinism.

Well, I guess that’s one way of stating it. If I submit an article to Nature, say, dealing with astrology, and it fails to pass peer-review muster, I guess I’m being censored.

Comment #8906

Posted by Reed A. Cartwright on October 19, 2004 10:39 AM (e) (s)

J.D. Lanfear wrote:

Anti-evolutionist have trouble getting published in mainline scientific venues because “peer review” often means censorship of challeges to neo-Darwinism.

Really now? How many examples do you know of where anti-evolutionists attempted to pubilish their anti-evolution writings in mainstream journals and were rejected for reasons other than the quality of the science or whether it was on topic? Care do document them?

I assert that more pro-evolution papers have been rejected from journals then anti-evolutionist papers. Who is getting “censored” more?

Comment #8908

Posted by PvM on October 19, 2004 11:02 AM (e) (s)

Lanfear wrote:

Anti-evolutionist have trouble getting published in mainline scientific venues because “peer review” often means censorship of challeges to neo-Darwinism.

Does this also explain the paucity of research submitted to ID’s own peer reviewed publication PCID?
Or is it just the poor quality which causes so much grief for ID? Remember that ID’s contributions to science seem to be limited to objections to regularity and chance pathways and are characterized by the absence of much of any scientifically relevant ID hypothsis.
The claim of censorship seems to be hard to support.

Comment #8909

Posted by Kristjan Wager on October 19, 2004 11:27 AM (e) (s)

The claim of censorship seems to be hard to support.

Especially as censorship traditionally is something the Government/state does - everything else is just editing. Some times that editing is done to suppress other peoples’ views, but it’s not censorship as such.

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