PvM posted Entry 453 on September 23, 2004 02:36 PM.
Trackback URL: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.fcgi/452

In Meyer 2004 and Deja Vu All Over Again Wesley Elsberry demontrates how Meyer seems to have recycled over 30% of a previously published source in his latest paper. Elsberry is not the first to notice how Meyer tends to recycle his arguments.

Meyer in a Limits of Natural Selection a Reason to Teach All Theories (The News Tribune, May 12, 1996) laments that

(underlined words are some noticable changes)

Current biology instruction presents only half the scientific picture. For example, none of the standard high school biology texts even mentions the Cambrian explosion, arguably the most dramatic event in the history of life. Indeed, fossil studies reveal “a biological big bang” near the beginning of the Cambrian period 530 million years ago. At that time, at least fifty separate major groups of organisms or “phyla” (including all the basic body plans of modern animals) emerged suddenly without clear precursors. Fossil finds have repeatedly confirmed a pattern of explosive appearance and prolonged stability in living formsónot the gradual step-by-step change predicted by neo-Darwinian theory.

the same claim is recycled in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in Biology Instruction  (The Washington Times, July 4th, 1996)

Current biology instruction presents only half the scientific picture. For example, none of the standard high school biology texts even mentions the Cambrian explosion, arguably the most dramatic event in the history of life. Indeed, fossil studies reveal “a biological big bang” near the beginning of the Cambrian period 530 million years ago. At that time, at least fifty separate major groups of organisms or “phyla” (including all the basic body plans of modern animals) emerged suddenly without clear precursors. Fossil finds have repeatedly confirmed a pattern of explosive appearance and prolonged stability in living forms-not the gradual step-by-step change predicted by neo-Darwinian theory.

and in 2002 in the Seattle Times Darwinism Would Love This Debate

Current biology instruction presents only half the scientific picture. For example, few high school biology texts even mention the Cambrian explosion, arguably the most dramatic event in the history of life. Indeed, fossil studies reveal “a biological big bang” near the beginning of the Cambrian period 530 million years ago. At that time, 40 separate major groups of organisms or “phyla” (including all the basic body plans of modern animals) emerged suddenly without clear precursors. Fossil finds have repeatedly confirmed a pattern of explosive appearance and prolonged stability in living forms — not the gradual step-by-step change predicted by neo-Darwinian theory.

Read the three articles side by side!!!

See Pennock’s article DNA by Design?: Stephen Meyer and the Return of the God Hypothesis.  in Debating Design. New York: Cambridge University Press for more examples of how Meyer recycles his claims.

As a somewhat ironical side note I would like to point out that it seems that in Meyer’s latest paper he fails to present the other half of the scientific picture.

Pennock observes

ID theorists, by contrast, are very close-mouthed about their own views. If evolution really cannot hope to explain the Cambrian explosion, and ID theorists can do better, one would expect them to show how. However, no “alternative theory” is forthcoming. ID leaders who are Young-Earth creationists, such as Paul Nelson, Percival Davis, and others, do not even accept the scientific dating of the Cambrian. However, even the Old-Earthers, such as Behe and presumably Meyer, have offered no positive account.

and makes the following “prediction”

I have not seen the chapter that Meyer is writing on the Cambrian explosion for the present volume, but I encourage readers to check whether he departs from the pattern and offers any specific positive account. If ID is to have even a shot at being a real scientific alternative, one should expect to see some precise testable (and eventually tested) hypotheses that answer the obvious questions: what was designed and what wasn’t; and when, where, how, and by whom was design information supposedly inserted. 7

7 It is not only we critics who point out that ID fails to qualify as science in this regard. In his Biola speech, Dembski mentioned one sympathetic geneticist who was intrigued with ID, but who felt pessimistic about its prospects, writing: “If I knew how to scientifically approach the question you pose, I would quit all that I am doing right now, and devote the rest of my career in pursuit of its answer. The fact that I have no idea how to begin gathering scientific data that would engage the scientific community is the very reason that I don’t share your optimism that this approach will work” (Dembski 2002). Dembski told his audience that he himself remained optimistic that ID had research potential, but, tellingly, he admitted that he had no specific research proposals to offer, just some possible “research themes.”

In fact recently Dembski seems to have made his choice

“Theology is where my ultimate passion is and I think that is where I can uniquely contribute … I am looking forward to engaging students and theological students have always been my favorite to deal with because for theology students, it’s not just a job, but a passion, especially at a place like Southern, because they want to change the world.”

In Meyer’s latest paper he describes the Cambrian explosion as follows, reducing the claim of “at least fifty phyla” to “at last nineteen and perhaps as many as thirty five or forty”. What a difference a few years make…

Meyer seems to be recycling material from the chapter in “Debating Design” and fail to present a positive hypothesis of design. (I will explore the amount of similarity between Meyer 2004 and Meyer’s chapter in “Debating Design” in a future posting.)

The “Cambrian explosion” refers to the geologically sudden appearance of many new animal body plans about 530 million years ago. At this time, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five phyla of forty total (Meyer et al. 2003), made their first appearance on earth within a narrow five- to ten-million-year window of geologic time (Bowring et al. 1993, 1998a:1, 1998b:40; Kerr 1993; Monastersky 1993; Aris-Brosou & Yang 2003). Many new subphyla, between 32 and 48 of 56 total (Meyer et al. 2003), and classes of animals also arose at this time with representatives of these new higher taxa manifesting significant morphological innovations. The Cambrian explosion thus marked a major episode of morphogenesis in which many new and disparate organismal forms arose in a geologically brief period of time.

To say that the fauna of the Cambrian period appeared in a geologically sudden manner also implies the absence of clear transitional intermediate forms connecting Cambrian animals with simpler pre-Cambrian forms. And, indeed, in almost all cases, the Cambrian animals have no clear morphological antecedents in earlier Vendian or Precambrian fauna (Miklos 1993, Erwin et al. 1997:132, Steiner & Reitner 2001, Conway Morris 2003b:510, Valentine et al. 2003:519-520). Further, several recent discoveries and analyses suggest that these morphological gaps may not be merely an artifact of incomplete sampling of the fossil record (Foote 1997, Foote et al. 1999, Benton & Ayala 2003, Meyer et al. 2003), suggesting that the fossil record is at least approximately reliable (Conway Morris 2003b:505)


Added 09-24-2004

Meyer does present an argument for ID but presents it as the usual negative argument

First, the possibility of design as an explanation follows logically from a consideration of the deficiencies of neo-Darwinism and other current theories as explanations for some of the more striking “appearances of design” in biological systems.

in addition Meyer seems to make the fallacy of a false dichotomy namely that a failure of neo-Darwinism is evidence in favor of intelligent design.

Yet, this review has argued that neo-Darwinism does not adequately account for the origin of all appearances of design, especially if one considers animal body plans, and the information necessary to construct them, as especially striking examples of the appearance of design in living systems. Indeed, Dawkins (1995:11) and Gates (1996:228) have noted that genetic information bears an uncanny resemblance to computer software or machine code. For this reason, the presence of CSI in living organisms, and the discontinuous increases of CSI that occurred during events such as the Cambrian explosion, appears at least suggestive of design.

Meyer attempts a positive formulation

A second reason for considering design as an explanation for these phenomena follows from the importance of explanatory power to scientific theory evaluation and from a consideration of the potential explanatory power of the design hypothesis.

But fails to show that the ID hypothesis (which remains also unexplained) has more explanatory power. In fact I argue that the ID hypothesis has an unlimited explanatory power and thus fails to explain anything because it cannot be constrained.

That ID fails to propose a positive hypothesis of design shows once again that ID remains scientifically irrelevant.  Bruce Gordon remarked in 2001 that:

If design theory is to make a contribution to science, it must be worth pursuing on the basis of its own merits, not as an exercise in Christian ‘cultural renewal,’ the weight of which it cannot bear.

Del Ratzsch, more recently observed during an ISCID chat that

I think that some are certainly too far in the materialist direction, and they claim that science backs them up on that. ID can at least serve a ‘keeping em’ honest’ function, even if nothing else. I think that ID may very well have things to offer science, but I think that it is too early for ID to claim that it has done so. I don’t think that it is just obvious that ID will contribute substantively to science, but I think it has that potential, and that it should be pushed as far as it can be made to legitimately go.

The failure of ID as a theoretical foundation for (reliable) detection of design combined with the absence of any relevant research programme (although it seems that Richard Hoppe has just presented MDT (Multiple Designer Theory) on PT) and a lack of any scientifically relevant ID hypothesis makes ID scientifically meaningless.

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Comment #7861

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on September 23, 2004 10:52 AM (e)

Hey Pim,

I just compared Meyer 2004 (the PBSW paper) and Meyer 2004 (his article “The Cambrian Information Explosion” in Debating Design). I’d say well over half of the text is copied between the two papers (a post is in the works).

This is rather ironic in that in the same Debating Design volume, Pennock (article, “DNA by Design?”) points out several times how Meyer’s op-eds were similarly copied over six years, with only minor changes.

PS: The first two links in your post are missing tags or something. (Preview, Pim, preview!)

Comment #7862

Posted by Pim van Meurs on September 23, 2004 10:56 AM (e)

Fixed the links already. Yes there seems to be quite a bit of similarity and it was Pennock’s ‘prediction’ and observations which make this so ironic.

Comment #7863

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on September 23, 2004 10:57 AM (e)

Re: links, never mind, they’re fixed…

Comment #7865

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 11:08 AM (e)

Actually, I am not sure that recycling 30% of a paper is all that unusual in all circumstances. Said differently, I suspect that many of us have some publications with considerable overlap.

Comment #7867

Posted by Pim van Meurs on September 23, 2004 11:17 AM (e)

From 1996 to 2002 many new data has been added to our understanding of the Cambrian period. It’s all about the other half of the story I guess… As far as recycling arguments, I found the observations and predictions by Pennock quite ironic.

Comment #7870

Posted by Nick on September 23, 2004 11:59 AM (e)

David,

At least with putatively peer-reviewed publications, duplicate publication is supposed to be explicitly acknowledged (“This work adapted from X” or whatever). It is a different standard than e.g. op-eds. See the previous discussion on Meyer 2004 and Deja Vu All Over Again.

Comment #7871

Posted by David Heddle on September 23, 2004 12:03 PM (e)

Neil,

I know all about peer review. I also know that people often repeat sections from paper to paper, especially introductory sections, without explicit acknowledgement.

Comment #7872

Posted by Great White Wonder on September 23, 2004 12:08 PM (e)

Nice post, Pim.

Does anyone know the identity of the “sympathetic” geneticist that told Dembski

If I knew how to scientifically approach the question you pose, I would quit all that I am doing right now, and devote the rest of my career in pursuit of its answer.

I suspect this is true of many scientists. Can you imagine the impact, if Dembski’s pseudoscience had an ounce of merit, of Dembski managing to establish beyond doubt that a race of sophisticated and highly intelligent alien beings had tinkered with the history of the development of all life forms on earth???

The grasshopper lies heavy, indeed.

Comment #7883

Posted by Steve on September 23, 2004 2:55 PM (e)

Posted by Nick (Matzke) on September 23, 2004 10:52 AM

Hey Pim,

I just compared Meyer 2004 (the PBSW paper) and Meyer 2004 (his article “The Cambrian Information Explosion” in Debating Design). I’d say well over half of the text is copied between the two papers (a post is in the works).

Well hell, if I had some science which shook the foundations of biology, overthrew such an entrenched theory, revolutionized Information Theory, &c &c, I would probably repeat it a few times too.

Comment #7886

Posted by Andrew on September 23, 2004 4:08 PM (e)

Even in law reviews, it is considered bad form to recycle 30+% previous content without explicit citation and permission.

Comment #7900

Posted by Nick on September 23, 2004 8:09 PM (e)

David,

In this particular case, the pattern appears to be that the core of the paper is what is getting recycled again and again, and it is the introduction and some of the conclusion that is getting re-written.

It is indeed undisputed that redundant publication occurs – in the other thread on this, I posted a Nature article about a study of the phenomenon (“Journals: redundant publications are bad news”) in a particular medical field, and they found a duplicate publication rate of 1.39%. A pubmed search turns up various other articles revealing/decrying the practice in various fields. But it also seems clear that the practice is frowned upon (how much, may vary from discipline to discipline – my first year in grad school, we spent a segment reviewing a case in the field which, despite quite possibly being accidental, was considered quite serious.)

Comment #7972

Posted by Julia Bacellar on September 25, 2004 5:39 PM (e)

What I really don´t get in this whole ID extravaganza is that, even if there is still not enough evidence to support natural selection in the Cambrian, so this would be the ONLY time where the “designer” had interfered? For the rest of the time, they do agree with (or have NOTHING to say against) neodarwinism, right?
So, an omni-powerful being, as he watched the world developing, looked at the Cambrian and went like “Uh, I think this is going too slow, I´m gonna give them a hand so they will get to mankind sooner”. That doesn´t sound even Theologically logical.

And this thing is really spreading out fast. I study economics in Brazil and this week, in the department weekly newspaper we had an article by a girl blabbering about the “Probability of God”. The way she distorted the laws of physics to favor her argument must have made Newton roll in his grave. She also stated that following evolutionist logic, Men would be evolving towards God. (?!). These people have a SERIOUS ego problem.
I´m not even close to an expert in Biology, but it seems to me that ID people must be doing the same with evolution theory and data.

Good Lord, why can´t they just rely on FAITH like the rest of their christian counterparts? Let scientists be. =)

Comment #7973

Posted by Julia Bacellar on September 25, 2004 5:43 PM (e)

What I really don´t get in this whole ID extravaganza is that, even if there is still not enough evidence to support natural selection in the Cambrian, so this would be the ONLY time where the “designer” had interfered? For the rest of the time, they do agree with (or have NOTHING to say against) neodarwinism, right?
So, an omni-powerful being, as he watched the world developing, looked at the Cambrian and went like “Uh, I think this is going too slow, I´m gonna give them a hand so they will get to mankind sooner”. That doesn´t sound even Theologically logical.

And this thing is really spreading out fast. I study economics in Brazil and this week, in the department weekly newspaper we had an article by a girl blabbering about the “Probability of God”. The way she distorted the laws of physics to favor her argument must have made Newton roll in his grave. She also stated that following evolutionist logic, Men would be evolving towards God. (?!). These people have a SERIOUS ego problem.
I´m not even close to an expert in Biology, but it seems to me that ID people must be doing the same with evolution theory and data.

Good Lord, why can´t they just rely on FAITH like the rest of their christian counterparts? Let scientists be. =)