Claims of Peer Review for Intelligent Design examined … and debunked 15


One of the many variations of modern creationism (the folks that claim ‘god did it’ is the right answer) is called “Intelligent Design”. There they attempt to refute evolution via the promotion of scientific evidence for an intelligent designer, and also attempt to make it more palatable by omitting all religious terms from what is essentially a religious claim. Well, if they wish to take a scientific approach, then this becomes quite interesting because this is a measurable claim, all we need to do is to take a look and see if they have published any credible peer-reviewed articles within any recognised scientific journals.

Does this matter? Sadly yes it does, a good percentage of the public do still seriously doubt the reality of evolution as a well-established scientific fact, they have been successfully conned by some supposedly credible claims, so it is indeed appropriate to throw a spotlight upon the intelligent design community and reveal that their aura of credibility is simply an illusion.

Almost two years ago, I went through the list of Peer-reviewed articles posted up by the Discovery Institute, a well-financed US-based group that promotes Intelligent Design. What did I find? … (Oh come on, you can guess) … yes, that’s right, exactly nothing, they did not have anything credible, not one jot.

They have since then revised their list and greatly extended it, so the time is now right for a return visit to this bastion of creationist “peer-reviewed” fodder.

The title remains the same, “PEER-REVIEWED & PEER-EDITED SCIENTIFIC PUBLICATIONS SUPPORTING THE THEORY OF INTELLIGENT DESIGN (ANNOTATED)“. My approach will be the same as last time – basically apply an initial filter to remove the junk, then take a look at what remains. But first, there is an observation to be made about some initial commentary they have added. They now make this claim …

Despite ID’s publication record, we note parenthetically that recognition in peer-reviewed literature is not an absolute requirement to demonstrate an idea’s scientific merit. Darwin’s own theory of evolution was first published in a book for a general and scientific audience — his Origin of Species — not in a peer-reviewed paper.

Seriously!! … Origin of Species, published in 1859, was not published in a peer-review journal, so that justifies adding books to their list. Do they not know that the Peer review process has only been a touchstone of the modern scientific method since the middle of the 20th century. No, the bottom line here is simple, books are out, anybody can publish anything (Harry Potter is evidence that Magic is real … right?), if they wish to refute evolution and propose an alternative, then they need to engage with the scientific community with real data, and publish it within a credible and appropriate scientific journal.

The Filter

OK, on to my initial filter:

  • There are articles from a Journal called BIO-ComplexityThis is not a credible peer-review journal, instead it is a creationist journal issued by the Biologic Institute. They in turn are funded by the Discovery Institute … yes, it is their own pet journal and has exactly zero credibility within the scientific community, we can ignore all that.
  • There are also articles from Life : Yet another journal that has no scientific credibility and is treated as something to laugh at, we can ignore that as well.
  • The International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics : This is a fringe publication of the featherweight Wessex Institute of Technology, in other words it is also not a real scientific journal, but is simply a vanity journal that publishes papers written by its own editors. McIntosh, the author of a listed paper, is on their Editorial Board, and one of their other editors is the young earth creationist Stuart Burgess
  • Papers published as part of the proceedings of a conference are not recognised peer-reviewed journals, we can ignore these.
  • Chapters within books are not peer-reviewed journals, so they can also be tossed.
  • Peer-Edited and Editor-Reviewed articles are not peer-reviewed articles … finding these tossed in to inflate the list really is scraping the bottom of the barrel.
  • Articles in Philosophy journals … er no, we can ignore these, if you want to make claims regarding biology, you publish in a biology journal, and you also need real data.
  • Anything by David Abel, all his papers consist entirely of non-evidentially supported, non-laboratory confirmed, pure fabrication (I let a couple through this filter so that you can see what I’m on about). About 17% of the list is by him and can happily be ignored.
    • Least you pause on the thought of a named individual being a filter, it is simply a short-cut to eliminate papers that are long-winded assertions that contain no data at all — no experiments, no measurements, and no observations  … nada. Should he write a paper that contains some analysis of actual data, then this filter does not apply.
    • So who exactly is this guy? He is David Abel, Department of ProtoBioCybernetics/ProtoBioSemiotics, Director, The Gene Emergence Project, The Origin-of-Life. Science Foundation, Inc., 113 Hedgewood Dr. Greenbelt, MD 20770-1610 USA, at least that is the title on his papers. Wow, sounds impressive … but google that address and you discover it is an ordinary residential house. Yes, the entire foundation is in his garage, and he is the sole representative. Somebody checked him out, this impressive sounding title and organization is a sham and is not real. The claimed title is completely fraudulent.
    • But why does he get published? … well because Abel is making an argument, of sorts, and is backing it up with a reasonable amount of scholarship and some fancy sounding mathy stuff. On the surface it looks credible, so you need to read it all several times to work out that the assertions being made are not actually credible. Rarely do you find bullshit so tortuously Byzantine as the stuff churned out by him, which I guess is by intention.

What do we have left after filtering?

Well, lets take a look at the remains.

Joseph A. Kuhn, “Dissecting Darwinism,” Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, Vol. 25(1): 41-47 (2012).

  • This is a medical journal, a rather odd place to attempt to refute evolution.
  • The article itself is poorly written, dreadful, and full of scientific errors. It’s an embarrassment to the author, to the journal, and to the field of medicine as a whole. In essence we have a medical doctor claiming evolution is bunk and repeats the usual debunked Discovery Institute claims.
  • Is it credible? Nope, a Professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, explains why it is not. – Fail

Michael J. Behe, “Experimental Evolution, Loss-of-Function Mutations, and ‘The First Rule of Adaptive Evolution,’” The Quarterly Review of Biology, Vol. 85(4):1-27 (December 2010). 

  •  Jerry Coyne has a good summary, he writes “this paper gives ID advocates no reason to crow that a peer-reviewed paper supporting intelligent design has finally appeared in the scientific literature.  The paper says absolutely nothing—zilch—that supports any contention of ID “theory.” – Fail

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, “Mutagenesis in Physalis pubescens L. ssp. floridana: Some further research on Dollo’s Law and the Law of Recurrent Variation,”Floriculture and Ornamental Biotechnology, 1-21 (2010). 

  • Published where? Yes, that is indeed a very obscure journal.
  • An Australian science communicator and biology student, explains here why this is just another daft paper that is not credible. – Fail.

William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II, “The Search for a Search: Measuring the Information Cost of Higher Level Search,” Journal of Advanced Computational Intelligence and Intelligent Informatics, Vol. 14 (5):475-486 (2010).

David L. Abel, “Constraints vs Controls,” The Open Cybernetics and Systemics Journal, Vol. 4:14-27 (January 20, 2010).

  • Yes indeed a paper by Mr Abel, and sure enough, no actual data, no experiments, no measurements, and  no observations
  • The first eight references in it are him simply citing other similar papers he has written.
  • And what about the journal? It is an obscure IT journal that handles articles that relate to human computer interaction. – Fail

William A. Dembski and Robert J. Marks II, “Conservation of Information in Search: Measuring the Cost of Success,” IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics-Part A: Systems and Humans, Vol. 39(5):1051-1061 (September, 2009).

  • What do others have to say about this, do they find it credible as an ID paper? Nope, see reviews here, and here, and here.
  • Dembski has, for years, been pushing an argument based on some work called the No Free Lunch (NFL) theorems. The NFL theorems prove that average over all possible search landscapes, no search algorithm can outperform a random walk. The NFL theorems are true and correct – they’re valid math, and they’re even useful in the right setting. In fact, if you really think about it, they’re actually quite obvious. Dembski has been trying to apply the NFL theorems to evolution: his basic argument is that evolution (as a search) can’t possibly produce anything without being guided by a supernatural designer – because if there wasn’t some sort of cheating going on in the evolutionary search, according to NFL, evolution shouldn’t work any better than random walk – meaning that it’s as likely for humans to evolve as it is for them to spring fully formed out of the ether. This doesn’t work for a very simple reason: evolution doesn’t have to work in all possible landscapes. Dembski always sidesteps that issue.
  • So yes, this is an appropriate publication in its context, and the maths is OK, but claims that it supports ID when applied to Evolution are not in this paper. Nor can that claim be substantiated by any data from either here or anywhere else
  • Status as a paper that supports ID – Fail.

Richard v. Sternberg, “DNA Codes and Information: Formal Structures and Relational Causes,” Acta Biotheoretica, Vol. 56(3):205-232 (September, 2008).

  • Sternberg’s paper is a theoretical one in which he takes a structuralist approach and proposes “that a variety of structural realism can assist us in rethinking the concepts of DNA codes and information apart from semantic criteria
  • Little problem … no empirical data, so as a paper that actually support ID in our reality – Fail

Douglas D. Axe, Brendan W. Dixon, Philip Lu, “Stylus: A System for Evolutionary Experimentation Based on a Protein/Proteome Model with Non-Arbitrary Functional Constraints,” PLoS One, Vol. 3(6):e2246 (June 2008).

  • This paper describes a computer program (Stylus) that was used for the study of protein evolution using Chinese characters
  • The paper does not offer any support for ID. Indeed, Konrad Sheffler (the PloS editor for the manuscript) explicitly notes that he “did not detect any such [ideological] bias [towards ID] in this manuscript; nor do the results support intelligent design in any way.”
  • As he also points out, “there is still no substitute for empirical data” when examining biological processes – Fail

Michael Sherman, “Universal Genome in the Origin of Metazoa: Thoughts About Evolution,” Cell Cycle, Vol. 6(15):1873-1877 (August 1, 2007).

  • This a paper that makes some dodgy claims from ignorance that evolution can’t explain the Cambrian explosion or the evolution of body plans. It is then followed by an alternative hypothesis which explains nothing that can’t be explained by evolutionary biology, and simply relies on gaps in our knowledge to create doubt. (rebuttal here) – Fail

Kirk K. Durston, David K. Y. Chiu, David L. Abel, Jack T. Trevors, “Measuring the functional sequence complexity of proteins,” Theoretical Biology and Medical Modelling, Vol. 4:47 (2007).

  • Ah yes a “ground breaking” paper that is cited many times, but mostly by the authors (Especially Mr Abel), and has failed to be of interest to anybody else.
  • There’s no reference to ID theory anywhere in this paper, nor is there any reference to the terminology used in ID. The paper does not actually support ID in any way at all, it simply describes a method to measure the functional sequence complexity. – Fail

Felipe Houat de Brito, Artur Noura Teixeira, Otávio Noura Teixeira, Roberto C. L. Oliveira, “A Fuzzy Intelligent Controller for Genetic Algorithm Parameters,” in Advances in Natural Computation (Licheng Jiao, Lipo Wang, Xinbo Gao, Jing Liu, Feng Wu, eds, Springer-Verlag, 2006); Felipe Houat de Brito, Artur Noura Teixeira, Otávio Noura Teixeira, Roberto C. L. Oliveira, “A Fuzzy Approach to Control Genetic Algorithm Parameters,” SADIO Electronic Journal of Informatics and Operations Research, Vol. 7(1):12-23 (2007).

  • “Advances in Natural Computation” are the proceedings of a computer science conference and is not a peer-reviewed journal – Fail
  • “SADIO Electronic Journal of Informatics and Operations Research” – An Argentinian Computer Science journal that is not actually peer-reviewed – Fail

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, Kurt Stüber, Heinz Saedler, Jeong Hee Kim, “Biodiversity and Dollo’s Law: To What Extent can the Phenotypic Differences between Misopates orontium and Antirrhinum majus be Bridged by Mutagenesis,”Bioremediation, Biodiversity and Bioavailability, Vol. 1(1):1-30 (2007).

  • Ah yes, Dollo opus by Mr Lönnig and his former boss at the Max-Planck-Institute for Plant Breeding, plus others. This of course is the same chap who is on the editorial board of BIO-Complexity, the Discovery Institute’s pet journal.
  • This paper has not exactly caused much interest, it has been cited exactly four times … by Lönnig himself, and nobody else.
  • The term “Intelligent Design” is deployed exactly once in this paper – at page 18 about half way through.
  • It is all rather weird really, they explain that they tried to use mutagenesis experiments to cause some related plants to revert to a more “primitive” forms, but failed to do so, and thus suggest that this confirms Dollo’s law. They then proceed to use this as an excuse to plug a bunch of pro-ID people into the paper for no reason at all other than to promote their ideas, but none of it is justified in any way by their failed experiments – Fail

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig, “Mutations: The Law of Recurrent Variation,” Floriculture, Ornamental and Plant Biotechnology, Vol. 1:601-607 (2006).

  • This was from an invited paper to a book on commercial flower growing.
  • This so-called “law” seems to exist only in the imagination of Lönnig. No one else has ever referenced, or ‘applied’ it, and it has been cited exactly 4 times by (oh I’m sure you can guess) Mr Lönnig himself and nobody else.
  • It boils down to the (apparent) limit of induced mutation within plants to alter phenotype (esp. outward appearance) before the chemicals, or radiation used kills the organism. This is hardly big news. Particularly in plants, more new species are the product of  polypoid hybrids then any point mutations alone.
  • Includes references to Behe (his long discredited Irreducible complexity), and also Dembski (no free lunch of course) – yes, he is indeed rather desperately plugging in all the ID stars.
  • Does this paper actually support Intelligent Design in any way at all? Nope, it is just another of Lönnig’s failed experiments being used  as an excuse to promote ID thinking without any justification at all.  – Fail

Øyvind Albert Voie, “Biological function and the genetic code are interdependent,”Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, Vol. 28:1000–1004 (2006). – 

  • It’s a paper in a maths journal; what we have here is an attempt to take Gödel’s theorem and try to apply it to something other than formal axiomatic systems … oh that’s such a bad idea. This is a journal for fractals, so it is no shock that the reviewers had the wool pulled over their eyes. If they were familiar with Gödel and information theory it would not have been published. Here is a link to an appropriate Subject matter expert who attempts to digest this and ends up spitting it out.
  • So in summary, it is not just a paper out of context, it is a bad paper that does not hold together – Fail

Kirk Durston and David K. Y. Chiu, “A Functional Entropy Model for Biological Sequences,” Dynamics of Continuous, Discrete & Impulsive Systems: Series B Supplement (2005).

  • And here we have a paper that is filled with unsupported assertions and unnecessary verbosity (this is very much becoming a theme with many of these paper). What it completely lacks is any evidence for any of the claims. If you disagree, then you might want  to read the discussion with Durston on Jeff Shallit’s blog here – Fail

David L. Abel and Jack T. Trevors, “Three subsets of sequence complexity and their relevance to biopolymeric information,” Theoretical Biology and Medical Modeling, Vol. 2(29):1-15 (August 11, 2005).

  • Yes, another Abel paper consisting entirely of non-evidentially supported, non-laboratory confirmed, pure fabrication as usual. – Fail

John A. Davison, “A Prescribed Evolutionary Hypothesis,” Rivista di Biologia/Biology Forum, Vol. 98: 155-166 (2005). – 

  • This is a non-peer reviewed proprietary journal. The article was only published here after the DI sponsored it – no regular journal would have it.
  • However, it was recognised, and did indeed win an award; it was voted “crankiest” on crank.net – Fail.

Douglas D. Axe, “Estimating the Prevalence of Protein Sequences Adopting Functional Enzyme Folds,” Journal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 341:1295–1315 (2004).

  • Yet another article that does not support Intelligent design theory. That fact was established during the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, you can read the testimony here that proves this.
  • If that is not enough, then here is a detailed analysis of the paper. – Fail

Michael Behe and David W. Snoke, “Simulating evolution by gene duplication of protein features that require multiple amino acid residues,” Protein Science, Vol. 13 (2004).

  • This article was indeed peer-reviewed according to the normal procedures. The conclusions, however, were rapidly and voluminously disputed by others in the field, and the controversy was addressed by the editors. It argues against one common genetic mechanism of evolution. It says nothing at all in support of design. It’s assumptions and conclusion have been rebutted (M. Lynch 2005). – Fail

Stephen C. Meyer, “The origin of biological information and the higher taxonomic categories,” Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, Vol. 117(2):213-239 (2004)

  • All we actually have here is a very bad attempt to reorganize already existing information. This article was not peer-reviewed according to the standards of the Biological Society of Washington, but rather slipped into the journal by an editor without proper review.
  • The publisher later withdrew the article, but that well-known fact does not appear to deter the DI from claiming it – Fail.

Frank J. Tipler, “Intelligent Life in Cosmology,” International Journal of Astrobiology, Vol. 2(2): 141-148 (2003).

  • Nothing resembling an actual scientific hypothesis or theory is presented by this paper and it contains exactly zero evidence.
  • It does however give a great example of a truly weird bit of wishful thinking, and yes he is a kook, but then most creationists are, so I guess he fits right in. – Fail

David K.Y. Chiu and Thomas W.H. Lui, “Integrated Use of Multiple Interdependent Patterns for Biomolecular Sequence Analysis,” International Journal of Fuzzy Systems, Vol. 4(3):766-775 (September 2002).

  • Chiu and Lui do mention complex specified information in passing, but go on to develop another method of pattern analysis.
  • This paper does not actually support ID – Fail

Michael J. Denton, Craig J. Marshall, and Michael Legge, “The Protein Folds as Platonic Forms: New Support for the pre-Darwinian Conception of Evolution by Natural Law,” Journal of Theoretical Biology, Vol. 219: 325-342 (2002).

  • Here we find that Denton and Marshall and Legge et al. deal with non-Darwinian evolutionary processes, but they do not support intelligent design. In fact, Denton et al. explicitly refers to natural law. – Fail

Wolf-Ekkehard Lönnig and Heinz Saedler, “Chromosome Rearrangement and Transposable Elements,” Annual Review of Genetics, Vol. 36:389–410 (2002).

  • Annual Review of Genetics does not publish new research results; it publishes review articles, which summarize the current state of thinking on some topic. Although the thrust of the article is in opposition to the modern evolutionary picture, nowhere does it mention “design”. It references Behe and Dembski only in a couple long lists of references indicating a variety of different options. Neither author is singled out. This article does not support ID – Fail

Douglas D. Axe, “Extreme Functional Sensitivity to Conservative Amino Acid Changes on Enzyme Exteriors,” Journal of Molecular Biology, Vol. 301:585-595 (2000).

  • Axe finds that changing 20 percent of the external amino acids in a couple of proteins causes them to lose their original function, even though individual amino acid changes did not. There was no investigation of change of function. Axe’s paper is not even a challenge to Darwinian evolution, much less support for intelligent design. Axe himself has said at the time that he has not attempted to make an argument for design in any of his publications (Forrest and Gross 2004, 42). – Fail.

Solomon Victor and Vijaya M. Nayak, “Evolutionary anticipation of the human heart,” Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, Vol. 82:297-302 (2000).

  • Quick summary, “Gosh this is really complicated, I have no idea how it could have happened naturally, so God must have done it“, and so this is what happens when you stray outside your area of expertise – Fail

Solomon Victor, Vljaya M. Nayek, and Raveen Rajasingh, “Evolution of the Ventricles,” Texas Heart Institute Journal, Vol. 26:168-175 (1999). 

  • Yes, it is just an earlier draft of their appeal to ignorance – Fail

Stanley L. Jaki, “Teaching of Transcendence in Physics,” American Journal of Physics, Vol. 55(10):884-888 (October 1987).

  • A rather daft paper that gives guidance on how to teach “God did it”, but does not offer any actual evidence – Fail.

William G. Pollard, “Rumors of transcendence in physics,” American Journal of Physics, Vol. 52 (10) (October 1984).

  • Another daft and rather old paper that claims that because our mathematical laws of nature explain the world, it is a miracle — er no, it can’t be otherwise. The laws of nature describe the world we know and that world is a reflection of our thinking and our language. – Fail

… and that is it, the entire list, every possible vague reference that they could  dig up from a trawl through all the scientific literature going back over almost thirty years, and we end up with nothing credible, not one jot, nada … zilch … exactly zero. You see, the reason that 99.9% of biologists reject creationism is not because they are biased or brainwashed, but because there is no credible evidence.

In stark contrast to the output of scientific creationism, hundreds of papers are published each month by authors that find that evolution explains their results. One would think that, if intelligent design had any scientific merit, then there would be a significant number of papers published each month presenting evidence of supernatural intervention by an intelligent designer. Surely the many religious scientists, in particular, wouldn’t fail to publish results that support intelligent design.

Conclusion
The complete lack of any credible scientific evidence tells you all you really need to know. Is there any scientific foundation for Intelligent Design? The quick one word summary is “No“.

With no credible evidence on the table, any and all creationist claims need not be addressed, but instead should simply be dismissed. If they wish to ever assert a claim that is not dismissed, then they need to first go do some science that backs it up.


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15 thoughts on “Claims of Peer Review for Intelligent Design examined … and debunked

  • Joel Stapley

    thorough? yes. accurate? no.

    there is no evidence for evolution. no fossil records or examples of any kind to explain the macro evolution that those who hold the religious view of evolutionism suggest exist.

  • Alicia LeMarie

    For years evolutionists have been screaming for Peer Reviewed Literature whenever researchers with alternative interpretations presented their conclusions. Now that many papers have come forth, evolutionists are screaming that “they don’t count”. How outrageous and ridiculous! Really, it’s sad.

    • Dave Gamble Post author

      Feel free to pick the one you feel is the very best example of a peer-reviewed paper that supports intelligent design using actual data and explain why it is not a fail and is actually credible.

      • Nick Singh

        Sadly people in the US have not accepted the bullshit pseudoscience of evolution???? you know, this theory has plenty of holes. for you to call this nonsense science just shows how devilishly dishonest you people are. let the damn science work it out. no need to jump to conclusions.

        • Dave Gamble Post author

          I do have to ask Nick, given the observation that the OP article examines all the claims to peer-reviewed evidence and ends up with nothing left, then where exactly are these “plenty of holes”?

          Can you even point to one single published peer-reviewed paper in a credible science journal that identifies these holes – if they existed that there should at least be one, but there is none at all, so why is that the case?

  • herrmann

    Do they not know that the Peer review process has only been a touchstone of the modern scientific method since the middle of the 20th century.

    Peer Review History

    The first recorded editorial pre-publication peer-review process was at the Royal Society of London in 1665 by the founding editor of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, Henry Oldenburg.[9][10][11] In the 20th century, peer review became common for science funding allocations. This process appears to have developed independently from that of editorial peer review.[12] See a competing understanding of the history of peer review using a scientific approach in Gaudet [13], that builds on historical research by Gould [14], Biagioli [15], Spier [16], and Rip [17]. Using a scientific approach means carefully tending to what is under investigation, here peer review, and not only looking at superficial or self-evident commonalities among inquisition, censorship, and journal peer review.

    The first peer-reviewed publication might have been the Medical Essays and Observations published by the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1731. The present-day peer-review system evolved from this 18th-century process.[18]

    still you guys are a bunch of lying assholes ! periode!