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How these 3 academics inspired a powerful Emperor’s Clothes moment for our culture

This article was first published on the Premier Christianity Website.  You can get the original and comment here –

It is such a brilliant story – I love what these three have done…make sure you watch the six minute video!

How these 3 academics inspired a powerful Emperor’s Clothes moment for our culture

This impressive hoax contains an important lesson for us all, says David Robertson

“Prove it. Show us the evidence. What peer reviewed papers do you have that prove God exists?”

I’ve had this conversation several times in the past few years with atheists who seem to think that it is a killer argument.

Clearly if we can’t peer review God, then he must not exist.

Peer review is of course a good idea. After all if a cancer specialist comes up with a wonder drug for curing cancer it should not be up to the personal opinions of journalists, politicians or even the clergy to determine whether it might actually work. We would want some of her fellow scientists to peer review her paper.

But peer review is a limited idea. Just because something is not peer reviewed it does not necessarily mean that it’s not true. And peers can often get it wrong. They can be subject to the same groupthink, societal pressures and cultural prejudices as the rest of us. When the emperor’s peers reviewed his new (non-existent) clothing, they all saw that they were wonderful, beautiful and grand. It took a non-peer child to point out that the emperor had no clothes.

This past week our culture has had an enormous emperor’s clothes moment.


Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay and Helen Pluckrose (pictured, above) have put out a video that shows their ‘research’ over the past year. In order to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the peer-review system because of the cultural prejudice and bias within the academic system, these left-wing academics conducted a fascinating experiment. They submitted a number of spoof papers to academic journals for publication. Much to their astonishment seven were accepted.

These included one paper entitled Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon which argued that dog parks are “rape-condoning spaces”. In the video (see below) Boghossian, Lindsay and Pluckrose tell us that this particular paper was considered “excellent scholarship” although the reviewers were worried that they did not respect the dogs privacy!

Another hoax paper was entitled Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism and included a reworked section of Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

The most incredible and shocking was a paper entitled A Feminist Approach to Pedagogy which made ‘privileged’ students (ie white) sit on the floor and wear chains. If they objected to this treatment, they should be told they were only objecting because they were privileged!

This incident tells us a great deal about our contemporary culture. But it also contains some valuable lessons for the Church.

The General Culture

Postmodern culture is now our elitist culture and permeates through the general culture. The dumbing-down of society has not occurred among the working class as much as it has among the academic classes. It is the literary and arts establishments who are post-modern. It is a culture, as Nicholas Cofnas of the University of Oxford points out, of “hate, ignorance and pseudo philosophy”. By using language which only the ‘initiated’ can understand they set up studies in universities, paid for from the public purse, which feed a narrative that declares “only the experts can see this – if you can’t see it you are not an expert”.

If you don’t believe me, see this extract from the ‘dog parks’ paper: “Dog parks are microcosms where hegemonic masculinist norms governing queering behaviour and compulsory heterosexuality can be observed in a cross-species environment”!

Universities are increasingly becoming monoversities – where only one philosophy, one worldview is permitted. Many departments are staffed by those who share the same presuppositions and who would never question the new orthodoxy. If you dared, for example, to state that you believe being a woman does have something to do with biology, you would find yourself sent for re-education. If you denied the patriarchy and think that The Handmaids Tale is not history then you will need to take a bias training course. Likewise if you dare to say or even think that  ‘white privilege’ and systemic racism’ are not the cause of all that’s wrong in the world, you will be hounded. In many Western elitist universities you need not bother applying if you don’t accept the basic doctrines of cultural Marxism.

As our three intrepid researchers point out, social grievances are now being put ahead of objective truth. What are known as ‘grievance’ studies (such as feminist, gender studies, race, cultural, sexuality and Queer studies) result in what the researchers describe as “absurd and horrible ideas” being made sufficiently politically fashionable so that they are then validated at the highest level. These grievance scholars then greatly influence if not determine educational curricula and dominate politics and the media.

The Church Culture

Before we laugh too loud perhaps we need to take the beam out of our own eye? Some preachers and church leaders could teach our post-modern academics a thing or two about how to speak gobbledygook! Often on the same subjects that our cultural elites espouse.

What passes for ‘academic research’ in some Christian circles is laughable (which is not to say that academic research is unimportant but it is to say that we should not be fooled by poor academic research or by what is just foolishness in the guise of academic research). In terms of preaching I have heard meaningless waffle being lauded as deep and profound, just because the speaker had a reputation for being deep and profound. And which of us has not read ‘Christian’ teachers seeking to explain away what the Bible plainly says, in order to fit it with the zeitgeist of the wider culture?

Jesus was and is different. “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Mark 1:22). Perhaps we should follow his example?

As for a peer reviewed God? Since he is without peer, there is none that can review him. Can you by searching find out God? (Job 11:7)

Let the Holy Spirit have the last word.

“Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness’  and again, ‘The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.'” (1 Corinthians 1:20)

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  1. Fascinating. Universities have, in some establishments at least, given up wide and far ranging thought. having lectured in a University I can vouch for both good and bad traits and as you observe there is a ‘group think’ mentality especially in areas that should be welcoming fresh expressions and ideas. The social sciences sadly have become part of that shoddy expression, in many parts. Education being about indoctrination not education. Sad days.

  2. Superb article dear brother. You say “And which of us has not read ‘Christian’ teachers seeking to explain away what the Bible plainly says, in order to fit it with the zeitgeist of the wider culture?” May I suggest that this is what is happening when the Doctrine of Creation is discussed? A peripheral theological issue (one where several compelling views exist) but one where Scripture on the whole is woefully ignored or rejected by many, many ministers (and Christians) in favour of the perceived certainty of scientific research – scientific research that I would argue obviously reflects the “cultural prejudice and bias within the academic system”. The Golden Calf of Evolutionary Theory demands the certainty of an Old Universe and Earth to survive, so mainstream scientific community will allow no dissension or questioning on either of these topics. If we are truly following the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura then how do we explain the clear contradiction between Mark 10:6, Luke 11:49-50, Romans 1:19-20 and Isaiah 45:18 and the mainstream scientific community consensus that the world is 100’s of millions years old and the universe is 4.5 Billion years old? These verses should cause us to pause for reflection – Scripture and correct scientific findings should NEVER contradict each other. The intelligent, fascinating and valuable article by Dr Anthony Latham in this months Record says ‘It is certainly possible to hold with integrity the highest possible view of Scripture and at the same time believe in a very old universe,….’ Fair enough. So how about an article in next months Record dealing with the four Scripture verses above explaining what they mean and the logical implications of them regarding the Doctrine of Creation?

    1. Alasdair,
      when it comes to dating the age of the Universe, evolution is not so much a golden calf as a red herring. I’m a six day literalist: God created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh. If I ask what age Adam was on the day that he was created, only a pedant would insist that Adam was not even a day old. Just because Adam did not grow does not mean that he was not a grown man in the way that we use the expression. As it happens, we have no means of attributing a virtual age to Adam when God made him because the effects of the Fall were gradual, but then, it is sufficient for us to recognise that in our normal way of expressing it, Adam was years old when God made him.

      Similarly, give or take the margins of error involved, the Universe was putatively 4.5 billion years old in the week in which it was created.

      The verses you list have a purpose but that purpose is not to say how old the Earth was when it was created.


      1. Thanks brother, you make some really interesting points. I’d never thought of it in that way e.g. relating age of Universe to Adam being a full grown man when only a day old 🙂

  3. No academic believes peer review to be a flawless system, but it is the best system we have, unless you can suggest a better one?

    Personally I think that over – believing the apparent results of scientific research is less dangerous than not believing it enough.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “cultural Marxism” that sounds like a big scary phrase that doesn’t actually mean anything

    1. If you really don’t know what cultural Marxism is, perhaps you should look it up and do some reading on it. I have referred to many articles on the subject. It does exist….and it is powerful…

      1. I’ve seen the phrase used a lot. It seems quite nebulous to me. If you are unable to define it then that confirms my thoughts about it.

      2. I’m perfectly able to define it – and indeed have done so. But I can’t be bothered wasting my time doing so again for you – either you know what it is and are wasting my time by lying…or you don’t know what it is and are wasting my time by commenting and dismissing on something you admit you know nothing about.

  4. Its interesting but there some other things to consider before we conclude how important this is:

    1. The wrote 20 hoax papers. All 20 were rejected by the top journals. Even in the more suspect, obscure journals only published seven of them. Proper academic did well in weeding out the hoaxes here.

    2. Every academic can list the multitude of problems peer review process. (reviewers are overworked and unpaid). So bad processes let bad research slip through). Note that the conclusion of the reviewers isnt actually to do review processes properly and better.

    3. This, at its very worst, is an indictment of the editors of the journals that did publish. Nothing at all can be concluded about real research done by other people and published in proper journals. Or even the journals that did publish this research.

    4. Its actually a very poor methodology. So their claim of being researchers or academics is suspect. They did not publish any hoax papers in non-“academic-grievance” fields. So there is no control study which is important in science. There is no reason to think that journals would publish a hoax paper in racial studies journals than, say, a physics journal. Look up the Bogdanov Affair for an example of this.

    5. Bad research gets published all the time. In all kinds of journals. And always has. For example other actual papers that have been published in bad journals have included “Strippers get higher tips when they’re ovulating” or “Evolution proves that black women are ugly”.

    6. Rich white male professors are signed up by corporations to produce pro-corporate research but no, thats not the problem with academia. Gender and Race Studies are the problem……

    7. The difference, of course, being that all the bad research supports the status quo, so it passes without comment or acceptance. But as soon as field of study starts critiquing the status quo, then suddenly bad reseach is a huge problem. What a coincidence.

    8. This actual hoax study is a very poor piece of research. No controls. Biased authors, data not supporting conclusions. If you value science, you will reject this study.

    9. Academia is predicated on the base assumption that everyone is operating in good faith. It tends to break down when someone just starts to make stuff up. How is that the fault of academia? How is that a fault of anyone but the hoaxers.

    10. This hoax proves nothing except that troll hoaxers are troll hoaxers.

  5. It didnt take long to allege that the entirety of earth and evolutionary science is suspect, did it? Alasdair’s problem – and he brings this up at every opportunity – is his profound misunderstanding not only of science, and geology in particular – is his profound ignorance of the history of earth science. This goes back way past modern and 20th century geologists to 19th century geologists (some Christian) such as Murchison, Agassiz, Lyell and Miller, and 18th century geologists like Buckland and Hutton. The origins of geology as a science actually go back even further to Nicholas Steno who discovered the law of superposition. The suggestion the earth is very old goes back to at least the 18th century and has been verified time and time again. It’s all very well insisting on your ‘openness to truth’ but refusing to acknowledge 300 years of scientific discovery is not openness to truth. It’s ignorance and arrogance.

    On the matter on David’s article, that particular fraud is well known. Indeed there are other cases. It mainly affects pseudo-academic disciplines in the social sciences more than the much more rigorous peer review found in the hard sciences. Frequently the papers concerned amount to unsubstantiated waffle that happens to fit a particularly faddish ideology. Perhaps the journals in which they are published justify their inclusion as talking pieces. Science journals have little interest in anything that can’t be falsified. Actually it’s extremely difficult to get any paper published in the major science journals like Nature and its US equivalent, Science, or in leading discipline specific journals. Any number of friends and colleagues involved in science research will affirm that.

    So can please drop the assumption that anything goes, that science editors are interested only in what confirms their existing point of view? Can we drop the nonsense about earth sciences and move on. It makes Christianity look rather silly. And no, I do not as a professional geologist ‘have my nose in the trough’ as has been suggested previously.

    1. Alex,
      you are right to take offense at nose-in-the-trough insinuations; and you are absolutely right to point out the more-rigorous standards in the hard sciences. Your reminder that Christians were in the forefront of 19th century geological investigation is well-placed here because Scots Presbyterians ought neither forget their heritage nor be ashamed of it.

      However, hard scientists have been involved in denying peer reviewed status to intelligent design papers so that the pretence can be perpetuated that ID is ipso facto unscientific. This is lazy, unfair, and counterproductive. Hard science publishing might be immune from anything like the grievance studies debacle but there still are cases to answer.


      1. Hi John, thanks for your initial comments which I appreciate. This is an important matter that deserves to be thought about. Not creationsm or ID per se but the matter of alleged bias in acdemic publishing. I cannot speak for the humanities, certainly not gender studies, and can comment only on science. But while the thing isn’t about creationism precisely, tye debate about creationism/ID illustrates the point very well.

        There are good reasons why ID isn’t generally discussed in the scientific literature; at least not in that pertaining to the disciplines most directly involved. You may well find discussion in journals more concerned with the philosophy of science or even the history of science. I think that’s where the subject belongs. Crucially, ID is not discussed because it’s a theory that has had its day. In one form or another, ID has been around at least since Paley. As is well known ,Darwin had a great respect for Paley but Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection stands opposed to Paley’s position. Darwin’s theory works. It has been tested again and again. It makes both testable successful predictions about what we might expect to find in biology and retrodictions about what we might expect to find in the fossil world. Moreover, like many good science theories evidence from various fields – geology and palaeontology, biology and genetics, biochemistry – converge in their support. ID gives us nothing new; it rehashes old ground. YEC does that to the nth degree as I have already intimated. The diluvialism resurrected by Morris and Whitcomb in the 60sis almost identical to the diluvialism that was rejected by geologists in the 18th century. I would no more expect to see YEC discussed in science journals than i would phlogiston. I’m afraid the same is true of ID. The terminology may be more modern but its essence belongs to a former age.

        I expect I don’t need to point out that a scientific theory is not merely a tentative hypothesis, something that may or may not be true, but an explanatory framework – Popper goes as fat as to suggest a ‘metaphysic’ that provides a holistic narrative for understanding reality, a narrative that is both supported objectively and one that possess fecundity in suggesting a direction for further investigation. ID simply does not do that. This leads on to the second issue with ID. It is not science. This has been argued by many authors. SJ Gould, who was far readier to admit the possibility of theological explanation than Dawkins makes precisely this point.

        The reason why ID cannot be considered science is that it ignores the very nature of science in that science concerns itself only with second causes, as the Westminster Confession calls them. The WCF is actually quite useful at this point. “Although, in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, te first Cause, all things come to pass immutably, and infallibly; yet, by the same providece, He ordereth them to fall out, according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.” Science is about second causes or, to put it crudely, science does not do God. It’s as Laplace is reputed to have said regarding his Celestial Mechanics and its absence of reference to God: “I had no need of that hypothesis”. To put it more formally, science works by methodological materialism. This is not to say that God may not be first Cause (very many scientists that are theists believe that God is the first Cause) but that God is not a scientifically testable hypothesis. This brings us back to fecundity, Scientifically speaking, ID is a dead end. It relies on the very unsatisfactory concept of irreducible complexity. Like Paley and his watch, it proceeds on the premise that it appears incredible that a particular complex structure, haemoglobin and the cilia of a paramecium or even, with Paley, the human eye, are too complex to have come about by natural selection. Ultimately, however, this is an appear to credulity. It’s saying that because a particular individual can see no mechanism, no mechanism exists. Therefore, God must have been responsible. You’ll appreciate why researchers find this unsatisfacory. In cosmology the question of why there is something rather than nothing is probably a philosophical one, But that doesn’t stop cosmologists wanting to go back as close to the Big Bang as is possible, even beyond the so-called Planck time at 1E-42 seconds, an impossibly small interval of time. There’s more to say but for now the answer to the question of why ID is not discussed in science journals is that it doesn’t belong there. That’s not to say that the proposition God created everything isn’t a reasonable one, just that it’s not a proposition amenable to the scientific methodolgy. There is no need to posit some sort of anti-God conspiracy.

        To suggest that the scientific community has educated itself to imbecility as Michael suggests is both unhelpful and very unfair. Academic science is tough. Working as I do in consulting, life is relatively easy for me. Not so for academics. They face constant pressure to to produce very high quality work likely to be published in international journals without which they’re unable to secure funding for their next project. Perhaps Michael might like to pick up one of the top journals such as Nature. I personally take five earth science journals. They contain highly technical papers typically of international interest. It commonly takes two years or more to get published. It shouldn’t need to be said (it does need to be said) that magazines like Scientific American or New Scientist are not academic journals. They are popular magazines in which the articles are written for a non-technical audience. I take New Scientist every week. Frankly it’s pretty dumbed down. But it’s interesting enough and provdes a couple of hours entertainment on a Saturday morning. Science Comic.

        A great deal of the criticism leveled at scientists by Christians convinced the scientific community spends its waking hours dreaming up reasons against God betrays a very poor understanding of what scientists do and how peer review works. It’s exciting to study God’s works in nature but I come back to the WCF. We’re dealing with second causes. Science is interested only in second causes. Faith in God as creator does not come from science. It comes from scripture and from a personal experience of God in Christ. It comes through faith. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen…By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible”.

      2. What you say about the difficulties of Academic publication, Alex,
        needs to be put out there continually (dare I say it) as a grievance. It is far easier to get Science confused with Scientific American than it is to confuse Nature and New Scientist but one has to hope that those who fund science projects are able to tell the difference.
        (A long time ago, a teacher of mine went with a friend to a job interview which was being conducted in some college or other at the same time as lots of other interviews. Not being newly qualified teachers, the two interviewees went for a cup of tea into the refrectory that was really supposed to be used by interviewers. A man sat by them and complained that he had been interviewing people all morning although it had been quite obvious from the outset who would get the Job. ‘Why had it been so obvious?’ he was asked and he said that they had given the job to the chap with the Ordinary Degree rather than to any of the others who only had Honours Degrees; for after all: ‘We’re not going to give a job to someone who’s been given his certificate for doing nothing when we could give it to someone who actually worked for it.’) The solution is obviously not to eliminate interviews. Education, education, education. Similarly no one is going to eliminate peer review.

        Your point about ID being discussed under philosophy of science or history of science is well observed. What happens when an influential philosopher like Thomas Nagel says that ID is being left out on philosophical grounds rather than scientific? (Mind & Cosmos) If, for example, credible challenges to the Central Dogma don’t get published in peer reviewed journals then they don’t get creditable rebuttals or assessments (Cf. “A unicorn in the garden”, Franklin W. Stahl, Nature volume 335, pages 112–113 (08 September 1988) for a negative assessment of such a challenge.) It is patently unfair that ‘design’ notions are ghettoised by the main scientific community when Dawkins, in The Greatest Show on Earth mocks the design of the vertebrate eye. (To my mind, Dawkins completely fails to take Murphy’s law into account and his suggested, optimised misimprovement could have had disasterous consequences in the real world.)

        If it were true that ID just gives us Paley’s Evidences rehashed then I would be closer to agreeing with you than I am. Darwin saw imperfection in a world that ought to be perfect if Paley’s argument was correct. Where I come from, the point of breeding pigeons is to get one that will fly better than the others but Darwin joined pigeon clubs where some of the pigeon fanciers were only interested in breeding for features that prohibited flight and in both cases the method of producing the desired effect is artificial selection. So, in order to clear God of the blame for imperfections — his example for discussions with Lylle was the increasing misshapenness of his own nose — Darwin proposed a mechanism of natural selection and the rest is Natural History.

        As a side effect of explaining why the world is less than perfect — Paley’s Natural Theology was lacking a sufficient doctrine of the Fall although that would also have explained imperfections — Darwin’s theodicy did away with teleology. ID is saying that as well as natural selection, some other process — a teleological one — must be operating to explain seemingly irreducible complexity. It seems to me that some irrational numbers dictate the shape of many species both of plants and of animals in a teleological manner and it is a moot point whether those effects should be called ‘teleological’ or ‘seemingly teleological.’

        Since you’ve mentioned Young Earth Creationism, I am impressed that any witch hunt is far less vigorously pursued than many science watchers would like it to be. Again, it seems to me that the discovery of dinosaur soft tissue has set the cat among the pigeons and I expect, no matter what happens, I’m going to have to change my mind about what I think happened after the Flood sometime within the next year. Exciting times.

        Every now and then even the hard sciences need an injection of good old Scottish Common Sense Realism, but not as often as do the fringe ‘disciplines’ of social science.


  6. A poem attributed to many sources , but one which I learned in school and may or may not help our understanding

    “He who knows not,
    and knows not that he knows not,
    is a fool; shun him.

    He who knows not,
    and knows that he knows not,
    is a student; Teach him.

    He who knows,
    and knows not that he knows,
    is asleep; Wake him.

    He who knows,
    and knows that he knows,
    is Wise; Follow him.”

    “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

    I believe that this speaker is someone who knows , and Knows He Knows !

  7. Umbrage has been taken even without drawing any distinction at all between qualitative and quantitative schools, social sciences and other sciences.
    Surely, there is an awareness that Sir Muir Grey was instrumental in setting up the Cochrane Library for the NHS in the UK as he was concerned about the poor peer review of scientific papers, including non/inadequate disclosure of conflict of interests .
    There is also the question of funding for research and how some subjects/topics are more likely than others to receive funding.
    I’d also suggest, that culture is more generally, on questions of morals and ethics, to be influenced by the type of subject matter that that has been highlighted by the hoxes. In fact, these types of so called research areas are more likely to more likely to attract popular level publicity, than other sciences and in doing so are swamping natural sciences, such as gender, grievances, queer theory, so much so that they are being ignored.
    Getting a third of articles published is not insignificant – even if in backwater journals.
    I’m not a scientist, but as an undergraduate studied philosophy as part of Jurisprudence component of an LLB. It din’t take long to realise that obfuscation of language frequently covered obfuscation of a simple idea as a way to set and preserve academic status. It carries on through many academic theologians who seek to hide their atheism, their unbelief.
    Am I right in saying that to achieve a Doctorate, methodology and marshalling processes is more important than the conclusion .

  8. I often see in real life Malcolm Muggeridge’s words, “…having educated himself into imbecility…” Today’s “academia” is sure suspect.

  9. Im pretty sure John that science funders know the difference between Science and Scientific American. Like Nature, Science is a peer reviewed academic journal with a global reach that publishes only the very best original research albeit with a US bias. Scientific American is, like NS, a popular news magazine. Only those with no familiarity with one or.both confuse them. More than once those arguing for creationism in either its YEC or ID form have revealed their ignorance in this regard.

    I rather support the notion that ID is pursued rigorously. It has no place in any science journal beyond notice as a sociological phenomenon. One reason is that it suggests few or no avenues for future research; it’s necessarily a dead end. Scientists aren’t interested in ‘God did it and that’s an end of it’. Those that believe in God wish to know how. The claim the structure of haemoglobin is irreducibly complex is precisely the same argument used by Paley. Fundamentally it ignores the scientific methodology and so is not science. Almost invariably it starts with the proposition of God as creator and then searches for evidence. Practitioners in the field are already theists. This is hardly objective and to that extent papers espousing ID are little better than the fraudulent social science papers David highlighted. Far too often, social science papers merely pursue ideology. Their use of statistics can be woeful. I’m happy to concede this for papers on LGBT as something in which I have a personal interest. I take a different view to David but hope I do so without the need to bolster my position with poorly executed studies.

    ID has fundamental problems, not least in that it’s unnecessary. We already have a perfectly workable theory of evolution that continues to find further support in new evidence, not least amazingly preserved fossil remains. In Darwin’s day the fossil record was very poorly represented. It’s probably true to say that even now we know about only the tiniest fraction of all the life that ever existed but equally many of Darwin’s elusive ‘missing links’ (an inaccurate term) have been found – just as he predicted.

    You don’t need to scratch far below the surface to realise that the living world is not intelligently designed. On the contrary it looks rather unintelligently designed in its inefficiency and clumsiness, not to mention its wastefulness. ID is unable to deal with this.

    There may be something of a crisis in the way some academic disciplines are researched and taught. This may be especially true of the social sciences. I’m not as naive not to think there may be problems in the hard sciences, not least in that the direction of research is usually as determined by commercial interests as by strictly academic ones. So-valled Big Pharma may be a case in point. It’s well known that poorly designed studies and censoring of data can be pretty endemic. But we don’t help by finding conspiracies where there are none. ID has no place in science for the reasons I gave. It is no more scientific than phlogiston…or Paley. These ideas have had their day.

    1. How could you possibly know some of these things, Alex?
      unless you’d looked at far more ID papers — not available in your local library of course — than a consultant geologist would ever have need or desire to do.
      For instance you allege:

      Almost invariably it starts with the proposition of God as creator and then searches for evidence.

      Is that so? I don’t know whether or not it is true but you saying it isn’t makes me want to find out.
      Let’s suppose for a moment it isn’t true, or at least not demonstrably true. Here’s a schoolboy who goes where you’ve told him not to bother going and he concludes that things don’t appear to be as you say. Either he concludes that the IDers have hidden their creationist agenda better than you claim or his trust in Science is undermined, maybe for good.
      Similarly, how could you possibly know that

      it suggests few or no avenues for future research

  10. Im afraid there are a few typos in my comments. My excuse is that I was typing on my phone rather than a laptop. I support the notion ID ibe *not* pursued in science. If folk want to fund it, fine. But don’t expect any of the well recognised authorities in naturalism (as a science) to do so. Anyway you picked up what my position is so it doesn’t matter that much.

    I don’t understand your reference to a schoolboy. The problem with ID, even assuming God is indeed ultimately responsible for the created world – a view I share with all the theist faiths – is simply science’s self-imposed methodological naturalism. Science does not look for super-natural explanations. It’s not saying that there might not be a supernatural reason why there is something rather than nothing and it’s unable to adjudicate on the Reformed doctrine of providence, a doctrine in which I find great comfort in amongst the chaos of life in an imperfect world. But it’s a doctrine I receive in faith from scripture. To that extent, S.J. Gould’s idea of non-overlapping magisteria has much to commend it although I’m not pursuaded NOMA is the whole truth.

    The reason ID is unable to make testable predictions or suggest avenues for further researchis really very simple. As I’ve said already, the concept of irreducible complexity (which is integral to ID) is a dead end. Surely you see there is no difference between Paley’s watch on a heath (I have read it) and the alleged irreducible complexity of haemoglobin, for example. The ID argument is that this molecule essential to life was created as it stands, in toto. It has no history beyond God’s miraculous involvement. Were that true, why would you ever bother to look for precursors? In fact there are possible precursors just as there are precursors to the human eye. Ultimately these possible evolutionary explanations must be tentative but an argument based simply on credulity- Michael Behe is convinced no route exists – simply won’t do. Similarly that we don’t currently know what happened before 1E-42 seconds after the Big Bang doesn’t imply we shouldn’t investigate and even speculate. We want to understand God’s works as best we can.

    Personally I find several reasons for my view that belief in God is at least credible but ID isn’t one of them. Frankly, I find a faith based on an approach to science that asks merely “how to you know…” rather unappealing. It has the appearance of desperation. I’m.a theistic evolutionist like very many scientists that are also Christians; this despite the considerable difficulies the natural world presents in terms of its profligacy and apparent cruelty. Incidentally, I specialised in palaeontology and evolution in my honours year, admittedly a long time ago, so know more about the evidence for evolution than you suppose a mere ‘consultant geologist’ might do. It was a luxury I was able to enjoy because, unlike my colleagues that needed to do something more useful, I wasn’t at that time intending to pursue a career in geology. I was intending to go on to study a PGDip in theology. That’s another story. Please don’t patronise.

    What has this to do with David’s blog? The social.sciences are somewhat in crisis. They want to apply empirical methods to the study of human populations. By itself that’s not a bad idea. At one level it’s entirely reasonable to assume that groups of people with broadly similar characteristics behave in broadly similar ways. So the social sciences strive to apply statistics – a scientific rather than mathematical discipline – to populations. On the other hand there are far more variables affecting behaviour than is sometimes admitted. The behaviour of groups is people is complex and unpredictable. It’s not obvious that even probabalistic methods are that useful. To that extent, and despite their well-intentioned attempts, is onto a hiding to nothing. You find apparently research based academic papers full of statistics that claim statistically significant correlations that are nothing of the sort. I’ve read, and sometimes critiqued, dozens of such papers – even papers that on the face of it support my own pre-held views. What has this to do with evolution and ID? The common factor is surely personhood and the fact persons are unpredictable. The social sciences strive for the impossible. One can’t blame them – it’s a laudable endeavour – but in the end it doesn’t work. The papers I read claim LGBTQ people behave in one way, evangelical Christians in another. Too simple
    That doesn’t necessarily negate the search for common denominators but it makes it less likely they will be found. So we find theories of behaviour accepted with little or no empirical support mainly on the basis they happen to resonate with some pre-held worldview. Peggy McIntosh’s dreadful paper on so-called ‘white (male) privilege’ is a case in point. What does she know of the alleged privilege of ordinary people? She’s at the pinnacle of US aristocracy. Her view is entirely subjective. And papers on ID appeal to those that already believe in God or a god. They are subjective. You’re theist, fine. So am I. But to claim scientific evidence for my believe is not only to abuse science (and faith), it’s downright dishonest. As a scientist, I don’t do God. I do God because I believe theism provides a reasonable worldview based on science only in the loosest sense possible. It’s not without its (sometimes very significant) difficulties. To claim otherwise is again dishonest. I can no more provide empirical evidential support for my belief than Peggy McIntosh can for hers. I live with that. It’s fine. ‘You ask me how I know he lives? He lives within my heart’. My advice is to abandon ID and satisfy yourself with Heb 11:1 – 3. (Actually something the admirable Prof Donald Macleod often said to me when my own fairh was in crisis.)

    1. As it happens, Alex,
      your typo did throw me off course but I thought you were saying that ID should be ‘pursued’ in the sense of ‘hunting it down.’ As David was saying at the head of this article, the pseudoscientific fastidiousness of secularists who ‘can’t’ discuss anything that hasn’t been peer reviewed is a current annoyance in far too many debates. My how-could-you-possibly-know cheek was meant to patronise, not you but the ID troll whose response to any disagreement with your anti-ID statement would be that something that hasn’t been peer reviewed is beyond the pale of reasonable discussion.

      Since I’m actually not an ID follower and you’re not actually an anti-ID troll, there probably isn’t a great deal more milage in discussing it now. But thanks for the discussion. I only got to do a year of geology because I failed chemistry in my first year at Dundee; but I loved it and, even now it’s very refreshing to talk to a real geologist.


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