Is this how ID Creationists think science is done?

A discussion here on the much-hyped but now ignored (except by creationist propagandists) 2016 meeting by the British Royal Society “New Trends in Biological Evolution” was just closed. In this discussion it was pointed out why this conference has failed to produce any effect on how scientists understand evolutionary theory: Pretty well all of the ideas that were presented there as being revolutionary new breakthroughs that would lead to a paradigm shift in biology turned out to be old ideas that had already been incorporated into orthodox evolutionary theory for years if not decades.

In response to this, one of the defenders of ID Creationism, @Eddie, offered the following arguments:

I made no personal or professional attack on Futuyma. In fact, I’m predisposed to like Futuyma, because he reads lots of books on evolutionary theory. Most of the people here appear to have read nothing but articles on it.

And later he writes:

And how many of the people bellyaching here have read any of (the papers from the conference that were published online)? And are the discussions on the floor also found online? And how about all the private side-discussions that inevitably occur and conferences like that? Are they online, too?

Is this how ID creationists think science is practiced? Do they think a proper understanding of the most up to date findings is obtained by reading books, and not articles in the peer-reviewed press? Is the essential data declared during questions from the floor during meetings, or muttered in secret in the hallways and restrooms at scientific meetings, never again to see the light of day?

If so, it might explain why ID Creationism has so utterly failed as a scientific enterprise: Its proponents and apologists do not understand how science is actually practiced in the modern world.


Claiming its failed has been said since it appeared. in fact you feel the need to diss it BECAUSE its alive and well. Conclusions about origins move through human beings. On this blog, papers(are these real papers made of wood) and books and anything that reaches intelligent interested audiences.
Creationism is more of a story and a threat today then ever since it was just presumed.

Hee hee. Sure, Robert. Sure.

How is science practiced, and how, best, are those of us not engaged in the practice of science best to learn? What are your recommendations?

Science is practiced by scientists doing work, writing it up, and publishing it. For the most part, that publication is found in scientific journals. Books, less often. Unpublished discussions are important in so far as they result, eventually, in actual publications.

Not clear what it is you are asking about learning here. How science is done? How to access the results?


Faizal posted a critique including what not to do and expressed that because of such it was clear to him that certain proponents and apologists did not understand how science was done and, seemingly, how to glean the critical information from the science that was properly done. I’m merely asking how one who is not a practitioner is to acquire and learn from the most-critical information.

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That’s a problem. The actual information is in those hard-to-read scientific papers, and popularizations are of uneven quality. That goes double for science journalism and web sites. The best bet, if you can, is to ask an expert in the field to recommend a popular source.

I’m not completely sure that Faizal didn’t misunderstand what Eddie was saying or that you didn’t misunderstand Faizal’s criticism. There may be some talking past each other in various parts of this discussion. But I would recommend Futuyma.


Thanks, and you could be right about your assessment of the conversation, John. That said, Futuyma’s Evolution arrived today and I’m looking forward to digging in.

Sometimes Robert is dead-on correct in his blanket statements.Yes, for years people have said that anti-evolution propaganda has been a scientific failure (though not necessarily a political failure.)

Robert, do you consider it impossible that some people “diss it” because it has dismally failed to establish its claims by means of valid evidence and analysis?

Seriously? Like a high-fiber breakfast?

Perhaps you mean Young Earth Creationism. (Obviously, creationism per se is not in conflict with evolutionary biology. Creationism simply asserts that God created everything.) Robert, I will agree that YECism is more of a “story” than a scientific claim based on valid evidence. That’s the problem. Unfortunately, I must agree with you that some segments of the Young Earth Creationist community within the USA have indeed become a threat to quality science education in our public schools and to various aspects of public health (such as some YECs who have opposed childhood vaccinations.)


Eddie repeatedly insists that this is true, although I suspect that he knows it to be false.

Of course, at the highest levels, there’s not a great need for reading papers, because if one goes to meetings and seminars, one gets the latest scoops without reading and by directly examining the evidence.

I suggest starting with the books, then reading review articles (which, btw, are not usually peer-reviewed). If your eyes haven’t completely glazed over by then, proceed to the primary scientific literature. Typically, papers behind paywalls can be obtained by emailing the corresponding author and requesting a PDF.

Avoid the popular press, even the popular scientific press. That goes quadruple for university press releases.


To be clear, I have nothing against learning science from books. That’s the best way, even considering @John_Harshman’s caveats, for amateurs like myself to learn. Blogs from good science communicators are also good ways to keep up on the latest. (I’ve personally learned a great deal from Larry Moran’s “Sandwalk” blog.

I am simply taking issue with @Eddie’s ludicrous statement that the sign of someone who is well-informed of current scientific thought is that he reads “books” rather than “articles.” This indicates that his incomprehension does not just narrowly involve evolutionary biology, but science as a whole.


Okay, so Eddie put the emphasis on the books and you put the emphasis on the articles. Is that the point of this thread? Eddie never said to read books but not articles. He said that he respected Futuyma because he reads both, but some read just one. Ironically, you two are in complete agreement:

Clearly, as John Mercer said, and you echoed, books are good for a strong foundation and articles are great as well.

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I think it is the other way around. Articles are critical for a strong foundation, and books can be helpful sometimes too.


That’s ludicrous… :slight_smile:

Is this how you scientists think that science gets done? No wonder you’re mired in the Dark Ages… Seriously, that’s fine. The point above, however, being that no one would dare to leave out one or the other in terms of them being fundamental to a well-rounded education and understanding.

That is not true. Most of what scientists do entirely ignores book. The vast majority of scientific work is not books, and when it is, it is years too late to be useful to our practice in most cases.

Yes, science seems ludicrous to non-scientists. This is how it works.


Well, then, I’ll send the Futuyma book back with a note that it was unnecessary. A little late with that one, weren’t you??

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There are exceptions to every rule. Producing an exception does not negate the fact that the vast majority of what we do ignores books entirely.


You aren’t very funny on Sunday mornings…

(EDIT: Did you miss me while I was away?? :slight_smile: )


One resource I lean on is:

Go here. In the search bar, enter your query (if it is a phrase, remember to put in in quotes), then AND, then review. (Example - “poly(A) polymerase” AND review.) The search will point you to a range of current (and not so current, if you are inclined) review articles that can give you an up-to-date overview, lots of recent results (that are not to be found in books), and, for some articles, a nice discussion of controversies and open questions.