Lack of Empirical, Hypothesis-Driven Productivity in ID

Great! Let’s all keep that in mind.

To be blunt, you call yourself an ID theorist, yet AFAIK you have yet to advance an actual, testable theory or hypothesis. Why?

I agree. Who exactly is stopping that?

And (again bluntly), what’s up with the weird verb “pursue” instead of “test”? “Pursuing” or “exploring” a hypothesis is a sure sign that one is afraid to actually test one’s hypothesis. It usually results in one’s NIH grant application being triaged for being descriptive and/or incremental.

Let’s pursue a design hypothesis. It’s easy!

@agauger has recently modified her own design hypothesis, clearly stated here:
“So unless functional sequences are easy to find (very common), and/or are clustered together (easily reachable from one functional island to another), explaining current protein diversity without design is impossible.”

She’s desperately trying to use Doug Axe’s extrapolation of one in 10^77 for functional proteins in sequence space from a poorly designed, one-off experiment as an anchor.

So in response to my pointing out to her that in hundreds/thousands of trials, desired enzyme activities can be found in libraries of antibodies of only 10^8 clones, to save her hypothesis she has further hypothesized that something about the system being designed and the low enzymatic activity makes that high frequency an artifact.

Her objections makes no sense, but we can work with it anyway!

I, on the other hand, hypothesize that the hit rate for catalytic antibodies is an underestimate, and that the low activity is a product of the constraint imposed by antibody structure.

Do YOU, eminent ID Theorist, see nicely competing, testable hypotheses there?


Then what’s stopping you? Right now IDists (most notably the DI) spend virtually 100% of their time and money attacking existing evolutionary theory instead of testing their own hypotheses. That also direct their attacks on existing science not to other scientists but towards the lay public. If ID is a legitimate scientific field why does ID produce nothing but political propaganda aimed at public opinion?

None of those posit supernatural intervention to produce real world observable phenomena. Please don’t insult us with the standard dodge “ID is about the Design, not the Designer” bullcrap. In every field of investigation identifying the Designer is one of the top priorities.



Lack of empirical, hypothesis-driven productivity is the best reason I know for rejecting ID. Why take the risk if ID has nothing of its own to offer? A graduate school friend of mine, Sahotra Sarkar of the philosophy of science and biology programs at UT-Austin, wrote an entire book, Doubting Darwin (Blackwell, 2007), with that objection as its main theme. The problem with ID, he said, is not that it violates some ground rule of science, such as methodological naturalism (MN). (Sarkar is an atheist, but he rejects MN, incidentally.)

The problem, said Sarkar, is that once ID rejects MN, it doesn’t give us anything in return.

Ann is working on several really interesting research projects, but this forum is the last place on Earth where she would discuss them. Bitter experiences in our group (e.g., one of our research team had a genetics book contract pending with Wiley until his ID associations became known, and Wiley pulled the plug just as the contract was going to be finalized). Same for me, although I would like to talk about our orphan and taxonomically restricted gene research, as an ID hypothesis, after it’s published.

Publications first, chitchat second. :wink:


It certainly is mine.

My question to you had nothing to do with Ann’s research projects. It was about our discussion. Therefore, that entire paragraph of your reply makes no sense in the context I presented.

You didn’t really answer my blunt question.

I don’t know. Sounds like @pnelson agrees with your critique.

Why call one’s self an “ID theorist” then?

Yes, as a movement it doesn’t, but the competing hypotheses of @agauger and myself are both testable by the same experiment:

Catalytic antibodies are structurally constrained and must function in the context of the immunoglobulin (Ig) fold.

If their prevalence is representative of the prevalence of function in sequence space, if we experimentally release them from that constraint by adding random sequence on each end, at the end of several selection cycles we should observe that enzymatic activities are significantly greater than those of the parent catalytic antibodies that were selected as antibodies.

If their prevalence is not representative of the prevalence of function in sequence space (for virtually any reason, including those offered by @Agauger and @bjmiller), if we experimentally release them from that constraint by adding random sequence on each end, at the end of several selection cycles we should observe that enzymatic activities are the same or lower than those of the parent catalytic antibodies that were selected as antibodies.

“You didn’t really answer my blunt question.”

I did, but you didn’t like my answer. Too subtle, I guess.

So let’s try again. “AFAIK” is the key to your puzzlement. I learned through bitter experience (my ontogenetic depth proposal) NOT to talk about hypotheses until they could at least stand on their own two feet in a hostile environment.

AFAIK, from my perspective, is exactly right. As far as you (John Mercer) know, Paul Nelson is not doing anything with ID to make predictions, develop sub-theories, whatever.

And I’m perfectly happy to have you believe that.

True story. As a 2nd year graduate student, I attended the first-ever two week workshop on molecular evolution, organized by Mitch Sogin, at Woods-Hole MBL. Prior to traveling to Cape Cod, I made the mistake of telling a friend, the atheist activist Bob Schadewald, that I was going. Bob told a biologist on the faculty at the Univ. of Minnesota, who, in turn, told Sogin.

During a meeting to discuss the workshop t-shirt, which I designed, Sogin took it upon himself to let everyone know that a “creationist,” whom he didn’t name, was attending the workshop. He said this just as I was walking up to the group. “He might even be here right now,” said Sogin, as I walked up.

One would have to be unconscious not to make the obvious inference.

Ask Sogin. September 1988, Paul Nelson. He’ll remember.

So some caution is well-deserved among our rebel band.

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Sorry, I’m not puzzled.

So (bluntly, as you like it) in your entire career, with one exception, none of your hypotheses have managed to escape your brain to be distributed to the world. Correct?

For the one possible exception, in what way was your ontogenetic depth proposal a hypothesis?

Why would hypotheses have to stand? This suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of science on your part.

I would have to change the tense of “is not doing anything” to “has not done anything” for it to be responsive to my question. Would that still be correct?

I’m glad you’re happy. What do YOU believe?

Or some testable hypotheses and some empirical results from testing them, even if they were wrong. :wink:

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@agauger’s statement is not a scientific statement… it is a theological one.

It should not be treated as a scientific assertion.

Part of the disconnection between the scientific community and the ID community is that the ID community either is ignorant of or ignores the standard path that theories take in science. Before a theory is accepted you first need peer reviewed primary papers. These papers need to contain positive evidence from original research. The scientific community does not accept ID as science because it lacks publications.

This divide widens whenever ID theorists complain about perceived persecution. A great example of what I am talking about is this recent article from ENV:

When It Comes to Origins Science, Is PNAS Really “Ready When You Are”?

Of interest is this section:

This demonstrates either a purposeful ignorance of what PNAS is and how journals work, or an inexcusable ignorance of what science is. PNAS is a JOURNAL. Journals publish papers. Journals don’t “follow the evidence”. Journals PUBLISH THE EVIDENCE. It is up to the scientific community to read the papers and follow the evidence.

The ID community could take an honest and humble path and say, “They are right. We need to publish some papers”. Bud do they? No. Instead, the admonition to publish science is replaced by complaints about perceived persecution. What is that persecution? It is fellow scientists pointing out that ID is not science because it LACKS PUBLICATIONS.

I truly believe that there are people within the ID movement that understand how this should work. I wish their voices were louder, and were heeded.


I disagree. However, that really doesn’t matter.

If functional sequences are easy to find and/or clustered together, the theological nature of her conclusion is irrelevant.

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