God seekers go public
By NEW SCIENTIST
Added: Mon, 12 May 2008 23:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Graham Dolby for the link.
God seekers go public
Over a year ago I visited an organisation called the Biologic Institute, then a shadowy outfit devoted to the search for scientific evidence for Intelligent Design.
When I finally found the lab in Seattle, Washington, the scientists would not talk to me. The next day, when I showed up at Biologic's second office in nearby Redmond, I had the door slammed in my face.
Now however, it seems that Biologic has had a change of heart: it has gone public with a website telling the public all about what it is doing:
"The scientists of Biologic Institute are developing and presenting the scientific case for intelligent design in biology. Biologic brings together experts in molecular biology, biophysics and biochemistry, bioinformatics and genomics, astrobiology, and engineering and information science in order to examine the question of design from all angles, the aim being to build a comprehensive and coherent picture."
When I visited, I was told the reason for the secrecy was that Biologic's scientists were simply not ready to discuss their science. But now Biologic has a whole list of papers that they claim contain evidence for ID. Some are dated 2008 and 2007, others are much older.
Furthermore, according to a press release announcing Biologic, which was sent out by the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, which has provided the funding to get Biologic up and running, "scientists have been quietly and patiently working in the laboratory to test the predictions of intelligent design".
I imagine that almost all scientists will continue to be highly sceptical of the idea that ID can be proved in the lab. For a start, the list of papers reminds me of at least two papers written by Douglas Axe, the director of the Biologic Institute, in 2000 and 2004. Those papers were peer-reviewed, made no mention of ID but were subsequently quoted as being "evidence for ID" by ID proponents. Other biologists have since said that this is most certainly not what the papers showed.
Secondly, in December 2006 I spoke to two researchers who previously worked with two of Biologic's scientists. One of them, Larry Goldstein, now at the University of California, San Diego, supervised Ann Gauger's post-doc at Harvard University. He expressed surprise when he learned of her association with the anti-evolution movement.
Meanwhile Alan Fersht, whom Axe worked for at the University of Cambridge in the 1990s, was less surprised. But he cited previous attempts by Axe to interpret results from their lab as evidence for ID, which he said were not the scientific interpretation for those results. Both Goldstein and Fersht are among the authors of the papers now listed on Biologic's site. I haven't yet had a chance to talk to either of them but hope to soon.
All of this points to the conclusion that, rather than having new evidence for ID, Biologic is far more likely to simply be interpreting scientific papers, and whatever other science its researchers have been doing since it opened in 2005, not in the way most mainstream scientists would, but to fit with the ID agenda.
After all, ID was dealt a significant blow in December 2005, when parents in the Dover school district of Pennsylvania successfully challenged the right of school board officials to introduce pro-ID material into high school biology classrooms. The judge ruled that it was unconstitutional to teach ID in public schools because it would violate the separation of church and state as laid out in the First Amendment.
Going public with Biologic seems to be an attempt to produce science in the face of this, in order to prove that ID is science, and not religion.
As Ronald Numbers, a historian at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who has studied creationism, said when told about Biologic in December 2006: "It will be good for the troops if leaders in the ID movement can claim: 'We're not just talking theory. We have labs, we have real scientists working on this.'"
Celeste Biever, New Scientist biomedical news editor
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