If Evolution and Creationism Are on Equal Grounds…
…then why don’t there seem to be any peer-reviewed experiments backing it up?
Let’s just take a brief sample – on PubMed, one of the most popular biomedical search engines, a search for “evolution” turns up 178,160 papers (as of 2006 when I did the research for all of this, and just a year after ID was settled by the American Judicial System). A search for “creationism” on the other hand, yields only 48 articles. Most of those are editorial articles by scientists expressing the concern over the creation vs evolution debate in popular culture. There is one interesting scientific paper that comes up, published in the journal “Laterality,” which concludes that people with a strong preference for one hand versus the other are more likely to believe in creationism, whereas people who are ambidextrous, or those who can use both their right or left hand, are more likely to accept evolutionary theory. A search for intelligent design brings up the same small numbers. But aside from that, there is no published data that can be easily found, no primary data that leads to the conclusion: creationism is the accepted hypothesis.
Fortunately, the Discovery Institute (the most scientifically rigorous Creationist organization of which I’m aware) has helped to resolve this issue by publishing a list of peer-reviewed literature supporting ID.
Man once had four arms, and DNA was miles long.
I should, before I proceed further, explain what “peer-review” means. Essentially, this means that once a paper has been written containing new hypotheses, data, and conclusions, it has to be given to one or more “peers”, i.e., other scientists who are also publishing data, preferably in a field close to the one that the paper in question deals with. According to the Discovery Institute, the reason for highlighting a “peer-reviewed” list of articles is due to the fact that “critics of intelligent design often claim that design advocates don’t publish their work in appropriate scientific literature. For example, Barbara Forrest, a philosophy professor at Southeastern Louisiana University, was quoted in USA Today (March 25, 2005) that design theorists ‘aren’t published because they don’t have scientific data.’”
Well, let’s see the data!
They begin by showing seven “featured” articles. However, all of them are reviews, or position papers. None of them contain any basic research, and I’m unsure why they would want to “feature” them. Most of them are published in “Proceedings of” journals, which have a slightly different peer review process than other journals. Basically, as long as you can get a member of that particular society to sponsor your paper, it’ll be published. The one contribution by Jonathan Wells would seem to be interesting, in that it proposes an experiment, but doesn’t actually carry it out. I can’t find any follow up papers, and it appears that it was just an abstract that was presented at a conference.
They likely realize that seven articles, none of which present any basic research, seems kind of weak, so they fill out the list categorically, starting with four “peer-reviewed” books. I’m not completely sure how these University presses work, but I very much doubt its anything similar to the review process for scientific articles. There’s also three books that are “supportive” of ID, although not peer-reviewed (again, what does that mean?)
And finally we’re down to the real meat, articles published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Here we’re down to six, only two of which were “featured” above. The first is in the journal “Chaos, Solitons, and Fractals.” The second is in a “Proceedings” journal, and actually caused quite a stink from that society towards the editor who allowed its publication. The third is actually by Behe and is from a respectable journal, Protein Science, although it received a lengthy rebuttal in that same journal which basically showed that they had made several mistakes in assumptions for their calculations (Behe had tried to use mathematical modeling to show that mutations couldn’t accrue fast enough to result in modification). The fourth is a review that questions the relevance of transposons to evolution (but not supportive of ID). The fifth is published in the “International Journal of Fuzzy Systems.” And the last is in the “Journal of Theoretical Biology,” postulating that the limited and predictive arrangement of protein folds represents a manifestation of “Natural Law,” as opposed to “natural selection.” This is not contrary to evolutionary theory, however, since evolution does not predict that chemical interactions between amino acids change over time, just the arrangements of amino acids in a peptide chain, in response to varying levels of environmental selection.
Following these is a list of seven articles published in “peer reviewed” anthology books, five of which were published by members of the Discovery Institute. And then they have another seven “peer-edited” articles, four of which were also written by DI members. And they round it off with five philosophical papers, (with the guarantee of no basic research) one by Behe and the rest by William Lane Craig.
So that’s it. The most the Discovery Institute can muster is 26 articles (none with a single experiment) and four books. As a point of contrast, remember there are 178,160 articles (25,672 of which are reviews) on PubMed which involve evolution (and that only goes back to 1916).
I want to repeat – not a single experiment has been published to test a hypothesis advanced by creationism or intelligent design. Not a single one.