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Author: Kazim Big gold star, 5000 posts Old School Fool Add to my Favorite Fools Ignore this person (you won't see their posts anymore) Number: of 24919  
Subject: Re: ID research Date: 4/25/2008 12:21 PM
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You may be right. But when you play "move the goalposts" I'm tempted to believe that nothing would satisfy you.

Let's review. Someone posted that ID proponents don't publish papers in peer-reviewed journals. So I linked to the DI page that lists the published works, with no further comment.

Then you and others come back with comments like "it doesn't prove ID does legitimate research". Not the point in question.


Ok, let me state outright that the person who said "ID proponents don't publish papers in peer-reviewed journals." When the "Rivista" paper was published, I wrote at the time that this simple truism no longer applied, and that the reality was more complicated. I have done my best to stick to this statement, and I personally have never since then made the blanket claim "ID proponents don't publish papers in peer-reviewed journals."

At the same time, I don't believe that this is moving the goal posts. And I'll tell you why.

Suppose that I was on the board of directors for a large company, and there was a proposal to choose a five-year-old as their new CEO. I think my very first objection to the nomination is: "Why in the world would you suggest a five-year-old for this job? He can't even READ!"

Now, suppose that his backers come to me two weeks later, saying "Your claim that little Johnny can't read is false now! Watch this!" Little Johnny then proceeds to slowly, haltingly read the first two pages of "Green Eggs and Ham."

At that point, I would probably say, "Okay, fine, he can read Dr. Seuss, but that doesn't mean that he can read our company's financial statements." Am I moving the goal posts?

Being able to read is definitely a requirement of heading a large company, but very obviously it's not the ONLY requirement. It's just that if somebody can't read at all, that problem is such an enormous hurdle to begin with that it kind of trumps everything else. But even after that objection is overridden, there are obviously a lot more issues to cover before the kid becomes a CEO.

By the time he's ten, Johnny might be able to read financial statements, but that doesn't mean he can reproduce the math in them on his own. Moving the goalposts? And once he can do that kind of math, he's still got a long way to go before he can make competent decisions on that basis. Moving them again?

I think the problem is that science has high standards to begin with, and perhaps the "goal post" problem is that you don't see where the goal posts are to begin with. In order for something to get accepted as a theory, there is a multi-stage process. Publishing in a journal is a necessary first step in that process, but as centromere showed with his post about astrology in journals, there is still plenty of awful bunk that gets accepted in such journals. The real test is when this work starts getting citations from other papers as a useful solution to a known problem.

Science is a network of different studies that mutually build on each other. The difference between "a paper" and "a well-established theory" is like the difference between one computer and "the internet." On the web, the success of single web page is not a single true/false value, where the page is either successful or not successful. The popularity of a page is measured in "traffic," or page hits. If enough people like an article, they all link to it, which leads to a big spike in traffic, which further boosts the page's visibility, generating more links. After a certain point, a really popular video on YouTube might become so well-known that most authors can feel free to refer to it, and assume that everybody will know what they're talking about.

The analogy to science isn't perfect, of course, because science is not meant to function as a simple popularity contest. What makes a YouTube video "go viral" is extremely subjective, and any random person who has a blog can contribute to its popularity. With science, there's an extra layer of hurdles in the sense that the "bloggers" (i.e., published scientists) are generally expected to be highly educated, and at least trained in understanding the scientific method and critical thinking. If an idea "goes viral" with that crowd, based on less subjective criteria such as repeatability and falsifiability, then an idea is well on its way to becoming a theory: a framework which other scientists can refer to which is known to explain problems in a useful way.

Evolution has achieved that status, over the course of 150 years. Intelligent Design has not. Intelligent Design is a twelve year old girl with a hand held camcorder lip-syncing a Hillary Duff song in her house. She can complain from the rooftops that she has been "censored" because her video is not regularly featured on CNN and the front page of MySpace. But the reality is that her video hasn't gained widespread attention because it is a bad video. It is neither useful nor interesting to most people, and no amount of whinging or publicity-hounding will change that.
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