A Peer-Reviewed Creationist Paper?

You will have to reach your own conclusion on this one, dear reader. We found an astonishing announcement at the blog of the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

It’s an article by Casey Luskin, a Discoveroid non-fellow, the title of which proclaims: Pro-Intelligent Design Peer Reviewed Scientific Paper Argues for an “Engineered World”.

This is potentially important, because creationists are always trying to get their peculiar “science” into respected, peer-reviewed journals, and until now their efforts have been rather dismal. The best example is the notorious peer review controversy involving Stephen Meyer, a Discoveroid vice president and senior fellow.

Have the creationists finally broken the respectability barrier? We’ll take a look at some excerpts from Casey’s article and let you decide. The bold font was added by us. Casey begins:

A pro-intelligent design peer-reviewed scientific paper has been published in the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics by Dominic Halsmer, a signer of the Scientific Dissent From Darwinism and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University.

Multiple questions arise. First, what is that journal? Here’s their website. We haven’t heard of either them or their field of specialization — but that means nothing. Despite our ignorance, it’s possible that getting a paper accepted by that journal is a major accomplishment. Your Curmudgeon has doubts but we don’t know, so we express no opinion.

The next question we have is about the author. He’s said to be a signer of the much-touted Discoveroid statement they call Dissent From Darwinism. They’ve gathered the signatures of a few hundred social scientists, dentists, proctologists, and others. The author of the paper Casey writes about today is on that list. But who is he?

Casey says that Dominic Halsmer is Dean of the College of Science and Engineering at Oral Roberts University. Most of you know about Oral Roberts University. It seems like a fine place to go if one wants to be a creationist. As for Halsmer, here’s his webpage at Oral Roberts. We are told that he has a Ph.D in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA, so we can add to our errata file that we have now encountered a creationist mechanical engineer.

Fine, now what has Casey so excited? This is a link to Halsmer’s article: The coherence of an engineered world. Casey’s Discoveroid piece mostly consists of excerpts from it, but we’ll skip those and tell you only what Casey says:

[Halsmer’s] article looks at various facets of the natural world, particularly instances of cosmic fine-tuning, and argues that it is “engineered.”

At the threshold, we suspect this is little more than a regurgitation of William Paley’s watchmaker argument from 200 years ago, but we’ll keep an open mind. Let’s read on:

One reason the authors feel the universe is engineered is the fact that it is mathematically and scientifically comprehensible.

Okay, that’s Halsmer’s first argument — the universe is comprehensible. There was a time when nature’s incomprehensibility was an argument for supernatural design (e.g., see Job 37:5 “God thundereth marvellously with his voice; great things doeth he, which we cannot comprehend.”) but we’ll ignore that and continue:

Another aspect of the universe they claim shows evidence of engineering is its “biofriendliness.” They focus on the life-sustaining properties of water: [excerpts deleted].

Biofriendliness of the universe. The universe? We recall other creationists arguing that the unique life-sustaining properties of our privileged planet are evidence of a supernatural designer, but we’ll ignore that too. What else does this peer-reviewed paper say?

They then explore why the very elements that are most common in life — hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen — are so prevalent in the universe: [excerpts deleted].

But why did the designer — blessed be he! — create so much helium? That’s something else we’ll have to ignore. Anything more to report? According to Casey:

The authors then quote Fred Hoyle on the subject, who stated, “I do not believe that any scientist who examined the evidence would fail to draw the inference that the laws of nuclear physics have been deliberately designed with regard to the consequences they produce inside the stars.”

Creationists often quote Fred Hoyle, the astronomer whose reputation is unlikely to recover from his claim that evolution is as likely as the assembly of a jet aircraft by a tornado in a junkyard — a howler now known as Hoyle’s fallacy. Casey concludes with this teaser:

The article will be discussed further in two additional posts.

So there you are, dear reader. Is this a major milestone in establishing Intelligent Design as a genuine scientific concept; or is it merely more evidence of the Salem hypothesis, which suggests that engineering types have a tendency toward the creationist viewpoint? We suspect it’s more that latter than the former; but as we said at the beginning, it’s up to you to make the call on this one.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “A Peer-Reviewed Creationist Paper?

  1. I know this doesn’t add anything to the discussion, but I have to say it:
    Dominic, as one engineer to another, you’re a twit.

  2. In a universe with the natural laws and the elements described by the authors in gee-whiz fashion, it is fairly predictable that any extant life forms would be governed by those natural laws and would evolve to utilize those elements. Why is this somehow an indication of design? For all we know, the are millions are different universes with different properties, and life arises in some, including ours. Or, possibly, universes can only exist with certain properties, so the odds of a “biofriendly” universe is much higher.

    The probability of a supernatural entity able to create universes is indescribably more remote than any possible scenario concerning the origin of the universe by natural processes.

  3. But why did the designer — blessed be he! — create so much helium?

    It’s the voice thing, don’t you know?

    Here’s another question. Why was there more neon in the solar system than nitrogen? God really likes neon signs?

    It’s not like we have nucleosynthesis models that explain elemental abundances.

    Oh, that’s right, we actually do.

  4. The International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics is published by the Wessex Institute of Technology press, and appears to be along the lines of a trade journal like Chemical and Engineering News. WIT is entirely focused on engineering and industrial research.

    The journal is extremely obscure and probably has a readership of 2.

  5. Doc Bill says: “… appears to be along the lines of a trade journal …”

    A trade journal? But Casey described Halsmer’s work as a “peer-reviewed scientific paper,” so who should we listen to — you or Casey?

  6. retiredsciguy

    Would you consider the words “Design & Nature” in the title of the journal to be a strong clue as to their focus?

  7. WIT also publishes Mechanics in Nature, however neither magazine is about natural objects being designed or mechanically engineered. It’s the other way around. It’s looking at designs like shell spirals and applying those in engineering.

    Of course, Dr. God Squad wrote a review paper rather than a research paper because, surprise, surprise, he hasn’t done any research! Google Fu provides little on Halsmer, but this did come up. A paper submitted to the American Society of Engineering Educators. It’s a sappy, mishmash of Christian apologetics which boils down to

    “Jesus builds a bridge between you and God. You can build a bridge, too!” Thus, making happy, happy, joy, joy engineers!

    Take some Dramamine and read for yourself:


  8. The journal is only a few years old. Many of the articles appear to be legit, though on fairly esoteric topics for engineering. However, in the issue subsequent to the Halsmer paper (Vol. 4, Issue 2, 2009) is a paper titled, “Evidence Of Design In Bird Feathers And Avian Respiration” by A. C. McIntosh. The abstract says:

    “Both systems [feathers & respiration] are examples of the principle of specified functional complexity, which occurs throughout nature. There is no known recorded example of this developing experimentally where the precursor information or machinery is not already present in embryonic form. Such design features indicate non-evolutionary features being involved.”

    McIntosh, an engineering professor at University of Leeds, is a YEC. On 29 Nov 2006, U. of Leeds put this on their website:

    “Professor Andrew McIntosh’s directorship of Truth in Science, and his promotion of that organisation’s views, are unconnected to his teaching or research at the University of Leeds in his role as a professor of thermodynamics. As an academic institution, the University wishes to distance itself publicly from theories of creationism and so-called intelligent design which cannot be verified by evidence.”

  9. Ah, good old Andy “evolution violates the 2nd Law of Thermo” McIntosh, what the English call a “nutter.” Suffers from a severe case of DOH (dropped on head).

    He shows up on the creationist radar from time to time from his ID promotion in the UK.

  10. So, if I got a paper published in the “South Eastern Caribbean and Dutch Antilles Journal for Wild Grasses, Marsh Gases, and Hoofed Asses”, I should be proud of myself?


  11. Upon closer inspection, the first editor listed for the International Journal of Design & Nature and Ecodynamics is Stuart Burgess, an engineering professor at Bristol University. Burgess is a YEC and is affiliated with the inaptly-named organization Truth in Science, along with McIntosh. McIntosh is also on the Editorial Board of the journal

    In addition to the article I cited above, McIntosh has another creationist article in the journal (Vol 4, Issue 4, 2010), titled, “Information And Entropy – Top-down Or Bottom-up Development In Living Systems?” Of note, Vol 4, Issue 4 of the journal has 4 of 6 papers authored/coauthored by members of the editorial board. The issue in which the previously-mentioned McIntosh article appeared (Vol 4, Issue 2) had 5 of 6 papers authored/coauthored by editorial board members. Not a hopeful sign.

    The journal also contains this oddball article in Vol 5, Issue 3, 2010: “The Evolution Of Speed In Athletics: Why The Fastest Runners Are Black And Swimmers White” by Bejan, et. al. (Also an editor!)

    Strange stuff.

  12. Doc Bill you owe me one! I read some of the “Application of the “Engineering Mindset for Worldview Evaluation” paper. Damn, it made my head hurt with all of the bizarre ramblings and incoherent arguments.

    More troubling was a chart comparing the ratio of committed Christians to non-Christians and why if there so many satisfied repeat Christian customers then God must exist! In the chart the number of committed Christians interestingly was far smaller (500 million) than the overall number of Christians in the world (almost 2 billion of which 1.2 billion is Catholic) or in other words Catholics need not apply as Committed Christians! Seems true believers have no problems disparaging other Christians as well.

    Truly a craptacular read unless you like to mix your science with your faith!

    Eril John Bertel,
    Author Flores Girl, The Children God Forgot, http://www.floresgirl.com

  13. Good comment, Erik John Bertel. But try to go easy on the signature links. They’re really not necessary. If you log in, you can link a website to your name.

  14. Erik John Bertel: “Seems true believers have no problems disparaging other Christians as well.”

    Yet they have open arms for the non-Christian David Klinghoffer, who really is the only creationist anyone will even need.

  15. For the benefit of any readers who don’t get my point about Klinghoffer, he’s the one whose mission is to link “Darwinism” to every imaginable evil. Think of him as Ben “Expelled” Stein (another non-Christian!) on steroids. If the evidence for evolution was truly weak, or if heaven forbid there were any evidence for any of the mutually contradictory creationist fairy tales, no one would bother doing what Klinghoffer is doing, nor would they pretend that evolution-deniers are “expelled.”

  16. I actually only began following this bizarre YEC movement because I had several fundamentalists object to the naming of my novel Flores Girl: The Children God Forgot. As one told me “god doesn’t forget anybody” and forget about speculating about the Homo floresiensis find as I do in the novel. Okay.., that was a strange encounter but as I researched these people even stranger was this fundamentalist creationist movement that seemed to defy all human logic. Now some members of the ID movement are fairly bright people, deluded perhaps but the YEC gang well, I just don’t understand. I was brought up as a rigid Catholic but the moment I had opportunity to think on my own, as I child I might add, I realized it was time to move on.

    As to Ben Stein, I was of course, very aware of Expelled but as for the writings of David Klinghoffer, well I really didn’t know what I was missing. To Frank J’s point about YEC’s embracing a Jew, one thing that I am very aware of is that all fundamentalists are very much cut from the very same bolt of Mid-East cloth whether they be Jewish, Christian or Muslim. They are all males that are much more concerned about following strict interpretations regarding the Bible and the Koran for the expressed purpose of answering one sole question: “Are you one of us?” And all good fundamentalists know you can’t begin Armageddon without the Jews being in Israel.

    To quote a lesbian character from one of my novels, “it all smells of penises and testicles, men controlling men and has little to do with salvation or, for that matter, god”. In the past fundamentalist teachings were the fodder for holy wars and today it’s an excuse for stoning women, destroying the Buddhas of Bamiyan and living in total ignorance. And now they want to share that darkness with the rest of us.

  17. Erik John Bertel, I’d say you have a good grasp of the situation.

  18. Klingers, however, goes deeper in a shallower sort of way. He’s a professional contrarian, a poseur provocateur, a pseudo-intellectual. He just likes to jack people around which makes him unemployable in any respectable way.

    You say, but wait, he’s employed by the Disco Tute! I rest my case.

  19. Benny Ballejo

    So getting published in peer review journals doesn’t count if your a Christian or a signer of the Dissent List? I wonder if the poster is willing to use this standard on atheist who publish papers. Maybe we should only trust agnostics who are seemingly neutral.

    Of course, we would have to ignore any thing Eugenie Scott has to say on the subject, because she is the co signer of the 3rd Humanist Manifesto and belongs to a secular organization who overtly promotes liberating children from the shackles of religion through a k-12 education program, as well as her being the brain child of the Clergy Letter Project which tries to bring together religion with Darwinism, even convincing some fringe churches to celebrate Darwin day. Talk about
    Naturalism blasphemy.

    Lets forget the geneticist, bio chemist and even engineers on the list who are now lending there skills and working with biologist and others in helping to try to figure out the mysteries of the living cell by reverse engineering. Yeah, lets just concentrate on the dentist and proctologist. And what was Darwin trained at, hmm? I don’t even think he even qualified as proctologist. Maybe Darwinist should do what Coyne does and boycott any Journal that is critical of Darwinism……. well, except for The Quarterly Review of Biology which also publishes his work of course.

  20. Gabriel Hanna

    @Benny Ballejo:
    So getting published in peer review journals doesn’t count if your a Christian or a signer of the Dissent List?

    Good job with the straw man, but no one here made that argument.

    Getting published in peer-reviewed journals is not the same thing as doing legitimate science–that’s why we’ve brought up the Cargo Cults.

    These DI publications are never original science. They are review articles, talking about legitimate research, but used by the author to argue that the science is not incompatible with intelligent design, which are then published in obscure journals that have nothing to do with evolutionary science. It’s Cargo Cult science–see we published a paper, we’re scientists.

    But the DI folk never do any actual science–all they ever do is argue about science produced by real scientists.

  21. Benny Ballejo

    Most of the original critique was based on childish attacks on Discoveroids and YEC’s.
    I get it, your angry.

    [Editorial note: Massive Ark-load of creationism deleted.]

  22. Okay, Benny Ballejo, you’ve had your say. Goodbye.