A fracas has ensued regarding an already peer reviewed book which was due to be published by Springer, an “International Science, Technology, Medicine” publisher.
Biological Information: New Perspectives is a book, apparently, of collected essays which was edited by Robert J. Marks II, Michael J. Behe, William A. Dembski, Bruce L. Gordon and John C. Sanford. Now, upon merely seeing some of the editor’s names many have raised the drawbridge at Castle Darwin and have called for the shooting forth of the flaming arrows of those who have turned the Darwinian theory of evolution, which is supposed to be a theory about biology, into a worldview and against any and all non-Darwinists.
Editor John Sanford, (Associate Professor of Horticultural Sciences at Cornell University, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station) noted:
Obviously we are only trying to exercise academic freedom and freedom of speech, and are challenging a sacred cow. Where are the academics who profess tolerance and open dialog? Where are the academics who would confront ‘hate speech’ on their own campus?
John West (Associate Professor of Political Science at Seattle Pacific University, Chair of the Political Science Department who taught political science and history at California State University, San Bernardino and Azusa Pacific University) stated:
In the academic world, it is not considered a mark of scholarship to attack books you haven’t read. Intelligent design scientists are criticized for not publishing and then you denounce them for doing just that. It is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
Well, what is the fracas about anyhow? It is about the blacklisting of scientists who are simply labeled as “one of those people” whenever they attempt to do that which they are said to not do: produce peer reviewed scientific works. But are they merely playing the victimhood card?
Douglas Theobald, an assistant professor of biochemistry at Brandeis University and a Springer author…said that neither he nor his colleagues have read the book…
This is well in keeping with the manner in which some scientists go about their peer reviewing craft. For example, PZ Myers (Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris) referred to Stephen C. Meyer’s (a Cambridge trained philosopher of science and professor at Whitworth College from which he graduated with a degree in physics and earth science) book Signature in the Cell as “Discovery Institute Bulldung” and asserted that “Stephen Meyer lies.” This was whilst admitting that he had not read the book. This, by the way, is the same PZ Myers who critiqued Vox Day’s book The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens having, at least, read parts of it. But why disparage Meyers personally and his book without reading it? PZ Myers stated, “I know what is in this book—’ooooh, it’s so complex, it must have been . . . designed!’” (see “Signature in the Cell,” “Signature of Controversy” and the Signature of Pseudo-Scientific Sloth, part 2)
Douglas Theobald continues:
…but did have an idea of the content because of the blurb and the names of the editors…
Thus, to an assistant professor of biochemistry,a blurb and a prejudicial reading of names is quite enough upon which to base a condemnation.
What condemnation does he rain forth like so much brimstone and fire?:
…He called the book another effort “in a long sordid history here of trying to get pseudoscientific, anti-evolution papers published in journals to raise the respectability of ID with non-scientists” and according to him, the Springer book was the latest in a list of “devious attempts.”
Note how Theobald’s worldview commitment shined through:
Our default take on this is that Springer has been duped and that the senior editors are unaware that this is a quack group of anti-evolution creationists.
His “default take”—based upon a blurb and names—is to accuse scientists of duping Springer, of being “a quack group” and of being, collectively, “anti-evolution creationists” which is not true of them all, by the way. Another report refers to the editors as “cranks.”
But what about the book itself? Where are the references, quotations and citations to book and the criticism of its actual contents? The response from the critics appears to be dead silence—an actual argument from silence. This story broke via The Panda’s Thumb which one report described as “a blog about evolutionary theory” whilst it is, in reality, an anti-Christian support group:
The blog-poster and other commenters said the book was a compilation of articles by creationists and intelligent-design proponents and Springer had no business publishing such "creationist pseudoscience."
This seems to be the totality of what is known about the book’s actual contents. Reports are marching in lockstep with the talking points in referring to Biological Information: New Perspectives as a “book on intelligent design,” “a book in favor of intelligent design,” “a work in favor of intelligent design” and the more colorfully stated, “some creationist engineers found a way to slither some ID/creationism into a major academic publisher.”
One report notes, or asserts or demands, that “the last thing they [Springer] should be doing is…uncritically publishing creationist work.” Yet, as per Eric Merkel-Sobotta (executive vice president of corporate communications at Springer in Germany) the book’s initial proposal was:
…peer-reviewed by two independent reviewers…‘However, once the complete manuscript had been submitted, the series editors became aware that additional peer review would be necessary…This is currently underway, and the automatically generated pre-announcement for the book on Springer has been removed until the peer-reviewers have made their final decision.
Indeed, reference to the book has been deleted from where it had been previously poste, on Springer’s website (see end of this article for details).
It is reported that Eric Merkel-Sobotta further stated:
…Springer was unaware the role the editors of the book play in the intelligent design movement, and the publishing house does not “endorse intelligent design as a legitimate area of scientific research. Springer stands behind evolutionary theory as a fundamental component of modern science.”
The Darwinian theory of evolution has, for some who reside within imitation ivory towers, a fundamental component of modern science and, as aforementioned, a worldview.
Note that nothing appears to be reported as to the book’s actual contents actually proposing Intelligent Design. It may very well be proposing it but the red flags thus far are based merely upon the fact that some of the editors are Creationists and others are Intelligent Design proponents and upon a blurb.
Glenn Branch, deputy director at the National Center for Science Education, said publications like the one Springer originally approved pose a problem for scientific literacy in the United States. “Once published, they can claim that scientific authority is behind them,” he said. Branch lamented the slipping standards in scholarly publications and lax screening procedures.
Nick Matzke, a Ph.D. student at the Center for Theoretical Evolutionary Genomics at the University of California at Berkeley…[stated] “This falls into a trend that has been going on for the past few years, where creationists/IDists have been exploiting engineering venues to get carefully-phrased versions of their stuff published.”
Do you discern the game? It is just as John West pointed out: first Darwinists criticize non-Darwinists for not publishing in peer reviewed science journals and then non-Darwinists are denounced for doing just that. They are blacklisted, censored, ignored, besmirched (at a personal and scholastic level), and when they are kept out of the journals it all comes back around to the convenient claim that non-Darwinists do not publishing in peer reviewed science journals, “It is damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”
Now, while the Springer page which used to contain information about the book the page now leads to a page which notes, “An error occurred” and “Not Found.”
If The Panda’s Thumb is to be trusted, the Springer page originally read thusly:
About this book
Presents new perspectives regarding the nature and origin of biological information
Demonstrates how our traditional ideas about biological information are collapsing under the weight of new evidence
Written by leading experts in the field
In the spring of 2011, a diverse group of scientists gathered at Cornell University to discuss their research into the nature and origin of biological information. This symposium brought together experts in information theory, computer science, numerical simulation, thermodynamics, evolutionary theory, whole organism biology, developmental biology, molecular biology, genetics, physics, biophysics, mathematics, and linguistics. This volume presents new research by those invited to speak at the conference.
The contributors to this volume use their wide-ranging expertise in the area of biological information to bring fresh insights into the explanatory difficulties that biological information raises. Going beyond the conventional scientific wisdom, which attempts to explain biological information reductionistically via chemical, genetic, and natural selective determinants, the work represented here develops novel non-reductionist approaches to biological information, looking notably to telic and self-organizational processes.
Several clear themes emerged from these research papers: 1) Information is indispensable to our understanding of what life is. 2) Biological information is more than the material structures that embody it. 3) Conventional chemical and evolutionary mechanisms seem insufficient to fully explain the labyrinth of information that is life. By exploring new perspectives on biological information, this volume seeks to expand, encourage, and enrich research on the nature and origin of biological information.
Content Level “ Research
Keywords “ Biological Information - Computational Intelligence - Genetical Information - Neo-Darwinian Theory
Related subjects “ Artificial Intelligence - Computational Intelligence and Complexity - Systems Biology and Bioinformatics
Table of contents
Dynamics of Charged Particulate Systems.- Biological Information and Genetic Theory.- Theoretical Molecular Biology.- Biological Information and Self-Organizational Complexity Theory.
For more info about both scientific blacklisting and Atheism in textbooks that are supposed to be about science, see:
Kaustuv Basu, “Second Thoughts,” Inside Higher Ed, March 1, 2012 AD
Nick Matzke, “Springer gets suckered by creationist pseudoscience,” Panda’s Thumb, February 27, 2012 AD
Megan Scudellari, “Publisher to Print ID Book?,” The Scientist, March 2, 2012 AD