Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bruce Chapman: Fool

I guess I'll join Jason and Ed in piling on to the Discovery Institute's latest ridiculous claim via Bruce Chapman. There is a rather interesting fact about the ID movement, which is that after more than a decade of lobbying Congress, testifying in front of school boards, writing polemical books, hiring PR firms, and publishing legal missives, they have utterly failed to create a scientific research program, much less produce any meaningful results. In other words, they haven't done any science, yet they insist that ID is a revolutionary new scientific theory that is on the cusp of displacing the theory of evolution. (Which, by the way, has new and exciting research published on a daily basis.)

How do the IDists account for this situation? Here's Chapman's excuse: The ID research is being carried out in secret for fear of persecution! Yeah, you read that right. The mere fact that they can't show you any research is evidence of the horrible tyranny they're living under. This is absurd to the point of making 9/11 conspiracy theories look respectable by comparison.

Jason and Ed do the heavy lifting, so you can read their posts for a thorough eviceration, but I thought I'd highlight this silly claim by Chapman:

As for foes and critics who pester us for information about research now underway and who insinuate that, unless we oblige them, we must accept their opinion that such research is not happening, we owe them nothing. Since when does a scientist have to “report” on his work to the public before he is ready? The opposite is almost always the case.

Statements like these just go to show how utterly clueless Chapman is about the scientific process. When are scientists expected to "report" on their work before they're ready? All the time. It happens at lab meetings, when writing grants, at scientific conferences, at departmental seminars, and in idle conversation with peers. You don't have to have something publishable, but your coworkers, employers, institution, and funding agencies all want to know what you're working on. Heck, they have a right to know. The main contradiction in Chapman's martyrdom story is this: If the public funds your research, then you have an obligation to make your work public. And if the public doesn't fund your research, then what are you worried about? You have only to answer to your private funding organization. Either you're doing something they want you to do, or you're doing something they don't want you to do and violating their trust. Either you lack the right to carry out your research in secret, or there's simply no need to.

What's more, why would they want to keep their research secret? Putting aside the utterly implausible fear of being kicked out of their own labs, wouldn't producing quality research vindicate the ID movement's oft-stated but never verified claim of having a research program? It would show that ID was useful for at least something, even if it fails in the end. Among the small number of prominent ID advocates who have scientific credentials (none of whom have been persecuted, by the way), about the only thing that's going to salvage their reputations after years of making ridiculous claims and hobnobbing with science-haters is to get out there and produce some results. If they're unwilling to do that, then perhaps it's because they'd rather subsist on the largesse and adulation that the Christian fundamentalist movement showers them with. It sure isn't because no one wants them to do science.

At the risk of stating the obvious, Chapman makes his lame excuse for the simple reason that the ID movement has no research to present. They have put almost all of their resources into their public relations and legal campaigns, and have bypassed the scientific process altogether and gone straight to the public and to the politicians. All of their sciencey talk is at best window dressing, easily seen through by knowledgeable people. That Chapman would have to invent such an obviously false persecution story is just pathetic.