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Can I Trust Science (Part 3)

By Merle Hertzler

"Honey" continues her defense of Answers in Genesis (AiG) at my blog. Instead of concentrating on specific claims of that group, she has chosen instead to deliver a broadside attack against the validity of mainstream science in general. I respond once more in defence of mainstream science here.

I think my readers can see the desperation in what Honey writes. She has ignored most of my responses, and repeated the same false arguments that have been refuted already. But somehow she continues to attempt to convince us that the folks at AiG have it right, even though mainstream science has repeatedly shown that the young earth claims at AiG are flawed.

I address her here. Honey's words are indented and highlighted below:


"Honey",

First, let's begin with what I am defending. I am defending science. By that I mean the scientific method, and that body of knowledge that has been obtained through this method. A key part of this method is the process of peer review in which other scientists that are knowledgeable in the applicable areas review a document before it is published as science. You launch a scathing attack (here) against peer review in its intended function. In so doing you attack the very heart of the scientific method. (See, for instance, Scientific Method, particularly the section on Community.) You may relish the thought of a science without the refereeing function of peer review, but alas, that would only open up the doors to all kinds of rubbish. For if any study published as a "labor of love" is accepted as science regardless if it has passed a test of its validity, science as a discipline would be doomed.

 I gave you examples of cases where the science didn’t impress those who understand the science behind the claims.

Yes, you have given us cases where young-earth creationists have made claims that did not impress those who understood the science behind their claims. You have shown us, for instance, a webpage that claims to show fallacies in the mammal-like reptile line. I have shown you (here) why your reference is wrong, and why science does not accept its claims. That is the problem. Every case that you have shown that is being rejected by mainstream science is being rejected for good reasons. Your examples are actually good illustrations of the fact that the system works.

I have asked you twice (here and here) to present us with a valid study that leads to the conclusion that the earth is young, and is not fatally flawed. You have not responded. Once more, if you can point to a valid scientific study that supports a young earth, where is it?

Let’s look at the photo example for a min. I fully understood what you were saying, and I built on your illustration to demonstrate the reality of the larger fossil record situation you so strenuously defend. When different animal skeletons of varying characteristics are taken from different places in the world and lined up next to each other regardless of their other unknown systems, in an attempt demonstrate progression when there is no evidence they are related to one another, well I consider it more of a stretch than the example I actually supplied. My illustration only serves to prove that there is a lot of speculation taking the place of real science, and I am not the only one who thinks this.

Your photo illustration has no bearing on the findings of the fossil record. You ask us to consider a hypothetical  case in which several photos from Jesus down to Michael Jackson are found, and you state that this would not prove that Michael Jackson descended from Jesus. Absolutely. That is correct. We all agree. Such photos would not prove an ancestral link.

But what if we make the claim that, provided Jesus existed, a distant cousin of his was an ancestor of Michael Jackson? Well, yes, that is probably true. In fact, if we allow "distant cousin" to include people way beyond his 50th or 100th cousin, then we all agree, if Jesus existed, then many of those distant cousins were Michael Jackson's ancestors.

And that is very similar to the claim that is made for mammal ancestry. Nobody claims that a particular mammal-like reptile skeleton is known to be an ancestor of mammals. We don't even know if that fossil's species is our ancestor. But what we do know, is that the mammal-like reptiles found are probably of a cousin species to the creatures that were are ancestors.

The other problem with your photo illustration is that the photos would not indicate the kind of clear progression needed. Michael Jackson, in his pre-surgery days, possessed no clear distinguishing features that were not similar to features in people who existed long before him. So we cannot trace a clear progression in those features. The fossil heritage of mammals, however is completely different. We find no modern mammals in the fossil record before 65 million years ago. Thus, when we see fossils over time incrementally taking on the appearance of mammal features, it is difficult to escape the conclusion that these fossils show the path through which our ancestors evolved. To defeat this claim, all you need to do is find one modern mammal that dates before 300 million years ago. You cannot do that.

Many scientists, even some evolutionists have spoken of just such problems in the evolution record. I acknowledge that you don’t see there are such difficulties, but that is only because you have jumped on the evolution band wagon and stopped questioning.

The overwhelming evidence of the fossil record is so clear, that the consensus of mainstream science is that the fossil record supports the fact of evolution. Sure there are difficulties and questions, but these are only questions of details. The overall fact of evolution has been firmly established by science. So, no, it is not my bias that is the problem. It is the evidence that convinced me.

  Talking about the rocks, you suggest I should read up on what some scientists think.
I have. I don’t pretend to understand it (I don’t have time to get into it), but it’s the same problem there Merle; where respected geologists disagree with the claims made by other scientists about the dating of rocks.

The reason I suggested you read what scientists write about the dating of rocks, is because you completely misrepresented (here) how scientists date rocks. Now that you know how rock-dating is really done, will you acknowledge that you were mistaken?

Yes, you have told me that respected scientists support young-earth creation and deny the validity of much of mainstream science. But as I have pointed out to you multiple times, the young-earth creationist ideas would never pass peer-review, for their writings are deeply flawed. That is the problem. Once more, do you know of any study that is not fatally flawed that shows the earth is young?   

 They [Young Earth Creationists] have demonstrated themselves to be not only legitimate scientists, but highly regarded in their positions. If they have some scientific contribution to make that goes against a scientific theory, then they should not be shunned for their science.

Absolutely, and I have acknowledged  that there are good scientists that believe in a young earth (here and here). But I have also told you repeatedly that the problem is that the facts do not support their case for a young earth. That is the problem.

 And what about this little beauty! You say:
“science is not based on what an authority figure says. It is based on facts.”

The whole theory of man coming from the sea is just that! A theory!
Ok so let me see if I’ve go this right.

The scientists may present their scientific opinions but if it gets in the way of a theory, well they had better expect to have some problems. Sheesh!

Goodness, no, you certainly didn't get that right. Once more, science is not based on the dictates of an authority. It is not sufficient, within science, to say something must be true because Dr. So-and-So says it is true. Science is based on facts and reason. If Dr. So-and-So thinks something is true, then scientists want to know why he thinks so. If the facts and reasons support his case, we will applaud him and agree with him. If the facts do not support his case, then his argument will be rejected.

And by the way evolution is both a fact and a theory just like gravity is both a fact and a theory. Perhaps you should read up on what scientists mean when they use the word theory before you put your foot into your mouth again. See Evolution is a Fact and a Theory.  

And no, as I explained to you before (here and here), there is no dictator  or conspiracy within science that forces all scientists to confirm to a given theory before they can publish. If you want to prove there is a dictator or conspiracy within science that prevents such publishing, what is your proof  that this dictator or conspiracy exists? And why is it universally accepted within mainstream science that they are free to publish evidence that goes against the established paradigm, if this is not true?

  Then you said:
“Would you allow all sorts of pseudoscience to be published as science, with no discrimination as to the validity of the claim?”

Well if you read the article you pasted properly you would see that already happens.

  You totally bypassed the question. Once more, here is the question I asked in context:

Scientific studies are first given out to peer review, so people knowledgeable in the relevant fields can screen them, and stop them from being published as science if they are judged invalid. If you don't like peer review doing this, what would you put in its place? Would you allow all sorts of pseudoscience to be published as science, with no discrimination as to the validity of the claim?

Please answer that question. If not peer review, then how would you keep all sorts of pseudo-science from being published?

Text books are full of pseudoscience (in the broader sense)

Well, actually, scientific textbooks generally are a very reliable source, and contain little pseudoscience. Yes, some pseudoscience may slip through the system, but in general, such books represent the findings of science and are reliable where endorsed by science.

The combination of peer review and later scientific scrutiny does a great job of filtering out pseudoscience from the textbooks. If you disagree, what evidence do you have?

Can you not see that eliminating the refereeing aspect of peer review will open the floodgates of pseudoscience into science textbooks, just like eliminating any requirements for a driver's license will turn our roads into demolition derbys?

The Peer Review Study

  Then you said I misunderstood what they [Kassirer and Campion] said, that peer review was not ‘totally unscientific’. Apparently I had that out of context. Ok well let me put that back into context, here is what came a short way before it….again.
Quote from Peer Review Article
“WE KNOW THAT PEER REVIEW IS NOT PERFECT. IT DOES NOT ELIMINATE BIAS, ON THE PART OF EITHER THE REVIEWER OR THE EDITOR. IT DOES NOT WEED OUT FRAUDULENT RESEARCH OR EVEN ALL FLAWED RESEARCH. IT CANNOT GUARANTEE THE TRUTHFULNESS OR THE VALIDITY OF THE WORK”.

I can read exactly what they are saying and my statement was more than justified in the context of our discussions.

Huh? You quote-mined the article to make it look like it condemns the refereeing function of peer review when it doesn't. When I point out your errors, you insist your quotes must indicate what you say. Your evidence? You use the exact same quotes you pulled out of context the first time! Readers can read that article (here) to see for themselves what it says. I have already shown you (here) why your quote above does not oppose the need for screening out flawed studies by means of peer review. And you have simply ignored my response, and published the same out-of -context quote again.  

Then you say:
“But I have never made either of the above claims, ["researched matter is not science if it has not been through the peer review system" and "because it passes through that system with seeming success, that it is guaranteed to be science"] nor does the scientific community make these claims. So why are you making up false claims, and pretending that somebody believes them, and then joyfully shooting them down? Why attack a straw man?”

Absolutely. The fact that a research study has not been submitted to peer review does not prove it is false, just like the fact that Joe may not yet have taken his driver's exam does not prove he is a bad driver. And the fact that a study passes peer review does not prove it is valid, just like the fact that Jane passed her driver's exam does not prove she is a good driver. I have stated multiple times that peer review is not perfect. So why do you continue to make up this straw man, and try to pretend that I believe it?

You then present the following as though it supports your claim that I believe those straw man positions you quoted above:

  Here Merle, let me help jog your memory. Here is what you said about the scientific research used by AIG.
“The AIG site is aimed at lay people, but it presents claims that have not been submitted in peer-reviewed journals. Writing impresive scientific-sounding claims that fool the general public is not the way science is done. Scientists publish instead in peer-reviewed journals, where knowledgable independent scientists can reject the article before it is published.”

In the above paragraph, I nowhere make the claims that peer review is perfect; that all studies that pass the peer review process are valid; or that all studies that have not yet been submitted to peer review are flawed. I simply am not saying the stupid things that you try to pretend I am saying.

 And as you would know from reading their site and also having been told here by one of your readers, AIG have what is called TJ (technical journal), from which many of their lay articles have been comprised.

Sure, I know that TJ exists, and I even subscribed to it when I was a young-earth creationist. If you think one of the articles in TJ are not flawed, and lead to the conclusion that the earth is young, show us which one. A collection of flawed studies using scientific language is useless.  

Was Dr. Warren Ostracised?

  Oh and I forgot to mention Dr. Warren. The article you sent me to had the audacity
to condescendingly call him a “self-promoter”.

Oh, do be serious. Atwood never said anything about Warren being a self-promoter. However, he does say this about his companion, Dr. Marshall:

He [Marshall] has, quite evidently, a good sense of humor. Nevertheless, there seems to be a bit of the self-promoter about him. I say this good-naturedly and with an affectionate nudge, imagining that someday we may meet and chuckle together.

And you call this condescending?  Really? And what do you call your writings? Let me refresh your memory. You have used words like the following to describe others during the short time you have been here: "Far from professional...Clearly you are a man of neither integrity or science...You have no interest in the facts of the matter...You lie...I see you are nothing but a fraud...[your] deceptive intent...this Philistine" Okay? All of the above phrases are generally considered to be rude and condescending (and also, by the way, were all false as far as I can tell). Now how is it that you can come here and hurl such venom from your keyboard, and then wimper when Atwood writes what he said about Marshall? If you think Atwood was condescending, what would you call your own writings?

As an aside to the reader, I ask you to be the judge. Whose words are more condescending? Honey's or Atwood's?

  In the article Kimball Atwood, asserts that the claims made by Dr. Tess Gerritsen seem to be of no substance and only help to perpetuate the myth that Dr Warren was ostracized.

  Dr Gerritsen's remarks are irrelevant to the issue as to whether science itself rejected the findings of Dr. Warren. Kimball Atwood writes:

I have no reason to doubt that many physicians scoffed when first faced with the notion of a bacterial basis for peptic ulcer disease (PUD). It is not the case, however, that the medical mainstream dogmatically rejected the proposal for an undue period of time.

And that is the issue at hand. Did the medical mainstream and the research community dogmatically reject Warren's proposal? Atwood shows convincingly that they did not.

  Now who am I more likely to believe under the circumstances…Dr Warren, or Kimball Atwood…um…sorry, Dr Warren the Nobel Prize winner wins again.

This is nothing more than an argument from authority. It doesn't matter if Dr. Warren has a Nobel Prize. That does not make him right on every issue. As I have explained to you multiple times, science is not based on the proclamations of an authority, but on the facts and evidence. Appeals to authority are considered to be a logical fallacy. (See Appeal to Authority).

Atwood has clearly presented the facts of the case. Do you dispute his facts? Which facts? If the facts are on Atwood's side, then he is right on this issue, regardless of whether or not he has received a Nobel Prize.

Does Dr. Warren even claim that he was ostracised? If so, please show me what he actually said.

  Also I explained to you exactly why Dr Warrens story was on the tall poppies site.

Well, yeah, you made the claim that Dr. Warren's story is on the tall poppies site because people were jealous of Dr. Warren and ostracised him, but you have never supported that claim. Nowhere can I find where that site says anything about honoring those who have been ostracised. The site says it was created to acknowledge the achievements of Australians. It honors many fine people. Nowhere does it claim that all of these people were victims of rejection by mainstream science.

  And why do you think the Kimball Artwood article has been written? What did you think he is trying to defend again?

He tells us very clearly what he is trying to defend. Read his introduction (here). He is trying to defend true medicine and science against the assault of quack medicine. In response to a previous article by Atwood, letters to the editor had suggested that he was too diligent in fighting quack medicine, and may be throwing out good medicine with the bad. When asked for an example of such overactive skepticism, he was presented with the case of Dr. Warren. Atwood then shows convincingly that this was not a case of science rejecting a valid new cure.

Atwood argues that the story  about Warren and Marshall being ostracised is a myth, and has hurt science's attempt to keep quack science out of medicine. Marshall and Atwood are both supporters of the Quackwatch site, which attempts to counter the trend toward quack medicine. In the article Atwood expressed the concern that Marshall's nurturing of the ostracism story was hurting their attempt to fight quack medicine. Atwood hoped that Marshall would remove his support for the ostracism story from his site. From what I can see, Marshall has indeed done that, for I see nothing at his site about being ostracised. Yes, some people still propagate the legend, but Marshall is apparently no longer supporting it from his site.  

  Maybe you didn’t read this article so well. Look what Dr Tess Gerritsen says!

“Believe me, they were ridiculed by the medical establishment. I recall my colleagues,and even my own physician-husband, scoffing at the idea ofpeptic ulcers being an infectious disease. For the next thirteen years, most of the “medical mainstream” refused to let go of their calcified notion that the only treatment for ulcers was to combat gastric acid secretion. After all, that was what we all learned in medical school. Therefore, it had to be the truth!”

  Uh, that may have been the reaction on the hospital floor--or at least Gerritsen's recollection of it many years later--but that is not what was happening in the research labs, as is clearly shown by the article. Science was very interested in studying this find.

 And here is what Kimball Artwood says of Dr Warren

A bit of digging reveals that Marshall himself has had a hand in nurturing, if not creating, the myth.

Yeah right.

And then Atwood presents the evidence. And yes, it does appear that Marshall has helped to promote the idea that they were ostracised by science.

 Kimball Arwood can say what he likes, but he has to dispute the claims of two other professionals in this article to do so, and he does in what I consider to be a rather rude manner.

Ah, so now you go by a popular vote? If popular votes of scientists determine truth, then you lose, for scientists overwhelmingly reject young-earth creationism.

And you think Atwood had a rude manner? I thought he handled it quite professionally. If you think he was rather rude, please show us which of his sentences you think were rude. 

  I know that what Dr Warren claimed in his T.V interview and what is demonstrated on the website I initially cited is true because he is far from the only scientist/medical professional I have seen make the claim. He has just gained more ears because of his Nobel Prize.

With all due respect Honey, I don't think I trust your recollection of what Dr. Warren said. You have repeatedly misinterpreted what people have said, as has been documented over and over (here and here, for instance). It seems sometimes you might hear what you want to hear.

And no, the tall poppies site nowhere makes the claim that Dr. Warren was ostracised as you claim.  

I believe I have cleared up the ‘Peer Review Issue’ demonstrating from the article I cited that it is not the true measure of science, but a tool of science.

You say peer review is a tool of science, but remember what you have told us this tool is to be used for. You have told us that "it is a way for genuine scientists to share their work with the rest of the scientific community and the world, and hopefully gain beneficial feedback." As I have explained to you (here) the true purpose of peer review is to weed out flawed studies.

This is the problem. You agree that there is much pseudoscience out there. Somehow that pseudoscience needs to be weeded out. It should not be allowed to fill our science textbooks. Mainstream science uses peer review and the continual scrutiny of science to weed out the flawed studies. You viciously attack that process, but you have put nothing in its place. If we were to reduce peer review to the level you suggest, and remove its role of referee, we would open the borders of science to all sorts of junk.

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