A weekend peek at an… ‘unconventional’ research paper.
Investigate Daily, a part of local conspiracy theory magazine Investigate edited by creationist Ian Wishart, earlier in the week released Scientists dumbstruck: signs of intelligent design in DNA code.
Investigate Daily concludes, “the study is groundbreaking in its implications.”
Sounds pretty definitive, right?
For a magazine titled Investigate, it ought to, well, investigate before announcing things as groundbreaking.
More disturbing, for me, is that this is published “science” nominally related to my own field, computational biology. More on that later.
The paper by shCherbaka and Makukovb published in an astrophysics journal, Icarus, the official publication of American Astronomical Society’s Division for Planetary Sciences and pushed by creationists as supporting ‘intelligent design’ claims to have found a ‘code’ within our DNA that indicates life on earth was designed by aliens.
If you think the claim is far-fetched, the stuff of science fiction or fantasy novels, you’re right.
Looking for biochemical clues for the possibility that life once was present on Mars, as the Mars Rover is doing, is one thing. Using numerology hoping to discover a hidden, secret code within our genetic code left by ‘the ancients’ is quite another.
You don’t need to delve into the ‘science’ the paper offers to realise it isn’t up to anything useful either.
As ‘Diogene’ has pointed out in a comment to another blogger’s take on shCherbaka and Makukovb’s paper it rests on a false comparison of two options:
- Created by random chance
- Created by space aliens
This is set up so that if the first is unlikely, the second “must” be right.
The setting is rigged because these two aren’t all the possibilities. There is at least one more:
- Created by a non-random natural process (e.g. evolved)
To declare any one the ‘preferred’ choice they’d have to investigate all three possibilities, then compare what was found. But they don’t: they only look at the first then declare the second as the ‘winner’ without ever looking at the third.
My impression is that Wishart’s forte is (or was) political journalism.
Here’s it in a nutshell, using an election as an analogy:
This work is like an election with three candidates where the third is left off the ballot sheets. Obviously the third candidate cannot win, even if they were the favoured candidate. It’s even more unjust: the second is handed victory by a claim of a weak result from the first without inspecting how the second fared.
I’d like to think Wishart can see that’s one rigged election!
A point here is that considering the overall logic, without looking at details of the paper, this isn’t the “groundbreaking” finding Wishart claims it to be.
It suggests—to my reading—that Wishart hasn’t even looked the paper’s claims before making claims about it himself. I’d have thought that poor journalism.
Either way: time for publication of a retraction or errata by Investigate Daily, then?