If you're ever in the mood for a laugh at the expense of your fellow man, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel's “Lie Witness News” segment is probably for you. In it, producers hit the streets of Los Angeles dressed as reporters and ask pedestrians baloney questions. It's funny because of just how many people pretend they know about the completely false story they’re being asked about.
For example, a whole group of interviewees claimed to have watched March Madness games that never actually happened. Others said they were fans of rock-bands Kimmel and his crew made up on the spot. And even a few expressed disapproval for a movie based on the tragic 1954 Godzilla attack on Tokyo. They claimed that it would be insensitive to those who suffered through the giant mutant lizard's actual rampage, you see.
But these are just folks on the street. For reputed experts, there’s a much greater embarrassment of nodding along with nonsense. In recent years, many people have even tried to pull fast ones over on scientists. And many, you'll be shocked to find out, have succeeded.
For example, “Science” magazine recently reported that editors at peer-reviewed publications were consistently receiving bogus article submissions, all of which contained zilch in the way of coherent content, but were fabricated to bear at least a passing resemblance to genuine research. They were created, says “Science” magazine, using a program called SCIGen.
By mimicking the wording and structure of real papers, SCIGen automatically generates work that, according to the trio of MIT graduates who created the program, puts out meaningless, random assortments of words and sentences stitched together by an algorithm. The results are impressive enough to bamboozle a shocking number of peer-reviewed scientific journals.
From 2008 to 2011, a staggering 85 nonsense papers turned up in the proceedings of 24 computer science conferences, costing these journals serious credibility and readership.
And that's exactly what SCIGen's creators say they designed it to do: to expose lax standards and even shut down publishing houses whose staff can't distinguish between ruse and research. But asone writer at Evolution News and Views points out, SCIGen has forced much of the scientific community to admit, albeit tacitly, that intelligent design theory is valid science, and does make useful predictions.
You see, as convincing as they may be to editors more concerned with conference fees than vetting submissions, SCIGen papers exhibit tell-tale signs of randomness. And more importantly, they lack the critical marks of intelligent causation, a weakness that “Science” magazine says publishers are using to fight back.
And so in response, a new computer program released this month, called SciDetect, is designed to kill pranksters' joy by automatically identifying fake papers so human reviewers don't have to. SciDetect works by calculating the probability of sentences having come about through unguided process.
So SCIDetect has “dramatically reduced the number of gibberish papers,” something for which publishers are grateful. But as the onging fight over intelligent design in academia shows, the intelligent design theory itself—though obviously vital when it comes to distinguishing design from digital forgeries—remains the object of scorn when it comes to studying the cosmos.
Teaching intelligent design in the classroom, said the ACLU in a recent letter to a school district in Maine, is “improperly inject[ing]...religious doctrine into science lessons.” And in most every court case in the last few years, judges have agreed.
But as the I.D. community continues to point us to signs of an intelligent creator, maybe skeptics will begin to relent. After all, they clearly understand the marks of design and how to look for them—and look they do, at least when their reputations are on the line.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: April 23, 2015