Another Impressive Year for the Creationist Journal BIO-Complexity [sic]

Warning – this post is pretty snarky, originally posted at Panda’s Thumb (which, if you don’t follow, you should!)

A new article has been published in the illustrious journal BIO-Complexity [sic]:

Burgess, S. (2022). Why the Ankle-Foot Complex Is a Masterpiece of Engineering and a Rebuttal of “Bad Design” Arguments. BIO-Complexity, 2022.
The foot and ankle of the chimpanzee (A) and human (B). T: axis of transverse tarsal joint; U: axis of upper ankle joint; L: axis of lower ankle joint. Note: All bones are conserved and homologous. Credit: Elftman, H., & Manter, J. (1935). The evolution of the human foot, with especial reference to the joints. Journal of anatomy, 70(Pt 1), 56.

For those not familiar with it, BIO-Complexity [sic] is a journal dedicated to publishing work from the Intelligent Design creationist community. Frustrated by their almost completely futile efforts to get their work or ideas published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, intelligent design proponents took to creating their own journal in 2010 with Douglas Axe as the founding editor-in-chief. Axe was also head of the Biologic Institute, the only research institute dedicated to intelligent design creationism, and the publisher of BIO-Complexity [sic]. The institute has now closed. No word yet on what will happen with the journal, but I imagine the green screen has been repurposed. You can read more about the history of the journal here.

BIO-Complexity [sic] and The Biologic Institute (and Axe himself to a certain extent), are all funded by the Discovery Institute, the organizing body of the intelligent design creationist movement, which you can read about it here.

The new article on the human ankle by Stuart Burgess perfectly aligns with the grand traditions of BIO-Complexity [sic]:

  1. This is just the third and final article published in in the journal in all of 2022. Their original ambitious goal was one article per month (lol), but they have yet to exceed four articles in any calendar year. In 2017, they published just one manuscript in the “research article” category and one “critical review.” This year, the three published articles are in the “critical focus” category, meaning they did not publish a single “research article” in 2022.
  2. The author of the article above is also on the editorial board of the journal. In fact, nearly all of the contributing authors in the history of the journal are also editors and most are also Discovery Institute fellows or contributors. In 2010-2011, the journal published a total of seven articles across all article types, four of them co-authored by editor-in-chief Douglas Axe. Of course, it is not unheard of that a journal occasionally publishes original work by someone on the editorial board, but this practice is usually kept to a minimum for obvious reasons.
  3. 2022 was exceptional, however, because the three articles published in BIO-Complexity [sic] are all by different authors! In most years, to reach the impressive feat of 3 or 4 articles, they publish multiple articles from the same author or team of authors, essentially by cutting articles into pieces. For example, the entire published work of the journal in 2021 is three articles, all by the same author, with titles ending in “part 1,” “part 2,” and “part 3.” (I’m not kidding!) In the year before that, two of the four published articles were by the same trio of authors and cover the same topic. The exact same was true for 2016.
  4. The reason the article above caught my attention is that it is written as a rebuttal to a few paragraphs in my 2018 popular science book Human Errors. I am mentioned by name 19 times (20 if you count the reference list), including in the abstract and in one of the section headings. I am most flattered by this continued attention, but it is not exactly in keeping with the standards and customs of academic science. Scientific data and ideas generally stand on their own and are offered on their own terms. While debates and rebuttals are also part of science, and I have been involved in some of those as well, they are never structured as a debate between persons, especially in the published literature. This article reads more like a blog post.
  5. The article itself is simply a summary of the structure and function of the human ankle, which can be summed up by saying the ankle is incredibly complex and good at what it does (notwithstanding the strains and sprains we all get). Somehow, this is offered as evidence against evolution and for intelligent design. Please feel free to read the article itself and comment below if you find any evidence against the notion that the human ankle is the product of standard evolutionary forces. I didn’t.
  6. On the contrary, in the words of fellow Panda’s Thumb contributor Anj Petto, an expert in functional morphology, “There is not a single aspect of the ankle that I can think of that exists in anticipation of the needs for the particular combination of stability, strength, and flexibility that bipedal striding requires. All of the pieces exist in the generalized primate foot, and there is a series of changes in the foot among the hominins (certainly from Ardipithecus forward) that show transitional features that reduce the muscle activity required to walking on 2 legs so that in the modern human ankle (foot, knee, hips, and lower back, as well) the skeletal system (bones, joints, cartilage, and ligaments) are supporting the upright posture so that the muscles are mostly used for propulsion rather than for supporting the upright posture.” This latter item is among the points I was making in Human Errors.
  7. Burgess does a fine job explaining the structure and function of the human ankle, but for some reason takes its functioning as evidence that it was intentionally designed and not evolved. The human body is truly impressive, a point I repeatedly made in Human Errors, but it also harbors abundant evidence of its long evolutionary past including, in my opinion, some examples of suboptimal functional design that are only comprehensible in the light of the limitations of evolutionary processes and our shared ancestry with other animals.
  8. Lastly, I have no idea why they chose to hyphenate (and weirdly capitalize) BIO-Complexity [sic] when the perfectly serviceable word Biocomplexity already exists, sans hyphen.



4 thoughts on “Another Impressive Year for the Creationist Journal BIO-Complexity [sic]

  1. I often think that it takes a theological approach in order to effectively and irresistibly confront and argue with the “creationists”. If they do believe in a “creator”, they must specify, who this guy really is. Is this the Christian God? Or Allah (the God literally) of Muslims, or maybe they think it is the Demiurge of the Manichees? Is it any sort of personal deity (like Odin or Jupiter)? These things matter. It is different for the religious believers. If the creationists feel like they are a kind of new denomination, they must determine their vision of their alleged “creator”, who the heck he/she/it is and what they expect from them. You cannot simply be a “non-atheist”, so to speak. You cannot vaguely feel the presence of an anonymous “creator” or “intelligent design” behind the Natural History and the evolution. If you (for some reasons) believe in a “creator”, it becomes a religion and the religion requires some degree of systematism in your views and world outlook. The “creationists” must be challenged to specify what kind of a “creator” they believe in; then we can easily ridicule and refute their ludicrous claims.


  2. First time on this blog. We do need more blogs on origin matters to come to a accurate intellectual investigation toward the truth. Getting publications going is difficult always and a ankle is a start to a good run! ID folk are right confident almost as much as my YEC folk.
    in the modern age anything that gets published on the internet is as likely to be persuasive and important as the old peer review publications. The peers ain’t all that and never were. The intelligent informed public is all creationists need to reach and are on a great successful learning curve in reaching the public. Our opponents are stuck in the past and not evolving and thats why evolutionism is crumbling. Just plain putting the spotlight on it. Bit just the ankles.


  3. If this is the first time you have met Robert Byers, count yourself lucky. I have made it a rule to *never* respond to him, which I am sure he regards as proof of his intellectual invincibility, although I have had many online conversations with creationists such as Sarfati.


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