14 February 2013
The Discovery Institute feels sorry for my students
Posted by Callan Bentley
Periodically, I get requests to use my images in publications. It’s very easy to find my photos, because I publish a lot of them on this blog, or on my NOVA website, and they always rise to the top of a Google image search. I got a distinctive one on Monday:
Dear Mr. Bentley,
My boss Dr. Stephen C. Meyer at the Discovery Institute is finishing up a book that discusses various attempts to explain the Cambrian Explosion. It is called Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosion of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design.
I am in the process of looking for photos for his book and came across your set detailing a trip to the Burgess Shale. I am writing to see if you are open to giving him permission to use one of your photos, a picture of Emerald Lake and the Burgess Shale landscape. You describe the photo on your AGU.org <http://AGU.org> blog as:
“Emerald Lake and its gorgeous alluvial fan coming off the Presidential Range and filling in the basin.”
I’d like to offer you $100 and a complimentary copy of the book in return for permission to use the photo. The book will be published in June 2013 by HarperOne Publishers San Francisco. If you agree to do this, can you please forward me a high-res version of the photo and your preferred wording for credit?
Our deadline for submitting photos and art is this coming Thursday, Feb. 14th. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Media Relations Specialist
Assistant to Dr. Stephen Meyer
Discovery Institute’s Center for Science & Culture
[email protected] vv 425-296-4574 ext. 306
The Discovery Institute is the creationist think tank in Seattle that serves as the principle promulgator of Intelligent Design creationism: the idea that certain aspects of living organisms are so complex that they cannot be explained by evolution, and must therefore imply being created whole-cloth by
God a Creator an Intelligent Designer of Unspecified Provenance. It’s a funny idea: to cling to the idea of a Creator, they imply that he did a job that was (a) almost completely indistinguishable from an evolved system but (b) just sloppy enough that we can find his fingerprints hidden in life’s unexamined details.
So I replied:
Thanks for your interest.
I hold the Discovery Institute in the lowest regard, and it sounds like the new book will be a further perversion of reason in the name of pseudoscience. As a science educator, I could never support such an effort! I will not grant reproduction rights to any of my photos or drawings to any creationist effort such as the one you describe here.
Best wishes for your good health, and the speedy demise of the sham institution that employs you.
Andrew might have left it there, as have previous creationists who asked to use my photos when I delivered a similarly pointed response. But he quickly responded:
I’m sorry to learn that you do not support true freedom of scientific inquiry. As Charles Darwin himself stated, “A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question.”
I only hope the materialist, reductionist scales fall off your eyes one day. Until then, I feel sorry for your students.
The “scales falling off the eyes” bit is apparently derived from the Bible. I’ve only heard that phrase once previously, when speaking with a devout Christian friend. It’s a curious tactic for him to employ. I certainly can’t say it compelled me: basically it means that someone was deluded or wrong, and that a new piece of information shifts their perspective fundamentally. I might just as easily toss the same sanctimony towards Mr. McDiarmid.
The Darwin quote is a good one, though his playing that card with regards to Intelligent Design is a false dichotomy. It’s not like this issue is contentious within the bounds of science. On the contrary, it could hardly be less controversial – there aren’t two sides to discuss, except within the supernatural cultural confines of the pious & paranoid. This particular accounting was put to the scales long ago (the other kind of scales: the kind we use to weigh things). Hate to break it to you, Mr. McDiarmid, but those scales didn’t balance. The “Life evolved” side had all the evidence. The “Life was designed” side had none. At least back at the Dover trial, ID proponents could still cite the bacterial flagellum as an item of potentially intelligent design. But now we understand it to be yet another example of pre-adaptation, in this case a re-purposing of the Type III secretory apparatus. There is no compelling case for Intelligent Design. Their side of the scale is full of three things: unshakeable faith, the argument from incredulity, and the “God of the Gaps” argument. The science side of the scale is full of more than 150 years of corroboration, hypothesis testing, predictions, observations, fossil evidence, theoretical modeling, and modern experimentation.
It’s no contest.
Anyhow, when I saw his note, I was getting ready for bed, and I felt like I needed to send off a riposte so I could feel like I’d had the last word before settling in for my long winter’s nap.
Inquiry is indeed free, and you guys should be free to think whatever you want! I support that 100%. But if it can’t pass peer review, it ain’t science.
I’ll convey your pity to my students.
Students, please note that the Discovery Institute feels sorry for you.
That felt like conversational closure to me, but of course, not to Mr. McDiarmid. So when I woke up the next morning, I found that he had played the Galileo gambit:
And who “controls” peer review? How easy is it to get new or revolutionary ideas to be peer reviewed and accepted by the scientific majority? A quick glance through scientific history will quickly show you it is difficult indeed! And is peer review really the “gold standard” for science? We are not sure it is:
Intelligent design is peer reviewed, but is peer review a requirement of good science?
Remember, scientific revolutions don’t get welcomed in gladly. Their effects are gradual and reluctantly accepted. Thanks for proving that point!
I’m done playing email tag with Mr. McDiarmid, but now I’ve got a cup of coffee and a sleeping baby, and so I’ve got at least seven minutes to respond.
And who “controls” peer review?
Peers: people with relevant expertise who prioritize factual evidence and value logical argumentation; people who are eager to advance our understanding of the natural world through new insights. Not a conspiracy of goons who work to suppress the truth. And not people who agree with you: skeptical people with an empirical bent, people you have to convince.
How easy is it to get new or revolutionary ideas to be peer reviewed and accepted by the scientific majority?
If the idea is pseudoscience, it won’t pass peer review*, and it won’t get included in the scientific conversation, and it won’t become accepted. So: not so easy, and I’m grateful for that. Otherwise pseudoscientific ideas like the flat Earth, the expanding Earth or Hallettestoneion Sea Zoria Dragons would be written up in geoscience textbooks alongside radioactive decay, Bowen’s reaction series, and Archeopteryx.
If the idea is a good idea, it gets adopted pretty quickly. I think of plate tectonics, isotopic dating, the K-T impact hypothesis, anthropogenic global warming, mantle plumes, the Pleistocene Ice Age, Neoproterozoic low-latitude glaciation: It might take a couple of decades to filter through to wider acceptance, but it gets there eventually. Creationism has been fighting rational inquiry for centuries. While they’re seeing a resurgence in their public numbers in the U.S., that’s not the case among scientists, where creationism is quite low.
So much for McDiarmid’s “revolution”… I’ve got a hunch what Inigo Montoya might say about that.
* The first of the links above about peer review points out correctly that sometimes crap makes it through the filters. This is true, and fortunately fairly uncommon. After review and publication, a wider swath of peers look closely at newly published ideas and scrutinize them. Gibberish is revealed as such; weak ideas are gutted, fraudulent papers are retracted, and strong ideas gain corroboration.
I feel Mr. McDiarmid makes an unfortunate conflation here: confusing publication with acceptance. They aren’t the same thing. Publication follows upon the presentation of a coherent explanation for a set of observations; passing minimum muster to merit consideration. Just because the idea is worthy of being included in the conversation doesn’t mean that it is sufficiently compelling to convince the entire scientific establishment. That only comes when the idea has been tested: the initial paper reacted to, and reacted to again, and the reactions reacted to, and discussed and debated, and faulty conclusions showed for what they are.
To be clear: not only has Intelligent Design failed to convince the scientific majority, it’s not even worth being mentioned in the conversation. It’s a dud.
Intelligent design is peer reviewed
It’s been peer-reviewed and rejected. The list of peer-reviewed Intelligent Design papers is a laughable gallimaufry of philosophy papers and theistically-infused re-interpretation of small biochemical features, mixed with pouty critiques of Darwinian evolution. It’s like mice nibbling at the dust around the carcass of a whale: where’s the meat of it? I mean, this is a huge, super duper important idea, right? “God’s fingerprints exist!” For such a profound “truth” about the universe, the articles on offer are pretty thin gruel. There’s no peer-reviewed article that showcases unambiguously the Big Scientific Case for Intelligent Design. I’m talking about a paper in Science or Nature that shows that this profound and previously unnoticed aspect of life, of the utmost importance, is quantitatively demonstrated and worthy of study. Where is that article?
I’m sure the answer would invoke the vast materialist conspiracy against the real truth.
So, for the record: I’m open to the idea of an Intelligent Designer, but such an extraordinary claim would require some extraordinary, incontrovertible evidence. Here are a few ideas:
- “Hey there; it’s me, the Invisible Space Teapot. I made this.” written in nucelotide base pairs of every nucleic acid ever examined.
- Embossed letters reading (in Aramaic, Esperanto, and Elvish) “Intelligently Designed by Yours Truly” embossed on the side of mitochondria, or for that matter, elephants.
- The heavens opening, and Goorialla appearing, and saying “Hey – stop arguing about this. In spite of nature having every appearance of having evolved, I mischievously made it look that way when I intelligently designed it, so you all didn’t know whether to trust your minds or your faith. Heh! Good one, eh?”
- Fossil rabbit blueprints (showing the design process, natch) in the Precambrian.
It would have to be something bold, unambiguous, and not capable of being faked by True Believers with an ideological axe to grind. Simply looking at the world through ID-colored glasses and interpreting everything you see to be the Designer’s handiwork is insufficient. Those who are sympathetic to the impetus for Intelligent Design research should ask themselves: Why is this so difficult to show unambiguously? Why can’t we convince people who are the toughest to convince? Where’s the really compelling evidence we seek?
The Discovery Institute has faith in their cherished conclusion: that the physical world reveals in its obscure details the signature of the Creator. That conclusion is steadfast and absolute. As long as the Discovery Institute exists, they will advocate for greater acceptance of that idea. In contrast, I trust science as a process for sorting through potential explanations of the natural world, and rejecting those lacking evidence or logical coherence. Put in language Mr. McDiarmid might appreciate, science is a way of checking if we have scales on our eyes. True institutions of science do not advocate for any particular conclusion, but only tentatively for the most coherent explanations that science has been able to reveal thus far. Scientists are ever conscious of the fact that today’s conclusions can morph rapidly into yesterday’s moldy antecedents. And what does it take to make that transformation? Just add data! The right facts can overturn a paradigm, and any real scientist welcomes that new insight. But it’s a sad spectacle to watch the Discovery Institute thrashing against our best current understanding with the wet noodles of yesteryear’s fairy tales.
Pseudoscience like Intelligent Design puts the conclusion first, and that’s the easiest way you can tell Intelligent Design creationists apart from scientists.
What a great post and your responses are spot on. It is a shame that organizations like the Discovery Institute doggedly continue to promote pseudoscience in the face of overwhelming evidence in the first place but then to try and go all evangelical on you via email is really annoying. By the way, the line “wet noodles of yesteryear’s fairy tales” really cracked me up.
Thanks. I struggled a bit with that particular metaphor, but ultimately found that it captured the sad impotency of their idea in a satisfactory way. Glad it made you laugh.
Noodly appendages? THE FINGERPRINT!! ITS THE GREAT FLYING SPAGHETTI MONSTER!!
And the FSM even has direct evidence. Some of Hubble’s pictures show His Noodliness in all His glory.
Great job Callan. It’s kind of stunning how blind this guy was to your inevitable refusal of this offer. That provides some insight into his delusional state of mind.
I’m a former student of yours who is religious.
I have a great deal more pity for those who don’t have an opportunity to have classes with you than for those fortunate enough to do so.
& a great deal more antipathy for those who try & argue for pseudo-science & insist it’s a prerequisite for my faith.
One of the best qualities of rational discourse is the ability to listen to the other point of view before endorsing or writing it off. This article shows once again the tendency for to write off ID a priori solely on the basis of its challenging the current scientific paradigm.
It would be good if ID were understood as it is defined and described before a proper critque is made on those ground. Sorry to say this it seems that you mis-interpreted what ID is and what it claims based on what you propose to be its ‘hidden’ aim.That I think is not fair and in the spirit of true scientific inquiry
Challenging the paradigm is fine. Show the data: blow my mind and change the way I see the world.
But that is the point! The Scientific data that ID theorists put forward of biological systems that can only plausibly be explained by design is usually either ignored, or explained away.
I think that ID theorists have very strong evidence that cannot be ignored that many biological systems show properties which the most plausible scientific explanation will be an intelligent agent (ID theorist claim again and again that the nature and the purposes of that agent is not in their interest). We can either ignore and ridicule this attempt or engage and challenge it on that ground. We seem to be doing the former
So… no data then?
Data that can be “explained away” isn’t compelling evidence of a Creator. It’s data that has another explanation – a rational one. Explaining data in terms of documented natural processes is what scientists do. Explaining data in terms of undocumented supernatural processes is what pseudoscientists do.
Where is the “very strong evidence” that you find so compelling? Let’s have it laid out plainly, so we can assess your claim that the “most plausible scientific explanation will be an intelligent agent.” I haven’t seen this data yet.
You are aware of the “God of the Gaps” argument, right? Even if you present me with something that science doesn’t currently have an answer for does not imply necessarily that God did it.
I’m happy to ridicule ridiculous ideas. Until you convince me with empirical evidence, ID will be classed with Bigfoot, homeopathy, ghosts, and astrology. It’s pseudoscience that no one would take seriously if it weren’t for pre-existing religious beliefs, such as your Catholicism.
The hypotheses of ID proponents has been considered, discussed, reconsidered, and re-discussed over and over and over again – for decades, if not centuries. It’s been done; they weren’t compelling then, and all they do now is rehash all the old stuff in shiny new boxes.
There comes a point where no, we don’t have to keep considering the same nonsense yet again. It’s been considered, and rejected for excellent reasons. If they’re going to continue pushing the same stuff after all that, of course they’re going to get the short shrift. We have no duty to keep reading the same gibberish.
People sometimes call me closed minded when I disparage their attempts to convince me that homeopathy works. They say I’m dismissing it out of hand, unjustly. What they don’t see is that I’ve looked into it, several times, and it’s still nonsense, just like it was when I first heard about it. I can dismiss it out of hand now because it’s the same nonsense it was before.
The Scientific data that ID theorists put forward of biological systems that can only plausibly be explained by design is usually either ignored, or explained away.
A lie. Go read my paper with Elsberry, published in Synthese. We engaged with intelligent design claims in great detail, and showed how they were groundless. In return, we got name-calling.
“I think that ID theorists have very strong evidence that cannot be ignored that many biological systems show properties which the most plausible scientific explanation will be an intelligent agent.”
Biologist here. Nope. There is not a single biological system that show properties in which the most plausible scientific explanation is an intelligent agent. Not one. Nada. Zero. Zilch. All biological systems have natural explanations rooted chemistry, physics, geology, and biology.
I think he is referring to analogies. In my experience, the BEST they have to offer are analogies (and ‘mysteries’ and the occasional statistical ‘analysis’). Because after all, we are told, genomes are just like computers, and we know that Intelligent Agents make computers, so…
i have advanced degrees from divinity school. i am an atheist. i also have a science degree.
here is my question to believers: why yours? why your specific set of claims and beliefs in things you nor anyone else cannot demonstrate, prove or observe?
in ancient times, what we call Jewish belief today was very different, and only held by a minority of people in the region. later, Christians were mocked as “atheists” for only believing in one god. later than that, Muslims mocked Christians for believing that “three is one.” in China and India, there are a whole other mess of competing religions and creation stories that have nothing to do with monotheistic systems.
which one is right? how do you know? do not point to that worst-edited and rewritten more times than national geographic issues magazines text called “the bible.” that is a human created text, like thousands and thousands of others that exist, and you call “myth.” because they are. all of them.
for a long time, the human mind struggled with the mysteries of the natural world. it’s awesome, and scary! also, for most of human history, some people have preferred chatting, to working. and getting paid for the former.
today, we’re slowly progressing to the point where we can understand things and not need a god or two to explain them. please, join us in this wonderful, exciting endeavor. it’s more fun than jeebus ever had on a dinosaur, i promise!
“ID theorist claim again and again that the nature and the purposes of that agent is not in their interest”
Yes, they claim that. But it’s a lie they’ve been caught in multiple times. Here’s one example:
Here’s the “theory” of ID, taken from the DI’s own web site:
“The theory of intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection. ”
To have any scientific validity, theories need to set constraints on possible outcomes. That means there have to be potential observations and measurements not explicable by the theory.
What potential observation or measurement could show that “certain features” (whatever that may mean) of the universe are not “best explained” (who judges whether or not an explanation is “best”?) by “intelligent cause” (what exactly does that mean? How does one distinguish between intelligent and non-intelligent cause?)
Bloviating, crying foul, claiming persecution and in come cases outright lies are no way to the scientific case for ID. To make a scientific case, they need to come up with an hypothesis which can be tested, just as any other scientific hypothesis can be tested.
Here’s an example of a theory for ID folks out there, that can be tested, and falsified. Listen to how precise it is, how predictive and specific it is.
“Any two material particles, or bodies, if free to move, will be accelerated toward each other with a force proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them.”
THAT is a robust theory, capable of being tested and observed, and falsified.
“We can’t explain some stuff so therefore design” isn’t a theory. It doesn’t deserve to be treated as one. It has no predictive power. It has no specific claims. It is vague and general. The hallmarks of pseudoscience.
“And then a miracle happened” is not science because it doesn’t explain anything. One problem with ID is that God, er, I mean, The Creator™ can do anything so nothing is falsifiable.
A problem with the IDers is they see evolution as a zero sum game. If evolution “loses” then their side automatically “wins”. They see no possibility for any other theories superseding evolution.
Einsteinian relativity superseded Newtonian physics because relativity explained everything Newtonian gravitation did plus things gravitation did not explain. Newtonian gravitation is a subset of relativity, not a completely different theory. Similarly if evolution is superseded, then the new theory has to explain everything evolution does and things that evolution does not. No, I don’t know what those other things might be.
The DI does not use that as a theory, but as a postulate or (in their appropriate frame of reference) an axiom. It’s truth is assumed. Except that both those terms apply to statements that are used as the basis for logical reasoning, which is something you don’t see from DI.
You know what happens when we “assume”, right? :^)
According to Al Franken, when you assume, you make an ass out of Uma Thurman.
Well, to be fair, certain features of the universe, such as my house and my 2007 Honda Civic hybrid, do exhibit evidence of some kind of intelligent agent having designed them.
Oh, wait. I think I misunderstood the assignment.
“write off ID a priori” — Ironic used of the term “a priori”. This is exactly how ID starts … with a priori knowledge of an assumed (of unknown characteristic or origin) which is not a theory but a belief. ID creationist then attempt to find “evidence” to support their belief as opposed testing hypotheses in support of or rejection of an actual scientific theory.
It does not get out of the door as illegitimate scientific inquiry.
I could challenge the current scientific paradigm, as you put it, by asserting that the world is being dragged in its orbit around the sun by four giant invisible flying unicorns. But I wouldn’t expect anyone to believe me unless I offered compelling evidence to support my claim.
I think the ID point is this: Callan said ‘I’m open to the idea of an Intelligent Designer, but such an extraordinary claim would require some extraordinary, incontrovertible evidence. Here are a few ideas:
“Hey there; it’s me, the Invisible Space Teapot. I made this.” written in nucelotide base pairs of ever nucleic acid ever examined.
Embossed letters reading (in Aramaic, Esperanto, and Elvish) “Intelligently Designed by Yours Truly” embossed on the side of mitochondria, or for that matter, elephants.’
Now what property of the above will lead to Callan to assume ID if he sees this:
The statement “Intelligently Designed by Yours Truly” is 1. complex 2. Specified 3. highly improbable. We normally would posit intelligence when we come across information like this (e.g Archeology, Forensics, SETI). What the ID fellows are saying is this: That some biological system exhibit these qualities and that just as one can Scientifically infer design (as is done in Archeology, Forensics etc.) one can also do so as the best possible explanation for specified complexity in biological systems.
The issue is:
1. Do biological structures (some of them) exhibit specified complexity?
2. If yes can, this specified complexity be accounted for by Random mutations acted upon by natural selection?
3. What inference do we draw from current events that exhibit specified complexity?
4. can we draw the same inference for biological structures?
That is the point of the ID fellows. Yes inferring an intelligent agent has theological implications just as a definition of the Universe as a closed system of absolutely natural causes. but if the evidence leads there we have no choice. ID fellows bring to the table compelling evidence (DNA structure for example) and should be at least taken seriously
” ID fellows bring to the table compelling evidence (DNA structure for example) and should be at least taken seriously.”
How is DNA structure compelling evidence for ID? Whom is this compelling to? None of the biologists I know find it compelling.
As a biochemist, I find the structure of DNA to be compelling evidence against ID.
Why does ATG always code for methionine? There is no chemical reason why it has to. If I were an intelligent designer, I would have made different codes for different species. If humans, pigs, and chickens had different codes, you wouldn’t have to worry about the flu.
“1. Do biological structures (some of them) exhibit specified complexity?”
considering this is a nonsense term to begin with, and further definitions of it by people claiming to support ID have actually RULED IT OUT for any system one cares to name… the answer is a resounding NO.
Why do you assume that anyone rejects ID creationism on a priori grounds? I have read Behe’s books. I’ve read many of Meyer’s essays. I’ve read a dozen creationist books, dozens of essays on the DI website. I’ve read Axe’s and Gauger’s “research”. And I have CONCLUDED that ID is non-scientific nonsense, masquerading as actual science. So please do not play concern troll when it comes to ID. Many of us have evaluated what they have to offer and see it for what it is. For crying out loud – they cannot even seem to fill their OWN ‘journals’ with ID-science, why do they complain about being censored by the establishment?
Intelligent Design is not a new idea — it’s a bad retread of the creationism that Darwin overturned. What’s next, a plee for open-minded consideration of Ptolemaic astronomy?
To be clear — intelligent design is just another name for the theory that evolution supplanted. It was weighed against the evidence and found wanting a century and a half ago. ID advocates have not produced a single new piece of evidence nor any compelling argument for their views. They just repeated the same tired nonsense and whine about how mean we’re being to them.
“..basis of its challenging the current scientific paradigm”
That is what you and your cultish group do not seem to understand. ID has challenged no one. It has provoked not a single conflicting idea in the entire scientific community. It is instantly dismissed by any rational being with any scientific background as, at best, thoroughly incomplete, and at worst, fraudulent.
As Callan has pointed out, as well as thousands of individuals equally and more qualified than he, ID has failed the test of science. Your insistence that it is actual science does not make it so.
“One of the best qualities of rational discourse is the ability to listen to the other point of view before endorsing or writing it off. ”
Indeed. What on EARTH makes you think this isn’t the case with ID?
are you really that ignorant of all the discussion, debate, and published papers that have thoroughly analyzed all the claims made by ID “theorists” and rejected them, in detail and exhaustively, repeatedly?
if so, then you have your work cut out for you to alleviate your ignorance. There are several people that have been directly involved in debunking ID that have posted in this very thread, like Jeff Shallit.
don’t project your own ignorance of this issue onto the rest of us.
Fantastic post!! I wonder how much deeper Mr. McDiarmid would have continued to dig his grave if you kept it going!!
There’s no telling how long it would go on. DIers have the persistence of a Jehova’s Witness with an Amway franchise, and about as much credibility.
“persistence of a Jehovah Witness with an Amway franchise” is my new favorite analogy
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” – Upton Sinclair
Was this comment directed at the ID proponents or the naturalists? I think it applies to both.
I inferred it was directed at ID proponents, for whom the conclusion is paramount. For scientists, the process is paramount.
I think your assumption really gets to the root of the problem. You create a false dichotomy between scientists and ID proponents. When the reality is that all scientists (theists and atheists) have a bias based on their worldview. Therefore if the scientific community has a large atheistic majority then the bias is inevitably going to be towards interpretations of data which support that conclusion. The observer bias is unavoidable, and it doesn’t just go away if you have a naturalistic worldview.
I said “inferred,” not “assumed.” They’re not the same thing, except perhaps to someone who thinks that the dichotomy between process-oriented scientists (“naturalists,” in your preferred language) and conclusion-oriented I.D. creationists (can I call them “supernaturalists”?) is a false one.
What the heck are you thinking? That’s a real dichotomy. It’s not false. They are discernible from one another, because they are fundamentally different!
Callan is absolutely right. Regardless of bias, the scientific worldview is to draw conclusions depending on evidence. The creationist / ID worldview is to look for or fabricate evidence depending on the desired conclusions. Of course, there are charlatans in science who fabricate evidence, but they get found out and discredited, whereas creationsists have been found out and discredited yet they still continue. Darwin was actually a great example of the scientific worldview, as he initially doubted if evolution could be true because the consensus at the time was that the sun (and hence the earth) was not old enough to allow the processes of natural selection to create the diversity of species.
I agree with Larimer on unavoidable bias. Whether we want to admit there will always be bias in our interpretation of the evidence on both sides. The point is criticism must be solely grounded on the errors in interpreting the evidence and not on ones opposition to the conclusion proposed. it seems like no one yet is willing to tackle specified complexity and ID on the scientific evidence they claim (which I repeat is compelling if properly understood) but rather focus on the perceived absurdity of their conclusion. This focus on the conclusion is the bias that Larimer is warning against and it is unfair and unhealthy
I’m not arguing against the “God did it” conclusion a priori or because I am biased against it, I’m arguing against the “God did it” conclusion because it lacks a shred of evidence. I’ve asked you previously for your compelling evidence, Ikenna, but you haven’t responded to that request. Lay out the evidence for the conclusion, and that is all it will take!!
The assumption I was referring to is when you assumed ID proponents are not scientists and that assumption does create a false dichotomy. Your assumption created a difference between scientists and ID proponents. You cannot remove the title of scientist from ID proponents just because you don’t like their conclusion and you think it is creating a strong bias in their interpretations. This is exactly what I am talking about. When you disagree with someones conclusions it is very tempting to assume they are just more biased in their interpretations of the data. When the truth is everyone is biased. And the larger the group is within the scientific community that holds to the same worldview (which creates a desire for similar conclusions), then the more bias it will create.
An untestable conclusion isn’t a scientific result.
ID proponents are not scientists because they do not follow a scientific process. Period. The fact that their conclusions contradict the available evidence is a predictable result of their failure to follow a scientific process, but it’s not the most important issue.
Besides, there is not one single person in the world who actually believes in intelligent design. It is always, and without exception, a cover for religious creationism. That is because intelligent design was invented in order to sneak religious dogma into science classes. It has no independent intellectual life.
Matt Larimer, who are you referring to when you say “naturalists”?
People with a naturalistic worldview.
…as opposed to people with a supernatural view. In other words, people who would interpret the results of an experiment without reference to an invisible space teapot, a gremlin, the Loch Ness Monster, Allah, or a poltergeist. Any person invoking any such intangible entity to explain something isn’t doing science. Period.
Callan, when you use terms like space tea pot it really reduces your credibility. In your attempt to make theists sound ridiculous, you are making yourself sound ridiculous. At least have one ounce of respect for the vast majority of the worlds population that does hold to a supernatural worldview. And if not respect for the worlds population then at least for the thousands of theistic scientists which have gotten you to the point that you think you can just laugh at them. It’s just arrogant and it makes you come off as really petty.
Apologies for your bruised feelings – it’s the idea I don’t respect (because it lacks any evidence); not you as a person. You’re awesome.
All evidence-less ideas are deserving of an equal level of respect: none.
Matt, do you mean methodological naturalism, or metaphysical naturalism? The difference is quite crucial.
If you mean methodological naturalism, then that is not a presupposition or bias that scientists hold. Rather, it is a position that is necessary to the practice of science. Without it, science isn’t science.
Whereas if you mean metaphysical naturalism, then you need to substantiate your accusation that this is a bias held by most scientists. I suspect the majority of scientists have no position on it one way or the other, if they have even thought of it at all(And why should they?)
I was referring to metaphysical naturalism and why would you assume that most scientists have never thought about it? It seems to be a pretty controversial subject, especially with Nagel’s recent book “Mind and Cosmos.”
Can i ask a question: Is there a reason why the idea of design behind nature should be out of the question in scientific inquiry? is the reason scientific or philosophical? Or just plain subjective?
If scientific search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) is acceptable and even promoted, what is the problem with using the same principles to propose a designing intelligence behind the Universe itself?
No reason to rule it out at the get-go. It’s not “out of the question” a priori, at least in my mind. But neither is it in any way compelling. The right evidence could bring it into the mainstream discussion, rather than on the fringes where few bother to invest their time. But that evidence isn’t there. People have looked for it, some of them desperately, and they haven’t found it. The idea has been tested, and scientifically, it has failed. Occam’s razor therefore demands we reject the notion.
But: evidence trumps parsimony, so (again) all it would take is some compelling evidence. Let us know when you find it.
The question is a reasonable one, and a basic human one (“Where did we come from?”). The issue I have is not with investigating the notion, but with people presenting the case for the notion as if it were a valid concept that had passed muster. Until the creationist hypothesis gets resurrected by some compelling data, it should not be presented as science, which is what the book (that led to the email that led to the blog post that led to this comment thread) is going to do.
The SETI example is an excellent one.; it gets at the heart of the matter. The difference is that extraterrestrial civilizations (at least as detectable by SETI’s techniques) are physical entities. God, or whichever Intelligent Designer you prefer, is not.
Thanks for clarifying, Matt.
I assume that most scientists have no strong opinion on metaphysical naturalism simply because this is a philosophical issue, and scientists are not philosophers. Certainly their paycheques do not depend in any way on whether they accept a particular metaphysical position, so I’m really not sure why you’re bothering to bring the subject up. I wonder what percentage of scientists even know who Thomas Nagel is, never mind read his book.
Thank you, Prof. Bentley, for standing up for science.
I was amazed at the chutzpah but the debating techniques reminded me of a “debate” I witnessed (30+ years ago) between a professor of Anthropology and a pastor from the first church of some hole in the wall in Colorado. The fact twisting I most recollect was the interpretation of an article in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology where in the investigator had applied a discriminant function to the femur of a fossil generally recognized at that time to be Australopithecus sp. The program assigned the femur to the “human” category which is what one might expect given other knowledge of locomotor similarities. But the Reverend told us that “The Computer” had said that this was a human bone which proved that there were no fossils of animals that were the ancestors of humans — there were all either apes or humans with no intermediary specimens.
Such is what passes for research then and, apparently still today.
How conveniently ID supporters forget the contents of the discovery institutes “wedge document”. Which describes in great detail their actual agenda. All their pseudo science Mumbo jumbo is simply a smoke screen to hide their true intentions, the Christian evangelizing of our country. Shame on them and their disingenuous practices.
It is actually a perversion of Christianity. There is nothing about Christianity that requires denial of evolution. These are people of both weak mind an faith who feel they have to pervert science in order to promote faith. There are plenty of faith believers who see the work of the creator in evolutionary principles. ID is a joke and deserves the scorn. People are free to believe in it, but to pass it off as science is fraud.
You sound like a good bloke, and in finding room for both evolution and your faith I applaud you. For me, I find it impossible to look at the waste, indifferent savagery and blindness that are part and parcel of the history and present of life on this planet and conclude that there is any divine involvement, with the possible but unlikely exception of something extremely deist in scope.
I personally do not hold these beliefs, but I know many do, and I find it interesting that many people of faith have no issue with also accepting evolution. The Catholic Church is clear on this, for example. I find it weird that some people of faith find their faith allegedly challenged by evolution – there is no doctrinal reason for it. 500 years ago, it was heliocentrism that caused all the bother.
People always leave out the vicious 1500 year fight against the heretical concept that matter is made of atoms. Recently released Church records show that even Galileo was discredited in part due to his Atomist leanings.
So you are the authority for what Christianity is? That’s pretty intolerant, you know. You basically write off all Christians who believe in ID/Creationism as perverting Christianity. They write off all people who don’t as perverting Christianity. And in each case, it is stated as a smug certainty by people who are constantly shouting about how “arrogant” atheists are, and how “humble” Christians are.
I grew up in a Christian household that would be very surprised to find there is nothing in Christianity that precludes an acceptance of evolution. They would happily point you to Genesis and Adam and Eve and tell you that without the fall, there was no need for the resurrection. You just insisted they are wrong, and you are right. Why should I accept your view of Christianity any more readily than I accept theirs?
First, show me some evidence to indicate which form of Christianity is correct; then you can tell me who’s got it wrong. Meanwhile, I’ll hang around in the gray area, doubting that any of you have the right answer, since all you can do is point fingers at each other and say “Uh uh!”.
Well, maybe you should talk to the Discovery Institute about that last paragraph. Instead of them routinely regurgitating baseless, unfounded claims about ID, they should convene all of the several, varied denominations of Christianity in a large auditorium. They would need to first figure out which of those denominations is the real “true” one, since they all claim that.
Once that’s accomplished, the “true” Christian group then needs to convene all the non-Christian religions in a like manner. They would figure out which of those religions, if any, are true. Make sure Christianity is even a true religion as opposed to all the other ones. Perhaps you rejected Zeus as mythology at your own peril.
Figure that out first. Get your evidence that your God (or someone’s God) even exists in the first place. It shouldn’t be that hard. An omnipotent, supreme being should be able to wow us with evidence that anyone could understand. But it’s not there. So either he’s really, really bad at this…or he’s not there.
Read my link above for the Catholic position on this. Seems that one rather large authority on Christianity agrees with me. I am also reminded of all the famous rebuttals to the foolishness of taking various Biblical passages literally, such as Genesis 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life King James version. I guess before that, God had snakes hopping around on the point of their tail.
Being hot and bothered about evolution as a threat to your faith is akin to 500 years ago when heliocentrism was an alleged threat to faith. It is a pretty weak faith that requires belief in superstitions about our physical world in order to thrive.
I may be wrong on this, but I think that the “serpent” is a translation choice which bears a different meaning in English than in the original Aramaic or Hebrew or whatever it was. The new book by David Montgomery (The Rocks Don’t Lie) explores this issue in some depth with regards to the Noachian flood – “adamah” (meaning soil) translated as “earth” (or “Earth”) – so the original said “the flood covered the soil,” but now fundamentalists and young-Earthers prefer “the flood covered the Earth.”
Okay – I found it in my notes – actually, in the review of “The Rocks Don’t Lie” that appears in this month’s issue of EARTH magazine. Here it is:
Montgomery also illuminates the fascinating history behind the Bible’s translation, and the ramifications of certain word choices. The most relevant example of a translation error is the Hebrew word “eretz,” which can mean earth, land or soil. Translating the Hebrew Bible in A.D. 390, St. Jerome chose the Latin “terra” to be the best match for “eretz,” but he also used “terra” as a stand-in for “adamah,” or soil. Later, when the Bible was translated from Latin to English, “terra” became “Earth.” The result is that a word that once meant “soil” (which was submerged in the Noachian Flood) now was taken to mean the entire planet! Proponents of Flood geology work desperately hard to make reality match this ancient translation error.
Presumably they wanted a picture of the Burgess Shale area because they were going to discuss the Burgess Shale from an ID viewpoint in the book.
I would have thought if they wanted to do that, they would need to do some original burgess shale research to be sure of their facts. And then they could take their own pictures.
What, John? Do actual research? The DI? Nope, that won’t ever happen.
You know what’s especially ridiculous? The Burgess Shale is a day’s drive from the DI’s headquarters in Seattle. They could round up a photographer and make a long weekend of it.
Come to think of it, I may do that this summer. I’ve never seen it in person.
Wait, you actually expected the DI to do something more than express 200-year-old apologetics in terms of logarithms?
Wonderful replies and follow-ups. I fell that you gave the DI more than enough of your time and attention. If you had continued I do wonder what caricature of an idea they would have brought up next. Maybe Lady Hope, a tornado in a junkyard, or the ever popular ‘Academic Freedom’ which has little to do with Academics and even less to do with Freedom.
The case for intelligent design was made quite eloquently by no less than James Hutton, a creationist who argued that Earth was “a machine of a peculiar construction by which it is adapted to a certain end. We perceive a fabric, erected in wisdom, to obtain a purpose worthy of the power that is apparent in the production of it.” Today we still accept that Earth is an integrated system, but Hutton’s mechanisms have been falsified by two centuries of evidence and argument. Earth is not a purpose-driven planet.
Nice response to ID bull. There’s a point you missed: “I only hope the materialist, reductionist scales fall off your eyes one day.”
How does one carry out a scientific investigation other than under materialist and reductionist assumptions? If I drop a ball, do I explain it in a materialist, reductionist way by proposing a theory of gravity, or do I reject materialism to accommodate explanations such as “it falls because hyperintelligent slugs are pushing it using tractor beams mounted on an invisible flying saucer somewhere in the Andromedea galaxy”.
If we are open to non-materialistic, non-reductionist explanations, how on earth can one test any model of the behaviour of a system?
Of course, some at least of the DI fellows know this perfectly well. Some have a respectable track record of research and publication, and must know that ID “theory” is nothing more or less than “scientific” creationism in shoddily disguised in pseudo-scientific jargon to evade US law, and to hoodwink their target audience of true believers. As is the case with creationism in all its manifestations (and by creationism, I refer to movements which claim scientific support for their religious dogma) when it comes down to basics, it’s a simple issue of honesty: I oppose creationism because I have found it to be deeply and systematically dishonest.
That’s what makes you a better person than I.
I would have accepted the deal, on the condition that the credit for the photo was “THIS BOOK IS COMPLETE NONSENSE” or similar.
The thought had occurred to me!
Funny. He hopes the scales fall off your eyes, and then you somehow become as closed-minded as he is. Because honestly, you really do have to be closed-minded to believe in ID. I’m okay with people honestly saying “hey, I believe in intelligent design in spite of a total lack of evidence; it’s just what I believe.” Becuase that’s honest! That’s fair! And it admits that it could be proven wrong. It takes guts to believe in that. But the vast majority of Creationists aren’t gutsy enough to believe *in spite* of evidence. No. They have to find ways of dismissing the evidence in order to believe. It’s really rather sad to me. I mean, I’m a skeptic. I’m also a devout Christian. I just don’t think it’s in any way sensible to ignore evidence. I believe in God because . . . well, I think the best way to put it is that I’m in love with the idea. They say God is love, right? Well, then what better reason to believe? And honestly, how we came to be the way we are isn’t all that important to that belief. Heck, I find the story of Christ *more* inspirational, not less, in light of the fact that we aren’t fallen angels but are essentially animals with a superiority complex. And I think the scientific method teaches a very valuable humility that is all too lacking among the “Religious Right”. I could turn out to be wrong. I don’t think I will (obviously) but I have nothing to base that on. Not really. Just that if I’m going to be wrong, I think this is a good wrong to be, given that I consider the basic principle of Jesus’ teachings to be that we really ought to be nice to each other and stop worrying about who’s nobler and who is owed what by whom.
You were right to deny use of your work to DI. I would too. You might want to watch out for them using your work anyway, though; they’ve been caught doing that before. Hopefully they learned their lesson.
I think following the evidence would be more gutsy. Afterall, it means you may end up changing your mind several times and that you are never sure you have the final answer. It is especially gutsy to follow the evidence to a conclusion that goes against what you would love to be true.
You just made my day. Great work Callan.
Absolutely awesome; mildly enraging.
Conversations like this one are all too familiar to me. Recently, in a class discussion about what should be included in public school curricula — I’m in a teacher education program at a New York college — I insisted that one item that should not be up for debate is the exclusion of creationism/ID from science classes. To my horror, many of my fellow students (and future educators) said that “both sides should be taught” and that the students should decide for themselves if they think creationism is a “good theory.” I reminded them that science deals with materialistic, testable explanations for natural phenomena and is not a democracy, wherein the choice with the most votes wins; however, my response fell on deaf ears. According to my classmates, the students in the schools in question should be the arbiters of what is fact, or not, and what constitutes science.
That’s sort horrifying (although, sadly, not terribly surprising). I hope you replied that the school should then also teach “both sides” and present arguments that the Sun revolves around the Earth and disease is caused by an imbalance in the Four Humours.
@Cobwebs: I did in deed suggest that, by their rationale, equal time should be given to serious discussion about the geocentric model of celestial motion, as well as the flat earth model, in science classes. Upon making this remark, the class facilitator said, “Okay. That’s enough, let’s move on,” which ended the class discussion. I had hoped that my mention of these antiquated ideas would engage more thinking and discussion about the inanity of legitimizing creationism/ID in science classes. It seems a conversation like that would make people uncomfortable. So, we don’t get to talk about it in depth or at length, which is exactly what needs to happen in order to educate people, including educators.
It is horrifying. I have to give it to the DI that they played that card well enough to convince a lot of people. That they are able to fool future educators with their deception is incredibly discouraging.
We need to be more militant in dispelling this false “fairness” idea they are promoting.
I’m not sure ‘militant’ is the right tone, because one of the many things they accuse ‘anti-ID’ers’ of being is quite militant in our closing of the ranks and disallowing ID to be taught as if it were science.
I realize, as do most folks, that this is nothing but another tactic of deceit from the DI, but rather than be militant in any way, I think we should continue to ask them for their evidence. It’s the non-answer that follows such requests that is more telling than any denial on our part.
Who cares if people claim ‘militant’? Dr. King said the most militant things in the most civil way. And I of course mean militant in the sense that it was a direct and organized challenge to the status-quo, which is how the DI would use it, and trust me that they do and will forever characterise the innocuous petitions for evidence as militant as well. So spare me this notion that ‘militant’ isn’t just a way for people to be told to sit down and shut up with regard to authority, claiming politeness as the golden god of a society which shall not suffer a challenge through exhaustion-emboldened speech. Because a lot of us are tired of fighting the war with our guns in the ground. So either join up or stay out of the way, we’re marching with or without you.
“I’m not sure ‘militant’ is the right tone, because one of the many things they accuse ‘anti-ID’ers’ of being is quite militant ”
have you considered there is a reason for that? It is specifically designed to paint any opposition to their treatises as being “scary militants”. same thing they did with communism in the 50s, and at the turn of the last century, same thing that has been done with the word “liberal”. No, you’re simply buying into the very thing they are selling: that to be vocal and vigorous in debate against these lies and nonsense is to be “militant”.
don’t fall for it.
I wonder if they feel the same way about Holocaust denial, Moon-landing and 9/11 conspiracies, etc. Just tell both sides, let a bunch of 10th graders decide what is real and right. Wonderful.
Very good! Well worth reading, both the original and the comments.
Nice, and your mischievous Goorialla reminded me of Bill Hicks’ hilarious
“Prankster God” skit (see 2’25” in):
That would be the President Range, not the Presidential Range.
“How conveniently ID supporters forget the contents of the discovery institutes “wedge document”. Which describes in great detail their actual agenda.”
You mean this one?:
One wonders, if our deluded ‘Ikenna’ above read that, would they understand that it is a disingenuous plan to re-brand the christian creation myth as science? Probably not.
Several people have brought this up, and I’m glad of it. Ikenna, have you read the “Wedge” document?
It was done for specific legal reasons, so that they could try to get creationism into the public school classroom and allegedly avoid the religious issues barring it when it is openly labeled as creationism. ID is an intentional fraud.
I found this site courtesy of the ‘Friendly Atheist’ blog. Good comeback to the ignorance monger! But a special thanks for The Hallettestoneion Sea Zoria Dragon…Never before heard of this nonsense and really never needed to hear of it.
I think you skipped an important missing link. It should be:
God, a Creator, cdesigner, an Intelligent Designer
Nice! I live in the Puget Sound area where the Discovery Institute is located, and they are much like your crazy neighbor who keeps showing up uninvited at your backyard family gatherings. And – gallimaufry!?! Wow, what a wonderful new word. I can’t say I’ve heard it before and I shall use it at least five times today so as not to forget it. Thanks!
Awesome. Hope it goes well.
I applaud Jay’s comments.
Faith does not equal science.
Faith can be compatible with science.
But it seems that faith in an inerrant word of God as stated in the Bible results in the inability to consider evolution, e.g.
“Faith can be compatible with science.”
nope. they really can’t, as they are diametrically opposed methods of approaching questions.
that HUMANS can compartmentalize these things is certainly true, but that does NOT make them logically compatible in any non-trivial way.
Faith is a human condition, hence to clarify I was attempting to discuss the latter of your statements, not the former. good of you to point that out.
“Irreducible complexity”, as Ikenna points out above, is a cornerstone argument for “Intelligent Design”. The premise is that most things do in fact evolve naturally as science has demonstrated. But certain features, most famously the motor that spins the bacterial flagellum, simply could not have evolved through natural, neo-Darwinian processes.
So in other words, most things in nature can run along without intervention. But the “Intelligent Designer” of the universe does get personally involved when it’s time to put the hair on a germ’s rump.
How many Christians want that image for their creator?
Good jibe, but the flagellum does have an antecedent structure called the Type III secretory apparatus. There’s a link about halfway through the post.
As far as I am aware that is not entirely accurate. Last I heard, the flagellum was only a possible example of a structure that could not evolve. It is not certain it is an example because that would require actually making a testable prediction of ID, and making testable predictions is something that ID proponents will never, ever, under any circumstances do because it means that ID could be falsified. So the best they can do is provide things that sort of maybe could be intelligently designed.
The DI has a “research” budget of millions per year. If they had discovered anything important, they frankly wouldn’t need peer review – they could just patent their ID-based cure for cancer or better mousetrap or whatever and people would buy it.
One classic indicator of pseudoscience is that the promotor demands significant respect, funding, etc. before they say they can show you positive results. No, that’s not the way real science works. In real science, you get a very small amount of initial resources – that’s grad school. If you successfully show your work has merit, you get a bit more – that’s a postdoc. On and on you go, up the professional ladder, receiving more funding and respect for your work only after you previously demonstrated the value of your earlier work.
Freedom of scientific inquiry means that we will give you the big enchilada once you’ve earned the big enchilada; its a promise of a merit-based approach; a fair marketplace of ideas. “Freedom of inquiry” does not mean every person spouting some new unsubstantiated idea gets awarded a big enchilada right off the bat. Come up with a small success, and science will give you a small reward, which will allow you to come up with a larger success, and so on, and so on, and so on….if your idea has merit.
Thanks Callan for standing up for evolution and science. That was an awesome reply. Don’t know if you’ve noticed, but recently DI has changed their tone on education of ID:
“Instead of mandating intelligent design, Discovery Institute seeks to increase the coverage of evolution in textbooks. It believes that evolution should be fully and completely presented to students, and they should learn more about evolutionary theory, including its unresolved issues. In other words, evolution should be taught as a scientific theory that is open to critical scrutiny, not as a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned.”
Who said evolution is a sacred dogma that can’t be questioned?! Of course it can questioned, critiqued and challenged, provided you present compelling evidence for your case. And the “theory” of ID has hopelessly failed at that.
DI’s changed stance is a tacit admission that ID “research” has failed miserably in producing any proof for it. So now they’re trying to thrash evolution and instill doubt and confusion in the minds of young students, school managements and lawmakers.
but if you suggest that ID should also be open to critical scrutiny, they put their hands over their ears and sing “la-la-la, can’t hear you”. As, indeed, they have been doing for years to carry on in the face of the overwhelming evidence that ID is total bollocks
It sounds like they are trying to elicit some sympathy for their position. “See we’re not trying to ram our theology down anyone’s throat. We are not the bad guys.”
By soft pedaling their position, they might win more points with parents and lawmakers.
You, Mr. Bentley, are my new hero. I’m not a scientist in any remote sense but your article made me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Thank you.
Hello – on first instance, looking form Europe, it is deploring to see how much effort is to be spent at your side of the Atlantic to push back these pseudo-intelligent and infective statements about intelligent design. But recently I came over comments showing that this “infection” is spreading, possibly replacing older but similar state of minds. Thus, the some century old struggle of “enlightenment” goes on. Thanks to your effort ! Martin
I think the comments have already covered the problems with ID; evolution is a fact that, it’s as easy/hard as that.
Nice reply, I’ve been chuckling since I first read it. Thanks.
Thanks so much for posting this exchange and for defending science.
It seems the Discovery Center’s ‘scientists’, after losing their argument with you, prayed to Jesus to strike you down with a meteor that, unfortunately, hit Russia. I feel bad for the Russians that were impacted by the meteor, but am relieved that God apparently fumbled entering the GPS coordinates for the strike, as Fort Valley is one of the most beautiful places on Earth and I would hate to see some of my favorite hiking trails in the George Washington National Forest obliterated.
Keep up the righteous fight.
What will you do if they use it anyway? Which they might.
I reckon this blog post serves as evidence of my intentions pretty clearly, right? 🙂
I’ll sue for 50% of the profits, and use it to erect billboards in Seattle that say “Intelligent Design is a load of horse hockey.”
Sound like a plan?
That is pretty rude. What have horses done to deserve such disrespect?
This is an incorrect statement. Horse hockey is useful for making fertilizer that you can use to grow food. Intelligent design, OTOH, isn’t useful for anything.
“The Discovery Institute feels sorry for my students”
That is a badge of honor and also probably a great t shirt you should make and wear when you teach.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your exchange with the gentleman from the Discovery Institute and the dozens of related posts. To my mind, the motivations of the ID proponents (i.e., cdesign proponentsists) were clearly delineated during the Dover legal battle. Done and done.
BTW, the Darwin quote is, in fact, a quote mine.
Here it is in context:
This Abstract, which I now publish, must necessarily be imperfect. I cannot here give references and authorities for my several statements; and I must trust to the reader reposing some confidence in my accuracy. No doubt errors will have crept in, though I hope I have always been cautious in trusting to good authorities alone. I can here give only the general conclusions at which I have arrived, with a few facts in illustration, but which, I hope, in most cases will suffice. No one can feel more sensible than I do of the necessity of hereafter publishing in detail all the facts, with references, on which my conclusions have been grounded; and I hope in a future work to do this. For I am well aware that scarcely a single point is discussed in this volume on which facts cannot be adduced, often apparently leading to conclusions directly opposite to those at which I have arrived. A fair result can be obtained only by fully stating and balancing the facts and arguments on both sides of each question; and this cannot possibly be here done.
Contrary to the implication arising from the period the DI inserted where none existed, the quote-mined part was not a complete thought. Darwin was not saying that every alleged theory has to be weighed before a fair scientific result can be reached. He was saying that he had many more facts in support of his theory but could not fit them all in the scant 490 pages he had at his disposal in the Origin.
When a creationist quotes something, always double check the quote. Always. Lol.
Callan, I want to add my thanks for turning down the DI’s request to use your photo, and for what you said to them.
I find it pretty funny that the DI, which spends millions on dishonest propaganda, offered you only a hundred bucks and a worthless book for the photo and didn’t just send one of their highly skilled employees (LOL) to British Columbia to get their own photo.
By the way, it’s a real nice photo.
Love the replies, just the right mixture of politeness and snark!
I’m actually hoping that the cdesignproponentists DO use your picture anyway, because I’d love to see that billboard go up on their dollar.
Found this from a link on Pharyngula.
Excellent! Anybody that has the brains and balls to bitch-slap the DI like you did is a hero in my eyes! Just be careful – DI Attack Gerbil Casey Luskin might put you on his hit list, causing even more fun and laughs for you and us – – and much bloviating, and bullshitting on the part of the DI.
Keep Up The Good Work! “Scales From Eyes” – Bwa haHaHa!
Great response to discovery, and thanks for teaching me a new word that I hadn’t encountered in my 46 years: gallimaufry.
I don’t think I’ve ever heard that word used by anyone other than Gene Rayburn on “Match Game.”
I just wanted to add my appreciation for your response. It’s always interesting to see how superficially one much scratch in order to reveal the theocratic motivations behind ID’s pseudoscienfitic veneer.
I’ve taken the liberty of posting a link to this post on the RationalSkepticism board, and take great pleasure in informing you that you have been awarded our highest honour, the much-coveted Orson Award:
To my knowledge this is the first time it has been awarded to a non-member. My hearty congratulations.
Thanks so much – I appreciate the honor!
Should look great on your CV. 🙂
I’ve got to figure out how to stick an animated GIF into my CV…
Wow, that evolutionnews.org site is about the worst misrepresentation I’ve ever seen. Someone better remind them that the Bible has something to say about bearing false witness.
get over to Amazon, folks, and start detailing what you all know about the history of Discovery Institute “scientific books”. Too many of these things end up with positive reviews.
you can have fun arguing with the DI shill that is currently hanging out at the forum for the new book:
I feel sorry for the Discovery Institute for concentrating on such a futile effort. Not because I completely reject their hypothesis, but because they’re making it out to be of scientific relevance, when their hypothesis is clearly positioned in the metaphysical realm.
If I wanted to convince people of the existence of a metaphysical influence, I’d simply point out the sheer amount of order in the universe. I could posit that a metaphysical force is needed to create an area of stability for our universe to exist in, a metaphysical force that grounds the laws of nature, logic and thought in our physical reality.
But while that argument might be of interest to metaphysically inclined philosophers (if even them), it has absolutely no bearing on the everyday lives of everyday people. Whereas the influence science, proceeding from a naturalistic viewpoint, pervades every aspect of our lives. And this is what the creationists of the Discovery Institute wish to reverse. They want to return us to a time when scientific claims were subservient to religious dogma. And ID is the means by which they hope to accomplish this. They made this explicit in the infamous “Wedge document” :
Oh, I agree. Metaphysics is something we can only speculate about, while science enables us to discover all sorts of interesting stuff about our universe, so clearly it is the latter that is relevant to everyday life.
I’m amazed that none of the Tooters have ever taken the time and effort to trek to their Holy Grail the Burgess Shale! Even I made it that long 6 miles up and up to the site without requiring helicopter rescue! I’d be glad to sell one of my photos to Meyer for a few thousand dollars but, alas, I didn’t get such a nice picture of Emerald Lake. However, I did stay at Emerald Lake Lodge a few years later and have some nice pictures of the Burgess Shale from that angle. Tooters are lazy, I guess. Or worn out from working the quote mine.
What a pleasure to read! I’ll do my best to put “gallimaufry” to good use.
Scientific creds aside, I just gotta give you props for dealing with NoVA traffic to drive all the way to Annandale from an hour + west of Fairfax Co. when there’s NO traffic, much less what we normally live with…
If you time it right, it’s not bad. And I don’t have to do it that often.
Why isn’t the ‘DI’ called the ‘Intelligent Design Institute’?
IDI is soo much more appropriate …
“Idi Amin’s rule was characterised by human rights abuse, political repression, ethnic persecution, extrajudicial killings, nepotism, corruption, and gross economic mismanagement.” from Wiki.
I will be firmly and irrevocably convinced that life evolved on this earth when one of you scientists can throw all of the necessary ingredients into a test tube and out comes a fully functioning, self-replicating organic cell.
So, in other words, you haven’t got much of an idea of what evolution is — if this is what it would take to convince you. Why didn’t you simply say so.
I did say so, that is what it would take to fully convince me. I have a degree in Biology, so I have a fair understaing of the different meanings of the word evolution.
IMHO, the rest of youir comments here cast serious doubt on your claimed degree, unless it’s from a diploma mill or something akin to Liberty ‘University’. Where in biology does it state that there was a single point in time that these pre-biotic molecules became a self-replicating organism, replete with all necessary machinery and information in order to replicate?
You don’t appear to have much of an understanding of evolution. What you are describing leans more toward one of the many Creationist arguments for ‘Special Creation’, not biological evolution.
I find it hard to believe that you could have a degree in biology without ever actually hearing what evolution even is. That is the sort of thing they cover in the very beginning of the first semester of biology. But your questions demonstrate that you don’t know this.
I will be firmly and irrevocably convinced that life was intelligently designed when the designer appears and creates a man from earth, then takes a rib from the man and makes it into a woman.
And don’t try to tell me that I is not biblical creationism. You can fool yourself but not me
I never said I was in the ID or the ‘creationist’ crowd. As it happens, I do believe that the designer is God. That does not make me stupid however, just of a different mindset than you.
So you are not the least bit worried or surprised that people were able to instantly peg you are a creationist from just one question? Doesn’t that indicate to you there might be something problematic about the question? Why would a simple question make it so obvious to everyone what your stance is? Maybe it is because only people who have your stance ever ask questions like that.
Not worried or suprised. Problematic to who? I certainly figured the smart people on this forum would instantly expose me for who I am!
That is fair enough!
No you won’t, John. You and your creationist friends will just shift the goal posts and say, “See? Creating a cell requires an Intellgent Designer.”
BTW, it is pretty well certain that the first functional cell did not appear for several million years after the first pre-biotic molecules, so your claim is just another straw man.
But there was ostensibly a single point in time that these pre-biotic molecules became a self-replicating organism, replete with all necessary machinery and information in order to replicate. We should be able to duplicate that point in time in a laboratory.
First, your whole question is a strawman. Evolution is what is concerned with what happens after life first developed. Basing your acceptance of how life behaved after it formed on the totally separate and irrelevant question of how life formed in the first place shows you don’t actually have any clue what evolution even is, not to mention how it works and certainly not what evidence there is for it.
But as for your question: what, exactly, are you asking for?
Are you asking that we replicate the process that led up to the formation of such a molecule, which probably took millions, if not tens of millions of years? Or are you asking that we produce a molecule that self-replicates through any means?
If the former, it is an absurd proposition and anyone asking for it has no interest in the actual science.
If the latter, it is pretty ambiguous. Do you expect that scientists to produce some self-replicating molecule that could have existed at the time and could have eventually evolved into life as we know it, or do you expect that scientists prove that this is the one molecule that all life definitely evolved from? If the latter, again it is an absurd proposition that would only be used as a “gotcha” by people who don’t care about the science. If the former, we are well on our way to doing it. But you still need to be more specific about what sort of raw materials you will accept. We already have an RNA molecule that will catalyze the formation of another identical RNA molecule from two halves of itself.
I would expect that you explain to me how any biologically complex molecule formed by chance. I readily admit that I do not fully understand a lot of this – thank you for helping me. First, by saying “We already have an RNA molecule that will catalyze the formation of another identical RNA molecule from two halves of itself.” , what exactly does that mean? Are you saying that you, or someone has seen an RNA molecule appear in a laboratory test tube from a ‘pre-biotic soup’ containing the necessary components without intervention, or by just applying the conditions that were available on the early earth? It is my understanding, correct me if I am wrong, that if the first self-replicating life was based on RNA, it would have required a molecule between 200-300 nucleotides in length. Is there a chemical or physical law that would dictate the formation and order of those nucleotides? If there is please direct me to it.
Or are you saying that such a molecule formed by chance (if there is not a chemical or natural law that can explain it, chance is what is left) over millions of years and of course we cannot see that happen today?
Please explain it to me in laymans terms – you might convert me!
I am not going to answer your question until you answer mine. Let me repeat it: what, exactly, were you asking in your first post? You are trying to drag the conversation off onto a tangent without actually explaining what you even want to know.
And why do you need it to be in layman’s terms? I thought you had a degree in biology, you should know the terminology already.
Because I went to college 30 years ago and I work in sales now. I never said I was in the field. It is hard enough even with a 30 year old degree understanding some of this stuff. I think you will agree there have been some advances since 1982.
You still haven’t answered my question. If this keeps up I am going to have a difficult time concluding you are being anything other than intentionally obtuse. Why is it so hard to simply explain your question in more detail?
“But there was ostensibly a single point in time that these pre-biotic molecules became a self-replicating organism, replete with all necessary machinery and information in order to replicate.”
Umm, no. There probably wasn’t.
Forgive me, obviously I am a little confused. Are you saying that there was not a single point in time that organic life was ‘born’ so to speak? I am re-learning a lot of this as I go, please correct me when I get of course. There has to be that ‘magic moment’ where a pre-biotic self-replicating system becomes a biotic self-replicating system. To say otherwise is ludicrous. I already know the RNA theories, non-enzymatic replication (in clay or ice) to the replacement (somehow) of this system by a catalyst such as some sort of Ribozyme. At any rate, supposing that RNA molecules formed ,somewhere along this chain you have a moment in time where 1 second before it was pre-biotic and now it is an organism that self-replicates.
What do you think the difference is between “a pre-biotic self-replicating system” and “a biotic self-replicating system”? And don’t say “one is alive”, since that is a circular definition.
Well that is a complicated question. I guess my definition of a ‘ biotic self-replicating system” would be life and anything else would be non-life. I suppose Benton Clark’s definition of life would probably suffice better than most. So that would be difference between the two.
@John said “There has to be that ‘magic moment’ where a pre-biotic self-replicating system becomes a biotic self-replicating system. To say otherwise is ludicrous.” No, it is not. To make your claim is a classic example of the sorites paradox – when does an accumulation of grains of sand from which individual grains are removed cease to be a heap? OK, you are stating it in reverse, but it still applies. The state of “being alive” has no clearcut boundary. Indeed, under some definitions, fire is alive (it consumes fuel, it replicates).
@TheBlackCat said “What do you think the difference is between “a pre-biotic self-replicating system” and “a biotic self-replicating system”? And don’t say “one is alive”, since that is a circular definition.”
and @John Braswell said “Well that is a complicated question. I guess my definition of a ‘ biotic self-replicating system” would be life and anything else would be non-life.”
In other words a circular definition.
I don’t have a biology degree (I’m an MD), so I’m a bit puzzled why the guy who claims to HAVE a biology degree is asking me these questions.
I guess when you posted this:
BTW, it is pretty well certain that the first functional cell did not appear for several million years after the first pre-biotic molecules, so your claim is just another straw man.
I assumed you were the expert – that is why I was asking.
You don’t need to be an expert to know that. You just need to be passingly familiar with some aspects of the issue.
And it was known well before 1983, probably decades before.
Done and done.
– The ingredients that chemically evolves in alkaline hydrothermal vents to observed stuff phosphates and nucleotides have been thrown into a thermodynamical test tube. It turns out that vent hot-cold cycling then have replicator strands crystalizing out of a random “gas” of strands same as any crystal. [“Thermodynamic Basis for the Emergence of Genomes during Prebiotic Evolution”, Woo et al, PLOS Comp Biol 2012]
– Shoztak cells out of similarly originating lipids are produced in test tubes, spontaneously growing by cannibalizing lipids and spontaneously dividing when large enough. Nucletide strands emerges by diffusion and strand growth, and strand content divides randomly with cell division.
It is also observed in these test tubes that strands promote winning during cannibalization, so when an enclosed replicator strand population emerges as per above, the system switches from chemical to biological evolution.
But as Faizal Ali notes, since we know have test tube cell population assembly (at least in principle, the integrated test tube experiment is still not done) and have started to test which pathways are simplest and/or fastest, creationists will only move the goal posts:
“See, the experiment is designed. Even if it is just a matter of having alkaline hydrothermal vent environments in an ocean (so nearby vents can efficiently be infected by cells), you _designed_. La, la, la, can’t hear you!”
I should also note that the reason strand growth increases the fitness of Shoztak cells is because the enclosed mass put tension on the lipid membrane, and it turns out for reasons of thermodynamics this promotes lipid uptake. No mysterious magic is seen.
Are you claiming that the referenced papers you mention describe the observable transition from non-organic compounds to an organic seff-replicating oraganism? From what I have read, the chemical origins of life are far from settled.
Yes, they describe the transition. They are a possible pathway among many others that we now know of.
It’s so great everyone’s so interested in discussing this topic. (If only the same were true of the structural details of Appalachian tectonics!)
Anyhow, it may interest you to know that another member of the Discovery Institute staff, David Klinghoffer, has made a reply to this critique:
You can’t comment there (of course), but it may interest you to learn what a low-life I am, what with my gloating and cribbing and bragging, and being all snippy, self-righteous, mocking, not too classy, and haughty.
I’m not sure where to go from here – as Mr. Klinghoffer points out, I have better ways of spending my time.
Again, thanks for all the comments and discussion.
It’s a shame that they don’t accept comments, because there are a few contradictions in that article that could bear correction. I’m sure these are just inadvertent oversights, of course, because we all know the DI would never stoop to lying, right? So it seems I am limited to posting these corrections here, and hope that the eagle eyes of the DI are continuing to monitor your blog.
For instance, Klinghoffer seems to think it was quite bad of you to quote emails from your own inbox without getting permission from McDiarmid. Yet a quick search of “Evolution News and Views” (sic) turns up this post, which liberally quotes emails that were not even sent to the DI, with no indication that permission was obtained to reprint them:
I’m sure I could find many other examples if I looked further. So I’m sure Klinghoffer will take his colleagues to task for what is, in his view, such improper behaviour and that apologies and retractions will soon be posted.
There also seems to be an error in the link to the video that he claims demonstrates the difference between ID and creationism. Instead, that link goes to a video by Answers in Genesis that explains (or at least attempts to explain; I’m not sure the video is not a very subtle attempt at ironic comedy) why ID is not Christian. Nowhere does it differentiate ID from creationism:
Again, I’m sure it’s just an honest oversight on Klinghoefer’s part, which he will correct at the nearest opportunity. Right?
I would love to discuss those details (and even more so eastern California), but I come here to learn those details from you! Hard to discuss something you don’t have much details about, unlike the old evolution/creationism debate. Plus I think most people of science legitimately feel threatened by science deniers such as the Discovery Institute.