Friday, October 28, 2011

The "Intelligent Design" Version of Creationism

The IDiots are at it again. Over the past few months there's been an noticeable increase in the number of whining complaints about the way Intelligent Design Creationism is being treated in the popular press and on science blogs.

Here's the latest from David Klinghoffer on the Discovery Institute website: Here There Be Dragons: The Journalists' War on Science. Kinghoffer thinks that his movement is being treated unfairly by journalists. Let's see why.
If there's one thing we've learned from repeated uniform experience it is that on one scientific issue, the most contentious there is -- evolution -- it's treated as taboo for writers to inform themselves properly, to know the facts and evidence behind the scientific challenge to Darwinian theory.
Hmmm ... here's an Intelligent Design Creationist complaining that his critics haven't taken the time to "inform themselves properly" about a 100-year old version of evolutionary theory that's been modified and extended so that modern evolutionary theory no longer qualifies as "Darwinian theory." I don't know a single IDiot who has the gumption to refer to modern evolutionary theory by its proper description. I'm not even sure there's a single IDiot who understands modern evolutionary theory. That includes David Klinghoffer [see, The IDiots Respond].

Can you say "hypocrisy"?

Setting aside the typical IDiot confusion about the meaning of evolutionary theory, let's concede that there are many interesting, genuine, scientific controversies in the field of evolutionary biology. Klinghoffer would have you believe that these controversies challenge the existence of evolution and therefore support Intelligent Design Creationism. This is nonsense. We'll return to this bait-and-switch later on.
Never mind whether, having adequately informed themselves, they were to find the argument for intelligent design convincing or totally unconvincing. Either way, fine! In reality, most don't even know the difference between ID and creationism. Say what you like about Young Earth Creationists, they at least could tell you that accurately enough.
There are various forms of creationism but all of them postulate the existence of a "creator" who plays a role in the development of life on Earth and in the "creation" of the universe. What Klinghoffer is doing is reserving the word "creationism" (lowercase "c" and all) for "Young Earth Creationism." It's true that there are people who do this but he seems to be completely oblivious to the fact that others (I am one) don't accept Klinghoffer's definition.

He should, at the very least, acknowledge that there's another point of view and admit that some journalists know the difference between Intelligent Design Creationism and Young Earth Creationism. Unfortunately, creationists of all sorts seem to be very poor at recognizing other points of view.

Klinghoffer now focuses his attention on a journalist who thinks all Intelligent Design Creationists are also Young Earth Creationists.
I will never forget my personal experience with a journalist who often writes for The New Republic. In an email exchange he chastised me for thinking the universe was created a mere 6,000 years ago. He assumed that was the main issue for intelligent design advocates. I explained to him that wasn't the case and that I'm not a YEC, that intelligent design assumes a universe more than 13 billion years old and a history of life going back more than 3 billion.
That journalist was wrong to assume that all Intelligent Design Creationists are also Young Earth Creationists. Many of the prominent leaders of the IDC movement believe in common ancestry and an Earth that's billions of years old.

On the other hand, there are also many IDiots who are Young Earth Creationists. The IDC movement has deliberately avoided taking a stance on Young Earth Creationism in spite of what Klinghoffer implies. It is simply not true (i.e. a lie) that, "... intelligent design assumes a universe more than 13 billion years old and a history of life going back more than 3 billion [years]." (Unless I've missed some change in position.)

It is true that the popularity of the term "intelligent design" began when it replaced "creationism" in the 1987 version of Of Pandas and People. The version of creationism it replaced was defined as "origin through abrupt appearance in complex form" [Wikipedia: Of Pandas and People]. It is true that many American school board members are Young Earth Creationists who advocate the teaching of Intelligent Design Creationism in schools. It is true that more than 40% of American are Young Earth Creationists who believe in the literal truth of the Bible so it's very likely that a majority of IDiots are YECs—especially the ones that most jounralists will encounter in their daily lives.

That's not to excuse journalists who don't do their homework but I think the Intelligent Design Creationist movement has to accept some of the blame for the confusion. The IDiots could easily clear up the situation by making a public announcement outlining the basic claims of Intelligent Design Creationism. They could, if they wished, make it very clear that believers in intelligent design have to accept the fact that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and that commmon descent is a fact.

That way, they would create two non-overlapping sets: Young Earth Creationists and Intelligent Design Creationists. Nobody would be confused and the biggest loss would be a few Senior Fellows at the Discovery Institute.1

A statement of core IDC beliefs would also help clear up other kinds of confusion about what IDC actually stands for. To many of us, it seems like 99% of the activities of the movement are devoted to attacking science and evolution. Many of us have searched in vain for a single explanation of how, and when, God the intelligent designer made bacteria flagella or two homologous enzymes. We still don't know how he/she/it handled the Cambrian explosion or why she had such a fondness for beetles. (Have I missed it?)

Klinghoffer seems to be unaware of this problem with his movement ...
Everyone knows the phrase "intelligent design" and they know it's a vital idea in the wider culture but very, very few in journalism, including on the science beat, could tell you what evidence ID theorists actually offer for their views. Just glance at the headlines here at ENV, the new arguments and information offered every day, from cutting-edge science.
Excellent! A testable statement! Let's look at posts in the last 48 hours to see all the evidence for intelligent design.

That's it. I don't see a single article presenting the case for intelligent design. Maybe I should have looked at earlier postings? Here's the list of posting for the entire month of October. There are 53 articles and not one of them makes a scientific case for the existence of an intelligent designer.

It sort of makes you wonder what David Klinghoffer meant when he said, "... very few in journalism, including on the science beat, could tell you what evidence ID theorists actually offer for their views. Just glance at the headlines here at ENV, the new arguments and information offered every day, from cutting-edge science." I've been listening to the IDiots for 20 years and I can assure you that they've offered very little evidence for their views.2 And what little evidence they've offered has been thoroughly discredited. No wonder the journalists can't find it!


1. And possibly some donations since some major backers of the Center for Science and Culture are YECs (Howard Ahmanson, Jr.). That's not important since it's not about money, it's about integrity.

2. They're very good at trashing Darwinism and Darwinists but that's not evidence for IDC.

10 comments :

  1. I don't see a single article presenting the case for intelligent design.

    Where are the articles presenting the description of "intelligent design"?

    What happened, when and where did it happen, what mechanisms were involved, why did things turn out this way (rather than something else)?

    TomS

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  2. Where are the articles presenting the description of "intelligent design"?

    I think it may have been Jonathan Wells who published an article citing as evidence for intelligent design of the flagellum that some parts of it resembled (in his estimation, at least) some features of motors designed and built by people.

    That's the closest I've seen to affirmative "evidence" of design.

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  3. Just out of curiousity, does anyone know which IDer are also YECs? Philip Johnson, the founder of ID made some comments that made me think he was an IDer. I read on a blog that Nelson used to say he was, but now says he 'doesnt know' the age of the earth, and I believe Dembski is....but I could be mistaken on any of these

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  4. A statement of core IDC beliefs would also help clear up other kinds of confusion about what IDC actually stands for

    One would certainly welcome such a stance - but you 'Darwinists' don't get to set the agenda! But yes, common descent would head my list. A quick lurk at Uncommon Descent reveals a lot of people who simply don't accept the genetic evidence on common descent - of anything, be it two similar species or whales and (other) artiodactyls. Or, presumably, a forensic sample and the individual it came from. Because dread Darwinism might follow that 'foot in the door', the final gambit (after using all the ammo and chucking the guns) is fingers-in-ears denial.

    And yet common descent is not incompatible with ID, and most of its biologically qualified advocates seem entirely OK with it. Were I a disinterested observer, I might think the denial-at-all-costs brigade gave ID a bad name - Creationism.

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  5. Hi Larry,
    you must wonder why these IDers persist. Maybe it's because you can't launch a credible answer to the serious challenges raised by serious ID proponents.
    You're good at hurling insults, and picking holes in lightweight ID positions, but until you actually address the strong evidence against random evolution, they will always be there.
    Papers like the following:
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2011.1
    Or the argument in Behe's "edge of evolution". These are strong evidence for the limitations of evolution, with on condescension.
    Joe Jensen
    joe@redneckranch.com

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  6. Joe Jenson says,

    You're good at hurling insults, and picking holes in lightweight ID positions, but until you actually address the strong evidence against random evolution, they will always be there.
    Papers like the following:
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2011.1
    Or the argument in Behe's "edge of evolution". These are strong evidence for the limitations of evolution, with on condescension.


    So many IDiots, so little time.

    You're right, I haven't refuted all of the stupid things that the IDiots have said over the years. But others have done a good job or covering the topics I've missed.

    Do you honestly believe that Behe, Gauger, and Axe have discovered that evolution by fixation of random mutations is impossible? Do you honestly believe that after 100 years of massive amounts of research on genetics and population genetics nobody noticed that evolution was impossible?

    You must be expecting a Nobel Prize any year now for for those amazing IDiots, right? Or are you going to tell me about some massive conspiracy of scientists to prevent the truth from coming out?

    Think about it for a miute. Even if you know nothing about genetics and biochemistry you'll have to wonder why Behe's book didn't have an impact on the scientific community. Neither did any of the papers by Douglas Axe. Is it because all scientists are really, really, stupid or is it because the IDiots are wrong?

    What's the most reasonable explanation?

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  7. @Joe Jensen: I see your one random example of failure to evolve one modern molecule into another and raise you ten counter-examples: http://www.indiana.edu/~lynchlab/PDF/evocellbio/Promiscuity.pdf.

    The uni-directional extrapolation of you ID guys never ceases to amaze me. I am yet to see anything that indicates that your position is based on solid evidence. It seems to be based purely on extrapolation, which in turn is based on dodgy unproven (or even disproven) assumptions.

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  8. Joe Jensen writes:

    ...until you actually address the strong evidence against random evolution, they will always be there.

    Papers like the following:
    http://bio-complexity.org/ojs/index.php/main/article/view/BIO-C.2011.1


    That paper's already been scientifically crushed, thank you. Have a look at the Pharyngula blog on October 20th, which demolishes the paper you've cited, then cites an actual peer-reviewed research paper showing exactly how protein structures do historically evolve (just what the paper you've cited said was impossible).

    The paper you've cited isn't "strong evidence" at all. It goes through all the well known tropes of ID "academic" writing.

    For example, there is the trope of Making Shit Up, Then Giving It a Sciency-Sounding Name: "The metric we use to quantify pairwise structural similarity, which we call structural distance...." Translated, this means "There is no current scientific metric for the evolutionary 'distance' between two molecular structures, because except for relatively trivial examples (e.g., single mutations), it takes careful, painstaking case-by-case study to determine the possible evolutionary steps. But we're going to ignore that, and instead of actually conducting the required studies - i.e., doing the science - we're going to make up a number out of thin air that sounds big in order to convince you the evolutionary steps couldn't have happened."

    There's also the We Can't Do Probability Math, But We're Banking on the Fact Our Readers Can't Either trope. PZ Myers calls this the "bridge hand problem," because if you do your probability calculations the way Gauger and Axe do in the paper you cited, you will 'prove' no bridge hand (or you can pick any other card game you like) has ever really existed. So those card games you say you've played in your lifetime: sorry, according to Gauger and Axe's screwed-up probability math, you're a liar. Card games are impossible. I personally like another illustration: All that stuff about people winning the lottery must be a lie, because according to Gauger and Axe's math, it will be 40 million years before someone wins. (Approximately 200 million to one odds, and just over 50 weeks in a year.)

    Those are just a couple of the problems with the piece of smoking junk you cited. If you want more, just say so.

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  9. 3 Weeks ago I attended a Discovery Institute seminar at a local megachurch. The speakers were Paul Nelson, Jay Richards, Johnathan Wells and John West, Dr.s all.
    You can check out the whole story at http://www.americanfreethought.com, (gratuitous plug).

    It was very clear that they steered all conversation away any discussion of the age of the universe or earth. When Wells was finally pinned down to 14.3b during Q & A the YECer's in the crowd collectivity bunched their panties and presented challenges ranging from the slowing of the speed of light, to background radiation. The description of this will be part 3.

    I recorded 3 sessions on my iPad to insure accuracy. The crazy has got worse with each listening.

    I am no scientist, just a groupie, maybe that's why I was able to sit through 3 sessions before my head exploded.

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  10. Joe Jensen:
    "Or the argument in Behe's "edge of evolution". These are strong evidence for the limitations of evolution, with on condescension."

    Behe's Edge of Evolution was dead on arrival, and you can check Abbie Smith's blog for the post-mortem exam.

    Speaking of which, I assume "with on condescension" is meant to read "with no condescension", but that's not how Behe reacted to criticism of his book. In fact, he flew his condescending sexist banner high that day.

    The first post is:
    "Michael Behe, please allow me to introduce myself..."

    And the follow-up:
    Hello again, Michael Behe!

    Behe's claims about the evolution of protein-protein interaction sites, protein complexes, and his claims about the minimum population necessary for the evolution of both are all demolished by the evolution of vpu and its suite of biochemical functions.

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