Why scientists are feeding the rhetoricotrophic beast of intelligent design, and why they need to stop

It seems like some unknown – but clearly mysterious – phenomenon is linking my mind with others’, because the day after I mused on Twitter about the way the intelligent design movement capitalises on the dismissive attitude of the scientific community towards people who argue against evolutionary theory, the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin wrote a blog post doing exactly that – “The Uncivil Style of Intelligent Design Critics”. Well, either a mystical force is sharing the thoughts of bloggers around the world, or Casey Luskin reads my tweets. It can’t be a coincidence, because we know, thanks to the valiant efforts of the aforementioned ID movement, that things rarely happen by chance1.

While Casey’s writing must have been a product of either the global consciousness of Gaia, our souls intertwining in a cosmic dance, or the mingling of our chakras due to simultaneous reiki treatment for a nagging sense of self-doubt, my thoughts on the matter were a product of a longtime fascination with the way the academic and science communication communities deal with the efforts of the ID movement to undermine evolution education and the public acceptance of evolutionary biology, and the way the ID movement responds to those efforts. It’s an interesting topic.

My most recent insight can be summarised in a single (albeit long) sentence: the ID movement is successfully exploiting the attitude and language of a post-anti-creationism scientific community, which – after years of fighting classical (young-earth) creationism – has resorted to language that could be construed as dogmatic and strident. But this might need a little more fleshing out.

The scientific community has had to deal with the nonsense of young-earth creationism for decades, and most practicing scientists and science enthusiasts have developed a zero-tolerance attitude towards it. When you’ve heard the arguments about the second law of thermodynamics, an incomplete fossil record, the generation of information, a lack of beneficial mutations, “Why are there still monkeys?”, living fossils, hoax fossils, “Evolution is Darwinism is eugenics is Nazism”, “What good is half of an eye?”, and many, many more, dozens or maybe even hundreds of times, you start to get dismissive. Of course, there’s good science and reasoning behind each of the detailed rebuttals to those points that you could invocate, but who has the time to get into them with every anti-evolutionary fundamentalist who comes your way, especially if you’re a full-time researcher who has proper science to do?

As such, many scientists reach a point – either through their own experiences or through hearing about the experiences of others – where they don’t want to discuss macroevolution versus microevolution with ignorant people anymore. It’s far easier to just ignore them, and, when asked to comment on creationism by reporters or high school students, to say “Creationists are stupid!” or “What, that religious bullshit?” or “I’d like to punch Ken Ham in the face and see how he likes having half of a functioning visual system!”

This, for the most part, has become the norm in the scientific community when creationism is mentioned: ridicule. Also, gossiping and bitching about creationists is fun, in the same way that people love bashing the Twilight novels by Stephanie Meyer – it’s mostly a lighthearted activity (especially here in Australia, where the menace of creationist efforts to push their views into high schools is far less looming than in the United States of America), and it’s not as if their minds are about to changed, right? They’ve drunk the Kool-Aid! Isn’t it funny that people actually take organisations like Answers in Genesis seriously? I mean, they’re so crazy! Did you hear about that giant museum somewhere in America? What loons.

The problem with this state of affairs is that the dismissive attitude being displayed by the scientific community – when it leaks out into the public sphere through the media (or through personal encounters with scientists) – reinforces the stereotypes some groups in society have of evolutionary biologists: dogmatic elitists, who don’t care about truth and wish to crush dissent from their pet hypotheses; or haughty materialistic atheists, who are defending a debunked idea in order to force people to reject religion; or snide wastes of taxpayer money, who can’t be bothered letting their ideas be tested in a free and open manner.

Normally this would be fine, when the ridicule is restricted to a group that many people clearly understand are not reasonable – young-earth creationists – and the groups that have an anti-“evolutionary establishment” agenda are also seen as fringe and not to be taken seriously. But unfortunately for tired scientists, the intelligent design movement exists.

In ecological terms, the ID movement is far better adapted to the current climate surrounding religion and evolution than the more classical varieties of creationism are or ever were. It easily outcompetes young-earth creationism for access to vital sources of attention and publicity (things that all movements need to survive) in the niche defined by moderately to slightly religious members of the public, because it – for most of its public endeavours – has abandoned the overtly religious language and appeals of scripture that creationism can’t do without, which tend to drive away those who are put off by fundamentalism. Most importantly of all, however, is its strict grounding in public relations and image control. While classical creationism is hampered by a need to proselytise and spout apologetics for evangelical interpretations of religion, ID prides itself on seeming to be a legitimately scientific program. It uses the right type of language, it shows off its shiny PhD-brandishing experts, and it sneaks religious ideas in under the guise of appealing to human design analogies, which are extremely seductive at first glance.

ID’s tight awareness of its public image is also the reason why it is perfectly suited to exploit the anti-creationist attitude of most scientists. The academic community has long known of the real history and motives of the ID movement, and because of this, it routinely places ID in the same category as other varieties of creationism and subjects it to a similar mocking. As mentioned, that strategy may sometimes work for movements that have a self-defeating image, but against the slick-looking rhetoric of organisations like the Discovery Institute, it backfires horribly.

Intelligent design is rhetoricotrophic: it gains nourishment from the rhetoric used against it.

Proponents of ID are easily able to twist the words of disparaging scientists into ad hominem attacks, making them seem petty and unprofessional, like they’re attacking the people making the arguments and not the arguments themselves. The dismissal of anti-evolutionary and pro-intelligent design arguments is also made out to be unfair and unscholarly. “Why,” cries the ID movement, with a moral tone to its collective voice, “would a scientific theory as supposedly well-supported as evolution need to be defended in such a way? Surely the evidence could speak for itself!?”

Casey Luskin, in his psychically-inspired blog post, characterises this attitude very nicely:

But the fact remains that most critiques of ID look more like attempts to dismiss ID’s arguments than to engage them. In particular, many critics try to dismiss ID by harping on alleged religious associations with ID, while ignoring ID’s scientific merits, accomplishments, and arguments. Like a boxer who wants to win a match on a technicality without ever hitting his opponent, some critics want to win the debate without having one. Fortunately, that style doesn’t usually appeal to anyone who’s actually out there seeking truth. In fact, whether or not such a rebuttal style appeals to you is a good indicator of whether you really are seeking the truth.

Once you enter the field with angry rhetoric, you’re playing right into the ID movement’s hand, to mix metaphors slightly. PR is a game they plan to win and they’ve got the tools to do it. They’re publicly adamant they’re not creationism rebranded, yet they really do want scientists to dismiss them as such: it makes them look like victims, being treated poorly simply for having a fresh, new scientific viewpoint. Even people who are not all that religious respond to a message like that – what if the scientific community really is being unfair and dogmatic? It makes them want to investigate further, except with a starting bias against the consensus of biologists. That’s all it can take to suck someone into the movement: once you’re on the inside, the arguments all seem to make sense, given some hidden and soon-forgotten assumptions about the philosophy and nature of science.

Suddenly “Darwinists” are the enemy, and there’s little the scientific community can do about it.

What this all means is that scientists and science enthusiasts need to be mindful about how they refer to intelligent design in the public sphere. It might be really easy to dismiss it like young-earth creationism, to cite religious motivation and a shady past, but a better approach is probably to explain why it isn’t a scientific concept, why scientists don’t take their anti-evolutionary arguments seriously (in that they’ve been dealt with before, in considerable detail) and an idea of what people could expect the ID movement to respond with to those claims.

For example, if asked by a journalist to comment on the intelligent design movement, instead of saying “ID is religious dogma, wrapped up in fake smiles and alligator tears!”, consider:

ID is a pseudoscientific hypothesis that does not make testable claims or predictions, which are necessary components of scientific ideas. The arguments put forward by its proponents have been taken seriously and analysed by scientists and philosophers of science for nearly two decades, but all have found to be lacking in merit. It is widely known that the ID movement is a recent offshoot of creationism and its internal language is sometimes explicitly theistic – while this does not necessarily invalidate its claims, it does help explain its patterns of behaviour and the way its proponents think. The mainstream scientific community no longer pays much attention to the movement and will continue not to do so until ID proponents formulate more rigorous and persuasive ideas.

Seem like a mouthful? Maybe. But you wouldn’t be giving the ID movement a rhetorical leg-up. I think that’s worth the effort.

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  1. I know this is a misrepresentation of their views, but humour, people, humour.

43 thoughts on “Why scientists are feeding the rhetoricotrophic beast of intelligent design, and why they need to stop”

  1. Casey: “But the fact remains that most critiques of ID look more like attempts to dismiss ID’s arguments than to engage them.”

    This is simply because the only ‘argument’ ID has to offer is the argument from personal incredulity. They can dress it up any way they like, but it always comes to that. They formulate no hypotheses beyond “Designer did it”, engage in no actual research, and publish in non-peer-reviewed journals. Their arguments aren’t serious at all. Maybe if someday an IDer actually does formulate a science-based research program and publishes his/her/its work in a real journal, it’ll be worth engaging them on the merits of their argument. Until then, I’ll continue to dismiss them and their so-called argument for what it actually is: an attempt to sneak some form of creationism into taxpayer-funded public schools in order to establish a beachhead for more extreme forms of proselytizing defenseless children.

  2. Perhaps the better means for fighting ID would be to go on the offensive. Perhaps along the lines of asking for a detailed explination of the benefits of ID on present or future Medical or Biological research problems. Say something along the lines of "How would the science of ID help to determine causes or cures for Cancer?" This would go to showing that there is a difference in the agendas of "True" scientists (who are looking for answers to why things work the way that they do) and ID "scientists" (who are looking to project their faith onto others).

    Of course, I am relatively new to this whole debate and this tactic may already have been tried.

    1. Actually, medical research IS based on the principles of intelligent design. Medical researchers approach their subject as engineers approach an unknown technology. They assume from the start that what they see is the result of an intelligent process, has a function that can be decoded and apply the principles of reverse engineering. They consider that each aspect has a purpose, as opposed to being some haphazard random result that just happened to survive among the flotsam and jetsam due to relatively advantageous survival characteristics. Most medical researchers get along quite nicely without applying any modern principle of Darwinian evolution. Biological researchers would likely be farther ahead as well, if they didn't spend so much time coming up with just-so stories or having to type the words "has evolved" instead of "has" when describing some trait — because that's all they really mean.

      1. > They assume from the start that what they see is the result of an intelligent process….

        No, they don't.

        I challenge you to provide any evidence that even a significant subset of medical researchers make this assumption.

        1. Hello Patrick

          I will grant that my choice of the word "assumption" was ill-advised, as it does imply a conscious attribution. However, let me expand my point to try to convey my meaning better. When a geochemist observes observes and studies an assemblage of minerals, he or she employs the tools of chemistry, and physics to map out an historic path of temperatures, pressures and compositions that brought it to its present state. There is no thought of purpose or meaning or use. A biologist, on the other hand is concerned with purpose, usage, control systems and information. This is essentially engineering, which is a science of design and intelligence.

          I hope it is not controversial to say that life exhibits "apparent design". Even Richard Dawkins admits as much. Is it so surprising that adopting the methods normally used to elucidate human design would not also be the best way to understand "apparent" design?

          1. You are equivocating on the word "purpose". While a researcher may be interested in the role played by an organ, chemical pathway, etc., and the characteristics of that artifact that allow it to play that role, they most assuredly are not assuming that the "purpose" of the artifact is imposed from without. The vast majority of medical researchers are well aware that these artifacts evolved.

            Your use of the terms "control systems" and "information" are also not applicable to medical researchers in the sense they are usually used by intelligent design creationists. In no sense, therefore, is medical research "based on the principles of intelligent design", as you claim in your above comment. This is not surprising since the only real principle of intelligent design appears to be "goddidit".

  3. Interesting post,

    As you say, part of the narrative the ID crew try and spin is the idea that science ("Darwinism") is a closed shop and their fresh new ideas are closed down before being properly dealt with. That's why it's important for evolutionary biologists to talk about what we don't know (and how we try and find it out) and also about the way people with genuine but heterdox theories of evolution go about supporting their case (Nei, Kimura and the neutral school being an obvious historical example, supporters of non-adaptive evolutionary theories a modern one).

    I think we are often scared to say their is gap here or there in our understanding, because creationists wil say "ahah, they don't have it all sorted" but the goal of communicating science should be to leave people with an understanding of how science works, and if they get that they'll see through the ID movement without an angry words from us :)

      1. In your reply, you should take pains to point out Klinghoffer’s opinion that those of us who accept evolutionary theory are ‘cowards and bullies’, and ask him why he doesn’t allow comments. Come to think of it, you might also ask him why this opinion is ‘civil’, and ours are not.

  4. Klinghoffer's reaction (at SomeFunGuy's link above) just goes to show that, no matter how you try, you cannot avoid feeding the rhetoricotrophic beast. There's a simple reason for that: the IDers are nothing but PR hacks who spend their time spinning everything in sight … and practice makes, if not perfect, a hell of a lot better at it than scientists and others who think honesty counts. There is no reason to be gentle with them as long as you know how to wield sarcasm with the right touch.

    1. ID people are the PR "hacks?" "Honesty" counts in evolutionary science? This seemed a bit odd to me until I recognized your website and link to another…the infamous talkorigins. It now makes total sense…carry on with your propaganda in fantasy land.

        1. Don't expect any real response. Anything further from kuho is likely to be cut-and-paste swill from long-discredited creationist sources. The reason that talk.origins is "infamous" to such people is because the denizens of t.o have so successfully torn apart creationism in all its forms. But the bit about propaganda and fantasy land are nice examples of projection.

          1. Of course, your mind is closed and committed to purely naturalistic causation, so no response or evidence, however articulated, will ever suffice -I'm aware this will be a wasted response. The inability to even recognize the areas where evolution falls drastically short in its current state clearly demonstrates the mindset of today's "mainstream" science (as evidenced so well by t.o.) I will freely offer that I.D has not established itself as settled, unchallengeable science …far from it (the scientists of ID lack the pure arrogance to make that claim from what I know). However, I believe that ID offers a better explanation, not without holes, of the phenomenal natural world than undirected, mindless chance and time producing what everyone clearly sees in nature…incredible design characteristics (cue natural selection, snowflakes and crystals as regurgitated, misguided responses). I have not read all of t.o.. but what I have read has a left me tremendously underwhelmed, contrary to your self-declared "tearing apart creationism in all its forms." After reading through the scientific rhetoric, I view t.o. as unimpressive fluff–just my opinion. It's not a personal attack, but I understand it's bothersome to your faith.

            1. Neither natural selection nor chemistry, based on the very nature of matter, are "random." Your lack of qualification to determine where evolution might fall short, other than in its inability to meet your preconceptions of how the world should be, is showing. Calling the millions of scientists, many of whom are religious, "mainstream science" is typical denialism. What you find underwhelming is about as relevant as a five year old's opinion of nuclear fusion.

              I have no "faith" in evolution. If someone came along with a good scientific argument against it … which you admit ID hasn't … I'd be willing to accept that. I do have a kind of faith, based on actual experience, in the scientific method … not least because I'm instantly communicating with someone on my computer via a website literally on the other side of the Earth. I well remember the time I couldn't cram such a computer in my home, much less have it sitting on my lap. You are free to denegrate naturalistic science but its more than a little silly to do it via the very fruits of science.

              1. As predicted…
                Natural selection is not a creative force…it cannot make anything new. It simply acts as an after-the-fact filter. The creative force and source of everything new that evolution requires is mutation, which indeed is a random, mindless event. There is no way to bluff away that chance is the foundation of your faith, that is, if you want to be honest. Chemistry is no help to your argument either. If experiments on OOL studies have shown us any consistent factor, it’s that life is most certainly not reducible to chemistry…it cannot answer the enigma of biological information. How’s your faith in the scientific method regarding this issue? The “mainstream science” terminology was a reference from the previously discussed t.o. website (main page, archives, etc) that THEY use to indicate validity and authority, so how/what exactly am I denying? Do not millions of scientists (referenced on t.o.) represent “mainstream science?” Your comment here makes no sense. By the way, nice comment regarding a five year old having no insight on nuclear fusion…insults and arm-waiving won’t make your case any stronger.
                Onto your second para-response: Sorry, but you have ultimate faith in purely naturalistic evolution. If you want to go by strict scientific method, then so be it…but you must remain in the realm of microevolutionary events…the observable, testable, empirical evidence that evolutionists and ID theorists both agree on. If you want to go beyond that, you leave behind strict scientific method and must employ a great variety of inference, scenarios, “must haves”, “what if’s’”, "looks like" and “suppose this”…not exactly what I recall the scientific method to be. And for further entertainment, would you like to show us how you follow the scientific method for explanation of all matter, energy, time, physical constants/laws, elegant mathematics, etc, etc,? (cue Lawrence Krauss :) Been there, done that (well, tried to and failed).
                Lastly, your comment on “denegrating naturalistic science” via the fruits of this very science is silly indeed. Here’s a little secret: computers, the internet, cable systems, etc. are fruits of intelligence, not naturalistic science (but thanks for providing a good illustration). Are you proposing that these incredible technologies made themselves? I could see why you would, based on your belief of how chemicals via natural selection can mindlessly turn molecules into man. You have much more faith than I do, maybe because your "science" demands it.

                1. "Natural selection is not a creative force"

                  Nice way to beg the question. Declare at the outset that something needs to be a created, ergo a creator. Logic is not your strong suit either. What we are talking about is adaptations of organisms to their environment.

                  "If experiments on OOL studies have shown us any consistent factor, it’s that life is most certainly not reducible to chemistry"

                  When in doubt, change the subject … I thought we were talking about evolution. I assume this is Meyer's argument to the best explanation which is certainly missing a leg since there has not been very much effort put into the subject and to declare it impossible on that grounds is neither logically or scientifically justified. We've put much more time and money into devising a fusion power plant and failed so far. Does that mean that those H-bombs didn't go off and that there is a pixie at the heart of the sun making it shine?

                2. So you think millions of scientists are lying, even the religious ones, while only the few hundred (if that) of IDers with some sort of credentials in the field are the only ones telling the truth? The only way remotely to sell that to any sane person is to try to cast the scientific community as some sort of monolithic "interest group," which is classic denialism. And if you display an understanding of science of a five year-old … as in the old "microevolution" blather…, it's fair to point it out.

                3. "computers, the internet, cable systems, etc. are fruits of intelligence, not naturalistic science"

                  I was expecting that … the problem is that they all were designed *assuming* that the naturalistic properties of matter and energy and the universe they make up are constant and lawlike … no goblins or ghoulies or gods were needed to design a computer (despite old jokes about sacrificing goats to SCSI chains). That assumption has gotten us far and praying for rain has not. Science looks for naturalistic explanations for phenomena. If you want to look for non-materialistic explanations, you are not doing science but philosophy at best, and theology at worst … which is your right but you have no right to call it "science" and certainly have no right to do so without it being *forcefully* pointed out.

                  1. Oh wow…talk about changing the goalposts. You have successfully demonstrated to me you have no sufficient answers, yet alone understanding the issues at hand. We ARE talking about evolution versus intelligent design…don't retreat to position "A" saying evolution is only about "adaptation of an organism" when the discussion at hand requires so much more…talk about begging the question (we all know why evolutionists classically and predictably retreat away from OOL…and everyone knows it sure is hell isn't because of lack of effort/hypothesis, funding, experiments, etc..what a cop-out, but again expected). Let's re-phrase the question: how does natural selection "make" something ?(a new word, as to not touch the deep-seeded hatred for anything reminding you of your Creator) All aside, ID is an argument based from what we observe, not what naturalistic evolution fails to recreate in labs. Again, good mischaracterization.
                    Retreat # 2…the old standby "majority rules" argument. How did that argument work against your prophet Darwin? You demonstrate lack of understanding of the history of science and place an invalid claim based on majority. No, I don't think most evolutionists purposefully lie (but I certainly know ones who do)…I just think their worldview greatly effects how they view/interpret science. Would you suggest that science is perfectly objective…no prior philosophical influence determines stance? If so, you are firmly mistaken (and that goes for both sides). But I guess I understand your frustration and casting insults at me because I can see through your lame attempts at redirection and dismissal of macroevolutionar challenges as far as experimental science is concerned. Maybe your fluff would actually work better with one who knew the science of a 5 year old, you could feel proud sitting on your self-inflated intellectual throne.
                    Part # 3…I'm so happy you expected that…and yes, we don't have to invoke goblins or ghosts to explain the technology. But you also demonstrated the ability to recognize design for what it is at it's source —INTELLIGENCE. Science should look for naturalistic explanations for phenomena…BUT it should also be able to draw valid, logical conclusions when purely naturalistic explanations fail so deeply and we have successfully used design inference in all other areas of our lives. Nobody argues that science can ever prove or find God, but it can (and should) reach an outcome of design. Most would agree. What, then, is the best explanation for the incredible design we see plastered all over nature, when we can't come close to building the simplest cell after 80 years of trying, when the technology of a cell greatly surpasses anything we have created , and when we, and yes even you, can come to a very reasonable conclusion that design is appropriate for technologies such as internet and computers? You, and most others alike, are best explained by Lewontin's candid assessment of an a priori commitment to material causes, no matter what the evidence or outcome may be, or how counter-intuitive it is. You are philosophical committed to not allowing a Divine foot in the door/discussion, not scientifically reasoned. But please tell me again how I have no logic, I have the understanding of a five year old, and I am in denial. I was once in your position…I know the game of deflection, misrepresentation, and strawman arguments all too well (deep down I knew I really didn't have a naturalistic leg to stand on, and amazingly enough I was always damn angry, as nearly all atheists seem to be:) And until you are willing to face the possibility that there may be a Designer, you will reject all logic, data, and science that may illuminate a new idea. Until then, carry on as a darwinist should, misrepresenting arguments, controlling the media, and proclaiming victory in the face of any challenge simply because of a deep, authentic fear for what the outcome is likely to be.

                    1. “we all know why evolutionists classically and predictably retreat away from OOL”

                      “We” being the people who can't refute the evidence for evolution and therefore changed the subject in the first place. If the subject is evolution, the change in life over time from one or a few simple forms to what we have today, then the issue of how the first forms arose, as Darwin himself pointed out, is irrelevant. If you, along with the IDers want to assert, *without evidence*, that it is naturalistic aliens (so as to avoid the American Constitution) who “created” the first life forms, feel free. It doesn't change the evidence for evolution (or make that assertion anymore scientific).

                      “everyone knows it sure is hell isn't because of lack of effort/hypothesis, funding, experiments, etc”

                      So, now, demonstrate your knowledge of the science and cite the to statistics showing the level of funding and experiments done compared to, say, what is spent on those H-bombs or even on developing a new acne cream. Me and the crickets will be waiting.

                    2. “Let's re-phrase the question: how does natural selection "make" something ?”

                      Oooh! That's better! “Make” doesn't imply a “maker” … as in “watchmaker” … Oh, no! Kant (and Hume before him) demolished the watchmaker analogy even before Paley famously made it. But since you know nothing about science, I suppose we shouldn't be surprised that you don't know anything logic or philosophy either.

                    3. “I just think their worldview greatly effects how they view/interpret science.”

                      So that includes devout scientists like (a very partial list) Ken Miller, Francis Ayala, Michael Collins, Theodosius Dobzhansky and even Darwin when he started out? Your denialism is showing again.

                      “no prior philosophical influence determines stance?”

                      Of course it does. But to paraphrase (a little) philosopher of science David Hull, "Scientists rarely refute their own pet theories. But that's all right. Their fellow scientists will be happy to oblige."The reason for that is that fame (and what little fortune scientists get) is often and and best won by refuting other scientists. Think Einstein and Newton. The only way to believe that the consensus of scientists about evolution is based only on their “worldview” is to ignore their very different worldviews. Denialism personified.

                    4. “you also demonstrated the ability to recognize design for what it is at it's source —INTELLIGENCE”

                      Now all you have to do is demonstrate that adaptation of life to its environment involves design instead of assuming it in poor circular reasoning.

                      Look, this has been fun … a blast from my t.o. past … but it is also, I'm afraid, boring. As Jack said in his most recent post, there is only so many times you feel the need to bang you head against an unthinking wall. I don't begrudge you your beliefs, I only begrudge your attempts to characterize them as science. In the end, science will win (elsewhere than in the US, if need be) because it works and the kind of bafflegab you and the IDers are peddling doesn't. HANL.

                    5. P.S.

                      "I was always damn angry, as nearly all atheists seem to be"

                      I'm sorry about any past, present or future angst you may had or have. Not being an atheist myself (unless you are going to pull the 'anyone who doesn't believe as you do counts as an "atheist" ploy'), I simply don't get your point. I am not a "Darwinist" in the sense I believe Darwin was infallible. I know many areas where he was out-and-out wrong. I, like Darwin, am still willing to contemplate a "Designer" (afraid of the word "God"?) but you'll have to do better to sell me your version. When you get around to presenting that "logic, data, and science" I'll consider it.

                      Really … do you think scientists control the media? … Just asking …

                      If you want a non-naturalistic "leg" to stand on, not only are you free to have one, I'll vigorously defend your right to it. Again, HANL.

                    6. Well it seems I'm dealing with the norm…I was hoping for better. Your lack of understanding of the limits of natural selection and regurgitated responses are all too telling. Way to avoid the question again (or you simply have not the ability to understand it, which I believe is not the case) about how does new information "come about" to change organisms over time? Is that better? Your original answer to my statement of evolution being ultimately based on mindless chance was that it is not. Show me how this is. If not mindless chance to bring about new products for natural selection to choose, then what?
                      I understand there will be no response to this, or maybe another goalpost shift at best. You have thrown in the towel, cause the questioner of your faith still has unanswered questions. I, too, am frustrated and seem like logic couldn't enter your consciousness it were allowed (by the way, a materialistic explanation for consciousness?).
                      A word of encouragement….don't be afraid to admit when your science doesn't have sufficient answers (have to have the logic to recognize flaws firstt, but that's a different story) and don't make such fond use of your favorite stance of "denialism" when you can offer no sound argument yourself. It makes your side seem childish, weak, or at minimum a very defensive science. Science is designed to welcome all questions, not the case here. Not that you'll read or comprehend it, but anyhow.. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/11/berlinski_on

                      also, best wishes. It has been fun.

                    7. Actually, I think you were quite justified in your accusation. Techincally, someone who doesn't believe that the natural world is the product of a creative act of a transcendental Subject is not considered a theist but a deist. If a deist is not-a-theist, then 'atheist' it seems would be appropriate. Furthermore, anyone who believes the insane idea that 'nothing exploded to produce everything' (big bang) and that life gradually crawled out from the rubble to evolve sentient creatures who would be crazy enough to construct such a incredible story of their own origins — it seems would qualify for being denoted by the name atheist — just to be kind.

                      It is also interesting to see the predictable reaction of evolutionists to distance themselves from the topic of OOL. Of course, they feel embarrassed by the fact that there is no idea in the scientific community as to how life could have possibly originated, or even a credible theory for it that has any scientific merit. To say that life 'just happened' to evolve the way it did, and to say that life just happened, seems to be two different subjects for evolutionsits. Of course, they are not.

                      If there is no idea of what life is, then how can anyone talk about whether it evolves or not. What exactly is evolving or not?

                      Mechanically minded scientists have no definition of life because they refuse to accept what every man, woman and child in the world already understands about it: life is a sentient phenomenon, distinct from insentient, non-living matter. Yet, modern science, including biology, is finally shedding their antiquated mechanical paradigms and begining to recognize what is common knowledge for the rest of us. It began in physics in the 20th century, and now in biology in the 21st century.

                      Jack thinks he can learn modern science in the universities. From whom will he learn? Those steeped in the science of the last two centuries can never teach what the completely revolutionary research of the last few deacades has revealed about the non-mechnaistic nature of life as a sentient phenomenon.

                      Science has often in its history faced such times of revolution, as nicely explained in Thomas Khun's famous book on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The same thing has happened repeatedly throughout the history of science. The old school scientists simply refuses to keep up with the most recent discoveries. But to see the same intransigence in the young is perhaps not to be unexpected because they are so deeply influenced by their teachers.

                      Anyhow, keep emphasizing the orign of life. It is not only relevant but the sore spot in the theory of evolution. Just as they keep insisting that ID provide a commentary on the origin of intelligence (the Intelligent Designer), asking them to address the question of the origin of life can legitimately be pressed on the evolutionists.

  5. I think that in it’s core, all of the ID arguments can be distilled in the claim that “prescriptive information/specified complexity cannot arise by an undirected process”, and ID proponents seem to believe that this is an axiom that even transcend the material world.

    Therefore, one single, non-trivial and unambiguous counter-example for that claim, and it’s Game Over for ID.

    I’ve been trying to tackle that claim, and that’s why I made the following application:


    The purpose of this application is to test the claim that “prescriptive information” cannot arise from undirected natural laws.

    For this purpose, I provide an environment for simple molecules called “molboxes”, which interact each-other according to some physical laws that can be either user-defined or random. The still unfulfilled main goal of the simulation is to achieve a set of “natural laws” that result in the formation of some non-trivial structure with the ability to transcribe it’s own replication.

    Hopefully, if this application is available for a large number of users, eventually someone will get the right combination of natural laws (it would be wonderful if such combination is achieved by a process of natural selection).

    Among my influences to develop this application is this site:


    Currently, MolBox is in a less-than-alpha status, yet it’s already functional. It was programmed with Visual C# 2010 Express and XNA 4 graphic library. Source code and executable can be downloaded from here:

    Source Code: http://db.tt/R9IDN9F8
    Executable: http://db.tt/mmXwNmvf

  6. Roberto: I must complement you on the task you have set yourself. You are completely correct. "Therefore, one single, non-trivial and unambiguous counter-example for that claim, and it's Game Over for ID."

    This is what makes ID science. Can you come up with a similar test for evolution?

    You must be careful not to smuggle information into your program, however, or merely provide what amounts to a smooth, continuous functional space, with your programme "running downhill" to its solution.

    1. Scheesman:

      Implicit in your comment is the arbitrary distinction so common among creationist between "historical" and "operational" sciences. The fact that evolution at species level is hardly reproducible doesn't make evolutionary theory less falsifiable than, say, gravity. For a hypothesis regarding a process X to be falsifiable, it's not necessary to see X occurring, all it takes is to find evidence of an event Y that cannot happen if X ever occurred.

      A deuterostome mollusk or a photosynthetic reptile could be fancy counter-examples for evolution. More generally, any biological novelty than cannot be explained in terms of any plausible mutation rate. To my knowledge, none of this potential instances of falsification has ever occurred, and successful predictions of evolution theory continue to accumulate.

      ID movement is based on the claim that some natural phenomena are best explained in terms of a designer. This is an unscientific claim since the existence of the designer is unfalsifiable, and because it takes the unparsimonious stand that if no natural explanation is known, then the designer hypothesis is the default explanation (disregarding valid alternatives such as "an unknown natural cause"). It is this "best explanation" quality what is falsifiable, yet the designer hypothesis itself is not.

      The cool thing with natural selection (both real and simulated) is that the environment is both the objective and the fitness function, which means that it is the environment the one that smuggles information on individuals when it select them for survival. It is the environment the one that provides all the "free lunch" an individual can eat ;-)

      1. Roberto:

        I respond only by wishing you the best in your programming pursuits. If natural selection is truly as powerful as you believe, then you will undoubtedly tap into its novelty-producing potential, and prove all of us "creationists" wrong.

        On the other hand, remember that the fitness landscape of evolution is written in the language of DNA. It is not smooth, nor even reasonably connected. Single mutations will never get you far when the simplest of biological machines need mutliple components.

        Hopefully I'll get some time to download your code and have a look.

          1. Hi Robert. I downloaded both the exe and project, but I've had no success. The exe seems to start to load but fails silently, and I've been unable to open any of the solution or project files, and I've got VS 2010 Ultimate. It gives the following error:

            The project file '.AbiogenesisContentMolBoxContent.contentproj' cannot be opened.

            The project type is not supported by this installation.

            Maybe I need a plug-in?

  7. Man what the scientific community has been reduced is a joke. Gone are the days of Einstein and his contemporaries.
    Today we're subjected to nothing but egotistical braggarts who shout "I, I, I" on their personal blogs all day long.

    This comment from P.Z Myers sums it up nicely: "I despise you all equally."

    What's next, war and censorship.
    And yes I'm talking about both sides.

  8. While it is true that many ID critics are not Mr-Rogers-like in their tone, it is simply false that ID advocates are.
    From their association of evolution with racism, genocide, and murder; their brethren creationists' claim that ALL societal ills are the fault of accepting evolution; and yes, even their own personal attacks and incivil behavior (Dembski is particularly prone to this – he slur about Jerry Coyne looking like Frankenstein's monster is an especially grotesque example).
    Luskin's whiny rant is just an attempt to divert attention from themselves.

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