A Scientific Test for Intelligent Design

We want to help the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s creationist public relations and lobbying operation, the Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists).

From time to time the Discoveroids post lists of their evidence and tests for intelligent design, and such efforts are always laughable. See Intelligent Designer or Zeus?, and also Tests for Intelligent Design.

Part of the problem is that their “theory” is so nebulous that it’s difficult to deal with. This is our oft-repeated description of their theory:

An unknown intelligence (whether it’s a solitary creature or a vast swarm is never addressed), with utterly unknown characteristics (mortal or immortal, sexual or asexual, plant or animal, physical or spiritual), whose home base is unknown, and whose ultimate origin is a mystery (evolved, created, or eternal), arrived on earth somehow (in a flying saucer, perhaps, or maybe on a comet), at some unspecified time (or several times), and then in some unspecified way (technological or magical), for unspecified reasons (boredom, or maybe cosmic fulfillment), did something (or maybe several things) to influence the genetic characteristics of some (but maybe not all) of the creatures on earth.

But the Discoveroids’ biggest problem is that they seem to know so little about science that they just don’t know how to do it. So we’re here to help.

This is what we propose — a sure-fire way to catch the intelligent designer in the very act! There may be many ways to go about this, and perhaps you, dear reader, can improve upon our method, but here’s our suggestion. Pay attention, because this may be the beginning of a genuine scientific revolution.

First, set up some Petri dishes of bacteria — all the same. The goal is to catch the designer in the act of enhancing one of them in some irreducibly complex way.

Then, on the same table with the Petri dishes, set out a glass of milk and a plate of cookies. That should attract the designer. If it’s not sufficient, then surely he’ll be attracted by prayer, so the Discoveroids should maintain a prayer vigil outside the door of the lab, with constant chanting and incantations. The door of the lab, of course, should be locked to insure the integrity of the results.

The interior of the lab should be equipped with hidden cameras, triggered by both heat and motion detectors. But that’s not all. The lab should also be equipped with an array of ghost detectors. We found an Amazon category for such equipment, and we’re confident that there must be something there to do the job: Ghost detectors at Amazon.

That’s the setup. Milk, cookies, ghost detectors, video cameras, and Petri dishes. Plus a prayer vigil outside. Very scientific, and we guarantee that these the procedures will easily survive peer review. But it may not work the first night. We suggest patience. The experiment should be run for ninety continuous days, which should surely be enough. And then what?

Isn’t it obvious? If the bacteria evolve some irreducibly complex feature, then surely the video tapes or the ghost detectors will reveal the presence of the designer — blessed be he! — on the scene at the time of the otherwise impossible event. And then … the theory of intelligent design will at last have publishable evidence that supports it.

And so, Discoveroids, why do you hesitate? We have shown you the way. The rest is up to you. Fame and glory shall be yours. And most of all, you will at last enjoy the respect of the science community. If you fail to put your theory to the test, then you are without excuse.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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20 responses to “A Scientific Test for Intelligent Design

  1. SC said:

    But the Discoveroids’ biggest problem is that they seem know

    Should that be, “But the Discoveroids’ biggest problem is that they seem to know”?

  2. Okay, now that I’ve read the rest of the article, I’ll start the wagering on the excuses likely to be submitted:
    – Milk: The Designer is lactose intolerant. It’s been said that life was created as the result of God (Blessed Be He!) Flatus. We don’t want to tempt fate with the possibility of new life forms that may (or may not) be higher on the food chain than we.
    – Cookies: No self-deserving deity would be caught with anything less than truffles.
    – Ghost detectors: All of those “ghost detectors” only cover a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum, all of it below optical. What if the Almighty is well into the extreme gamma ray region?
    – Video cameras: See “Ghost Detectors” above.
    – Petri dishes: They were already contaminated with pollen… or some such.

  3. …Except that no ID proponent ever says anything like that.

  4. The experiment should be run for ninety continuous days, which should surely be enough.

    Forty days and forty nights should be all that is required.

  5. You are all missing the point. ID is specifically peddled as an alternative to evolution, so it’s claims must be made and tested on equivalent terms. Thus they don’t need to give evidence of a designer or “design” (whatever they mean by that), but just work out the whats, wheres, whens, and proximate causes of species change.

    Eyeonicr is tongue-in-cheek I hope, because most Discoveroids do not believe the literal Genesis thing – Dembski’s encouragement to believe it, specifically admitted in spite of lack of evidence. If any Discoveroid thought that the evidence truly supported a YEC or OEC story, they’s be challenging, or “expelling” the only one of their own (Behe) who takes a clear position on “what happened when,” and that includes ~4 billion years of common descent.

    Five years ago, I offered an opportunity for the DI (and their competitots at YEC and OEC groups) to once and for all, submit a proposal to state and test their “origins” hypothesis. I limited the scope to human origins, because that is what most concerns their fans. Those fans must be getting very disappointed, because I have yet to receive one proposal.

  6. @#$%^ Google Groups. Here’s the correct link.

  7. garystar1 says: “Should that be …”

    You’re right, as always.

  8. Interesting idea, but I would add one feature. A trap. Sort of like the trap used by the Ghostbusters. It’s not enough to merely detect the designer, or one of his minions, we would want to interrogate it and discern what it’s motives are, what it’s made of, and most of all, how we can defend ourselves.

    After all, if the DI is right, there’s something very dangerous out there…

  9. Tomato Addict

    Gary* wrote: “It’s been said that life was created as the result of God (Blessed Be He!) Flatus.”

    I thought that was their alternative to the “Big Bang” theory? Either way, it’s something Douglas Adams might have written. :-)

  10. garystar1

    @TA: Thanks! Douglas Adams wrote that a particular race believed that the entire universe was sneezed out of the nose of some supernatural being. They awaited with dread the day of the Coming of the Great White Handkerchief. And, yes, that is what inspired me.

  11. Gary – the great green arkleseizure, I believe.

    Frank – Dembski has stated outright that he (and ID in general) has no intention of providing any of the details your proposal would require. Remember this?

    “As for your example, I’m not going to take the bait. You’re asking me to play a game: “Provide as much detail in terms of possible causal mechanisms for your ID position as I do for my Darwinian position.” ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.”

  12. Jack Hogan

    But the Discoveroids’ biggest problem is that they seem to know so little about science that they just don’t know how to do it.

    They have their own defintion of science.

    I recall from the Dover trial, and other sources, that their goal is to redefine science to make “non-materialistic” explanations of physical phenomena legitimate science.

    But they haven’t been talking about it much since Dover.

  13. The Development Hypothesis
    Herbert Spencer
    The Leader, March 20, 1852
    http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Development_Hypothesis

    The science question in intelligent design
    Sahotra Sarkar
    Synthese volume 178 number 2 (2011) pages 291-305
    DOI 10.1007/s11229-009-9540-x
    http://www.springerlink.com/content/8697885w32541690/

  14. eric: “Remember this?”

    Of course. Remember this?

  15. Put one apparatus without any particular divine barriers,
    another, within big signs “GODS KEEP OUT!”,
    and another within a consecrated pentagram, or whatever symbol will repell both gods and demons.

  16. aturingtest

    eric (quoting Dembski): “ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.”
    Wow. I hadn’t seen that, thanks for the quote. That sounds about as close to an outright admission that ID isn’t science as anybody would need.
    Pauper to millionaire: “Yeah, well, you can just keep your pathetic, stinky ol’ millions of dollars- I’m rich in spirit!” Does anybody doubt that the pauper wouldn’t take those millions in a flash if he could, and then claim both riches and spirit?

  17. Mark Joseph

    eric (quoting Dembski): “ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.”

    That’s right. As our curmudgeon has remarked on numerous occasions, it’s oogity-boogity! Events without mechanisms are magic.

    As for 90 days of experimental work, that’s too hard. It’s easier to cherry-pick out of context quotes from the writings of real scientists.

  18. atutingtest: “Wow. I hadn’t seen that, thanks for the quote. That sounds about as close to an outright admission that ID isn’t science as anybody would need.”

    I hope you also read my reply (the link in my last comment). In fact Phillip Johnson and Paul Nelson also have oft-cited quotes (a few years after Dembski’s), that very clearly admit that ID isn’t science, and make it clear that they are not really serious when they pretend that it is. That’s why I get annoyed when we act like we just discovered the “well protected secret” that ID “is” religion (or “creationism in a cheap tuxedo” etc.). The way I see it, by the time that former YEC and OEC peddlers had joined forces with former theistic evolutonists (like Behe) in a “big tent” against “big bad science” it was already 100% scam. Thus to claim that ID “is” creationism, without making it very clear that we define creationism as a scam, is grossly unfair to the rank-and-fine evolution-deniers who have been misled, and even to the YEC and OEC peddlers, as hopelessly deluded as they may be.

  19. Mark Joseph: “As our curmudgeon has remarked on numerous occasions, it’s oogity-boogity! Events without mechanisms are magic.”

    But there’s no reason that they can’t at least say when and where those “magic” events occurred. And in fact YEC and OEC peddlers still occasionally do, and sometimes even criticize each other’s conclusions. That ID scammers go out of their way to avoid that is the real secret that we need to expose, at least to those who aren’t beyond hope, but nevertheless fall for ID sound bites.

  20. techreseller

    If I were god (or God if you prefer) I would not show up and create something in that lab just to laugh at those insufferable people. If there is a god, he or she must have a sense of humor and use it.