Discoveroids Promote Full Blown Mysticism

We overlooked this last week, but upon reflection, it could be one of the most revealing posts the Discoveroids have made all year. It’s titled Mathematics as a Frontier for Intelligent Design, and it’s by David Klinghoffer.

What we would like you to think about as we discuss his post is the insistent claim by the Discoveroids that their endless ravings about an undetectable designer — blessed be he! — are based on solid science. As we shall see in what follows, a bit of that scientific facade is ripped away here.

Klinghoffer begins by mentioning “Berkeley mathematician Edward Frenkel and his argument that mathematics points to an objective reality behind and outside nature.” We don’t know if Frenkel ever said or wrote anything remotely like Klinghoffer’s interpretation. Wikipedia has an article about him: Edward Frenkel. He seems normal — albeit a mathematician.

It seems that Frenkel has written something that Klinghoffer heard about (but hasn’t read), and that’s the subject of his Discoveroid post. He starts out by saying that David Berlinski made the same point as Frenkel in his own book. You know who David Berlinski is. He’s a Discoveroid “fellow,” and that’s impressive. Klinghoffer quotes from his earlier review of Berlinski’s book, where he said that Berlinski:

returns again and again to the allusiveness of numbers and the operations we perform on them. They allude, they point to, they gesture to something beyond themselves. Just what that might be, of course — of course, if you know anything about David Berlinski — Berlinski won’t say.

With that cryptic beginning, here are some excerpts from the rest of Klinghoffer’s post. The bold font was added by us for emphasis. Referring to the title of his Discoveroid post, Klinghoffer says

I was going to say the “frontier” of math is virgin or unexplored territory for ID, but of course these two great math minds have already pointed the way.

These “two great math minds” — Frenkel and Berlinski? Frenkel, quite likely. He’s a Professor of Mathematics at University of California, Berkeley, with a Ph.D. from Harvard. As far as we can tell, Berlinski has no degree in math. Your Curmudgeon can’t judge either one of them, but Berlinski is a Discoveroid, and that’s quite a clue. Anyway, Klinghoffer then tells us:

Our world is one is one of concealment. Whereas in our everyday experience, ultimate reality is veiled by subjectivity — Plato’s cave, basically — elementary math, not unlike the other sciences, suggests in Berlinski’s words “as nothing else can the glory that is beyond.”

Aaaargh!! Plato’s Allegory of the Cave is pure, raw Oogity Boogity! It’s the first thing mystics point to when they want to explain that you — you blind, materialist Darwinist — are misled by the mere appearances of this world, while your philosophical betters know the hidden reality that lies beyond. Oh yeah, and the Discoveroids are all about science, right?

Here’s the end of Klinghoffer’s post:

Scientism is the project of attempting to convince people that nothing is really veiled from us. What you see is what you get: blunt, dead matter, that’s it.

So there you are. Wake up, you pathetic fool! The world you see is mere illusion. Only the mystics — like the Discoveroids — know The Truth that lies beyond. Yes … yes! The intelligent designer may be hidden from you, but Klinghoffer and the Discoveroids know more than you could ever hope to know. Follow them!

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Discoveroids Promote Full Blown Mysticism

  1. Curmy opines—

    “[Edward Frenkel] seems normal — albeit a mathematician.”

    Whoa, that’s fighting talk! We additive types like to think of ourselves as distinctly abnormal. :P

    I think Klunklehuffer actually meant this chap whose seminal work contributed significantly to foundational mathematics. With the habitually casual disregard for facts so characteristic of the Discorrhoids, Klunklehuffer probably bollixed up the spelling.

  2. Okay, after a bit more probing, it’s evident I got it wrong and Klunklehuffer is indeed referring to young Edward Frenkel of Berkeley. I haven’t yet read the latter’s book so can’t comment on his views concerning the Platonic Realm.

  3. Charles Deetz ;)

    Trying to find it as a pithy quote, but will have to modify what K said slightly to make my point:

    Is “What you see is NOT what you get” the DI equivalent of Hambo’s “Were you there?”

  4. SC: “As we shall see in what follows, a bit of that scientific facade is ripped away here.”

    In other news, did you hear that a British rock group just released a cutesy song called “I Want to Hold Your Hand” in the US? Oh wait, that was 50 years ago today. And only a mere ~20 years ago that Discoveroids ripped away all pretenses of a scientific façade, so I guess that’s news, relatively speaking. ;-)

    What is newsworthy to me, and ought to be to anyone who has spent more than a few hours following Discoveroid antics, is how much ground they have conceded to evolution over the years. Not all of them, and not any one all-at-once, but when you add up all they have collectively conceded, that’s the real eye-opener.

  5. I visualize Klinghoffer’s writing process to be something like this: “Hey here’s a recent paper that I don’t understand that uses a lot of big, complicated words. It doesn’t mention evolution, therefore it must be evidence of intelligent design!”

  6. Klinghitler’s writing process is this: weather report for today is clear and sunny.

    Klinghitler: Nazi anti-rain lobby suppresses academic freedom of rain advocates.

  7. Years ago when I made first contact with the SETI Institute I thought that mathematics was a universal concept and that if we got strings of prime numbers or counting sequences it would signify an intelligent race.

    Later I accepted the notion that mathematics is a human construction and that an alien race would most likely have a completely different psychology and representation of “reality” and that “their” math could be radically different to our own, to the point of being incomprehensible.

    That’s one of those awe-inspiring moments when you realize that aliens might be all around us and we just don’t see them, can’t see them, just like we are invisible to a may fly.

  8. Stephen Kennedy

    Klinghoffer’s post made absolutely no sense to me. What was he trying to communicate and what does Mathematics have to do with ID?

  9. @Stephen Kennedy.

    Look at the forest, not the trees. Klinghoffer sees a world going to hell (& I feel all his pain over that and more) and thinks that the only solution is to keep the “masses” in denial of science, and in particular “Darwinism.” So like a well-trained Discoveroid (& the only one they really need) he’ll throw out anything that sounds technical and might cause a fence-sitter looking for an excuse to deny science and think that scientists are in a conspiracy to replace God with Hitler, to find one. Plus if it distracts any critics into a response that casual observers will wrongly interpret as taking ID seriously, that’s a bonus.

    As for Math and ID, you might recall Dembski’s bait-and-switch of first trying to categorically rule out chance and regularity to leave design as the only option. Then, before most audiences realize that the 3 options are not mutually-exclusive, he subtly switches to bogus “improbability” arguments that the mathematician whose ideas he based it on called “written in Jello.” Specified and/or irreducibly complex systems are improbably-and/or-impossible via “naturalistic” evolution (and/or “Darwinism”) ergo Oogity Boogity.

  10. Kling is like all creationists in that he wants an abstract concept – like math, logic, or love – to be a real thing… some actual force that is just invisible. (Like, coincidently, God.) Thus, if you use math, logic, or love someone, you are a believer in God. Because only God can create those forces.

  11. “Frenkel” (paragraph 3) or “Frankel” (paragraph 8)?

  12. Ooops! Thank you, Paul Burnett. It’s fixed now.

  13. Ed: “Because only God can create those forces”

    That’s what he hopes his audience will infer. But he – and all Discoveroids – know that it could always be some natural law(s) that we have yet to discover. And even if there is some “intelligence” (they really mean “free will”) behind those “unexplained phenomena,” they know that there’s no reason that it must be the cartoonish God of the fundamentalists. Discoveroid David Berlinski even claims to be agnostic. And Klinghoffer and Medved don’t think that God became human, was born to a virgin, died, came back to life and “ascended” (whatever that means).

    After many years of following their antics, it recently occurred to me that anti-evolution activists and the committed evolution-denier subset of their fan base crave something even more basic than “abstract concepts.” What they worship above everything else are words. Words give them power.

  14. oy, the old claim that only theists, and of course only those of a certain type, can know the Truth(tm) plus the careening toward solipsism to excuse their nonsense.

    I keep asking these twits to hold white-hot bars of iron if they are so sure that reality isn’t real. They always decline. :)

  15. David Berlinski has a PhD in mathematics from Princton, and yes, he’s a dishonesty institute fellow. Additional bio here:
    http://www.davidberlinski.org/biography.php

  16. DavidK, the page you link to says Berlinski has a Ph.D. in philosophy, not math. He has no degrees in math. The DI and some of Berlinski’s books and essays sold him as a Ph.D. in math. He is not; IDiots exaggerate each other’s credentials.

  17. Berlinski’s idiotic comment is typical of a common theological approach which I call the Glom. The Glom is when disparate things, one valid and one invalid, are lumped together into a single inductive rule, so that the rules which apply to the valid thing (here, mathematics) can be claimed to apply equally to the invalid thing (here, spooks and spirits)- even though in reality we have never observed the invalid thing obeying that rule (e.g. we have never observed spooks doing anything, and hypotheses of their existence do not produce confirmed predictions.)

    Here Berlinski and Klinghoffer use the “Immaterial” glom, in which the word “immaterial” is used to lump together useful abstractions like mathematics with useless hypothetical entities, that is, spooks. Since mathematics is useful, therefore spooks are real. Uh, no. Mathematics is useful because it is necessary to make testable predictions about observable quantities. Spooks have no mathematical description, and hypothesizing their existence does not lead to confirmed predictions about observables.

    Another glom ID proponents use is “intelligence” or “intelligent agents”, words which glom together human action and magic done by spooks. E.g. we have seen humans create information, therefore the information in DNA must be created by spooks. Uh, no. We have never seen any spook alter even one single nucleotide in any genome of any species ever.

    If you know the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God popularized by Captain Genocide aka William Lane Craig, Craig does another glom: he uses the word “cause” to glom together Aquinas’ efficient cause (a mind) and material cause (matter) and somehow concludes that the First Cause of the universe must be a Mind outside time and space– even though, for the vast majority of things in the universe, they were made from matter only, with no mind involved; his glom convinces him that the first cause must be Mind.

    In theology there are many other examples of Glom.

  18. Diogenes, the way I read the “mathematics proves mysticism” glom is that it is based on (1) Eugene Wigner’s “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in the natural sciences,” and (2) Platonic idealism. Most mathematicians agree that mathematics is discovered (rather than revealed or invented), which implies that mathematics also properly and independently exists in its own realm, usually thought to be Plato’s world of ideal forms or something very much like it. The Discorrhoids’ “reasoning” seems to me to be that because mathematics is so remarkably effective in describing nature and because it deals in abstract idealisations that have a special kind of independent existence, one may infer that palpable reality, being mundane and less perfect, is subordinate to or contingent on the prior existence of its ideal. Ergo, Oogity Boogity! must be real. It’s a bit like the various ontological arguments for God’s existence and it fails for similar reasons, namely that concepts do not require real-world referents to be valid and/or recognisable.

  19. Diogenes says: “Berlinski’s idiotic comment is typical of a common theological approach which I call the Glom. The Glom is when disparate things, one valid and one invalid, are lumped together …”

    Yes. My dogs obey me, therefore so do you. Well, not a great example. But I think the Glom is an example of category error.

  20. Off topic, but maybe one to look into? An article from yesterday’s Harrisburg Daily Register, How Saline schools teach ‘change over time,’ ‘intelligent design’, which appears to report that at least one High School in Saline County is teaching ID:

    At the Harrisburg high school, Principal Karen Crank stated that the theory of change over time was taught at the freshman to sophomore level in the science classes. The theory of intelligent design was presented as an “alternate belief system” and neither theory was given more emphasis as to validity.

    Sounds straight out of the DI playbook to me! Am I misreading the article?

  21. Berlinski is a classic bull sitter, in the tradition of Harry G. Frankfurt. But, unlike most of his ilk Berlinski avoids public forums where he can be open challenged.

    For example, he is famous for his cow-to-whale evolution thought experiment in which he “counts” all of the modifications needed to turn a cow into a whale. (I know, so much wrong with this, but bear with me!) He claims to have stopped counting at 50,000 changes. OK, so where is the list, Mr. Berlinski? Dog ate it? Or maybe the Paul Nelson Defense – left the list in your hotel room.

    Of course, Berlinski has no such list and he did no such thought experiment. It’s all a lie, but he’s never called on it. He’s never forced to reveal his empty hand.

    In a debate available on YouTube with Berlinski and others, versus Genie Scott and others, Berlinski expresses incredulity at, if I recall, fossil evidence or something like that. He says, “Well, I’m not convinced,” to which the answer is “So what?” (“You’re an idiot” being implied.)

    But my favorite of all time is Berlinski versus Christopher Hitchens in which Berlinski makes a gratuitous, unsubstantiated, provocative remark which Hitchens totally refutes, rips to shreds with citations and quotations from memory and completely decimates Berlinski’s flimsy position. The moderator then asks Berlinski for a reply to which Berlnski looks totally devastated, deer-in-the-headlights shocked and mutters a weak, “No.” Yeah, Berlinski, you noob poseur, you just got PWND!

  22. Diogenes, sorry, I misread that info. Philosophy, not mathematics, you’re correct. D’oh!

  23. docbill1351: “Berlinski expresses incredulity at, if I recall, fossil evidence or something like that. He says, ‘Well, I’m not convinced,’ to which the answer is ‘So what?’ (‘You’re an idiot’ being implied.)”

    The problem with that type of response is that, when it’s the only one, which is the case 99+% of the time, it keeps the “debate” only about whether evolution is “weak” or not. Any alternatives get a free pass. Certainly that argument is enough for fence-sitters leaning towards evolution. But what about those leaning the other way? If anything, they’ll gain sympathy for the poor “underdog.” The missed opportunity would be to ask Berlinski whether he thinks that evidence does convince him that many “kinds” arose independently from nonliving matter “as Genesis suggests.” $ to donuts that he, and most (*) Discoveroids, would be just as quick to say no to that as they would for evolution.

    (*) Any exceptions have learned the art of “pseudoskepticism.” That’s where one claims to have “no dog in the fight,” but attacks only the evolution “dog” and merely ignores the YEC and OEC “dogs.” So some Discoveroids might just weasel out of the 2nd question, clearly showing their double standard to anyone who takes “thou shalt not bear false witness” seriously (and yes I know that’s only a tiny minority).

  24. blessed be he. (Behe)
    Was that on purpose?
    I thought all Ph.D’s were doctors of philosophy reguardless of their field of study
    Claude W