Discovery Institute: Absolute Desperation

Buffoon Award

THESE are desperate times for the neo-theocrats at the Discovery Institute‘s infamous Center for Science and Culture (a/k/a the Discoveroids, a/k/a the cdesign proponentsists — described here: Missing link: “cdesign proponentsists”).

The latest entry at the Discoveroid blog is by John West. It’s in his honor that this post is adorned with our jolly Buffoon logo. If you already know who West is, you can skip the next two indented paragraphs:

West is a winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award. He’s a Senior Fellow at the Seattle-based Discovery Institute (the DI), where he is Associate Director of their Center for Science and Culture — the creationist public relations and lobbying operation that consumes almost half of the Discoveroids’ $4 million budget (see Their 2007 Tax Return). That makes West one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

West can be counted on most years to attempt Another July 4th Hijacking. He also seems to have a history of making — let us say — somewhat exaggerated claims. See: Wild Charges of Evidence Suppression. Then see Brave Struggle Against All Odds. See also: Censored by Vandals!

Okay, that’s who he is. Now let’s see what West has written. We present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Behe Critic on Bacterial Flagellum: No Intelligence Required Because “Natural forces work ‘like magic'”, which appears at the Discoveroid blog. The bold font was added by us:

Over at BioLogos, biologist Kathryn Applegate has offered what has to be one of the more creative alternatives to the intelligent design of the bacterial flagellum: Magic. I’m not kidding.

Magic? Come on now, Westie. Is that the best you can do? Let’s read on:

Applegate readily concedes biochemist Michael Behe’s point that the flagellum “looks and functions just like the outboard motor, a machine designed by intelligent human engineers. So conspicuous is the resemblance that it seems perfectly logical to infer a Designer for the flagellum.” But, wait, she says: “The bacterial flagellum may look like an outboard motor, but there is at least one profound difference: the flagellum assembles spontaneously, without the help of any conscious agent.”

That’s right, Westie. Any biological structure can appear — to the uneducated observer — as if it were designed. That’s the ancient viewpoint which Darwin successfully explained away. You still don’t get it, do you? We continue:

Acknowledging that “the self-assembly of such a complex machine almost defies the imagination,” Dr. Applegate assures her readers that this is not really a problem because “Natural forces work ‘like magic.” Presto, chango, something appears!

Okay, at this point it’s necessary to go to the source. This is Kathryn Applegate’s article: Self-Assembly of the Bacterial Flagellum: No Intelligence Required. She says, with our bold font:

Despite the strong appearance of special design, most scientists, myself included, believe the evidence points to a gradual development for the bacterial flagellum.


The bacterial flagellum may look like an outboard motor, but there is at least one profound difference: the flagellum assembles spontaneously, without the help of any conscious agent. The self-assembly of such a complex machine almost defies the imagination. As I showed with an earlier blog on the self-assembly of viruses (much simpler contraptions by comparison), all such phenomena seem astonishing and counterintuitive.


Scientists are pretty clever at teasing out the workings of microscopic machines like the flagellum. The general order of assembly was meticulously worked out …


It is tempting to think the spontaneous formation of so complex a machine is “guided,” whether by a Mind or some “life force,” but we know that the bacterial flagellum, like countless other machines in the cell, assembles and functions automatically according to known natural laws. No intelligence required.


It’s the very nature of proteins to interact in specific ways to form more complex structures, but Behe makes it sound like each interaction is the product of special design.

So where does Westie get “magic” out of that post? We had to search, but we found the only mention of the word in a sub-title to one of the article’s sections: Natural forces work “like magic.” That’s it. Applegate even put the word in quotes — to indicate that it’s being used sarcastically. That‘s what West quoted. Snatching at that sub-title, as a drowning man clutches at a straw, Westie constructed his entire sneering blog post. Amazing, isn’t it?

How far is Westie willing to go in order to carry on this forlorn little game of his? Here’s more from his blog article:

One wonders whether Dr. Applegate draws the same conclusion every time she opens a spreadsheet program and discovers that it “magically” adds and subtracts sums — no intelligence required. Or when her word processing program “magically” checks the grammar and spelling of her blog posts — no intelligence required. One further wonders whether Dr. Applegate has ever visited a modern assembly line, where robotic equipment “magically” assembles any number of amazing products — no intelligence required.

Westie likes his inappropriate analogies, doesn’t he? One last excerpt:

Of course, intelligence is required for each of these actions; the intelligence simply happens to be pre-programmed into the computer operations and assembly instructions. Similarly, the so-called magical assembly of the bacterial flagellum requires massive amounts of genetic information encoded in DNA, and as Stephen Meyer has persuasively argued in Signature in the Cell, that information cannot be accounted for simply as the product of a blind physical law. It requires intelligence.

West isn’t a stupid man. We suspect he knows exactly what he’s doing. And that tells you all you need to know about the Discoveroids.

Copyright © 2010. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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17 responses to “Discovery Institute: Absolute Desperation

  1. I think that post shows especially well why the DI doesn’t allow comments on its blog.

    Nevertheless, I don’t really get why Applegate, Dawkins, and others think that anything in life, including the bacterial flagellum, “looks designed.” It takes some powerful presuppositions to think so, in my view, and we ought to at least be trying to get away from, or at least to circumvent, such prejudices. I mean, what does the bacterial flagellum look “designed to do,” to make infections ravage animal bodies, including ours?

    Still, you’d think West would milk that, instead of latching onto the “like magic” phrase written within scare quotes. Clearly that’s all about how slick and easy self-assembly occurs. What is more, Applegate almost surely would have little disagreement with Einstein’s statement, “There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” That there is something of the miraculous in life is the Biologos position, so that Applegate is not denying “magic” or “miracle” by noting what evolution has done.

    West is thus implying that Kathryn Applegate is one of those horrible “materialists” for actually caring about mechanism, along with indicating what a dullard (unless he’s being deliberately dishonest) he is.

  2. Gabriel Hanna

    When in doubt, quote-mine. That’s all they got.

  3. They eat their own, don’t they, and Wild West certainly has a taste for Christian flesh!

    Wild West is quote mining his own kind! Mild, appeasing Applegate on the Christian BioLogos Forum. BioLogos, can you believe it??

    Too bad in his haste for coring Applegate for calling “intelligent design creation” the flim-flam it is he missed the following that Applegate also wrote regarding the construction of the BacFlag:

    Isn’t it extraordinary? When I consider this process, feelings of awe and wonder well up inside me, and I want to praise our great God.**

    Several ID advocates, most notably Michael Behe, have written engagingly about the details of flagellar assembly. For that I am grateful—it is wonderful when the lay public gets excited about science! But I worry that in their haste to take down the theory of evolution, they create a lot of confusion about how God’s world actually operates.

    Cue southern belle accent – Isn’t it extrahordinary, rhally it is! (bats eyes, twirls parasol, reaches for third mint julep)

    I would wonder whether Wild West has any shame, but we all know the answer to that.

    **There was a college librarian who had the same effect on me. Nothing to do but marry her.

  4. Doc Bill says: “They eat their own, don’t they …”

    None of that theistic evolution for the Discoveroids! Down with materialistic science! Take no prisoners!

  5. I’m amazed West links directly to the article. It is so agreeably written in general, with adoring references to God sprinkled throughout, that it has to be appealing to West’s audience. Some of those readers might go back to see what else she has to say in future posts, or read some of her past work. That could be damaging to the IDiots.

  6. Ed says: “I’m amazed West links directly to the article.”

    They know that most of their readers won’t follow such links to sinful sites. If they trust the Discoveroids, they’ll just take West at his word. The rest of us know that creationist quotes should always be checked.

  7. I suspect the DI site is trafficked mostly by people like us who keep an eye on their antics. They can’t shut up, you know.

    Their tent is big only to the extent of allowing in evolution bashers. That’s why you get such a motley crew of “writers” including YEC’s, OEC’s, just plain YECH’s, conspiracy theorists, deniers of various sorts, crackpots and loons. The only thing they have in common is evolution bashing.

    Other than that, the DI would just as soon eat them as look at them. It’s all about power and control. Nothing more.

  8. and as Stephen Meyer has persuasively argued in Signature in the Cell, that information cannot be accounted for simply as the product of a blind physical law. It requires intelligence.

    Well, he did argue it repetitively, although hardly persuasively.

    My review of Signature, including some pretty bad quotemines

    It’s bizarre that anyone would reference such a horrifyingly dishonest book to “make his case.”

  9. Glen Davidson says:

    Well, he did argue it repetitively, although hardly persuasively.

    Nice review. I’ll be posting something about Meyer’s book today, but nothing as detailed as you’ve done.

  10. Doc Bill,

    Personally, I think without SC, the group at ATBC, and PT, the number of hits per day on C/ID sites would number in single digits.

  11. Glen, it’s very interesting that your commentary on SITC got no discussion, while mine got several hundred comments. Yours was by far the better commentary, with excellent detail… which, I guess, is why it got no replies from the C/ID zombie club. With that level of detail, there is no room for them to wriggle out a comment to confuse.

  12. Gabriel Hanna

    Ogre, if you linked to your review I’d read it; I read Glenn’s.

    (Glenn, what part of Eastern Washington do you hail from?)

  13. Thanks for liking my review, guys. When I finally read the book I knew that I’d have to write something against all of that rot.

    I’m from College Place Washington, which is essentially the same place as Walla Walla Washington. It’s too small a city for most people to recognize, plus there’s little question who I’d be within it if anyone did know the town. So I’m a bit reluctant to include it on Amazon, although it’s no big deal either way.

  14. Gabriel Hanna

    I was curious, because I’m just a couple hours up the road from you.

  15. <a href="; title="Kevin's review of SITC"

    Again, my actual review is rather plain and short… the discussion afterwards is what is so interesting. Basically, most of the ID supporters fully admit that they don't have a clue about SC, SI, or science for that matter.

    Edited to add: improved link

  16. [Some necessary deletions here]

    Please let me know when you take YOUR America back…that one that sent men to the moon and to the bottom of the seas…. Thats the America I grew up loving and admiring.

    Your america, my america, the worlds america.

    We need you back….

  17. Gabriel Hanna

    Sandman, you like American innovativeness and pioneering, but apparently you think that can be done without American freedom.

    Since the entire world flocks to American universities, and we do the bulk of the world’s scientific research, we must be doing something right. Maybe you could get to know this country rather than rely on cartoonish stereotypes.