Klinghoffer: The View from Bizarro World

It didn’t take very long for the creationists to react. You all know the news that was announced yesterday about the discovery of a bacterium that can use arsenic where all other terrestrial life uses phosphorus. See NASA News Release on Alien Life. In that thread we commented:

What will the creationists say about this? They’ll have to say something. Some possibilities: (1) they knew it all the time; (2) this disproves common descent; (3) Darwin was wrong; (4) it’s all fake; (5) I ain’t no kin to no arsenic bacterium; (6) the Designer did it; and finally (7) Hitler used arsenic.

Creationists are so very predictable, as we learn today at the blog of 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).

They’ve just posted a blog article by David Klinghoffer titled: About That Arsenic-Gobbling Microbe…Bad News for Darwinists? Here’s a bit of background on that author, which most of you can skip:

David Klinghoffer is proud of being a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist). He has previously posted a series of essays attempting to link Charles Darwin to: Hitler, and communism, and Stalin, and the Columbine shootings, and Charles Manson, and Holocaust Museum shooter, James von Brunn, and the Ft. Hood Massacre, and Mao Tse-tung, and Dr. Josef Mengele, and the Occult, and The Dark Side of Darwinism, and most recently James Lee, the Discovery Channel Terrorist.

Okay, now we present to you, dear reader, some excerpts from Klinghoffer’s article on the discovery of arsenic-friendly bacteria, with bold added by us:

NASA’s discovery of an arsenic-ingesting microbe in California’s forbidding Mono Lake looks, on the surface, like bad news for Darwinists hopeful to show what a no-big-deal it is for a planet to bring forth life unguided.

“Bad news for Darwinists”? Even though we predicted a creationist reaction like this, it’s stunning to actually see it. Let’s read on:

Under Darwinian assumptions, the observation that such an alternative life chemistry is possible means that some planets previously assumed to be inhospitable to life, due to being poor in phosphorus, would now turn out after all to be potential theaters for life’s presumed spontaneous arising. That would seem to bump up the number of possible dice rolls available out there to jump-start an unguided chemical and biological evolutionary process on some other planet.

Yes, that’s right. How is that “bad news for Darwinists”? Klinghoffer will tell us:

Yet we still have no indication from SETI or anything else that intelligent or complex life exists anywhere but here. Which makes the existence of life on earth look just a bit more special than it did before, right?

Is that it? Is that the best the Discoveroids can do? Apparently so. Their claim that the magical mystery designer did his super-duper-whatever-it-was here on earth and nowhere else remains secure if — and only if — we find no life off-planet. In effect, the Discoveroids have just signed a very short-term lease. They’ll get evicted any day now, but until then they can claim to be geniuses.

Then Klinghoffer quotes Expelled! star Guillermo Gonzalez, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” who failed to get tenure at Iowa State University and who now teaches at some bible college. He’s a co-author of the classic creationist book, The Privileged Planet, a “fine tuning” argument applied to Earth. You know how that goes — everything is so perfectly arranged that it just couldn’t have happened naturally; there had to be some guiding intelligence who set the dials so that everything would be as we see it.

We’ll spare you Guillermo’s insight, but click over to the Discoveroid blog if you’re curious. Klinghoffer concludes with this:

Given Dr. Gonzalez’s final point, materialists may have dodged a bullet on this after all.

Ah, so the “materialists” may have “dodged a bullet.” That’s how the creationists describe it when scientists discover something that supports their theories. Evolution has been “dodging bullets” for more than 150 years now, and every bullet dodged kills another creationist fantasy. Somehow the creationists persevere — but only on Bizarro World.

Update: See Answers in Genesis on Arsenic Bacteria Discovery.

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

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7 responses to “Klinghoffer: The View from Bizarro World

  1. So, if I’m getting Klinghoffer’s argument right, every time scientists discover some new variety of life, the fact that its not alien is support of design. Bizarro indeed.

    This, of course, comes from the group that thinks 2 of every animal were saved on the ark and all life decended from those pairs without evolving. So presumably this critter was on the ark and non-evolved the ability to use arsenic later.

  2. Oh, come on don’t overreact Eric. A little bit of evolution is OK, remember? Just enough to take those ark animal “kinds” and populate the earth. Of course a little bit never adds up to a lot…

  3. It’s clearly an example of rather extreme adaptation, but the bacteria continues to have the basic constituents which point to common descent. So Klinghoffer comes up with the weakest argument in their arsenal – we haven’t found life elsewhere yet, so it must not exist at all. He would have argued against the existence of microbes had he lived before the invention of the microscope.

    I think NASA oversold this discovery. Firstly, I doubt there will be a large population of planets with little phosphorus but abundant arsenic. So there won’t be too many more rolls of the dice as a result of this. Secondly, the bacteria itself evolved from ancestors which used phosphorus. This finding does not indicate that life can begin in a phosphorus poor environment, only that it can adapt. Phosphorus may still be required for life to arise.

    SC, you are right about the short term lease. We have found over 500 exoplanets to date, and Kepler will multiply that number in the next 3-4 years to include small earth-like planets. Those Kepler discoveries will be eclipsing planets, which means we will eventually be able to tease out the spectra of their atmospheres. The lease until life is found elsewhere in the universe is, I believe, no more than 10 more years.

  4. Two points. First notice how the DI’s “prediction” is simply a restatement. The NASA scientist’s description of what was going on in the extremophile became a creationist prediction. The same can be said for all of the “predictions” in Meyer’s pathetic book, God Autographs the Cell.

    Second, I think the “overselling” of the research was directed more at NASA than at us. I recall when the Viking results started coming in and it looked like organic compounds had been detected. Possible life! Then there was a reevaluation and inorganic reactions were proposed that could give the same results. Then scientists started thinking about other forms of respiration, perhaps involving peroxides, and so forth.

    One of the panelists nailed it when she said, “Will we recognize life if we encounter it?” Currently, as a species, we’re in collective denial that bottle nosed dolphins are individuals, elephants, too. Perhaps crows. Do these creatures have “rights” we should be respecting? Shouldn’t we start feeling bad, at least, about murdering for sport elephants who may be sentient by our own definition? Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening in my lifetime and I suspect our legacy in discovering new life and new civilizations would be murder.

  5. I was really, really hoping that they had discovered a second abiogenesis for the shadow biome. I was rather disappointed by this particular discovery, and how they presented it.

    Although, I was amused by the IDiots assertion that since we haven’t found evidence of E.T.I. therefore it must not exist. Couldn’t the same argument be used on all their bizzaro arguments? Oh wait, I keep forgetting: magic… Dammit, foiled again!

  6. I think NASA oversold this discovery.

    I think its a great discovery worthy of some press. Call me doom and gloom, but the first thought to cross my mind was “the wider the variety of life we find on earth, the harder it will be to tell alien microbes from our own contamination.”

    Its kind of a trade-off. Discoveries like this make alien life hypothetically more likely, but may also make it more difficult to confirm as alien.

  7. Oh this is nothing. Once I was pointed to an “article” at ICR, I think, that started with “… darwinists have been claiming that selfish DNA can serve as material for evolution …” and “some transposons have been discovered to regulate genes” Well, they said these things as if the second completely obliterated the first … did you get it? Evolution predicts that some selfish DNA will be material for evolution: they found functioning selfish DNA, thus, selfish DNA is not material for evolution (!?).

    Sorry for repeating, I might be too used to talking to creationists who seem to “miss” the point one too many times.