Discovery Institute: The Problem with Science

We have a steaming hot bowl of anti-science vomit for you, served up by 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).

The author of today’s tasty offering is Michael Flannery, who was granted the honor of being designated a Discoveroid “fellow.” As we reported here, he wrote a biography of Alfred Wallace, which was published by — brace yourself! — the Discovery Institute Press. And as we all know by now, because of Wallace’s bizarre obsession with spiritualism and other-worldly Oogity Boogity, the Discoveroids Have Adopted Alfred Wallace as Godfather.

This is something we wrote in Wallace, Socialism, & More:

Flannery’s book about Wallace, published by the Discoveroids’ very own captive publisher, has triggered the Discoveroids’ metamorphosis into a full-blown mystical cult — Wallace-ism. … [A]lthough Wallace’s place as a co-discoverer of evolution by natural selection is secure, he unfortunately marginalized himself in his later years. His reputation suffered because of his devotion to spiritualism, unscientific fantasies, un-evidenced phantasms, and seances. We find no reference to it, but he probably used a Ouija board too.

Let us now turn to Flannery’s latest post, titled Intelligent Design as a “Science Stopper”? Here’s the Real Story. Right, the “real story.” The focus of Flannery’s article is stated in his lead paragraph, with bold font added by us:

It is almost a mantra among Darwin’s most devoted followers: Intelligent Design is a “science stopper.” High Priestess of the Darwinian faithful Eugenie Scott insists that “Intelligent design is a science stopper. It stops science in its tracks because you stop looking. …”

Flannery doesn’t have the courtesy to properly identify his target. Perhaps it was merely an oversight. That’s okay, we’re here to help. Eugenie Scott is Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education.

What Scott says about ID is absolutely true, of course, so Flannery’s post is an exercise in … well, call it what you will. The substance of Flannery’s argument seems rather silly, but we can still have fun with it because it’s written with a heavy overdose of Discoveroid Newspeak. We’ll entertain ourselves by pointing such out with this subtle signal: [Newspeak Alert] and then we’ll respond with a few zingers of our own.

Okay, let’s get on with it. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

[Scott’s “science stopper” argument] ignores its own a priori philosophical assumptions and actually stops historical inquiry as if the past doesn’t matter. It, in effect, loosens science from its logical moorings and strips it from all historical context, making it into little more than an ideological tool for a dogmatic methodological naturalism (MN) [Newspeak Alert].

Wow! Observe that methodological naturalism (a/k/a the scientific method) is being labeled “dogmatic” methodological naturalism, and Flannery is giving it acronym status by calling it “MN.” Why not? It’s ever so much easier to invent a new expression and attack that, rather than admit that one hates the scientific method. Okay, in the future we’ll know that in Discoveroid Newspeak the scientific method is “MN.” In the same spirit of stealth post-modernistic terminology, perhaps we should re-name what the Discoveroids call “academic freedom” as “Educational Destruction,” or “ED.” Okay, enough of that. Back to Flannery:

Let’s address the philosophical side of the argument first. Before we can decide whether or not ID is a science “stopper,” we have to be clear about what precisely is being stopped. What Eugenie Scott and others who make this argument are actually claiming is that scientists must invoke only natural causes functioning through natural laws in thoroughly non-teleological ways.

Right — it’s known as the scientific method, and that’s what ID stops. Were one to abandon it and invoke supernatural agents with some celestial purpose of their own, such would be untestable, and thus unscientific. Science is limited in its scope of endeavors, but within those limits it’s been remarkably successful. Let’s read on:

Thus, what’s being stopped is their commitment to MN.

Yes! Flannery admits (if we read him closely) that ID stops the scientific method. But that’s not much of an admission, as we’ve known all along that the Discoveroids are motivated by their wedge strategy. We continue:

If the “ID is a science stopper” argument rests on weak philosophical foundations, its historical underpinnings are even shakier. The leading natural philosophers (what we would call “scientists” today) of the 16th through 18th centuries, the men who established modern science as we know it — Copernicus, Galileo, Vesalius, Harvey, Newton — would have considered the MN dogma [Newspeak Alert] absurd and indeed rather peculiar.

Flannery is citing as evidence the testimony of dead men. Was that obtained through his ability to read their minds? Perhaps he’s using Wallace’s Ouija board to acquire that information. Here’s more:

But let’s put it in more immediate terms that even the Darwin lobby [Newspeak Alert] can understand. Alfred Russel Wallace, the acknowledged co-discoverer of natural selection, broke with Darwin in 1869, calling upon an Overruling Intelligence to explain the special intellectual attributes of Homo sapiens. … For Wallace, evolution was a fact but it was teleological and detectably designed; he would spend a good deal of the remainder of his long life explicating the nature of that intelligent evolution.

Right. And that’s why Wallace’s reputation suffers in comparison to Darwin’s. Flannery then points out that Wallace went on to occasionally do some decent work, in spite of what we would regard as his flakiness. That may be true (we haven’t studied his later career), but none of his decent work was derived from his flakiness. If good work were done, it happened during Wallace’s lucid moments when he put aside his spiritualism and Ouija board and stuck to the evidence of the natural world. Here’s Flannery’s final paragraph:

The Darwin lobbyists [Newspeak Alert] who want to berate ID as a “science stopper” dangerous to our children’s education are actually serving up some very bad medicine. It is a heaping dose of bad philosophy made palatable only through the historical ignorance of the patient asked to swallow it. In the end those who purvey the “ID is a science stopper” argument are not interested in protecting science but rather their own view of what science should be. That, of course, is not education at all. It is indoctrination [Newspeak Alert].

Our title mentioned the “problem with science.” Have you figured it out? In the minds of the Discoveroids, science is too scientific! Their concept of science as it should be is totally indistinguishable from the mindless rituals of some tribal witch doctor. Isn’t creationism fun?

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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10 responses to “Discovery Institute: The Problem with Science

  1. You are very funny …..

    Or rather the Discoveroids are

  2. There’s a good and a bad response to the “ID is not a science stopper” tantrum. The bad one is “Yes it is, and here’s why…” Note: I did not say that it is not a necessary answer – it is – what makes it “bad” is that it’s the only response 99.9+% of the time. The “good” answer is “So if ID is not a science stopper, please tell me what your ‘unstopped science’ has concluded about where and when those ‘designs’ were inserted in biological systems.” When – there’s no “if” – they try to steer the conversation back to “weaknesses” of “Darwinism” and/or whine about being “expelled,” don’t take the bait, but keep asking until they go away and try to fool someone else. Remember, Dembski’s “we don’t need to connect no stinkin’ dots” schtick really means “Yeah, we know it’s a science stopper, but we can fool the ‘masses’ and you can’t. :-p”

  3. So the Wallace lobby once again whines about how Wallacism is not a science stopper. Yes, Wallace did good work – utilizing normal scientific methodology, including observing, describing and cataloguing flora and fauna and drawing conclusions from their distribution. These efforts were not inspired by magical ID beliefs. In fact, his conclusion that the distribution of animals came about by evolutionary processes is exactly the opposite of the design argument. Had he approached the same problem from an ID perspective, it is entirely possible that he would have observed the distribution of animals and concluded that the designer must have had a reason to put them where he did. Unless he could come up with a method of investigating what that reason was – something the DI rules out as unknowable and outside of ID – then he would have had to stop. The conclusion that something is designed, without a means of further investigating the why, how, etc. questions, stops science.

    Wallace is a good example of the contrast between the natural sciences and the supernatural speculations of ID. When he worked within the scientific method, Wallace achieved great things, and is justly acclaimed. However, when he speculated about supernatural design, he stopped doing science. ID really is a science stopper.

  4. comradebillyboy

    DI and their ilk use an Orwellian technique called “duckspeak”. Per the wikipedia article: “Duckspeak is a Newspeak term meaning literally to quack like a duck or to speak without thinking. To speak rubbish and lies may be ungood, but to speak rubbish and lies for the good of “The Party” (DI in this case) may be good.” (Insert your favorite politician) is a double plus good duckspeaker.

  5. we should re-name what the Discoveroids call “academic freedom” as “Educational Destruction,” or “ED.”

    Or “Educational Dysfunction” or “Enlightenment Destruction” or….

  6. Bashing Darwin was bad enough – but when they start insulting Eugenie Scott, the gloves come off and there are no holds barred. “Methodological naturalism” is a stupid concept, a misleading euphemism and a confusing acronym. Future “MN”-bashing posts will make people think they have something against Minnesota. (Actually, I have something against MN – for electing Ventura, Bachmann and Franken, in that order.)

  7. And I haven’t forgiven them for Walter Mondale, either.

  8. magpie61 says: “And I haven’t forgiven them for Walter Mondale, either.”

    Or Hubert Humphrey.

  9. Gary says:

    Or “Educational Dysfunction” or “Enlightenment Destruction” or….

    More ED possibilities: Enlightenment Defiance, Denunciation, Detestation …

  10. Flannery really needs to read this:

    http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/pseudo-science/

    He’s no scientist and is a crap philosopher, as well.