Discovery Institute Gives Us Their Best Argument

Things aren’t going very well for 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).

At their blog today is this new post by Granville Sewell: Are You Looking for the Simplest and Clearest Argument for Intelligent Design? We’ve written about Sewell before (see Discovery Institute Touts Another Genius).

We won’t spend any time rebutting what Sewell says today, because it’s not worth the effort. But it’s definitely worth noting that the Discoveroids think this is their best argument. Sewell starts out quoting something he wrote earlier. The bold font was added by us:

[I prefer to dwell further on] the much simpler and clearer second point of my article, which is that the increase in order observed on Earth (and here alone, as far as we know) violates the laws of probability and the second law of thermodynamics in a spectacular fashion.

It’s our old friend — so often cited by creationists — the second law of thermodynamics. Sewell continues quoting himself:

Evolutionists have always dismissed this argument by saying that the second law of thermodynamics only dictates that order cannot increase in an isolated (closed) system, and the Earth is not a closed system — in particular, it receives energy from the Sun. The second law allows order to increase locally, provided the local increase is offset by an equal or greater decrease in the rest of the universe.

Yes, that’s right. Then Sewell (still quoting himself) carries things to a bit of an extreme:

This always seems to be the end of the argument: order can increase (entropy can decrease) in an open system, therefore, ANYTHING can happen in an open system, even the rearrangement of atoms into computers, without violating the second law.

We’ve never heard anyone (except a creationist) make such a claim, but that’s Sewell’s defense of his Second Law argument. Now let’s give you one more excerpt from the end. Here, Sewell isn’t quoting himself; he’s writing in the present:

I still consider this argument to be the simplest and clearest argument for intelligent design that it is possible to make, and I consider this video [at the Discoveroid post] to be the simplest and clearest presentation of this argument I have ever made … . Unfortunately, it seems to be too simple for many scientists, and generally only appreciated by non-scientists…and mathematicians.

So there you have it. You’ve seen the very best argument for intelligent design. If you’re not persuaded now, there’s no hope for you.

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

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18 responses to “Discovery Institute Gives Us Their Best Argument

  1. Actually thermodynamics is the worst enemy of ID. The thing is, they are proposing that intelligence allows for the breaking of the second law of thermodynamics. But that computer you were talking about. Well, it would not be possible to build it without the input of energy. Intelligence operates with energy, not a single step in building the computer can be done without energy, meaning that intelligence cannot be an explanation for breaking thermodynamics laws. Their philosophical foundations are nonexistent. They pretend to be inspired by human intelligence to propose ID. Yet, if they followed their own argument they would have to admit that our intelligence, and everything we do with that intelligence, does not break any laws either, thus, if the second law were a problem for evolution, it would be a problem for ID as well.

  2. SC said:

    Then Sewell (still quoting himself) caries things to a bit of an extreme:

    Did you mean “carries”?

  3. I’m no expert in grammar, but I assume that, by “the increase in order observed on Earth” he means that the order is observed, not the increase. But whatever he means, temorary, localized increases of order are regularly observed. Which mean that, in DI “logic”, so are the violations of their precious (caricature of) 2LoT.

    As you know, to avoid the questions that even some of the most clueless audiences react with, they quickly backpedal from the “categorical” argument to the “probability” one. And that usually fools the rest, and forces the critics into rebuttals that require too much time or interest for most peple to follow. Net result, the DI sound bites trickle down to ~3/4 of the public.

    No. The best argument the DI has is the Darwin-to-Hitler nonsense. That they have had to play that card means that they are saying “We’re lying, we know it, and you can’t do a thing about it.”

  4. Gary says: Did you mean “carries”?

    Yup. Thanks.

  5. (Slightly modified because the above is a bit hard to understand.)
    Actually thermodynamics is the worst enemy of ID. The thing is, they are [implicitly but quietly] proposing that intelligence allows for the breaking of the second law of thermodynamics. But that computer. Well. It would not be possible to build it without the input of energy. Intelligence operates with energy, not a single step in building the computer can be done without energy, meaning that intelligence cannot be an explanation for breaking thermodynamics laws. Their philosophical foundations are nonexistent. They pretend to be inspired by human intelligence to propose ID. Yet, if they followed their own argument they would have to admit that our intelligence, and everything we do with that intelligence, does not break any laws either. Thus, intelligence cannot be an explanation for breaking any laws. Conversely, if the second law were a problem for evolution, it would be a problem for ID as well.

  6. Is there any anti-evolution argument that has ever been made by a creationist that a DI representative has not recycled, repackaged, and re-presented?

    But ID has nothing to do with creationism, right?

    I suppose DI employees just do this as a hobby, during breaks from doing arduous “ID research”.

  7. The SC wisely wrote:

    Then Sewell (still quoting himself) caries things to a bit of an extreme:

    No, our Curmie knows that the most Brilliant Creationists, the most politically savvy, the cream de la cream are all DENTISTS!

    Obviously, Granville, in his dementia, thinks he’s risen from a lowly professor of mathematics at a tumbleweed strewn* west Texas university (cue coyote howl) to the height of Creationist Creamdom – a Dentist. The carie, of course, refers to the cavity between Gran’s ears where his brain used to be.

    Yeah, Grannery, you are Sooooooo misunderstood because of your brilliance, I mean, dood, we just can’t see for all the Light! Now, take your little blue pills like a good boy and later tonight we’ll look under your bed together to make sure the leprechauns are gone.

    *no offense intended to UTEP which, other that for a few idiots like Grannie, is a fine university.

  8. Perhaps UTEP in his case ought to be considered an epithet rather than an acronym. My wife’s cousin, who lived in El Paso, was fond of commenting that in German, a ‘tep’ is an idiot.
    Sewell knows that his argument is bs. He has been corrected by many commenters, including prominent scientists.
    The open/closed system is a red herring, an irrelevant distraction.
    Using ‘order’ or ‘ordering’ as a substitute for negative entropy change is where he introduces the switch. But even where ordering is so used, simple doable experiments can be shown to generate considerable order in isolated systems. A couple of examples: Start with a jar full of a sand/water mix. Shake it up to create a slurry. Set the jar down and the system will spontaneously increase in order, as the sand settles. But, you might say, this system isn’t really isolated; the earth’ s gravitational field is influencing the sand’s behavior. OK, so repeat the process using a spinning jar. Settling will occur even without any gravity. Even better, start with a sealed bottle containing water and suitable nutrients, say dissolved sugar. Introduce one yeast bacterium cell, and wait. Pretty soon you will have zillions of cells. an obvious increase in order, with no outside influence required. Sewell’s “the rest of the universe” is beside the point here, since that bottle can be made completetly independent of surroundings, and still the order will increase substantially. So we can show that in isolated systems, order can increase. This obviously does not violate any thermodynamic law, since it is readily observed.

  9. “Tep” isn’t a German word. Your wife’s cousin may rather have referred to “Depp”.

  10. I knew it! It had to be! Them gal-darn scientists are all in conspiracy together. Why, that Sewell outta get the Nobel prize for disproving all that evilution stuff.

    Oops, gotta go. Don’t wanna be late for my dentist appointment. He’s gonna tell me how wisdom teeth are God’s perfect creation. Yep.

  11. This is just another one of those arguments against evolution which, even if it were correct, “intelligent design” does not address any better.
    Remember that the laws of thermodynamics were discovered because intelligent designers, those very clever engineers of the 19th century, ran up against limitations on what they could do.
    If someone discovered some process which violated the 2nd law of thermodynamics, there is no reason to look to intelligent design for a resolution of the problem.

  12. Sewell states in his article: “When we have a simple, clear proof of a theorem, and a long, complicated, counter-argument, full of hotly debated and unverifiable points, we accept the simple proof, even before we find the errors in the complicated argument.’

    He is trying to set up the case that his 2nd law of thermodynamics argument is the simple proof of intelligent design. Given the choice between a simple proof, and a long complicated counter argument, mathematicians will always choose the simple proof. Sewell clearly prefers not to try and understand a long complicate argument.

    However, he makes a good point. For any given observation of nature, which is the most complicated explanation, a natural process or intelligent design?

    A natural process be quite complicated, however there is a tool kit (math, laws of physics and chemistry, empirical observations of nature, etc) readily available to build an explanation for the process. Even when the specific explanation for a natural process is unknown, scientists can often offer a range of possible explanations based on similar processes and conditions.

    In contrast, there is no tool kit for building Intelligent Design explanations. The nature of the Designer is unknown, and per ID advocates, cannot be known. The processes used by the designer are completely unknown, and possibly also beyond knowing. Given that the designer is credited with creating all of life, and perhaps the entire universe, such designer would be extraordinarily complex – beyond human understanding, certainly – and would be able to marshal truly enormous, yet unknown, forms of energy. All of this inconceivable complexity and energy is invoked with the explanation “Intelligent Design”.

    Any actual or proposed explanation based on natural laws and processes, however improbable, will always be vastly simpler that any explanation invoking an Intelligent Designer.

  13. Overturning 150+ years of biology most certainly earned Grannie a Nobel Prize. I can’t seem to find any record of that, however. *Shrugs*

  14. The creationist SLOT argument is only a negative argument against evolution. It’s like trying to trisect an angle using a compass and straightedge. Good luck with that.

    In fact, (FACT!) all arguments used to promote “intelligent design” creationism are negative arguments against evolution. Evolution can’t do this, it can’t do that, there’s not enough time, there’s the Edge ™, ad nauseum.

    Wow, those things in the cell look like machines, by golly, they must be machines!

    Wow, those dogs look like they’re playing cards, by golly, they must be playing cards!

  15. Jack Hogan: “Is there any anti-evolution argument that has ever been made by a creationist that a DI representative has not recycled, repackaged, and re-presented?”

    C’mon. You know that IDers never touch the young earth arguments. The great majority of IDers know that they are nonsense, but unlike OEC activists, they won’t criticize the YE arguments either. ID arguments are almost exclusively about the “weaknesses,” and increasingly “consequences of acceptance” of evolution. At least YEC and OEC made half-hearted attempts to “support” an alternate “theory,” risking its “positive” claims (a few “whats and whens” if no “hows”) to critical analysis. The ID scammers know better than to risk that.

    If ID “is” creationism, it’s the “kind” that knows it’s a lie.

  16. @FrankJ

    C’mon. You know that IDers never touch the young earth arguments.

    Leaving aside that many YECs also call themselves ID supporters…

    The YEC arguments the DI hasn’t repackaged and repeated concern the age of the earth. They are mostly related to radiometric dating and other dating methods and do not directly concern evolution — beyond the “there is not enough time” argument. DI Fellows, such as Dembski, also use the “not enough time” argument, albeit while sometimes conceding a “possible” time span greater than 6000-10,000 years if they cannot avoid it.

    One does not need to address the age of the earth to attack evolution, giving the DI and YECs a lot of common ground. From what I’ve seen, DI Fellows generally duck, dance around, and evade any and all questions about the age of the earth. Paul Nelson has promoted YEC. He is also a DI Fellow.

  17. For an hilarious exchange with Stephen Meyer check out this transcript from the 2005 Kansas Kangaroo Kourt in which the prince of prevarication is asked a simple question and required to give a simple answer. Watch him squirm!

    Such fun.

    As for Nelson, yes, he’s an admitted, committed (yes, in that way) YECH who will still argue about the Cambrian Explosion 500 million years ago. When confronted with the apparent discontinuity of thought Nelson replied that he doesn’t have to actually believe in 500 million years to argue about the Cambrian. To Nelson it’s just a debate proposition; an opinion. Nothing more.

    And our old pal Dr. Dr. who will be looking for a job this fall after his Fall into Sin at Southwest Baptist. Seems that maybe he didn’t shut his trap fast enough nor fastened enough and his somewhat less than literal, and I mean that literally, Biblical analysis cooked his goose in the primordial soup. How you get fired from a Bible college is beyond my understanding and it could be that Dembski isn’t a total moron which, I believe, is the only qualification in the job description. I know, my reputation is now in tatters for having written that, but, you know, I had to do it because I’ve done many things, many horrible things but I’m not going back to that woman’s prison, no sirree, and I can take it because I speak the Truth ™.

    So many questions. Will the DI open a branch office for Dr. Dr. in Waco? Will Dr. Dr. move to Seattle and if so will he get a bigger cubicle than Coppedge? Inquiring minds want to know!

  18. @Doc Bill: Thanks for that link. I’d not read that before. All I can say is, if I’m ever in court, I want someone like Mr. Irigonegaray on my side.