Klinghoffer Flips “The Odds” Argument

Things are getting increasingly incoherent at the blog 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).

We can’t count how often we’ve seen them — and other creationists — argue against evolution because “the odds against it are astronomical” and therefore Oogity Boogity (or their magic designer) is the only logical explanation. We have a whole series of posts specifically aimed at the creationists’ probability argument, starting here: The Inevitability of Evolution (Part I).

We recently wrote Discoveroids Embrace Fine Tuning Argument about a Discoveroid post by Casey who was gushing about the fine-tuning argument. He said, with our bold font:

[M]ultiverse proponents hope that inventing more universes will help them explain the insanely small probability of finding a universe whose physical laws are finely tuned for life.

That’s their evidence that the universe was designed — it’s all based on their estimates of probability. And we’ve written about their use of that argument before. For example, in Discovery Institute: No Evidence for Evolution, the Discoveroids argued:

More importantly, accounts that invoke such [evolutionary] mechanisms almost never attempt to assess the likelihood of mutations producing the genetic changes in question.

Today, the Discoveroids are ignoring all their earlier arguments and are suddenly flipping things completely around. Their blog features this new item: Richard Dawkins’s Roll of the Dice. It’s about a recent statement by Richard Dawkins — they even provide a video — to the effect that he’s an agnostic, rather than the type of atheist who asserts that gods literally don’t exist.

This gem is written by David Klinghoffer, whose creationist oeuvre we last described here, and upon whom the Discoveroids have bestowed the exalted title of “senior fellow” — i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist. According to Klinghoffer:

He [Dawkins] explained that he can’t know with certainty that God doesn’t exist but on a scale of 1 to 7, (with a nervous laugh) he rates himself a 6.9. Well, that would work out to 98.57 percent confidence.

Well! Dawkins is using an argument that, in effect, says that based on the absence of evidence, the odds against God’s existence are quite high. It’s exactly type of argument that creationists — including Discoveroids — use to claim that evolution can’t occur and the universe can’t exist. But Dawkins is invoking the argument appropriately, because while there’s no verifiable evidence of gods, there is abundant evidence for evolution.

How do the Discoveroids handle it when a “Darwinist” like Dawkins uses their own style of argument against them? After babbling about odds and rolling dice, Klinghoffer concludes his little article with this:

Dawkins said, “I think the probability of a supernatural creator existing is very very low.” Yet even at 98.57 percent, the odds were not that bad. I would be somewhat reluctant to bet a hundred bucks on that basis. If I were Richard Dawkins it sure does seem like, rather than continue a campaign of mockery against religion, the better-advised course would be to continue on my course of enhanced modesty and just be quiet.

So there you are. If the Discoveroids don’t like what they imagine to be the odds against evolution, that somehow proves it didn’t happen. But if Dawkins doesn’t like the odds against God’s existence — then he’s making a stupid argument. Heads, tails, it doesn’t matter. The intelligent designer always wins!

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

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14 responses to “Klinghoffer Flips “The Odds” Argument

  1. Sounds like Klinghoffer is cribbing from Pascal’s Wager. Pascal was never good at figuring the odds though. He assumed it was a 50/50 shot when the probabilities are definitely not in his favor.

  2. Dawkins was making an off-hand remark, rather than calculating precise odds. There is simply no way to calculate the exact odds of something no one will ever detect, other than to say they are very, very low.

    What is more relevant is to compare the odds of, say, evolution and creationism. Which is more probable? Something we might think is improbable, but clearly possible, verses something we have no way of knowing even exists? I would take the side of that which we know is possible.

    What is Kling’s claim that he follows a “course of enhanced modesty” all about. Somehow that doesn’t come through most of his rants.

  3. lover to 귀염둥이

    I think that the creationists argument is, some way, quite simple.
    That is, what they saying is that If evolution did not happen, then there should be a God or at least, some designer.
    So, I think that until somebody prove evolution as a true fact, our focus has to be on ‘evolution’, not God or ‘No God’. It is useless at this point.

  4. “But Dawkins is invoking the argument appropriately, because while there’s no verifiable evidence of gods, there is abundant evidence for evolution.”

    The Curmudgeon’s point is well taken. With no evidence to support a hypothesis, one still cannot say with 100% certainty that it does not exist. It’s just that it’s very unlikely. Is that mocking religion? The DI people say the evolution is very unlikely, even as the evidence for it is so overwhelming. Is that mocking evolution?

    Incidentally, I’m still chuckling over the remarks Dawkins made about Ray Comfort.

  5. They don’t actually believe either odds argument. If they did, they’d have to conclude that the universe was made for either the species with the narrowest environmental range (“what are the odds the universe could support X!”) or the widest (“what a perfect fit for X!”). We are neither, so neither argument supports the notion that the universe was made for us.

  6. Ceteris Paribus

    Actually, in the last few months I have myself adopted the truth of the fine tuning argument, and am on the verge of going over to the other side.

    It was pointed out to me that the Holy Trinity is represented by the numeral “3”. And that number is exactly the Third Number after nothing.

    I swooned. If the Holy Trinity had as little as one more or one less player in the game, it could no longer be referenced by the numeral “3”, which truly is the Third Number after nothing.

    The referee would be obliged to call a foul and award a penalty kick to the opposing team.

  7. @Eric:

    That’s more than just good. It’s a rare exception to what is our greatest detriment in the “debate” – the constant implication that anti-evolution activists must always privately believe what they peddle. Whenever I raise the mere possibility that some those activists might know that they are peddling nonsense, I invariably get knee-jerk opposition from some “Darwinists.” Like Biblical literalists, they “know, they just know.” End of discussion.

    As for “fine tuning,” I recall reading that it actually undermines the ID argument. I’ll have to dig up the article because there was more to it, but if anything “fine tuning” argues (though not necessarily well) for the “regularity” that Dembski tries to rule out (though definitely not well) with his Explanatory Filter.

    The other thing to remember is that, even if Demsbki and the “fine tuners” were 100% correct, the result would be 100% indistinguishable from evolution as we know it. I.e. ~4 billion years of common descent with modification that’s no comfort to Comfort.

  8. I think maybe Klinghoffer should probably read “The God Delusion” before he makes an even bigger fool of himself. It probably wouldn’t hurt if he also read a basic science book or two, and learned a bit about scientific principles. As things stand, every outpouring from Klinghoffer just seems more idiotic than the last, with no end in sight except unintelligible gibbering in some disused corner (maybe their ‘lab’) of the DI.

  9. Frank: Whenever I raise the mere possibility that some those activists might know that they are peddling nonsense, I invariably get knee-jerk opposition from some “Darwinists.”

    Oh, I think it’s probably a mix rather than one or the other. Some deceivers and some naive believers. Also, I think a lot of fundies treat arguments for God the way they might treat gospel readings: nod your head, say hallelujah at the end, and don’t think too deeply about the content. I am not sure how to categorize those folks, because that’s neither deceit nor really any sort of committed belief. Its just unthinking acceptance.

  10. Pete Moulton writes>I think maybe Klinghoffer should probably read “The God Delusion” …

    Yeah, what are the odds of THAT happening.

    Pete continues>… before he makes an even bigger fool of himself.

    An event which is almost surely going to happen anyway.

  11. Eric: “Oh, I think it’s probably a mix rather than one or the other. ”

    Et tu? Don’t my words “mere possibility,” “some (of) those activists” and “might know” make it perfectly clear that I mean just that? Besides, I’m only referring to the activists, who constitute maybe 1% of evoution deniers. The rest, as you say, rarely give it enough thought to know what they believe.

  12. IT SEEMS your just arguing in the weeds with your most unworthy opponent because you know your utterly destroyed by your strongest adversaries.
    While Im at it…why dont I go argue with Stalin about his atheism. Maybe I should debate a porn mogul, or a Colombian drug lord so I can win easily too.
    You find it odd a small faction of Christians dont trust atheistic scientists? Atheists were in the first stage of grief when a Beginning became as obvious to them as it had for everyone else for centuries. Then when Fine tuning came along, again seen by almost every human in history in all of 3 seconds, their bias left them on stage one–Denial– for 30 years.
    Now most, finally, sort of, accept the obvious but what do they do? They move to multiverse where Hitler is juggling naked while declaring war.

    News flash…the probabilities are not disputed by science or they wouldnt have moved to mulitverses so you can get out of the odds business..you already lost. Only bias and grief leaves you arguing that.

    So it’s a mystery why some people wont trust atheists conclusions? Most christians accept all the current theories so you can seek out babies all you want if it makes you feel better but you’ve known your beaten for a long time now–you just haven’t got the memo as your still somewhere on the scales of grief in which you certainly cannot get as good of a nights sleep as you might want.

  13. Tomato Addict

    heheh, curvaceously mocking squirrels!