Discovery Institute: Are They Thinking At All?

Once again we are dazzled 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).

Yesterday we posted Discovery Institute: What Are They Thinking? We pointed out that the Discoveroids were seriously praising what was obviously a spoof of their central dogma that the world — the whole universe, really — was specifically designed for us. At the end of our post we said:

What’s their next move — promoting William Paley’s watchmaker analogy? Why not? If they can unknowingly make fun of one of their core arguments, why not the other too?

Little did we dream that they were about to do exactly that. Today at the Discoveroids’ blog they’ve dropped the other shoe and posted Revisiting the Positive Case for Intelligent Design. There’s no byline, but it’s obviously by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. Casey says, with bold font added by us:

Recently I’ve had two encouraging discussions about the positive case for design. The first took place at the recent conference at Wheaton College where one of the speakers called intelligent design a “God of the gaps” argument. He didn’t intend that as a criticism, but afterwards we got into a friendly discussion about how ID is not a “gaps-based” argument after all, since there is a positive case for design that doesn’t depend on negating evolution, or pointing out a “gap” in our knowledge.

There’s a positive case for ID? Really? We’ve seen Casey expound before on what he imagines that to be. See Intelligent Designer or Zeus? In that post we discussed Casey’s long list of “facts” that he claims support ID. But as we pointed out, his facts (e.g., the origin of the fine-tuning of the cosmos for advanced life) could also support the belief that Zeus is responsible for Casey’s allegedly unexplained phenomena. Indeed, Casey’s list of facts supporting ID is literally nothing more than a god of the gaps argument.

But today, Casey says he’s got more than that to support ID. Okay, we’re always open-minded. Let’s see what he has to offer:

[T]he argument for intelligent design is not a mere critique of evolution. Logically, we don’t establish intelligent design merely by negating evolution. After all, evidence against one theory is not necessarily evidence for another theory. Rather, to infer design, we have to make a positive case for it.

Okay, we’re all waiting for the positive case. Let’s read on:

Intelligent design is a scientific theory that holds some aspects of life and the universe are best explained by reference to an intelligent cause. Why? Because they contain the type of complexity and information that in our experience comes only from intelligence.

There it is — William Paley’s watchmaker analogy. If something looks designed, then by golly it is designed. That’s all there is to it. Case closed! We continue:

As a result, intelligent-design theorists begin by studying how intelligent agents act when they design things. Intelligence is a process, or a mechanism, which we can observe at work in the world around us. Human designers make a great dataset for studying how intelligent agency works.

Yes! When we see a cobbler working on a shoe (or a watchmaker working on a watch) that’s a great example of how the magical designer works on our DNA. It’s so obvious! Then he quotes William Dembski and Stephen Meyer — exalted gurus of the ID movement, and concludes:

Thus, in our experience, high levels of complex and specified information — such as in codes and languages — arise only from intelligence. By assessing whether natural structures contain the type of complexity — high CSI — that in our experience comes only from intelligence, we can construct a positive, testable case for design.

Right — a positive, testable case. And what might those tests be? Do the Discoveroids ever test their “theory”? How can the undetected meddling of their magical designer ever be tested? How can the “theory” that their designer’s activities plug all the gaps in our knowledge ever be falsified? Whenever a natural explanation is demonstrated, they swiftly dismiss it as a “just so” story and continue to cling to their “theory.” They never seem to grasp that if a natural explanation is possible, even if it’s not necessarily the precise way something happened, the need for a magical designer is disproved.

So for what it’s worth, that’s the positive, testable case for ID. In support of their “theory,” the Discoveroids offer not only the incoherent thoughts of Douglas Adams’ puddle, but also Paley’s long-discredited watchmaker analogy. (Discredited? Yes. See David Hume’s rebuttal.)

In other words, by their own admission, the Discoveroids have nothing. Nothing at all.

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

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16 responses to “Discovery Institute: Are They Thinking At All?

  1. I’d like to see an example of an explanation by reference to an intelligent cause (other than one of us or our relatives). I’m not asking, at this early stage, for a plausible explanation, or any evidence for the explanation. I’m just interested in what such an explanation would look like. What sort of mechanisms would the “intelligent designer” use – would it be limited by the material it is using, what sort of rules would it follow, etc.

  2. “Thus, in our experience, high levels of complex and specified information — such as in codes and languages — arise only from intelligence.”

    Yes 0 HUMAN intelligence. The DI thinks that humans ‘designed’ DNA.

  3. docbill1351

    How many biological “things,” you know, bits and pieces, reactions, cycles and processes are there? Billions?

    How many biological “thinks” have the ID creationists latched on to? Less than a dozen. Let’s see, we’ve got the old flagellum, a mousetrap and Mt. Rushmore. Although, really, all of these have been debunked many, many times as not being “irreducibly complex” or having calculable CSI.

    So, out of billions of biological things (and remember, ID is broader than biology. The DI’s definition states “the Universe.”) how many objects have they studied and concluded were designed? Well, less than a dozen. That’s it. And how many of those dozen have actually been demonstrated to possess “features of design” evidenced by “irreducible complexity” or a calculated value for “complex specified information?”

    None. Absolutely zero. Not a single one.

    You’d think that after 20 years they would have thousands of examples. If little Dougie Axe slaving away in his scientifical laboratory in Redmond only catalogued a single entity per month for a year, it would more than double all of ID creationism’s knowledge! And what about Jonny Wells and Mikey Behe? What have they been doing? You’d think that Behe of mousetrap and Rushmore fame would have at least claimed the Puddle.

    (Although, to be fair, Behe came close with malaria being designed and mosquitoes do breed in puddles. Oh, Behe, so close!)

    In conclusion, yeah, I agree with Attack Gerbil Luskin, oh, sorry, “Research Coordinator Luskin” that there is a positive case for ID.

    It’s positively nothing.

  4. The IDers try to blur the line between ID and theistic evolution, a line that is actually quite bold and unambiguous.

    For example, if I have this right, Behe argues in his latest piece of pulp propaganda ($ 28 retail hardcover, now discounted to $11.20 on amazon) that “random” mutation cannot explain how some things came about, but an IDer could have forced an extremely unlikely, virtually impossible, beneficial mutation to occur. The IDer actively tinkered with mutations, or something like that. This argument is just a step away from theistic evolution.

    In their usual dishonest and disingenuous way the DI tries to convince theistic evolutionists that their position is actually a form of ID. The strategy is to get them to bite at that and then get them to take a closer look at some of those complex molecular machines. Maybe they’ll see the light and realize those complex molecular machines could not possibly have evolved without some help from an IDer. Then they will become ID converts, and go forth to spread the good news further. Or so goes the Discoveroid fantasy.

    This is consistent with their Wedge Strategy.

  5. Gaaah !

  6. …Then they will become ID converts, and go forth to spread the good news further. Or so goes the Discoveroid fantasy. This is consistent with their Wedge Strategy.

    Or a Rube Goldberg machine.

  7. Being the adventurous sort, I playfully emailed David Fowler of the Tennessee Family Advocacy Group to have a bit of fun at his expense
    with regards to their recent “success” at encouraging “critical thinking”
    in science classrooms when discussing evolution and climate change.
    I basically complemented him on his magnificent contributions to education and thought in America and assured him, that as a geologist, I had definitve proof the earth was indeed flat.
    Like his buddy Bill Dunn, the urge to respond overcame his better judgement, and to paraphrase, he suggested my “critical thinking” skills were not my strong suit and that many of his colleagues were likewise disappointed in their “liberal” friend’s response to the Discoveroid legislation. Since I’m a rather conservative fellow, as curmie is,
    I observe that anyone who doesn’t agree with a flaming creationist like Fowler is , according to them, a “liberal”. Wow, who knew?
    Anyway, David’s response of course was my opening to share some thoughts about his integrity and intellect, whereupon, the discussion, surprisingly and sadly, came to the same ending as my interaction with Bill Dunn yesterday. Now I’m sad they won’t be sharing more of their majestic
    thoughts with me via email.
    Its wild out there sportsfans.

  8. retiredsciguy

    I think; therefore I am.
    – Rene Descartes

    I think; therefore there is a Designer.
    – Casey Luskin

  9. The reason Paley, or any of us, would immediately recognize the watch as being evidence of a designer is because it’s not freakin alive!. It has no Mama and Papa watch. It had to have been made by someone. It’s an artifact. Duh.

    The fundamental basis of ID is the twisted notion that because humans design and create tools – inanimate objects – then somehow living, biological things must require a designer/creator also. Why? Living things appear to begat living things via natural processes without recourse to a designer. There are complex inanimate things, and complex animate things, and they come from different processes. It’s not logically sound at any level to extrapolate from the observation that humans make stuff to the conclusion that biological organisms are likewise designed by some supernatural invisible entity.

    It truly is astounding that this argument, after all these years, is still the best the ID crowd can come up with.

  10. Another thing about the Paley argument the Dishonesty Institute has stolen, repacked, and claimed as their own, without proper attribution. It is a philosophical/theological argument. It is not a scientific argument, much less a scientific hypothesis or theory.

    And even this philosophical/theological argument is not incompatible with the science of the ToE.

    Disco-Tute entertainers do their propaganda dance using virtual smoke and mirrors and any other prop that might work to distract whatever audience they manage to attract away from inconvenient distractions — such as logical flaws, inferences, and facts — that do not fit the fictional narrative and conclusions they are trying to propagate. It’s a flim-flam routine.

  11. retiredsciguy

    Hey Casey — who designed the Designer? And if you have an answer for that, then who designed the Designer’s designer? And if you have an answer for that, then who…..

    Well, you get the idea, don’t you, Casey? I’m sure the Curmudgeon won’t block your reply, as long as you’re nice.

  12. @retiredsciguy

    It’s IDers all the way down.

  13. retiredsciguy

    @Jack Hogan: “It’s IDers all the way down.”

    They probably think like turtles, too.

  14. Doctor Stochastic

    The ID argument seems to be that the existence of murder precludes any death from being of natural causes.

  15. If you evaluate the DI’s efforts in terms of a potential scientific explanation, of course they have nothing – either against evolution or for something else. But if you evaluate in in terms of PR – which is all they care about – this could be quite clever. To peddle their “academic freedom” and the “weakesses” of evolution that it will allow to replace course material that has earned he right to be taught, they must show that it is not the same as ID. (or creationism). So all they have to do is cite that article, and repeat a few quotes each time. Their target audience is unlikely to read the whole article, let alone see its flaws, but it will reassure many fence-sitters (including Judges?) who approve of “academic freedom” but not teaching ID or creationism.

  16. From an artist/designer to ID activists: I’d like to know why we’re over-designed? We’re an inelegant result, especially for a one-time major design project; way too complicated, so many gaudy bells and whistles constantly breaking down. … you know, less is more. And why do men have an even number of ribs?