They really have a limited repertoire 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).
As we’ve discussed before, their “scientific” arguments all boil down to two oldie-goldies: (1) William Paley’s watchmaker analogy — if something looks designed, then by golly it is designed; and (2) the God of the gaps — anything not yet fully understood is “best” explained by a supernatural agency.
They have other arguments, but they’re even less scientific than those two mainstays. Primarily, the rest of their propaganda effort consists of character attacks on Darwin. Beneath all the blather, of course, they rely on their supporters’ understanding that it’s really all about creationism.
The last time we picked apart one of their two main arguments was six weeks ago: Discovery Institute: Are They Thinking At All? That was about another sad attempt, probably by Casey, to claim that the appearance of design was the “positive case” for their theory of intelligent design. There wasn’t much left when we were done, but we figured the Discoveroids would come back again with another attempt, and we were right.
Today at the Discoveroid blog they’ve posted Do Biological Clocks Revive William Paley’s Design Argument? In this one — it’s probably written by Casey — they directly address Paley’s old argument and attempt to give it a gloss of modern respectability. It doesn’t work, of course, but it’s amusing to see them struggle. They have to, because Paley’s really all they’ve got.
What they’re doing here is attempting to make an analogy between Paley’s watch and the biological functions that occur within the cell — many of which are being studied but are not yet fully understood. With those knowledge “gaps” firmly in hand, they claim — and it’s a truly primitive claim — that their magical designer is the only logical explanation. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
A primary criticism of William Paley’s “watchmaker argument” for a designer is that organisms are vastly different from man-made machines. What then should we say about ongoing discoveries of mechanisms in living cells that not only keep time, but do it more elegantly than anything man has invented?
What should they say? They’ll say what they always say: The designer did it. But first they try to claim that they’re not making the same old argument that Paley did. Of course they obviously are, but they say they’re not. Here it comes:
It is commonly assumed that David Hume and Charles Darwin demolished Paley’s watchmaker argument. Intuitively appealing as it was, the idea that a “watch demands a watchmaker” is fatally flawed, or so 20th-century students were taught.
They’re distorting the whole thing. A watch does indeed demand a watchmaker, but that doesn’t mean a biosphere demands a biosphere-maker. Let’s keep reading:
Darwin, by contrast, provided a mechanism, uniting contingency with natural law, that could produce complex design without a designer. This rendered Paley’s watchmaker superfluous.
Yes, that’s right. But the Discoveroids can’t let Paley go. Let’s read on:
Nevertheless, Paley’s pithy story of finding a watch on a heath retains its quaint appeal. Paley’s watch is intuitively compelling to the non-scientist and understandable by children. It appears to comport with everyday experience. Darwinism, by comparison, is abstruse, requiring lengthy explication, as if its proponents need to explain away the obvious. That alone doesn’t make it wrong, just rhetorically more challenging; Darwinians are stuck in the role of Groucho Marx, “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
Actually, it’s creationists who are always playing the role of Groucho, as they endlessly deny that there is any evidence supporting the theory of evolution. The Discoveroids modify that crude methodology slightly, by admitting that some evidence for evolution exists, but it’s inadequate, and their magical designer — blessed be he! — is a superior explanation.
Having glossed over the flaws in Paley’s argument, they now revive ol’ Paley by claiming that they’ve found a new kind of “watch” that actually justifies his discredited argument. Observe:
Meanwhile, however, new discoveries are conjuring up the ghost of Paley once again, suggesting his argument never really died. These discoveries involve biological clocks. That’s right: clocks.
We’re going to completely skip their awe-struck description of these biological mechanisms. All that you need to understand is that they’re substituting newly-discovered phenomena for Paley’s wheels and springs. Otherwise, there’s nothing new here. This is one of their powerful points:
Consider, for instance, if Paley had found a frog on a heath instead of a watch. Examining it with the tools of 21st-century biology, suppose he observed that it had structures, mechanisms, feedback loops, circuits, cogs and gears all related to timekeeping. Would this not undercut his critics’ assertions that living organisms differ substantially from machinery?
There’s a bit more to criticize about Paley’s original argument than the obvious distinction between a mechanism and an organism, but you already know that. If not, see David Hume’s rebuttal. And there’s more to the Discoveroids’ claim that Paley’s analogy now is stronger than ever — but it’s more of the same. Nevertheless, you may as well click over there and check it out, as we expect to be seeing more of this in the future. As we’ve said before, it’s all they’ve got.
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