There’s another winner at the blog of the Discoveroids, and it’s by Casey Luskin, our favorite creationist. He and the Discoveroids are described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page.
Casey’s post is titled Evolutionary Biologist Austin Hughes Praises Fine-tuning Arguments, Critiques Scientism. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:
In The New Atlantis, University of South Carolina evolutionary biologist Austin Hughes has a great article titled “The Folly of Scientism.” He argues that scientism (the belief that “sciences are the only valid way of seeking knowledge in any field”) is flawed because “the reach of scientism exceeds its grasp.” While I have no reason to think that Hughes himself is a proponent of intelligent design, he makes some very good points in his paper …
Here’s the article Casey’s talking about: The Folly of Scientism. Hughes introduces the subject this way:
When I decided on a scientific career, one of the things that appealed to me about science was the modesty of its practitioners. The typical scientist seemed to be a person who knew one small corner of the natural world and knew it very well, better than most other human beings living and better even than most who had ever lived. But outside of their circumscribed areas of expertise, scientists would hesitate to express an authoritative opinion. …
The temptation to overreach, however, seems increasingly indulged today in discussions about science. Both in the work of professional philosophers and in popular writings by natural scientists, it is frequently claimed that natural science does or soon will constitute the entire domain of truth. And this attitude is becoming more widespread among scientists themselves. All too many of my contemporaries in science have accepted without question the hype that suggests that an advanced degree in some area of natural science confers the ability to pontificate wisely on any and all subjects.
That’s entirely reasonable. People should avoid pontificating about areas outside of their expertise. But Casey (whose pontifications know no bounds) seems to get carried away. He focuses on a few sentences in Hughes’ 19-page article, and tries to use them to his advantage. He quotes Hughes as saying
[M]any cosmologists have articulated various forms of what is known as the “anthropic principle” — that is, the observation that the basic laws of the universe seem to be “fine-tuned” in such a way as to be favorable to life, including human life.
The Discoveroids heartily embrace that idea, because they say it’s “evidence” for their intelligent designer, but Hughes rejects the whole thing. Casey shrugs that off:
Again, Hughes is an evolutionary biologist — who endorses material accounts of evolution. Let’s not forget that. This makes it quite compelling that he later critiques those who tell evolutionary just-so stories to explain how certain traits arose:
The Discoveroids think the entire theory of evolution is a just-so story (unlike their “theory” of intelligent design), so Casey leaps on this part of Hughes’ essay. After quoting Hughes some more he says:
And what is one of those traits for which he thinks evolutionary biology lacks a strong explanation? The human intellect:
[Casey quotes Hughes:] The fact that any species, including ours, has traits that might confer no obvious fitness benefit is perfectly consistent with what we know of evolution. Natural selection can explain much about why species are the way they are, but it does not necessarily offer a specific explanation for human intellectual powers, much less any sort of basis for confidence in the reliability of science.
Casey gets excited over that, because the Discoveroids like to claim that human consciousness is a gift of their intelligent designer. Of course, he omitted to mention that before his selection from Hughes’ essay, in that same paragraph Hughes had said:
Evolutionary biologists today are less inclined than Darwin was to expect that every trait of every organism must be explicable by positive selection. In fact, there is abundant evidence [sources omitted] that many features of organisms arose by mutations that were fixed by chance, and were neither selectively favored nor disfavored.
Note, dear reader, that Hughes is definitely not dismissing the idea that such traits evolved — he’s merely saying that not every trait can be specifically shown to have a survival benefit. That doesn’t leave much room for the intelligent designer, but Casey doesn’t care. He continues by referring to another Hughes comment:
Hughes is also critical of those who try to define science as being limited to what has already been published. In a striking comment, he takes issue with precise definitions of science:
[Casey quotes Hughes:] By this criterion, we would differentiate good science from bad science simply by asking which proposals agencies like the National Science Foundation deem worthy of funding, or which papers peer-review committees deem worthy of publication.
The problems with this definition of science are myriad. First, it is essentially circular: science simply is what scientists do. Second, the high confidence in funding and peer-review panels should seem misplaced to anyone who has served on these panels and witnessed the extent to which preconceived notions, personal vendettas, and the like can torpedo even the best proposals.
Fair enough. Anyone can run into problems getting funding and getting published. But on the whole, the system works rather well. Discoveroids, however, never tire of claiming that the game is rigged against them. The same is true of flat-Earthers, moon-landing deniers, and devotees of The Time Cube. Casey really pounds away on this one:
Indeed, Hughes isn’t sure that science should always be trusted to regulate itself.
Uh huh. And who should regulate science, Casey? You guys? Sure, why shouldn’t the creationists regulate science? While we’re at it, why not insist that the deaf should regulate music, the blind should regulate art, and the unemployed should regulate the economy? Then we’ll get much better results!
Okay, that’s enough. Hughes has written a thoughtful essay, and Casey has grabbed it — or a few portions of it — which he tries to twist to suit the Discoveroids’ purposes. It won’t work, and we’re confident that Hughes is horrified to see that his writing is being used in this way, but it’s nevertheless interesting to see how the Discoveroids operate.
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