Casey Thinks Deep Thoughts

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.

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

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11 responses to “Casey Thinks Deep Thoughts

  1. Ceteris Paribus

    Jerry Coyne ( ) had a post re: the Hughes article a few days ago.

    Coyne’s main complaint is that Hughes cites the fields of ethics, metaphysics, and epistemology as alternative methods to seek truth, but never actually gets around to mentioning an example of a truth that any of the trio have produced.

    ID certainly hasn’t provided any truths either, but a larger question for Casey would be to demonstrate whether he can even shoe horn his ID into the fields of ethics, metaphysics, or epistemology that Hughes is talking about. ID appears to be just unethical, magical, hornswaggle. Or simply, bunk. Empiricism still matters, no matter how Casey whines.

  2. Ceteris Paribus

    Casey quotes Hughes: “The problems with this [funding sources and peer review] definition of science are myriad. First, it is essentially circular: science simply is what scientists do.”

    The error in the idea that “science is what scientists do” has been pointed out some ago, but I have lost the source. Roughly, one could just as well define baseball by saying “baseball is what baseball players do”, but only by ignoring the entire rule book that separates baseball from horse shoe tossing.

  3. Big heads result in a (pre-20th century) large number of deaths in childbirth, for both child and mother. Hard to see how something with such a big survival cost could propagate via something like genetic drift. My money’s on our big brains being a result of natural or sexual selection, not drift or some other non-adaptive evolutionary mechanism.
    Could other traits be the result of drift? Sure. Almost certainly, many human traits are. But I don’t think our big brains are in that category.

  4. You know, if the Discoveroids spent half as much time working as they do complaining they might actually have something to show after 20 years. I’m surprised professional liar and Boy Gerbil, Luskin, can churn out the same tired old theme time after time:

    Science won’t let astrology and “intelligent design” creationism play!

    Journals won’t publish papers we never submit to them!

    Nobody will fund our research proposals we don’t have!

    Scientism methodological naturalism epistimological something philosophical historical forensic, where was I?

    Luskin claims that ID has “published” 50 articles (in 20 years). How many of those articles actually discuss the “theory” of ID? ZERO. NONE. Not a single one.

    ID journals in the past 20 years? Several. Moribund: all but 1.

    Research on ID by known ID “scientists:” Jonny Wells, NONE. Mikey Behe, NONE. Scott Minnich, NONE. William Dembski, NONE. Dougie Axe, NONE. Annie Gauger, NONE. Stevie Meyers, NONE. Little Paulie Nelson, NONE.

    So, I really don’t understand what Gerb has to whine about to US. He should be whining to his own lot to get on with it.

  5. Casey I am a graduate of the University of South Carolina Geology Department, We don’t do fraud there. Thats your bailiwick. Quote mine West or Becker instead please.
    You have evidence that disproves evolution? You should write it down, submit it to a peer reviewed journal, and collect your Nobel Prize !!!!!!!
    Every science department at USC would love to see that weenie roast….:)
    meanwhile ………Go Gamecocks
    and Casey ? Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out………..

  6. “Uh huh. And who should regulate science, Casey? You guys? Sure, why shouldn’t the creationists regulate science?”

    What I think Luskin is implying is that science and its results are subject to popular consensus of the people, that is their goal, and the tact the ID’ers take as they try to gain popular support for ID versus evolution, etc., even though they are incapable of presenting any research evidence that supports their position. It’s all an emotional appeal to authority versus any factual basis to the argument. And that is the appeal they likewise make to the fundaamentalist religious crowd whom they sucker up to, and they themselves are part of that crowd as well.

  7. Casey’s whiny snot-nosed crybaby childish tantrum is all part and parcel of the Poor Widdle Persecuted Creationists scam that the Disco Tute has been running for 20 years. Same song and same tune.

    But, they had their chance, you know! Yep, some years back the Templeton Foundation that has more money than sense offered to fund, as in Money for Mah Honey ™ to do real research into “intelligent design” creationism (although they left off the creationism part). Real money for real research. Just submit a proposal and, bingo bango, you were in! Funded! Flush with cash! Just like the big boys. Why the generous but incredibly stupid people at Templeton even cut our pal Dr. Dr. Dumbski a fat check for a book he never wrote, that’s how generous they are!

    And poor old over-funded Templeton sat there, and sat there, and sat there, and sat there until their satter was sore waiting for a proposal. Alas, always a bridesmaid never a bride! From the hallowed halls of Tuteville all Templeton heard was silence … and …
    tumbleweeds blowing across a dusty road
    coyote howl in the distance
    single brown leaf falling to the ground

    But not a toot from Tuteville, nary a one.

  8. Doc: “And poor old over-funded Templeton sat there…
    But not a toot from Tuteville, nary a one.”

    Love your writing, Doc!

  9. Casey squeaks, “Again, Hughes is an evolutionary biologist — who endorses material accounts of evolution.”

    “Material accounts of evolution”? What other kind or kinds of evolution are there? Spiritual? Would that be how Casey supposes souls evolve? Apparitional? Is that how ghosts evolve?

    I confess — I am definitely a scientismist. I do believe that the “sciences are the only valid way of seeking knowledge in any field”, at least, any field of the natural, material world. Science doesn’t work too well when it comes to analyzing make-believe.

  10. doodlebugger said:

    and Casey ? Don’t let the door hit you in the butt on the way out………..

    Good suggestion. Don’t want to damage a perfectly good door.

  11. @Eric:

    I suspect you are correct that our brain size is not solely due to drift. In fact the size of our brains at birth is limited by the size of the mothers pelvic outlet. Our final adult brain size and intellectual capacity is thanks to years worth of continued growth and development after birth. There’s a lot of potential for badness in all of that and it seems unlikely that drift alone could accomplish our capacity with so much opportunity for selection to work. Hard to believe the various steps involved didn’t confer advantages along the way.

    It is clear why SC called creationsim infinite evil. They are worse than most politicians in their ability to run the spin machine.