Crop Circles & Intelligent Design

There must be some heretofore unsuspected theorem in geometry that says: All wildly divergent lines eventually converge on a point. We see evidence of that today in the latest post at the blog of the Discoveroids — described in the Cast of Characters section of our Intro page. Their strange new post is Crop Circles as an ID Test.

The Discoveroids (the article has no byline) spend a few paragraphs describing crop circles. There’s no need for us to wade through that. Then they talk about a TV show where Benjamin Radford discussed the phenomenon. That sort of show is probably a major source of information for the Discoveroids. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Readers who were around then [in the 1970s when crop circles started appearing] remember the initial flurry of excitement at the phenomenon, wondering if some natural cause — weird weather, electromagnetic vortex or animal behavior — was responsible. The more elaborate they became, though, the more people intuitively suspected human activity at work. Sure enough, two hoaxers in 1991 fessed up.

We remember that. But what of it? Why are the Discoveroids suddenly interested in crop circles? Stay with us, all will be explained:

But does that nail the explanation? It might be that only some of the circles are manmade. This is where intelligent design theory can provide some clarity.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! There’s finally a use for the Discoveroids’ theory. Let’s read on:

It states that chance and natural causes need to be ruled out first. Then, when specified complexity is found, the inference to the best explanation is intelligent design — the activity of a mind. But it cannot distinguish between human minds and other kinds of mental activity. It cannot rule out space aliens, for instance.

We haven’t seen that description of their theory before. It’s more like a methodology — with a nearly impossible first step — leading to the God of the gaps. Anyway, their article continues:

Radford is probably not an advocate of intelligent design, but he applied some forensic data to render it improbable that natural causes are behind the crop circle phenomenon. For one, they almost always involve circles. Natural causes can create circles, too, but he notes that circles are the easiest forms for hoaxers to make. A few crop circles involve triangles, rectangles and squares — also relatively easy to construct, but rarely found in nature on that scale.

We’re all pretty much convinced that the first wave of crop circles were created by a couple of drunken British blokes having fun in the dead of night. The merry lads confessed their prank and even demonstrated their technique — we saw it on TV. But Radford’s analysis (if the Discoveroids are describing it accurately) doesn’t literally rule out natural causes — it merely says that natural crop circles are improbable phenomena. Here’s more:

In addition, they are almost always created at night by forces that are camera-shy and seem to take pains to leave no human trace. One last clue is that they are usually made near roads where they can be seen. If natural causes were at work, why are they not found in remote fields of wild grass?

Hmmmm. “Almost always” created at night, and “usually made” near roads. That leaves a lot of wiggle-room. Then they purport to quote Redford:

There are many theories about what creates crop circles, from aliens to mysterious vortices to wind patterns, but they all lack one important element: good evidence. Perhaps one day a mysterious, unknown source will be discovered for crop circles, but until then perhaps they are best thought of as collective public art.

Okay. That’s not unreasonable — especially given the original perpetrators’ confession — but it’s far from a rigorous proof regarding all crop circles. (Don’t get worried, dear reader, we’re just saying that it’s logically impossible to rule out UFOs or supernatural forces as the cause — of crop circles or anything else.) Moving along, the Discoveroids say:

So while he cannot rule out non-human explanations, Radford puts the burden of proof on those who allege them. He has, in a sense, worked his way through Dembski’s explanatory filter. Having found chance and natural causes highly improbable, he landed on the only remaining explanation: intelligent activity.

Are the Discoveroids actually going to claim that because we’re all rather certain it’s people who make crop circles, we can be equally certain that their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — created the universe and all living things? Yes, apparently that’s their claim. Here’s another excerpt:

Remember that intelligent design theory is very limited in its aim. It doesn’t ask who the designer is. All it can differentiate is natural from intelligent causes. Identifying the designer of crop circles requires further sleuthing and more evidence. But a legitimate inference can be made to design even without the benefit of catching the designer at work via a camera or a confession. If there’s low probability and specification, it’s design.

Lordy, lordy — they really are saying that if you believe crop circles are made by people, then it makes perfect sense to believe that you and your DNA were made by the intelligent designer. This is a fantastically wonderful article! Here’s the end of it:

Crop circles, therefore, provide an interesting case where non-ID scientists typically infer design as the best explanation instead of limiting themselves to methodological naturalism [link to a Discoveroid article]. Let’s continue to argue they should use that same reasoning when looking at codes and machines in living organisms.

We couldn’t produce a spoof of Discoveroid reasoning even remotely as wild as that. Their post is an intellectual suicide note. It’s a rare day when your Curmudgeon is a happy man, but this is one of those days.

Copyright © 2013. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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21 responses to “Crop Circles & Intelligent Design

  1. Charles Deetz ;)

    Discotute says: But a legitimate inference can be made to design even without the benefit of catching the designer at work via a camera or a confession.

    Hambo says: “Were you there?”

    Catfight ensues!

  2. Charles Deetz says: “Catfight ensues!”

    When worldviews collide.

  3. Are they hoping to get some air time on the History channel? Someone must have gone off their meds this weekend.

  4. Yes, and all investigators working the scene of a crime routinely go through the process of ruling out natural causes first, before concluding that a mind must be the cause of the mayhem. Likewise, archeologists examining a Mayan temple in the jungle somewhere patiently go through a process of eliminating natural causes for the stacked stones, before reaching that Aha! moment when they realize that it must be man-made.

    Where Radford differs from the Discoveroids is that he has a known designer, who acts in known ways, and whose probability as the cause of crop circles far exceeds the probability of all other causes. The Discoveroids have no such known designer, thus they have nothing that they can compare to the odds of natural causes – no matter how improbable those natural causes are.

    Further, the odds of an unknown natural cause are vastly higher than the odds of an unknown supernatural cause, simply because we know nature exists. In the Discoveroids god-of-the-gaps-we-invent logic, they should fill the gaps they work so hard to convince us of with an unknown natural cause, until they can provide evidence of the mere existence of anything supernatural. Until such time, the probability of a supernatural cause must be assumed to be zero.

  5. techreseller

    Slightly off topic here. But I had to share this:

  6. doodlebugger

    Who the heck wrote that piece? He needs his head examined. The Discoveroids usually write just unintelligble gibberish but this piece actually started with a testable hypothesis. An idiotic hypothesis, but still.
    Then they shot it down and then, came up with more unintellgible ID gibberish, AND, Dumbski and his “best” sermon ever. I think Casey, Klinklestupid and Westie came up with this one at a backroom dive of a bar on one of their ID trips to psychdeleia.
    I never go to the Tute site. I’m concerned my PC would catch fire if I did that.
    So, thanks Curmudgeion for more curmudgeonly curmudgeonliness and truly a possible contender in my list of stupid stuff, best Tute paper of the month. 🙂

  7. Charley Horse

    There’s been noise/ buzzing, etc.. in my land line for
    2 weeks. I can’t find the cause. ATT hasn’t found the cause.

    How long do I have to wait before declaring the noise
    having an unnatural cause? An unnaturally designed cause?

  8. We haven’t seen that description of their theory before. It’s more like a methodology — with a nearly impossible first step …

    Its Dembski’s explanatory filter from about 1996. The flaws have been discussed in both print and electroncally. Just plug the term ‘explanatory filter’ into google, and the first page or so should include several criticisms of it (Panda’s thumb, Wes Elseberry, Talk Origins, etc.)

  9. Charley Horse asks: “How long do I have to wait before declaring the noise
    having an unnatural cause?”

    Why are you waiting? If you can’t find a natural cause, then there’s only one logical conclusion.

  10. Charley Horse

    Yes, but I didn’t say it is impossible to find the cause.
    Just that it hasn’t been found. Nor has ATT stopped looking.

    Now, if ATT thought there was a possiblity of having
    an unnatural cause, they should just give up…stop looking
    at some point. Right? Isn’t that what the DI would
    and does recommend?
    For instance, once they declare something irreducible,
    isn’t it the same as saying “time’s up…no need to look
    further…an unnatural cause is responsible”.

    Or have they absolutely ever declared anything
    irreducible or finding any cause of anything impossible
    for anyone, scientist or other, to find?

  11. Stop. Scroll back up and read Ed’s comments again. Perfect.

  12. Are we certain that the Onion has not somehow infiltrated the Tute, or a covert Poe??

  13. Charley Horse

    Couldn’t agree more with what Ed wrote.

    Has the DI or any ID pushers ever declared anything
    not intelligently designed? Would they dare to
    do that?

  14. Something’s wrong here… let me see if I can nail it down…

    Remember that intelligent design theory is very limited in its aim. It doesn’t ask who the designer is. All it can differentiate is natural from intelligent causes. Identifying the designer of crop circles requires further sleuthing and more evidence. But a legitimate inference can be made to design even without the benefit of catching the designer at work via a camera or a confession. If there’s low probability and specification, it’s design. It’s only a coverterm so that we can put Christianity back in the classroom where it belongs. We want everyone saying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus!” at every opportunity. We wish that idiot Ken Ham would shut his piehole and stop closing the door to our Big Tent. Yes, the Earth was formed only 6,000 years ago. (Duh!) But we have to put on the appearance of some similitude to modern science if we’re going to weasel our way into the science classroom and, from there, into everywhere else.

    There. Fixed that for you.

  15. I went over to look at the link to Dembski’s filter (from eric’s comment), but I couldn’t get past the first sentence:

    What is science going to look like once Intelligent Design succeeds?

  16. All it can differentiate is natural from intelligent causes.

    Has anybody ever pointed to something which is not the result of an intelligent cause?

    Wouldn’t that be contrary to the Christian creeds which say that God created all things?

    Even something which is a hypothetical? Can we imagine something which an intelligent cause cannot or would not do? Whenever I try to think of something that is not the product of design, in the very act of imagining it, am I not designing it?

  17. Pete Moulton

    Agreed, Tom. Every time I see the Discoveroid claim that ID can differentiate between stuff that just happened and stuff that was designed, I’m reminded of little Casey’s splendid essay on how even bad design is still design. No, they can’t differentiate, and in fact don’t even bother to try. Their ‘theory’ can’t be falsified, and so it’s no theory at all.

    That’s OK by the Discoveroids, though, because ID is only a paint job on creationism, intended to sneak creationism into public education through the back door, and thereby establish a beachhead for further inroads of religion into schools.

  18. Remember that intelligent design theory is very limited in its aim. It doesn’t ask who the designer is.

    So, basically, they are saying that, according to the “science” of ID, we can only conclude that crop circles could be made by extraterrestrials, time travelers, ghosts or smart bugs. Uh huh.

    TomS:

    Wouldn’t that be contrary to the Christian creeds which say that God created all things?

    In fact, the DI said exactly that recently:

    http://dododreams.blogspot.com/2013/01/not-so-hidden-god.html

  19. What is “specified complexity” again? I seem to recall that no IDiot has ever defined it, not even Dembski.

    That makes it a lot easier to detect in crop circles. Or snowflake patterns or clouds or tea leaves or………yeah.

  20. Dembski dropped his explanatory filter (and the ball) years ago.

    Presumably the news has yet to filter through to them.

  21. “All [intelligent design theory] can differentiate is natural from intelligent causes.”
    It always makes me happy to see an admission that the “theory” addresses the supernatural.