The Discoveroids and Their Magic Filter

There is no escaping the fact that William Dembski’s Design Inference, commonly called his Design Filter, is more useful than even Occam’s razor. It’s the means by which the Discoveroids use their “theory” of intelligent design to detect the existence of a transcendent designer of the universe. Our all-time favorite example of its application is Mt. Rushmore Is Designed, Therefore ….

The latest post at the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog — Is That a Rock Pile or a Monument? — makes this abundantly clear. This is what they say, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

A massive pile of stones in a roughly crescent shape sits on a hillside in Galilee, Israel, about 8 miles northwest of the Sea of Galilee.

This article from LiveScience describes what they’re talking about: Massive 5,000-Year-Old Stone Monument Revealed in Israel. One excerpt should be enough to encourage you to read it, and then we’ll get back to the Discoveroids:

A lunar-crescent-shaped stone monument that dates back around 5,000 years has been identified in Israel. Located about 8 miles (13 kilometers) northwest of the Sea of Galilee, the structure is massive — its volume is about 14,000 cubic meters (almost 500,000 cubic feet) and it has a length of about 150 meters (492 feet), making it longer than an American football field. Pottery excavated at the structure indicates the monument dates to between 3050 B.C. and 2650 B.C., meaning it is likely older than the pyramids of Egypt. It was also built before much of Stonehenge was constructed.

Here’s what the Discoveroids say about the crescent monument:

It just looks like a disorganized rock pile. It’s out there all by itself. There was no ancient city near it (the nearest one was Bet Yerah (“house of the moon god”) about 18 miles south, a day’s walk. It’s too far to have been a city wall. And it would have taken a huge amount of work to build … .

That’s discussed in the LiveScience article, which quotes Ido Wachtel, a doctoral student at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who discovered the site’s significance. Wachtel examined the site, the Discoveroids didn’t. So what can they tell us about it? Let’s read on:

We can apply William Dembski’s “Design Filter” to this case. Did it form by chance? There are lots of rock piles on mountainsides all over the world, so finding this one does not seem that out of the ordinary. Did it form by natural law? We would have to know if these stones are native to that area: are there other piles of the same stones nearby, or does it appear certain that these stones had to be transported to their current location? Could the stones have rolled into position from higher up? Did the shape of the hill determine how they would naturally form a crescent?

Dembski’s filter covers all of those steps? Wow! The Discoveroids continue:

We don’t know enough about this pile of rocks to question Wachtel’s conclusion that it is more than a natural phenomenon — that it was intelligently designed for a purpose. It doesn’t appear he can state definitively who made it, or why, but that’s OK: intelligent design is not asking about the identity of the designer. ID just wants to distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes.

Wachtel concluded that it was intelligently designed! They quote the LiveScience article:

“The proposed interpretation for the site is that it constituted a prominent landmark in its natural landscape, serving to mark possession and to assert authority and rights over natural resources by a local rural or pastoral population,” Wachtel wrote in the summary of a presentation given recently at the International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East.

The structure’s crescent shape stood out in the landscape, Wachtel told Live Science in an email. The shape may have had symbolic importance, as the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin, Wachtel said.

Here’s what the Discoveroids say — and remember, they’ve got Dembski’s filter:

That’s getting speculative. He doesn’t even know who the designers were, let alone their religion or their purpose for it. How could a crescent-shaped pile of rocks on a hill many miles away from the nearest population center do anything to assert authority or property rights?

Then they mention another recently-discovered monument in Israel, to which they previously applied Dembski’s filter. We discussed that here: Rock Mounds Are Designed, Therefore …. In that post we said:

Yes, if this mound can be determined by archaeologists to be the product of human activity, then … then the Discoveroids know how to determine if your pancreas is the product of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — and they also have the intellectual tools to determine if the whole universe was designed!

Now they’re going to do it again to the crescent monument. Here it comes:

That one looks even less like a designed structure. It’s only an irregularly-shaped pile of “unhewn basalt cobbles and boulders” on a slope. Would the people of ancient Bet Yerah have gone to even more trouble to build that one? Neither structure looks like it definitively passes the Design Filter. Stonehenge, by contrast, does pass. No natural law would carve stones that large and stand them up in a circle so that they align with the sunset at solstice.

That filter is an amazing tool! It reveals to the Discoveroids that Stonehenge was designed, and that Wachtel is a fool. This is how the article ends:

So here we see intelligent-design science at work in archaeology. One should be careful before making a design inference. You should realize that the “identity of the designer” is a separate question that requires other evidence. But the ability to distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes can motivate research, yield major discoveries, and stimulate investigation of follow-up questions.

Verily, the world is indebted to the Discoveroids and their cutting-edge science. So why doesn’t anyone pay attention to them?

Copyright © 2014. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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19 responses to “The Discoveroids and Their Magic Filter

  1. The Discoids’ argument here can be reduced to this: we know that some complex structures were designed by intelligent beings; therefore we know they all were.

    Someday I’d love to see someone point out to them that by their logic, since the Designer was surely even more complex than his creations, He too had to be designed. And when they start squawking about the “uncaused cause,” ask them why the universe can’t be that.

  2. But, according to the inferences of “intelligent Design”, a tree, moss – and, indeed, everything in the universe is “intelligently designed”.

    So, for all that effort, they can’t tell the difference between a human artifact and a divine production of “Intelligent Designer(s)”.

  3. TomS, remember, not everything is intelligently designed. Only *certain* features are. Like rock mounds, apparently.

  4. @Mark Germano
    Well, trees are designed. A fungus is designed. Why couldn’t there be some kind of plant that looked like a rock mound? Why couldn’t there be some kind of animal that piles up rocks to attract a mate?

  5. “…the lunar crescent is a symbol of an ancient Mesopotamian moon god named Sin, Wachtel said.”

    Does this mean it is Sin to moon?

  6. Of course the Discoveroids actually followed the methodology of Dembski’s filter and calculated the Complex Specified Information of this rock pile?

    I know, silly question.

    They expect us to take their word for it that (i) such a calculation is possible/practical, (ii) that it actually has some scientific meaning, (iii) that it would yield some impressively big number, and (iv) that anything else that they claim is designed must therefore also be designed.

  7. Well in their case intelligence is certainly not natural!

  8. Hambo will not like this since it predates the flood.

  9. @Hrafn
    (v) the result of such a calculation performed for a non-designed object is distinctly less.

  10. Is Dembski’s Design Filter intelligently designed? Or does it always get totally clogged up on Completely Specious Imputation?

  11. SC: “So why doesn’t anyone pay attention to them?”

    Actually almost everyone does, even though 99+% don’t know it. Sure, almost no one can identify one Discoveroid except Medved, and even then are unaware that he is a Fellow of an anti-science “think” tank. But the DI’s memes are spreading better and faster, and to a larger audience than the Biblical gang (Hen Ham et al) can dream of.

    In 30+ years of dramatic increases in evidence for evolution, during which time nearly every US mainstream religion has officially accepted it, the % of deniers in the general public has remained virtually unchanged. But their reasons have changed a lot. First, according to some polls the % that is “unsure” has greatly increased (at the expense roughly equally of accepters and deniers). Second, the denial or uncertainty is more likely to invoke perceived “complexity” issues or “lack of evidence,” rather than, say evidence “for” a young earth or “kinds.” Statements like “I hear the jury’s still out about evolution” or “I guess something like evolution is true but I hear it has gaps.” are now common. Those are the people to look out for, and politely correct their misconceptions. Not the committed fundamentalist who says in so many words: “I believe what the Bible says, and nothing can change my mind.” They can be safely ignored.

  12. A good argument against this is the Old Man of the Mountain in NH.
    It was a very good face on the cliff side that was totally natural and NOT DONE by any intelligence. So as others have pointed out it is MAN that infers the presence of intelligence and it may not be true.
    Well OK I admit that the Face on Mars is made by aliens, so it is very important for us to send a manned team to Mars to investigate.

  13. But the ability to distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes can motivate research, yield major discoveries, and stimulate investigation of follow-up questions.

    Why, then, has the DI never (a) made a discovery, either major or minor, or (b) investigated any follow-up questions?

    The archeologist writing the article already knew the crescent was man-made – he was investigating the area to determine if a settlement was nearby, under the hypothesis that the crescent might have been part of a city wall. The “design filter” was not a factor at all, at least in this report.

    However, lets assume that this structure was found on Mars. One can safely assume that there would be intense investigation of its origins, including who might have constructed it and when. There would be a planet wide search for other potentially artificial structures etc. Numerous papers might be written (none would mention CSI or Dembski’s filter) and most likely numerous hypotheses would be advanced to regarding its age, purpose and “designer.”

    The DI’s cavalier dismissal of any interest in these questions when it comes to their claims that biological structures are designed exposes clearly that their design claims are not the result of scientific investigation, but rather are the result of their previously held religious beliefs. Unlike real scientists, they have no intent of ever investigating anything.

  14. “He doesn’t even know who the designers were.”

    “intelligent design is not asking about the identity of the designer”
    Me no understanding, me feels like fool ….

    “No natural law would …”
    So Dembski’s Filter is just a Grand Old Designer of the Gaps.

    ““identity of the designer” is a separate question that requires other evidence.”
    And what kind of evidence might that be?

    “their cutting-edge science”
    What’s even more impressive: IDiots do it while warming their comfortable chairs with their rear ends.

  15. distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes

    If ID meant anything by what it says (other than please, don’t let evolution be true) …

    I would point out the “distinction” is slicing up the pie two different ways: wedges and squares. Separating the filing from the fattening.

    Natural is the counterpart to supernatural (or maybe preternatural, etc., but let’s not get into that)

    Intelligent is the counterpart to, well, unintelligent.

    One can have natural things which are also intelligent. Any animal capable of purposeful action.

    One can have supernatural things (bear with me, please) which are not intelligent. Magic is famous for doing stupid things for its practitioner – taking one literally is a popular way of backfiring

  16. The trouble about the identity of the intelligent designer is either acknowledge it is the Christian God after which someone certainly is going to shout: “Dover!” or deny it is God and then you have to explain why the Intelligent Designer created God.
    This kind of revolutionary theology will fall badly with the flock.

  17. Or, verily, God created the intelligent designer. The Big Guy doesn’t like to be bothered with the details.

  18. @Eddie Janssen:

    By “Dover” are you referring to Behe’s testimony that the designer could no longer exist? I hope so, because almost everyone got the wrong message, which was that Dover supposedly “proved” that the DI meant God. Actually, that was determined beyond any reasonable doubt 6 years before Dover, when the Wedge document was leaked and the DI did not deny that they were behind it. What Dover demonstrated was that, as much as the DI hoped that the audience would infer God from their “evidence for design” and “evidence against evolution” word games, they plainly admitted that they had not caught God in their “filter,” or as I like to say, their “irreducibly complex mousetrap.”

    Here’s my reasoning: Behe is a devout Catholic. So he will probably not even jokingly suggest that God is dead. Especially if under oath, and knowing that he’ll be on permanent record that millions will see. So he must truly believe that neither his IC, nor Dembski’s SC caught any designer, or at best some hapless lackey. Maybe one that the real God let “Fall” after he disobeyed orders and created the malaria parasite? (Darn, after 17 years I still keep thinking of more good questions that ID scammers will surely evade.)

  19. The short version:

    In 1999 the DI admitted that they wanted everyone to think the designer that they claim to have caught is God. In 2005 they added “even though they personally don’t.