The Discoveroids’ Intellectual Torture Chamber

Inquisition

Like a technician employed by the Inquisition to devise increasingly fiendish ways to torture heretics, so too do the Discoveroids strive to develop ever-more elaborate ways to warp the minds of their drooling followers.

A good example of this is found today at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute. It was written by Michael Denton. He’s a Discoveroid “senior fellow” and the author of the 1985 creationist classic, Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. The last time we discussed him was Thrilling News from the Discovery Institute.

Denton’s new article is A Maze with One Exit: Why Evolution Had No Choice. Don’t be afraid, dear reader. Your Curmudgeon will be your guide. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Our Discovery Institute colleague Bruce Chapman writes to me to ask the following question:

[Chappy’s question to Denton:] From your standpoint, the fine-tuned universe and nature on Earth give evidence of having been ordered for “beings like ourselves.” However, wouldn’t a Darwinist or any other materialist say, “What seems to you a universe and nature designed to accommodate us is really the reverse. We are the response, the consequence of random mutations and natural selection over billions of years to the constraints and requirements of nature.” How do you respond?

Chappy is the founder and Chairman of the Discovery Institute. His question raises an issue we recently discussed. In Klinghoffer Demolishes His Critics — which also involved Denton — we mentioned an obvious conflict between two of the Ten Laws of Creationism, which are:

9. The Principle of Life: Life can’t arise naturally, and yet it exists. Therefore life is the product of intelligent design (ID).

10. The Principle of Universal Design: The universe is made for life, which is highly improbable; therefore the universe is the product of ID.

The problem is that although Discoveroids are always claiming that each of those is true, they never mention them both at the same time. That’s because they can’t both be true. If life really were impossible, then it would violate the laws of nature everywhere — except here, of course, due to the incomprehensible work of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who created our privileged planet. But if the universe were fine-tuned to be designed for life, then our allegedly Privileged Planet is no big deal, and life should be universally abundant. Well, which is it?

Chappy is asking Denton to resolve the problem — a difficult task. Here is how Denton does the job. First, he admits that what Chappy describes as the position of “a Darwinist or any other materialist” seems “superficially reasonable.” Nevertheless, he claims:

Here is the problem. Even conceding that our biology was the result of a Darwinian process, given that the laws of nature allow only one biochemistry, one biology, and only one being with our intellectual and physical abilities — capable, for example, of making a fire — then it seems evolution had in effect no choice. The end was already written into the laws of nature before the search began; the process was one of discovering a preexisting blueprint.

Aaaargh!! How many different varieties of hogwash can you find in that paragraph, dear reader? First, there may be multiple versions of biochemistry out there, although we know of only our version here on Earth. Wikipedia has an article on Hypothetical types of biochemistry. Second, who made the rule that there can be “only one being with our intellectual and physical abilities”?

Yet Denton declares that there are no alternatives. Humans are allegedly the Privileged Species of the universe (Amazon listing for Denton’s latest book), and we were “already written into the laws of nature” according to “a preexisting blueprint.”

Then, having invented some convenient (but non-existent) rules to evade the otherwise obvious conflict between the two creationist laws we cited above, Denton elaborates on his reasoning:

Imagine a maze with only one exit. Even allowing that you may find your way by trial and error, the unique end or exit is built into the plan of the maze long before the random search commences. The random search is not a creative process that generates anything new. So even if we were to grant that the Darwinian search mechanism was the means of discovery, man still would be preordained from the beginning and his being still would depend on a vast suite of coincidences in the natural order. Darwinism would be only a means to a preordained end.

Has Denton’s argument convinced you, dear reader? Has he convinced Chappy? Well, Chappy must be satisfied, otherwise Denton’s post wouldn’t appear at the Discoveroids’ blog. That means this is now part of the Discoveroids’ official dogma. Let’s read on:

Of course I don’t accept that evolutionary ends were achieved as a result of a random search. I believe that there was only one path through the maze built in from the beginning, leading from entrance to exit by a single unique route.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That line of argument will last only until we find some alien life on Titan or elsewhere, with a different chemistry than ours. This is the rest of Denton’s article:

The path from chemistry to man was directed from the beginning. I see it as the destiny of science to find that route and reestablish mankind’s central place in nature.

So there you are, dear reader. The Discoveroids are painting themselves into an ever-shrinking corner, from which there will be no escape. And in the meanwhile, they’ve devised yet another form of mental torture for themselves and their followers.

Copyright © 2015. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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12 responses to “The Discoveroids’ Intellectual Torture Chamber

  1. Denton has brilliantly set a new high-water mark as an exemplar of raging Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and gives us a useful cautionary tale about the dangers of unbridled solipsistic delusion–all one need do is perform a simple scan & replace on “man” and “mankind” with Denton’s clear intention, viz.:

    The path from chemistry to man me was directed from the beginning. I see it as the destiny of science to find that route and reestablish mankind’s my central place in nature.

  2. If the path from molecules to men was directed, why do we have to discover anything and get back to our “central place in nature?” Are they saying the Pathfinder led us astray? Are they saying we are not men? What?

  3. 9. The Principle of Life: Life can’t arise naturally, and yet it exists. Therefore life is the product of intelligent design (ID).

    This fallacy is covered in first semester logic classes – it’s called “Poisoning the Well”. An argument like the above is almost too easy to refute.

  4. Our Linuxgal asks

    Are they saying we are not men?

    And they are saying even more than that, to wit:

    We are Devo!

  5. I think I see some of the ID problems. Their example of the Maze with one exit clearly shows why they think ID is correct….They lack the ability to see complexity. Any engineer will tell you that S/He cannot make anything as complex as that seen in nature, and everything is nature is put together by unpredictable mutations and lots of time for change. The maze of evilution is not bad but they are incapable of seeing that the maze is infinitely and constantly changing over time such that the single outlet is constantly moving and so every time something enters the maze it is unknown as to where it will leave it. Rodent enters man leaves, or whale leaves, or a different rodent leaves. Who can tell???

  6. michaelfugate

    I bet when these DI guys were in grade school and asked to draw an imaginary animal – they sat for hours in front of a blank page and when asked why they didn’t complete the assignment replied “I am not God, I can’t make animals.”

  7. Doctor Stochastic

    The DI position has the entire concept of complexity wrong. A 747 that has crashed is much more complex than one parked near Antelope Freeway. Boeing has (or had) a set of documents describing how to make a 747. No one has documents telling where all the parts of a crashed airline are.

  8. I have a bit of a different take on the dilemma posed to ID:

    1) There are laws of nature, such as the Law of Conservation of Information (or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics, or the Law of Probability, or the Law of Biogenesis), which prevent the natural appearance of life. This means that the appearance of life needs Intelligent Design.
    2) The laws of nature are finely tuned to make the appearance of life possible. That means that the laws were finely tuned by Intelligent Design.

    We might wonder whether if the number of spatial dimensions were different, then the probability of the spontaneous appearance of life would be much more than 1 / 10^100. Or if the ratios of charge for electrons and protons were different, that the Laws of Thermodynamics would be different. That is, that the laws of nature are not all that finely tuned for life.

    Or, if the laws of nature were so that life were even less finely tuned to life, say that it would be impossible to make atoms of carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen; then Intelligent Design could still make life possible. That for Intelligent Design there is no meaning to fine tuning.

  9. Ahh! Take a conclusion, humans are “privileged” (perhaps even made in the image of the designer?) and make that your argument for why selection, drift, etc. can’t do that. Perfectly logical and perfectly empty.

  10. In Klinghoffer Demolishes His Critics — which also involved Denton — we mentioned an obvious conflict between two of the Ten Laws of Creationism, which are:

    9. The Principle of Life: Life can’t arise naturally, and yet it exists. Therefore life is the product of intelligent design (ID).

    10. The Principle of Universal Design: The universe is made for life, which is highly improbable; therefore the universe is the product of ID.

    The problem is that although Discoveroids are always claiming that each of those is true, they never mention them both at the same time. That’s because they can’t both be true. If life really were impossible, then it would violate the laws of nature everywhere — except here, of course, due to the incomprehensible work of the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — who created our privileged planet. But if the universe were fine-tuned to be designed for life, then our allegedly Privileged Planet is no big deal, and life should be universally abundant. Well, which is it?

    Of course they can both be true, if one believes that in reality Earth alone was fully “fine-tuned.” The rest of the universe only needed to be “tuned” enough to make a planet like Earth physically possible. Why God would do this . . . is a Mystery with a capital M, the questioning of which would get you a visit from the Bible police if fundamentalist Christians ever really got the power they dream of.

    And of course suggesting that there was only “one possible [intelligent] being” circles us back to the primitive notion of God as essentially a super-powered human, much like the gods of the Greeks. It takes a special sort of mind not to see this as ridiculous.

  11. @Eric Lipps
    I beg to differ.
    If Earth were fine tuned for life, then the Law of Conservation of Information would not prevent the natural appearance of life on Earth. The Laws of Thermodynamics would make life inevitable on Earth.

  12. Eric Lipps says: “But if the universe were fine-tuned to be designed for life, then our allegedly Privileged Planet is no big deal, and life should be universally abundant. Well, which is it?”

    Exactly. If the laws of nature were fine-tuned for life, then life is — by definition — a natural process, wholly in accord with the laws of nature. Everything else can be figured out by the procedures of science. Universal fine-tuning is, at best, an argument for Deism, which is so abstract that there’s nothing to talk about — unless one day someone figures out a natural reason why the laws of nature are way they are. But that’s probably a long way off, so universal fine-tuning is a safe position. Unfortunately for creationists, it obviates all the intelligent design or miraculous arguments for life.