Discovery Institute Proves Life Is a Miracle

The Discovery Institute’s creationist blog has another post by Kirk Durston, about whom we first wrote: Discoveroids: The Corruption of Science. In addition to his academic achievements, we’re told that he’s also a clergyman, so we call him Rev Durston.

Like the rev’s last article, his new one — starting with its title and continuing through its contents — reveals an astonishing lack of self-awareness: Confusing Fantasy with Science. Let us see how the rev thinks that you, dear reader, confuse science with fantasy, while he and the Discoveroids are steadfastly clear-minded. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

In order for atheism to survive the advance of science, it must come up with a natural explanation for the origin of the universe, the incredible fine-tuning required for the universe to support life, and the origin of life itself.

That’s the rev’s opening line. Observe his fundamental fallacy: he regards a supernatural explanation to be the default answer to all questions. In his mind, the burden of proof is always on the scientist, whose task it is to explain each observation in such a way that it couldn’t possibly be a miracle.

Maybe that’s how it works in ecclesiastical tribunals. We wouldn’t know. But out here in the real world, it’s impossible to exclude miracles, because they can’t be observed or tested. Science is required only to offer a testable, natural explanation for the phenomenon in question. By the standards of science, the rev is just another swami who brings nothing to the table but a huge pant-load of Oogity Boogity! Then he says:

As our knowledge of physics and cosmology has advanced, scientists have pointed out that the universe appears to be unbelievably fine-tuned to be able to support life.

If it were true that the universe was created to be support life, then its appearance would be inevitable throughout the universe, wherever congenial conditions existed. It would require no additional activity from an intelligent designer. Let’s read on:

One solution has been to promote the idea of a multiverse composed of a near infinite number of universes, each with its own particular set of laws of physics. If this is granted, then even those highly improbable universes capable of sustaining life will occur.

Your Curmudgeon doesn’t think too much of the multiverse — which is an inherently untestable concept — so we’ll skip most of the rev’s discussion of that. He tells us:

Science is also advancing our understanding of just how fantastically improbable the origin of life is. [Math mumbo-jumbo.] With an infinite number of possible universes, the emergence of life will becomes inevitable, no matter how improbable.

Balderdash! First, the claim that life is “fantastically improbable” violates the rev’s premise that the universe is fine-tuned for life. Also, reality is comprised of improbabilities. For our description of how mathematically improbable your own existence is, see Creationism’s Fallacy of Retrospective Astonishment.

The rev concludes by telling us that because the multiverse is untestable, it must be rejected as a scientific concept. Fair enough, but that’s the end of his analysis. It leaves him with his untestable premise — that life is a miracle. So he wins! At least he imagines that he does.

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

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

16 responses to “Discovery Institute Proves Life Is a Miracle

  1. Eew! If Oogity Boogity is delivered by the pant-load, dare we surmise its origin..

  2. Like all creationists, the rev has nothing but unsupported assertions that his big book of oogity boogity trumps evidence and reason. Meh.

  3. “In order for atheism to survive the advance of science”
    LOL! Durston is quickly becoming my favourite Rev.

  4. The Curmudgeon observes,
    “By the standards of science, the rev is just another swami who brings nothing to the table but a huge pant-load of Oogity Boogity!”

    Nothing more needs to be said.

  5. michaelfugate

    Science does not and cannot provide evidence for God let alone Christianity – if people like Dunston and Meyer take this route, they will only end up lying about the evidence or disproving God. They are arguing from a conclusion to the evidence – it distorts science so badly, but perhaps that is their goal.

  6. “In order for atheism to survive the advance of science…”

    For an organization that fancies itself a source of modern science, the Discovery Institute sure spends a lot of time worrying about others’ religion, or lack thereof. Weird.

  7. Charles Deetz ;)

    I think the dear Rev doesn’t see a contradiction that the CS does, he just had it in backwards ‘logical’ order: Because origin of life is nearly impossible, then the only likely answer is a fine-tuned universe. I’m sure that’s what he was thinking, but upon writing it out, it is obviously erroneous. The only likely answer he should have used was ‘poof, we exist’.

  8. Well the dimwit is 100% wrong. Life is not improbable but is 100% probable…proof…look around!
    When the dimwit travels to a major part of the universe and sees no other life, then tell me if it is improbable, till then life is 100% probable.

  9. I tend to look at life as just another variety of exotic chemistry. Where the proper energy and chemical species exists life is inevitable.

  10. @Charles Deetz:;
    I don’t think that the argument from “The Law of Conservation of Information” can be rescued from contradiction by your suggestion.

  11. The creationists’ infatuation with the “improbability” of life reminds me of this quote from Richard Feynman: “You know, the most amazing thing happened to me tonight. I was coming here, on the way to the lecture, and I came in through the parking lot. And you won’t believe what happened. I saw a car with the license plate ARW 357. Can you imagine? Of all the millions of license plates in the state, what was the chance I would see that particular one tonight? Amazing!”

  12. But remember folks, ID is a purely secular and scientific enterprise. Until you look at it.

  13. Among the infinite number of things that an agency (gods, intelligent designers) not constrained by natural laws could do, what is the probability that the result would be life as we have it? Life which is obeying natural laws, when that beyond-natural agency didn’t need to make life from atoms of the periodic table, common elements like hydrogen. That agency could make life on Mercury just as well on Earth. What is the probability?
    My first guess is that the probability is zero. Or maybe it’s not zero. Is it larger than the probability (no matter how small) than a natural origin? For sure, we are lacking a demonstration that life is more probable, given such an agency, than it is without such an agency.
    The probability argument fails to demonstrate what it claims; that it is more probable than a natural origin of life.

  14. There is no inconsistency in thinking *both* that life requires a fine-tuned universe as a necessary but not sufficient condition, *and also* that even within such a universe, the emergence of life is an extremely improbable event. So on this point I do not think we can fault the Reverend, whatever we may think of his other arguments.

    Many decades ago, Francis Crick (who, as far as I know, never discussed the fine tuning problem or pseudoproblem) remarked that we had no idea whether the emergence of life in the universe was almost inevitable, or extremely improbable, or anywhere in between. I think that is still the case today, although advances in the chemistry of self assembly tend towards increasing our estimate of the a priori probability of life emerging. The a posteriori probability is, of course one, but that is irrelevant.

  15. Yes. Creationists usually are too stupid to formulate it correctly, but it’s totally valid to ask what the a prior probability of life emerging in the Universe is. Unfortunately as soon as you realize that both the creationist argument and the atheist counterargument fall apart because we have way too few empirical data to make any educated guess. It’s better to point out that the creationist argument is just another god of the gaps.

  16. The probability of any single individual having been born approaches zero, too–but so what?