Discoveroid Dogma from John West

Buffoon Award

One day, what we’re writing about here will be as interesting as an ancient religious tablet from the Babylonian empire. It was written by John West,whom we affectionately call “Westie.” He was an early winner of the Curmudgeon’s Buffoon Award, thus the jolly logo above this post. Westie is now President (or maybe vice President) of the Discovery Institute, which makes him one of the chief Keepers of their wedge strategy.

Westie’s post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog is Darwin and “Providential Design”. It’s difficult for us to write about, because it’s his latest rebuttal to a dialogue he’s been having in some other publication and it’s loaded with quotes from that dialogue. The way we’ll deal with it is to avoid the original article he wrote, the responses it attracted, and his replies to those responses.

That means we’ll be chopping up some of Westie’s prose in order to give you only those excerpts that set forth Westie’s position on Darwin, evolution, and intelligent design. Westie’s words are orthodox Discoveroid dogma, and nothing else matters. Okay, let’s get started:

[D]ebates over science and faith might have played out much differently had the scientific community embraced a guided form of evolution rather than Darwin’s blind and unguided version.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, that’s true, but as Westie ought to know, scientific explanations are based on evidence that can be detected and tested. That necessarily excludes the notion of an unseen “guide” — which, given the mechanisms of mutation and natural selection, simply isn’t required. Westie’s lament is that science isn’t the same thing as theology. Then he says:

Darwin’s version of evolution (unlike Alfred Wallace’s or Robert Chambers’ version) was framed as a rejection of “providential design.” And while Darwin’s rejection of providential design took him all the way to agnosticism (and beyond), it is certainly true that many theists have tried to syncretize Darwin’s version of evolution with their faith. These theistic Darwinists continue to believe in God, but they seek to make Him compatible with the Darwinian idea of unguided evolution.

Aaaargh!! Darwin didn’t “reject” providential design; but he couldn’t find any evidence to support such a notion. Indeed, he mentioned specific instances of evidence (like the geographical distribution of species) that seemed inconsistent with special creation. He found that was able to explain speciation without it. Let’s read on:

Whether the traditional belief in providential design is truly “outdated” … is another matter. I see no reason, certainly no scientific reason, why this must be the case. Even if one were to accept the Darwinian version of evolution as completely true, it only rules out purposeful design once life itself has begun. It leaves untouched the growing evidence for design that can be found in physics, cosmology, and in the chemical origins of life.

We don’t need to comment on that, do we? Well, okay — the scientific reason for ignoring providential design is that there’s no verifiable evidence for it, and no way to test the concept. Westie continues:

In the realm of biology, it is Darwinism’s attempt to reduce everything to blind material causes — not intelligent design’s effort to discern purpose in nature — that seems to me to be increasingly outdated. In an age when genetics has revealed the universe within that is replete with codes, instructions, and information processing systems, Darwinism’s insistence on reducing everything in living things to blind matter in motion seems quaint, to say the least.

Ooooooooooooh — codes, instructions, and information processing systems. Here’s more:

How were all of those biological instructions produced? In our uniform and repeated experience (the basis of modern scientific reasoning), instructions are a hallmark of intelligent activity, not blind material causes.

Yeah, okay. Moving along:

[There is] the spectre of “bad design” as a defeater for intelligent design in nature. But I think this is a bit of a red herring. First, many claims of “bad design” are not in fact supported by the evidence. Second, bad design is not equivalent to no design. The fact that my Toyota Corolla has been the subject of multiple recalls does not mean that it was originally produced by an unguided process.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! That’s one of the rare times a Discoveroid insists on evidence — in this case for the claim that there is bad design. But the evidence for that is overwhelming — see Buffoon Award Winner — The Intelligent Designer. Another excerpt from Westie’s post:

Finally, the fact that some things in nature may not have been designed does not disprove the massive amount of evidence that other things were.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Except that there’s no way to distinguish one from the other. This is our final excerpt:

Darwinism is no more beneficial for the scientific enterprise than it is for theology, encouraging biologists to blind themselves to the exquisite functionality of living things anytime it doesn’t fit their preconceptions. During our own lifetime, many Darwinian biologists wrote off more than 90 percent of the genome as “junk DNA”

“Darwinism” is no more beneficial for science than it is for theology? What does that mean? As for junk DNA, we’ve posted about that a number of times — the most recent was Casey: 50% Junk DNA Is Proof of Design.

So there you are, dear reader. That’s the holy writ from Westie. Let us all praise the intelligent designer — blessed be he! — without whose benevolent activities we’d all be … just as we are.

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

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10 responses to “Discoveroid Dogma from John West

  1. It still remains that no one has suggested an alternative.
    There have been suggestions for “guidance” to evolution, but those have petered out in the early 20th century.
    But no one has found it possible to talk about the sorts of things in the world of life that most of us relate to evolution without talking about evolution.
    Even the evolution-haters find it necessary to spend their time on telling us why it can’t be evolution, rather than telling us about any alternative account – what happens, when and where, how and why so that life forms turn out the way they do, how they relate to one another, rather than the vast number of conceptual possibilities open to life (if an agency without rules were operating).
    Are we to infer from this article that this writer has given up the pretense of having an alternative to evolution, and will have to retreat to no more than “guidance” to evolution? Without, of course, telling us anything about the constraints that guidance works with? Is it really bound by the properties of matter/energy and the laws of nature?

  2. I’m starting to suspect Westie’s “massive amount of evidence” contains information that is so vital to national security that it can never be disclosed.

    It’s probably stored safely beside the arc of the covenant in area 51 so don’t worry. 😉

  3. michaelfugate

    You forgot that Westie is author of this gem.

    He can’t help but use his evangelical filter on everything as evident above and in his dissertation below.

    The politics of revelation and reason: American evangelicals and the Founders’ solution to the theological-political problem, 1800-1835
    West, John Garrett, Jr. The Claremont Graduate University, 1992.

    Somehow in his version I don’t imagine secularism and the enlightenment come out on top.

  4. The Curmudgeon makes the excellent point that “Darwin didn’t “reject” providential design; but he couldn’t find any evidence to support such a notion”. That’s one of the many facts of which IDers always seem to be unaware — they know nothing about science but also nothing about Darwin’s life. Have any of them ever given up proving in public how little they know?

  5. proving in public how little they know
    That is one thing that they are competent in proving.
    nothing about science but also nothing about Darwin’s life
    And, while it is hyperbole to say “nothing” , add to that list about their own history, and about the Bible.

  6. Charles Deetz ;)

    First, many claims of “bad design” are not in fact supported by the evidence. Second, bad design is not equivalent to no design.

    I don’t think either of those counters to bad design hold much water. As much detail as there is in nature, a lot of bad design cases are glaring ‘rookie’ errors, and some are just amazing that an intelligence would even have a reason for putting things together that way.

  7. michaelfugate

    And they forgot “The Fall” as an explanation for bad design – it’s not God’s fault – it’s Adam and Eve’s fault.

  8. SC, your observation that there is no way to distinguish things in nature that were not designed from other things that were reminds me of an incident in northern Wisconsin a few years back. If I mentioned it before, don’t stop me.

    As a canoeist was paddling down a river past a tree that had been partially gnawed through by beavers, the tree came crashing down square on her head and killed her. The county sheriff marveled to a reporter that the blow looked for all the world as if it had been miraculously aimed, and mused about why God had taken the woman to heaven in her prime of life. Without saying so explicitly, he was using the Design Inference. If the odds that a result could have come about by chance are sufficiently small, then by golly it was designed.

    The paper was flooded with letters to the editor by believers who were irate that the sheriff could blame God for what was obviously a random accident. The only way they could tell the difference seemed to be that God never designs bad miracles, only good ones.

  9. I guess the sheriff never considered the billions of women who have successfully spent entire lives on planet earth without ever being in the path of a tree that was murdered by a beaver.

    (And, yes, I had to rewrite that twice to avoid being accused of frat-boy humor. Sometimes it takes extra work just to avoid the accidental punch-line. Life was much easier in the 1950’s. It was after the war and everyone was happy and gay. Oops.)

  10. genetics has revealed the universe within that is replete with codes, instructions, and information processing systems,…instructions are a hallmark of intelligent activity, not blind material causes.

    Those terms are metaphors. Most people have a general idea of what computers do, so describing the complex molecules and chemical interactions in the cell as “codes” and “instructions” etc. is useful in explaining how cells work, albeit greatly over-simplified. I can never quite figure out if Wells and his co-conspirators understand this, or if they really believe that the DNA molecule is an actual computer code.

    Secondly, all these terms, are invented by humans. There is no reason whatsoever to assume that the sort of designer that could create the “…design that can be found in physics, cosmology, and in the chemical origins of life” would be so constrained as to adopt human processes like computer codes to manifest his design.

    In fact, if the designer can create eternal supernatural souls, they why all the effort to design a physical universe in the first place?