The Discoveroids’ Design Detector in Action

We’ve previously described William Dembski’s Design Inference, commonly called his Design Filter. It’s supposed to be cutting-edge science — the means by which the Discoveroids use their “theory” of intelligent design to detect the existence of a transcendent designer of the universe. The last time we posted about it was The Discoveroids and Their Magic Filter.

Today they’re giving us another example at their creationist blog: How Do We Know These Artifacts Are Designed if We Don’t Know the Designer? It doesn’t have a byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

We don’t know who made them. We don’t know how they were made. We don’t know what purpose they served. But we know they were intentionally made by mindful individuals. At least, Live Science never questions the design inference about strange stone structures in Middle Eastern deserts that are shaped like wheels, triangles, and long lines [link to photos].

This is the article they’re talking about: Huge Geometric Shapes in Middle East May Be Prehistoric, but we’ll stay with the Discoveroids because their understanding is far superior to that of anyone else. They say:

There are hundreds of these structures. They extend over much of the Middle East: Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

How exciting! Then they quote from the Live Science article. The bold font here was added by the Discoveroids:

The “works of the old men” include wheels, which often have spokes radiating out from the center, kites (stone structures used for funnelling and killing animals), pendants (lines of stone cairns) and meandering walls, which are mysterious structures that meander across the landscape for up to several hundred feet.

Jeepers! The Discoveroids tell us:

World War I pilots readily inferred they were man-made. Bedouins call them the “works of the old men,” but apparently do not know who the “old men” were. It’s not clear what they were used for. The wheels might have been for forecasting seasons, since they tend to be aligned northwest to southeast to match sunrise at the winter solstice. But why the triangles? And the hundreds of “gates” with their long parallel lines? Who would make large structures that can’t be seen readily from ground level?

It’s an abominable mystery! Only the Discoveroids and their magic filter can provide the answer. Let’s read on:

New research using optically stimulated luminescence on the stones has produced dates of about 8,500 years for a couple of the structures. That makes them older than the Nazca lines. Were they burial structures? Signals to their gods? Animal traps?

Well, what’s the answer? The Discoveroids continue:

Other points of interest aside, the mystery serves to illustrate the logic of the design inference. These structures demonstrate that it’s not necessary to know (1) the identity of the designer, (2) the motivation or purpose of the designer, or (3) the function of the design. It’s also not necessary to know when they were made, or how.

Wow — all you need is the design filter! But it has to be used carefully. They say:

To make the design inference robust, however, it’s important not to jump to conclusions. There are similar shapes in nature that are not considered designed.


Geometric structures made by animals — like circular shells of diatoms, bird nests, or honeycombs — we do not attribute to the work of sentient beings. These are built instinctively for reproduction, feeding, or other life necessities.

How can we tell the difference? This is so confusing! But not for the Discoveroids. Remember, they have their filter. They explain:

Here is where the Design Filter comes in:

1. Can the geoglyphs be explained by chance? No; stones do not randomly collect into triangles, wheels with spokes, and parallel lines due to unguided causes like storms or earthquakes. …

2. Can they be explained by natural law? Natural forces can produce spirals like galaxies and hurricanes. They do not typically produce spoked wheels or triangles … . A bent-over blade of grass could trace out a circle as the wind shifts direction, like a compass. Snowflakes can produce a semblance of spoked wheels, but we know about the atomic forces that cause water to crystallize in hexagonal shapes. Nothing like that works on the scale of kilometers to arrange stones that way, especially aligning them with sunrise at winter solstice.

3. Is there a specification? Yes; we see an independent specification of the solstice that could guide a sentient being to choose to arrange stones with that preferred orientation. We also understand the human mind’s attraction for geometry and mathematics.

Isn’t that wonderful? Moving along:

To be sure, the design inference for these structures is more intuitive than robust. It’s conceivable that scientists may find a combination of natural laws and chance that generates these structures in that part of the world; unlikely, but possible. And since we don’t know of any clear purpose for the structures, our third test (specification) is weaker than one might like. Despite these caveats, the design inference is pretty sound. Nobody from the Bedouins to the pilots is questioning it.

Let’s see now … these shapes are clearly unnatural. We can all agree on that. They occur on Earth, in a region inhabited by humans, they date from the time when humans lived there, and they’re the sort of things humans can do. How complicated is this? Even the Bedouins agree that those things are human artifacts. But did they use the Discoveroids’ design filter? Does anyone?

Near the end, the Discoveroids attempt to explain why their filter is absolutely essential. Here it comes:

Evolutionists try to explain the human mind as the product chance and natural law, claiming it is the product of natural selection. The human mind is like animal design, they will say, simply more of the same. What’s the answer to that? Just turn it around. Such a position implies that the scientist’s propensity to speculate about evolution is also a product of natural selection. So if the evolutionists’ position is the result of blind, unguided processes, and if mental activity is an illusion, then reason evaporates; they have no way of knowing anything is true.

Aaaargh!! That’s true — but only for supernatural speculations, because they can’t be verified. Science, however, is quite another matter — see Faith-Based and Evidence-Based Thinking. But the Discoveroids disagree. This is their final paragraph:

Meanwhile, design advocates think that animals and their designs pass the design filter, too. Their bodies, behaviors, and instincts are the products of genetic instructions, making them act in a programmed way. We reasonably infer that their origins are the result of an intelligent cause.

That’s what passes for deep thinking at Discoveroid headquarters. Are you impressed, dear reader?

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

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18 responses to “The Discoveroids’ Design Detector in Action

  1. michaelfugate

    SC, your enhancements are spot as usual. Could anyone, even an ardent IDer, be fooled by their commentary? Could they really believe that anyone other than humans were involved?

    Perhaps Ham can tells us why they weren’t destroyed by the Flood.

    In a similar story, they have now figured out where the Stonehenge stones were quarried in Wales. They were later moved 225Km to their present site likely on oxen-driven sledges. This was 5000 years ago.

    Why they think the analogy to human design is relevant shows just how shallow their thinking is.

  2. James St. John

    Stonehenge rocks are a bit unusual – spotted metadolerites (“Stonehenge Bluestone”) from the Middle Ordovician of the Preseli Hills in Wales. I have a sample in my geology collection (from the source area, not the monument obviously) – a photo of it is at:
    Spotted metadolerite (Mynydd Preseli Dolerite Suite, Middle Ordovician; Preseli Hills, southwestern Wales, southwestern Britain)

  3. They also tell us that they can detect that living things are designed.

    Is there are difference between the design of these things and the design of living things?

    If there is a difference, then how can the extrapolate from the design of these things to the design of living things? Isn’t it something like extrapolating from micro-evolution to macro-evolution? Micro-design by humans and macro-design by super-humans, or something like that? Just as we are told that the design of living things is so much more complicated than anything that any human could imagine designing?

    If there is no difference, then how do differentiate, on the basis of design, between things that were designed by humans and things which just grow?

  4. The folks at AIG have GOT to be kidding, or else they think their suckers, er, audience are even more gullible than, well, we do.

    Can they really not see the difference between living and nonliving things? Or do they just count on their s–er, you know who–to be either so stupid or so blinded by irrational faith that they’ll buy this ridiculous analogy?

  5. “To make the design inference robust, however, it’s important not to jump to conclusions.”

    I agree completely with this statement. I suggest waiting just long enough for a comedic pause to occur before arriving at their conclusions.

  6. The Design Filter summarized:

    (1) We believe in God.
    (2) We desperately need support for this belief. Therefore,
    (3) We trust our naive intuition (or “inference” because that sounds smarter).
    (4) We rely on inapplicable analogies (whenever artifacts reproduce with variation get back to us DI).
    (5) Reasons (3) and (4) trump rationally guided and evidence-bounded theories of explanation, because,
    (6) We must be affirm (1).

  7. michaelfugate

    Given 1), here’s what baffles me – why try to make god contingent on scientific discovery?

  8. michaelfugate,

    I think to get to the answer to that you have to look at it from most believer’s perspectives. God is believed in mostly because He “does” stuff. He answers prayers. He makes stuff mean stuff in your life. He has a place for you to go to after you die. This is the foundation of deity belief in almost every religion in the world. Even Buddhism “on the ground” (not in the philosophy books) as practiced by its adherents has made Buddha an agent in the world, the parallel to Jesus in America. Or Allah in Islamic countries. Same structure of belief; different names applied to them.

    So if you take that as a belief that is non-negotiable, it is threatening and inconsistent to believe that for the history of life on earth God “did nothing.” As inconsistent as they are with everything else, ID’ers/creationists/ etc are consistent in their epistemic frame of reference in this regard.

    Also, when god does stuff, it is necessarily intentional. This gives us the why as to the inconsistency of biblical literalists when it comes to heliocentrism and evolution. God could still have intentionally created everything with the Earth orbiting Sol. Therefore they can reinterpret those passages in light of science. But humans cannot have been intentionally created by God through evolution. Therefore evolution of obstreperously objected to.

    If they would retreat to non-intervening, metaphor, “ground of all being” type of god that does nothing in the world or has actions that are indistinguishable from natural events, the motivation and prime attraction of god beliefs evaporate.

  9. I make another suggestion.
    Consider a person who finds it really icky to think about being physically related to “monkeys”. This is so repulsive because it is so obviously true. And there is this overwhelming evidence supporting the science behind it. There is no way to deal with this. Except – if one has the word of God saying that it isn’t so. That’s it! God is telling me that evolution isn’t so. That works. Now I have the irrefutable defense.
    That’s why evolution is contrary to the existence of God.

  10. Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

    Just another iteration of Paley’s human designed watch. It’s all they’ve ever really had. Wake me when they have something else for a change.


  11. “Is there are difference between the design of these things and the design of living things?”
    Yes. These structures might not have a clear purpose to us, but were purpose-built to work as efficiently as possible, given the time period and the materials available.

    The design of living things is terrible and typically functions at just above the level where everything will kill you. And eventually, inevitably, something will anyway.

  12. MichaelF is baffled: “why try to make god contingent on scientific discovery?”
    To increase the credibility of their belief system. Science has been quite succesful last 200 years or so and apologists want to ride that bandwagon.

  13. michaelfugate

    But couldn’t a god intend any thing it wanted? If there were a god, it obviously intended us to share common ancestry with chimpanzees. Theists do this all the time with sickness and natural disasters – god intended me to get cancer so that I would be a better person or something other inanity.

  14. The universal catch all phrase “You cannot know the mind of (the persons chosen faith)”

    And yet the first thing a “literal interpretation” does is to attempt to produce judgements based on what form that which cannot be known must take. This is little more than attempting to close the deal by abusing the listeners ignorance of theology.

  15. How do Dembski, et al. know the designer of these doohickeys isn’t the same designer who designed you and me? I mean, it’s unlikely, but possible.

    Anyway, my reasoning is sound.

  16. Ironically, the designer of the design filter, Dembski, wrote some years ago that he had given up on his design filter because it gave too many false positives, or false negatives – anyway – it’s didn’t work.

    So, the Tooters are touting a bogus idea that even the inventor says is a bogus idea.

  17. These structures demonstrate that it’s not necessary to know (1) the identity of the designer, (2) the motivation or purpose of the designer, or (3) the function of the design. It’s also not necessary to know when they were made, or how.

    In ID world, declaring that something is designed is all there is. No further inquiry is necessary – or will ever be done.

    In the real world, however, research will go on to discover who the builders might have been, how they might have built the structures, and what their purpose was.

    Thank you, anonymous writer, for laying out so clearly what the difference is between ID and real science.

  18. SC asks, Are you impressed, dear reader?

    Easy answer: No