The long, slow demise of a foolish movement isn’t pretty to watch. Those who cling to a nonsensical doctrine can seem like they’re suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, drooling and endlessly repeating their prior babblings. But when it happens to a movement like the Discoveroids’ cult of the intelligent designer, it’s a good thing, so we shall document it.
The latest mess of Drool at their creationist blog is Intelligent Design on Target. It has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:
In his second major treatise on design theory, No Free Lunch: Why Specified Complexity Cannot Be Purchased without Intelligence, William Dembski discusses searches and targets.
You know who William Dembski is. We’ve posted about him a time or two — for example, see Intelligent Design’s Brief Shining Moment, and also Dembski’s Creationist Revival Meeting. He recently announced that he’s abandoning the Discoveroids’ movement — see William Dembski Is “Moving On”.
This is the Amazon listing for Dembski’s “major treatise”. The only time we ever wrote about that book was when Casey quoted from it — see Casey Defines “Complex and Specified Information”. This is what the Discoveroids tell us today:
One of his [Dembski’s] main points is that the ability to reach a target in a vast space of possibilities is an indicator of design. A sufficiently complex target that satisfies an independent specification, he argues, creates a pattern that, when observed, satisfies the Design Filter.
Uh huh. However, it’s well understood that evolution can reach a “target” (described as such only with the benefit of hindsight) with no design whatsoever — see our three-part series beginning here: The Inevitability of Evolution (Part I). Let’s read on, as the Discoveroids quote from Dembski’s “treatise”:
[Suppose] the archer paints a fixed target on the wall and then shoots at it. Suppose the archer shoots 100 arrows, and each time hits a perfect bull’s-eye. What can be concluded from this second scenario? Confronted with this occurrence, we are obligated to infer that here is a world-class archer, one whose shots cannot legitimately be attributed to luck but rather to the archer’s skill and mastery. Skill and mastery are, of course, instances of design.
[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] We continue:
So when we see evidence of skill and mastery that could not be attributed to luck, we have a reliable indicator of design. Everyone “gets” the design inference in the archery illustration, and since target shooting is popular and fun, it gives us a great way to explain design principles. You could try this in the context of a family discuss [sic] with your kids.
Yes, it might work with kids. But don’t try it in the company of evolutionary biologists. We have to skip a lot, because the Discoveroids’ post is genuinely incoherent, but here’s a bit more:
[T]o conclude, we need to consider the cases where we didn’t observe the target being hit. This is where we can use the design inference for life, the Earth, and the universe.
BWAHAHAHAHAHA! When we don’t see the designer — blessed be he! — doing his magical work to hit whatever it is we describe as the target (and we never do see him, do we?), then we can use Dembski’s wondrous inference and simply assume that the designer is responsible for hitting the target. Arbitrary target, arbitrary designer. Neat theory! Then the Discoveroids give examples of their “theory” in actual use:
The key to this design inference is to characterize the “reference class of possibilities” Dembski spoke of. When you have a large range of possibilities, but only one or a few that will work, you can infer design when you see something that is working:
1. Of the possible amino acid sequences, only a small number will fold into a functional protein.
2. Of the possible orbiting bodies, only a small number can support complex intelligent life (see our film Privileged Species for examples).
3. Of the possible parameters of physics, only a small number can support a habitable universe.
Yes! We’re here, so if we arbitrarily call that the “target,” the Discoveroids’ “theory” says the target was hit because of Oogity Boogity! Are you convinced yet, dear reader? Well, it’s complicated. In the Discoveroids’ final paragraph, they sympathize with your struggle to understand it:
Rigorous evidential, mathematical, and philosophical justification for the design inference is published in scholarly books by Dembski, Meyer, Wells, and others. It’s necessary to have that foundation for intelligent design to be a scientific theory, but some of it is above the pay grade of the layman. Consider using pithy illustrations like target shooting to help a range of people, including your kids, “get” the meaning of intelligent design.
So there you are. The Discoveroids’ “theory” may be a bit beyond your ability to understand, but they’re trying to help. If you’re still not convinced, then there’s no hope for you.
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