Discovery Institute Proves Their Design Filter

This one from the Discovery Institute is painful to read. It’s about a familiar feature of their peculiar version of creationism, William Dembski’s Design Inference. It’s the means by which the Discoveroids use their “theory” of intelligent design to detect the existence of a transcendent designer of the universe. Our all-time favorite example of its application is Mt. Rushmore Is Designed, Therefore … .

They claim that their filter is a “scientific” tool that is useful in a number of different fields, including archeology — see Rock Mounds Are Designed, Therefore …. The last time we wrote about it was shortly after Dembski’s departure from the Discovery Institute: Discovery Institute Descends into Incoherence.

That incoherence is very much in evidence today in the latest post at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog: A Design False Positive? Applying the Design Filter in Archaeology. It has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Off the coast of a Greek island, snorkelers found structures that resemble human artifacts. Some look like pottery, others like pipes. There even appear to be paved courtyards. Were these treasures from a sunken ship, or remains from a town that became submerged after a tidal wave? Archaeologists from two universities went to investigate.

Wowie — a scientific mystery! But it’s no mystery to the Discoveroids. They say:

We’ve considered cases before [links omitted] of odd formations that didn’t look designed but were judged by archaeologists to be man-made structures. Here’s a case of the opposite: features that look designed at the outset, but left room for doubt. Can William Dembski’s famous Design Filter rescue us from a case of mistaken identity?

Can the Discoveroids’ filter solve this abominable mystery off the coast of a Greek island? Let’s read on:

As they gathered data, the geological explanation became clearer:

1. The lack of other evidences of human artifacts was unexpected if this were a city port.

2. The linear distribution suggested association with a fault line.


4. Isotopic data fit the theory that these were natural concretions. ….

For these and other reasons, the scientists rejected the design hypothesis and attributed these structures to natural causes.

Then what’s the problem? We don’t see one, but the Discoveroids continue with several mind-bending paragraphs that we’ll skip because they’re totally incoherent. Then they say:

Here’s another interesting test case from some pictures sent along by our old friend David Coppedge. [Hee hee!] Along the shores of Lake Crowley in eastern California, he photographed a series of regularly spaced columns that look, for all the world, like the remains of an ancient temple. Quite amazing. See the photo at the top. Each column is further composed of regularly spaced disks of stone. The width, spacing and regularity of these structures are remarkable.

Where is this going? We’re told:

We know these are not designed, however, for a combination of reasons. … Additionally, geological theories exist to explain these formations by natural causes. … None of these reasons is alone sufficient for rejecting design, but according to Dembski’s design filter, a natural cause is preferred when available and when the amount of specified complexity is low.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Nonsensical, isn’t it? In all modesty, we remind you of a post we wrote almost four years ago, Rethinking Paley’s Watchmaker Analogy, in which — at least to our satisfaction — we demolished the Discoveroids’ fictional design filter. You can look at that later if you like. Meanwhile, here’s more from the Discoveroids:

One last example comes from Spain. Look at National Geographic’s picture of “mysterious stone circles” found a thousand feet inside the entrance of Bruniquel Cave. Though not elaborate, the ring of broken stalactites contains sufficient specified complexity for archaeologists to infer design. They believe Neanderthals who inhabited the area built the structure for unknown reasons. … [S]cientists felt justified in inferring that the stones were placed deliberately by beings with cognitive abilities and acting with purpose. Natural law and chance were thereby rejected.

What does Dembski’s magic filter have to do with that? It’s all explained in their final paragraph:

Archaeology is intelligent design in action. Archaeologists routinely distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes. A design inference may be drawn with rigor, avoiding hasty conclusions. But if the paltry level of organization seen in a ring of stalactites is sufficient for a design inference, how much more the genetic code of a microbe, containing vast amounts of complex specified information?

So there you are. We have no idea how to make any sense of what they said, but they seem to be claiming that archeology is totally dependent on their magic design filter. It works! And if it works in archeology, it also works for everything else. That’s how they know that their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — is responsible for the universe, the Earth, life, and even you, dear reader.

Copyright © 2016. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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22 responses to “Discovery Institute Proves Their Design Filter

  1. “Additionally, geological theories exist to explain these formations by natural causes.”

    Also, biological theories exist to explain the origin of species by natural causes.

  2. And how about them crystals? You can’t convince they just growed! Why the odds of them just assembling themselves must be astronomical!

  3. Didn’t God make all things?

  4. michaelfugate

    In the case of the Discovery Institute, intelligence is unnatural.

  5. Derek Freyberg

    And what about the Devil’s Postpile (California) and a similar formation on the coast of Ireland, with hexagonal rods of stone like pencils in a case? In two different places, too – must be designed (in each case by cooling of molten rock, shrinking as it cooled and set.)

  6. docbill1351

    Some years ago Dr. “Unemployed” Dumbski posted that he had given up on his “famous” Nixplanatory Filter for the simple reason it didn’t work. Well, no duh, Sherlock!

    As for the Devil’s Postpile, I wrote about it some time ago but I was hiking with a geologist (one) and there was a National Park display (two) that explained the entire thing. I don’t recall the phrase “Nixplanatory Filter” being used.

  7. “the scientists rejected the design hypothesis and attributed these structures to natural causes”
    Yeah, OK, but how exactly did they use the Dumbsky’s Design Filter? To quote Wikipedia:

    “The processes in which regularity, chance, and design are ruled out one by one until one remains as a reasonable and sufficient explanation for an event.”
    From what I read of the Discotute piece

    “microbes taking the methane for a function of extracting energy.”
    They did not rule out anything one by one, but looked for and found additional empirical data that rejects human design and confirms another. So the answer to this question

    “Can William Dembski’s famous Design Filter rescue us from a case of mistaken identity?”
    is no idea as the scientists involved didn’t use it.

    Dear SC, have you run out of drool lately? Somehow you missed

    “While it’s true that the microbes did not design the overall shape of the structures, or their linear arrangements, the concretions might not have been produced without the complex specified information in the genomes of the microbes.”
    Yeah! Information! In microbes!
    This is great. All living things have genomes. All genomes contain information. Information is not possible without an Intelligent Designer. Hence all empirical data with living things involved prove IDiocy. QED.

  8. “the amount of specified complexity is low”
    Drool indeed – because that’s how IDiots quantify that amount.

    “how much more the genetic code of a microbe, containing vast amounts of complex specified information?”
    Indeed, how much? How are you IDiots going to measure and calculate it? I am waiting in eager anticipation. Oh wait – I have been waiting for many years now.

  9. You may want to put a “(sic)” after “stalactites” in your quote of the article, since what was found were actually stalagmites, as stated in the article they themselves link to.

    “C” for Ceiling, “G” for Ground. This ain’t hard, Discotute.

  10. Good catch, dweller42. But you spotted it, so I’ll let your comment address the issue.

  11. The Ghostbusters also used a spirit detector much like Dembski’s filter and based on the same mathematical principles as Dembski’s. It’s guaranteed to distinguish between natural causes and intelligent causes. The more it lights up, the higher the information specificity and the more likely one has an intelligent designer hit.

    Also, given the substance of this article, it’s no wonder no author to this dumb article has been identified by the Dishonesty Institute. It’s like spam or junk mail.

  12. Just a day too late I spotted this, thanks to a commenter on Jeffrey’s Shallitt’s site:

    It deals with intriguing questions like

    -Can we find dinos in the Bible?
    -Are there strong arguments for evolution?

    and the excellent “Christ saves us from evolution.”

    Good stuff for quiet days, I say!

    Oooohhh! Breaking news! Can’t wait to share it. Just can’t. Sorry for getting totally off topic, dear SC, but I’m sure you want to know it. It’s from May 20th, so quite recent.

    The replica of the Ark of Noah will leave The Netherlands.

    It will head for South-America.
    Again we Dutchies beat the USA. I’m so proud! OK, credit were credit is due – they do it in cooperation with Ark of Noah Foundation, Pasadena California. I googled it:

    Still I wallow in pride, because board member Herald Janssen obviously is of Dutch descent as well.
    Alas it’s a bummer that it will travel by pontoon or transport ship. Come one, which creationist can do better?

  13. mnb0 says: “Again we Dutchies beat the USA. I’m so proud!”

    I agree. You’re number one in ark-ology.

  14. How does one prove that the structures, no matter how natural they appear to be, were not designed? A designer can make anything, whether it has complex specified information or not.

  15. I’d like for the Discovery Institute’s staff archeologist (you know, the one that visited all of the sites mentioned above) to weigh in on the matter.

  16. michaelfugate

    The DI would be so much more hip if they had a Intelligent Design Detection Unit (IDDU – or I-Do) like David K’s picture from the Ghostbusters. Can you imagine if they could point it at an object in schools and read out a design probability index?

  17. michaelfugate says: “The DI would be so much more hip if they had a Intelligent Design Detection Unit”

    I invented one years ago — see The Curmudgeon’s Design Detector.

  18. michaelfugate

    And the DI never stole it? What were they thinking?

  19. dweller42

    “C” for Ceiling, “G” for Ground.

    Alternatively, mites grow up and tights fall down.

  20. Eric Lipps

    Wikipedia has a detailed article on specified complexity which is not kind to Dembski. Among the many things creationists wouldn’t like about this article is that it presents a simple model explaining how life can indeed gain information as organisms reproduce and are culled by their environments.

  21. @Ed
    a designer can make anything
    I beg to differ. A designer can design anything. It takes a maker to implement the design. And some designs are beyond the capabilities of makers: a Penrose triangle, etc.

  22. Bwbach, that is beautiful.