Discovery Institute: The Designer’s Language

Like all creation scientists, the folks at the Discovery Institute are constantly groping for evidence that their supernatural intelligent designer — blessed be he! — created the universe and everything in it. Unfortunately, they don’t know what evidence is, nor are they very skilled at reasoning.

This is abundantly obvious in the latest post at their creationist blog, Is Genome Grammar Just a Figure of Speech?, which has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Without controversy, everyone knows texts written by human beings are intelligently designed, unless they are ramblings from a maniac. Human language is characterized by syntax (rules of word order) and grammar (rules of spelling, part of speech, case, person, number, voice, tense, mood, etc.). But that’s not enough. One can follow the rules and make up nonsense sentences, such as [example of gibberish]. For effective communication, language must also make sense. That’s semantics: the communication of meaningful ideas.

Not much problem yet. Because we humans use language, which has rules, to communicate more or less intelligently, then … . You know what’s coming, don’t you? Okay, then sit back and enjoy it. They ask:

Does DNA meet these conditions? How proper is it to discuss the DNA code as a language?

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Who is communicating in the “language” of DNA? To whom is the “communication” directed? What is being “said”? Let’s read on:

We should point out that software meets the requirements of language. It, too, has rules of syntax, grammar, and semantics, even though humans do not speak it in conversation. … We must also expand the range of languages beyond the English of this paragraph to include all languages, past and present, used by humans, plus all forms of coded information (including Morse code, sign language, mathematics, and even the rope-knot language of the Incas). Rules can vary widely between languages, but they all have in common the purposeful communication of meaningful information, regardless of the substrate or carrier of the symbols used.

We agree with that, but in all of those examples, it’s always humans doing the communicating, and we understand what they’re doing. But the Discoveroids’ vision is so superior to yours that they can transcend those limitations. They continue with a brief note of caution:

Analogies can enlighten, but they can also mislead. We in intelligent design circles are prone to assume the comparison between DNA and language, but we must beware of drawing the analogy too tightly, even though most scientists unhesitatingly speak of the “genetic code” and the “language of life.”

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Yes, even though they can easily quote-mine phrases used by biologists, the Discoveroids wouldn’t dream of carrying such things too far. Or would they? Here’s more:

With these caveats in mind, we can examine the analogy between language and genomics.

They then proceed to do an ark-load of the very thing they just cautioned against, by purporting to quote Dr. Scott Barolo, a professor of cell biology at the University of Michigan. We’ll skip that material and move along:

While we still don’t fully understand the rules of DNA, the assumption of syntax and grammar appears to be a fruitful heuristic. One only has to observe how accurate [sic] the DNA software runs!

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! How do the Discoveroids measure such “accuracy”? They don’t bother to say. DNA does manage to perform certain functions — except when it doesn’t and the organism dies — but they don’t worry about that. Near the end, they present several points they think they’ve made. We’ll give you only a few of them:

Let’s take stock of the analogy between genomics and language.

• We know in human language and in software that “astonishing reliability and precision” depend strongly on sequence specificity. Unclear writing reduces information. Sloppy coding crashes or reduces functionality.

• DNA can be translated from the DNA code into the protein code. This resembles translators (whether human or machine) that can convert English into Chinese. Both have to share the same language convention.

• DNA uses molecules that symbolize or represent something else. Similarly, languages use symbols whose shapes do not necessarily represent what they mean.

Are you impressed, dear reader? No? You must be a Darwinist fool! This is their conclusion:

Human language may lack the 3-D shape and activity of DNA “letters” but shares the most important characteristic: reliable communication of information for a functional result. It also shares requirements for specificity and rules of operation. If anything, the comparison is from the lesser to the greater: if human language is designed, how much more the “astonishing reliability and precision” of the genome?

So there you are. The intelligent designer is talking to us. He (or “it”) is using the language of DNA. Are you listening? The Discoveroids are. That’s why they know so much more than you ever will.

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

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16 responses to “Discovery Institute: The Designer’s Language

  1. Christine Janis

    “Without controversy, everyone knows texts written by human beings are intelligently designed, unless they are ramblings from a maniac. ”

    Well, that’s the show stopper right there —–

  2. And if one somehow gets past the showstopper Christine Janis has highlighted, there’s an even bigger whopper from the Discoveroids when make a fallacious a fortiori argument, viz.:

    if human language is designed, how much more the “astonishing reliability and precision” of the genome?

    But of course, human language is not ‘designed’–at least, not in any sense that the DI use the term–but is the product of evolution!

  3. Every so often, we hear from a creationist that they recognize that it is wrong to argue such-and-such, and they are not making that mistake. And then go on to make that mistake, but claim that they have immunized their argument against that rebuttal.
    Actually, this is not restricted to creationists.
    What I am wondering is what is the term for this kind of claim of immunity by inoculation. “Fallacy by Homeopathy”?

  4. “DNA uses molecules that symbolize or represent something else.”

    Is it me, or does the excellent Discovery Institute blogger A. N. Onymous have this backwards? Nucleobases are represented by letters. Those molecules don’t represent something, they actually do something.

    Saying that DNA uses molecules as a symbol for something (what, exactly, isn’t described) is like saying I use my car to symbolize my drive to work.

  5. In addition to Mega: the classification system in biology that uses Evolution Theory is applied to other branches of science as well:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics#In_disciplines_other_than_biology

    Including textual criticism and historical linguistics, ie ….. language!
    Which is nothing but justice, because Lachmann’s textual criticism inspired Evolution Theory.

    http://www.livius.org/articles/theory/textual-criticism/

  6. @Mark Germano – “Those molecules don’t represent something, they actually do something. ”

    Bingo. DNA is not a code. It is not a language. It has none of the characteristics of either. As with virtually every kind of religious apologetic, this lamest of all ID arguments is based in a failure to understand the difference between language and the thing it represents.

    Just for fun, let’s all agree that Guanine now means Cytosine in “DNA code” and ask The Designer to change the molecules around. The DNA should still work fine, right? After all, the symbols in a code can be changed if the designer of the code wants to.

  7. I genuinely wonder now if the Discoveroids believe (from their intution, natch) that natural language is not the product of incremental natural evolution but is instead either (A) the result of a committee of cavemen who sat around agreeing the rules of syntax and made up a lexicon, or (B) the work of an oogity-boogity wielding Intelligent Designer? My guess is, they don’t specify–at least, not in public.

    But it’s fun to imagine the sort of ‘arguments’ they would marshall to argue that language does not arise by natural materialistic processes from earlier mammalian vocalisation but must be ‘designed’ (in their sense). Maybe something like:

    No tornado blowing through a troop of howler monkeys has ever produced a Shakespearean sonnet

  8. michaelfugate

    Thanks Mark, well said. If words were chemical reactions, they might be on to something.

  9. In case anyone still needed proof, the basic Discoveroid argument, as told by
    A. N. Onymous, is “I don’t understand it, therefore the Sky Fairy did it”.

  10. docbill1351

    This sounds like it was written by Annie Green Screen. It’s incoherent, not well thought out, contains both logical and factual errors and is one, big, sloppy mess.

    Certainly, it’s not a mean-spirited, nasty little bolus flung by the Klickerflicker.

    Also, not an Attack Gerbil rerun classic, so that lets out Savvy Sarah.

  11. Megalonyx, IDers are almost all of the persuasion that believes that all modern languages were created by God at the fall of the Tower of Babel, and are all pidgin versions of a more ancient, pure tongue spoken by Adam and Eve. If they think about it at all beyond, “It’s a thing in the world, ergo Goddidit.”

  12. Clearly the DI is onto something here. I think they should determine which atoms, in what configuration, within the DNA molecule specify a particular “letter” of the DNA language. They then should assign that sub-molecule (if I can make up a term?) a symbol of their own devising. Repeat this process for every small group of atoms comprising every possible symbol in the DNA molecule, recognizing that no two DNA molecules are alike.

    They can then interpret each symbol for us, telling us what it means, and how it fits into sentences and paragraphs, and what the rules of the grammar are, etc.

    Who knows, maybe they’ll discover something interesting. At least it will keep them busy for another century or two.

  13. I believe that every human language has categories of words such as nouns and verbs. More interesting, I believe that every human language has metaphors. And questions. And something like tenses, aspects or moods.

  14. The anonymous ID creationist says (paper bag over the head) “unless they are ramblings from a maniac. “. Who better to know about the ramblings of a maniac thaan an unidentified tuter? Westie is that you???
    Next we hear “Analogies can enlighten, but they can also mislead. We in intelligent design circles , blah, blah, blah”…Yes ! The unknown paper bag creationist fails to mention in crop circles, psychiatric wards and 3rd grade
    can be included in this august group of thinkers.

  15. Eric Lipps

    Human language may lack the 3-D shape and activity of DNA “letters” but shares the most important characteristic: reliable communication of information for a functional result. It also shares requirements for specificity and rules of operation. If anything, the comparison is from the lesser to the greater: if human language is designed, how much more the “astonishing reliability and precision” of the genome?

    Ah, yes—the reliability and precision which guarantee that every single human being alive carries several mutations, and which allow cancer to develop. But I suppose the latter is due to our “sin nature.”

  16. If human language permitted writers to compose texts with the reliability and precision claimed by the unknown writer, and if the creator really did dictate the Bible to such writers, then there would exist only one religion in the world.