Discoveroids: The Design Intuition Is Ancient

Cicero denounces Catiline

We used the picture above this post a few years ago, when it was relevant to what we wrote in Barbara Forrest Demolishes a Creationist. That was undoubtedly seen by the creationists at the Discovery Institute, and they’ve been waiting for an occasion when they could use it. It’s been a long wait, because the Discoveroids — being stealth creationists engaged in a conspiracy to overthrow science — never have a legitimate opportunity to denounce anyone — as Cicero did in his Orations against Catiline.

The Discoveroids still haven’t found the right subject matter, but they’ve decided to use that picture anyway. You can see it displayed above the latest post at their creationist blog: Intelligent Design, from Cicero to Kant. It was written by Sarah Chaffee, whom we call “Savvy Sarah.” Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us.

Lest anyone think that discussion of what Doug Axe calls the universal design intuition dates back only as far as the modern ID movement, James Gallant supplies some relevant historical references (Modernity and metaphysics).

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! Who cares how many ancient writers said something about what they perceived as design in nature? The Discoveroids need more than their “intuition” and some old literary hunches. They need data — observable, verifiable data that contradicts the theory of evolution — but that’s what they don’t have. Nevertheless, they’re doing the best they can with whatever they can scrounge up, and Savvy Sarah’s post is a good example of that. She says:

From Etienne Gilson to Alfred North Whitehead to Immanuel Kant, he catalogues a series of arguments for design in nature. Although quite a few of his citations are to the writings of natural theologians (and thus to a divine designer), many talk simply about mind and thus overlap with ID, which cannot determine whether design is from a natural or supernatural source.

After a lot of quotes from Gallant’s article, and some Discoveroid commentary, Savvy Sarah declares:

So how does the science work? Intelligent design theorists utilize the scientific method to come to their conclusions: Scientists begin by observing what human intelligence creates — namely, information that is both complex (unlikely) and specified (matches a given pattern). Next, these scientists analyze natural objects to see if they contain these elements. Those objects suspected to exhibit design are subjected to tests to see if they really do contain complex and specified information (for example, genetic knockout tests demonstrate the irreducibly complexity of the bacterial flagellum). Finally, scientists conclude that items displaying specified complexity are products of intelligent design. These investigations have resulted in numerous scientific articles [link to articles at Discoveroid websites by Discoveroid authors] in favor of intelligent design.

Very impressive. Let’s skip to near the end, where Cicero is dragged into this mess:

Though this science is new, the argument for intelligent design is not. In fact, Cicero wrote, “Can any sane person believe that all this array of stars and this vast celestial adornment could have been created out of atoms rushing to and fro fortuitously and at random? Or could any other being devoid of intelligence and reason have created them?” Darwin himself sought to overcome his own design intuition. A century and a half later, the evidence confirming that intuition keeps getting stronger.

That’s it, dear reader. That’s the Discoveroids’ best case for intelligent design. Poor ol’ Cicero. He was a splendid Roman, and he doesn’t deserve to be associated with the Discoveroids.

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

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17 responses to “Discoveroids: The Design Intuition Is Ancient

  1. Mmmmm, ID, scientific AND historophilosophicocultulturific, now with added Cicero!

  2. “For with what eyes of the mind was your Plato able to see that workhouse of such stupendous toil, in which he makes the world to be modelled and built by God? What materials, what bars, what machines, what servants, were employed in so vast a work? How could the air, fire, water, and earth, pay obedience and submit to the will of the architect? From whence arose those five forms, of which the rest were composed, so aptly contributing to frame the mind and produce the senses? It is tedious to go through all, as they are of such a sort that they look more like things to be desired than to be discovered.”
    Cicero, On the Nature of the Gods, Book I, section 19

    “Can you also, Lucullus, affirm that there is any power united with wisdom and prudence which has made, or, to use your own expression, manufactured man? What sort of a manufacture is that? Where is it exercised? when? why? how?”
    Cicero, Academica, Book II (Entitled Lucullus), Chapter XXVII, section 87

  3. Nothing intuit about ID, its properly called IGNORANCE!!! And ID continues to be nothing but willful ignorance!!!

  4. It would take an IDer or a straight-up creationist to argue seriously that ancient provenance was evidence for the truth of a proposition.

  5. And here is the intuition voiced by Ennius, about a century older than Cicero:
    “The simian, vilest of beasts, how similar to us.”
    As quoted by Cicero in “The Nature of the Gods” Book I, Chapter XXXV

  6. Take a look at the antiquity of the concept of irreducible complexity as documented in the Wikipedia article on “Irreducible complexity”.
    Only that in the 18th century, it was used to argue for preformationism – that is, against reproduction. It is not just a joke to bring up Scientific Storkism.

  7. Holding The Line In Florida

    “So how does the science work? Intelligent design theorists utilize the scientific method to come to their conclusions”: Replace “Intelligent design theorists” with “Ancient Alien Theorists.” No difference! The IDiots get their method from the Hysterical Channel’s premier show.

  8. Savvy Sarah’s word salad boils down to this:

    “Looks designed to me. Next!”

    That lovely paragraph by Savvy only serves to demonstrate that she has no idea what science is or how it works. Not surprising given her educational background and where she now works as Junior Apprentice Attack Gerbil. At this rate it’s going to take her a decade to earn her stripes.

  9. The “design intuition” fits into the same category as “intuitions” that the earth is flat or that it’s at the center of the universe and everything else revolves around it, notions that even (most) creationists reject despite their being endorsed by the Word of God.

  10. So bad, even KevinC won’t defend it.

  11. Scientists begin by observing what human intelligence creates — namely, information that is both complex (unlikely) and specified (matches a given pattern). Next, these scientists analyze natural objects to see if they contain these elements.

    First off, “scientists” definitely do not do this, and I doubt even ID creationists do this. ID creationists, like all human beings over the age of about 5, are aware than humans design and make things. It is, however, rather humorous to imagine Sarah and the Kling sitting in an office trying to observe what human intelligence might create, not having any in the vicinity.

    Secondly, ID creationists begin with the conclusion that whatever it is that they want to use in their apologetics “contains these elements” – they do not analyze it to see if it does or does not. They have no method to “analyze” something in the first place, they simply make up odds against this or that feature occurring naturally as part of their creative writing exercise. Most importantly, they never disclose their calculations of the odds of the design alternative (presumably more likely than their made-up odds for natural occurrences) – nor their basis for concluding that designers even exist and what they are. I can do this too – I propose that the odds against the tree in front of my house being struck by lightning are 1000:1, therefore it will be felled in the night by a roving gang of leprechauns.

    The entire process is to start with an answer and work backwards and hope no one asks too many questions.

    Finally, whether or not humans create stuff has no bearing whatsoever on whether some natural object is designed. If ID creationists actually did what they say they do, they would be dumber than fenceposts. They know full well, for example, that the DNA (as an example) in any living organism had a natural origin in a reproductive act. They know that the parent’s DNA had a similarly natural origin, ad infinitum. So what if humans design cars or program computers – what is the relevance?

    To imagine that something that is “irreducibly complex” is not natural demonstrates a paucity of imagination.

  12. Charles Deetz ;)

    Intuition works equally well when inventing a perpetual motion machine. And an appeal to others who have said that perpetual motion machines are possible doesn’t help one bit.

  13. The “design intuition” is also psychologically natural and observed in children from both secular and religious households–peaking at about 9 years old in one study.

    Meaning of course, that the design intuition was merely first articulated and recorded by the examples cited by Savvy. As an “intuition” it is as old as the biologically modern brain of homo sapiens.

    If the IDers where aware of the psychological studies regarding their beliefs (which either they are not or they ignore), I’m sure we’d be seeing posts parroting the sentiment of “out of the mouth of babes.”

  14. Cicero, in the passage Sarah quotes, is obviously attacking the views expressed by his contemporary Lucretius, although I am not sure if Cicero had Lucretius personally in mind, or atomists in general (TomS?).

    Which reminds me of the bizarre claim made by Saint Jerome that Lucretius had been driven insane by a love potion, and that Cicero wrote his books for him, rather like Bacon wrote Shakespeare

  15. “On the Nature of the Gods” (De natura deorum) is an imaginary dialogue between three proponents of the principal philosophical schools of Cicero’s day. The first book is devoted to the Epicurean, the second (from which this quote is taken), is the Stoic, and the third, the Skeptic. As to whether we can assign any of the opinions to any particular person – or, in this case, against any particular person – I don’t know.

  16. Interesting, TomS. Lucretius, De natura rerum, ca. 55 BCE. Cicero, De natura deorum some 10 years later, and we know (disclosure; I know from Wikipedia!) that Cicero referred to Lucretius by name elsewhere.

    I thought Lucretius was usually classified as Epicurian, rather than Stoic, although the two did overlap and Sarah’s quoted passage, “Can any sane person believe that all this array of stars and this vast celestial adornment could have been created out of atoms rushing to and fro fortuitously and at random?” is an attack, if not on Lucretius personally, certainly on the world view he espoused.

    Was the passage Sarah quoted written in Cicero’s own persona? What about the conflicting passages that TomS quoted? Or is Cicero expounding each view as eloquently as possible, and leaving it to the reader to make an informed choice?

    If Cicero was not speaking for himself where she quotes him, we can add quotemining and philosophical ignorance to her crime sheet.

  17. Sorry, I wasn’t clear. The passage quoted was said in the name of the Stoic in response to the opinion of the Epicurean. As I understand it, Cicero was expounding each view as eloquently as possible.
    But IMHO, the argument against Epicureans is a good argument. It really is not a plausible position to say that it’s all a matter of chance. Whether or not Cicero found that argument definitive, it is worth quoting. Cicero is worth quoting because of his skill in language. Shakespeare is worth quoting, irrespective of what Shakespeare really believed.