A Lesson in Discoveroid Debate Tactics

This is about a nonsensical article at the creationist blog of the Discovery Institute, but it’s useful if we ignore the substance of their claims (of which there is none) and focus instead on their methodology. The title is On the Origin of Brains, and it has no author’s byline. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Brains first make their appearance in the Cambrian explosion. Beware, your own brain may explode when you hear how Darwin defenders explain their origin.

The article is a primitive attack on “Darwin defenders,” written by evolution deniers — i.e., creationists — but they don’t describe themselves, only their adversaries. They say:

Consider for a moment how complex even a simple brain is.

What follows is a big paragraph describing the brain’s complexity. Yes, brains are complex, but that doesn’t prove, or even suggest, that brains are miraculous. Yet that’s the unspoken suggestion. Then they tell us:

Current Biology this month has a special section on the origin of brains. The authors commit the same blunders we saw just days ago [link to a Discoveroid article we ignored]: (1) they appeal only to unguided natural processes, (2) they rely on magic words, and (3) they ignore arguments and evidence for design of the type Stephen Meyer presents in Darwin’s Doubt. Brains just explode into existence — no intelligence required!

The “blunders” — restated — are these: (1) scientists don’t refer to supernatural processes; (2) they use “magic words” — which turn out to be words like “evolve” — a well-understood, totally natural process; and (3) they ignore the scribbling of a Discoveroid. Grievous blunders indeed! Then they superficially discuss an article in Current Biology, which is The Basal Ganglia Over 500 Million Years (no subscription required), by Sten Grillner and Brita Robertson.

The Discoveroids quote one paragraph, and use bold font to emphasize things like: “have evolved,” “these circuits were most likely already present at the dawn of vertebrate evolution,” and “At this time, many of the molecular components of nerve cells had been designed (through evolution) …” Having exposed those “blunders,” the Discoveroids declare:

This kind of language conceals rather than enlightens. The authors simply assume evolution: “Cyclostomes [’round mouths’ or jawless fish] have evolved,” they assert, demanding unquestioned affirmation. They refer to “the appearance of” and “the origin of” complex animals without asking how that happened. Then they present a list of complex machinery involved in brain cells, informing us that at the very time all the animal phyla abruptly appeared, these things “had been designed (through evolution).” It’s enough to make your brain hurt.

Does your brain hurt, dear reader? Well, deal with it. Moving along, the Discoveroids use the same technique a few more times. Then they jump to another article in Current Biology and say:

[The authors] are fond of saying that complex things “have evolved.” We count ten instances in their Current Biology piece about “The Evolution of Biological Image Stabilization.”

Gasp — ten instances! The Discoveroids even quote all ten of them. Those Darwinists are outrageous! Skipping over more of the same, they announce:

Understanding takes hard work. It’s much easier just to stipulate what you want to believe.

Yes. That’s why the Discoveroids always declare that such things are the handiwork of their intelligent designer — blessed be he! And now we come to the end:

If you’ve got a headache by now, relax and consider that the failure of these articles to address Meyer’s critique of Darwinian explanations for the Cambrian explosion constitutes strong affirmation that his critique is sound. If they had better evidence and arguments, they surely would provide them.

So there you have it, dear reader — a classic example of Discoveroid “science.” They have discovered nothing, disproved nothing, and demonstrated no evidence for their “theory” of intelligent design. They certainly haven’t explained the origin of brains. Yet this is the nonsense they they want students to see when teachers have the “academic freedom” to “teach both sides” of the alleged “controversy” about evolution.

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

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13 responses to “A Lesson in Discoveroid Debate Tactics

  1. I think the term a psychologist would use is projection. The scientists use “magic words” talking about actual evidence. The mystical sky fairy (blessed be he/she/it) did it, somehow, isn’t magic to the creationists.

  2. michaelfugate

    Meyer’s alternative is? oh right magic, I forgot.

  3. I love the idea that all these biologists ignored Meyer’s “critique of Darwinian explanations” because they’ve been stumped by it. Presumably they’ve ignored the critiques offered by Ken Ham and Ray Comfort for the same reason.

  4. michaelfugate

    I am curious how viewing humans a machines fit with human exceptionalism? If one were to use how we humans (acting as God’s image, of course) treat the machines we build, then what would one conclude about our supposed creator relationship with it creation? Such are the wonders of apologetics.

  5. From the abstract: “Transmitters, connectivity and membrane properties are
    virtually identical in lamprey and rodent basal ganglia.” That sounds like evidence of common descent to me!

    “We predict that the basal ganglia contains a series
    of modules each controlling a given pattern of behaviour including locomotion, eye-movements, posture,
    and chewing that contain both the direct pathway to release a motor program and the indirect pathway to
    inhibit competing behaviours.” “We predict”? Sounds like hypothesis testing [aka science] to me!

  6. …But…but…the Discoveroids don’t think ‘evolution’ is a “magic word” if it is prefixed by ‘micro-‘.

    It’s a bit like saying, “I’ll allow that running water can carve out a simple stream bed — that’s just micro-erosion — but carve out the Grand Canyon? Naw, that must have taken some serious Oogity-Boogity!”

  7. I am putting myself on the Naughty Chair for the rest of the day for yet again screwing up my html tag thingies, of which I am consistently guilty of Unintelligent Application… 😦

    [*Voice from above*] Neanderthal fingers were not made for typing.

  8. I love it that ID apologists expect scientists to prove evolution happened every time they use the term. Perhaps the ID crowd could set an example for scientists and prove design happened every time they use the term in one of their arguments.

    Problem is, of course, they’ve never proven design happened.

  9. What Ed writes – it’s like we have to prove gravity every time we watch a high jump competition.

  10. @Ed
    I must disagree. The problem is that they have never described what design is. How design accounts for something. Why the super-natural resorts to design to make the natural behave. (Rather than just create the natural world the right way in the first place.)

  11. @michaelfugate

    If one were to use how we humans (acting as God’s image, of course) treat the machines we build, then what would one conclude about our supposed creator relationship with it’s creation?

    That is absolutely brilliant, and leads me to this epiphany:

    Our world and an all that is in it is ol’ Yaweh’s DEMOLITION DERBY.

    That explains everything, including our current presidential campaign. Oy!

  12. The Discovery Institute loses credibility on every post, but they make it up on volume.

  13. The *Voice from above* thunders from on high:

    Neanderthal fingers were not made for typing.

    Verily, that is so!

    But there are some wonderful compensations–as Olivia daily reminds me–in possessing some XXXL Neanderthal-sized appendages…