Discovery Institute Abducts Fred Hoyle

Discovery Institute “fellow” Michael Flannery has just posted Fred Hoyle: Intelligent Design Advocate at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog. Flannery is some kind of librarian at the University of Alabama, and he’s also an adjunct instructor of history and sociology — splendid qualifications for a Discoveroid.

Flannery plays the Hitler card — see Discovery Institute: Hitler, Hitler, Hitler, Part VI. Further, he wrote a biography of Alfred Wallace, which was published by — who else? — the Discovery Institute Press. He’s also skilled at other creationist techniques — see More Discoveroid Quote Mining by Michael Flannery. Okay, you know what we’re dealing with. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

I would like to correct a common misconception about the astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle. It is widely known that Hoyle was a proponent of panspermia, the notion of intergalactic “seeding” of planet Earth advocated by a number of atheists such as Francis Crick and Professor Brig Klyce. But it is important to recognize that panspermia need not be tantamount to an end-run around theism to a negation of God.

The Wikipedia article on Fred Hoyle informs us that he was an astronomer who also wrote some decent science fiction. His scientific work (e.g., Stellar nucleosynthesis) was sufficiently outstanding to win him several honors, including a knighthood. Hoyle was an advocate of the Steady State theory, a credible alternative to the Big Bang theory — until the cosmic microwave background radiation was detected, which was consistent only with the Big Bang. Unfortunately, Hoyle never abandoned Steady State, even when the evidence was against him.

We must digress for a moment to discuss the Discoveroids’ teach the controversy campaign — an argument that public school teachers should have the “academic freedom” to present intelligent design as an alternative to evolution. If intelligent design were a legitimate scientific theory as viable as evolution, no such campaign would be necessary. Both would be taught. To illustrate this, back when Big Bang and Steady State were both viable theories, they were both taught — no public relations campaign or legislation was needed. Now that astronomers and cosmologists have decided the issue — based on verifiable evidence — no one teaches the discredited Steady State theory in high school, and no one argues that Steady State should still be taught so the kiddies will be free to choose the universe they prefer. Okay, end of digression.

Despite the good work he did, and aside from clinging to the Steady State theory, Hoyle is probably best known for his famous junkyard tornado analogy, which is forever quoted by creationists. He reminds us of the joke about Pierre the Bridge Builder. You probably know about Pierre — if not, you can Google the phrase.

Okay, back to the Discoveroid post. Flannery just told us that Hoyle’s advocacy of panspermia wasn’t “an end-run around theism to a negation of God.” Then he says:

Hoyle is often regarded as a panspermia atheist, and his book The Intelligent Universe (1983) [Amazon link] is cited as evidence for this alleged “fact.” Nevertheless, a careful reading of that fascinating book suggests otherwise. While Hoyle did argue for a version of panspermia, he insisted that “The origin of the Universe…requires an intelligence,” and he devoted an entire chapter to this topic.

[*Begin Drool Mode*] Ooooooooooooh! [*End Drool Mode*] Then Flannery says:

He further stated, “Even after widening the stage for the origin of life from our tiny Earth to the Universe at large, we must still return to the same problem that opened this book — the vast unlikelihood that life, even on a cosmic scale, arose from non-living matter.”

Alas, that seems to be what Hoyle said. No quote-mining is necessary. The Wikipedia article on Hoyle says:

Though Hoyle declared himself an atheist, this apparent suggestion of a guiding hand led him to the conclusion that “a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and … there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.” He would go on to compare the random emergence of even the simplest cell without panspermia to the likelihood that “a tornado sweeping through a junk-yard might assemble a Boeing 747 from the materials therein” and to compare the chance of obtaining even a single functioning protein by chance combination of amino acids to a solar system full of blind men solving Rubik’s Cubes simultaneously.

That’s why the Discoveroids like Hoyle. Flannery finishes his brief post with this:

I would argue that far from being an atheist, Hoyle was in his own way an ID advocate who believed in a form of classical panentheism.

Flannery seems unaware that he just declared intelligent design to a form of theism. Anyway, the Discoveroids are claiming Hoyle as one of their own. It’s risk-free for them to do so. Hoyle died in 2001; he won’t put up much of a fight.

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

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8 responses to “Discovery Institute Abducts Fred Hoyle

  1. michaelfugate

    Doesn’t the creation model as proposed in Genesis require that life “arose from non-living matter”.

    Genesis 2:7 “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

  2. “Unfortunately, Hoyle never abandoned Steady State, even when the evidence was against him.”
    On this small point, dear SC, I must disagree with you. I think it is excellent that, even when most of the evidence apparently clearly points one way, proponents of other ways continue to search diligently for alternative interpretations of the evidence. Would our confidence in any scientific consensus be justified, were it not so?
    As to panspermia, while adding life as an abiding feature of the steady state universe from everlasting to endless years the same was favoured by Hoyle, it seems to me an unnecessary complication of the theory. The laws of physics and chemistry are compatible with the spontaneous occurrence on perhaps rare suitable planets. Since new planets continually arise in either a steady-state or big-bang universe, there need be no difference in the origin(s) of life.
    I will add, in case anybody doesn’t already know, that it was Hoyle who introduced the term “big bang” as a mocking name for his disprefered hypothesis.

  3. Mighty hand of correction, please, in spite of my heresy, help me.
    My attempted sentence “As to panspermia, while adding life as an abiding feature of the steady state universe from everlasting to endless years the same, it seems to me an unnecessary complication of the theory” cannot stand. Maybe change ” years the same, it seems to me” to ” years the same was favoured by Hoyle, it seems to me”. Maybe I must in support of the spelling appeal to the fact that Hoyle was British, rather than just that I am.

    [*Voice from above*] As you wish, so it shall be.

  4. But it is important to recognize that panspermia need not be tantamount to an end-run around theism to a negation of God.

    Ah, but it does lead to a negation of the claim that we are so special, that life now only exists on Earth, the most unique planet in the whole universe, whereas panspermia implies the existence of life everywhere.

  5. “Flannery seems unaware ….” The defining characteristic of ID, n’est-ce pas?

  6. Dave Luckett

    Fred Hoyle, may he rest in peace, was all his life a relentless questing intellect, and no respecter of the status quo, the consensus, or the orthodox majority. A born contrarian, and you need such people. Towards the end of his career, like others before and since, he became more so, and less able to evaluate evidence that didn’t favour his ideas. He also ventured far outside his field of expertise. All of which would make him no friend of the DI, were he alive to deny it, any more than Newton or Pasteur or any of the giants claimed by creationists as their own.

  7. Hoyle was definitely a contrarian. My first “real” book on astronomy that wasn’t written for children was Hoyle’s “Frontiers of Astronomy”, which is still on my shelf. He brings up the big bang theory toward the end of the book, and argues for a steady state universe. He did so in his usual lucid style.

    In a way, Hoyle’s rejection of a creation moment for the universe is a rejection of an intelligent designer. If the universe always was, then it could not have been created.

    It’s also a little odd that the DI would be eager to adopt someone who was proven wrong on such a major issue.

  8. If I recall correctly, one of Hoyle’s arguments in favour of a steady state universe was his probabilistic argument against the origin of life, since an infinitely old universe, in which anything possible, however improbable, could plausibly have happened, resolved that problem