The Discoveroids and Their Design Filter

We’ve written several times about the Discovery Institute’s Magic Filter. 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 “secular scientists” routinely use Discoveroid methodology, but won’t admit it, because that would somehow unmask the fraud of “Darwinism.” For example, see Aliens & the Discoveroids’ Design Filter, and also Discoveroids: Salmon Can Navigate, Therefore …, and also Intelligent Design Is Science: Cryptology Uses It.

The problem is that the Discoveroids don’t have a design filter. When they see something they already know is the product of design (like Mt. Rushmore), they say it’s designed. When they want something to be the product of design (like DNA), they declare that it is. When they don’t want design (as with alien signals) they say the signals are natural. In all those cases they start with their conclusion and then retrospectively claim that their design filter told them so.

Today, without realizing it, they’re exposing the fraud of their filter. Their new article, with no author’s by-line, is Bad Design Inferences Can Land Innocent People in Jail. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

We’ve noted forensic science in previous discussions of sciences that show intelligent design in action (along with archaeology, informatics, cryptology, and others). … Crime labs routinely piece together clues to separate natural from intelligent causes in murder cases, and calculate the probabilities that clues are not due to chance.

Yes, even Sherlock Holmes used the Discoveroids’ design filter. Then they say:

When there is strong motivation to find a particular outcome, however, forensics can not only yield wrong answers, but put innocent people in jail.

Gasp — the design filter isn’t infallible! Its findings can be distorted by an investigator’s motivations. They tell us:

Courtrooms have long trusted forensic analysts as expert witnesses. Highly motivated prosecuting attorneys try to wring confident assertions from their expert witnesses about DNA matches to a suspect, ammunition links to his weapon, and the like. Often, defense attorneys lack the expertise to counter the assertions, and a jury can be swayed by what appears to be strong evidence of guilt.

Is it possible that “highly motivated” creationists could try to wring design implications from natural occurrences, and gullible people could be “swayed by what appears to be strong evidence of” guilt design? The Discoveroids seem untroubled by that concept. After discussing a few instances of people who were wrongfully convicted of crimes, they say:

Would these errors have been prevented by proper application of the Design Filter? As with criminal justice, natural causes are “innocent till proven guilty” of intelligent design. The burden of proof is on the forensic analyst to show that a given phenomenon could not have happened by chance. Only through sufficiently small probabilities can chance be eliminated.

Interesting. They place the burden of proof on their design filter, and then they claim that they always meet that burden:

One major boost for certainty in a design inference is the magnitude of the improbability of chance. In their recent film Origin, Illustra Media used Biologic Institute scientist Doug Axe’s calculation of chance generating a single functional protein of 100 amino acids in length, under ideal conditions, as 1 in 10 to the 161st power. Such an inconceivable number exceeds William Dembski’s “Universal Probability Bound” (1 in 10 to the 150th power) by 11 orders of magnitude — 100 billion times less probable. Clearly, if something is so improbable it will never ever happen in the entire universe, it’s not going to happen if it is 100 billion times less probable!

Very impressive! But it’s something we previously described. When a creationist babbles about “the odds” against life, or DNA, or any complex structure appearing as a result of “random” forces, that’s their ever-popular strawman — the Theory of Spontaneous Assembly of Very Complex Molecules from Start to Finish from Utterly Isolated Atoms — commonly known as TSAVCMSFUIA.

Would Axe’s calculations withstand rigorous cross-examination? The Discoveroids respond to that question:

A sharp defense attorney might cross-examine the forensic analysis with pointed questions: How do you know it is that improbable? How was this figure calculated? Axe would explain his methods for measuring the degree of functional space within configuration space for proteins of that length. He would explain, additionally, that the amino acids have to form peptide bonds, not just any bond. And they would have to be left-handed. Writing on the whiteboard in court, he could justify his calculation. He might even show that his value underestimates the real improbability.

Wow — Axe “would explain,” and he “could justify” what he’s claiming. The Discoveroids continue:

This, friends, is the level of certainty to be had in the design inference for life. … There is no reasonable doubt that the origin of life occurred by design. One has to believe in miracles upon miracles to say chance could surmount such enormous, unthinkable, preposterous improbabilities.

No reasonable doubt! And now we come to the end:

Scientists don’t reject design in cases involving far, far less robust calculations. Even a hiker infers design intuitively when seeing three rocks stacked on top of each other. How much more should one recognize design when the probability of chance is so absurdly low?

You gotta admit, dear reader, the Discoveroids have met their burden of proof. The intelligent designer — blessed be he! — has been proven to exist beyond any reasonable doubt. The design filter is infallible!

Copyright © 2017. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

add to del.icio.usAdd to Blinkslistadd to furlDigg itadd to ma.gnoliaStumble It!add to simpyseed the vineTailRankpost to facebook

. AddThis Social Bookmark Button . Permalink for this article

12 responses to “The Discoveroids and Their Design Filter

  1. Meanwhile, real scientists–that is, those pesky materialists–design a real filter: Graphene-based sieve turns seawater into drinking water

  2. Michael Fugate

    So what they are saying is design can thwart the detection of design?

  3. First of all, design does not produce results. The common summation of guilt is means, motive, and opportunity.
    On the other hand, there is another crime, attempt, recognized when there is a design which does not result in a completed deed. (BTW, even attempt is recognized only when there is substantial step taken. Merely drawing up a plan is something less than doing something.) (Also see blue sky law.)

  4. What the IDists never calculate is the probability of the existence of a designer who is not only able to design a life form, but also to make his designs into reality. Such a designer is certainly more complex than his designs.

  5. They’re absolutely right that failing to find an actual natural pattern and instead just seeing the patterns you want to see can lead to wrongful conviction, but what they don’t seem to realize is that it’s failing to acknowledge natural patterns, like fingerprints and DNA, that leads to those false convictions.

    Forensics is an absolutely stunning example of how scientific investigation of patterns works – you look at something like whorls and arches on fingers, or imprints on skulls, and figure out what you can determine from them. Early efforts were to determine whether a person was a potential criminal by the shape of the skull or patterns on the fingertips but, no, that’s humans wanting to find a pattern, not actually finding one, so go back and see what you can actually glean from it.

    Well, everyone seems to have individual fingerprints. Great! Now if you can find fingerprints at a crime scene, you have another tool for determining whodunit. And with time and care, we’re at the point where most honest forensic scientists acknowledge that the way we use fingerprints is really pretty problematic, while also being aware that we’re much better at it than we used to be.

  6. I think the presumptive defense attorney in the intelligent design case would grill Axe on the probability that atoms might bond and form simple molecules, given conditions that would be common on the early earth. Once those odds are established, then he or she would question Axe on the odds that the resulting molecules might form bonds with additional atoms or other molecules, etc.

    No rational person would treat Axe’s assertion that life began with the instant formation of a complex living cell with any degree of respect.

  7. Michael Fugate

    A defense attorney would shred Axe, just like attorneys shredded DI hacks at Dover and Kansas.

  8. Actually, the folks at DI don’t need probability at all. Once the all-powerful and omniscient Designer is assumed, probability goes out the window. And one has to assume the Designer, since to even hint at a less than 100% certainty that He exists is to volunteer for the rack and the stake, or would be if creationists took power.

  9. @H.R.G.: You’re right — all of the Discoveroids’ blather begs the question — “Who designed the Designer?” There would need to be an infinite series of Grand Old Designers.

    But of course, this would be impossible, since the religionists are fond of saying, “There is but one G.O.D.”

    Oh, what a D.I.lemma! For the D.I. to have a Designer, the Designer Himself/Herself/Itself must have a Designer, which of course must have…
    Oh, well. You get the idea.

  10. If the design is without limits, then the probability of any particular result, among the infinity of possibilities, is zero.
    Why is the Earth a globe, when the supernatural could accomplish their ineffable goals with a flat Earth, or a Klein bottle Earth, or all (or none) of the above? Same answer serves just as well: that’s the way they want things.

  11. A defense attorney would shred Axe

    I see what you did there, even if unintentionally.

    My countermove: A defense attorney would slice Ham.

    But only after he canned Hovind.

  12. Richard Bond

    He would explain, additionally, that the amino acids have to form peptide bonds, not just any bond.

    Does the anonymous author seriously believe that proteins have some sort of choice in how they bond? In the appropriate circumstances, the formation of peptide bonds, and no other, minimises the free energy of the system: a fine example of the second law of thermodynamics in action.

    When there is strong motivation to find a particular outcome…

    Do these people have no sense of irony?