Discovery Institute: Denyse O’Leary Is Back

We have a rare treat today, dear reader — a post by Denyse O’Leary. We haven’t seen much from her lately, but she made a big impression when she first started writing for the Discovery Institute’s creationist blog — see Denyse O’Leary — Bright New Discoveroid Star, and then Discoveroid Denyse O’Leary — She’s Fantastic!, and most recently (but it was two years ago) Discoveroid Denyse O’Leary: Religion is Rational.

The Discoveroids have a page of biographical information about Denyse (we haven’t given her a nickname yet), which also has a charming photo of her — you can see it here. We’re told: “She received her degree in honors English language and literature.”

Denyse’s new post is titled How Naturalism Rots Science from the Head Down. It’s a good example of a trend we’ve seen at the Discoveroids’ blog: no specifics, all metaphysics. Casey used to post articles with lists of “facts” supporting intelligent design. We loved those posts, but the Discoveroids never do that any more. Now everything is fuzzy, vague, imprecise, and emotional. The new face of intelligent design is now indistinguishable from theology, rarely saying anything specific about the world. It’s all about feelings, not facts. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

“Post-truth” was the Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year for 2016. The term “post-fact” is also heard more often now. Oxford tells us that “post-fact” relates to or denotes “circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

Those terms could certainly be applied to the Discoveroids’ theory about a magical designer — blessed be he! — who created the universe, life, and you; but Denyse is going to flip the flat Earth over and apply those terms to evolution. Get ready for a wild ride. She says:

Post-fact has certainly hit science. Pundits blame everyone but themselves for its growing presence. But a post-fact and post-truth world are implicit and inevitable in the metaphysical naturalist view (nature is all there is) that is now equated with science and often stands in for it.

[*Groan*] We’ve written a few times about the clear distinction between metaphysical and procedural naturalism — most recently A Discoveroid Defense of Supernatural Science — so we won’t bother with that again. But Denyse is all about confusion, not precision, so keep that in mind as we slog through her post. She tells us:

Let’s start at the top, with cosmology. Some say there is a crisis in cosmology; others say there are merely challenges. Decades of accumulated evidence have not produced the universe that metaphysical naturalism expects and needs. The Big Bang has not given way to a theory with fewer theistic implications. There is a great deal of evidence for fine-tuning of this universe; worse, the evidence for alternatives is fanciful or merely ridiculous. Put charitably, it would not even be considered evidence outside of current science.

What, pray tell, suggests fine tuning? The physical constants, like the mass of the various sub-atomic particles and the strengths of the basic forces, are not arranged in some kind of harmonic scale. They appear to be utterly arbitrary. The same is true for the distances of the planets in the solar system from the sun, and their size, mass, etc. The only “evidence” of fine tuning is that we’re here, so the universe does permit our existence. But there’s no evidence at all we are the purpose for which the universe was designed. Denyse continues:

Can science survive the idea that nature is all there is? The initial results are troubling.

What? Science is all about observing and explaining nature. We can’t observe things outside of nature (i.e., the supernatural) so science doesn’t go there because it can’t. This isn’t an arbitrary philosophical limitation; it’s a requirement of reality. That’s what distinguishes science from theology. To put it in terms relevant to the Discoveroids’ activities, it’s what distinguishes science from Oogity Boogity! Let’s read on:

What if a theory, such as intelligent design, challenges metaphysical naturalism? It will certainly stand out. And it will stand out because it is a threat to all other theories in the entire system. Merely contradictory or incoherent theories clashing against each other are not a threat in any similar way; there are just so many more of them waiting up the spout.

Does anyone understand what she just said? Another excerpt:

Could intelligent design theory offer insights? Yes, but they come at a cost. We must first acknowledge that metaphysical naturalism is death for science. [Huh?] Metaphysical naturalists are currently putting the science claims that are failing them beyond the reach of disconfirmation by evidence and casting doubt on our ability to understand evidence anyway.

We assume Denyse thinks that her brand of supernatural science somehow is within reach of evidence. Hey, Denyse — where’s the designer’s workshop? How does he do what he does? Can you predict his next move, so we can look for it to confirm your theory? [*No response*] Okay, here’s more from Denyse:

ID is first and foremost a demand that evidence matter [sic, presumably she means “matters”], underwritten by a conviction that reason-based thinking is not an illusion. That means, of course, accepting fine-tuning as a fact like any other [Hee hee!], not to be explained away by equating vivid speculations about alternative universes with observable facts. Second, ID theorists insist that the information content [whatever that is] of our universe and life forms is the missing factor in our attempt to understand our world. Understanding the relationship between information on the one hand and matter and energy on the other is an essential next discovery. That’s work, not elegant essays.

Denyse has a lot of work to do if she and her Discoveroid colleagues are going to make any sense out of that. And now we come to the end:

We will get there eventually. [Hee hee!] But perhaps not in this culture; perhaps in a later one. Science can throw so many resources into protecting metaphysical naturalism that it begins to decline. Periods of great discovery are often followed by centuries of doldrums. These declines are usually based on philosophical declines. The prevalence of, for example, fake physics, shows that we are in the midst of just such a philosophical decline. It’s a stark choice for our day.

There you are, dear reader. This is the new direction of the Discoveroids — fuzzy thinking, fuzzy essays, and zero verifiable evidence. We really miss the old days, when Casey actually tried to be factual. As they proceed in their new direction, we suspect that the Discoveroids will drift off into total irrelevance as a peculiar apologetics shop. That’s all they’ve ever been, but now they’re not even pretending to be anything else.

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

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11 responses to “Discovery Institute: Denyse O’Leary Is Back

  1. The only “evidence” of fine tuning is that we’re here, so the universe does permit our existence.
    But “laws” of nature are violated by our being here:
    “The Second Law of Thermodynamics”
    “The Conservation of Information”
    And, in the case of “How do you know, were you there?”, we don’t know whether or not there is any fine-tuning in the past. There is no evidence for fine-tuning.
    We also might wonder whether the “privilege” of the Earth as the only place for life constitutes an exception to a lack of fine-tuning elsewhere.

  2. “(we haven’t given her a nickname yet)”
    Elsewhere I have met Dense O’Smeary. Everything in the quotes from her suggests it’s an appropriate nickname.

  3. Michael Fugate

    No-eyed slayer?
    Ye royal dense?
    See yarn yodel?

  4. mnb0 suggests “Dense O’Smeary.”

    Not my style. No class. I’ll think of something, eventually.

  5. DI theorists? What actual theories do they have? I equate them with the “Ancient Aliens” theorists. All either have are speculation, not theory. My understanding of a theory is that a theory can be proven to be either true of false. How does a person prove any speculations? Just curious.

  6. docbill1351

    Dense O’Dreary, co-author of The Spatula Brain, is back … yea! With the same old arguments … boo!

    At least I could follow this one. “Some say, but others say and still others say and those people say, but those people up there say and there’s a crisis of saying, know what I mean, Vern? Say what?

  7. where’s the designer’s workshop? How does he do what he does?

    This reminds me of this passage from Cicero’s “On the Nature of the Gods” Book I section 19:

    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.

  8. Will someone please read Strunk & White’s, “The Elements of Style,” to Dense Denyse? (I have serious doubts about her reading ability.)

  9. We can’t observe things outside of nature (i.e., the supernatural) so science doesn’t go there because it can’t.

    Here is a real attempt to explain something in nature by the supernatural.

    The myth of Persephone to explain the changes of seasons. The point that I will dwell on is that when Persephone is in the domain of the living, then plants are thriving and we experience Spring and Summer; but when she must return to the underworld, the domain of Pluto, the plants die and we experience Winter.

    We can test the validity of that explanation by observing that the domain of the living does not experience Winter simultaneously: Australia and Europe have the seasons six months shifted; the tropics do not have any Winter. Science shows that the supernatural Persephone explanation of the change of seasons is not correct.

    There are other scientific tests of the supernatural which have been done. ESP, astrology, and prayers have been tested.

  10. Eric Lipps

    I think we need to look at the definition of “supernatural” and ask whether that word means anything at all.

    It’s supposed to refer to things that are outside of, or “beyond,” nature. But does anything we know for sure exists actually qualify? Can anything qualify? Isn’t everything that actually exists part of nature by definition? If the answers to the first two questions are “no” and no” and the answer to the third is “yes”–all of which seems logical–then “supernatural” is a meaningless concept.

    Creationists naturally (pun intended) won’t accept this. But rejecting it raises a problem: just where does the boundary between natural and supernatural lie? I’m cynical enough to believe that for creationists (even ID proponents, who insist they are not creationists), that dividing line lies wherever is convenient at any given moment.

  11. docbill1351

    If there is no “beyond,” then how do you explain Twilight Zone music, huh?

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