Eclipse Mania — The Discoveroids, Part 5

As the total solar eclipse of 21 August approaches, the Discovery Institute is in an increasingly uncontrolable frenzy. Their latest is The Impact of Solar Eclipses for History. It has no author’s by-line.

Unlike the Discoveroids’ recent series on the eclipse, this one is only nominally about the astronomical event. It’s primarily using the eclipse to repeat what is probably the central dogma of creationism. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

When the sky goes dark at mid-day, people notice. Because some observers wrote down what they saw, and because the clockwork of the heavens is so precise, historians can nail down important dates for chronological research.

Then they discuss several past eclipses that have been recorded by people at the time. None of that is of interest at the moment, so we’ll ignore it. Near the end they get around to being flaming, hard-core creationists:

Some of the ancient eclipses occurred near in time to battles or plagues, leading kings to mistakenly read divine support or displeasure with their activities. Today we understand eclipses very well. We no longer fear them, or comets, or other astronomical events as bad omens. Some scientists use the progress in knowledge about eclipses as support for the “god-of-the-gaps” position: i.e., as scientific knowledge progresses, the “god hypothesis” becomes increasingly superfluous.

We think they meant to say that scientists use our increasing knowledge to refute the “god of the gaps” argument — which is described nicely by Wikipedia here: God of the gaps. But the Discoveroids — like all creationists — rely on the god of the gaps. It’s the heart of their “conclusion” that all things which are unexplained (or unlikely) were purposely designed. What can they say today to rescue their fundamental principle? They tell us:

That argument, however, cuts both ways. [Hee hee!] The more we understand about probability, the less plausible it sounds to appeal to “coincidence-of-the-gaps” thinking when multiple, independent factors appear to converge on design.

BWAHAHAHAHAHA! They continue:

The chance hypothesis has been falsified by the discoveries of modern science.

Really? Where’s their evidence? They don’t give any evidence. Instead, they merely declare the standard creationist position as if it were the logical conclusion of their post:

It is no longer tenable to appeal to coincidences recklessly for cosmological fine-tuning, the earth’s habitability, the origin of life, the origin of multicellularity and sex, the origin of complex body plans, the origin of consciousness, and the origin of reason and morality. Each of these provides positive evidence for intelligent design. Collectively, they render the chance hypothesis improbable by many, many orders of magnitude.

Stunning, isn’t it? For rebuttal, we’ll merely give you some excerpts from our prior posts. In Common Creationist Claims Confuted we said:

The typical “odds” argument is easily rebutted. Here’s how we do it: There are 52 playing cards in a deck. The odds against the sequence resulting from a good shuffle are — as the mathematicians say — 52 factorial. You need to multiply 52 x 51 x 50, etc., and keep going until you get to the last card. That’s what factorial means. Fifty-two factorial is a big number. It works out to be 8.06581752 × 1067. That’s 8 (and a tad more) times 10 to the 67th power, a far larger number than the creationist usually quotes (or makes up) to “prove” that the odds are against evolution. For comparison, 52 factorial is much larger than the estimated number of stars in the universe, which is “only” 1021 (source: this NASA webpage). But there are decks of cards all over the place; and each of them is arranged in an extremely improbable sequence. Further, as we explained three years ago, the algorithm of evolution can easily defeat those odds. See The Inevitability of Evolution (Part III).

In William Dembski’s Design Inference we said:

[V]irtually everything is improbable. Consider our favorite example — your own existence. How improbable is that? Human conception is preceded by the release of roughly 20 million sperm per milliliter, and the number of milliliters varies with age and other factors. The average for a healthy young male is estimated to be 300-500 million spermatozoa, per, ah … event. To be on the conservative side, let’s say that a specific human zygote has less than a one-in-100 million chance of being conceived. And that’s for one particular fertile moment for the female. A month earlier or later, the zygote will be different. In other words, dear reader, considering the odds against your turning out to be precisely you, it’s obvious that your existence is quite improbable. Nevertheless, there you are.

The same improbability analysis applies to the conception of each of your parents, and their parents, and so on, going back as far as you care to go. The odds against the whole multi-generational drama is a factorial computation, with the mathematical conclusion that your existence is so very improbable as to be virtually impossible — by Discoveroid reasoning.

And in Creationism’s Fallacy of Retrospective Astonishment we said:

Long chains of natural causes and consequences happen all the time. In fact, that’s what reality is made of. Thus we present our own Rule of Reality: If each event in a causal chain is a natural occurrence, then the historical totality of the whole chain of events is also natural — and not at all impossible. This is a chronological corollary of that well-known principle: The whole is equal to the sum of its parts.


Although there’s no evidence that we’re the product of any impossible events, each of us is the result of a unique series of natural occurrences. Our existence will never be repeated. We’re irreplaceable. Priceless. This is why — contrary to the endlessly repeated claims of the creationists — the theory of evolution places a far higher value on individuals and all of humanity than creationism, according to which we could be wiped out and started up again on a whim.

So there you are, dear reader. Contrary to the endless claims of creationists, improbable things aren’t miracles — they’re the stuff of which reality is made. But creationists don’t like reality — they prefer Oogity Boogity!

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

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8 responses to “Eclipse Mania — The Discoveroids, Part 5

  1. “It works out to be 8.06581752 × 10^67.”

    So each and every shuffle of the deck is improbable for that exact sequence of cards. Amazing!

  2. Michael Fugate

    What was the probability of this happening?
    Does this mean God filled in a gap?

  3. “Each of these provides positive evidence for intelligent design”
    because methodological naturalism can’t explain it – which is exactly the God of the Gaps argument.

    “improbable things aren’t miracles”
    Abuse of Borel’s Law seems to have gone out of favour last years.

    I’m pretty sure you will like the paragraph about the Sand Dunes of the San Luis Valley, Colorado, dear SC.

  4. It is odd that creationists use improbability arguments against reality without ever providing a probability calculation for their miracles to compare against. Any one sided probability argument is quite worthless, you need to compare probabilities to make a meaningful argument. Take the deck of cards argument given above and combine multiple unique decks and you can trivially create probabilities that are arbitrarily high against any specific outcome, yet you always get some specific outcome. As Mark Twain stated long ago: If it is a miracle, any excuse will do.

  5. Design involves taking into account rules.
    Are those rules the rules of nature? The anti-evolutionists are intent on telling us that the rules of nature are against the appearance life.
    But what are the rules of super-nature, the rules which ID or creation pay attention to, the rules which make for design?
    An omnipotent agent does not have to follow rules, omnipotent agents make the rules. But maybe they will play the game of following the rules, just to be playing fair. How can we detect following the rules unless we have a clue as to what the rules are. How can we poor finite creatures figure out what the rules are which design follows?

  6. Zetopan doesn’t get creationist probability logic: “without ever providing a probability calculation for their miracles.”

    1. pick a piece of evidence that can be twisted to confirm the god conclusion;
    2. pick carefully your assumptions;
    3. thus make sure the outcome of your calculation of the probability of a natural explanation is smaller than 0,01 (ie 1 %);
    4. subtract that outcome from 1 (ie 100 %);
    5. declare victory for creacrap.

  7. It is no longer tenable to appeal to coincidences recklessly for cosmological fine-tuning, the earth’s habitability, the origin of life, the origin of multicellularity and sex, the origin of complex body plans, the origin of consciousness, and the origin of reason and morality. Each of these provides positive evidence for intelligent design. Collectively, they render the chance hypothesis improbable by many, many orders of magnitude.

    As usual, the DI’ers have it backward. They assume the “evidence” they quote proves that the universe must have life, and in particular human life, when in fact all it shows is that life, and in particular human life, is a product of those conditions and the universe could have gotten along quite nicely without it.

    Once you assume the universe was created for a particular purpose (supporting human life), you can then interpret everything in light of that assumption. Then, if you’re dishonest (or oblivious), you can claim you’re not assuming anything and that the evidence just all points toward a Creator. (Er, that is, a Designer) who just happens to match in every particular the God of the Bible.

  8. But it doesn’t match in every particular of the Bible. It takes away parts that don’t agree, and adds where needed.
    They cannot offer anything to patch the gaps left over from the denial of the obvious relationship of all life.