Discoveroids: Intelligent Design Is Testable, #2

The last time we used the title of this post was Discoveroids: Intelligent Design Is Testable, about a claim by the Discovery Institute that their “theory” of intelligent design was indeed scientific, as shown by the works of Michael Behe. They’re doing the same thing again, this time appealing to the work of Stephen Meyer, a Discovery Institute “senior fellow,” who is the author of Darwin’s Doubt, in which he claims the Cambrian explosion is proof of intelligent design.

Meyer was a central figure in the infamous Sternberg peer review controversy. And as we reported here, Meyer was one of three creationist “experts” who were on the 6-member panel selected by Don McLeroy to testify before the Texas Board of Education regarding standards for science education. In Discovery Institute: Their 2016 Tax Return we reported that his salary was $250K. The year before it was $200K.

The title of the new offering at the Discoveroids’ creationist blog is Yes, Intelligent Design Is Detectable by Science. Ooooooooooooh!, what a thrilling title! It was written by Meyer himself. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis:

Biologists have long recognized that many organized structures in living organisms — the elegant form and protective covering of the coiled nautilus; the interdependent parts of the vertebrate eye; the interlocking bones, muscles, and feathers of a bird wing — “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” [Footnote credits that quote to Richard Dawkins.]

[…]

Yet Darwin argued that this appearance of design could be more simply explained as the product of a purely undirected mechanism, namely, natural selection and random variation. Modern neo-Darwinists have similarly asserted that the undirected process of natural selection and random mutation produced the intricate designed-like structures in living systems. They affirm that natural selection can mimic the powers of a designing intelligence without itself being guided by an intelligent agent. Thus, living organisms may look designed, but on this view, that appearance is illusory and, consequently, the study of life does not render the activity of a designing intelligence detectable in the natural world.

That’s a fair introduction. Then the creationism slips in. He says:

But did Darwin explain away all evidence of apparent design in biology? Darwin attempted to explain the origin of new living forms starting from simpler pre-existing forms of life, but his theory of evolution by natural selection did not even attempt to explain the origin of life — the simplest living cell — in the first place. [Gasp!] Yet there is now compelling evidence [Hee hee!] of intelligent design in the inner recesses of even the simplest living one-celled organisms. Moreover, there is a key feature of living cells — one that makes the intelligent design of life detectable — that Darwin didn’t know about and that contemporary evolutionary theorists have not explained away.

What is that detectable “key feature” Darwin didn’t know about? Meyer tells us:

Like the precisely arranged zeros and ones in a computer program, the chemical bases in DNA convey instructions by virtue of their specific arrangement — and in accord with an independent symbol convention known as the “genetic code.” Thus, biologist Richard Dawkins notes that “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like.” Similarly, Bill Gates observes that “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” Similarly, biotechnologist Leroy Hood describes the information in DNA as “digital code.”

This is an old story with the Discoveroids — see Discovery Institute: The Designer’s Language. Meyer continues:

Where did the information in the cell come from? And how did the cell’s complex information processing system arise? These questions lie at the heart of contemporary origin-of-life research. Clearly, the informational features of the cell at least appear designed. And, as I show in extensive detail in my book Signature in the Cell, no theory of undirected chemical evolution explains the origin of the information needed to build the first living cell.

Ooooooooooooh! Information! See Phlogiston, Vitalism, and Information. Let’s read on:

[T]he scientists [Hee hee!] who infer intelligent design do not do so merely because natural processes — chance, laws, or their combination — have failed to explain the origin of the information and information processing systems in cells. Instead, we think intelligent design is detectable in living systems because we know from experience that systems possessing large amounts of such information invariably arise from intelligent causes. The information on a computer screen can be traced back to a user or programmer. The information in a newspaper ultimately came from a writer — from a mind.

Ooooooooooooh! It’s detectable! Another excerpt:

In The Design Inference, mathematician William Dembski explicates the logic of design detection. His work reinforces the conclusion that the specified information present in DNA points to a designing mind.

As we’ve said before:

No one can detect [information] with the instruments of science, but the Discoveroids claim they can somehow sense its presence by using William Dembski’s Design Inference, commonly called his Design Filter. We wrote about it here: The Discoveroids and Their Magic Filter.

Meyer drones on and on. Here’s our last excerpt:

So, contrary to media reports, the theory of intelligent design is not based upon ignorance or “gaps” in our knowledge, but on scientific discoveries about DNA and on established scientific methods of reasoning in which our uniform experience of cause and effect guides our inferences about the kinds of causes that produce (or best explain) different types of events or sequences.

[Big skip]

Since the multiverse theory cannot explain fine-tuning without invoking prior fine-tuning, and since the fine-tuning of a physical system to accomplish a propitious end is exactly the kind of thing we know intelligent agents do, it follows that intelligent design stands as the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. And that makes intelligent design detectable in both the physical parameters of the universe and the information-bearing properties of life.

So there you are, dear reader. The Discoveroids aren’t just making stuff up. They’ve got science — real science — and the handiwork of their intelligent designer — blessed be he! — is detectable.

Copyright © 2018. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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24 responses to “Discoveroids: Intelligent Design Is Testable, #2

  1. “Darwin attempted to explain”
    Ie Evolution Theory is wrong.

    “no theory of undirected chemical evolution explains”
    God of the Gaps.

    “systems possessing large amounts of such information invariably arise from intelligent causes”
    Paley’s False Watchmaer Analogy.
    Old wine in not so new bags.

    “can be traced back”
    Yes, because we can identify the means used and the procedures followed. How stupid does StephenM think we are?

    “Since the multiverse theory cannot explain fine-tuning without invoking prior fine-tuning …..”
    He thinks we are very stupid. Let me correct this: because the Fine-Tuning Argument cannot conclude there is a Fine Tuner without presupposing a Fine Tuner …..

  2. Mark Germano

    Thus, biologist Richard Dawkins notes that “the machine code of the genes is uncannily computer-like.” Similarly, Bill Gates observes that “DNA is like a computer program, but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.” Similarly, biotechnologist Leroy Hood describes the information in DNA as “digital code.”

    It’s neat that analogies are like evidence, but morphology means nothing.

  3. Mark Germano

    “biologist Richard Dawkins”

    Nope. He’s atheist Richard Dawkins. Klinghoffer says I can’t trust him because of his materialist bias.

  4. In order for X to be testable, it isn’t enough to give examples of X, we also need to have examples of not-X.

    Christian creeds tell us that all things are created.

  5. Eddie Janssen

    I thought Dawkins was a zoologist, or is that the same as biologist?

  6. Nice job, FrankB. I’m also going to comment on one of the phrases you picked up on:

    “…we think intelligent design is detectable in living systems because we know from experience that systems possessing large amounts of such information invariably arise from intelligent causes.”

    Apart from the fact that “we think” cannot in any way be construed as scientific evidence, let’s key in on Meyer’s use of the word “invariably”. He’s wrong. We can cite millions of systems possessing large amounts of information that we cannot definitively say arose from intelligent design — every single species of living organism. The examples Meyer cites — newspapers, computer code, etc. — individually arose over a very short period of time and are indeed the product of intelligence.

    The “information” in living things, on the other hand, arose over vast eons of time. Mutations in the DNA sequence that “work” — i.e., provide an advantage for survival — get carried forward into future generations; the mutations that don’t work die out. This is so obvious, it certainly needs no explanation for The Curmudgeon’s intelligent audience. However, Meyer is arguing like a politician, as though science is to be determined by popular opinion. What would be determined by popular opinion is whether a school district might try mandating the teaching of Intelligent Design. That would be a costly decision.

    One more thing — creationists, including the ID coterie, keep calling it “random mutation”. It’s true that the mutation of DNA is random, but whether a particular mutation gets passed along to future generations is anything but random.

  7. Michael Fugate

    Mutations are random only with respect to an organism’s fitness. Organisms don’t get to pick which mutations they want or need. Creationists like Meyer gloss over so much about evolution – like the concept of relative fitness and how easily new regulatory or protein-coding loci can arise. There is much more slop in how organisms work than creationists want to admit. A protein can do many different things not just one as they would have one believe. It is a very teleological worldview that there is one and only one purpose for any one thing. If they ever did any study of organisms including human behavior, they would realize that nothing has just one function – not even things that intelligent agents design.

  8. As Aron Ra would point out, PRATT – points refuted a thousand times.

  9. Blah blah blh…same old crap told differently and still st00pid!

  10. Another Meyer rant: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

  11. “…we think intelligent design is detectable in living systems because we know from experience that systems possessing large amounts of such information invariably arise from intelligent causes.”
    This is simply changing the subject,.
    The first subject is whether design is detectable. The second subject is is whether design invariably arises.
    Non sequitur

  12. docbill1351

    Meyer gets paid $250,000 to write this dreck. If anything, I’M the idiot!

    All I need is a new title, RevBill will do, a dopey sidekick and a banana, and I’m in bee’s wax, as they say. Whaddya say, Curmie, let’s hit the road and milk that cow!

    p.s. Meyer failed to mention that Dembski’s Nixplanatory Filter was never able to “prove” an actually designed object was designed, much less a biological object. Two, Dembski his own self disavowed the Nixplanatory Filter as “unworkable” some years ago. Three, Dembski’s very own major professor at the U of C called Dembski’s math an embarrassing mess of circular logic or, in short, wrong.

    p.p.s. That said, 250 grand? Srsly?

  13. Meyer indeed believes that people are stupid; he exudes an intellectual arrogance that the average joe-blow believes that whatever he claims must be true. However, most academics and a sizable number of lay folks see through his haughty pretense and note that the emperor has no clothes.

  14. Funny how Intelligent Design speaks readily of a designer and yet poses no test to verify the existence of the designer save the existence of the designer’s handiwork. Frankly, I don’t know of any other scientific theory that puts such firewall between its predictions and the actual mechanism of those predictions unless one is already making assumptions, namely that the designer is a supernatural deity. Intelligent design doesn’t even pretend to be a scientific theory, it’s just more religious marketing to the rubes.

  15. docbill1351 says: “Whaddya say, Curmie, let’s hit the road and milk that cow!”

    Tempting. I’ll think about it.

  16. You should do it Curmie, think of the groupies you and Doc will attract.

  17. Michael Fugate

    scientists who infer intelligent design do not do so merely because natural processes — chance, laws, or their combination — have failed to explain the origin of the information and information processing systems in cells.

    So scientists who infer intelligent design believe that chemical reactions require intelligence? If I put baking soda and vinegar together but don’t pray for the reaction to take place, it won’t spontaneously become sodium acetate, water and carbon dioxide? Does God go on the side of the products or the reactants when balancing the equation?

    Meyer does realize that what goes on in a cell are just chemical reactions – no more no less – no?

  18. @Michael Fugate
    Chemical reactions following the laws of thermodynamics.

  19. Michael Fugate

    So they are designed by God?

  20. Since creationists are fond of claiming that evolution violates the laws of thermodynamics (which ones?) and that their gawd designed the laws of thermodynamics, that also *very clearly* implies that no gawd was involved in evolution. Hence evolution is atheistic, something that all rational people already knew. You know, just like the entire rest of the universe.

  21. Since the multiverse theory cannot explain fine-tuning without invoking prior fine-tuning, and since the fine-tuning of a physical system to accomplish a propitious end is exactly the kind of thing we know intelligent agents do, it follows that intelligent design stands as the best explanation for the fine-tuning of the universe. And that makes intelligent design detectable in both the physical parameters of the universe and the information-bearing properties of life.

    Groan. The multiverse interpretation of modern physics (technically it’s not a theory in itself) doesn’t require “prior fine-tuning”; in fact, it makes no sense to say that it does, since its application to the origin of the universe is explicitly meant as a counter to claims of “fine-tuning.”

    As I’ve noted elsewhere, creationists put the cart before the horse, claiming that the universe was designed to produce life rather than that life arose because the universe made it possible, with no intention involved. This follows from their deeper assumption that life, and in particular humanity, was the purpose of the universe — which in turn follows from the assumption that the universe has a purpose, which, if true, would indeed imply some sort of conscious direction. In other words, they assume a purpose in order to be able to support the further assumption of a purposeful Creator/Designer. They then assume that this proves the truth of a particular creation story.

  22. @DocBill is worried: “If anything, I’M the idiot!”
    Rather an idiot than an IDiot.

    @RichardS implies a category error: “I don’t know of any other scientific theory that …”
    You don’t know of any such scientific theory – IDiocy isn’t one. no matter how much StephenM PRATTles. But this time, let’s admit it, StephenM is at his very best. Even for an IDiot it’s amazing how often and from how many angles he totally goes off the (scientific) rails. Very inspirational as far as SC’s nice blog is concerned!

  23. Creationism is just “something is wrong with evolution”.
    It has no alternative to offer.
    One does not have to be a scientist to realize that. But a bit of science can show how the criticism of evolution is
    Inane.

  24. @Richard Staller: You should do it Curmie, think of the groupies you and Doc will attract.

    Nah, they’ll be mostly Christian fundie girls who’ve sworn a pledge to stay virgin until marriage.

    (although that may not have stopped many a cheeky pastor)