Klinghoffer and The Fallacy of Creationism

According to Wikipedia, James Tour is a synthetic organic chemist, specializing in nanotechnology. They also say:

In 2001, Tour signed the Discovery Institute’s “A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism”, a controversial petition which the intelligent design movement uses to promote intelligent design by attempting to cast doubt on evolution

The last time we wrote about Jimmy Tour was Discovery Institute Praises James Tour, and a month before that we wrote James Tour at the Jack Chick Website.

Well, dear reader, he’s back again at the Discovery Institute’s website. This just appeared at their creationist blog: Chemist James Tour Is Scathing, Hilarious: “Show Me the Chemistry” of Abiogensis. “It’s Not There.” It was written by David Klinghoffer, a Discoveroid “senior fellow” (i.e., flaming, full-blown creationist), who eagerly functions as their journalistic slasher and poo flinger. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us for emphasis, and occasional Curmudgeonly interjections that look [like this]:

Rice University chemist James Tour almost defies description [We can describe him, no problem.] in a video now up of his amazing presentation at Discovery Institute’s 2019 Dallas Conference on Science and Faith. Watch it here: [Link at the Discoveroids’ post.]

Then he says:

At one point he asks for a show of hands of fellow synthetic chemists in the (large) audience. It turns out there are a couple and he demands that they stand up and call him a liar if anything he says isn’t true.

Interesting tactic, but if those two synthetic chemists are too polite to say anything, what does that prove? Anyway, Klinghoffer finally gets around to the reason he’s blogging about Jimmy Tour. He tells us:

His message is an alternatively scathing and hilarious indictment of claims from the origin-of-life studies community. Dr. Tour’s work in nanotechnology, an ulta-ultra-painstaking field, provides the backdrop for his demonstration that origins scientists don’t have the slightest idea [Gasp!] how the first life was somehow naturally synthesized by blind, mindless forces.

Wowie — this is big news! In what follows, Klinghoffer is presumably quoting Jimmy Tour:

The field hasn’t advanced an inch in 60-plus years. “Everyone’s clueless on this but no one wants to admit it.” Great scientists writing in the highest profile science journals are “lying to you” when they assert otherwise. “Show me the chemistry” of abiogenesis, he says. “It’s not there.”

Did you follow that? The message is clear: If it hasn’t yet been done in the lab, then it can’t be done — not ever! — and that proves Oogity Boogity! Or, as we recently expressed it a bit more formally: “You Don’t Know X, Therefore Y.” Putting it even more rigorously, which illustrates the argument’s flaky premise as well as its illogical structure:

1. Premise: If not X, then Y.
2. X is still being worked on.
3. Therefore, Y.

We’re temporarily calling that the Fallacy of Creationism — but there are so many others that we’ll probably need to revise the name. In his conclusion, Klinghoffer issues a bold challenge:

Jim Tour is without parallel. Truly, I’d love to hear from our materialist critics how they would answer any of this.

Well, dear reader — do you have the courage to respond?

Copyright © 2019. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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27 responses to “Klinghoffer and The Fallacy of Creationism

  1. I do wonder what’s up with Tour.

    As far as I can tell, all scientists agree that abiogenesis is a difficult problem, and one that has not yet been solved.

    And then James Tour gets up on his high horse and attacks scientists for supposedly claiming to have solved the abiogenesis problem. Maybe Tour should spend more time talking to scientists and less time talking to creationists.

  2. It is hardly the falacy of creationism. (Or “the only open door to be kicked”.)
    And one need not be a materialist critic to observe this open door:
    The field hasn’t advanced an inch in 60-plus years. “Everyone’s clueless on this but no one wants to admit it.”
    The field of anti-evolutionism hasn’t advanced a millimeter in 160*-plus years. Everyone is clueless on this but few want to admit it.
    Yes, it isn’t only the question of the first appearance of life by supernatural means, it also is about the lack of any interest in describing an alternative to the subject of evolutionary biology which does ot mention evolution. What has been the focus of attention is arguments against supposed weakensses of evolution. But even being generous, what advances have there been on that front? Little enough. For example, “Irreducible Complexity” is some 300 years old. There have been a few novel challanges, like the lack of a transitional fossil between the jaws of a “mammal-like reptile” and the “definitive mammalian middle ear”. That is movement, whether one counts it as an inch of “advancement”.
    But I must admit that a few (not “no one”) of the creationists have admitted the lack of progress.

    *Footnote:Yes, it is only 160 years since “On the Origin of Species”, but Spencer’s The Development Hypothesis made this challenge in 1852:
    “Should the believers in special creations consider it unfair thus to call upon them to describe how special creations take place, I reply, that this is far less than they demand from the supporters of the development hypothesis. They are merely asked to point out a conceivable mode; on the other hand, they ask, not simply for a conceivable mode, but for the actual mode. They do not say — Show us how this may take place; but they say — Show us how this does take place. So far from its being unreasonable to ask so much of them, it would be reasonable to ask not only for a possible mode of special creation, but for an ascertained mode; seeing that this is no greater a demand than they make upon their opponents.”
    Italics in the original.

  3. James Tour is a special kind of creationist, that is, the worst kind. He is simultaneously a bully and a coward, although, perhaps those traits go together. He’s a bully in that he stands up in front of a lay crowd, proffers his credentials and expert status, then challenges them to call him out. How many synthetic chemists are in a crowd of people attending a Disco Tute lecture on science and FAITH in a church?

    Let’s see James Tour perform at a Gordon Research Conference on the Origin of Life Studies which is packed with experts in the field. Let’s see James Tour address that crowd and call them a bunch of liars. My guess is that James Tour would be a no-show. No convictions. Coward.

    Some years ago Tour claimed that “nobody could explain to him” how evolution worked on a molecular basis in spite of having departments full of scientists, grad students and professors at his very own university, Rice, who could do that. Willful ignorance of Egnorance proportions. Well, an evolutionary biologist took Tour up on that challenge and several of us ponied up to bring him in and set up a meeting with Tour and arrange for a video of the exchange. Tour backed out. Of course he backed out! We called his bluff. Who’s the liar now, Tour? Since then Tour has backed off on his evolution squawk, retreating to the brambles of abiogenesis.

    Finally, I did not watch the video. I watched about 2 minutes of Tour some years ago and couldn’t stand listening to him; worse than Berlinski. So, I don’t know where the “no progress in 60 years” quote came from, Tour or Klankerwanker, but a 2-minute Google search pulls up hundreds of recent links to on-going research. Another day, another lie.

  4. Had a quick listen to Tour. Thought he was trying to channel Dustin Hoffmann in ‘Rainman’ there, for a moment. Wouldn’t have surprised me in the least if he’d suddenly started babbling about Qantas’ safety record.

    Naturally, Rabbi Schlongwrapper was smitten. From one semi-autistic savant-nerd to another.

    Who would dare call Tour a liar on the subject of abiogenesis? To tweak George Costanza’s classic line: “It’s not a lie if you’re truly incompetent enough not to know what you’re talking about in the first place.”

  5. Eddie Janssen

    Given the progress in the last 150 years of chemistry (1869 Mendeleev’s periodic table!) one wonders what chemists will know in 2169.
    But James Tour and everyone else will be dead by then, so you can bluff your way into temporary fame for the time being.

  6. This basic idea of the source of life is a point we cannot win! To duplicate the event would take millions of years..no can do, they win!
    To accelerate the event shows that man (ID) initiated the event…they win!
    The best we can do is leave the whole thing allone and just say “I don’t know”

  7. @ChrisS
    I try to avoid speculation on others’ motivations.
    But there are cases where a person is in the habit of making false statements, things which they ought to know the truth, things which even are of no importance – for good or ill – to them, that it is hard to escape the conclusion that they just don’t care, that they wouldn’t understand if you asked them, “Do you really believe that?”
    On the other hand, I think that there are people who resort to falsehood as a way of dominance over others. As if they were saying that I am so much in charge that I can say things which I know that you know that they are false, but you can’t do anything about it.
    Might it have been a habit from childhood? They found out that they could lie, and get away with it. After many years, it just becomes unthinking, automatic, with no thought involved. Is that a lie?
    Sometimes, it does seem that everyone has some glimmer of a thought “I ought to give some reason for what I said.” So they might make up “The Bible says this”, or “Many experts have told me this.”
    And then there are the cases when one’s audience wants one to lie. “Tell me about how I am justified in doing this. I want to do it, but there is this unwelcome feeling that makes me feel uncomfortable.” Lying makes one popular.

  8. docbill1351

    OK, so I’m weak. Sue me. I skipped through a bit of the video. Tour is a Gish Gallop using a firehose of BS. You’d have to rate it kilo-misinformations per second. Quite remarkable. My bad luck caused me to land on a few seconds where Tour trashes the work of Craig Venter. I found that particularly disgusting and uncalled for. Of course, Behe on several occasions has dismissed the research of others as “mere piffle.”

    I skipped to the end because after an hour of trashing science he had to wrap this up. And so he did!

    First, he called for a Moratorium of Origins Research. Creationism is a science killer and here’s an actual “scientist” calling for a halt to research.

    Then, he cast doubt on just about all of science by saying you can’t trust “so-called facts” and especially theories. Theory, bad. Right, he meant evolutionary theory specifically, not atomic theory that he uses every day. Tour cherry-picked a few creationist Greatest Hits such as punctuated equilibrium (evolutionary theory no can work!) and collagen extracted from fossilized bone (to cast doubt on the age of the dinosaurs – obviously can’t be millions of years. Scientists are LYING to you!), in pure Hambo fashion to demonstrate the Book is unchanging but bad old science is tricksy and changes all the time.

    Third, he called for embracing crackpots. Accused the academy of “blackballing” scientists with “legitimate” contrarian views, and denying tenure (Gonzo?).

    And, finally, he ended with a bible passage that extols the danger of trusting anyone (scientists) but the lord. Oh, and Tour. You can trust him, too.

  9. 1. Premise: If not X, then Y.
    2. X is still being worked on.
    3. Therefore, Y.

    Well done, but it shouldn’t prevent us from being more specific. And what better place to look at than the IDiots’ very own Wedge Document? There we learn that X stands for “topic being researched using methodological naturalism” and Y for “goddiddid”.
    Klinkleclapper combines the Creationist Fallacy with the God of the Gaps. I propose, to honour our dear SC, to call this very popular line of creacrap “thinking” the Oogity Boogity Fallacy.
    Yes, ít’s now my turn to kick in an open door that doesn’t exist (thanks, TomS). The god of the gaps part already was refuted 75 years ago by a well known theologian:

    “how wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know.”

    Dietrich Bonhöffer, letter written in 1944 (!)

  10. Tour’s background in chemistry is enough to qualify him — in creationist circles, at least — as more than capable of refuting evolution. But if it wasn’t Tour, then it would be a mathematician like Berlinski, and if not him, then someone else, and so on. These maverick-heroes are acclaimed for all the wrong reasons, simply because they confirm already-held prejudices. (“Yeah, tell us something we don’t know, ChrisS”).

    Tour is clearly no dummy, but the fact that both ID proponents and flat-out evangelicals embrace him so wholeheartedly is enough to raise alarm bells about his basic integrity, or lack thereof.

    Or is that just my bias kicking in?

  11. Michael Fugate

    What was widdle Jimmykins alternative? How does sighted, mindful abiogenesis work? How does he know it works that way?

  12. docbill1351

    @Michael F

    “What was widdle Jimmykins alternative? How does sighted, mindful abiogenesis work? How does he know it works that way?”

    Oh, Smeotour to clever by half to fall for the old “What has it got it’s pocketses?” Smeotour no interest in doing work on his ownses. No, Smeotour only interested dragging science down and squeezing it. Smeotour never express opinion. Smeotour from Missouri: Show me, Smeotour say! Show me mechanism, molecule by molecule, individual by individual, species by species. Then me be interested.

    Nobody not ever, not never have enough presshiousss for Smeotour!

  13. Holding The Line In Florida

    @Doc Bill. Lol. “Well bless us and splash us my Precious with holy water!” Thus saith Smeotour!

  14. Michael Fugate

    Shorter Tour. I am smart. I refuse to believe in evolution. Therefore evolution is wrong.

  15. @Michael Fugate
    …evolution is wrong Therefore ID/YEC/OEC/…, whatever that means, if anything, is right.

  16. Michael Fugate

    My religion is the true religion. My religion believes evolution is wrong. Therefore evolution is wrong.

  17. Monica Lewis

    I couldn’t stand to listen to more than 10 minutes of Tour. Stephen J Gould said if life were allowed to evolve from the beginning again, organisms would turn out totally different. Who’s to say life wouldn’t arise in a totally different way if given the chance again? So how can we know how it arose?

  18. Paul Collier

    We sure can’t reply to EN since they do not admit comments.

  19. What creationists never explain is why, in the 160 years since the publication of The Origin of Species, respectable scientists have never blown it down.

    And there were, in the beginning, respectable scientists who did oppose Darwin. Perhaps the best known is William Thomson, better known as Lord Kelvin, who calculated that the solar system could not be more than 100 million years old at most and more probably a quarter of that because its energy came from gravitational compression and any greater age would mean the sun had once engulfed the orbit of the earth. Darwin himself was troubled by this.

    Ironically, Kelvin lived to see the problem solved by the discovery of atomic energy and the realization that it was that rather than compression which kept the sun burning. Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 showed that the matter in the sun contained more than enough energy to overcome Kelvin’s objection, and this remained true even after the actual processes involved were understood and it was known that only those processes were only about 1% effective in converting mass to energy.

  20. Agh. My kingdom for a superscript!

  21. @EricL
    “Darwin himself was troubled by this.”

    If only lesser talents were subject to the same, humbling self-doubts as the great man himself. As Dawkins has put: Kelvin effectively said, well, if my physics is correct, then your biology must be wrong. But Darwin, by rights, could have countered with: well, the biology IS correct, so your physics must be wrong.

    Creationists just take it as read that physics (and chemistry?) automatically trump biology, always.

  22. @ChrisS
    At that time, physics had a higher status. Even today, physics results in more precise predictions than geology But just going by the physics of the day:
    1. Kelvin was still talking about many millions of years. YEC was not an option. It was too short a time to accommodate estimates of the speed of evolution, which could easily have been wrong.
    2. Kelvin made a mistake. It was pointed out at the time. This is covered in the relevant Wikipedia articles.
    3. New physics, about radioactivity, was just starting to be understood. And that completely changed the game.

  23. TomS
    None of which alters the point that Darwin turned out to be correct, in the long run. Creationists are still acting as if Kelvin got it right, and taking their cue from that: “not enough time” — blah blah blah — whether it’s complex adaptations, or beneficial mutations a la Meyer and Axe. There’s never enough time, allegedly, even if we were talking 50 billion years.

  24. “Lord Kelvin criticized Darwin hence YEC is correct” is another example of the Oogity Boogity Fallacy.

  25. @ChrisS
    Of course.
    Even if Kelvin’s lowest estimate of the age of the Earth had been right, the Earth would have been 20 million years old. 3000 times too old for the traditional Biblical readings.
    It reminds me of the problem with the solar nutrino count, resolved some 20
    years ago. I remember having a discussion with a YEC who was saying that the physics showed that the Sun couldn’t be billions of years old, so evolution was false. He was insulted when I dismissed his argument as bizarre.

  26. Just a test for Eric Lipps’ kingdom:

    E=mc2.