Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Reply to Bo Grimes on Card and ID

In that thread on the Orson Scott Card message board I just got a long reply from someone named Bo Grimes. Since it’s so long and I’m not adept at the message board coding, I thought I’d just post a line by line reply here and perhaps he’ll come over and defend his claims, all of which are highly inaccurate. It began with me posting the following on that board:

I honestly can’t think of a third option given the absolutely ridiculous claim he makes in his article about intelligent design that scientists rely solely on authority and “refuse to even try” to point out the flaws in ID arguments. I’ve posted a response to this on my blog with a list of critiques by scientists to every single claim made by ID advocates and that list is a small fraction of what is available.

And that led to Grimes’ reply, which begins:

Others may have, I didn’t read your citations (and frankly I seriously doubt you’ve read them either) but you are basically a cheerleader for your team, and from what I’ve read, you fit most of the fallicies Card outlines.

You would be wrong. I’ve read every single article that I linked to and almost all of the books (I’ve not read the Shanks book or Genie Scott’s new book, though I have the latter one and just haven’t gotten to it yet on my rather large reading list). If you think that I’m just a guy who did a google search and found a few links that appear to support my position without actually understanding the issues, you could not possibly be more wrong. I founded an organization that deals almost exclusively with this issue, I’ve published several articles on the subject and written hundreds of blog entries on it, and I’ve filed briefs on it in Federal court.

But to the nature of your own personal arguments and writings, granted I haven’t browsed a large sample, but I was brought to your site by this link: Leiter V NRO

Notice how your heroes “take apart” and “shred” their bemused and “pathetic” opponents. Notice how you engage in name-calling, expertism and other po-mo rhetorical devices, like dismissing an appeal to the scientific literature just because it was on Dembski’s site. Does that somehow make the referenced works tainted or their science flawed? On your site you call the article under discussion “patently flawed,” and call Card a liar, not mistaken, but a liar.

I love the use of the phrase “po-mo rhetorical devices”. There is nothing the least bit “po-mo” about my arguments, indeed quite the opposite. I start from the unyielding position that there is an objective truth in this and all other empirical matters. In fact, the only ones who have invoked postmodern arguments on their behalf in this dispute are the advocates of ID. If you don’t believe me, please read the transcript of Steve Fuller’s testimony in the Dover trial on behalf of the school board. Fuller made a rather explicitly po-mo argument that it doesn’t matter what is true it only matters that ID is a “radical” idea that should have access to public schools as a sort of affirmative action program to find new recruits in its brave battle against the “Darwinian orthodoxy”.

Let me also note the contradiction in Grimes’ argument here. On the one hand, he appears to be taking me to task for calling a spade a spade and saying that Leiter shredded the arguments (i.e. proved them objectively false) of Van Dyke while simultaneously accusing me of engaging in post-modernist subjectivism. These can’t both be true (oops, there I go again being entirely un-po-mo and endorsing the notion of objective truth). The last thing a po-mo would do is engage in “expertism” because, in their minds, an expert is just a self-appointed defender of orthodoxy out to crush radical ideas in the service of those who fund his research. In short, he’s just engaging in the kneejerk reaction of calling those he disagrees with “po-mos” when in fact he is dealing with someone who is the polar opposite of one.

And yet, you yourself don’t address a single issue of substance. You link to others in an appeal to expertism and credentialism, unable to advance the scientific arguments yourself you scream against the opposing team like an armchair quarterback who can’t play himself.

How amusing. Perhaps you’ve missed the, quite literally, hundreds of posts I’ve written that examine the substantive arguments of ID. Let me give you just a few brief examples. Here I examine the sterility of ID as an explanation, based upon Behe’s testimony in the Dover trial. I explain the differences between ID and Behe’s big bang analogy, note the contradictory positions of the major ID advocates on common descent, and explain why ID fails to be falsifiable because it can explain absolutely any set of data (more on this in a moment). Here I critique the methodology of the Behe and Snoke (2004) paper, again based on Behe’s testimony in Dover, and point out why his computer simulation in fact disproves irreducible complexity rather than supports it. I point out that the simulation used absurdly low population estimates and ignored several well understood types of mutations in order to rig the experiment against the result and yet the simulation still showed, by Behe’s own admission under oath, that an IC system could develop in a relatively short period of time. Here I examine the differences between purpose and function and critique Behe’s arguments about irreducible complexity. I point out that Behe accepts an evolutionary explanation for many complex biochemical systems that meet his definition of an irreducibly complex system, which severs the logical connection between his premise and his conclusion. Here is another post that examines the question of ID and common descent. Here I give a long and detailed analysis of why ID should not be taught in public schools. Here is an examination of ID and the “cambrian explosion”.

Now, it’s certainly true that I’m not a scientist myself and I suppose in some ways that does make me an “armchair quarterback who can’t play himself”. I’m an educated amateur with a long standing interest in this subject who has devoted many years of study to it. But that hardly means that I “don’t address a single issue of substance”. In fact, all of those articles are full of analysis on the substantive arguments for and against ID. I’d be happy to discuss those substantive issues with Mr. Grimes, but he was too busy pretending that I never addressed them to actually dispute any substantive claim that I made.

Ironically you conclude: “Scientists tend to be sticklers for substance over hand-waving. If you have a real model that explains the evidence, by all means offer it up and let’s debate it. But since they don’t have that, they are left with casting themselves in the role of the oppressed in the hope that no one will notice that they didn’t actually address any of the substantive criticisms, that after all the frantic hand waving, there simply is no there there.”

This is, in fact, what Card is saying the Darwinist, and I’m afraid you prove him right, aren’t doing. They no longer have a model that explains the evidence, and they certaintly aren’t debating it. The Designist are doing science in the way explained by Popper and others who argued that it’s impossible, really, to confirm a universal scientific theory with any positive degree of probibility. Rather, what we can do is disprove it, and thus the progress of science continues.

Wow. Where does one even begin to address this collection of nonsense? First, the notion that evolutionary theory doesn’t explain the evidence is absurd. Grimes makes no attempt to actually support this claim, it’s just a naked assertion. Perhaps if he wants to add an actual argument to this we could discuss it. Second, the notion that scientists aren’t debating their model is even more absurd. Evolutionary theory is a collection of hundreds of theories and hypotheses to explain various aspects. Some of these are so well established that it would be perverse to dispute them, others are still highly controversial and lack consensus among scientists. Anyone who thinks that scientists don’t debate over conflicting explanations clearly doesn’t read the scientific literature.

Third, on the notion that IDers are engaging in a Popperian attempt to falsify evolution and thereby drive the “progress of science”, here again Grimes doesn’t actually give us a substantive argument. I’ll take the position that the arguments offered against the validity of evolution by ID advocates are false and unjustified. Irreducible complexity is false both in premise and conclusion. Dembski’s CSI argument is fatally vague and useless in the real world. Wells’ list of “icons of evolution” is made up almost entirely of exaggerated and distorted claims. I’ll gladly defend all of these arguments if I need to, as I have done in the past.

Lastly I’ll note that the ID advocates themselves deny Grimes’ argument. ID advocates say that they are not just engaged in an attempt to falsify evolution but that they have a theory that makes positive predictions that spur actual research. They don’t appear to actually do any of that research, of course, and the few papers that they’ve claimed support ID in fact argue against it, but they flatly deny that they are only engaged in an attempt to falsify evolution.

Just to show how similiar they think, let me introduce another opinion from a Linux newsgroup I used to participate in. At this link the writer asserts: “Anyone, ANYONE, who publically supports “Intelligent Design” is either ignorant or a liar. There is no other possible answer.” Ignorant or Liar

Amazing, do y’all work from the same playbook? You could do with a bit of Wittgenstein with assertions like that. I know the truth and if you deny it the only possiblilities are you are ignorant or a liar.

This would be a meaningful argument if my statement was a general one and not a specific one. Nowhere have I asserted that you either agree with me on everything or you must be ignorant or a liar. I said that I cannot see a logical explanation for Card’s claim here other than ignorance or deceit. I’ve explained why those are the only two logical conclusions I can see. If Mr. Grimes sees a third possibility, he is of course free to offer it up and we can discuss it to see if it is logical and consistent with what Card said. No one else has been able to come up with a reasonable third explanation, but perhaps he can.

I find it highly ironic that Grimes accuses me of cheerleading without addressing anything of substance in a post where he engages in a lot of conclusionary rhetoric and fails to address even a single substantive argument that I made supporting my conclusion. This sort of psychological projection is convenient, of course, but it’s quite absurd.


  1. #1 Ginger Yellow
    January 24, 2006

    Why are you devoting so much time and effort to this guy. If he can’t even be bothered to click through your links, let alone address their arguments, why should you bother to give him any respect? What makes you think he’ll read the arguments of your own you link to in this post?

  2. #2 Ed Brayton
    January 24, 2006

    I never said that he’ll bother to read the arguments. Rarely do I write thinking that my adversary will change his mind; I almost always write instead for those who may be watching and might learn something from it.

  3. #3 Jeff Hebert
    January 24, 2006

    This sort of psychological projection is convenient, of course, but it’s quite absurd.

    I get a strange sense of a “You’re rubber, I’m glue” kind of dynamic going on here … “You have no evidence”, “You’re a cheerleader”, “I know the truth and if you deny it the only possiblilities are you are ignorant or a liar”, on and on and on and on … I see it constantly at talk.origins, on Dembski’s blog, in the Kitzmiller transcripts, in Behe’s remarks after his testimony, all over the place. Card’s original article is the poster child for what I’m talking about, he takes every accusation made against creationists/IDists and turns them around to use on the other guy without backing any of it up.

    I feel like we’re living in some kind of weird Orwellian universe, where the same words get used for everyone and every position to the point where any meaning they might have had originally is lost, and we’re all just talking past each other. When did we get to the point where each side is so absolutely convinced of their own position that we’re no longer engaged in a search for truth but instead in a series of political posturings?

    I just am tired of seeing the same accusations flung at the other side, only to see the other side catch and return the exact same thing in an endless series of volleys. It’s maddening.

    OK, rant off, my apologies. You can all return to your previously scheduled lives now :-) And this isn’t directed at you Ed, your posts are always backed up with logic, research, and a purpose. It’s a general rant about the state of the debate, not the site or you personally.

  4. #4 Dave S.
    January 24, 2006

    I’m still trying to figure out who these “Darwinists” are that Card was talking about in the original article.

  5. #5 FishyFred
    January 24, 2006

    I just am tired of seeing the same accusations flung at the other side, only to see the other side catch and return the exact same thing in an endless series of volleys. It’s maddening.

    I’m so glad that I’m not alone in thinking this. I’ve always found it ridiculous that the IDers and creationists have just taken what we say about them and say it about us with nothing to back it up. And it just goes back and forth.

  6. #6 Dave S.
    January 24, 2006

    Sounds like a great cheap grade-school debate tactic. If your position is weak in some aspect, just accuse your opposition of being weak there. Then when he points out the opposite is true, you take the “high road” and refuse to get into a flame war on “his level”.

  7. #7 Skemono
    January 24, 2006

    And yet, you yourself don’t address a single issue of substance. You link to others in an appeal to expertism and credentialism

    And again I see scorn heaped upon experts. When did the “appeal to authority” become any reference to someone who has actual knowledge of a subject? In the good old days, didn’t we used to call those “sources” or “citations”?

  8. #8 Jeff Hebert
    January 24, 2006

    And yet, you yourself don’t address a single issue of substance. You link to others in an appeal to expertism and credentialism.

    Who’s the “you yourself” here? If you mean Ed, almost every link in his post above is to something he wrote himself. All of those are very complete, very thorough, very serious discussions of the issues at hands. Unless you’re accusing Ed of appealing to the authority of himself, I don’t see your point.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    January 24, 2006


    I think he was quoting Bo Grimes, it just wasn’t formatted to make that obvious.

  10. #10 Ed Brayton
    January 24, 2006

    Skemono is right, of course, that Grimes misunderstands the logical fallacy known as an appeal to authority. An appeal to authority is illegitimate when it takes the form of “So and so is an expert and he agrees with me, therefore I’m right” or “I have a degree and you don’t, therefore I’m right.” But there is nothing fallacious about citing or quoting the arguments of someone with expertise. In fact, that is how almost all debate is done in any field.

  11. #11 Skemono
    January 24, 2006

    Yeah, I tried using to make clear that I was using a quote, but that apparently didn’t show up.

    Sorry for the confusion.

  12. #12 Skemono
    January 24, 2006

    Sigh… “tried using <Q></Q> to make clear” &c.

  13. #13 spyder
    January 24, 2006

    “I feel like we’re living in some kind of weird Orwellian universe, where the same words get used for everyone and every position to the point where any meaning they might have had originally is lost, and we’re all just talking past each other.”

    This applies not only to the ID/creationist theocrats, but also to the recently annointed keepers of the Rovian talking points. “Warrantless domestic spying” becomes a “terroist surveillance program,” and all those who challenge and question the legality invading the privacy of US citizens without proper warrants are chastized as “terrorists” and the ever dreaded label “liberals.”

  14. #14 Jeff Hebert
    January 24, 2006

    Yeah, I tried using to make clear that I was using a quote, but that apparently didn’t show up.

    My apologies for misunderstanding. And it’s too bad, because I think it’d be really funny for someone to use an appeal to authority on themselves … it has a certain symmetry. Maybe Dembski will do it one day :-)

    Oh, and the syntax for quotes is to use the “blockquote” command. Hope that helps.

  15. #15 Inoculated Mind
    January 25, 2006

    I find it strange how people will accuse others of making an appeal to authority, and then go ahead and do the same thing themselves.

    What I find funny about Bo Grimes here is that they have accused you of exactly what creationists do all the time, refer to stuff they hardly understand (incl. cut and paste) and probably haven’t read.

    And what the hell was with their comment about ‘no you can’t write it on the blog!’, as if you couldn’t solicit help for a response there, if you even needed it?

  16. #16 mark
    January 25, 2006

    appeal to authority
    Certain arguments have been made (very convincingly in many cases) by others–why re-invent the wheel? Besides, links to arguments made previously may lead to links to counterarguments and additional supportive arguments. Furthermore, can one always provide a new argument when so many others have already made that argument? We don’t want to be accused of plagerism.

  17. #17 KeithB
    January 25, 2006

    I think we need to come up with a new term for someone who uses the “I did not bother to read all your evidence, but I am sure it is crap” defense.

    I suggest the “Behe Wave” in honor of Behe’s testimony in Kitzmiller and how he was so proud about it.

  18. #18 Inoculated Mind
    January 25, 2006

    “Pull a Behe”
    Actually, no, that sounds like those frequent occasions where he would declare “Remove any one part and it stops functioning!” And then an expert on that system says “Wrong, this organism lacks this part, that organism lacks that part, and they get along just fine.” “Um, ok then NOW if you remove any part it ceases functioning.” “Actually….”
    I like the Behe Wave, it bears a certain similarity to the Jedi mind trick. *wave’s hand* “I don’t need to read the relevent scientific literature…”