Over at William Dembski’s blog, GilDodgen asks the following:

Even the most vociferous and vehement ID opponents (e.g., Richard Dawkins) admit that design in nature appears to be self-evident. Why then, the heroic efforts to explain design away, with such silliness as random variation and natural selection providing the engine that produced highly sophisticated biological software and information-processing systems?

I remain completely bewildered by the fact that intelligent, educated people cannot recognize this obvious act of denial and desperation. On the other hand, perhaps they don’t want to recognize it, because evidence and logic might conflict with what they want to believe — that there is no design or ultimate purpose to anything.

An obvious question remains: What might motivate this denial of the obvious? I believe that the answer is obvious, and it has to do with accountability.

Apparently on Planet GilDodgen dogmatically asserting that design in nature is obvious means making an argument based on evidence and logic. But when you claim instead that the accumulated findings from paleontology, genetics, anatomy, molecular biology, zoology, ethology, biogeography, population genetics and every other branch of science with something relevant to say points to the conclusion that modern species are related by common descent and that natural selection is a very important mechanism guiding that descent, then you are desperately denying the obvious and probably acting from impure motives.

In lamenting the unwillingness of scientists simply to accept the obivous answer and go home, GilDodgen has given us an admirably clear statement of what modern ID is really all about. If you think too much you just get confused. There’s really nothing more to it than that.

Comments

  1. #1 divalent
    April 22, 2007

    Funny how the expression of bewilderment of the creationists could, with a few trivial word changes (and a name change), be a virtually verbatim expression of the bewilderment of us rationalists.

  2. #2 mark
    April 22, 2007

    I take it a little personally since it sounds like they’re responding to me. It’s also the classic anti-denialism defense of projection. That is, when you are accused of something the simple solution is to immediately accuse your accuser of it.

    In this case though they’re standing over a dead body with red hands and a knife and yelling at the cops, “well maybe you’re the killer.”

  3. #3 pough
    April 22, 2007

    It’s the “common sense trumps all” argument. It’s a very compelling idea until you realize that pretty much the whole body of science has come about by people getting past the apparent to the actual. Design may be apparent, but so is a flat earth at the centre of the universe, not to mention such things as objects in motion tending to slow down and stop. Or are scientists in denial about those things as well?

  4. #4 Kevin
    April 22, 2007

    I skimmed the comments and found this well contstructed sentence.

    “I have wondered to what degree a person can be “educated” into believing something for which there is little or no real evidence (beyond that which is gratuitously interpreted) but which is nevertheless presented by an “authority” who has the power to command great respect and also to wield a degree of intellectual intimidation.”

    and at first I thought he was arguing AGAINST a belief in a god and the various religions and cults that push it.

    I went back to the top and think that mabye its a stealth post against ID. You know that they delete comments they don’t like. maybe this post has, like, friendly surface proteins and a kernel of truth inside, so it can infect the ID readers.

  5. #5 T. Bruce McNeely
    April 22, 2007

    Aw geez, not this shit again!
    That’s the whole damn ID argument – “I am completely bewildered!”
    And then to follow with some vague reference to “accountability”.
    You know, maybe you knuckleheads should be accountable for your admitted bewilderment – you may be bewildered because you’re deluded or stupid!

  6. #6 Happy Jihad
    April 22, 2007

    Dembski chafes my chafeable bits. You know I found him in the science section at Barnes and Nobel? Grr. Managers were consulted. This is a problem I’m working on…

    HJ
    Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes

  7. #7 Ian H Spedding FCD
    April 23, 2007

    You have to admit they make a rather pathetic spectacle now cowering in their little bunker over at UD without a theory between them. They don’t even make any real attempt to deny their religious heritage or allegiance any longer.

    But “accountability”? Accountable for what and to whom?

  8. #8 eugene_X
    April 23, 2007

    “…admit that design in nature appears to be self-evident.”

    It also appears to be self-evident, if you stand in the middle of a field, that the
    Earth is flat, and the sun rises in the East, travels across the dome of the sky, and disappears under the edge of the Earth at sunset.

    Yes, Dawkins does “admit” that design in nature “appears” to be self-evident (in the beginning of Climbing Mt Improbable if I am not mistaken), and goes on at length to explain why not everything which appers to be self-evident should be taken as such.

    Why, it’s self-evident that the Earth is flat! Just look at it! If it was round, we’d all fall off! Why is everyone working so hard to deny it? Maybe because they are afraid of accountability….

  9. #9 csrster
    April 23, 2007

    Amazing. Someone who doesn’t understand that questioning the obvious is exactly what science is all about.

  10. #10 Ex-drone
    April 23, 2007

    Just think how much easier it would be to get a PhD in ID World. Choose a thesis that already seems self-evident. If the research becomes difficult, then just stop and claim irreducible complexity. In the end, all you have to do is write about what you believe.

  11. #11 Greta Christina
    April 23, 2007

    What Eugene said. In trumps. Human history is littered with ideas that were thought to be “obvious” until they were shown to be untrue. The sun revolving around the Earth is the most obvious example, but there are countless others, from the idea that black people are biologically inferior to white people, to the idea that sterilizing surgical instruments to kill those invisible so-called “germs” was an absurd waste of time… I could go on and on, but it’s quarter to four in the morning, and this blog isn’t helping my insomnia.

    But you know, maybe there’s something to this whole flat-earth idea. Was it The Onion that proposed replacing the theory of gravity with “intelligent falling”?

  12. #12 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    April 23, 2007

    Even the most vociferous and vehement geocentricity opponents (e.g., Galileo) admit that the centrality of the Earth in nature appears to be self-evident. Why then, the heroic efforts to explain geocentricity away, with such silliness as Jovian moons and phases of Venus? After all, does not the sun rise each morning?

  13. #13 Kristine
    April 23, 2007

    It’s just so obvious that George W. Bush is the Designer! That’s what, you know, presidents do; they design things. He’s the Designer, and he designs stuff that’s designed.

    Oh, wait –
    ;-)

  14. #14 Dave S.
    April 23, 2007

    Scientists don’t reject the obvious. The point is the mere fact that something appears “obvious” is in itself insufficient grounds to accept the validity of the thing. Scientists have an irritating way, unknown to intelligent design advocates, of demanding positive evidence and actually testing hypotheses and reporting those results in support of any potential theory, regardless of how “obvious” it appears. For the ID advocate, it’s enough that design is “obvious” because it appears “obvious” and ‘Darwinism’ is “obviously” insufficient because living things are “obviously” too irreducibly or specifically complex to have evolved.

    Put simply, sometimes in Nature what appears obvious is in actuality wrong (e.g. the Sun revolving about the Earth), and what appears totally counterintuitive is in fact right (e.g. quantum mechanics).

  15. #15 John Pieret
    April 23, 2007

    Sometimes they vary it by using the word “information” as a substitute for “design,” of course.

    Andrew Arensburger at Ooblog has detailed an email exchange he had with Dr. Michael Egnor where Egnor insists that “we know biological information when we see it.” And if you refuse to agree with him you’re being a “sophist.”

  16. #16 Ritchie Annand
    April 23, 2007

    Pough said:

    pretty much the whole body of science has come about by people getting past the apparent to the actual

    I really like that turn of phrase :)

    People don’t often stop at the apparent, regardless of their scientific bent. Sure, the world may be flat, but what happens to the water at the sides? If people don’t come back on their exploratory trips, did they fall off the edge, or just get eaten by monsters? You’re sick? Is it Satan, bacteria, or the planets?

    The “actual” that people get to via methods other than the scientific method (and even the scientific methods in more naive times) is not necessarily tied to common sense, but it is often logicalif you accept their premises, and you can have premise wars until the cows come home.

    If you hold solely true that the world is flat, everything else can be twisted to fit. If you believe that humans were specially created, then evidence for common descent simply has to be wrong, and while some things can be twistedly deduced from that initial capital-T Truth, many things have to be brushed out of the way, belittled in importance, swept aside, because they can’t be explained, simply explained away.

    Gil said:

    On the other hand, perhaps they don’t want to recognize it, because evidence and logic might conflict with what they want to believe – that there is no design or ultimate purpose to anything

    Evidence is what trumped the “obvious” in this case. It was an extraordinary claim, to wit, and it required extraordinary evidence, which kept coming in. Think of any murder trial where the guilty party was “obvious”… but actually innocent.

    It does not matter whether we “want” to believe things have a design or ultimate purpose. This seems to be really, really hard for some of the creationist camp to understand.

    As an aside, talking about intelligent people jumping in from foregone conclusions, I’m reading The Great Theft by Khaled Abou El Fadl about wresting Islam from the extremists (or puritans, as he actually terms them). Keeping some of the recent faces of creationism in mind, I nodded a knowing nod to hear that the most literal of puritans consist of: doctors, engineers and computer programmers – well-educated, these far too steeped in many places, it would seem, in the applied side and precious little on the discovery side (science and humanities)

    More Gil:

    With design and purpose in nature explained away, materialist philosophy permitted the rise and acceptance of moral relativism, which was quickly accepted by the elite and the academy.

    Ah, the old canard where Darwinism gives materialism gives no purpose gives “anything goes”. Horsepucky. For one, moral relativism is its own philosophical entity. For another, biology has discovered just fine that evolution in a social context demands anything but “anything goes”.

    Further to the point, some morals are relative: whether it is okay to own another human being, for example. Modern morals forbid it, no thanks to earlier “non-relativist” (?) morals.

    It’s a bit through the looking glass over there on UD, especially the folks 100% sure that their brain is just an interface for consciousness or those trying to chastise Darwinists with the likes of Garry Nation *cough*.

    Here’s to evidence over the obvious.

  17. #17 Torbjörn Larsson
    April 23, 2007

    Sometimes they vary it by using the word “information” as a substitute for “design,” of course.

    Yes, and I defy them to define quantitatively what this “apparent design” is. (And even more to predict it.) It is known that no single complexity measure can capture all regularities.

    The most structural information evolution itself non-contingently predicts are nested hierarchies and some undefined means of heredity. (And look at the mess horizontal transfer and endosymbiosis makes of phylogenetic trees and heredity.)

    For example, I don’t think the design of “legs” is easy to describe, nor predicted from scratch by any known mechanism in evolution. (And the robot makers agree that design for leg movement and balance are difficult even when plagiarized from nature and trained by evolutionary algorithms.)

  18. #18 Science Avenger
    April 24, 2007

    Dembski said: Why then, the heroic efforts to explain design away, with such silliness as random variation and natural selection providing the engine that produced highly sophisticated biological software and information-processing systems?

    Notice all the metaphors: engine, software, processing systems. It is important to remember this game of equivocation the IDers play. DNA is not software. The Flagellum is not a rotary motor. Selection is not an engine. They may have analogous features, but that does not make them equivalent. The IDers have no intellectual business trying to import the traits of the primary items onto the metaphorical items to bolster their arguments.

    They have to do this because if we ever got a good chart comparing an actual rotary motor to a flagellum, it would be ovious to anyone that the two are not equivalent at all.

  19. #19 Sastra
    April 24, 2007

    As physicist Alan Cromer put it in the title of his book, science is Uncommon Sense. The careful methods of checking and cross-checking go against the grain of our natural tendencies and biases, our hunches and gut reactions. The great divide between the supernaturalists and scientific humanists seems to be the degree of reliance placed on intuition, on “common sense.”

    Studies suggest that children are born with an innate tendency to use different modes of information porcessing when dealing with physical, biological, and psychological entities — and these core understandings are easily confused into category mistakes. Mental qualities get attributed to physical things. Meaningful patterns are imposed on random events. The workings of the universe are formed into a cosmic narrative which helps to make sense of everything as measured against ourselves and our needs.

    Thus, questions like “who made the moon?” and other varieties of magical and anthropomorphic thinking comes easily and naturally to us, and it’s only later on that reason and analytical thinking help us go against these simplistic intuitions. And some people will always see more wisdom in the first impulse. Reason leads us away from what we know “deep down.” Trust your instincts.

    I suppose if you interpret what first looks obvious to us as “the still small voice of God” whispering to please keep the faith, then skeptical rational analysis will indeed look like desperate attempts to evade what is sometimes called “heart-knowledge” (I hate that term, I almost never hear it used on anything but justifications of various forms of woo).

  20. #20 bob
    October 8, 2011

    It’s the “common sense trumps all” argument. It’s a very compelling idea until you realize that pretty much the whole body of science has come about by people getting past the apparent to the actual. Design may be apparent, but so is a flat earth at the centre of the universe, not to mention such things as objects in motion tending to slow down and stop. Or are scientists in denial about those things as well?

    Typical evolutionist deflection. Rather than argue your belief you point to real science and go are you saying the earth is flat. Evolution is not science and never has been. It is a belief in an unprovable idea which is the definition of a religion. I fight with evolutionists all the time and their favorite response probably learned from their college teacher is I suppose you don’t believe in gravity either. Of course I do. Gravity can be proven. Evolution cant. Hell in the last 100 years the age of the earth has gone from 1 million to 4 billion years and yet each time evolutionists said we know that the earth is this old for a fact. Obviously you were wrong about the age of the earth so you could be wrong about the whole theory. But of course you won’t consider that because you can’t deny your religion. It owns you.

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.