Respectful Insolence

Longtime readers of this blog may recall Pat Sullivan, Jr. He first popped up as a commenter here two years ago, when I first dove into applying skepticism and critical thinking to the pseudoscientific contention that vaccines in general or the thimerosal preservatives in vaccines cause autism. He’s a true believer in the mercury militia and, even to this day, posts on his blog about the unsupported belief that vaccines cause autism somehow. Eventually, he “outed me”–and no doubt will do so again when he notices traffic coming in from this post (yawn). In any case, I haven’t really thought about him much in a year and a half, if not longer, except for the occasional mention of the joy he took in reposting the rabid mailing list message “outing” me, simply because–well–he isn’t really worth thinking about that much.

Until now.

You see, Pat is also a creationist. He probably won’t like being called that, but it’s basically true. He’s posted his “skepticism” about “Darwinism” on multiple occasions and has made no secret of his sympathy for “intelligent design” creationism. From my perspective, it all goes to show that woo begets woo and that people prone to credulity towards one form of pseudoscience tend to be prone to credulity towards other logical fallacies and pseudoscience. After all, Phillip Johnson, one of the “luminaries” of the ID movement is also an out-and-out HIV denialist, and a certain denizen of William Dembski’s blog, besides being a creationist, is also a global warming “skeptic” and has promoted self-experimentation among cancer patients with an untested (in humans, at least) chemotherapeutic agent outside the purview of the FDA. Then, of course, we have Pat, who not only believes in ID, but also that mercury causes autism and all sorts of dubious claims about mercury amalgams. He’s also–surprise! surprise!–a global warming “skeptic.”. (Is anyone seeing a pattern here?) Despite all that, Pat actually made an interesting, albeit disturbing, observation about the pseudodebate between ID creationism and evolution. But first, you have to understand where he is coming from:

I am a marketing guy for the most part. I look at most things from a marketing perspective. Can it be sold? Will people understand it? Is the message right? Is the product right? Is it positioned correctly against it’s competitors?

Viewing Darwinism versus Intelligent Design I often think that ID has a definite marketing advantage over Darwin. It is just much simpler to understand, true or not. Don’t underestimate the power of that. When people are faced with a choice, one they understand versus one they don’t, they readily pick the former. I think this is one major reason that in spite of many decades of Darwinism’s total control over the education process, some 66% of people polled (US Today/Gallup) believe “Creationism, that is, the idea that God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years.”

Certainly the propagandists at the Discovery Institute seem to be of the same mind as Pat. After all, they do no scientific research about ID. Zero. Nada. Zip. Instead, they devote their considerable resources and energy to what is in essence a massive marketing effort to “sell” the public on their “product,” namely ID creationism (or, failing that at the very least, a hostility towards the dreaded “atheistic Darwinism”). It’s also eerie the way that Pat seems to nail one reason why ID persists despite the simple fact that the overwhelming scientific consensus is that the theory of evolution is one of the most successful and powerful theories ever conceived. A lot of it is marketing, but not just by the Discovery Institute. It’s marketing by religion, mostly fundamentalist religion, that tells its adherents that evolution can’t be true. It should also be remembered that this “marketing,” when it comes from Pat, is being used to sell a wide variety of supplements with not a lot of evidence to support their efficacy.

But let’s get a bit more of a feel of where Pat’s coming from:

What interests me as a marketing observer is this; after tens of thousands of exposures to the Darwin marketing “message” only some 34% of people buy the message. And with almost NO exposures to the contrary message except in Sunday school and mom and dad, 66% of people believe we were created by a designer. Personally, I believe the main reason this is the case is the ease with which people look at the world and readily conclude it looks designed. The arguments to the contrary just are really hard to follow.

In other words, because Pat can’t understand evolution, it must not be true. OK, I’m oversimplifying a bit, but that does seem to be his basic message. He also seems to underestimate the influence that parents and religion have. “Almost NO exposures to the contrary message except in Sunday school and mom and dad”? In most children’s lives in this country, in any list of the top three influences on their lives, those two (parents and church) would be there. They’re more than enough to guarantee that it’s evolution that’s at a disadvantage, particularly since many schools are not even teaching much evolution in biology classes anymore. What puzzles me, though, is why he finds the “arguments to the contrary” to be “really hard to follow.” Are they that hard? Actually, they aren’t that hard to understand if an average person with an average intelligence puts forth an honest effort. It’s not “elitism” to say so, given that the concepts at the core of evolutionary theory are pretty basic.

That never stopped ID creationists like Pat, though, from saying otherwise:

The concept of “irreducible complexity” put forth by Dr. Michael Behe in his book “Darwin’s Black Box”. I read the book and it was very easy to follow. He uses the concept of a mousetrap to get his point across. I came across a rebuttal to Behe’s concept written by longtime Darwinist Dr. Ken Miller, author of “Finding Darwin’s God”. Now I am not a scientist but I probably would not be considered stupid by most people. (For sure some though!) I read his entire rebuttal of Behe’s work. I don’t follow the logic of it at all. It is too complex. I find that generally this is true of most stuff I read by Darwinist’s rebutting ID stuff. I really try to follow their arguments and find myself bewildered. As a marketer this explains why most people simply say, “it looks designed, it is designed, next question”.

Actually, Pat is not known for his intellectual firepower, at least when it comes to science, and I can attest to his difficulty with basic scientific concepts, particularly when it comes to examining the evidence regarding whether vaccines cause autism. He misses the gist of the problem anyway. It is not a problem with intelligence that limits the ability of most people to “understand” and accept “Darwinism” as the theory that best explains the diversity of life and how new species evolve. There are many explanations of evolution that are quite simple to understand. The basic concept of natural selection is not difficult to grasp. It may be true that the scientific (as opposed to the pseudoscientific and ideological) controversies over “Darwinism” can devolve into discussions of minutiae, but the basic concepts of evolution by natural selection are accessible to the educated layman. Resources include Kenneth Miller’s website, Talk.origins, and Sean Carroll’s Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom. Heck, I was just looking over the latest issue of Skeptic. It included in its Junior Skeptic section explanations of evolution geared towards children. The information is out there and framed and targeted at a general audience of nonscientists, if only Pat would bother to look. To paraphrase The X-Files, “The Truth is out there.”

My guess is that, like most people who have a problem with evolution, doesn’t want to understand. He wants to believe that there is an “intelligent designer” out there intervening in evolution. He wants to believe in irreducible complexity, the dubious (at best) concept that there are biological structures that are too complex to have evolved without the input of a “designer” (a.k.a. God, even though ID propagandists are careful not to admit that their Designer is, in fact, God). After all, saying “God did it” when encountering a problem is easy. Figuring out the mechanisms by which a complex structure may have evolved is hard. Indeed, Pat gives his game away with this truly idiotic comment:

…don’t you find it interesting that there is NO recorded history prior to less than 10,000 years ago? If man has been around millions of years why the heck did it take so long to learn to write? Most kids are doing it by 2nd grade! Man evolved enough to suddenly figure out how to record his thoughts just a few thousand years ago? Hmmm.

Truly, this is the most ignorant thing I’ve ever seen Pat say or write. Here, he’s sounding not like an ID adherent, but more like a Young Earth Creationist, a position that is truly untenable. Even Michael Behe doesn’t buy into such silliness. As for whether or not humans prior to 10,000 years ago had Just look at the cave drawings and early evidence of religious ritual, and you’ll see that ancient humans had a pretty high degree of abstract thinking ability. Writing was just the culmination of that ability.

But I digress.

Although Pat routinely shows his utter ineptitude in understanding science, be it evolution or evidence-based medicine, he does make a point that does, as much as I hate to admit it, have a grain of truth to it. Evolution does have a “marketing problem.” However, contrary to Pat’s facile explanation, it’s not just because ID is so simple to understand, nor is “Darwinism” at such an overwhelming advantage when it comes to being taught. It should be, given that there really isn’t a scientific controversy regarding ID versus evolution. Yes, I know that just saying that “God did it” is far simpler than getting into the nitty-gritty of scientific explanations, but that’s not the only reason creationism is winning hearts and minds. The reason people like Pat have so much trouble “understanding” evolution is because they don’t really want to understand it and don’t like what they perceive to be its implications.

As long as the U.S. is so drenched in fundamentalist religion that it cannot accept a scientific theory that has overwhelming support, evolution will be seen as an interloper that threatens the religious consensus. It also reveals one reason that I’ve always suspected that people embrace pseudoscience, be it creationism, HIV denialism, or global warming “skepticism,” rather than science: They simply don’t like the consequences of the science.

Comments

  1. #1 Scott
    June 25, 2007

    I guess part of the marketing problem is that evolution supporters are limited to the facts. If Pepsi could claim (and people weren’t interested in verification) they have 0 calories, all the essential nutrients for the day and make you lose weight then I guess there wouldn’t be many people drinking Coke. When you can throw out any crazy idea you want it gives you a lot of room for ‘marketing’. I guess honest politicians must run into the same problem.

  2. #2 Doug Hudson
    June 25, 2007

    Quite right. Although I think that saying they “dont like” the implications of science is not strong enough–they actively fear it. Because the implication of science is that there are no gods, and, by extension, no afterlife.

    I was reading the De Rerum Natura of Lucretius recently, and I was stunned by the modernity of the epicurean philosophers. Their viewpoint was very close to the scientific method; his opening chapter is a paean to the mind of man and its ability to understand the universe, shedding the superstitions of religion and the gods. If this philosophy had been embraced, instead of Christianity, humanity might well be far more advanced than it is.

    Yet the epicureans were never particularly popular. When I commented on this to friend, he observed, “Its because they didn’t have an afterlife. No philosophy that doesn’t have an afterlife will ever be very popular.”

    I suspect this is the problem that atheism and evolution face today.

  3. #3 Matt Penfold
    June 25, 2007

    Something Pat seems to have ignored, or is ignorant of (hard to tell which) is that when looking at the West evolution is only a “hard sell” in North America, and in the US in particular. The reasons for this are numerous but will include the fact that Western Europe is less religious and what religion there is tends to be far less dogmatic. Science education standards may also have something to do with it.

  4. #4 wolfwalker
    June 25, 2007

    Orac, I think you’ve put your finger squarely on the problem, but misunderstood its source. A few years ago there was a book published about this subject: God’s Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World, by social-anthropologist Christopher Toumey. Toumey’s view is that the problem is not religion, fundamentalist or otherwise. Rather, the problem is the appallingly poor way that Americans (and most people in general) learn about science.

    The majority of Americans, Toumey argued, are taught a “common sense” view of science derived from Sir Francis Bacon’s view of Nature as inherently simple, obeying common-sense rules that are easily understandable by any layman. The complexities of advanced science are beyond them — not because of stupidity, but because of lack of proper mental training. It’s hard to train yourself to see both the small picture and the big picture at the same time, and gain even a fuzzy understanding of the complexities that rule the higher echelons of scientific theory. This explains why average folks are susceptible to all sorts of pseudoscience, not just creationism or medical woo. Most people want simple answers to complex questions, and modern science doesn’t give that. But the woo-purveyors do. From the mercury-autism nonsense to the Pogue carburetor, Americans fall prey to pseudoscience when two conditions are met: first, the pseudoscience is presented in a simple and easy-to-understand way; and second, the refutation depends on advanced knowledge of the relevant field(s) of science.

    Until somebody finds a way to make evolution acceptable to the common-sense view of science, evolution will keep having this marketing problem.

  5. #5 Matt Penfold
    June 25, 2007

    The theory of evolution has always struck me as being a pretty simple theory to understand, at least as far as the basics go. Far easier than theories of relativity or quantum theory. Those really do require you suspend common sense in order to understand them.

  6. #6 Dave S.
    June 25, 2007

    Truly, this is the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen Pat say or write. Here, he’s sounding not like an ID adherent, but like a Young Earth Creationist, a position that is truly untenable. Even Michael Behe doesn’t buy into that silliness. As for whether or not humans prior to 10,000 years ago had Just look at the cave drawings and early evidence of religious ritual, and you’ll see that ancient humans had a pretty high degree of abstract thinking ability. Writing was just the culmination of that ability.

    Writing rose as a need when societies went from hunter-gatherer cultures to settling in fixed locations based on agriculture. As those civilizations became larger, the need for bureaucratic control (simply keeping track of transactions for instance), and hence writing, rose concurrently. People before then were plenty intelligent to write, there was simply no need to develop this technology.

  7. #7 llewelly
    June 25, 2007

    Given the vindictiveness, callousness, brutality, and stupidity of the ‘god’ in the Christian bible, it is interesting that Christianity does not suffer from a similar marketing problem. (Most likely explained by the paucity of Christians who read their bible – resulting in a set of beliefs which are quite different from, and much more palatable, than what their bible describes.)

    Nonetheless – however fallacious it is to judge a notion by its consequences, the fact that many do so explains why so many creationists are so eager to ascribe (often without evidence) ever more awful consequences for accepting evolution.

  8. #8 Dave S.
    June 25, 2007

    The theory of evolution has always struck me as being a pretty simple theory to understand, at least as far as the basics go. Far easier than theories of relativity or quantum theory. Those really do require you suspend common sense in order to understand them.

    Evolution however must deal with a very active and highly organized miss-information campaign as well, from several fronts.

  9. #9 Nathan Curry
    June 25, 2007

    I don’t know for sure about the vaccine/autism thing, but I do know a child who was fine BEFORE the vaccinations, and retarded AFTER. Conclusively autism, which was conclusively not there before, if doctors are to be believed. This is a child of right-wing conservative non-boat-rocking fundamentalist christians, and they’re pretty certain that it’s the high concentration of Mercury that messed up his little developing brain.

    I am vaccinated, and I am fine, however. But the exception doesn’t disprove the theory that vaccinations can cause autism. I also do not believe that they are the ONLY cause of autism. Also, I understand the cost/benefit analysis of someone in a disease-ridden area (like the sickle cell anemia vs malaria thing), so I’m not saying all vaccinations are evil.

    But then, what about the military malaria vaccine, which they continued to give to people (including a close friend of my girlfriend) in spite of the fact that a)it causes massive, chronic audio visual hallucinatory terrors, and b)there is a vaccine out there that doesn’t. Just because they had a bunch of this cheaper vaccine left over.

    Hurray for the Military Industry. Hurray for the Medical Industry.

    Oh, but I think that the Intelligent Design issue is stupid because Science is the inquiry into HOW and Religion is the inquiry into WHY. So it’s a different question these people are asking, and we should stop letting them answer our HOW question with their WHY answer.

  10. #10 fusilier
    June 25, 2007

    About a year ago, either here or at Pharyngula, Theron put it like this:

    Ignorance needs only a line or two. Knowledge requires several paragraphs, at least, plus footnotes.

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  11. #11 Matt Penfold
    June 25, 2007

    Dave,

    “Evolution however must deal with a very active and highly organized miss-information campaign as well, from several fronts.”.

    This is true in the US, far less so in Western Europe. One thing I have never quite understood is why the creationists do not attack the main theories of physics with the same vigour they do evolution. After all QM and relativity do as much damage to a literal interepretation of Genesis as evolution does, and both were developed before the current surge in creationism.

  12. #12 Jim RL
    June 25, 2007

    Aren’t there still a number of pre-literate societies? Writing is easy, but developing a written language is not, especially if there isn’t a need.

  13. #13 Jim RL
    June 25, 2007

    Aren’t there still a number of pre-literate societies? Writing is easy, but developing a written language is not, especially if there isn’t a need.

  14. #14 wolfwalker
    June 25, 2007

    Oh, I agree, Matt. The two basic rules of evolution: natural variation and natural selection — are extremely easy to understand. It only gets complex when you try to extend those rules to macroevolution: the origins of new species, genera, families, etc. To understand how evolution can do that, you need an advanced understanding of anatomy, genetics, and embryology. To understand the evidence that it has done all that, you need advanced knowledge of all those fields plus taxonomy, palaeontology, and evo-devo.

    And what do polls show us? Most people understand and agree with the aspects of evolution that they can see at work every day. Even the hardest of hardcore creationists have given up denying micro-evolution. They only argue against macro-evolution — the part that isn’t obvious and common-sensical.

  15. #15 Matt Penfold
    June 25, 2007

    Nathan,

    Autism is typically diagnosed in a child’s second year. Children normally start having their vaccines around 12 months, thus some children will be diagnosed as being autistic shortly after being vaccinated. This does NOT mean that the vaccine had any part in causing the autism and in fact the evidence shows quite the opposite. That there has been a rise in diagnosis of autism is true but that does not correlate to changes in vaccination policy.

  16. #16 Bob O'H
    June 25, 2007

    Evolution however must deal with a very active and highly organized miss-information campaign as well, from several fronts

    Does this mean we have to battle dating services as well?

    Bob

  17. #17 Science Avenger
    June 25, 2007

    Pat Sullivan said: I came across a rebuttal to Behe’s concept written by longtime Darwinist Dr. Ken Miller, author of “Finding Darwin’s God”. …I read his entire rebuttal of Behe’s work. I don’t follow the logic of it at all. It is too complex. I find that generally this is true of most stuff I read by Darwinist’s rebutting ID stuff. I really try to follow their arguments and find myself bewildered.

    This is one reason when I debate evolution-deniers I don’t see much value in spending a lot of time on the science. That is available enough to anyone interested in it, and those who would be persuaded by it mostly already are. The people asking questions and writing articles against evolution aren’t looking for answers. They are looking for that “gotcha” moment that allows them to feel superior.

    Deny them that. Focus on the wedge document, the overwhelming representation of fundamentalists in the creationism/ID ranks, the near nonexistence of scientific support for the creos from any circle, including those like mathematics and physics, where any claim of a Darwinian bias is laughable. Mathematicians and physicists are smarter than biologists (just ask them). If evolution ran afoul of the findings in either discipline, no force on earth could shut them up about it. These are arguments any sane, reasonable person can understand.

  18. #18 AnnR
    June 25, 2007

    From my perspective, it all goes to show that woo begets woo and that people prone to credulity towards one form of pseudoscience tend to be prone to credulity towards other logical fallacies and pseudoscience

    I picked up the recent issue of Rolling Stone that my son received because it had an article by RFK listed on the front cover. We get Rolling Stone but usually I don’t read it because I get zillions of other magazines as well.

    It was about energy efficiency. It makes it all sound like the market will fix the problem and all we need to do is have the gov’t stop subsidizing petroleum.

    But now I have to be a skeptic. If RFK took this other vaccine position that’s so off, should I suspect these statements about the glory of renew ables and energy?

  19. #19 Mark Duigon
    June 25, 2007

    It seems that what Pat is saying is it’s easier to believe in something simple, true or not, rather than in something that is true but complex. Even if you know the complex stuff is probably true, it’s just too…complicated. Thinking is haaard work. The successful marketing campaign is not the one that explains how the item works, it’s the one that tells you, if you buy it, you’ll get laid.

  20. #20 sailor
    June 25, 2007

    Evolution has been so accepted by the mainstream scientific community for so long I don’t think until recently too many people have been thinking they have to market it. That has now become apparent.
    Think of the science of commons sense (before your eyes) and everything looks designed.
    I would have thought dogs would be a great counter argument. There in front of you can see miniature poodles and great danes. That is a huge change in just a few thousand years, if we can do that in such a short time, why cannot nature do more in more time?
    People are trying now to get the idea of evolution accross I rather liked this on evolving clocks:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcAq9bmCeR0

  21. #21 rrt
    June 25, 2007

    To elaborate on the “don’t like the implications of science” argument: I think it’s also a matter of not liking falsely perceived implications. We’re constantly being told about the horrible things that will happen if “Darwinism” and (gasp! shudder!) atheism become the accepted mainstream positions, let alone the horrible things already happening because we dare tolerate these ideas in our society at all.

  22. #22 Rebecca
    June 25, 2007

    I would like to pick up on the idea that many, if not most Americans receive a poor science education. I think this is probably true – especially when it comes to understanding probability and statistics. I can see that it’s particularly a problem when dealing with scientific studies vs. anecdotal evidence. If one hasn’t taken a course in statistics, then it’s impossible to understand scientific articles that use statistics – while if three of your friends tell you that their children became autistic right after they were vaccinated, that looks like conclusive proof. But only if you don’t realize that correlation is not causation.

  23. #23 The Pacifier
    June 25, 2007

    Why is it that the brighty brights and creationists can’t seem to acknowledge (at least to each other) that they simply ‘don’t know’ when it comes to the big question… Why is there something rather than nothing?

    According to the Anthropic Principle; there is something because we are here to ask the question. However, that is just as unsatisfying as saying that god created everything.

    Let’s face it…. That is the question. Does anyone really care about the science of ‘evolution’…? I mean, I guess if you enjoy the science… more power to ya. But evolution, as far as I can tell, does not address initial cause.

  24. #24 Ed Darrell
    June 25, 2007

    Mr. Sullivan has been way out beyond the wall in left field on evolution for a very long time (do a search for the topic on his blog — or look for my tortured, layman’s responses to his stuff under “Darrell,” you’ll begin to see what I mean).

    But as a former marketing whiz (my candidates generally won, usually coming from behind, and on less money than the other guys spent), let me tell you: Evolution isn’t losing the marketing war.

    Marketing success is not measured by who has the biggest drum to bang, or who bangs their drum the loudest. Marketing is measured in products moved.

    Evolution wins hands down. If one wishes to invest in evolution theory, applied, in the stock market, one has a variety of companies to choose from who depend on Darwin being right to make their products work: Cargill, ConAgra, especially Genentech, and Pfizer, Merck, and all the pharmaceutical companies. Generally, in a given five-year period, your stocks will do well with those companies. Their products sell well.

    In contrast, there is not a single company which has a product to market which can pass the business ethics hurdles to be listed in any stock market in the U.S., not the NYSE, AMEX, NASDAQ, nor any other market.

    But think about where applied evolution works, and how people use it. Have you ever heard of anyone refusing insulin to treat diabetes in favor of the intelligent design alternative? How about leukemia treatments? How about HIV/AIDS? In medicine, Darwin rules. People may not understand it, but they don’t turn down Darwin when their life depends on it, even if it means their salvation is at risk according to the words of some unethical preacher.

    How about what we eat? Is it possible to eat in America today without eating the fruits of applied Darwinian theory? Think of the products of evolution that we know for certain were created through evolution, and consider the alternatives. Evolution gives us broccoli, Brussells sprouts, cauliflower, radishes, and Canola — all from mustard! (Jesus was endorsing Darwin, perhaps, when he preached the parable of the mustard seed?) Grapefruit are a relatively new species, and red grapefruit are the result of a fortuitous sport mutation — exactly the kind creationists like to deny is possible. We eat beef, though we know that the species from which we got beef is extinct — the aurochs, the last one of which was poached in Poland nearly a millennium ago.

    110 years ago not even scientists were giving much credence to Darwinian evolution. Now few scientists fail to understand it. The percentages of citizens who understand it (usually misasked as “believe in evolution” in the polls) is creeping upwards, too. This is quite a marketing success considering that it was illegal to teach evolution for about half the 20th century in a dozen states, and that it was rarely, if ever, taught in any other state prior to 1957 and the Sputnik scare (where’s a good Cold War bogeyman when you need him?). Repeated polls show only about a third of biology teachers teach evolution today.

    And this guy, Sullivan, thinks that with creationists spending about $5 million a year to slander evolution, and they’re losing ground, evolution is marketed badly?

    In every marketing sphere, food, medicine, ideas, evolution advances. There is no group like the Discovery Institute, or the Institute for Creation Research, or Answers in Genesis, spending millions a year to promote evolution.

    That evolution is still alive, in fact, might be considered a sort of miracle, to people who use reason.

  25. #25 psychodiva
    June 25, 2007

    once again I am glad I am in the UK where so-called ‘Darwinism’ obviously does not need to be marketed to anybody and the Government has come out against Creationism / ID and called it what it is – a pseudoscience.

  26. #26 Pat Sullivan
    June 25, 2007

    Orac et al,

    I was shocked and honored in a strange sort of way to find here that my simple post on marketing and evolution created a bit of a firestorm. For someone “well–he isn’t really worth thinking about that much.” to have 6,147 words (and counting) written about my 5 paragraph post seems such a waste of time.

    To have such negative things said about me by so many is humbling. Certainly, I have never really made any claim to great scientific knowledge. I write about things I observe and recognize I sometimes can be right and I can be wrong. My expertise is in marketing, not science. And even with marketing my expertise is mostly born out of deep, rich experience from 2 fair successes in the computer software worlds where you mostly live or die by marketing.

    The simple observation I was trying to make is that evolution as an idea/product has not faired all that well in the marketplace. And that is not to say it is wrong as all of you assume! It was a simple marketing observation. Often ideas/products ultimately fail due to bad marketing. The iPod is a fairly complex product in terms of the actual technology it contains (depending on how detailed you want to get into that technology.) Apple does a fabulous job however of marketing how cool it is, rather than the technology in it. Apple wins.

    Microsoft however tends to market it’s technology and yet wins big for other marketing reasons, primarily distribution power and the power of 2 monopolies. I am not saying either company is superior or wrong. They simply win because they have mastered some elements of marketing. You don’t have to get all the elements right. But who cares I guess.

    Regarding being wrong on all the subjects I find interesting and write about, how is it you are right on every subject you write about? You are just a lot smarter than I? Actually, I mean that mostly sincerely. Regarding scientific and medical thought you clearly best me by far. Again though I don’t pretend to be a scientific wiz. But I do represent a good portion of the “markeplace” of ideas. Just the fact that some 60%+ of the markeplace does not buy into evolution suggests a marketing problem. You all excuse that to the stupidity, religion and education of that marketplace. I suggest this is partially true but not primarily.

    I suggest on my blog over and over that the problem is the FACT that things simply appear designed. It is a serious marketing problem to change what the mind of the marketplace already holds as true. People believe that the incredible structures found in nature (both living and not) well, are designed because they so readily appear designed.

    Regardless of all the efforts to convince the marketplace that something that looks designed actually is NOT designed have failed for the most part. That is really the marketing advantage that ID holds. ID fits what the common people (perhaps stupid in yours and everyone elses view here) simply observe.

    Changing that widely held view is very hard. This widely held perception precedes ID by several centuries. And the ongoing revelations of science regarding the molecular machinery previously unknown and unseen adds to the perception of design of at least partially intelligent people like me.

    That is the point I was trying to make. I apparently did not do a very good job of making my point. But at least it provided fodder for all of you.

    Regarding calling me a creationist, I regret to say I am not a creationist. I understand and believe in common descent, random mutation and natural selection. Most creationists certainly don’t readily subscribe to those. I simply don’t believe they are adequate to explain the appearance of design.

    Enjoy bashing me further. I stopped coming to your site long ago because I personally found it a waste of time. It is for a different audience than me. Not because I was scared off or intimidated, though I do confess to a level of intimidation because I am unable to match this audiences obvious apparent grasp of consensus scientific thought. AS you are aware, consensus has been proven wrong numerous time in history. I guess I always tend to root for the underdog.

    Pat

  27. #27 Mike Haubrich, FCD
    June 25, 2007

    I actually have a friend who has used the reasoning that since the details of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian Evolution are so involved, that referring to a Designer is parsiminous. He has said that ID passes Occam’s Razor.

    I think the desire for science literacy is something that should be “framed,” if not by scientists then by the remainder of society.

    “I Want to Know How” should be a marketing campaign. This is what scientists do, but the creationists are changing the message to “I Want to Know If” and they are taking the quickets answer.

  28. #28 Jud
    June 25, 2007

    “They simply don’t like the consequences of the science.”

    There is such a wealth these days of contrary opinion masquerading as science (particularly re evolution, where the designer-God line of thought far predates Darwin) that it is easy for such folks to find “science” whose consequences they *do* like.

  29. #29 Patrick Sullivan Jr.
    June 25, 2007

    Orac, geez, you don’t ever think of me anymore? What happened? I thought we were pals? ;-)

    Actually, Pat Sr. is the one writing about ID, not me, Patrick Jr. But he and I share virtually the same position, so it’s a minor correction.

    Orac said, Is anyone seeing a pattern [ID over evolution, global warming is not occurring, mercury causes autism, mercury amalgams are bad] here?

    Yes, I see the pattern quite clearly. I’m sure you could predict with a high degree of accuracy my views on a number of other seemingly unrelated issues (gun control, abortion, gay marriage, immigration, etc.), just as I could likely predict yours. Let’s call them our “issue portfolios”, and they are likely diametrically opposed.

    Fair enough, but why is it that so many millions of people share Issue Portfolio A (you) and so many millions share Issue Portfolio B (me)?

    In my experience, the basis for “pro” or “against” on any number of wide-ranging firmly held beliefs is — more often than not — rooted in one’s belief (or disbelief) in the God of the Judeo Christian Bible, and the teachings found therein.

    Case in point, a very good friend of mine holds an “issue portfolio” that’s likely very similar to yours. He asked me several months ago during one of our marathon debates if I believed that God created us (abiogenesis) simply because I first had faith in God, and the creationism stuff was just the baggage that came along with it?

    My answer was “No, just the opposite in fact — I have faith in God *because* I believe everything we see has *not* evolved from nothing into something by random chance. I believe God created us (time frame irrelevant) because my mind cannot intellectually accept that no one did it. (I am especially amazed by the interconnectedness of everything. How did everything that relies on something else outside of itself macro-evolve together?) And so in the absence of absolute provable truth without a single voice of dissent from either side, I’m going with my gut, based on everything I’ve read, what I’ve witnessed with my own eyes, and what I feel to be true in my own heart.”

    Orac said, It also reveals one reason that I’ve always suspected that people embrace pseudoscience, be it creationism, HIV denialism, or global warming “skepticism,” rather than science: They simply don’t like the consequences of the science.

    And the same argument cannot be made for the opposing view? Maybe life does have purpose and meaning because at the end of the day, we’re all to be held accountable for our actions? Could our ingrained yearning for justice to be done in this life a glimpse into the reality of the afterlife?

    Orac said, …at least when it comes to examining the evidence regarding whether vaccines cause autism. He misses the gist of the problem anyway.

    Must we really have to open this debate again? ;-)

    – Patrick Sullivan Jr.

  30. #30 Jud
    June 25, 2007

    “I actually have a friend who has used the reasoning that…referring to a Designer is parsiminous. He has said that ID passes Occam’s Razor.”

    Really. Who designed the Designer? “It’s turtles all the way down” is n minus one too many turtles (or Designers) to satisfy Occam.

  31. #31 Orac
    June 25, 2007

    AS you are aware, consensus has been proven wrong numerous time in history.

    Ah, yes, the old “science was wrong beforetrope.

    Of course, it’s usually scientists who notice when present theory does not account for new observations and modify it accordingly. In any case, there is no evidence that casts the theory of evolution in doubt in such a way that ID would explain biology better.

  32. #32 Orac
    June 25, 2007

    In my experience, the basis for “pro” or “against” on any number of wide-ranging firmly held beliefs is — more often than not — rooted in one’s belief (or disbelief) in the God of the Judeo Christian Bible, and the teachings found therein.

    Interesting. With one fell swoop, you left out Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus.

    And the same argument cannot be made for the opposing view? Maybe life does have purpose and meaning because at the end of the day, we’re all to be held accountable for our actions? Could our ingrained yearning for justice to be done in this life a glimpse into the reality of the afterlife?

    Nice try, Pat, but it won’t fly, and here’s why. Whether or not God or an afterlife exists can never really be proven one way or the other by science, at least not given our current level of technology. For such a debate, the facts probably can’t prove which position is right or wrong. When it comes to denialism of well-established science, it’s a different matter. In such “debates,” facts and science can indeed demonstrate who is closer to the truth. When Phillip Johnson or Peter Duesberg claims that HIV does not cause AIDS, we can point to boatloads of evidence that says it does. When Michael Behe mangles biology to claim that certain biological structures are too complex to have evolved through natural selection, we can point to even more evidence showing that complex structures can indeed evolve. When antivaxers claim that MMR or thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, large quantities of scientific and epidemiological evidence that neither of them do cause autism can be referenced.

    You may have a point about some of this denialism, though. HIV denialists tend not to like the implication that comes from HIV causing AIDS, namely that AIDS is not a punishment for being gay or promiscuous, that HIV is a virus that anyone can get. Such denialism very likely derives from Christian tenets. And, of course, evolution denialism and ID creationism derive almost solely from religion.

    Oh, and one I forgot to respond to:

    egarding calling me a creationist, I regret to say I am not a creationist. I understand and believe in common descent, random mutation and natural selection. Most creationists certainly don’t readily subscribe to those. I simply don’t believe they are adequate to explain the appearance of design.

    You don’t accept that natural processes alone are sufficient to account for the complexity of life. To you, supernatural intervention was required. That makes you a creationist, although you apparently prefer to hide it from yourself by using the word “design” instead.

  33. #33 Sheldon
    June 26, 2007

    I have posted the following comment on the recent invention of writing at this Sullivan character’s blog. Thought I would share here.

    Pat,
    I have arrived to your blog, through links from others mainly to comment on something you wrote about the relatively recent history of writing.

    I found this quite comical. A little brief research into the context of how writing systems were invented would provide some answers to your confusion.

    First, it had little to do with evolved intelligence. Humans had the capacity in terms of intelligence for thousands of years before they invented writing.

    Writing came about with the sociopolitical evolution (not biologic) evolution of the state. Ancient states required record keeping to keep track of tribute like in Mesopotamia. Ancient elites also used writing to record their lineage and conquests to legitimize their social position such as in the case of the Maya.

    More egalitarian social formations had no need for writing, and thus did not invent it. Thats the simple and short version of the story. Looking into the specific case studies would of course reveal more complexity in the story.

  34. #34 Pat Sullivan
    June 26, 2007

    Orac,

    “science was wrong before” merely suggests it is always best for science to not be so smug and certain that consensus is always correct.

    Of course it is “scientists who notice” when something is wrong with current theory. It would be rare when this is not the case. Most of the ID guys ARE real scientists with at least as good an education as you. I think it is pure arrogance to dismiss these pretty smart guys out of hand which you and others almost certainly do.

    I know that there are scientists who have “rebutted” Behe and others but he has rebutted back. Who is right? History shows (I know this is a generalization damnit) that usually it is a lone, or few naysayers to consensus belief that begins an argument and are usually crucified (metaphorically) for decades before their new theory is accepted as true. I believe it is entirely possible that we are witnessing history repeat itself. I say possible!

    I am NOT saying Darwins 3 main theories (common descent, random mutation and natural selection) are in question. Not at all. I am saying that they don’t adequately explain everything (actually much) of what we now know about molecular machinery ala Behe, ala macro evolution.

    Also, I am perhaps the worst person to make these statements since I am not a real ID scientist. I am merely an interested, untrained observer. Dismantling what I say means absolutely nothing. Dismantling every observation made by some really smart guys like Behe etc. would be doing something intelligent. Dismissing them as religionists and not scientists does not satisfy people like me. I prefer real logic versus real logic. In this argument I find that this is rare on your side of the argument.

    Thanks for posting my previous comment.

    Pat Sr.

  35. #35 Patrick Sullivan Jr.
    June 26, 2007

    Orac,

    egarding calling me a creationist, I regret to say I am not a creationist…

    I didn’t write the quote that you are attributing to me. And I didn’t see Pat Sr. write it anywhere either, but maybe he did and I just can’t find it??

    I do consider myself a creationist, if that means believing the Genesis account (time frame irrelevant).

    To the rest of your point, there is indeed much debate on ID, HIV, autism, etc. all with eerily familiar memes, but as I said before — “in the absence of absolute provable truth without a single voice of dissent from either side, I’m going with my gut, based on everything I’ve read, what I’ve witnessed with my own eyes, and what I feel to be true in my own heart.”

    To drastically simplify things, most of these debates feel like observing chocolate science; “Monday: Chocolate is good for you.”, “Tuesday: Chocolate is bad for you.”, “Wednesday: Chocolate is good for you again!”, “Thursday: Just kidding, it’s actually bad.”

    Given the on-going ping-pong match that is ID, HIV, autism, etc. between compelling scientists, I tend to follow this simple process:
    1. Follow the money.
    2. What’s the background of the person making each argument.
    3. What are my own personal observations.
    4. Form a conclusion.
    5. When something new pops up, repeat 1-4.

    – Patrick Sullivan Jr.

  36. #36 Patrick Sullivan Jr.
    June 26, 2007

    I didn’t write the quote that you are attributing to me. And I didn’t see Pat Sr. write it anywhere either, but maybe he did and I just can’t find it??

    Oops…I didn’t realize that Pat Sr. wrote a comment on *this* thread. I was searching over at PatSullivan.com for that.

  37. #37 wrg
    June 26, 2007

    Mathematicians and physicists are smarter than biologists (just ask them). If evolution ran afoul of the findings in either discipline, no force on earth could shut them up about it.

    Yeah? Well, what about the Second Law of Thermodynamics, huh, huh?

    The sad thing is that I still find more than a few trying out that old canard. It’s not surprising, though, since a popular application of apologetics seems to be trying arguments that don’t work until you find a sucker who’ll fall for them. The really sad thing, to the embarrassment of mathematicians, is Granville Sewell.

    To clarify for the creationists, I can’t say I’ve heard people in my department talking about how brilliantly he refutes Darwinism. I guess we have too much real, interesting work to discuss to spend much time talking about crankery.

    P.S. Just in case creationists who claim to be too dim to understand evolution are quote-mining, let me help you poor guys out by pointing out that you probably want to start quoting just after “I can’t say”.

  38. #38 John Morales
    June 26, 2007

    Pat Sullivan’s comment seeks to justify his post because “the problem is the FACT that things* simply appear designed.”

    Is this really a fact? I personally don’t think so.

    I wonder, since Pat apparently finds that humans* appear designed, what he makes of the evident flaws in our design?

    *humans are a member of the set of things.

  39. #39 Jud
    June 26, 2007

    Forgive me Orac, for I know exactly what I do. That is, I am continuing this thread, though I know it almost certainly will have no salutary effect whatever – but I just can’t help myself (cue Four Tops’ “Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch”).

    Pat Sullivan père wrote: “[I]t is always best for science to not be so smug and certain that consensus is always correct.”

    That’s what science does – question, whether what’s being questioned is a minority or consensus view. If scientists, including evolutionary biologists, weren’t continually questioning, where would Uncommon Descent, Egnor, Wells, Dembski, etc., get quotes to mine?

    I propose a little experiment: At Uncommon Descent, or any church you may regularly attend, begin questioning the prevailing wisdom with the skepticism and fervor of a scientist. See how long you remain welcome.

  40. #40 Alison
    June 26, 2007

    So much wrong in so little space. Orac, you have the patience of a saint (even though they really don’t exist, either. . .) Let me just say, though, that the argument that “I can do it/understand it means it’s right, I can’t means it’s wrong” is so absurd that it stuns me every time I see it. What’s worse is that someone, somewhere, is using this and having others nod in agreement. Even worse, and frightening, is that it is used by parents regarding the education of their children. At school board meetings, in conferences with teachers and principals, newspaper editorials and blogs, you’ll see parents complaining that their kids are learning things that they themselves don’t understand. Since Mom or Dad doesn’t understand it, clearly the kid doesn’t need to know it, and this is their objection to existing or proposed additional courses of study. It promotes ignorance right from the start. The problem is, if it’s not taught, it’s likely not learned. Like the foolish example of writing. Even after it was invented, it was not taught to everyone. Reading and writing was deliberately withheld from certain segments of the population in many, many societies. Here in this country, we have an example of an entire ethnic group being prohibited from learning to read or write within the last couple of centuries. If people weren’t able to “record history” well after the invention of writing, why is it difficult to conceive of unrecorded history before its invention? Heck, if you want a different angle, you could say that any kid over the age of 7 can program his shows into TiVo, how come we don’t see cavemen doing that, either? Huh? Huh?!?!

  41. #41 Orac
    June 26, 2007

    Actually, if Pat Sullivan père et fils don’t like the criticism here, they should check out this post. ;-)

  42. #42 Graculus
    June 26, 2007

    As a little side note, writing was developing for millenia before we get the first writing systems that we can translate. Nor were those writing/proto-writing systems anything to do with bureaucracies or transactions.

    Hmm.. looks like a feature developed for one function adapted to another function, which appears “suddenly” in the record, and whose development is usually misunderstood in overly simple terms by the general public. Hmm… sounds vaguely familiar….

  43. #43 Nathan Curry
    June 26, 2007

    Matt,
    From what I understand, the retardation visibly occurred in the weeks following the vaccinations, not a year later. I know, correlation is not causation. I’m willing to concede the point of mercury/autism, at least insofar as it doesn’t affect my life and I don’t have much first-hand experience with it.

    I do take issue with the violence with which people react to dissidence, because of a few things:

    First, the medical industry (the AMA, et al) has a violent (read: backed by a government) monopoly on what is considered healing and what can be prescribed. This gets even more tangly when you consider the vast amount of money that is at stake, and corporate sponsorship, bribes, etc that are handed around in that industry.

    Second, everyone is their own primary care physician. No doctor will ever know as much about you as you do. No doctor can go consult many different doctors for you. Medical errors are a leading cause of death in this country. People who don’t do their own homework are putting themselves in danger.

    Third, you can’t trust doctors, because most of them don’t give a crap. I just recently went to a dentist for the first time in a few years (which was the first time before for a few years before THAT), and my teeth are in wonderful shape, due mostly to diet, from what I can ascertain. The dentist missed a crack in my tooth, and made fun of me, because I insisted there was something wrong with it. I had to ask an intern, who looked again, then confronted the dentist. My girlfriend went to a gynecologist, and he told her she needed surgery because she was in stage 2 of some abnormal growth, soon to enter stage 3. She is seeing a Traditionl Chinese Medicine practitioner/acupuncturist, and she tried to get the doctor to schedule another meeting in a month to examine her cervix before he scraped it, in case it got better. He refused. She asked again. He refused EMPHATICALLY. A month later, she ended up with another gyno looking at her cervix, and the abnormal growth was barely in stage 1.

    Now, there are multiple interpretations for that. What I can guess is either the guy was a terrible, terrible doctor (just because you go to school for 12 years doesn’t mean you care–ask a lawyer), or her TCM is working (it’s working on her asthma, and the goal of increasing blood flow to her uterus has been reached, so I believe it), or the doctor was a plain old idiot. Or he was a dirty, rotten, bad man. In any case, if she’d listened to the doctor, she’d have undergone a painful and uncomfortable surgery that carries a high risk of permanently and painfully (like all-day screaming hemorrhoid-style pain) scarring the cervix.

    Fourth, my GRANDMOTHER, who is from the naive i-love-uncle-sam generation, has had several experiences with health difficulties that doctors wouldn’t fix, and when she discovers a home remedy (this example is soaking your hands in vinegar for psoriasis), she goes back to the doctor and the doctor says that he KNOWS already, but he can’t very well CURE people, or he’ll go out of business.

    a wise man once said, O RLY? I’m a computer tech, and maybe I would be more affluent if I stole a page out of their book.

    Fifth, I was on slashdot when Patrick Volderking was dying of his undiagnosed, uncontrollable mystery degenerative disease (which cleared up, finally). He was on there asking for help because he’d been to several specialists who gave him no answers and he was still dying. The funny thing was, ALL comments that told him to try something alternative (read: not gymnasium exercise, and not an MD) got modded down, hard. So juice fasting to flush toxins, heavy metals, etc? Modded down. Get out from in front of the computer, go for walks, try to enjoy yourself, and relax? Modded down. Acupuncture, massage, yoga? Modded down. Who is exhibiting herd mentality here? Someone comes to a group of people asking for HELP because he’s dying, and the group tries to drown out EVERYTHING except what he’s already tried, because it’s not backed by the AMA? Smart. Using their noggins, they are.

    So that’s why people are skeptical of doctors. You get that, don’t you?

    Not to rant, or anything. :-)

  44. #44 RC
    June 26, 2007

    Nathan,

    First, the plural of anecdote is not data- no number of friends/relatives/acquaintances’ bad experiences speaks to the detriment of an entire profession.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly that patients should be active players in their healthcare- so suggest otherwise would be both individually foolish and ineffective as a public health policy.

    To address some of your claims:
    1. “retardation” rarely occurs days-weeks after exposure to a putative neurotoxin, and even less commonly does so in the absence of serological, histological, or radiographic findings. Is it possible that a few milligrams of a yet-unidentified neurotoxin mysteriously, rapidly, and undetectably caused just enough brain damage to cause autism without causing death? Sure, if that’s what you want to believe….

    2. Most doctors don’t give a crap? I’m curious how you’ve managed to evaluate *most* of the nearly 1,000,000 physicians in the U.S. alone. What you mean is, you had what appears to be a single bad experience with a dentist and know someone who has had a bad experience with a physician. It’s also notable that what generally goes unmentioned in posts like this are the presumably many times you’ve been to a doctor and received great service from a competent professional. The very fact that we have to resort to anecdotes to make the claim that “most physicians don’t give a crap” suggests that, in fact, the reverse is true. Further, the person responsible for deciding if the growth was stage I, II, or III was a pathologist who you have never met- not the physician you’re currently bashing.

    3. Re: your grandmother’s wonder cure-all for psoriasis. I can only hope that you’re joking. Over six million people have psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis in the U.S. alone. Nearly $3 BILLION dollars were spent in the last year treating these people. The NIH spends $6.5 million dollars annually on psoriasis research. Now, what you’re telling all of us is that the cure that these 6 million people, thousands of scientists, billions of dollars, and countless hours of research have missed is …*drumroll*… vinegar?

    Please. First, get your facts straight. Apple cider vinegar has been used for years by patients with psoriasis for SYMPTOMATIC relief because it is soothing and, through its disinfectant effects, reduces the risk of infection of skin wounds. To suggest that this is a “cure” in any meaningful sense of the word is horrendously misleading. Second, do you think this physician, if he HAD discovered a miracle cure that the rest of the world missed, would keep it to himself? Why, to keep the business of a few patients like your grandmother? Hardly- he would patent the use, formulate it into a marketable product, and make money like he had never seen before.

    It’s precisely comments like these that make many of us physicians in training truly wonder just how “rewarding” medicine will be as a career. God knows the money’s not great anymore- our college buddies are already making crazy money in investment banking, consulting, or any one of a number of other fields. Most of us still (seemingly naively) feel that our patients will be thankful for our efforts- I’d hate to think we’re wrong.

    rc
    an md/phd student

  45. #45 Pat
    June 26, 2007

    Orac,

    Thanks for pointing me to that other blog. I posted this comment there:

    Apparently my question is/was interesting enough to generate so much comment. My comment was just a question looking for an answer and I appreciate the many answers here regarding why language and writing developed a relatively short time ago.

    Also, my point about the marketing power of a simple message was strictly from a marketing perspective. As a marketer, if 64% of my potential audience does not believe my message (meaning they are aware of the message) I would be concerned. Again, as a marketer. As a scientist I probably would not give a rat’s ass. In your case, perhaps that 64% can be ignored because it is not in your target audience or can simply be written off as too stupid and uneducated and religious. From my marketing viewpoint it seems that it is in the target audience and I was simply pointing that out.

    Finally, how easy it is to attack and easy target! On my blog I don’t pretend to be a scientist, only a person interested in science. Apparently, most of you are scientists judging by some of your comments. Scientists seem to have a lot of time on their hands. Unfortunately I don’t have that much time.

    I am however working on what I hope to be the last post on this subject in awhile that will state the observations of this layperson regarding the raging debate between evolution and ID. (You all of course say there is no debate even as you constantly debate.) I hope to have it done by tomorrow if I get time. So you might want to watch http://www.patsullivan.com so that you can have more fodder for your mostly ugly comments.

    Enjoy!

    Pat

  46. #46 Pat
    June 26, 2007

    John Morales wrote:

    Pat Sullivan’s comment seeks to justify his post because “the problem is the FACT that things* simply appear designed.”

    Is this really a fact? I personally don’t think so.

    I wonder, since Pat apparently finds that humans* appear designed, what he makes of the evident flaws in our design?

    I’ll take a laymens shot at that John. In Behe’s way of thinking micro evolution absolutely works in a “tinkering” sort of way. Mutations happen and bad things often result from random mutations. So, a well designed system/group of systems, that depends on oft replicating, mutating DNA is bound to show flaws and benefits over time.

    Software programs that I worked with often had major flaws show up when new operating systems were shipped, even when my previous version worked nearly flawlessly before. Shit happens! Evolutionists talk all the time about how our environment has dramatically changed over time. Hell, it is changing even now. Certainly mutations are going to happen with these changes, some good, some bad.

    The mistake that seems to always get made is that ID does in fact accept darwinian evolution in the micro sense but has trouble making the jump to macro. So micro evolution is certainly a possible explanation for flaws developing over time in the macro design. But it does not explain well the existence of the many complex systems that do appear designed.

    Pat

  47. #47 Porlock Junior
    June 26, 2007

    Speaking of Galileo, as the bozos do with such regularity, there’s a really nice passage in a letter from Cardinal Saint Robert Bellarmine on just the same idea as that life is *obviously* designed, so we don’t need to look at evidence.

    He’s speaking of the nutty new idea that all the Bible passages about how (e.g.) ‘the sun also riseth and the sun goeth down, and hasteneth to the place where he ariseth, etc.’ don’t really prove the Earth stands still whhile the Sun moves, because maybe they just describe appearances and shouldn’t be taken as literal fact. He doesn’t like the idea, of course:
    “And if you tell me that Solomon spoke only according to the appearances, and that it seems to us that the sun goes around when actually it is the earth which moves, as it seems to one on a ship that the beach moves away from the ship, I shall answer that one who departs from the beach, though it looks to him as though the beach moves away, he knows that he is in error and corrects it, seeing clearly that the ship moves and not the beach. But with regard to the sun and the earth, no wise man is needed to correct the error, since he clearly experiences that the earth stands still and that his eye is not deceived when it judges that the moon and stars move.”
    http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1615bellarmine-letter.html
    (The letter is actually to Foscarini, a priest, but also went to Galileo.)

    Shorter Bellarmine: Sure, there are illusions, but we *know* they’re illusions, so that’s all right. But as to Design, or the Earth being immovable, the appearances prove it so, because we *know* those aren’t illusions. QED [Latin for, so that's all right].

  48. #48 John Morales
    June 27, 2007

    Thank you, Pat, for that lucid response – I now wonder no more. It’s certainly not the sort of explanation a theistic creationist would offer!

    Their Designer’s product would not be detrimentally affected by such piffles as mutations or environmental change.

  49. #49 Pat Sullivan
    June 27, 2007

    Orac,

    I just posted something regarding censorship on my site that disturbed me greatly. It is here http://www.patsullivan.com/blog/2007/06/this-should-sca.html

    A serious question… A poll of sorts of your readers…

    Do you think what is being done in Europe ought be done here in America? Is my fear accurate? Would you all like to see this happen here?

    Pat

  50. #50 Matt Penfold
    June 27, 2007

    If the IDiots are correct and the human body is designed, I would like a quiet word with the designer to discuss his (I say his because a woman would not be so stupid) piss poor design of teeth. I feel particularly strongly about teeth at the moment as a couple of months ago I had a nasty tooth abcess that led to my getting trismus (lockjaw). Not a pleasent experience. And to make matters worse the antibiotics I took meant I could not self-medicate with vodka.

  51. #51 John Morales
    June 27, 2007

    Pat, I read your censorship comment, looked at your page, then sought the source of your source. My personal interpretation differs from that of the source (which I consider an opinion piece) you presented.

    I found this Council of Europe Draft resolution, to which I find myself sympathetic.

    (Orac, I offer my apology for this off-topic response, but I shan’t make it a habit. I tried to respond to Pat on his blog, but it failed to completely load and I could thus not respond there.)

  52. #52 Pat Sullivan
    June 27, 2007

    John,

    I am honestly thrilled you find my response to your comment a “lucid response” and “certainly not the sort of explanation a theistic creationist would offer!”

    I would like to point out that almost certainly Dr. Behe would have given the same answer (though I am certain in more accurate, scientific terms.) I think I can say this because my thinking on your excellent question comes almost verbatim from things I learned from his recent book, “The Edge of Evolution.” Perhaps he is also lucid and not the theistic creationist he is almost always made out to be?

    Thanks again.

    Pat

  53. #53 trrll
    July 1, 2007

    I actually have a friend who has used the reasoning that since the details of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian Evolution are so involved, that referring to a Designer is parsiminous. He has said that ID passes Occam’s Razor.

    There are two major problems with this argument. The first is that Occam’s Razor is not an algorithm for distinguishing true from false. We have no reason to believe that nature is necessarily simple; indeed, the historical trend is for simple theories to be proved incorrect, and to be replaced by more complex theories.

    So why use Occam’s Razor at all, then? Because it a useful heuristic for ordering hypotheses for testing. Simple hypotheses typically admit simpler, easier experimental tests, so it is most efficient to eliminate the simpler hypotheses first before proceeding to the more complex ones.

    This leads us back to what “simpler” really means in the context of Occam’s Razor. William of Occam actually phrased it along the lines of “Plurality ought never be posed without necessity.” But plurality of what? Generally, a simple hypothesis–one that has a fewer number of elements–has also fewer degrees of freedom. There is a more limited number of experimental outcomes that are consistent with the hypothesis, so it is easier to exclude by experimentation.

    The trap is that it is easy to delude yourself by into thinking a hypothesis is simple by refusing to contemplate the details of its internal structure. For any given observational or experimental circumstance, a hypothesis must have at least as many degrees of freedom (and therefore, as many “parts”) as there are possible outcomes consistent with the hypothesis. So an omnipotent Designer with no limitations on how it might choose to design life has infinite complexity in the sense of Occam’s Razor.

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