Pharyngula

Official denial, unofficial endorsement

I told you that the Discovery Institute was going to have conniptions over the Stein/O’Reilly interview. O’Reilly defined ID as the idea that “a deity created life,” and I could have mentioned this nonsense from Stein:

There’s no doubt about it. We have lots and lots of evidence of it in the movie. And you know Einstein worked within the framework of believing there was a God. Newton worked within the framework of believing there was a God. For gosh sakes Darwin worked within the framework of believing there was a God. And yet, somehow, today you’re not allowed to believe it. Why can’t we have as much freedom as Darwin had?

So now ID is a framework for god-belief. This is far off the reservation; the DI wants you to believe that there isn’t a shred of religious motivation behind their propaganda…a lie that was cleanly refuted in the Dover trial. It’s a lie that they want to continue to ask you to believe, however, but O’Reilly and Stein and all the happy creationists who freely associate ID with their theistic creationism haven’t got the message.

So the Discovery Institute Media Complaints Division has issued a hasty demurral. I knew it would be coming.

I wonder if the guys behind Expelled are doing a frantic rewrite right now?

Maybe not—there is something else to consider. This may be exactly what they want: official denials coupled to widespread public perception that ID supports their religion. If the Discovery Institute convincingly argued that their guess was entirely secular and had nothing at all to do with god, it would die away and disappear overnight. They’ve got to walk this risky tightrope of pandering to the religious for their support while struggling to maintain plausible deniability that they have a religious agenda. It’s got to be hard, poor fellas, but they may actually appreciate fronts like O’Reilly and Stein keeping the religious fervor going, while allowing them to remain officially aloof from it all.

Comments

  1. #1 Richard Harris, FCD
    October 24, 2007

    I suppose, if you’re going to believe in a theistic god, you’ve got to be good at lying to yourself. So this game of deceit that they play must come easy to them.

  2. #2 Steve LaBonne
    October 24, 2007

    This stuff may fool the rubes but as we saw in Dover, it ain’t gonna fool judges.

  3. #3 Billy
    October 24, 2007

    Ben Stein is no longer with us.

  4. #4 Arnosium Upinarum
    October 24, 2007

    “They’ve got to walk this risky tightrope of pandering to the religious for their support while struggling to maintain plausible deniability that they have a religious agenda. It’s got to be hard, poor fellas, but they may actually appreciate fronts like O’Reilly and Stein keeping the religious fervor going, while allowing them to remain officially aloof from it all.”

    I think you’re dead-on, PZ. While it would be a stretch to think that the players in this foolfest have any control in the matter, that is a very plausible reaction – an emergent “strategic response”.

    It’s amusing to see these imbeciles themselves evolving in their awkward and stumbling way.

  5. #5 Rey Fox
    October 24, 2007

    “And yet, somehow, today you’re not allowed to believe it. Why can’t we have as much freedom as Darwin had?”

    Because you can’t handle the freedom. Now get off your knees and get back to work, else I’ll have to give my jackboots a workout.

  6. #6 caynazzo
    October 24, 2007

    So, the ID movement distancing itself from “real” creationists is like religious moderates distancing themselves from fundamentalists is like a family distancing itself from their obscene drunk uncle. Is that it?

  7. #7 Michael
    October 24, 2007

    So, the ID movement distancing itself from “real” creationists is like religious moderates distancing themselves from fundamentalists is like a family distancing itself from their obscene drunk uncle. Is that it?

    It’s more like distancing yourself from your left arm…

  8. #8 386sx :P
    October 24, 2007

    It’s got to be hard, poor fellas, but they may actually appreciate fronts like O’Reilly and Stein keeping the religious fervor going, while allowing them to remain officially aloof from it all.

    Well if O’Reilly and Stein don’t believe the ID line that ID is not a creationist movement, then… they must not be so dumb after all. I guess. I dunno. At the very least, they are not “rubes.” :P

  9. #9 Pete
    October 24, 2007

    …or like dropping a few official denials that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks while conversationally implicating that he was.

  10. #10 Jake Boyman
    October 24, 2007

    For gosh sakes Darwin worked within the framework of believing there was a God.

    Not exactly, Darwin actually believed there was a Gosh.

  11. #11 rlrr
    October 24, 2007

    And you know Einstein worked within the framework of believing there was a God.

    He did? News to me…

  12. #12 Kristine
    October 24, 2007

    They’ve got to walk this risky tightrope of pandering to the religious for their support while struggling to maintain plausible deniability that they have a religious agenda.

    What a waste of time and energy!

    A belief in God is a belief in Nothing. That’s my conclusion.

  13. #13 Kagehi
    October 24, 2007

    while struggling to maintain plausible deniability

    You know, there is something seriously wrong in that sentence fragment, but I can’t quite… Oh, yeah, its the use of the word “plausible” when used in the context of anything that has to do with ID, let alone the deniability of its associations. lol

  14. #14 Michael
    October 24, 2007

    First off, the “god” of Einstein, which he repeatedly stated was the “god” of Spinoza is not the god that BS is talking about (aren’t those just perfect initials for this guy?). It is ridiculous to compare the two notions; Einstein was referring, of course, to the laws of nature. “God does not play dice” can be inferred to mean (and the inference is valid since Einstein directly dismissed the notion of a personal god) “the laws of nature are non-random” or, even more simply, “there are laws of nature”; he simply saw QM as too random to be a fundamental concept of nature.

    More important, however, is that it is an enormous non sequitur to state that because so-and-so believed in god (which may or may not be true) and also did great science, that god belief is related to good science. Who the hell cares if Einstein believed in god? Even if he did, why should that give god belief any more positive standing? We should listen carefully to Einstein’s positions on relativity and on physics in general (being careful not to accept “expert opinion” as evidence in and of itself); but Einstein’s opinions on bread-making, tennis, or even biology are of no more value than mine (even less, since I actually play tennis with a fair degree of skill).

  15. #15 J Myers
    October 24, 2007

    “Within the framework of believing there was a God” is utterly meaningless. How does this “framework” supposedly relate to anyone’s work? It is a fallacy of irrelevance to presume that it does. And “freedom?” Idiot. In this context, there is no such thing. No one has the “freedom” to choose reality; it is what it is, no matter how much one whines about wanting to believe in silly things.

  16. #16 gravitybear
    October 24, 2007

    …official denials coupled to widespread public perception that ID supports their religion.

    This reminds me of the argument of the theologians who say that Dr. Dawkins wasn’t arguing against religion properly since he didn’t take their reasoned theological treatises into account. It’s the same kind of bait-and-switch.
    The DI folks want to have people argue against ID as they say it is, not ID as people actually believe it.

  17. #17 Ske
    October 24, 2007

    How can there be ID with no god? Is there some kind of infinite sequence of intelligent lifeforms creating the next life form? If they Expelled doesn’t debunk the cosmologically or astrophysical theory of how solar systems form then this is not really something for any specific religion at all. We might as well believe in some kind of “life god”. The god that created matter (hydrogen and helium) 16 billion years ago, tuned the laws, and sat there until 12 billion years passed by for him to created life on this planet. Christian god? no.

  18. #18 Kseniya
    October 24, 2007

    while struggling to maintain plausible deniability

    Right; for a given value of “plausible”…

    My dad has often said that one of the most pernicious legacies of the Reagan administration is the concept of plausible deniability, and he may be right. Damn them all for that one.

  19. #19 Natasha Yar-Routh
    October 24, 2007

    but Einstein’s opinions on bread-making, tennis, or even biology are of no more value than mine

    Well Michael how do you know Einstein wasn’t secretly entering tennis matches in disguise? How can we know he wasn’t one of the greatest secret tennis masters of the 1920′s? How can we know for sure, how can we uh, uh?

    O come on that makes at least as much sense as anything Ben Stein or Bill O’Reilly ever said.

  20. #20 Dustin
    October 24, 2007

    I’m pretty sick of you dogmatic scientists and your faith in chemistry. Newton worked in the framework of alchemy and virginity. Why can’t we have as much freedom as Newton?

  21. #21 June
    October 24, 2007

    “Why can’t we have as much freedom as Darwin had?”

    Indeed Ben! What a goshdarn shame that Darwin was brilliant enough to free his mind from childhood beliefs, and you’re not.

  22. #22 Ric
    October 24, 2007

    Yes, it’s exactly like President Bush’s weak criticism of the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth in the 04 election. He of course wanted them to keep going even though he sort of denounced them. They were working in his interest.

  23. #23 Glen Davidson
    October 24, 2007

    What took the IDiots at Disco so long? Expelled‘s blog made it clear from the beginning that people like Gonzalez, who denied that their ID beliefs were religious, were in fact “expelled” precisely because their ID beliefs are religious. No matter how absurd it is to say that Gonzalez is being persecuted for a religious stance that he himself disavows ‘(unless Gonzalez is lying (as he is), which opens a whole ‘nother can of worms), Ruloff, Stein, and Miller have never caught on to the absurdity of their own claims as against those of the “persecuted”, while Disco apparently didn’t notice that Expelled‘s crew understand ID as nothing but a religious concept.

    I suppose that’s because Disco knows that ID is religious, regularly read “between the lines”, and being so used to the doubletalk, they failed to notice that Expelled and Stein didn’t keep the religious text between the lines, but wrote it all out, or worse, spilled it all on national TV.

    It’s been said that one should not lie–unless, of course, one is a very good liar. Since Disco only knows how to lie, but is not at all good at lying, perhaps they need to heed that advice, and just quit lying.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  24. #24 Levi
    October 24, 2007

    There is a very telling excerpt from that Dover decision (p. 24-25) that clearly illustrates your point:

    Dr. Haught testified that this argument [the designer argument] for the existence of God was advanced early in the 19th century by Reverend Paley and defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich admitted that their argument for ID based on the “purposeful arrangement of parts” is the same one that Paley made for design. (9:7-8 (Haught); Trial Tr. vol. 23, Behe Test., 55-57, Oct. 19, 2005; Trial Tr. vol. 38, Minnich Test., 44, Nov. 4, 2005). The only apparent difference between the argument made by Paley and the argument for ID, as expressed by defense expert witnesses Behe and Minnich, is that ID’s “official position” does not acknowledge that the designer is God. However, as Dr. Haught testified, anyone familiar with Western religious thought would immediately make the association that the tactically unnamed designer is God, as the description of the designer in Of Pandas and People (hereinafter “Pandas”) is a “master intellect,” strongly suggesting a supernatural deity as opposed to any intelligent actor known to exist in the natural world. (P-11 at 85). Moreover, it is notable that both Professors Behe and Minnich admitted their personal view is that the designer is God and Professor Minnich testified that he understands many leading advocates of ID to believe the designer to be God. (21:90 (Behe); 38:36-38 (Minnich)).

    Although proponents of the IDM occasionally suggest that the designer could be a space alien or a time-traveling cell biologist, no serious alternative to God as the designer has been proposed by members of the IDM, including Defendants’ expert witnesses. (20:102-03 (Behe)).

  25. #25 MikeM
    October 24, 2007

    Of course it’s all about religion. The denials are painful.

    All I really needed to read was the Wedge Document; since then, DI has done nothing but spin its wheels. Once Wedge saw the light of day, the charade was over; we all got it.

    That genie was impossible to put back into the bottle.

    DI is a religious organization; the “Designer” is God; and the Wedge Document makes this all perfectly clear.

    Oddly enough, I’m sort of glad Ben Stein is bringing this to light. I bring this up because now I’m wondering how DI will approach Expelled. My guess is that way more people know Stein than know DI, so people will be more likely to trust Stein than the DI (not that either should be trusted). I can see a rift developing between churches and DI here. If DI tells churches that the Designer isn’t necessarily a deity, won’t the churches simply say that cannot be true?

    This could all be avoided with one massive leap: There is no spirit world. ID and DI rely on a spirit world.

    Who created the Designer if the Designer is not a deity? Implying a Designer infers that the Designer is a deity.

    It’s just worthless fairy tales, and over half of us believe it, word for word. What a waste.

  26. #26 Alex, FCD
    October 24, 2007

    I wonder what famed and successful biologist Ken Miller thinks of this sudden revelation that he’s not allowed to believe in God?

  27. #27 Jud
    October 24, 2007

    What ID’s proponents *really* would not like their supporters to realize is that ID absolutely requires disbelief in the Biblical God as the Designer. When IDists say speciation could not have occurred via evolution, it is the same as saying the Designer could not have designed life on Earth that way. An all-knowing, all-powerful God would clearly have been able to create a Universe in which speciation on Earth came about through evolution. Thus the ID Designer cannot be the Biblical God.

    Who wants to be the first to show up to the school board meeting with the sign saying “Get God out of our schools – Teach ID”?

  28. #28 raven
    October 24, 2007

    It is a bit odd and pathetic that the DI people are disavowing publicly their god, inasmuch as they clearly fervently believe in him.

    It is also much too late for that. They’ve left way too many tracks for that to work. Dembski is at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and has rambled on at length about his belief that hordes of angels and demons surround us.

    The hyporcrisy and dishonesty of the creos is astonishing. Their god must be proud of them.

  29. #29 negentropyeater
    October 24, 2007

    Michael (#14), somehow what you are saying makes sense but leaves me with an uneasy feeling. Let me try to explain.
    I agree that Einstein’s opinions about bread making or tennis are not relevant, however, as much as I wish to be a freethinker, I must acknowledge that my rationalisation about reality will be influenced by the opinions of others.

    I have read a lot about Einstein’s religious opinions and I must say that they have influenced me a lot. In all practical purposes, I consider myself an atheist, or an agnostic, and even if I may, a deeply religious man, in the own words of Einstein. I believe that the quest for “true religiosity”, this creative blend of science and humanities, is not an easy one, and I wish I would have found it. Meanwhile, Einstein remains for me more than the father of modern physics.

  30. #30 Master Mahan
    October 24, 2007

    Hey, if the Discovery Institute is experienced with anything, it’s denial.

  31. #31 Flex
    October 24, 2007

    Michael wrote,“but Einstein’s opinions on bread-making, tennis, or even biology are of no more value than mine….”

    But (with a tip of the hat to Gary Larson), Einstein’s opinions on pro-basketball are worth listening to.

  32. #32 Michael
    October 24, 2007

    I agree that Einstein’s opinions about bread making or tennis are not relevant, however, as much as I wish to be a freethinker, I must acknowledge that my rationalisation about reality will be influenced by the opinions of others.

    I agree. My point is that whether or not a particular viewpoint is or is not true is not at all contingent on the authority of the person presenting the viewpoint. For instance, let’s say a physics professor says to me, “Time is a relativistic, rather than absolute, quantity, which is measured differently by observers in motion relative to one another.” While this particular statement happens to be true, and while my understanding of special relativity is, naturally, less than that of the hypothetical professor, the qualifications of the person making the statement does not influence whether the statement is true. If the professor went on to show me the math and the experimental evidence suggesting the relativistic nature of time (which he, as an expert, could have access to and explain to me, where necessary), THAT would constitute strong evidence.

    That was a long-winded way of saying that expert opinion is always the lowest form of ‘evidence’.

    I have read a lot about Einstein’s religious opinions and I must say that they have influenced me a lot.

    Likewise.

    Meanwhile, Einstein remains for me more than the father of modern physics.

    The first page of my Ph.D. thesis contains the following quote, from Einstein:

    “So many people today — and even professional scientists — seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering. This independence created by philosophical insight is — in my opinion — the mark of distinction between a mere artisan or specialist and a real seeker after truth.”

    Naturally, I agree wholeheartedly.

  33. #33 Caledonian
    October 24, 2007

    While this particular statement happens to be true, and while my understanding of special relativity is, naturally, less than that of the hypothetical professor, the qualifications of the person making the statement does not influence whether the statement is true.

    This is correct. A random sentence generator could also produce that statement, and it would still be correct.

    What’s at issue isn’t the argument itself, but whether the person making the argument is worth listening to.

  34. #34 Jim Thomerson
    October 24, 2007

    For many years we have used the term “LGM theory” for creationism and other magical theorys. LGM = Little Green Men is there for the ID folks to use to distance themselves from the theistic creationists. Actually LGM is not a good descriptive term for theistic creatioism, and we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

  35. #35 AlanWCan
    October 24, 2007

    And Gosh Darn it, Darwin didn’t know about plate tectonics, or quantum mechanics, or relativity, or genetics, or votes for women, or monoclonal antibodies, anaesthetics, or ….
    Why gosh can’t we all have the freedom to not have to think about these things too?

    Gosh, what a schmuck.

  36. #36 negentropyeater
    October 24, 2007

    Michael #32, you say :
    “That was a long-winded way of saying that expert opinion is always the lowest form of ‘evidence’.”
    Theoretically, Yes ! Practically, No !
    Example : Do I believe the Earth is 4.5 b yo (+/-1%) ? Yes, why : I understand the Isochron dating methods used and I trust that the experts have done the dating properly. I have not done the dating myself, but I trust the opinions of experts.
    And I can go on and on like this forever. When science and its accumulated knowledge and methods could be contained in a human brain (ie in the time of Leonardo Da Vinci), expert opinions were not evidence. Nowadays, it’s practically impossible not to transfer the evidence finding to experts.

    That is exactly the problem we are confronted with these two nutcases Billo and BStein, or for that matter all these people that simply wave all the findings of science by believeing in the 6010 yo earth and the litteral biblical account of creation. They think they are experts, and that their “common sense” is the principal criteria for judgement of evidence. They do not value the accumulated work and knowledge of hundreds of thousands of highly dedicated and competent scientists and experts that through the mechanisms of peer review, research, exposuse to endless undogmatic criticism are trying to articulate a picture of reality that is as true as it can possibly be.

  37. #37 Michael
    October 24, 2007

    Theoretically, Yes ! Practically, No !
    Example : Do I believe the Earth is 4.5 b yo (+/-1%) ? Yes, why : I understand the Isochron dating methods used and I trust that the experts have done the dating properly. I have not done the dating myself, but I trust the opinions of experts.
    And I can go on and on like this forever.

    …but the critical distinction here is that the data exists. We cannot all have the ability (or time) to do every assay to get whatever data we need to support our statements. We must, of course, rely upon experts to do this for us.

    However, the point is that (to use another analogy) if a mathematician says “the first derivative of x^2 is 2x”, that alone is not sufficient evidence to accept that it is. If the mathematician says, “the first derivative of x^2 is 2x, because there is a great body of literature which is consistent with the notion that the first derivative of x^2 is 2x”, then this is a different story.

    I’m not claiming that the opinion of experts is meaningless; indeed, it is the primary way in which most of us get our information about topics that are beyond our knowledge. But unless that opinion is backed by solid evidence, the opinion is worthless.

    I recognize that the distinction is subtle, and frankly, this distinction matters more when the discussions are between two or more people who understand the science to begin with. But the point stands, I think: expert opinion, in the absence of data to support the opinion, is meaningless.

    All of this is, of course, tangential to the other point that (mis)-quoting Einstein’s opinion on the existence of god is meaningless, because, notwithstanding this discussion, was not even an expert on that. Of course, as Dawkins will happily (and rightly) inform you, there are no experts as to the existence of god. But the fact that Einstein was an expert in one field does not, necessarily, make his opinion in any other field more valid.

  38. #38 Cuttlefish
    October 24, 2007

    The Disco folks, with gaiety
    Deny that there’s a Deity
    That sparks the spontaneity
    Of origin of life.

    They swear it’s based on evidence–
    Objectively it all makes sense;
    The problem is that this pretense
    Is quite a two-edged knife.

    In truth, behind the smiles
    And the vehement denials
    (Though they won’t hold up in trials
    They’re the only thing they’ve got)

    Is the fact that certain tribal
    Myths, collected as “the Bible”
    Are (on punishment of libel)
    The foundation of their plot.

    And whenever they talk science,
    How they’re fully in compliance,
    They are risking their alliance
    With their fundamental base

    To retain the congregation
    They use double-conversation
    One that’s broadcast to the nation–
    Quite another, face-to-face.

    Now, this double-speak position
    Is a recent acquisition
    But it placates opposition
    So no worries–problem solved.

    By this gradual correction,
    It appears, upon reflection,
    That through natural selection
    Their two faces have evolved

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2007/10/di-speak-with-forked-tongue.html

  39. #39 MikeM
    October 24, 2007

    Jud, I couldn’t disagree with you much more strongly. However, I think we’re on the same page, it’s just that you may not be familiar with the Wedge Document.

    If you are, I apologize for this comment; if you’re not, read it and see if you reach a different conclusion.

    We’re here to help.

  40. #40 MikeM
    October 24, 2007

    (As Cuttlefish looks to defend his/her Molly…)

  41. #41 Davis
    October 24, 2007

    “And yet, somehow, today you’re not allowed to believe it. Why can’t we have as much freedom as Darwin had?”

    Sometimes I wish I had a deity to pray to so I could ask him to stop the whining.

  42. #42 EB
    October 24, 2007

    Stein is obviously being misleading. Einstein definitely did not believe in a personal god of any kind:

    “It seems to me that the idea of a personal God is an anthropological concept which I cannot take seriously. I also cannot imagine some will or goal outside the human sphere…. Science has been charged with undermining morality, but the charge is unjust. A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties and needs; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.”
    – Albert Einstein, “Religion and Science,” New York Times Magazine, 9 November 1930

    Darwin was a believer early in life, but he was not a believer after his daughter died and after publishing his main works. He was a clear agnostic according to his own autobiography:

    “But I found it more and more difficult, with free scope given to my imagination, to invent evidence which would suffice to convince me. Thus disbelief crept over me at very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlasting punished.”

    “The mystery of the beginning of all things is insoluble to us; and I for one must be content to remain an Agnostic.”

    “Nothing is more remarkable than the spread of scepticism or rationalism during the latter half of my life.”

    Newton, on the other hand, was a believer who wrote at length on religion, including trying to uncover hidden messages in the Bible. He was a believer because he found the order in the universe (cosmos, life on earth, etc.) to be of such a beautiful design, it had to be the product of a divine intelligence. In his defense, remember that Newton lived before Darwin/evolution, which made it much more intellectually acceptable to be a non-believer.

  43. #43 Sastra
    October 24, 2007

    A question which often stumps creationists, explicitly religious or not:

    “Is the existence of God a science hypothesis?”

    They should say “yes,” if they want to bring God’s actions into scientific explanations. But innate caution and everything they’ve been taught tells them to say “no.” They’re in a bind.

    I once had one of them smartly respond with “Well, is the existence of my mother a science hypothesis?” Well, yes. Whether your mother exists is intersubjectively open to confirmation or falsification — unless you want to go to Pomo Land, and deny that anything can be known at all so everything is equally a matter of faith. Which is where they often end up. They can’t stick with science.

    cuttlefish #38:

    Once again, amazing. You manage to balance aesthetics and a clever point.

  44. #44 Rey Fox
    October 24, 2007

    Sastra: Are you sure he phrased it that way? That he didn’t actually say “Your MOM’s a scientific hypothesis.”?

  45. #45 Ashutosh
    October 24, 2007

    Glavanized by the Watson controversy, The Discovery Institute also predictably fell for the fallacy of equating Darwinism with racism:
    http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/10/thank_you_dr_watson_truth_abou.html

  46. #46 Kimpatsu
    October 24, 2007

    I though he said “Your MEME’s a scientific hypothesis”…

  47. #47 Spaulding
    October 24, 2007

    Cuttlefish, you sure throw down some impressive rhymes. Consider it a gift from Gosh!

  48. #48 Jud
    October 25, 2007

    MikeM (#39), don’t know what you thought I meant (#27), but it sure wasn’t what I intended.

    What I intended to say was this: Even in its all-too-transparent purpose of shoehorning God into the process of evolution, ID fails miserably, and this can be trivially demonstrated.

    Better?