Pharyngula

Those crazy rascals behind Expelled have some new games they want to play: they’ve put out a casting call for victims of persecution. It’s a pitiful plea, but it will probably net a nice collection of complaints — because it’s true. We do reject Intelligent Design from the academy, from science, and from science education, and there’s a very good reason for that: it’s the same reason we reject astrology, alchemy, creationism, haruspication, necromancy, ornithomancy, and witchcraft from our science courses. Because they aren’t science.

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Taylor Kessinger gets it. He’s a junior at the University of Arizona who wrote a nice, lucid opinion piece for the school paper.

What the movie, due in February, won’t tell you is the truth regarding intelligent design. The “theory” is so embarrassingly poorly argued and devoid of scientific merit that even the Rev. George Coyne, director of the Vatican Observatory — not exactly a bastion of anti-theistic vitriol the last time I checked — has denounced it as an unscientific idea that simply “pretends to be” science.

Exactly right, Taylor! The Intelligent Design hypothesis has been examined by the scientific community to a degree far in excess of what it deserves, and it has been summarily dismissed. There is the reason that ID is not taught in school and professors who study it are mocked — it’s not science, it’s unscientific.

Taylor hammers on another important point. These creationists often demand fairness, that they should be given some kind of equal time in the schools.

But freedom of speech doesn’t protect the rights of professors to make claims with no scientific backing without repercussions. Universities don’t stand for professors who waste funds and time researching astrology, parapsychology or other pseudoscientific ideas, and they never should.

Stein and his fellow design advocates don’t care about equality or fairness. They want intelligent design to be “special” in this regard, so that they can pretend their belief in God – a faith-based belief – somehow has scientific backing.

The creationist’s version of “fairness” is to be given special privileges and be allowed to cut ahead in line — to be granted the respect of a genuine scientific theory without having done the work. I think we all know that that is the opposite of fair. That’s cheating. That is wasting our time.

I think young Mr Kessinger struck a nerve, because now he’s the target of an unhappy tirade by the Discovery Institute. It must have hurt their feelings to discover that an undergraduate at a state university could so easily see through their strenuously wrought smokescreen of lies. So now they accuse him of being a “dogmatic Darwinist” when it seems to me that Kessinger instead is someone who applied basic critical thinking and a little knowledge to the claims of creationists.

Sadly, Kessinger is not the only student who has been taught that it’s good and entirely appropriate to discriminate against intelligent design supporters. I once told a good friend of mine in college about a professor I knew who lost his job over his support of intelligent design. Her response? “Silly ID people — that’s what you get.” Upon further examination, she admitted that she didn’t know much about intelligent design, just what her professors taught her — that it was merely a negative argument against Darwinism without any scientific research.

This second misapprehension is what students are being taught by many Darwinist professors about intelligent design, and this is why some actually support persecuting ID proponents. Much like my friend, the author of this editorial was told somewhere along the way that “[i]ntelligent design simply asserts that structures like the human eye and bacterial flagellum couldn’t possibly have formed by random chance, so an intelligent designer is needed.”

Oh, no, they complain — all these people have this horrible misapprehension that ID is only about negative arguments against evolution, or that a designer is needed to fill in the failures of evolution. I think the DI is trying to argue that this isn’t at all true, until you read down to the second paragraph after the above. Here, they try to clarify the situation by offering their official definition of Intelligent Design creationism:

intelligent design holds that certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection.

In other words, their own definition says that evolution is inadequate, that certain structures (like, for instance, the eye and flagellum) cannout be accounted for by the proceses of evolution, and that they will fill in those gaps by postulating a designer.

This refutes Taylor Kessinger’s argument how?

We know the definition they use, and it exactly fits our understanding of the ID guess.

We can also point you to the various books they peddle — Darwin’s Black Box, Icons of Evolution, Explore Evolution, The Edge of Evolution, etc. — and they all have the same tedious, unfounded, fallacious message: that modern biology is all wrong. They don’t propose any new ideas to replace the natural principles that have been identified, they can’t and they know it, because their “Designer” is a supernatural being, so they have to avoid discussing it with any detail or any testable mechanisms at all. They know that as soon as they mention anything about the nature of their proposed mechanism, the designer, the jig is up — it’s an admission that they are trying to push a religion into the schools.

They’re screwed. They fail. That’s why they’re so upset with Mr Kessinger, because he has clearly explained what everyone knows, but what they want to hide. It’s also why they’re pushing Expelled hard — their last hope is to play the martyr card and beg for public sympathy because they’re being so soundly crushed in the marketplace of scientific ideas. This is the Miami Dolphins begging the public to ignore their 0-7 record so far and give them a place in the Superbowl because their uniforms are pretty, and because those other big mean teams outscore them and keep on beating them badly; it’s simply unfair that the rules demand that they win some games.

How stupid do they think people are to fall for that?

Comments

  1. #1 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 28, 2007

    Taylor Kessinger made an excellent article, and the creationists thinks so too considering its splash in the creationist world.

    It is as clear eyed as any I’ve read and contains fresh or freshly stated arguments, no doubt in part as a result on a seemingly solid research. (I doubt I would have the stamina to read both Behe’s books as he claims in the comments, especially with all the tedious errors in biology and biochemistry that has been uncovered. Ouch! :-P)

    The comments from local readers before the creationist attack dogs descended are mostly a happy read as well.

    it has been summarily dismissed.

    I assume this should be read as ‘summarily dismissed because there is no theory or data there’. Because people have looked hard. :-P

    Btw, following the Evolution News & Views links to IDC purported “predictions” is humorous in the context.

    In principle they could make predictions if they describe their vacuous “designer”, but as a matter of faith a creationist must abstain.

    Therefore they have to drag up the erroneous and debunked IC argument, which is neither a unique prediction from “design” nor testable (ad hoc universal negative). And the likewise erroneous and debunked religious anthropic argument, which relies on confusing a posteriori conditional probabilities with a priori unconditional ones, and again is neither a unique prediction nor testable (what exactly is “favorable conditions”).

    Added to this the obvious problem with predicting an imperfect designer (non-robustness of IC) and a perfect designer (the universe made for humans) from the same “theory” isn’t discussed. One get the distinct impression that they don’t mean to be serious.

    To top off the humor they confuse a philosophical claim on testability with scientific usage to try to fuzzify their stumbling tracks.

  2. #2 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 28, 2007

    CalGeorge:

    I still don’t understand the whole point of ID. … They enjoy the attention. They get paid to do very little other than complain about being oppressed.

    I don’t think we can conflate the purpose of ID, the movement itself, and what the key handlers do.

    The purpose of ID is quite obvious IMO. It is made to deflect facts that bother religious fundamentalists and to empower their views. It is but a part of a series of such attempts that are increasingly more weakened in the hope to pass the social and legal filters that bar specific religions from attempting to subsume education and science under theological power.

    Then we could ask why individuals are so eager to support it. A common speculation is that facts are bothering them because they go against literal reading of religious texts. Or even worse, they expect facts to support them, i.e. they expect that their belief is not faith but Truth.

    wnelson:

    genuinely questioning Darwinism’s viability is a third rail. It just isn’t done.

    What part of scientific testing, peer review, and criticism? Because all of these mechanisms constantly questions earlier research.

    As you are obviously a creationists you don’t want to hear this, but there is an obvious analogy between scientific methods, evolutionary mechanisms and markets. The results survive a selection process and have proved sufficient fitness. That the mechanism is so ubiquitous in successful processes speaks well for it.

    And not coincidentally, the peer testing of science is often called “the market of ideas”.

    Carr:

    Has Kessinger seen the film? It is not out yet surely?

    With “hand-picking” we can safely assume Kessinger is referring to the rest of the sentence in your quote-mine:

    Stein’s movie hand-picks out-of-context quotes from evolutionary biologists to make the evolutionary position seem weaker - a multitude of evolutionary scientists appear in the film, and many, including legendary Oxford biologist Richard Dawkins, have complained that they were misled regarding the film’s nature.

    IIRC PZ has noted that he would have criticized creationism and argued differently if he had known the nature of the real film instead of the Potemkin village facade shown to him. Picking out-of-context quotes is a form of handpicking.

    I must congratulate you to the effort to pick an out-of-context quote to discuss the nature of out-of-context quotes. No creationist can aspire to higher standards.

  3. #3 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 28, 2007

    “theological power” – religious power.

    “What part of scientific testing, peer review, and criticism?” – What part of scientific testing, peer review, and criticism don’t you understand?

    wnelson:

    Besides the general discussion, I missed that you raised an excellent example. I guess I’m getting too used to creationists erroneous use of terms. My bad.

    [Note to self: Remember to always, always, check creationists texts for quote-mines, pubjacks, wrongly used terminology from other fields, not defined terminology from creationism fields, and logical fallacies.

    Hmm. Maybe one day we will have software support for some of the massive requirements? Searching for the originals on quote-mines, pubjacks and terminology would be feasibly implemented, I think. I for sure would like to have one or two such as Firefox plug-ins!]

    Darwinism, in its proper use as the original theory and/or its mechanism, has been embedded in later evolutionary theories due to the critical nature inherent in the scientific process. (And not all of it survived.)

    One can say that criticism is the defining mechanism of science. Before that we had only descriptive dogma, very much like the nature of religious ideas.

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 28, 2007

    If I say that the FSM is pushing everything down at 9.8 m/s^2 with his noodly appendages, is that more scientific than saying, “I don’t know why the apple does that”?

    It would be, if it were possible to test it. But as long as the FSM is ineffable…

    Icthyic — I understand what you mean… but it’s a little tricky to elucidate why “goddidit” isn’t a scientific theory.

    Not at all: it can explain everything and its opposite, means, nothing. It isn’t falsifiable: every conceivable observation and its opposite is consistent with it. It fails to answer the question “If I were wrong, how would I know?”.

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 28, 2007

    The TOE has become dogma — regardless of what may or may not take its place — it is now something you may not fundamentally question.

    Sure you may. You just must, I repeat must, offer a testable hypothesis as an alternative. That has yet to happen.

    Science is “put up or shut up”, “publish or perish”.

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 28, 2007

    No, not at all — every schema/paradigm is open to a reexamination of it’s presuppositions. (Unless of course, it’s dogma.)

    That’s precisely what I said: put up a testable alternative hypothesis, or shut up.

    If evolution were a dogma, it would be “shut up” only.

    At the moment that reexamination is being held at bay by force, and the treat of force.

    Something tells me you’ve never seen a university from the inside.

    ————–

    Thanks, David. That was very well stated. I might even be able to remember it.

    It won’t surprise you to read that I didn’t invent “if I were wrong, how would I know”. Good ideas are usually stolen (…and that phrase is stolen, too).

  7. #7 David Marjanovi?, OM
    October 28, 2007

    OK, then go ahead: point out an inconsistency.

  8. #8 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 29, 2007

    wnelson:

    The TOE has become dogma

    I’ll ask again, what part of scientific testing, peer review, and criticism don’t you understand? Dogma is when something is accepted without criticism. But science needs criticism to work.

    It is really easy to check out how testing and peer review works, so you can’t pretend ignorance as an excuse for not addressing the argument.

    Remember that it was you who made the claim of dogma. Now you need to back it up by explaining how well known and checkable criticism doesn’t count.

  9. #9 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    October 29, 2007

    Taylor Kessinger:

    My contention has always been that it’s a little faulty to call ID creationism.

    I agree that is technically correct, as parts of it overlap with natural explanations. For example, when it is defined so that evolution or similar processes can be “the designer”, or when using the original definition of “irreducible complexity” which is exactly the same as the old evolutionary prediction of interlocking complexity.

    But as soon as they detract such testable formulations (“designer” as “chooser”, or “irreducible complexity”) it becomes IMO the usual untestable religious “design” concept that are used in some variants of creationism. And of course that is its underlying purpose.

    So in other words, it is a mostly correct call. :-P