Orson Scott Card on ID

Orson Scott Card has a patently absurd essay on ID and evolution, which PZ Myers has already done an admirable job of fisking. But there's one argument that Card makes in particular that is just infuriating in its outright dishonesty and I want to highlight it again. Here's his argument:

3. Expertism is the "trust us, you poor fools" defense. Essentially, the Darwinists tell the general public that we're too dumb to understand the subtleties of biochemistry, so it's not even worth trying to explain to us why the Designists are wrong. "We're the experts, you're not, so we're right by definition."

Behe and his group don't think we're stupid. They actually make the effort to explain the science accurately and clearly in terms that the lay audience can understand. So who is going to win this argument? Some people bow down before experts; most of us resent the experts who expect us to bow.

The irony is that there are plenty of Darwinists who are perfectly good writers, capable of explaining the science to us well enough to show us the flaws in the Designists' arguments. The fact that they refuse even to try to explain is, again, a confession that they don't have an answer.

Card is lying, plain and simple. He's either lying or he has been living in a cave somewhere reading the arguments of ID advocates and completely unaware of the, (quite literally) hundreds of articles and books and blog posts written by scientists examining and pointing out the flaws in the arguments for ID. Is Card entirely unaware of the existence of The Panda's Thumb? Is he unable to do a simple Amazon search? Here's what even a quick search shows:

Unintelligent Design, by Mark Perakh, a physicist, which goes into great detail examining the arguments of ID advocates.
Why Intelligent Design Fails, by Matt Young and Taner Edis, both physicists.
Evolution vs Creationism: An Introduction, by Eugenie Scott, a physical anthropologist.
God, the Devil and Darwin: A Critique of Intelligent Design Theory, by Niall Shanks and Richard Dawkins.
Creationism's Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design, by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross.
Finding Darwin's God, by Ken Miller.

And these are just the major and obvious books. Is he completely unaware of the long and detailed critiques of ID arguments that have been published in scientific journals? Here's Adrian Melott's critique of Behe's arguments. Here's Allen Orr's critique of Dembski's work. Here's a critique of Dembski's use of SETI analogies written by an actual SETI researcher. Here's a critique of Dembski's claims about the No Free Lunch theorems from David Wolpert, the man who actually came up with them. Here's an entire webpage full of detailed essays by scientists examining the arguments of ID advocates. Here's another with detailed critiques of Wells' claims in Icons of Evolution. Here's a thorough critique of the claims found in Stephen Meyer's infamous "peer-reviewed article" in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington (by the way, the DI promised that they would "respond to it fully, in a series of installments over the next days and weeks", but that was more than a year ago and no such response has appeared - so who exactly is ignoring critiques and arguments here?).

This just scratches the surface. I could sit here and link to hundreds of critiques of every single claim made by ID advocates. I've written many of them myself, as have dozens of actual scientists. I highly doubt that Card is completely unaware of them, or unaware of the fact that several scientists testified at the Dover trial and delivered detailed critiques of the ID arguments under oath as well. I don't know, or care, what universe Card inhabits, but it sure as hell isn't this one. In this universe, it is preposterous and utterly ridiculous to claim that scientists have not published volume after volume examining the flaws in ID arguments. If Card claims that the world he lives in is one in which scientists "refuse" to explain the flaws in those arguments, he is either lying through his teeth or he is completely delusional.

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What a shame. I love several of his books. I was delighted when I discovered he had a blog and appalled when I read it. Doesn't he realize that the Mormon Chruch does not object to evolution? Is he "smarter" than they are?

Yeah, I know several people who admire Card's writing a great deal. I've never read any of his books. But this essay is so mind-numbingly idiotic and dishonest that it pretty much destroys his credibility with me.

It's an extreme case of willful ignorance on Card's part. ID has been thoroughly thrashed in popular books and articles. One can even say that Dawkins' 1987 book The Blind Watchmaker anticipates and demolishes the ID movement's arguments.

His claim that scientist-writers do not think highly of their readers is an absurd fantasy. SJ Gould made it a point not to water down complex ideas. Dawkins would spend pages and pages meticulously explaining the nuances of evolution. Ken Miller explained the blot-clotting cascade in his book. The creationists, on the other hand, rely on the relative ignorance of their readers to fool them with science sounding terms and ideas. They're the ones who flaunt their "expertise" degrees to the unsuspecting public. Who says it's the scientists who think poorly of the lay readers?

What really incenses me about this particular argument of Card's (aside from the fact that he's showing exactly why evolutionists think people like him don't understand evolution and science) is that he seems to think being an expert in a field is worth nothing at all in terms of how much weight their argument should be given. And in fact he resents their expertise so much that he'll listen to crackpots who know no more than he does because he can understand them.

I read the article and Card goes out of his way to say that he does not necessarily buy ID's claims about nature. Unfortunately, he has accepted the all of the IDers claims about the beliefs and behaviours of biologists.

Ca[na]rd:Essentially, the Darwinists tell the general public that we're too dumb to understand the subtleties of biochemistry, so it's not even worth trying to explain to us why the Designists are wrong.

He's on to something. Maybe a university, like, say, Oxford, should appoint a "Professor of the Public Understanding of Science". And maybe they could name the post after Charles Simonyi.

Orson Scott Card should be commended for writing yet another excellent work of fiction. Card is a prolific science fiction writer who is best known for his "Ender's Game" series in which a group of child geniuses plan strategies to fight an alien menace. In his latest work, "Creation and Evolution in the Schools," Card goes in a new direction by spinning a narrative from the perspective of a deluded Intelligent Design supporter. The protagonist utilizes old, well-refuted arguments such as specified complexity to attack the theory of evolutionary. Our unfortunate anti-hero then falls into a web of deception created by creationist proponents, for he soon becomes blind to any scientific criticism of Intelligent Design and credulously accepts even the wildest assertions by opponents of evolution. This hobbled thinking is perhaps best shown when the protagonist claims ID is not religious but then states that both evolution and ID are religious viewpoints.

Throughout the work, Card lives up to his reputation for sketching out the complex personal feelings of his characters and explaining how these feelings shape decision making. For example, the narrator indicates how his religious views lead to a rejection of evolution. The only notable flaw of this story is the lack of character development. At the end, the protagonist has changed little from the beginning, and the antagonists suffer worse. The Darwinists remain shadowy and unidentified, so there is no way for the reader to know what they think or how they behave. Instead, one must guess at the reality behind the misled narrator's imagination. That issue aside, "Creation and Evolution in Schools" is a master work that Card uses to show the corrupting dangers of creationist thought. Orson Scott Card has again shown why he is a master of science fiction.

By Irrational Entity (not verified) on 21 Jan 2006 #permalink

I haven't read very much in the way of Card - he's not my "type" as it were. I have been told i should give him more of a chance by several people but he has always seemed a little too much like the wrong sort of brain candy for me. I like to read spy novels for that sort of escapism. But I will likely not be giving him the chance I have been told I should based on that essay.

Sort of off topic but there is a really bad essay, blasting the Dover ID decision, at ReNew America. I mean, it's pretty bad. The guy who wrote it, David N. Bass, could be a Robert O'Brien candidate.

By Jason Spaceman (not verified) on 21 Jan 2006 #permalink

"The guy who wrote it, David N. Bass..."(Jason Spaceman comment)

"...is a nineteen-year-old home school graduate, a committed Christian, and a proud conservative."(RenewAmerica article)

Funny how it all makes sense when you put the 2 pieces of the puzzle together?

This guy says we shouldn't worry about global warming (not that I worry so much about it myself) because God promised Noah there won't be another flood. Now this is a man who takes Bible literally.

Does anyone know Card's mailing address, so perhaps we could each send him one of the many fine books about evolution that he apparently hasn't been able to find in his local bookstores and libraries?

When you write science fiction you can get away without doing a lick of research. Everything is possible because it's set in the future. Spacecraft wars against aliens? It is realistic because it's set in the future. Robots take over the world? Sure it can happen, it's set in the future. Three-breasted women hanging with Arnold Schwarzenegger on Mars? Future.

Too bad nobody reminded this fellow that when you write about real stuff that's happening now, you should do a little fact checking, or you might look like an ass to people paying attention.

I bet Mr Card has no problem deferring to the expertise of the "experts" who install his plumbing, or the "experts" who synthesize, purify and blend his pharmaceuticals.

By ZacharySmith (not verified) on 23 Jan 2006 #permalink

Mormons may believe in evolution if they choose. I know I do. It has never been settled, doctrinally anyway. My grandparents were born before 1910 in Utah. My grandfather was a bishop for ten years (his father had been one even longer). The first book they gave me was about the expedition to the Gobi desert in search of dinosaur bones (this was the late 1970s). I used to spend my lunch periods in the high school library reading the Smithsonian book of evolution. My favorite missionary buddy has degree in the equivalent of evolutionary biology from a Nevada university. McConkie (hope I spelled that right) and his father-in-law Jospeh Fielding Smith were the minority who, sadly, printed many materials making ridiculous claims against evolution.
I think the saddest thing about the useless debates about evolution vs. creationism is the idea that creationism is solely represented by nut-jobs intent upon proving that Adam played with dinosaurs. The earth is, itself, a revelation of God's work. No one who surveys the richness and wonder of life on this planet can help but feel that there is a Creator (who works by natural laws) involved.