“The silly things those creationists say” – Pharyngula podcast #2

I lucked out and was able to be one of the participants on biologist P.Z. Myers’ Pharyngula video podcast (#2). The subject of this podcast was, as you may have guessed by my post title, creationism. Russell Glasser of The Atheist Experience was also there, as were several other people who, while they were new to me, seemed to be hip to the subject. I really enjoyed it and the time just few by. 

My thanks to the other participants and especially to P.Z. for having me!

“The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Creation Science”

The Sensuous Curmudgeon has given us an eloquent exposition on why “creation scientists” are immune to empirical evidence and why there is no science in “creation science”. I highly recommend you give it a read.

[Hat tip to Richard Hoppe over at Panda’s Thumb.]

World class projection at the Discovery Institute

Projection being a behavior frequently engaged in by creationists wherein they project their own “…unacceptable qualities or feelings and ascribing them to other people“, namely scientists and defenders of science education.

In this example David Klinghoffer of the Discovery(less) Institute lays the projection on thick in his criticism of a recent article written by Jonah Lehrer in the The New Yorker, which was about the recent Gallup poll showing that nearly half of people in U.S. are still mired in denial regarding evolution.

The problem with this analysis [Lehrer’s attempt to explain rampant evolution denial in the U.S. – T.B.] is that we are familiar, from long experience, with a no less impressively obdurate ignorance on the part of Darwin’s believers. No doubt there are plenty of people who reject Darwinism on the basis of a gut response alone, who never have taken the time to probe the evolution controversy and who fail to realize that it has two sides, both of which have a case to make.

But many — no, I take that back, almost all — the public Darwin defenders I can think of give evidence of having meticulously insulated themselves from knowing what the other side says.

Never mind Klinghoffer’s minimization of the level of scientific ignorance amongst creationists (which I can tell you from experience is prodigious), at least he’s admitting it exists. But to try and turn this around and argue that it is we defenders of science (as opposed to the “Darwin defenders” which is just Discoveroid frame-speak, i.e. propaganda) who are not only ignorant of creationist claims but “meticulously” insulate ourselves from them? That is hilarious!

Yes Mr. Klinghoffer, I, a twenty year veteran of defending science and science education from the attacks of creationists like yourself, have “meticulously insulated” myself from your ideas by amassing a collection of creationist literature containing nearly four hundred references (so far), dating from the 19th to the 21st century (never mind the video tapes, DVD’s and audio recordings); by  attending nearly every creationist event I hear about that’s within reasonable driving distance of where I live; and by regularly perusing creationist websites and blogs, like the one you’re posting on.

All that I do just so I can maintain my blissful state of insulation from what your side says.    

On the contrary, it might be justifiably said that I am somewhat obsessed with what creationists (of all stripes) are saying. However despite my obsession I have somehow failed to notice the meticulous ignorance of the subject that Mr. Klinghoffer’s claims to see in my colleagues (whose magazine, journal and blog articles I also obsessively imbibe).

[Who else out there bought the Creation/Evolution Journal collection from the NCSE and read all 39 issues at once like it was one big book? Let’s see hands? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, I suppose was that just me? Like I’m the only one who would do that…]

Forget for a moment about who, Darwinists or Design advocates, is actually right. If you took a sample of ID folks and a sample of Darwin people, specifically those who have felt confident enough in their views to write about them for publication, and then quizzed each group about what arguments their opponents offer, there’s no question that those from the ID community would know better what their opposites in the debate say.

I question that. [See how easy that was?] Having observed them for many years I can say that it is vanishingly rare to encounter a creationist who can accurately relay the basics of evolutionary theory and its supporting evidence. They may get this or that part correct, but unvaryingly they go off the rails at some point, mischaracterizing either the theory of the facts (usually both).

Intelligent design “theory” is little more than a litany of antievolution arguments (misinformation, half-truths, logical fallacies, and out of context quotations of actual scientists) that have been floating around the creationist movement for decades (see links below), combined with “positive ID arguments” that are nothing but deliberately veiled versions of “God did it”.

See: “Expelled’s intelligent design theory – this IS your daddy’s creationism”, Part I & Part II

Just look at ENV as a convenient illustration. We strive to keep up with toughest challenges, such as they are, from evolutionists. Now look at the competing Darwin blogs. Guys like PZ Myers & Co. concentrate their fire on naïve young-earth creationists.

Actually I haven’t noticed this either. However if there is any small truth to this it might be because, unlike ID creationists, young Earthers (YEC) occasionally attempt to make testable claims for their views (i.e. arguments for a young Earth or Noah’s Flood). Whereas ID has been deliberately stripped of such things in an attempt to avoid conflicts with the 1st Amendment to the Constitution, leaving only the aforementioned attacks on evolution and untestable “God did it” assertions.

Are there old Earth, progressive creationists among the ID ranks? Sure, but they’re still creationists and a significant proportion of their target audience (the people in the pews) are good ol’ YEC (see the results of the Gallup poll Lehrer was lamenting).

Jerry Coyne and his colleagues in the Darwin-defending business are careful to stay unaware of the very serious challenges to Darwinism from ID.

Klinghoffer is sort of right about this one. We defenders of science are completely unaware of any “very serious” scientific “challenges to Darwinism evolutionary theory”; there are however theologically motivated, scientifically non-credible, political challenges that are a very serious danger to the future of science education in the United States. Of those we are all too aware.

Of that large portion of the media that remains committed to Darwin and never misses a chance to lash out at doubters, most are so utterly ignorant of the terms of the debate that that they cannot even distinguish intelligent design from creationism and use the terms interchangeably. You can point out their error again and again, but they never seem to understand.

Right. I’ve got two word for ya Mr. Klinghoffer: “Cdesign Proponentsists“. A refusal to countenance deceit is not a failure to understand it.

It’s common sense that human beings are hobbled by prejudices of all kinds. You didn’t need a study in a scientific journal to tell you that. The beginning of wisdom, surely, is to recognize your own ill-founded preconceptions and areas of stubborn ignorance. To that project of self-enlightenment, the community of Darwin defenders is uncompromisingly resistant.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?


Klinghoffer, David (2012) “The Stubbornness of Their Ignorance“, Evolution News and Views (blog), downloaded on 6-10-2012

Does intelligent design “theory” lack a mechanism?

No, says the Discovery Institute’s Center for the Renewal of Science and Culture’s resident attack Chihuahua Casey Luskin (and, yes, I’m stealing that John), who reports that he was recently confronted with this question at a talk he had given:

Last month I spoke at the University of Arkansas, and during the Q&A, a skeptic complained that ID theory lacks a “mechanism.” I explained that intelligent agency itself functions in that role, serving as a known cause / mechanism which produces high levels of complex and specified information (CSI).

[Snip a bunch of slides with various quotes from Luskin’s fellow Discoveroid (stealing that too) Stephen Meyer that don’t add anything to this discussion.]

[…] Intelligent agency, therefore, is a mechanism which we can observe and understand in the world around us, and from those observations we know it alone is capable of producing high CSI. But the skeptic wasn’t satisfied with this argument. He insisted what ID lacks is a mechanism that, at the direction of an intelligent agent, could be capable of instantiating information, or design, in the real world.

And this unnamed skeptic was correct. Intelligent design creationists prattle on endlessly about “complex specified information” in nature and how they think that “an intelligence” is required to explain it but they never explain how this “CSI” gets from the mind of their “designer” (wink, wink) to the features of the natural world it is supposedly intended to explain. In other words, even if we were to grant their source of “CSI” they’ve got nothing to offer on where the rubber actually hits the road.

As we spoke after the talk, I asked him, “Why should it be so hard to believe that intelligent agents can implement their designs in the real world? After all, we see intelligent agents manipulating the information in DNA all the time.”

Yes we do Casey. Intelligent agents who are physical beings with physical brains, physically manipulating physical DNA with physical tools.

As the skeptic was a philosopher, he was apparently unaware of the burgeoning field of genetic engineering, where biologists manipulate the information in DNA to produce new biological functions. Unfortunately, this hardened ID critic was probably still not convinced after I explained that it’s easy to believe intelligent agents might have ways of implementing their designs in the natural world — since we see it happening, reported in the scientific literature on a regular basis. This new research discussed in Nature News shows exactly how intelligent agents can manipulate information in DNA to create new structures and functions. There is no reason, in principle, why an intelligent agency must lack a mechanism for implementing designs in the natural world.

And if we ask these physical genetic engineers what mechanisms they use to manipulate physical DNA they won’t respond by merely pointing out that they are intelligent agents and that that fact should tell you all you need to know about the process.

This is the same fallacy that ID creationists engage in when they liken their ideas to the SETI (Search of Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) program. “SETI is looking for signs of intelligence” they say, “we’re doing the same thing.”. But just as with the genetic engineers we are talking about physical ET’s, ostensibly with physical transmitters, sending out signals propagated via some part of physical electromagnetic spectrum.

The reason for all this obtuse deflection about genetic engineers (and aliens) and tedious repetition about “CSI” is that the actual answer to the question of what the mechanism for intelligent design is that it is magic.

Their “intelligent designer” is God (everyone knows this); and God implemented his designs through unknowable miraculous means, end of story.

However, if they were to divulge this they know would lose their pretense of doing science and would be admitting to the fact that what they are actually engaging in is apologetics.


Luskin, Casey (1012) “Responding to the Challenge that Intelligent Design Lacks a “Mechanism”“, evolutionnews.org (blog) downloaded on 5-27-2012

[Hat tip to The Sensuous Curmudgeon.]

Pay no attention to the creationists behind the ID curtain!

Dr. Barbara Forrest of Southeastern Louisiana University (AKA “Evil, evil woman“), who testified to devastating effect during the 2005 intelligent design trial, Kitzmiller v. Dover (Pennsylvania), has written a scathing expose of the recent shenanigans that intelligent design proponents have been up to in Louisiana (and Tennessee) which I highly recommend you read.  It seems that once again the ID proponents are having difficulty keeping their creationist petticoats from showing.

I’m shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

See: Discovery Institute to LA Family Forum: “Repeat after me: ‘The LA Science Education Act is *NOT* a creationism law.’”


Stolen from Facebook.

Is that what it takes?

Now I have no illusions about my blog being another Pharyngula or anything but with at least a couple hundred views a day, from around the world, you’d think I’d be getting few more comments.

Where are all the would-be “creation scientists” eager to show me the error of my ways? Here I am writing post after post spanking the heck out of their intellectual leaders and rather than reasoned defenses or even primal screams of rage I get:

Fine, let’s try Chuck & Beans advice:

inteligent design ain’t science!

Now I know this might seem like little more than a blatant cry for attention (which of course it is) but I am honestly curious about the seeming lack of comments around here. Is there a ‘visits per day’ threshold that one has to cross in order to overcome some sort of comment inertia? Has there been any research on this?

Oh, and hat tip to Scott Weitzenhoffer for the cartoon.

Something creationists wish existed

[Hat tip to Larry Moran at Sandwalk.]

Help the TalkOrigins Archive’s bid to buy “Expelled”

Premise Media, the production company that produced the creationist pseudo-documentary “Expelled“, has gone bankrupt and is putting the film up for auction. The opportunity having presented itself, the TalkOrigins Archive Foundation is making a run at acquiring it.

Getting the rights to the film and related production material (unedited interviews of scientists etc.)  could be an invaluable source of ammunition in the defense of science education against the attacks of intelligent design creationists, so if you’re able please consider making a donation to the Foundation (if the bid is unsuccessful your money still goes to a worthy cause) .

Update: TalkOrigins lost the biding war. Oh well, it would have been interesting.

Wait, what?

Intelligent Design creationist Denyse O’Leary, in the midst of rationalizing (over at Uncommon Descent) why ID creationists spend all their time attacking science rather than doing science, has provided yet another example of how antievolutionists are pretty much pathologically unable to portray evolutionary theory (or its supporting evidence) accurately:

O’Leary: To me, Darwinism is like bad money. It becomes an intellectual vice. People are always looking for natural selection to generate random mutation, the way they are always trying to pass on the likely-bogus G-bill (when they are not out looking for the lucky strike). [Emphasis mine]

Yeah, right Denyse, it’s scientists engaging in an “intellectual vice” not creationists like yourself who spend all their time confidently bashing something they clearly don’t understand.

Newsflash: natural selection does not “generate” mutation; mutation is an independently occurring  source of variation from which natural selection “selects” after the fact.

For heaven’s sake, Google it Denyse! Here, I’ll do it for you; the top two hits for “natural selection” are:

Wikipedia – Natural Selection

U.C. Berkley – Natural Selection

That took mere seconds and after mere minutes of reading you won’t find anything on either of those two pages about natural selection “generating” mutations, random or otherwise. Here’s a bonus one on genetic variation from Wikipedia.

Is it really so much to ask for them to have a basic understanding of the science they put so much energy into repudiating?

[Hat tip to Larry Moran over at Sandwalk. Larry took the time to address O’Leary’s aforementioned rationalizations, have a look-see.]