Dec 09 2009

Some Craziness from the Disco-Tute

After writing my weekly post for science-based medicine, I decided to check out the rantings over at the Discovery Institute’s blog, the grossly misnamed Evolution News & Views. This anti-science propaganda blog offers a “target-rich environment” for skeptics – so much so that I must resist being drawn into their black hole of pseudoscience and maddening illogic. <obscure Star Trek reference>They could fry Norman in a nanosecond. </obscure Star Trek reference> (btw – if you combine a computer geek and Star Trek geek joke in one sentence, you get double points, sort of like scrabble.)

My problem is that the nonsense is so thick over there that it is a bit overwhelming. So I’m just going to do a quick fly-by of some of their posts.

Egnor is Back

My favorite creationist neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, is back with a vengeance. He has written 27 blog entries in the last two weeks all about ClimateGate. Wow – I guess he has some time on his hands. These are among the most shrill and ridiculous opinions I have seen expressed on this issue, amid stiff competition. He writes:

I’m not sure that the scientific community can or will respond to this debacle in a courageous or ethical way. The ID-Darwinism debate clearly demonstrates that venality and shameless self-interest, as well as a toxic leftist-atheist ideology, runs very deep in the scientific community.


Ultimately, perhaps massive defunding of organized science, and a new system of support for research that demands utter transparency and maximal accommodation of debate, may be the only way to defend ourselves from an utterly corrupt scientific elite.

You might at first have wondered why a blog ostensibly about evolution published 27 posts about climate science in two weeks, but Egnor makes it all clear – it is all about attacking modern science as a liberal-atheist conspiracy. You see – just like with evolution and creationism. Egnor also has the following pattern – when he thinks someone has opened themselves up to criticism, he attacks with all the venom he can muster. Rather than trying to be fair and objective, seeing the subtlety and nuances of a complex issue, he simply gets more and more shrill and self-righteous. Right now he is in the midst of what we call a crankgasm, with no end in sight.

He is proceeding from the premise that there is ironclad evidence for the worst possible interpretation of the climategate e-mails. He is like a witch hunter who thinks he has finally – finally caught himself a real witch, and is just frothing at the mouth for a good witch burning (in fact he wants to burn down all of science, just to be sure). Or, alternatively, he (and the Disco-Tute) may just think that climategate is a golden propaganda opportunity and they are going to make the most of it. Forget about investigating what actually happened or putting the e-mails into any context.

Further, he is following up by attacking any scientists who are trying to take a reasonable “wait and see” approach as if they are defending fraud. No one is defending scientific fraud. Rather, it is simply fair and prudent to wait for an independent investigation.

The Great Debate

Recently Michael Shermer and Donald Prothero engaged in a debate with ID proponents Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg. Shermer gives his account of the debate here, read that then come on back.

These things always go the same way. The IDers/creationists try to play games with last minute changes in the debate topic or rules, they then ignore those rules and just snipe at “Darwinism”. On points those defending evolution usually win – because they have science on their side – but like in most debates, both sides declare victory.

But in this case I think the other Disco-Tute bloggers are in a contest with Egnor to see who can be more shrill. Seriously, you would think from their account of the debate that Shermer and Prothero did nothing but drool on themselves during the entire debate. Their disconnection from reality is astounding.

Robert Crowther tries to rebut Shermer’s main point – that ID essentially boils down to an argument from ignorance -”I can’t explain how complexity arose, therefore God, I mean the Intelligent Designer about which I will say no more, did it.” Crowther responds:

Not true. Intelligent design scientists like Meyer argue in favor of design theory based on the recognition of things like the digital information in DNA and the complex molecular machines found in cells. As Meyer patiently explained to Shermer in the debate, they do so because invariably we know from experience that complex systems possessing such features always arise from intelligent causes.

But that is essentially the same point Shermer is making just stated in a different way. We do not know, and therefore cannot take as a premise, that complex systems can only arise from intelligent causes – that is circular reasoning, assuming what they are trying to prove. It assumes that natural systems cannot create complexity (because they don’t understand how it can happen), and therefore intelligence must have. That is Shermer’s point.

Evolutionary science, however, is a successful and mature science that goes a long way toward explaining how natural systems can evolve over time, generating complexity and the appearance of design. In fact, you can say that life is designed – it the the product of bottom-up evolutionary design. It is not the product of top-down intelligent design. Any reasonable attempt to distinguish these two kinds of systems favors an evolutionary bottom-up design for life (the messiness and contingency of biological systems, for example).

But ID proponents do not want to rely on such an analysis – they want to simply assume that all appearance of design, regardless of its features, is intelligent. Any attempt they have made to argue that life has features of intelligent design have failed - irreducible complexity is not irreducible, and information theory favors evolution, not ID.


It seems to me, from my entirely subjective perspective, that the Disco-Tute is sliding a bit into obscurity. Their rantings are getting more and more disconnected from reality and desperate. It seems like they are pumping up their volume in a desperate attempt to be relevant, but it is failing miserably.


73 responses so far

73 Responses to “Some Craziness from the Disco-Tute”

  1. Watcheron 09 Dec 2009 at 10:24 am

    Rather than trying to be fair and objective

    One might even say … fair and balanced? ;)

    Also, thanks for the Shermer link, good read.

  2. Justin L.on 09 Dec 2009 at 10:32 am

    This is a great post as usual. However, ( “Recently Michael Shermer and Michael Shermer and Donald Prothero” ) I had no idea that we had finally cloned Michael Shermer. That’s great!

  3. Steven Novellaon 09 Dec 2009 at 10:51 am

    LOL – copying error during edit. Thanks – corrected.

    But – if we could clone Michael and a few other skeptics, that would be awesome. I have often been accused of having clones of myself working away in the basement – if only it were true.

  4. Doctor Evidenceon 09 Dec 2009 at 11:23 am

    Its interesting that the Central Prediction of ID – the Intelligence – has not been observed. What kind of ‘theory’ is that?

  5. Eternally Learningon 09 Dec 2009 at 11:47 am

    When you talk about Robert Crowther’s rebuttal, I’m not sure if what he is saying is an argument from ignorance exactly. He doesn’t seem to be saying that, “I have no idea how this could come into being, therefore it must be whatever I say it is.” Rather, it seems more like arguing from false certainty in that they are 100% certain that complex systems with features like DNA have only ever come from intelligent designers. I may just be playing with symantics, but I think it’s important to recognize that they are not admitting any ignorance, but are rather falling into the trap that religion creates of thinking that any person can ever truly know something for certain and attempting to use that in their science and logic which, since the very idea of absolute certainty is at odds with actual science, means that their conclusions will likely always be flawed.

  6. daedalus2uon 09 Dec 2009 at 12:47 pm

    I think there is another reason why conservative Christians are also AGW deniers (other than crank magnetism that is), that run-away global warming looks a lot like the nebulous prophesies about the Apocalypse. What better way to bring about the End of Days than run-away global warming that makes the Earth uninhabitable. I believe their reasoning is that then God would have to intervene. or humans would go extinct.

  7. Ciananon 09 Dec 2009 at 1:00 pm

    “Ultimately, perhaps massive defunding of organized science, and a new system of support for research that demands utter transparency and maximal accommodation of debate, may be the only way to defend ourselves from an utterly corrupt scientific elite.”

    Last time I checked my Thesaurus of Demotic Synonyms, neurosurgeons, at the fore with rocket scientists, were the fuglemen of the scientific elite. Egnor’s rhetoric is redolent of those in national politics who are undeniably Washington insiders yet claim otherwise to exploit Real Americans. Well, the Real Americans in this case can have Egnor. He makes it explicit, by condemning “a toxic leftist-atheist ideology,” that, despite the medical and scientific training he is lucky, it seems to me, to have had, he has entrenched himself in the god-fearing, socially-conservative, moral high-ground. Inspiring his comments are ideological certitudes and platitudes, that are couched in cliché and clumsily written prose. Does he read what he writes? Could he not have avoided easily such a cacology as using “utter” and “utterly” in the same sentence? Or, likewise, suggesting that we cease bankrolling “organized science.” As opposed to what, Egnor, disorganized science?

    Calling for transparency in science is nugatory. Evidence is provided by nature; it is there for all who care to look. And, in all facetiousness, this “new system” of science, in which debate is a prominent tenet, makes Egnor, by his very language, an accommodationist (a word, by the way, that interjects politics into a subject where, in the case of science, the anti-vaccinationist’s retort of “No, no, not in my veins,” is best).

  8. CWon 09 Dec 2009 at 1:05 pm

    @ EternallyLearning – “Rather, it seems more like arguing from false certainty in that they are 100% certain that complex systems with features like DNA have only ever come from intelligent designers.”

    I think this is a subtype of the Argument of Ignorance fallacy though. Because ultimately, the crux of the argument is “because I don’t know, then it must be [insert unprovable/untestable cause]”

    @ Stephen – Thanks for the post. I appreciate your articles on their argument strategies, as it helps me to better debate/discuss these topics with friends and family.

    One particular strategy that I seem to have a hard time overcoming is when I make the arguments that evolution is starting to have predictive value (hypothesizing what transitionary fossils will look like, when discovered, that fill in the gaps)…to which the reply is, common sense can tell you what the fossils will look like if you have a before and after image. I think my argument is either phrased incorrectly, or just a trivial one that carries no weight.

  9. mschmidton 09 Dec 2009 at 1:31 pm

    The entire ID movement reminds me of my parent’s weird attempt at making me believe that Santa Claus was real. When I was 6 or 7 I said that Santa wasn’t real so they got my mom’s Uncle, who looked like Santa, to dress up as him and visit me therefore proving his existence. It was pretty impressive seeing a Santa with a real beard, but he didn’t explain how he traveled everywhere so fast nor did he have any flying reindeer. The entire process didn’t convince me, and ended up just making me think my parents were odd and didn’t know why they just couldn’t accept that it was them buying me awesome presents.

    That’s how I look at ID’ers. They are putting so much time and effort on an explanation whose premise is based on ridiculousness and, at the same time, there is ample evidence that explains how life really works which is evolution.

  10. artfulDon 09 Dec 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Any design of life’s various forms was in the form of engineering done by life itself, and any purpose, intent, or intelligence behind those “designs” was that of these evolving forms alone. And the designs were in all cases affected by the strategies developed and developing in these forms to deal with the immediate problems of survival.

    And there was no grand plan or blueprint involved – just the impetus to reengineer anything that could gain some short-term benefit in the process.

  11. Steven Novellaon 09 Dec 2009 at 2:12 pm

    EL – to clarify my point, you are correct but you need to back up one step. They are prematurely (putting is mildly) sure that all design is intelligent, but that certitude is based entirely on an argument from ignorance – not knowing a natural process that can result in design.

    It is false ignorance, because evidence shows evolution is that natural process. And they try to make their claims seem positive – every design we have observed results from intelligence. But they are simply ruling out, a priori, natural systems and so their argument becomes circular also.

    They want it both ways – they want to win the argument from the beginning by rigging the parameters – all design is intelligent a priori, life is designed, therefore it was intelligently designed.

    This argument fails on logic.

    The empirical argument is that life shows features of specifically intelligent design that evolution cannot explain – irreducible complexity and specified complexity (ala information theory). They fail here as well – these arguments have been demolished, ID proponents just refuse to understand or acknowledge it.

    And – they ignore the actual real question – is the design seen in life the top-down design expected from a designer, or the bottom-up design expected from a messy natural process. It is clearly the latter.

  12. lizkaton 09 Dec 2009 at 2:21 pm

    It seems obvious to me that everyone is in over their heads in this kind of a debate. The theory that life originated and evolved without any kind of intelligent guidance may turn out to be philosophical and impossible to prove scientifically. Similarly, the theory that life originated and evolved in the context of some guiding intelligence may not ever be possible to prove, or disprove, using the scientific method.

    There are just too many problems, including the problem of defining words like “intelligence,” “natural,” and “supernatural.” If we define “natural” as all that exists, then of course everything turns out to be natural, and nothing can ever be called supernatural.

    If we define “intelligence” as the activities of any complex system, then everything must be called intelligent.

    We also have the problem of defining “random,” as opposed to “meaningful.”

    It may turn out that, as physics and biology advance, we begin to see our world as far more complex than was ever imagined during Darwin’s time. We may eventually take for granted that there is some kind of “intelligence” or “purposefulness” operating in the universe. Or maybe not. But right now we are in the dark regarding this kind of question.

    So I think both sides in this debate ought to admit they are arguing over things that are utterly unknown at this time, and which may never be understood well, if at all. And, more importantly, that most of the terminology is woefully undefined.

    As a result, neither side really knows what the other is trying to say. Within each team, the arguments and the terminology seem obvious, but between teams the exchanges might as well be gibberish.

    My impression is that both sides primarily resort to insults and name-calling. I don’t see the “skeptics” being any more polite or respectful than the IDers. Scorn is heaped in both directions, and clear logic and scientific evidence are seldom to be seen. Naturally enough, since we cannot reason clearly about things that are so far beyond our current understanding.

    For example, the anti-IDers cite evidence for evolution as if it were relevant to the debate, when it is not. What you need to demonstrate that life can originate and evolve by a mechanistic, unguided, process.

    You need to show that there is no law of nature that drives complex systems to evolve in the direction of increasing complexity. And how could you ever demonstrate something like that?

  13. Dweller42on 09 Dec 2009 at 2:40 pm

    That’s not the definition of argument from ignorance, though – argument from ignorance is, at least for the purposes of debate, argument based on a premise that is held as true only because it has not been demonstrated as false – the substance of the argument itself isn’t known, not that the arguer doesn’t know about the substance of the argument.

    As an example, if I’m holding a brand-new chemical compound in my hand, and I argue that this compound is acidic without making any tests on the compound or knowing its structure, I’m making an argument from ignorance.

    If the structure of the compound is known and has been tested, and it is either neutral or basic in nature, then it’s more of an argument from incredulity – I’m either ignore the evidence or am not aware of it.

    It’s a minor distinction, and most would argue that the argument from incredulity is just a subset of argument from ignorance, but there are differences to them that are very important when talking to an IDer – the former person may simply be making an ill-informed argument and open to new information. The latter is a much harder sell because they may be consciously attempting to not know anything.

  14. Eternally Learningon 09 Dec 2009 at 3:09 pm

    Steve – I agree with you on that 100%. The point I was making however, wasn’t that they are not ultimately basing their arguments on ignorance of certain facts, or that their new arguments are any more valid, but was more that they are doing just what you are saying; trying to turn their negative arguments into positive by falsely claiming scientific certainty. It seemed to me that in sweeping their legs out from under them by bypassing their actual stated argument and attacking the unstated premises alone, we fail to point out the connection between their actual arguments and the arguments that we are attacking, thereby seeming to dodge the issue that they’ve presented. We can point out that their argument is basically unchanged, but unless we connect the dots for those that are on the fence of this issue (like you did in your response) and show how it is the same, then we risk appearing arrogant or oblivious.

    On a side-note, I’ve never heard the term “False Ignorance” before. I assume you are using that to refer to people who ignore or reject valid evidence or arguments that are right under their nose? Did you coin that? I kind of like it :)

  15. daedalus2uon 09 Dec 2009 at 4:17 pm

    CW, when people say that filling in the gaps is just “common sense”, you say “yes, exactly, that is exactly what evolution is, the common sense explanation for all life that we see fitting together.” It works with the gross anatomy of bones, the only kind that can be observed in fossils, it also works with the finest details of all the DNA of extant organisms, showing that we are all related.

  16. titmouseon 09 Dec 2009 at 4:26 pm

    A tragic side effect of any heated manufactroversy: people are tempted to distort the truth for the sake of the truth. Messy and ambiguous data that scientists normally find interesting and fun to talk about get swept under the rug for fear of the loons who might exploit it.

    Remember how we cringed when New Scientist ran the headline, “Darwin was Wrong…” Well, yes, of course Darwin was wrong about many things. Blah blah blah. Not what you think it means, Mr. Uninformed.

    Remember the Brownlee article in The Atlantic which pounced upon a valid question concerning the risk-v-benefit of seasonal flu vaccine among the elderly, and used this detail to represent the entire flu vaccine project as misguided?

    Given that people around the globe have been working on the climate warming issue for three decades, I’m inclined to believe that there’s something to it. I’m guessing the emailers had grown weary of the politics and simply cracked. They cleaned up some messy data sets in the hope of dodging time wasting challenges from the hacks. Major foot-bullet, sadly.

    Communication is very difficult when all parties are not working off the same basic map of reality. Or to put it another way for a few of you: when engrams all down the time track are being re-stimulated in the pre-clears. Or when the sheeple remain blind to the mind-control tricks of the Jew-controlled mass media.

  17. Steven Novellaon 09 Dec 2009 at 4:59 pm

    I agree – hard core ideological pseudoscience poisons the atmosphere of good science. It becomes challenging for scientists to function openly, and any attempt at shielding themselves from the crazies becomes part of the “conspiracy”. It’s a no win.

    All the more reason, however, that scientists need to be skeptics – they need to learn how to deal with the cranks without compromising real science. Or at least they need to appreciate those skeptics who are running interference for them.

  18. _Arthuron 09 Dec 2009 at 6:39 pm

    Why to put one chaplain or komissar in every research lab to ensure that science isn’t distorted by a political or atheistic agenda ?

  19. Watcheron 09 Dec 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Wow, I think this goes along with the whole “lets see if we can make ourselves meaningful.”

    What a blowhard. This is the type of person we debate against. To be honest, it’s quite scary to think that this man preaches fair, moral, and truthful … but in all reality it’s just to things he wants to believe in. Harkens back to the whole, I am the Holy Spirits mouthpiece. He wouldn’t let me say anything that’s wrong. It’s borderline insanity …

  20. Torgoon 09 Dec 2009 at 9:20 pm

    Steve writes: “And they try to make their claims seem positive – every design we have observed results from intelligence. But they are simply ruling out, a priori, natural systems and so their argument becomes circular also.”

    I’m on your side on this one, but couldn’t they say (and they do) that naturalists are simply ruling out, a priori, intelligent designers? Stephen Meyer is not a total idiot. If he’s careful, he’ll say that, yes, there may yet be a naturalistic explanation for the apparent design, but since intelligence is often the cause of design, and assuming there are some things we can’t/haven’t yet explained naturalistically, it’s reasonable to provisionally conclude that an intelligent designer is responsible.

  21. titmouseon 09 Dec 2009 at 9:52 pm

    …couldn’t they say (and they do) that naturalists are simply ruling out, a priori, intelligent designers?

    Wait that’s shifting the burden of proof. That’s cheating.

    You imply that we have but two choices: we must either accept a claim as true or reject it as false.

    In fact we have three choices: a claim may be proven, disproved, or unproven.

    All new claims are unproven by default. The burden of proof always rests upon the shoulders of the person asserting the claim.

    Intelligent design is unproven, just like Russell’s teapot. And just like the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

  22. bluskoolon 09 Dec 2009 at 10:18 pm

    Haha… crankgasm is the perfect way to describe what Egnor is doing. Great post Steve. I wrote about this same thing last week when Egnor started blogging about “climategate.” He had only written five posts on it at the time so I guess he was not even close to reaching climax yet. It seems that he’ll just take any opportunity he gets to attack science.

  23. Steven Novellaon 09 Dec 2009 at 10:29 pm

    Targo – no, in fact Richard Dawkins even said that if we saw intelligent design in biology we could hypothesize about superpowerful aliens or something.

  24. Torgoon 09 Dec 2009 at 10:35 pm


    Isn’t that what I said? If we see intelligent design in biology, we can hypothesize an intelligent designer–whether aliens or something else. I don’t think the hypothesis has been proven, and has in fact been largely disproved. I guess I’m in the camp that thinks there is some merit to hypothesizing an intelligent designer, but that the evidence is overwhelmingly against it.


    I agree that ID is unproven, but I was merely addressing the criticisms of even raising it as a potential explanation.

  25. artfulDon 09 Dec 2009 at 11:52 pm

    Torgo writes,
    “If we see intelligent design in biology, we can hypothesize an intelligent designer–whether aliens or something else.”

    Why couldn’t that something else be life that has intelligently designed itself?

  26. bluskoolon 10 Dec 2009 at 12:01 am

    Why couldn’t that something else be life that has intelligently designed itself?

    Wouldn’t that be god?

  27. artfulDon 10 Dec 2009 at 12:27 am

    Not unless you have some credible evidence that god is alive.

  28. John Piereton 10 Dec 2009 at 12:49 am

    Not being a computer geek, I guess the name is for I, Mudd.

  29. Ciananon 10 Dec 2009 at 12:54 am


    This is off-topic, but I was just reading the new (December 10th) issue of Nature and was surprised to see your name pop-up in an article titled, “Centre turns away from healing herbs: US research hub on complementary and alternative medicine shifts towards symptom management.” ( It looks like the Institute for Science in Medicine has already become a go-to source and quotable-dispensary.

    From the article:

    ‘Many US researchers still say such funding is a waste of time and money. “You are doing scientific research on treatment modalities that are not being used or promoted by science-based practitioners in the first place,” says Steven Novella, a neurologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. “They never abandon a treatment because the scientific evidence shows that it doesn’t work. So what’s the point?”‘

    ‘Marcus and Novella are members of the Institute for Science in Medicine, a group of physicians and scientists newly set up to fight government policies promoting alternative medicine. [Marcus] contends that the entire NCCAM enterprise “has been a remarkable waste of money”, driven by Senator Tom Harkin (Democrat, Iowa), who authored the 1998 legislation that established the centre. “The best thing they could do with the NCCAM is to dissolve it,” Marcus says. “But that’s not going to happen. Harkin’s too powerful.”‘

    How neat is it to have your name in Nature?

  30. Rob Heberton 10 Dec 2009 at 4:42 am

    You wrote
    “The theory that life originated and evolved without any kind of intelligent guidance may turn out to be philosophical and impossible to prove scientifically”

    Science operates under the principles of methodological naturalism. The phenomena that evolutionary theory is meant to explain (such as speciation and development that leads to complexity over time) do not require an intelligent designer, so therefore there’s no need to assume one exists. We understand how animals evolve the same way we understand how the sun can rise and set in the same place (well, about the same place ;) ) every day; saying a designer makes the evolutionary process go doesn’t add anymore knowledge than saying Helios’ chariot pulls the sun across the sky. Likewise, you don’t have to imagine that fairies push electrons through copper wires.

    We don’t know how life arose on Earth, and it’s possible we never will, but there are already a number of plausible, suggested methods through which it could have occurred; they all utilize basic physical and chemical reactions that occur every day. Again, no intelligent creator is necessary, and so we don’t assume one.

    You also wrote:
    “We may eventually take for granted that there is some kind of “intelligence” or “purposefulness” operating in the universe”

    Most people already take that for granted. That’s one of the problems; you can’t just “take it for granted.” People used to take it for granted that witches existed, they cursed your livestock, and the only way to get rid of them was with fire. That didn’t make it true.

    “Within each team, the arguments and the terminology seem obvious, but between teams the exchanges might as well be gibberish.”

    These aren’t teams. Science is not a sport where one group wins and the other loses. Science is an attempt to gain practical knowledge about the universe by systematically learning the ways in which it works. IDers, for personal or political reasons, feel challenged by this attempt, and have tried to undermine it (though only in certain areas) by injecting misinformation, appealing to others’ emotions, and manufacturing controversy. Not by doing science.

    “My impression is that both sides primarily resort to insults and name-calling”

    I sincerely implore you to re-examine the overwhelming evidence of evolution, truly understand how it works, and learn how we know what we know. Dawkins’ “The Greatest Show on Earth” is a great primer, but if you don’t like him there are many other useful books in this vein. If you truly think that evidence is not being offered in these debates, you have been viewing the wrong things or have simply misunderstood what is being said. If you think that scientists are being disrespectful, that’s your opinion and you’re entitled to it–but it is fallacious to think that their rudeness undercuts the merit of their scientific claims.

    “For example, the anti-IDers cite evidence for evolution as if it were relevant to the debate, when it is not”

    Evidence for evolution is absolutely relevant to the debate. That you refer to scientists as “anti-IDers” implies that you see ID either as the baseline or an equal alternative to evolution. ID is not evidence-based. There is no evidence for it because, as has been pointed out in other comments, the whole premise is a tautology: some things are designed, other things look like those things, therefore those things are designed too, therefore they require a designer, therefore a designer exists. Evolutionary theory explains robust sets of data from many, many disparate disciplines; though it is altered in a million tiny ways as new data is found, the primary mechanisms of mutation, selection, and replication remain the same; and it produces testable predictions that have been proven experimentally. ID can honestly claim none of these things. ID is not evidence-based, while evolutionary theory is.

    “you need to demonstrate that life can originate and evolve by a mechanistic, unguided, process.”

    Those are two different things, but as I’ve said above, evolution has been shown to work, both through observation and experimentation. The origin of life from inanimate matter is called “abiogenesis”; it’s different from biological evolution, but several believable hypotheses have been proposed using “bottom-up” approaches that are similar to evolution. Proving that abiogenesis is possible is fairly easy; proving that it happened a particular way is harder.

    “You need to show that there is no law of nature that drives complex systems to evolve in the direction of increasing complexity”

    That’s actually kind of backwards. As it stands, there does not appear to a singular driving force that generates complexity, but the phenomenon that evolution shows is generally development in the direction of increased complexity. To understand why this might be so, please see Gould’s “Drunkard’s Walk.” In a nutshell, the idea is that since life probably arose from simple, self-replicating carbon compounds, there was nowhere to go but up on the evolutionary ladder. Once we had a decent amount of complexity, evolution could send us up and down the ladder (ie, snakes used to have legs).

  31. eiskrystalon 10 Dec 2009 at 5:11 am

    -If we see intelligent design in biology, we can hypothesize an intelligent designer–whether aliens or something else.-

    We don’t see intelligent design in biology. We see a hell of a lot of crap, redundancy, poor use of mechanics and extinction. So the point is moot.

    Cmon, they had to bring in “the fall” just to get around how bad the design we see today is.

  32. JH-manon 10 Dec 2009 at 8:46 am

    eiskrystal: yup, exactly.

    Their entire idea of the concepts “intelligence” and “design” is informed by, and ONLY informed by, *human* intelligence and *human* design. That’s supposedly their measuring stick.

    Yet even a superficial look at the type of “design” found in nature (messy, too complex to ever be within our own design capabilities, yet surprisingly inadequate and sub-optimal in places) reveals that it looks NOTHING like the concept they base their idea on.

    The argument doesn’t even take off…

  33. BrianTanion 10 Dec 2009 at 10:14 am

    I’m reading Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson’s book “Mistakes were made, but not by me” now, and the attitude of the Disco’Tute over this debate fits exactly on what they’re are saying about cognitive dissonance. The amount of investment you put into a belief is inversely proportional to the willingness to admit you’re wrong.

    For this they cite a number of cases one of which is Leon Festinger’s When Prophecy Fails, which report the case of Mrs. Keech’s cult of apocalypse. The people that sold everything waiting the end, those that made the most public commitment, were the ones that when the prophecy failed actually bolstered their faith, thinking they’ve saved the world instead of admitting they were wrong.

    They also say that normally people wouldn’t believe outrageously crazy things, but it’s a process of action, self-justification, and further actions that lead the person to a position we on the outside find bewildering! :D

    Anyways, I’m just beginning to read this book, and couldn’t comment any further. However, it makes me wonder what would those processes of resolving cognitive dissonances have been to make the people of the Disco’ Tute hold such strange beliefs.

  34. lizkaton 10 Dec 2009 at 11:12 am

    “I sincerely implore you to re-examine the overwhelming evidence of evolution”

    As I said already, evidence for evolution is irrelevant to the debate. Evolution is a scientifically established fact, and there are no knowledgeable researchers who doubt it. So why do anti-IDers consistently point to evidence for evolution and cite Dawkins? That is one of the great mysteries.

  35. artfulDon 10 Dec 2009 at 1:52 pm

    lizkat sees intelligent design in biology. Why? Because the methodological naturalism that some so reverently refer to requires life to be an intelligent process. It requires that all cells think, for example. Cells know where they are and what they are supposed to do.  They have positional values. Even a single-celled organism chooses, changes, transforms its environment in particular ways. In other words, it designs intelligently.

    As to the purpose for that intelligence that some here deny as well, ponder on this:

    “Thinking about Life
    The History and Philosophy of Biology and Other Sciences
    Paul S. Agutter and Denys N. Wheatley
    Living organisms act purposefully, and their indiv