The moral imperative against intelligent design


I’m straying only a bit off topic, and only by certain legalistic interpretations. History folks, bear with me.

My complaint about what is called “intelligent design” in biology is the same complaint I have against people who wish to crown Millard Fillmore as a great light for bringing plumbing to the White House over the complaints of health officials — that is, my complaint against those who push H. L. Mencken’s hoax over the facts.

Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost listed at great lengths his list of reasons that arguing for science actually promotes intelligent design instead (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3). This blog’s response was in two parts, one and two. Other people offered other rebuttals, including notably, P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula, a very good blog that features the hard science of biology and especially evolution.

Joe provided a first affirmative rebuttal here. This post is my reply, on the single point of whether it’s fair to say creationists, IDists, or others who twist the facts and research, are “dishonest.”

The text is below the fold; I left it in remarks at Evangelical Outpost. I have one other observation I’ll make quickly in the next post.

Enjoy, and chime in with your own remarks (I’m headed back to the grindstone).

Joe,

What set of creationism arguments does not quickly stray into disinformation? It seems harsh to say all forms of creationism lead to dishonesty — but I can’t think of one that does not.

And each of the IDists mentioned — Johnson, Wells, Behe and Dembski — have rather famously been caught in what might most politely be called self-delusion, if one really struggles to avoid calling a shovel a shovel.

You offer an interesting definition of what intelligent design is, but it is not a consensus definition that would be agreed to by Johnson, and Wells, and Behe, and Dembski, and it is not a definition that has been put forward anywhere in any scientific literature as a hypothesis backed by any sort of data.

So, in calling it “theory,” you’ve committed a bit of scientific dissembling right there.

You might argue that these are small, petty crossings with the truth. Without such false claims, no brand of creationism stands logically, let alone scientifically. We don’t have to look to the fruits of that tree to see the roots are rotten.

And then there’s the definition you offer, that suggests we have some method of detecting design that defies natural processes. That’s simply not so. Consequently, to offer ID as a hypothesis that posits some intelligent behind design that is detected in the universe requires that real observations of nature be ignored, which is itself a form of dishonesty. Science looks for proximate causes, not ultimate causes. There is no occasion yet known where there is any compelling evidence or reason to claim intelligent ultimate causes over natural proximate causes.

The facts are that there are only two possible scientific assertions out of ID: Dembski’s explanatory filter, which has been shown not to work, and which assumes that certain forms of mutation cannot occur, which forms have been demonstrated to occur; and Behe’s “irreducible complexity” test, which has been absolutely and totally unsuccessful in practice and has been abandoned by its author, Behe, by all appearances (he’s doing no research on it).

Were someone to argue that cold fusion is amply demonstrated and that, therefore, national governments should invest billions in developing it to commercial application, they would be relegated to the fringe of crank science. Alas for intelligent design, cold fusion offers much more supporting data published in scientific journals than does intelligent design. Until ID can produce at least the quantity and quality of research that cold fusion has already produced, ID doesn’t deserve to be given the credence in biology that cold fusion is given in physics.

And, under such circumstances, one has to wonder about the ethics of anyone who would advise their grandmother or anyone else to invest in cold fusion stock. Absent a certificate of insanity, ethical lapse appears the best alternative.

Joe, evolution is key to crop research, livestock research, and medicine. These are not debates with no stakes. It’s not just philosophy. It’s cancer cures, diabetes treatment and cures, boll weevil eradication, grapefruit farming, wheat breeding, rice enrichment. Every dime spent to advocate ID over evolution is a dime spent against a cure for cancer. Every minute spent advocating ID over evolution before a state school board is a minute spent advocating ignorance.

Under the circumstances, an ethical person of any religious persuasion is being kind in calling ID merely “misguided.” Claiming that ID has the imprimatur of Christianity behind it raises it to the level of abomination. Christianity has no book calling for a triumph of dogma over truth in any enterprise.

You can dismiss Dr. Myers well-formed and accurate criticisms for no legitimate reason. Yes, he’s atheist. It’s a sad day for the church when atheists are leading the way to ethical behavior, and Christians resist. We have a duty to other people to stick to the truth. We have a duty to the integrity of the church not to advocate untruth in the church’s name. We have a duty to God to get the facts right. Pay attention when Myers’ calls the pursuit dishonest — he’s right, and we need to fix it.

23 Responses to The moral imperative against intelligent design

  1. […] evolution (no, it doesn’t make much more sense in the longer argument).  (See “The moral imperative against intelligent design,” and “. . . in which I defend the judiciary against barbaric […]

    Like

  2. DavidD says:

    “And comments like DavidD’s, which comes from all corners of Christianity, go to that point. As others have noted, one can’t hate what one doesn’t believe in — DavidD shows intellectual dishonesty by projecting his own beliefs into the minds of others who clearly don’t have those beliefs.”

    Oh, I hadn’t realized I’d been attacked. I’d respond, but it’s rather confused what the issue is. truth machine seems to be defending atheists who don’t hate what they don’t believe (what a lie!). Only I said nothing against atheists, but rather against creationists (and if tm is defending creationists, what a lie that they don’t hate evolution, evolutionists, anything like that). I suppose from the last comment about faith that tm merely saw that I was allied with God, and didn’t read what I wrote, belief in God being enough by itself for him to judge me intellectually dishonest.

    This points out the difficulty with those who just want to be pro-religion or anti-religion. They don’t listen well, but mainly listen for an opportunity to counterattack. I think PZ Myers does go too far with the contempt he shows the likes of Francis Collins on Pharyngula and religion in general. I have said so in the comments there. There is nothing noble about contempt, whichever people are the target.

    It is noble to be open-minded, whether that’s open-minded to say something is true or open-minded to say something else is false. It’s not open-mindedness that has most people arguing about such things, though. Otherwise the arguments might actually get somewhere.

    Like

  3. edarrell says:

    Dr. Myers’ response reminded me of something Thomas Jefferson said. Benjamin Rush wrote to Jefferson that the clergy in Philadelphia were concerned about what Jefferson would do to churches, during Jefferson’s presidency. Alexander Hamilton’s propaganda worked well — fully half of all Americans were convinced Jefferson was atheist (but they voted for him anyway).

    Jefferson responded with a letter explaining some small part of his religious views, and saying that while no religious person had anything to fear from his presidency, the clergy certainly had much to fear from him. Because, he said, “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal opposition to every form of tyranny over the mind of Man.”

    In other words, Jefferson said he’d stop when the religious stop pushing lies about the world, or when he was dead, whichever came first.

    It’s a noble tradition.

    Like

  4. demolition65 says:

    I’ll stop when the religious stop pushing lies about the world, or when I’m dead, whichever comes first.

    Now THAT was a coherent, thoughtful and intelligent response.

    Like

  5. Doug says:

    Any little bit that edarrell can get he’ll run with.
    Again, someone should find his debate he had with Guts about Behe’s IC blood-clotting cascade.
    That should also tickle edarrell.

    Like

  6. edarrell says:

    Oooh, I just re-read it. Telic Thoughts’ reference to this blog has evolved twice! Once in naming “Tim” as the author; once again in changing his name from “Panogos” to “Pagonos.”

    It’s almost as if the hand of God were making things evolve for Telic Thoughts, giving them little apples on the head, to wake them up to what goes on in nature. What are the odds?

    Like

  7. truth machine says:

    Make that “And comments like DavidD’s, which come from all corners of Christianity …”

    Like

  8. truth machine says:

    “It’s a sad day for the church when atheists are leading the way to ethical behavior, and Christians resist.”

    Then every day is a sad day. And comments like DavidD’s, which comes from all corners of Christianity, go to that point. As others have noted, one can’t hate what one doesn’t believe in — DavidD shows intellectual dishonesty by projecting his own beliefs into the minds of others who clearly don’t have those beliefs. And that one considers someone to be a fool or deluded does not mean they hate them — another failure of intellectual honesty. But then, “faith” is intellectually dishonest at its core.

    Like

  9. Ed Darrell says:

    I love it! In a wonderful demonstration of how intelligent design advocates so often get the facts wrong and go astray, over at Telic Thoughts (see the link above) they are discussing the fellow who wrote this blog entry, “Tim Pagonos.”

    I cannot tell you how much that tickles me!

    Like

  10. […] Here at Telic Thoughts, we often make fun of those critics who are worried that intelligent design is going to lead to a theocracy. But, as Tim Paganos reminds us, there is a lot more threatiness to be worried about: Every dime spent to advocate ID over evolution is a dime spent against a cure for cancer. Every minute spent advocating ID over evolution before a state school board is a minute spent advocating ignorance. […]

    Like

  11. Tim says:

    Good to know that I’m not the only Christian who sees ID as Creationism dressed up in science clothes. :) – Tim

    Like

  12. rrt says:

    Demolition65:

    I’m glad you appreciate Dr. Myers’ blog, but as others have said, please dispose of the “atheists hate and fear God” meme. You’re welcome to disagree with and challenge his lack of belief, but we are all sick to death of this canard. Every atheist I’ve ever spoken with in person and online states something similar to this: “I gradually realized none of this stuff made sense, was contradicted by evidence, and I didn’t believe it.”

    What part of that sounds like fear-filled hatred of God to you?

    Yes, the Pharynguloids (myself included) are invading. Sorry about that. We promise not to leave more than the occasional squid in the corner…

    Like

  13. GH says:

    He does feature biology and he clearly knows his stuff. But his blog is infested with personal attacks that weaken his credibility as a Darwinian apologist. If he could possibly present anti-creationist arguments without the vitriol (which in my mind stems from an outright hatred of God and anyone who might believe in Him) then his would indeed become a “very good” blog.

    His attacks don’t weaken his credibility at all. They are pointed and on target. If they offend you perhaps you can go to the comments and rebut him.

    And to say he hates a God is doesn’t think exists is simply a mindless comment. His blog IS very good and in fact Great most days as evidenced by it’s worldwide ranking.

    Like

  14. Joe says:

    “Every dime spent to advocate ID over evolution is a dime spent against a cure for cancer. Every minute spent advocating ID over evolution before a state school board is a minute spent advocating ignorance.”

    I would like to say thank you for trying to bring this idea into the Christian meme. I am an Atheist, but have no problems with religion. As long as that religion is not trying to kill me. As you state in this post that is exactly what they are trying to do by pushing ID and anti-stem cells. I think a lot of the hostility from Atheists towards Christians stems from that fact. I would happily work along side theists to accomplish these ethical goals.

    Here is a little Atheist mythology by Nick Bostrom ‘The Fable of the Dragon-Tyrant’
    http://www.nickbostrom.com/fable/dragon.html

    It explains why it is so import to start NOW on curing killers like cancer and aging.

    Like

  15. outright hatred of God

    It’s hard to hate something you don’t believe exists.

    Like

  16. Søren Kongstad says:

    to Demoliion65:

    You accuse PZ Myers of
    “… an outright hatred of God and anyone who might believe in Him”
    Where have I heard that before? Oh yes from fundementalist nutjobs who do not have any arguments for their faith.

    I believe your remarks stem from an extreme hatred of the flying spaghetti monster and those who choose to spread his word.

    What – it doesn’t make sense? Well you are right, it makes just as much sense as claiming that atheists hate your god. We do not hate your god, we do not know what this thing you call god is, it is just as real to us as the flying spaghetti monster, and less real than santa claus.

    To assume we hate god, is just plain stupid.

    Like

  17. Garrett says:

    That was very good. If only all religious people were as rational and capable of objective critical thinking as you are. And special kudos to your last paragraph, whose message I think needs to be spread far and wide.

    Like

  18. […] Every dime spent to advocate ID over evolution is a dime spent against a cure for cancer. Every minute spent advocating ID over evolution before a state school board is a minute spent advocating ignorance. Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub » Blog Archive » The moral imperative against intelligent design   […]

    Like

  19. PZ Myers says:

    I’ll stop when the religious stop pushing lies about the world, or when I’m dead, whichever comes first.

    I suspect it will be the latter.

    Like

  20. demolition65 says:

    No argument on the relative scientific vallidity of ID. I have argued over and over that the ID discussion is better served in the philosophy classroom, not the biology classroom.

    My only caveat to pick with you is in blessing PZ Myers as having “a very good blog that features the hard science of biology and especially evolution.“.

    He does feature biology and he clearly knows his stuff. But his blog is infested with personal attacks that weaken his credibility as a Darwinian apologist. If he could possibly present anti-creationist arguments without the vitriol (which in my mind stems from an outright hatred of God and anyone who might believe in Him) then his would indeed become a “very good” blog.

    Like

  21. DavidD says:

    “We have a duty to God to get the facts right.”

    Because if we don’t get this right, why should anyone believe us about God? Maybe you’d like to comment generally sometime about God wanting us to get the truth right about anything.

    I’m amazed that this never comes up for those who are completely convinced Genesis is right, and it’s just a matter of how best to argue that. It is quite a lot to swallow that evolution is all one great, atheistic conspiracy, but people manage to do that.

    I went over to Joe Carter’s page after my previous comment – what a lot of junk. It’s just like so many discussions against evolution, a lot of words and no data. I don’t understand where people get this idea that they can argue science with mere words. Then if people do argue data, it’s little bits of this and that, claiming some fact that doesn’t fit with evolution. Meanwhile people who know evolution know that it is this vast unifying principle of all biology, with no meaningful opposition. I’ve come to the conclusion that if people don’t get it from a popular book like Finding Darwin’s God that evolution is a fact, they’re not going to get it. Those who want to play with words for the courts or whatever are welcome to, but it is such a waste. Just learn the science. Those who refuse to do that sound silly. That’s why ID is doomed, maybe conservative theology along with it, maybe not in 100 years, but eventually.

    Like

  22. DavidD says:

    I’m sure there are many aspects of attacks on evolution that I’m willing to call dishonest, not just an honest difference of opinion. I happened to hear D. James Kennedy’s radio show today. He was attacking evolution with some “doctor” guest. The arguments were the same old ones. They demonstrated no awareness at all of the counter-arguments against saying thermodynamics precludes evolution or these astronomical odds against a protein or DNA molecule self-assembling, which are only valid if they assemble from a soup of constituents in a single step, not what biologists imagine to be the case. To pretend there is no answer to one’s propaganda is simply dishonest, no matter which side does that.

    I also think it is clearly dishonest the way ID people dismiss molecular genetics, and all the history of species one can glean from that. Of course one can always say everything was designed to be just the way it is, but then one could say the same thing about physics, that there is no gravity; God is just very consistent in how He deals with every bit of mass in the universe. If someone wanted to revert to metaphysics and argue that all of science is illusion, one can be intellectually honest in that, but there is just no way one honestly can pretend to be inside science and say evolution is not a fact. One can say God nudged things here and there and be honest, but to say evolution is one big lie is to be telling s lie of one’s own someplace.

    Like

  23. […] Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub History and education « The moral imperative against intelligent design […]

    Like

Please play nice in the Bathtub -- splash no soap in anyone's eyes. While your e-mail will not show with comments, note that it is our policy not to allow false e-mail addresses. Comments with non-working e-mail addresses may be deleted.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: