Thursday, July 14, 2011


Purple Pain

I've beem remiss in blogging of late for various reasons, so I thought I'd revive some older posts for those who don't obsessively comb through my previous efforts. Feel free to ignore this.

July 15, 2008:

Ronald Bailey of Reason magazine has a version available of his remarks during the FreedomFest 2008 debate: "Is There Scientific Evidence for Intelligent Design in Nature?" They are good reading.

One point well worth emulating when discussing the subject with doubtful but still open minded people is Bailey's skillful weaving together of various forms of evidence from the fossil record, genetics and development to make a multifaceted case for evolution that is neither too complex to be understood by people with no particular expertise nor too simple to convey the true richness of the evidence for evolution.

In this instance, though, that part of Bailey's case is only the substrate to his real aim. Noting the Discovery Institute's statement: "Unlike creationism, the scientific theory of intelligent design is agnostic regarding the source of design and has no commitment to defending Genesis, the Bible or any other sacred text," Bailey sets the stage:

Near the end of the silly new anti-evolution film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed—in which fellow panelist Steve Meyer appeared—host Ben Stein asks Richard Dawkins, who is arguably the best-known living evolutionary biologist on the planet, if he could think of any circumstances under which intelligent design might have occurred. Incautiously, Dawkins brings up the idea that aliens might have seeded life on earth; so-called directed panspermia. This idea was suggested by biologists Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel back in the 1970s. In the film, Stein acts like this is a great "gotcha," like it's the silliest thing he's ever heard. Of course, the irony is that this is precisely what proponents of intelligent design are claiming—that a higher intelligence has repeatedly created life on earth.

So, since our esteemed opponents are agnostic with regard to the "source of design," and because intelligent design cannot rule out the hypothesis that super-intelligent purple space squids are not the "source of design" of life on earth, I will provisionally accept that hypothesis for the remainder of my talk.

Besides defusing a minor embarrassment, Mr. Bailey forges the issue of aliens into a cudgel with which to bludgeon the Intelligent Design Creationists:

As I understand it, intelligent design proponents—such as our distinguished Discovery Institute panelists here—fully accept the fact that the earth is around 4.5 billion years old and that some form of life has existed on earth for about 3 billion or so years. If that is the case, it would seem the record shows that the intelligent designers—which I am hypothesizing are super-intelligent purple space squids—evidently spent more than 2 billion years tinkering with single-cell algae and bacteria before they got around to creating multi-cellular species. Do intelligent design proponents have a theory to explain that? Were the space squid creators just lazy?

Trust me. It goes down hill for the IDers after that. Better yet, don't trust me ... go read it yourself.

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