Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Of Inflammable Pants

Well, well ...

David Klinghoffer, of all people, is continuing the Discoveryless Institute's latest PR ploy to the effect that the mean ol' "Darwinists" are "ignoring" the "serious" Intelligent Design proponents in favor of making fun of the clueless creationists, such as young-Earthers and those who twist the Qur'an into a science text.

Needless to say, Klinghoffer is among the most clueless of ID proponents, slightly "ahead" of Casey Luskin, who Klinghoffer nonetheless cites as an authority, giving rise to the first painfully obvious irony.

Klinghoffer is rifting on a post by the fine young blogger, Jack Scanlan, at Homologous Legs, who suggested that scientists are feeding the "rhetoricotrophic beast" of intelligent design by exhibiting an attitude that could be construed as "dogmatic and strident." The fact that the Discoveryoids immediately tried to spin Jack's post into a rhetorical lunch is the second massive irony.

There is, of course, a structural irony embedded in all this: namely that science bloggers have, in fact, taken on the "serious" ID proponents at length, as PZ Myearshertz has documented ... and there are many more examples out there to boot. But really, just how many times and in how many ways can you point out that an analogy to human design is neither scientific nor even a cogent argument, given that Kant pointed that out in 1790?

Lastly, there is the question why anyone, not already having drunk the Kool-Aid, should take the PR hacks at the DI seriously? Quite apart from the cdesign proponentsists, the DI has spent the greater part of the last five years, since the Kitzmiller debacle, trying to pass "academic freedom" legislation to allow public school teachers to "teach the controversy." Of course, after their one success in Louisiana, the people who supported the law turned around and made it clear that they fully understood the campaign was just a ploy to teach the religious belief in creationism at taxpayer expense in contravention of the Constitution.

Well, the latest to let that 800 pound cat out of the bag is Rick Santorum, who the DI has praised and endorsed:

Santorum once led the effort in the Senate to require the teaching in science class of intelligent design that would include examining creationism.

On Monday, Santorum said teachers should be allowed to "teach the controversy" between the theory of evolution and any gaps in the study that would allow for dialogue on a divine beginning.

"What I was advocating was teaching the intellectual debate in a classroom that most children would love to have," Santorum said. "Where do we come from? How did we get here?"

- Nashua (New Hampshire) Telegraph, "Santorum claims conservative mantle" by Kevin Landrigan, November 29, 2011.
There is no reason to take habitual liars seriously.

The only real question is why any sane parent would want government employees discussing divine beginnings with their children at the urging of habitual liars.


P.S. You can watch the Editorial Board Interview here, beginning at arount 52:15. It's actually somewhat worse than the article conveyed in that Santorum seems to think that science teachers should be telling children that there are some things that are "better explained by a creator."

Kant certainly put a few nails in the coffin of the argument from design, but let's not neglect Hume's contributions in the "Dialogues on Natural Religion" and Section 11 of the "Enquiry on Human Understanding"!
You're right, of course. I usually add "and Hume before him" when I refer to Kant's demolition to the watchmaker.
In one crucial respect, Kant is more devastating to ID than Hume is. Hume doesn't have any clear views, that I can tell, about the nature of living things. Kant clearly affirms that living things have a teleological structure that distinguishes them from non-living matter. And this is a point that ID folks love to insist upon. But Kant immediately counters that, from the fact that each kind of living thing has its own distinctive purposiveness, nothing at all follows.

In particular, no claims about the purposiveness of all things are warranted by the purposiveness of each living thing. And it is the former claim that's needed to ground any claims about the purposive agent responsible for the whole cosmos.
Ah, that's a nice distinction that, if I've ever considered it, had slipped my mind. Thanks.

But I really don't know any more about Kant than Hawkeye's advice to Radar that, when someone mentions him, you should just assume a knowing smile and say "Aaaah! ... Kant!"

There's a logical fallacy called "permutation of quantifiers". It begins with a premise, "for all xs, there exists a y" and concludes, "there exists a y for all xs." The latter cannot be derived from the former, so all arguments that rely on that move are invalid.
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