Tuesday, July 07, 2009


Alien to Truth

Matt Zeitlin, a sophomore at Northwestern University and an editorial intern at Campus Progress, an online magazine affiliated with the Center for American Progress, has a nice takedown of the Discoveyless Institute's Stephen Meyer and his new book, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design. The title of the piece, "The Greatest Trick Intelligent Design Ever Pulled," refers to the slick veneer of science that Intelligent Design Creationism tries to put on the old "creation science":

But when asked at the McLean church if young earth creationists—i.e., those that follow a literal biblical timeline stretching back roughly 10,000—had "fueled New Atheism by giving it something to caricature," Meyer said the Discovery Institute takes a "neutral position on this" and that the prevalence of young-earth creationist views didn't matter because "we would have been treated exactly the same way."

It's no surprise that Meyer remained open, or at least didn't condemn, such an anti-scientific belief. Creationists are the ID movement's base. A 2006 Gallup poll showed that 46 percent of Americans believed that "God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so"—a position that is totally out of line with basic scientific knowledge of geology and archaeology. The Discovery Institute specifically targets these very people. Part of the long-term plan in the Wedge Document is to "build up a popular base of support among our natural constituency, namely, Christians. We will do this primarily through apologetics seminars." McLean Bible Church, for example, hosted an apologetics event a month before Meyer's to discuss how Noah's Ark actually could have held all those animals. So it made sense that Meyer avoided offending his "natural constituency." ...

Meyer, despite his thin scientific coating, is trafficking the half-baked, over-motivated arguments that have always been peddled by creationists ...

What amused me, though, isn't even mentioned in the article. Do you remember how creationists found the interview with Richard Dawkins in Expelled so hilarious because he was chivvied into discussing the possibility of life being seeded on Earth by extraterrestrials? It was taken as a sign that Dawkins "would rather suggest that ... design is the product of extra-terrestrial space aliens than entertain the idea of a divine Creator."

But what does Meyer say?:

When I asked him to speculate on the nature of this designer, Meyer hedged and carefully said that his argument left open two possible agents for creation of life on earth, "aliens or God." He just so happened to favor the God hypothesis.

So Dawkins is wrong to entertain the possibility of aliens seeding life here that, at least in principle, can be scientifically investigated but it's okay for Meyer to do the same thing just to avoid automatically disqualifying ID from public school science classes as a theological claim.

It is a neat demonstration of the ad hoc nature of creationist arguments, if not the conscious dishonesty of them.

It is a neat demonstration of the ad hoc nature of creationist arguments, if not the conscious dishonesty of them.
On the stupidity/malice question regarding the Disco 'Tute, I now default to malice.
I suppose, on Wilkins' account of the conceptual development of creationists, they can really believe ID is "scientific" in some sense and scientists are just biased, but that would not explain their efforts to disguise ID's connection to YEC. After all, the Constitution is not entangled in epistemological beliefs and, at the very least, they must know that present 1st Amendment jurisprudence is against teaching creationism in public schools. Trying to hide the connection is classic evidence of the "consciousness of guilt."
What makes me laugh is the way creationists and ID proponents cozy up to each other when we have a pretty good idea how the creationists would react if the IDiots claimed to have found evidence that we were just the product of an experiment in genetic engineering by little green men rather than God's special creation.
I read that review of Meyer's book. The fact that you consider an ad hominem attack to be a "take-down" shows your ignorance. Is there anyone bold enough to really deal with the issues of the book head on?
Speaking of ignorance, making fun of the lameness of someone's arguments, noting the evidence for his biases and pointing out potential motives to dissemble is not ad hominem.

As for dealing with the issues of the book head on, it's not hard. I'm sure there will be more detailed dissections as time goes on, as there was with Behe's last book. After all, this is a faux "debate" and real scientists have more important fish to fry. The more limited set of scientists who subject themselves to such foolishness for the purpose of refuting it will get around to it.
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