May 9, 2006 | David F. Coppedge

Book: Darwin Centurions Join Forces Against ID Visigoths

A new book attacking intelligent design has chapters by most of the big names in evolutionary thought: Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Coyne, and others.  An introduction to the book Intelligent Thought: Science vs. the Intelligent Design Movement (ed. John Brockman, Vintage Press, May 2006), with a synopsis of each chapter, is available at The Edge.  The upshot is: materialistic Darwinism is the only scientific approach to origins, and the “bizarre” claims of “fundamentalists” with “beliefs consistent with those of the Middle Ages” must be opposed.  “The Visigoths are at the gates” of science, chanting that schools must teach the controversy, “when in actuality there is no debate, no controversy.”  You get the flavor of this book.

OK, time for Battle of the Blurbs.  If they can summarize the points of each essay in a sentence or two, we can summarize some quick responses.  With apologies to Illustra, we’ll call this “Unmasking the Blustery of Lie.”

  • Fool’s goal:  In the introduction, John Brockman is chagrined; he supposes Europeans must think Americans are “collective fools” for trying to “redefine science to include the supernatural,” right here in the 21st century.  Well, America leads, not follows, least of all the Europeans, who are busy committing mass suicide (see WND).  Since everyone is someone else’s weirdo, we’ll return the compliment and call it a draw.  Now, anything of substance you want to say, Mr. Brockman?
  • Inferior science:  Jerry Coyne argues that “Not only is ID markedly inferior to Darwinism at explaining and understanding nature but in many ways it does not even fulfill the requirements of a scientific theory.”  And Darwinism does?  Describe for us in detail, Jerry, how Tinker Bell (01/13/2006, 09/22/2005) created endless forms most beautiful (06/29/2005) through the mystical process of speciation you wrote about (07/30/2004).  While you’re at it, tell us your feelings about the vicious atheism of your friend Dawkins (04/23/2003).  Are you claiming that science is what Darwinian science does?  Or would you allow that scientific explanations must invoke causes appropriate to their observed effects?  While puzzling over that, we’d like to hear about your peppered moth flipflop again (07/05/2002, 06/25/2004).
  • The Good Fight:  Susskind tries to find the hidden agenda of ID.  He suspects it is “to discredit the legitimate scientific community” so as to “inconvenience if one is trying to ignore global warming, or build unworkable missile-defense systems, or construct multibillion-dollar lasers in the unlikely hope of initiating practicable nuclear fusion.”  Now, who brought politics into a discussion about science?  Is Susskind revealing that Darwinists are political leftists?  If he likes debate and dissent so much, why not debate Darwinism, then?  This red herring has nothing to do with intelligent design, and is flimsy sidestep for someone who may be missing something fundamental himself (see 08/13/2002 and 12/18/2005).  No fair misusing Biblical phrases, Lenny; St. Paul’s idea of a good fight was completely different than yours, and you would be one of the mythmakers he warned about. (II Timothy 4).
  • Hoax Blokes:  Daniel Dennett, in his essay “The Hoax of Intelligent Design and How it Was Perpetrated,” agrees evolution hasn’t explained everything, but “intelligent design hasn’t yet tried to explain anything at all.”  This from a man who hasn’t yet realized that his Darwinian “universal acid” eats through everything, even his own rationality.  He cannot invoke rationality without plagiarizing theism.  So at least he is consistent; he employs irrationality, including the big lie.
  • Natural creationism and other brain teasers:  Nicholas Humphrey makes the bizarre argument that since belief in special creation leads to “biologically fitter lives,” it must have evolved.  “Thus one of the particular ways in which consciousness could have won out in evolution by natural selection could have been precisely by encouraging us to believe that we have not evolved by natural selection,” he says.  If he really believed this line of argument, he would abandon natural selection and embrace special creation, to increase his fitness, so that he could pass on his selfish genes, which are just using him by playing tricks on his mind to believe things that aren’t true.  There must be a point in here, somewhere.  Could Humphrey explain why this argument is not invertible, or how he could ever know anything? (see self-refuting fallacy).
  • And now… the evidence:  Tim White is at the bat to give us “Human evolution: the evidence.”  He says, “A denial of evolution – however motivated – is a denial of evidence, a retreat from reason to ignorance.”  Thank you for that unsolicited and mistargeted sermon.  Now, the evidence please?  Strike one (03/28/2003), two (06/11/2003), three (09/24/2004)… yer out.
  • Fish-o-pod Transition:  Neil Shubin is pictured smug with arms akimbo, looking ready to take on challengers to his prize catch, the fish-o-pod (see 04/06/2006).  He got an extended excerpt included in this book review.  It includes the argument from bad design (dysteology), his favorite just-so story about Great Transformations, and why his find was the biggest thing in paleontological history.  One concession he makes is that mudskippers are not evolving into tetrapods – but his reason is circular; you have to believe evolution to consider it evidence.  Is Shubin as convincing as he makes himself out to be?  See Brad Harrub’s response on Apologetics Press.
  • Intelligent Aliens?  Richard Dawkins is slain in the spirit of natural selection: “an idea whose plausibility and power hits you between the eyes with a stunning force, once you understand it in all its elegant simplicity.”  Let’s see; the fit survive, survivors are the fittest, therefore survivors survive.  Gosh, Dr. Dawkins, you’re right; I’m dumbfounded.  (See evolution songs verse 2).
  • Darwin rejected design, so we should, too:  Frank Sulloway puts his trust in the word of Charlie: “The more extensive his reexamination became, the more he realized that the theory of intelligent design, which gave creationism its scientific legitimacy, was overwhelmingly contradicted by the available evidence.”  And what was the evidence?  Simply put, God wouldn’t have made the world this way.  Since this would require knowing the mind of God, it is a religious argument and therefore should not be taught in public school.
  • From chance to absolutes:  It must be a fun read to see Scott Atran explain how “Nothing indicates that people who believe that life arose by chance also believe that morality is haphazard.”  That isn’t so obvious to historians of communism and Nazism.  If morality is not haphazard, what is directing the undirected process?  Could not replaying the tape end up with opposite moralities?
  • Pinko ethics:  Steven Pinker continues the morality play: “An evolutionary understanding of the human condition, far from being incompatible with a moral sense, can explain why we have one.”  But if your moral sense outrages mine, who wins, if not the one deemed the fittest? (i.e., the side that wins through raw exercise of power).  Maybe Pinker should listen to some of his auditory cheesecake and ponder Michael Balter’s wisdom, “Some of the things that make life most worth living are not biological adaptations” (see 11/12/2004).
  • Darwin all the way down:  Lee Smolin is not surprised that Bible-believers reject evolution, but asks this “disturbing” question: “Why do so many non-fundamentalist theologians and religious leaders have no trouble incorporating Darwin into their worldview?”  Why, indeed.  Maybe they need to study the issues.  His line “all the way down” reminds us of a story… (see turtle cosmology).
  • Self-organizing contradictions:  Stuart Kauffman, a prophet of self-organization, sweeps away centuries of probability theory by saying it doesn’t apply to the biosphere.  That’s right, if one believes in Tinker Bell who can make all your Darwinian dreams come true.  Has Kauffman changed his mind since debating Phillip Johnson? (11/20/2001).
  • Thus saith Lloyd:  Seth Lloyd gives us the deep thought of the day: “The universe is scientific.”  Apparently people are not, and “In societies where government or religion has tried to replace it with ideologically inspired fictions, scientists and nonscientists alike have resisted.”  Please explain the difference with Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who tried Darwin-inspired ideologies – and when resistance was futile.
  • CBA: Cute (blasphemous) acronyms:  Lisa Randall flippantly remarks, “We don’t have an intelligent designer (ID), we have a bungling consistent evolver (BCE).  Or maybe an adaptive changer (AC).  In fact, what we have in the most economical interpretation is, of course, evolution.”  Sorry, religious arguments are not allowed, remember?  You’re a scientism-ist.
  • Parental guidance:  Marc D. Hauser asks a fair question: “What counts as a controversy must be delineated with care, as we want students to distinguish between scientific challenges and sociopolitical ones.”  Agreed.  Many have argued that Darwinism was symptomatic of economic and sociopolitical currents in Victorian Britain, drunk on the idea of progress during the Industrial Revolution and pinnacle of the British Empire.  Can we move on?  Now, let’s talk about scientific challenges like irreducible complexity, and other issues appropriate for the Information Age.
  • Wonder as I wander:  Scott Sampson rhapsodizes, “Rather than removing meaning from life, an evolutionary perspective can and should fill us with a sense of wonder at the rich sequence of natural systems that gave us birth and continues to sustain us.”  Then why did your comrade Steven Weinberg say, “The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless”?  What’s your point?  What is a point?  A point in this context is a vector, with magnitude and direction.  Darwinian evolution, though, is supposed to be undirected.  Tell us about the natural selection of wonder and its survival value, and where these things are pointing (if not a heat death).  No fair borrowing from the Psalms.

The Darwin Party faithful are holing themselves up in their castle, shielded from debate, sending out their diatribes like cannonballs, hoping the Visigoths will just go away.  The ID party, by contrast, welcomes debate and discussion and invites their opponents to a parley (notice how their book Darwin, Design and Public Education included thoughtful chapters by critics).
    The ID Visigoths feel somewhat puzzled by the savage label applied to them.  They feel quite cultured (some even enjoy Mozart: see ID the Future), and count among their chieftains many esteemed scientists like Robert Boyle, Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and many others.  On the contrary, some of the tactics of their enemies seem barbaric.  All the Visigoths demand is that the Darwinians lay down their arms, confess their war crimes, and discuss truth with reason and civility.  (Good luck, heh heh.*)

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