If she weighs the same as a duck…

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On his blog, William Dembski noted the appearance of a new Intelligent Design blog at the University of California Irvine, and suggested that the appearance of more such blogs would be "a Darwinist's worst nightmare".

Might I suggest instead that biologists (calling them 'Darwinists' is about as silly as calling chemists Daltonists) are more likely to fall about laughing? Take, for example, some reasoning from an early posting at the new blog:

Now here comes my intuitive (a.k.a. hand-waving) argument for design:
1. This fountain is elegant and complex.
2. The ducks are more elegant and more complex than the fountain.
3. If X is more elegant and more complex than Y, then X is more likely to be designed than Y.
4. The fountain was likely to be designed.
5. The ducks were more likely to be designed.

I haven't seen such compelling logic since the last time I saw another argument involving ducks: the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Really, the idea that this something like this constitutes evidence against evolution should be embarrassing even to IDers.

Update: As expected, the ID blog mentioned above has sunk into richly deserved oblivion...

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This was so good that I just had to post it, heart-whole: http://www.pandasthumb.org/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/1163 I recommend its use for people teaching basic logic (always so much more fun to teach using real life examples, yes?) ... Read More

69 Comments

“Wow, that skyscraper’s big! Men made it! But WOW! That mountain’s MUCH MUCH bigger! Must have been made by supermen!”

R

Does this mean that Dembski is made of wood?

This might look funny, but I can just see human thought regressing to a preconceptual state. Evolutionary theory was a great triumph because it represented the capacity of human reason to pierce the veil of complexity and understand the underlying causes of things. Ironically the greatest capacity of intelligence, the ability to see *through* complexity to underlying causes, is precisely what is thrown aside by “intelligent” design.

I also can’t help but blame the educational system (both public and university) for the fact that a student at UCI finds an argument resembling a Monty Python parody convincing.

But Jim, this is the logic of design arguments. It is all a mix of analogy with human design and then the assertion of how much more living things are like designed things than designed things…

It reminds me of Granny Weatherwax’s comment in Wyrd Sisters:

“Things that try to look like things often do look more like things than things.”

That looking like things is true though. You can usually tell artificially random data produced by a human (whether numbers for data or the lottery or scatterings of dots) because it looks more random than genuinely random data - which tends to have clusters. The human thinks such clusters look designed and therefore deliberately avoids them when trying not to look designed - which then of course gives the game away to anyone else testing for the expected amount of coincidental patterning were the source to be random.

Why exactly is this a ‘darwinists’ worst nightmare? Its an ID blog. There are loads of ID blogs. It has nothing do do with UCI or their biology department in any kind of official capacity (apart from their vice pres apparently being a student in biology).

The cynic in me suggests that it is going to be ‘darwinists’ worst nightmare because the ID crew are going to spin this as some sort of ID in major universities line. After all the title of the blog does kind of imply that.

The fact that Dembski thinks a blog could be a “Darwinist’s” worst nightmare, rather than, say, actual evidence against evolution, tells you everything you need to know about ID. It’s a PR campaign, not science.

Let’s see - attacking evolution without merit … and no theory of ID. Yeah, those “Darwinist’s” (who are they anyway) are losing sleep.

Is Dembski contributing ANYTHING useful to society? I am really looking forward to the Theory Of ID ™.

Oh, no! Someone on the internets doesn’t like evolution. Truly, this is my worst nightmare.

Kay, If Dembski weighed the same as a duck, THEN he would be made of wood. We first would have to measure his weight against a duck. Or we could just build a bridge out of him…

calling them ‘Darwinists’ is about as silly as calling chemists Daltonists

No, it’s not silly at all. It is a semantic technique calculated to isolate and marginalize “believers in evolution” as a competing sect. As our creationist man-in-the-street simon objected, calling evolution “science” is qualitatively incorrect. Darwinists are a religion, not science. He “knows” this, and the language backs him up.

I think we can be quite sure that if people of faith found chemistry objectionable, they would indeed use such a term as “Daltonists” to emphasize that such people are not scientists either, but rather believers in some fringe church, followers after some charismatic pied piper. I suggest that to counter this trick, scientists of all persuasions close ranks and refer to science, rather than atomizing science into a dozen different “ologies”.

So the Theory of Intelligent Design, once it passes the vaporware stage, will include a formal definition of elegance. Mathematicians, rejoice!

I for one look forward to learning how a small hydrological cycle will be surpassed in elegance by awkward waddling, funny noises, and a proclivity to crap all over everything.

Sounds a bit like Aquinas’s Ontological argument. Didn’t Kant, Hume others point out the falacies in such arguments?

Let’s play a game and assume that this guy is correct, and ducks are even more likely to be designed.

Now how the fucking hell do I use this “knowledge” to design an experiment?????

This comments in this thread remind me of a question that I’ve wanted to pose to creationists:

If Evolution is atheistic, is it the only branch of science that is atheistic? If so, why? If not, what are the other branches that are atheistic, and why?

Once again the IDers are unable to make up their minds. Dembski says that ever more ID websites is bad news for the “Darwinists.” Meanwhile, at the Discovery Institute, Rob Crowther implies that new evolution websites indicate desperation on part of the pro-evolution side. This line is particularly notable:

The brights at the National Acadamies (sic) are throwing more money into marketing, instead of into new product development.

So just who is it that’s throwing most of their effort into influencing school boards, rather than into basic research?

To quote Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, criticising IDers is like booing at the Special Olympics.

Syntax Error: mismatched tag at line 1, column 290, byte 290 at /usr/local/lib/perl5/site_perl/5.16/mach/XML/Parser.pm line 187.

Lenny Flank needs to get over there and start asking them if they, unlike other IDiots, actually have a scientific theory of ID.

Evil Monkey,

Based on observation of fountains and ducks (or was that Pandas and People…oh, well), anyway, based on those observations alone I predict that if you put the duck in the fountain, it will float. The duck, that is, not the fountain.

In fact, further observation will prove that the duck was designed to float in the fountain. It’s not a coincidence.

Seems to me one could add:

6. The fountain was most likely designed by the ducks.

Or maybe:

6. The people who designed the fountain were designed by the ducks.

Is this a “Duck of the Gaps” argument?

I remember my worst nightmare, and I’m pretty darned sure that there were no blogs in it at all.

Oh, but my Dad, a longtime member of the American Atheists Society, was in it. Therefore, my father is made of very small rocks. Or churches.

You still owe us one “Waterloo”, Bill.

If Evolution is atheistic, is it the only branch of science that is atheistic? If so, why? If not, what are the other branches that are atheistic, and why?

nonono, see, it isn’t evolution that’s atheistic. Most IDers accept evolution as long as it’s talking about what creationists refer to as microevolution, which, as we all know, thanks to creationist PR, is the only sort of evolution with scientific evidence (insert “banghead” and “rolleyes” emoticons here). It’s Darwinism (see some of the above comments)that’s the atheistic religion which is subscribed to by all these people who are out to wreck society by refusing to put Jesus in pride of place in the science lab. The fact that some of these creationist groups are mighty coy about what exactly constitutes Darwinism (after all, we do have our large tent to think of, and some IDists do accept common descent), thus confusing everybody in sight and making it very easy to shift goalposts around as needed, is just one of those things that makes creationism so fundamentally dishonest.

Ironically, Irvine is building itself into one of the top evolutionary genetics centers in the nation. Take a look at their eco-evo department (http://ecoevo.bio.uci.edu/Faculty/Faculty.html), and they’re adding John Avise in the fall. Plus, they’ve got a National Academies conference center there (http://www7.nationalacademies.org/beckman/), and we know what the NAS thinks about ID.

DouglasG: Or we could just build a bridge out of him …

Can’t we just turn him into a newt? (checks blog)

Looks like somebody beat me to it.

“I haven’t seen such compelling logic since the last time I saw another argument involving ducks: the witch scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

At that point, I couldn’t help but imagine the preceding argument for design being read by John Cleese, and burst out laughing. :)

No Jim your argument is a dead duck and sorry to ruffle your feathers.

Michael

A sedgwickian (geologist)

Back to the “argument” on the blog for a second: Dr. Perakh did a very able job in “Unintelligent Design” of demolishing arguments from intuitive complexity. One example he offered was, if you find a perfectly spherical stone on a beach covered with irregular stones, it is by far the most geometrically “simple,” yet it is the most likely of all stones to have had its shape “designed” by someone.

Or how about this: Cyclones and snowflakes are both the result of self-organization. Snowflakes are prettier than cyclones, and cyclones are more powerful than snowflakes; therefore, I conclude that the Cyclone God is might and fierce and the Snowflake God is delicate and clever.

Or how about comparing the intricate structures made by social insects–hives, etc.–“designed” by nothing more than agents following a few simple commands. Dolphins don’t “design” anything, so far as we know. Are wasps more intelligent than dolphins?

This is too wide-ranging, and I apologize for that, but I can’t help thinking that any arguments that depend on complexity for an inference of design must define what is meant by design and what is meant by complexity, and then demonstrate a necessary link between the two. This has never been done.

1. What does Dembski mean by “Darwinist?” Charles Darwin didn’t have understanding about DNA, RNA and genes. He also didn’t understand that genes mutate. He didn’t understand genetic recombination and what happens at the molecular level when organisms sexually reproduce. He thought that when organisms sexually reproduced, the matter they contributed blended like two cans of paint in trough. That’s not what happens. Sex cells generally have half the chromosomes of regular cells, and the nucleotides in sex cells are in significantly different sequences than are the nucleotides of regular cells. This happens during a process called meiosis. When the sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell, none of the chromosomes blends with any of the others. So, my sperm cells have 23 chromosomes in them instead of the 46 I have in my regular cells. And these 23 chromosomes have chunks of DNA that are in different orders than they are in my regular cells. The same thing happens in the woman. When my sperm cell fertilizes the egg cell, the 23 chromosomes that I contribute don’t even touch the 23 chromosomes that the woman contributes.

Large populations of organisms sexually reproducing over millions and millions of years is one of the main causes of my being as different from mice as I am. There is a massive correlation between sexual reproduction and differences among organisms. My parents sexually reproducing played a huge role in my being as different from my parents as I am. Large populations of organisms sexually reproducing over thousands of years played a huge role in chihuahuas being as different from saint bernards as they are. One reason I care so much about who I reproduce with is that we each contribute fifty percent of the DNA. Offspring are always a little different than their parents. In the offspring’s cells, the mother’s set of chromosomes sits next to the father’s set. Sexual reproduction is huge. It is not a blending process. The two units of chromosomes don’t even touch each other.

Darwin didn’t understand what happens at the molecular level when organisms sexually reproduce. He also didn’t understand that organisms often come into being with what we call new mutations.

2. As for the person’s point about ducks being designed. Given how he or she seems to be using the word “designed,” I don’t know whether ducks were “designed.” For one thing, we don’t know the series of events that resulted in the existence of the space, matter and time that we associate with the known universe. We may learn someday. But we don’t know yet.

However, if the person means that a deity turned dust – poof! – directly into the first two ducks (one male and one female), that didn’t happen. The first organisms to live on earth that were very similar anatomically to today’s ducks were born by their mothers in much the same way that I was born by mine. In fact, I share common ancestors with today’s bacteria.

Humans directly turned matter into fountains. However, the similarity between fountains and ducks is not sufficient to reasonably infer that a deity turned dust – poof! – directly into the first two ducks. First, we know that didn’t happen. Ducks were born. Second, the similarity is not sufficient to reasonably infer that a deity was even a distant cause of the existence of ducks, for instance, was a cause of the Big Bang. We’ve seen humans make lots of things, and lots of things similar to fountains. There is no thing that large numbers of people have seen a deity make. There is no thing that a deity is known to have made. And there is no thing over the last 200 years on earth that we are even justified in believing was made by a deity – in the sense that a deity didn’t turn dust – poof! – directly into the thing. Also, ducks are alive, and billions of living things have come into being through asexual reproduction or sexual reproduction. In fact, billions and billions of ducks have been born. That is how the ducks I feed at the local pond got here.

I wonder what hand waving intuitive arguments about X and Y Mr. Asuncio would derive from the observation that the more that people learn about the natural cuases for natural phenomena, the less they atrribute natural phenomena to magic spooky spirit things. Something tells me he might give that intuitive X and Y argument a little more contemplation than some of the other ducky ones.

Re ““evolutionists” or “darwinists” believe that an octupus “invented it’s own eye.””

Not the octopus itself, the gene pools of its ancestors are what did the “inventing”. ;)

Henry

Fools! The duck thing is a slam duck, er dunk. I’m switching teams because he’s made fools out of you all.

Inspired, I have my *own* logical proof of God.

A Horse has 2 back legs It also has forelegs. that’s SIX legs. Six is an even number, but odd for a mammal. The only number that is odd and even is infinity. God is infinate, as are horses’ legs. Horses are real - so God must be too.

I’ll be in the back waiting for my noble prize.

Don S Wrote:

And let’s not forget the impending “Waterloo”.

Waterloo is best around Canadian thanksgiving. Oktoberfest! That’s worth waiting for.

Arden writes “Yes. Some people do think that.

I actually remember hearing the ‘Satan made dinosaur fossils to trick people into hell’ argument back around 1970 or so. I was just a kid and actually pretty well educated about evolution and the age of the earth and such (for an 8 year old, at least) and even then I was dumbfounded at how retarded this idea was.

So that particular idea goes back at least that far …

Heck, not just fossils, but craters too!

After I did a radio show, I got some “fan” mail pointing out that the cratering of the moon occurred when God and Satan were throwing hissy fits.

Rich, that’s superb. You are the William Dembski of Veterenary Thoery.

Re “I got some “fan” mail pointing out that the cratering of the moon occurred when God and Satan were throwing hissy fits.”

Oh, there’s a person on a BB that I frequent that has said she believes that. [rolls eyes]

Henry

Re “I got some “fan” mail pointing out that the cratering of the moon occurred when God and Satan were throwing hissy fits.”

Oh, there’s a person on a BB that I frequent that has said she believes that. [rolls eyes]

It’s from one of Morris’s books.

With all this talk about Monty Python, I just had a thought. Wouldn’t it be great if Eric Idle could write an “Evolution Song” in a similar vein to his wonderful “Universe Song”.

Well, next best thing: http://ncseweb.org/article.asp?category=18 The Steve Song, by Geoff Sirmai and David Fisher, a couple of Aussies who are Pythonites once removed, I guess.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim Foley published on June 23, 2005 7:18 AM.

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