When did ID “Jump the Shark”?

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“Jumping the Shark” refers to a moment when something distinctly and irrevocably goes downhill. The origin of “jumping the shark” as a phrase goes back to an episode of the “Happy Days” TV show when the character of “Fonzie” actually performed that stunt. But “jumping the shark” works for more than TV shows. So here I want to open the floor for discussion of when “intelligent design” jumped the shark.

One could make a strong case for ID jumping the shark in the moment when someone in the 1980s (perhaps Charles Thaxton, academic editor of the 1989 Of Pandas and People?) decided to try to evade the Edwards v. Aguillard Supreme Court decision by whiting-out all the references to God and The Flood in good ol’ “creation science” antievolution arguments and calling the result “intelligent design”. A movement based on that kind of deception may well only have a downhill direction.

I’ll personally give the ID movement a modicum of credit for the apparent initial intent to make good on the notion of convincing the scientific community of their case. So, for me, ID jumped the shark on May 10th, 2000, when the Discovery Institute held a Congressional briefing pushing ID through the political process. Sure, there were smaller political actions taken before then, but I’ll write those off to basic opportunism. The Congressional briefing, though, took a lot of organization and a broad commitment among ID advocates to take the political route before actually delivering on the science.

OK, so now let’s hear your opinions on ID and when it “jumped the shark”.

43 Comments

My opinion is “Not Applicable”.

‘Jumping the shark’ refers to when something good goes bad. IDC never had any real merit, so the term does not apply.

When the Wedgies switched from using ID as the wedge to the “teach the controversy” replacement scam around 1999. At that point the scientific credibility of ID was non existent even by the standards of the IDers. ID became just a smoke screen to make it look like the “controversy” replacement scam was legitimate. When the rats leave the sinking ship it is a good sign that bad things have happened or are happening.

Bayesian Bouffant, FCD Wrote:

My opinion is “Not Applicable”.

Good point. To science-literate people it was DOA, and to the public it’s still in its Elvis Year. But to me a key point where ID virtually admitted that all of the mutually contradictory creationist accounts were scientifically dead, and that a coverup was necessary, was when Michael Behe admitted personal acceptance of an old earth and common descent. IIRC it was first in a debate with Kenneth Miller, but appears in print in the 1996 book “Darwin’s Black Box”. ID has been doing damage control ever since.

Runner up would be in 2001 whan Dembski said that ID can accommodate all the results of “Darwinism.”

It also implies that once the shark is jumped, the whole thing slides away and falls into laughable crapitude. ID started there, and all they do is jump from shark to shark. Right now, I think they’re doing a series of triple backflips over a whole school of Great Whites.

I think they jumped the shark when ol’ Paley gave a thumbs up and went “Aaaayyy” as he sailed over the heath.

I agree, Jumping the Shark is supposed to be when something goes from good to inarguably bad. ID has just gone from crappy, like Behe’s IC failure, to terminal, like Jay Richards saying Einstein was wrong.

You know, I bet Physics Review would decline to publish Richards’s argument. Dang ol atheist scientist cabal.

From the practical point of view, they were dead as soon as the Wedge Document leaked onto the Internet.

But by any other measure, they were dead as soon as they claimed to have an “alternative scientific theory of intelligent design” without beign able to produce one.

Wesley R. Elsberry Wrote:

So, for me, ID jumped the shark on May 10th, 2000, when the Discovery Institute held a Congressional briefing pushing ID through the political process.

That’s a good one too.

That’s when Nancy Pearcey did her hilarious “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals” routine. To which the American Physical Society responded with the memorable quote: “So much for the pretense that this debate is over the science.”

That’s when Nancy Pearcey did her hilarious “You and me baby ain’t nothin’ but mammals” routine. To which the American Physical Society responded with the memorable quote: “So much for the pretense that this debate is over the science.”

Don’t you mean Bishop “Soapy Sam” Wilberforce and T. H. “Darwin’s Bulldog” Huxley? Wow. I think reincarnation has just been proven.

How about John Ray. If not him, William Paley.

In terms of public opinion, these people–the IDers–are winning. Though this has yet to affect serious research science, it has drastic implications for science education and science policy.

I’m a little struck by your complacency. ID can’t be taken seriously as science: until it’s been mandated by law at the state and local level.

Even if this never happens–which still seems likely, the “controversy” is still undermining science education at the K-12 level.

Likewise, I’ve taught at the college level in the USA. The students enter with a very poor general science background. Many outright hostile to any mention of evolution.

You can make all the red state and state college jokes you please: we’re still failing in basic science education for perhaps a majority of Americans.

Underestimating these people is a mistake. They feed off of and contrbiute to that failure: and right now, they’re living high off the hog indeed.

If you ignore the political side for a second the so-called scientific pronouncements show incredible bad timing. Behe announcing irreducible complexity when genomics was about to disprove him left and right. Now Richards questions Einstein. At least Behe did this before he was disproven. On my blog the last couple years have gotten repetitive. Uh, Einstein right again. This just in, Einstein is still right. [Cf. Chevy Chase, Weekend Update viz. Franco’s death]

DI didn’t just jump the shark, they jumped Jaws.

That’s true Thom, but not the end of the world. Scientists will continue to study evolution even if 90% of the public believes in ID, because it’s correct, and there is no alternative theory.

I’d argue that the advent of ID itself was Creationism jumping the shark. They realized they couldn’t win, so they jettisoned faith, religion, belief, spirituality, etc in a last-ditch effort to try to pretend to have a scientific purpose.

Come on! It’s an insult to Soapy Sam, Paley or John Ray to say they have been re-incarnated as Nancy Pearcey or any other IDiot.None were that stupid or caught up in wierd design arguments.

Ray was a first rate natural historian of his day and a precursor of Linnaeus

Paley’s design is far better than any IDiots, and reflected the thought of the day. Its shortcomings became evident by the 1820s.Paley was no scientist but was fairly well informed

Now Soapy Sam was a fine man and a fine Bishop. He was well informed scientifically especially on geology - he attended Buckland’s geology lectures for several years running and his review of the Origin shows his geological nowse.Again he was giving the standard scientific reasons for opposing evolution in 1860 especially those of the vast majority of geologists and also many physicists.He also saw several theological objections to evolution which were not shared by his friend Rev Charles Kingsley and many other clergy.

I have a lot of respect for these three anglican clergy, who were at one with the science of their day.

We also need to see that ID is just Godofthegaps and not a revival of old design ideas of Ray , Paley or anyone else. They saw design in everything and not just the things they couldnt explain.

ID began life as the pathetically unbelievable character of Fonzie’s little nephew, Spike, and therefore never even had a chance to don the leather jacket and water skis.

Wes, I think a more interesting question to ask PT contributors is how they became aware of ID chicanery.

For me, it was two mathematicians who published pieces of jaw-dropping stupidity. The first is William Dembski’s hallucinations about information theory that appeared in the Catholic magazine First Things (2000a, 2000b), which includes one of the great crackpot quotes of our information age:

William Dembski Wrote:

“intelligent design is just the Logos theology of John’s Gospel restated in the idiom of information theory”

The second is Granville Sewell’s wacky Behe-inspired Mathematical Intelligencer article (2000) explaining “why” biological complexity violates the second law of thermodynamics. PT-er Jason Rosenhouse took the time to address this nonsense and wiped the floor with Sewell in the pages of the Intelligencer, but Sewell recently returned to his vomit.

That such drooling inanities by math PhD’s could make it to print led me to investigate further, and I wasn’t surprised when Paul Gross published his 2003 article on the tactics behind this nonsense.

I’m just looking forward to when ID creationism fades away without mention, just like little Spike.

That’s true Thom, but not the end of the world. Scientists will continue to study evolution even if 90% of the public believes in ID, because it’s correct, and there is no alternative theory.

Good point. What happens when America reaches that day? When 95% of all high school students get no training on evolution, and the majority of Americans are hostile to it, yet scientists still all study evolution? Are we looking at an even bigger disconnect between what scientists and the dwindling handful of educated people believe, versus what ‘ordinary’ people believe? This is a very odd situation – where science and learning continues to advance, yet where rank and file society rejects it. Things arent supposed to work that way in wealthy Western countries.

Is this a recipe for social instabililty? Can we foresee a big upsurge govt./church attacks on higher education or science? Or is this just the beginning of a big decline for the US?

I think we need ask Hari Seldon on this one. :)

I am new to the pseudoscience of ID. I studied evolution in high school over 25 years ago and remember asking the same questions that the deniers of today ask. I had a very good biology teacher - a botanist - who cleared up our doubts over an hour of well reasoned discussion. And then in College I sat thru introductory classes on genetics - first by the zoology folks and then the botany folks. Same questions and same answers - and this is a Jesuit institution where I majored in physics and was taught by several men of the cloth. So by the time I returned to this debate about three years ago I had already disposed of all silly objections to the theory of evolution. I take great pride in my familiarity with the principles of not only my own Hinduism but also Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. Bill Dembski of all the Icons of ID seems to be the main “when the shark..” candidate. It’s when these Icons of Obfuscation decided to abandon their Creationist colleagues and decided to do a light and sound fluff act that the downhill slide began. For all their irrationalism the ICR, CRS and AiG folks try some science - at least work in some scientific discipline or try to maintain some veneer of science. The ID folks are a class act and have abandoned their commitment to science right from Day 1, instead choosing to take shortcuts to glory. Unfortunately shortcuts provide the appearance of speed not speed itself. And as the old saying goes - you lie once you must cover it up with ten others and ten others for each one of them. It’s a sad tale from the first day - downhill all the way.

ID jumped the shark at the 2003 Texas school board hearings. Up until then, they just lied about not being a creationist movement. In those hearings they started lying about not even being an intelligent design movement anymore. “We don’t want any ID taught in books!” they said. “We just want to teach that there are problems with evolution!”

At that point it must have been clear to everyone that they couldn’t support ID without making it clear that it is, and always has been, a religious movement.

I actually learned about ID within this year at Talkorigins. Don’t think that these pro-science sites aren’t helping! And I wouldn’t worry about us slipping into another dark age. In a time where information is so abundant, public opinion can fluctuate rapidly. I was utterly amazed at the level of government corruption and stupididty Americans have tolerated following 9-11, and I am sure that it can just as easily change back, as we get sick of the administration cracking down on abortion and contaceptives and screwing the economy. I wondered about the name, Shiva. Well, namaste, ji. I am pretty close to Hindu myself: a Sikh, to be precise. Sort of. I don’t think any organized religion is right about everything.

I would have to say it has been all down hill after 1691, with the death of Boyle.

Do we count the Bible-thumpers of Dover, PA, as part of the ID movement? If so, then ID’s claim of not being a religious movement is a lie. The problem with the Big Tent approach is all the strange bedfellows found in one’s sleeping bag.

ID properly belongs in the sphere of copper bracelets, magnetic insoles, and coffee enemas. It appears such things will always be with us, doing brisk business. Remember the TV ad for a certain cigarette, in which the narrator said “It would take a scientist to explain it [how the filter works]”?

We should not be complacent because funding for real science, efforts to solve real problems, will suffer because of the public perception of what constitutes science.

When ID needed to come up with a lesson plan..

For them, when their vanity (mostly, though for some it was greed, and various other failings they would describe as “sins” are also represented) overcame any residual sense of curiosity or wonder about the world, as well as any sense of the values and pleasures of fair-play.

For their opponents: it will perhaps never end, since they cannot be cured of their phobia without their agreement, and such as them and those they own simply never admit any failure, much less the “reasoning” that ever renews it.

mark Wrote:

all the strange bedfellows

You lie down with dogs; you get up with fleas.

Apologies to any non-flea-ridden dogs who are a cut above creationists/IDists. I rather liked the pest control expert in The Good Life referring to the fleas as “little offenders” so as not to upset people. There are already religious euphemisms and apologetics to cover up and excuse the poor morality of the religious in the service of their religion, eg faith often equates to ignorance or ignorance. But perhaps we could help them out with a few more, eg:

creation sciontist = IDist pretending to do science

zionce teacher = religious proselytiser and fraud planted in education to subvert it

Sewell said in his original essay,

“An archeologist attempting to explain the evolution of this computer program in terms of many tiny improvements might be puzzled to find that each of these major advances (new classes or phyla??) appeared suddenly in new versions; for example, the ability to solve 3D problems first appeared in version 4.0. Less major improvements (new families or orders??) appeared suddenly in new subversions, for example, the aility to solve 3D problems with periodic boundary conditions first appeared in version 5.6. In fact, the record of PDE2D’s development would be similar to the fossil record, with large gaps where major new features appeared, and smaller gaps where minor ones appeared. That is because the multitude of intermediate programs between versions or subversions which the archeologist might expect to find never existed, because–for example–none of the changes I made for edition 4.0 made any sense, or provided PDE2D any advantage whatever in solving 3D problems (or anything else) until hundreds of lines had been added.”

***********************************

What an odd thing to claim. Did Sewell’s program mysteriously grow by a series of miracles? Did Sewell suddenly sit down and write “hundreds of lines” for each new function by some unconscious process that insantly appeared, compliled, and ran flawlessly on the very first effort? And was Sewell able to replicate this miracle for 20 years?

Absurd! Without fear of contradiction, I insist there were numerous attempts at generating his revised code. Further, these intermeadiate versions were subjected to “natural selection” based on failed versions that were “incrementally” improved. It is even highly probable that Sewell co-opted some chunks of older code that were reused to generate his new “irreducibly complex” functions.

In short, the self-congratulatory puffery by Sewell about his programming serves to illustrate evolutionary processes rather than refute them.

Maybe this was more than normally irritating creationist foolishness becasue Sewell invoked archaeology. Perhaps archaeologists are not so foolish as some creationist mathematicians.

baugh, err, bah humbug.

Gary “Dr.GH” Hurd 11 June, 2005

ID lost any chance of becoming legitimate science after Behe and Dembski gave up on claims like “Evolution can’t gradually build irreducibly complex systems, because any IC system missing a part would be nonfunctional” and switched to “evolutionary biology has to produce an infinitely detailed, mutation-by-mutation evolutionary pathway for systems like the flagellum – if it doesn’t, then our vague, miraculous ID explanation is the best explanation.”

The first claim was a logically coherant argument against evolution. It was simply factually wrong, because IC systems commonly are made of subsystems of proteins that have other functions.

The second claim amounts to ID advocates closing their eyes, sticking their fingers in their ears, and desperately shouting “Not detailed enough! Not detailed enough!” over and over in the hope that no one will notice that their position is now totally bankrupt.

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Harq,

I agree with you about religious thought and science. If any spiritual seeker is true to Him/herself they must accept the findings of science unless they are prepared to cheat themselves and others. I believe the best of those scientists who are spirutual people have already made that commitment to their conscience. There is a difference between a layperson (however strident or politically influential the person is) and a one time scientist like Bill D or Behe denying the findings of science showing no signs of regret at all. Kurt wISE and the Creationist crowd are clear about what they are trying to establish as the revealed truth.

ID so far hasn’t yet completely jumped the shark, but when the first reasonably detailed model of the evolution of the fallgela ( major step by major step) comes out they’ll not only jump the shark but get eaten by it as well. Judging by the progress which has already been made on the problem I’d say their about to leap any moment now. I predict that after the evolution of the fallgela is mapped it will be onto the next organism, then the next then the next and that I think ( or rather hope) may be the end of even public support for the movement.

By the way, I think the first researcher to propose a detailed, falsifiable model of the evolution of the fallgela should receive a nobel prize, anyone else agree?

As much as I would like to agree, given that I wrote this, devising a reasonable model on paper is just a matter of doing the necessary literature research – i.e., actually looking up all of homologies, something no IDist has ever done – and synthesizing it in the context of standard modern evolutionary theory. It’s not a particularly difficult thing to do, it’s just that the number of people who are sufficiently familiar with both flagellum biochemistry and evolutionary biology is rather small.

Plus, there isn’t a Nobel prize for evolution. There isn’t even a Nobel prize for biology, because old Mr. Nobel didn’t think to endow one.

(And it’s flagellum, singular, flagella, plural. From the Latin word for “whip”, I think. You get points for creativity with “fallgela”, though.)

[PS: I fixed a typo, and have now blogged a reply to Dembski’s comment on my short comment.]

TScriven Wrote:

By the way, I think the first researcher to propose a detailed, falsifiable model of the evolution of the fallgela should receive a nobel prize, anyone else agree?

Fallgela?! I smell troll food burning…

Meanwhile, a literature search gives a comprehensive review on flagellar evolution and type III secretion systems. Check it out.

My observation would be that there are various “sharks” large and small in the many states and communities. So this battle goes on at every state and local school board. No major “shark jump” will suffice.

A change to a reality based, pro-science administration would certainly be a major step forward.

That Pallen et al. article is a good one, although it is more about the diversification of T3SSs than the actual origin flagellum (there is a brief discussion of the origin of the flagellum, however…the passage shows they are thinking along similar lines to the flagellum essay). It does explore the topic of homology between the flagellar axial proteins (rod-hook-filament) and the T3SS pilus, which is incredibly useful.

Thom H Wrote:

I’m a little struck by your complacency.

Eh? Complacent? Me?

I don’t think so.

Thom H makes a good point that IDers are winning in the public opinion (well, I don’t know if they are, but they can hold on through ignorance and prejudice, as we all well know), but I think that jumping the shark isn’t about the fall-off in viewership, rather it is about plausibility and even a modicum of respect for the cast and producers.

Jumping the shark, however, is essentially about finding a point at which a declining show or “movement” has hit its most ridiculous point (or has set the stage for equal ridiculousness for the rest of its life). It isn’t really much of an issue. I probably would have found a point a couple years into Happy Days at which I thought it had become hideously lame, instead of waiting for the shark jump, but regardless, the shark jump is good enough.

I might say that when Dembski started in could be the “shark jump”. He wasn’t plausible to begin with. He didn’t even use the term “complexity” properly, and he constantly sounds absurd, petty, whiny, and incompetent in all areas biological.

Some have said that ID was always bad. Not necessarily so. Nature gave Behe some credit for discussing the difficulties that remain in evolutionary science when reviewing DBB, though they gave him no credit for the scientifically unsound “design hypothesis”. Whether ID would even be worth paying any attention to after that would then depend on where IDists went with it. If they’d kept to the science issues that exist in evolutionary theory without insisting that a scientifically unknowable agent was the only answer, they could have assuaged their religious angst by leaving a gap for their own belief, without trying to dumb down science to sanctioning such gaps. They chose to insist that their “gaps” be sanctioned (as we observe, this was inevitable for most of them), and could be said to have jumped the shark then, only awaiting televisation of this episode to lose all credibility among critically thinking minds.

On the whole, though, I’d agree that ID was never really good enough even to find the point at which they jumped the shark. It’s been an incessant chipping away at the ignorance and wishful thinking among people really committed to anything but scientific evolution, and I think that any “shark jumping” that can be even tenuously identified on that score has to be more recent.

Dembski becomes more and more repellent, and Behe looks more and more vapid, as time goes on. For the most part, they aren’t even any fun any more. The Kansas hearings might be as close as we can come to the shark jumping in the eyes of the public, for although they’ll probably dumb down biology in Kansas as a part of the chain of events which include the hearings, they’re looking as idiotic as they are in doing so. Behe got up there and sounded implausible and trite, while the appalling Dembski was kept away by the IDists.

The ID viewers aren’t going away from their own little “Happy Days” yet, of course, but I think it’s getting harder to watch the DI as it waves around its little plastic swords and widens its threats to even more of science. It just looks desperate as the failures at the DI say they’re coming after astronomy now. No doubt they are, and we’d better not be complacent in the face of the many who want to punch gaps into science, yet the most prominent spokesmen for ID are highly vulnerable.

What happens when America reaches that day? When 95% of all high school students get no training on evolution, and the majority of Americans are hostile to it, yet scientists still all study evolution?

Is this a recipe for social instabililty? Can we foresee a big upsurge govt./church attacks on higher education or science? Or is this just the beginning of a big decline for the US?

These are difficult questions to answer. America can still recruit scientific talent from around the world even as our own population becomes increasingly scientifically illiterate, and the 1st Amendment should protect our universities from attack by the fundies. Americans worship science and progress as well as God, so while our children may eventually learn nothing about evolutionary theory in primary schools to appease the fundies, I don’t expect to see an all out assault on science.

G.Davidson:

I might say that when Dembski started in could be the “shark jump”. He wasn’t plausible to begin with. He didn’t even use the term “complexity” properly, and he constantly sounds absurd, petty, whiny, and incompetent in all areas biological.

I wholeheartedly agree. ID/Creationism jumped the shark the instant they tied their line to Dembski, The Fig Newton of Information Theory.

In aphoristic fashion, I have decided that Dembski’s relationship to the larger field of mathematics is that of an old lady to a rummage sale.

Bad math, non-existant science, and shallow theology. That’s our Bill!

Aagcobb wrote: “I don’t expect to see an all out assault on science.”

I hope that’s right, perhaps I am overly paranoid, but it seems that the current climate is pointing to just that. In spades!

Rhetoric is replacing logic on a daily basis, and it shows, in many ways.

Man, how did I miss this thread. I hope it isn’t dead.

What about when it was formed, by a rabidly Creationist lawyer who got together with an equally rabid Creationist philosopher in an effort to overturn Darwin? Vacuous from the start.

Stephen Thomas Smith Wrote:

Wes, I think a more interesting question to ask PT contributors is how they became aware of ID chicanery.

A veterinarian lent me his copy of “Darwin’s Black Box” in 1996. I didn’t really link it to an organized movement at that point, though it did seem to fall into the “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis” class of books.

Late in 1996, though, I received a mailed “call for papers” for a philosophy conference. I’m still wondering how I ended up on the distribution list. In any case, the conference was titled, “Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise”. I talked with Colin Allen about it, and while he was too busy to submit an abstract, he did encourage me to participate. So I did. The conference was to be held in February, and the conference organizer, Rob Koons, wanted full papers by January to post on the conference web site. It was when I started reading the other papers submitted to this conference that I got my introduction to such ID leading lights as William Dembski, Paul Nelson, and Jonathan Wells. I had, of course, already run into the work of Phillip Johnson, who was scheduled for a plenary talk at the NTSE conference. During Johnson’s plenary, he thanked the scientists present, because our mere attendance at the conference was helping “legitimate the question”. That hacked me off, for nothing of the sort had been indicated on the “call for papers”. The conference summary by Rob Koons went further, holding that the “consensus” of participants was that “intelligent design” had the makings of a science, and that people should stop beating up on Phillip Johnson in print.

In the course of the conference the participants moved toward several shared conclusions:

1. We cannot make a priori pronouncements about what kind of theory or what kind of explanation can properly be made in the course of scientific inquiry. In principle, there is nothing to exclude appeals to a superhuman, or even extra-cosmic, intelligence.

We sure can make a pronouncement about what kind of theory or explanation can properly be made in the course of scientific inquiry. Those would be the theories and explanations that can be checked against the evidence. Those of us on the other side certainly did not agree to what Koons said we agreed to. That was my introduction to ID chicanery.

Late in 1996, though, I received a mailed “call for papers” for a philosophy conference.

snip

The conference summary by Rob Koons went further, holding that the “consensus” of participants was that “intelligent design” had the makings of a science, and that people should stop beating up on Phillip Johnson in print.

Gee, here it is, almost **a decade later**, and IDers not only have STILL not come up with any scientific theory of ID, but now they have been forced to back away from the idea that they ever claimed they DID have one. “Did we say we wanted you to teach our alternative theory? Sorry, what we *meant* to say was, teach the controversy. Our theory? We’re, uh, still working on that . … “

In the course of the conference the participants moved toward several shared conclusions:

1. We cannot make a priori pronouncements about what kind of theory or what kind of explanation can properly be made in the course of scientific inquiry. In principle, there is nothing to exclude appeals to a superhuman, or even extra-cosmic, intelligence.

But ID isn’t about religion. No siree Bob.

They are liars, all.

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This page contains a single entry by Wesley R. Elsberry published on June 11, 2005 8:41 AM.

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