ID floats a lead-lined trial balloon

| 199 Comments

We're getting signs that the Discovery Institute is going to be shifting their strategy a little bit.

Thoughts from Kansas has an excellent discussion of the subject. Basically, they're going to embrace more of the actual science, and focus their dispute on finer and finer points. What does this mean? Common descent is now in.

DaveScot on Bill Dembski's blog (TfK has the link) has a bit of a rant on it—he's going to kick out anyone who questions the idea of common descent, and goes on and on about how denying common ancestry is a religious idea that goes against all of the scientific evidence, and therefore must be purged if ID is to achieve any status as an actual scientific idea.

As Josh documents, though, they've got a long list of ID advocates on the record at the Kansas hearings denying common descent: Angus Menuge, Nancy Bryson, Ed Peltzer, Russell Carlson, Warren Nord, Michael Behe, Jonathan Wells, Bruce Simat, Charles Thaxton, and Stephen Meyer are all quoted as rejecting it to various degrees, and ironically, Dembski's blog is titled "Uncommon Descent". The commenters at that blog are also frantically tossing up quotes from their heroes, such as Dembski's own "Intelligent design therefore throws common descent itself into question…"—obviously, common descent has been an obstacle to them in the past.

If you're familiar with DaveScot, though, you're probably thinking, "DaveScot is a deranged lunatic—he shouldn't be regarded as a bellwether for the ID movement!" I agree, and given that so many notables in the movement have rejected common descent, he does seem to be an outlier.

Except…

Stephen Meyer has an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News today. This is the Stephen Meyer who claims to be one of the "architects of Intelligent Design", Stephen Meyer the Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, the Stephen Meyer who, when asked whether he accepted the principle of common descent, said:

I won't answer that question as a yes or no. I accept the idea of limited common descent. I am skeptical about universal common descent. I do not take it as a principle; it is a theory. And I think the evidence supporting the theory of universal common descent is weak.

Today, though, Meyer declares that ID has no complaint with common ancestry.

The theory does not challenge the idea of evolution defined as change over time, or even common ancestry, but it does dispute Darwin's idea that the cause of biological change is wholly blind and undirected.

That does sound a little bit like we have a new party line emerging. They are going to accept all of the science except that they are going to insist that there is also an additional guiding force than selection. In order to do that, though, they're also going to have to find some evidence for this mysterious force, and since they're still calling it an intelligent directing force, they're going to have to try harder to back up this specific claim, if they actually plan to carry through and focus on this one point.

Meyer's op-ed, though, shows no sign of that. Instead, as usual, he falls back on the old argument from incredulity, making the same old analogies and comparing cells to cars and computer programs.

Over the last 25 years, biologists have discovered an exquisite world of nanotechnology within living cells -- complex circuits, sliding clamps, energy-generating turbines and miniature machines. For example, bacterial cells are propelled by tiny rotary engines called flagellar motors that rotate at speeds up to 100,000 rpm. These engines look as if they were designed by the Mazda corporation, with many distinct mechanical parts (made of proteins) including rotors, stators, O-rings, bushings, U-joints and drive shafts.

He repeatedly claims that ID is based on scientific evidence, but fails to provide any—saying it "looks like" something designed is not evidence, especially when the basis for that appearance is nothing but overwrought and fallacious metaphors. Sorry, Stephen, you are confusing the computer-generated illustrations of the flagellum, which are all shiny smooth flat and curved surfaces with pseudocolor and ray-traced reflections, with the reality, which consists of coarse-grained polymers and stochastic chemical processes. Mazda may use CAD, but cells do not.

My bold prediction: this strategy can only further marginalize ID. The grassroots that support ID now are largely the same people who supported old-school creationism, who don't like being told their ancestors were apes, and they're going to be explicitly cut off by this policy. Bye-bye, base. At the same time, they aren't going to acquire any new supporters among scientists: focusing on a narrower, more precise set of ideas is usually a good idea, but it will also focus attention on the dearth of evidence supporting it.

I suspect this is a poorly thought-out trial balloon that's going to thud right into the ground. Expect further backtracking and denials soon.

199 Comments

The Official Uncommon Pissant Discussion Thread over at AtBC is also on this topic. I’ll say here what I said there:

Man, DaveScot is wailing and gnashing his teeth. He’s demanding that people stop talking about religion, he’s disputing quotes people are posting from his ID ‘betters’ such as Jonathan Wells, banning people, etc.

He wants a totally secular ID theory and everyone on board.

Why do we always want, what we can’t have?

Oh, it is so delicious to watch an exasperated DaveScot try to argue against the common-descent-denying dolts.

Creation science already lost. Didn’t you get the memo?

and I love this quote from DaveScot about common descent, on the John Lynch thread:

It’s claims denying the virtually undeniable that gives ID a bad name.

Earlier I picked last week in January for the firing of DaveScot. there’s still 14 hrs to go.…

steve s Wrote:

Oh, it is so delicious to watch an exasperated DaveScot try to argue against the common-descent-denying dolts.

Doesn’t Dembski deny common descent? ISTR him doing so recently (maybe that recent shindig at the CCC?).

This could be interesting…

DaveScot is not an official spokesperson for the Disclaimery Institute. The bit from Meyer is more interesting, but you’ll notice that it is light and fluffy waffle. If they do go with such a strategy, it will be interesting to see the response from the Answers in Genesis wing of the lunatic party.

Up until now I think the DI strategy was not to take a position on common descent at all, so I guess Meyer is correct to say that ID does not “challenge” common descent. ID proponents who have taken a position on common descent were stating their own views, not speaking for the party.

Will the Big Tent shrink?

This waffle seems to bring ID ever-closer to the well established Theistic Evolution camp. The only difference now being that ID claims that evidence of Go…, sorry “the designer”, guiding evolution is accessible to science and TE’s say the hand of God is beyond such investigation. Seeing as Dembski and others have been particularly scathing of the TE position (whilst all the while claiming that ID isn’t religious, haha), I find these recent statements by DaveScot more than a little odd. I will wait and see whether this is really any kind of strategy change, or the rantings of someone completely out of touch with his creationist ID colleagues!

This is just wonderful comedy. You could honestly package up the drama that is happening over in the ID movement into a sitcom or something that would hit top ratings I’d say. It’s just fantastic watching them implode after the Dover decision.

Is this the evolution of ID we are witnessing? As for Dave Scott getting the boot - I doubt it - Dembski, along with his other ID brethren, doesn’t seem able to see what is going on around him!

great minds think alike / fools seldom differ.

Bayesian Bouffant, “will the big tent shrink?”

here’s an email I sent to PZ:

“good for a giggle.. contracting tent…

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inde[…]744#comments

Rich”

What are the odds? (Don’t ask D*mbski)

NEWS FLASH: Dembski is no longer listed as a senior fellow on the DI site.

Fascinating.

The guys at the DI do more backpedaling than a pack of clowns on unicycles.

They are truly becoming laughingstocks.

DOH - scratch the above post. He’s still a CSC fellow. My bad.

He’s still a fellow, though:

http://www.discovery.org/csc/fellows.php

been like that for a while I think.

Rats / ship / sinking, anyone?

Sleeper agent Dave Scot has been activated.

Sit back and watch the carnage :

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inde[…]744#comments

*Mwuahahahahahahahaha*

Let me get this straight because I can never remember how it goes.

If Stephen Meyer walks out of his office on Thursday, February 2nd, and doesn’t see his shadow, then macroevolution is OK for the next 10 years.

Is that it?

The guys at the DI do more backpedaling than a pack of clowns on unicycles.

Funny, I made a similar analogy over on my blog just earlier:

In a lot of respects the ID advocates remind me of a train of clowns headed towards disaster as soon as their ‘experts’ ended up deposed in court. Once that event happend at Dover, their train derailed you can’t help but watch the leading ID proponents as they continue to furiously pedal on their unicycles sailing through the air to their end. So tragic and yet so hillarious at the same time.

It’s so very tragic.

Dembski is a Senior Fellow with the C(R)SC. See the link below the list you were looking at.

You don’t honestly think they’d dump the Paris Hilton of Information Theory, do you?

That might be the best so far, Skip. LOL.

Ok, I’m starting to understand why some at the Panda’s Thumb don’t take us too seriously. Yes, I’ve been there and seen that they don’t deserve the honor either.

Comment by Ben Z — January 31, 2006 @ 7:53 am

This one was my favorite.

Some of them are actually starting to understand.

Funny. I saw articles in which Behe and dembski already conceded common descent years ago. From the quotes of him in the above article, it seems that they were flip-flopping on the subject. I guess now they’re going to be consistent, on this matter at least.

Does anyone see a resemblance between ID by the DI and Ptolemaic astronomy? Only Rube Goldberg could top them for convoluted constructions.

I think this is actually a wise strategic move on their part, “wise” being subjective in this case.

By embracing common decent they can move away from false claims about evolution (which requires a great deal of effort and back peddling, and at least a fundamental understanding of evolution) and simplify the debate around “guided or unguided?”. In the arena of public debate, that is a very simple concept for the average Joe to grasp. Per the Disco IC is a fact and do you think it magically happened by Darwinism or do you think an intelligent agent is behind it. They just greatly simplified IDC.

And since it would seem they are cutting their ideological ties with creationism they probably see this as a move that will help shield them from the lemon test.

So now the ID follower does not have to grasp things like the cambrian climax, finer points of “Darwinism” or posess any biological understanding at all. All they have to understand is the concepts of IC and “was this (IC) planned or random?”

They may lose many creationists but they stand to gain as many (if not more) “mainstream” religionists or even non-religionists.

On the surface this latest “design theory” would seem to be a workable “alternative” to evolution, at least for those who want it taught in public schools. And instead of pretending any evolutionary controversies exist (and they will lose that debate), or instead of manufacturing a controversy (they will get caught doing that)they simply adopt core evolutionary concepts and focus only on the guided or unguided notion. Of course they have no evidence of a guided evolution but the average Joe won’t see that. And most folks don’t need scientific evidence to believe in a creator so this modified version of IDC makes it very easy to digest to the untrained listener.

I think what we may be seeing is a fine tuning of the wedge strategy. This may be delaying the part about “replacing scientific naturalism with theistic unhderstandings” in favor of establishing themselves, at least in their own eyes, with a legitimate, secular theory.

I hope they fall flat on their face but after the laughter dies down, it will be interesting to see how this strategy pans out in the public’s eyes over the next few months or year.

Oh, and finally, this also greatly simplifies the work science has to do. Refuting IC and planned or unplanned evolution will be low hanging fruit for the science crowd. Whether the general public (those who vote) gets it is the wild card.

Mr. Christopher:

I sincerely doubt all this. Bear in mind that when the DI goes fishing for funding, they go to churches and their sales pitch is that they are seeking legally permitted ways to get the Christian God into public life in every was possible. Bear in mind also that the main resistance to the DI within the flock, consists of those who are (IMO understandably) uncomfortable with the charade of pretending they aren’t talking about God, in order to promote the universe acceptance of God.

The bottom line really has not changed in over a century. There is a large number of people who simply *will not accept* anything other than the bald statement that they were created, as is, in the image of the One Great God. The entire, rather hilarious confection-and-rejection of ‘macroevolution’ is an effort to deny the existence of any process that could conceivably have produced us any other way.

The DI’s funding is directly related to their coziness with the God of the Fundamentalists. They are tethered there by their purse strings.

A few more policy twists and turns and they’ll be full-fledged “neo-Darwinists.”

I encourage everyone to go to Uncommon Descent and read those comments. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the site, when you see boldface, it’s DaveScot. It is hilarious.

http://www.uncommondescent.com/inde[…]744#comments

By the sound of his reply to my post, DaveScot now supports John Davison’s PEH in which all evolutionary ‘information’ is there at the beginning:

[bold his, normal text mine]

“If humans and lobsters share a common ancestor in this sense, then there must be a reproductive process which can create from this ancestor the specific, complex, adaptive characteristics of modern humans and lobsters without an influx of information from the outside.” - Phillip Johnson

Yes, there must be. It’s intelligent agency. Next!

I’m somewhat confused by this reply. Does the work of an intelligent agency represent the influx of information from the outside? Not necessarily. The source of the intelligence has not been identified. The information could have been there all along, never needing to be added. If not, then intervention by an intelligent agency could not increase information (am I right on that?)There may have been no intervention. Evolution unfolding the way it did could have been predetermined at the instant the universe was created with no further intervention required. and then the arguments against NS + RM that take the position that this process cannot account for novel information would also be arguments against intelligent intervention (since it too does not represent an increase in information). Could you clear this up for me?All ID does is identy patterns in nature that are the result of design by intelligent agency. How and when the design was accomplished is outside the scope of ID.

His last sentence isn’t really an answer, but the rest of it sounds like he’s boxed himself down to a sort of deist Designer who winds up the clock and lets it go. Interesting.

Flint, my comments are purely speculative. I am sitting in the stands watching a football game and trying to make sense of a what appears to be a radical change in the Disco’s game plan. I guess getting sacked on 4th and goal everytime is causing them enough grief to make significant changes.

And I agree, if they cut off the Pat Robertson Jerry Falwell crowd they stand to lose an enormous base of support, both voters and cash. It will be a laff riot to hear Dembski tell the Campus Crusaders for Christ that they are the descendants of chimps. A howler to be sure. But they could also convince the Pat/Jerry crowd that they are simply trying to be “clever as serpents” to get a foothold. I admit that is a stretch. My personal hope is this will bring about an IDC ideological implosion sooner than later.

But I am simply speculating on the reason and motives of this recent ideological shift as well as what benefits they may derive from it.

I guess my question is if this isn’t an attempt to further shield themselves from any lemon tests, and stop making themselves look so anti-scientific (creationist) by attacking proven and accepted core evolutionary theories, what the heck is it and why?

Doesn’t Dembski deny common descent? ISTR him doing so recently (maybe that recent shindig at the CCC?).

They say different things to different audiences. Did you see the commenters freak out when DaveScot tried to make common descent the ID orthodoxy? My granpappy ain’t no monkey!!!!!!!!111

From the laugh riot at UnCommon Descent:

Qualiatative is no longer with us. Who is next?

Where should we send flowers? And, FWIW, I’m beginning to think ID is more dangerous than Avian Flu in the way they drop like flies over there… Hardly a week goes by without someone dying… ;)

Thoughts from Kansas (linked in top post) mentions the “deer in the headlights” story but not this part:

search on Buckingham + “I was like a deer in the headlights”

http://www.pennlive.com/printer/pri[…]l&coll=1

When testifying at the trial two weeks ago, Buckingham – a leading proponent of the intelligent-design policy and its implementation – said he was “ambushed” by a television reporter when he was interviewed on June 14, 2004. “I was like the deer in the headlight,” he testified.

Jennifer Sherlock, the Fox 43 reporter who interviewed Buckingham, was not called to the stand.

In an interview, Sherlock said Buckingham not only agreed hours in advance to be interviewed, but used the word “creationism” several times in the interview.

Sherlock said the interview lasted nearly 10 minutes, though only a few seconds of it were used in her report.

In the portion that aired, Buckingham – appearing calm, wearing sunglasses, and sporting a red-white-and-blue lapel pin in the shape of a cross – said, “It’s OK to teach Darwin, but you have to balance it with something else, such as creationism.”

Sherlock said she called Buckingham hours before the meeting. “I told him we were doing a story on the issue and wanted his side,” she said.

Sherlock said she met with Buckingham in a Dover school parking lot prior to the board meeting.

“It wasn’t like he was trying to hide his stance,” she said. “It was a friendly conversation. He was calm. He was just fine. I got the impression he wanted his position out there.”

The key thing is to be able to say, to any criticism applied to ID, that the critic just fails to “understand” ID. Criticize them for rejecting common descent? “Well, clearly you just don’t know the first thing about ID!” It’s difficult to prove “theory” A wrong if its whole content is “there’s something not quite complete about theory B”. It’s the same reason they remain “agnostic” on the age of the earth.

DaveScot’s blunder is in attempting to collapse the quantum cloud of uncertainty that is ID into a defined position - on anything!

Trying to compel acceptance of common descent on a blog entitled “Uncommon Descent”? It’s not going to work. I predict DaveScot will be “re-educated” or exiled in short order.

To be fair, the two statements by Meyers that you quote (one from Kansas, one from the Dallas paper) are not contradictory: in one he says he believes the evidence for common descent is unpersuasive, in the other he says that common descent is not inconsistent with ID. The wording may seem stronger, but he is playing to different audiences.

I agree with the general tenor of your article however: if you are to pretend to be scientific, you eventually have to deal with sience issues. The same problem occurs with age of the earth: an important part of the base believes in a young earth, so it is best to avoid talking about the issue entirely, but you cannot always avoid it if you appear as a witness before some body with a science-friendly questioner.

Steve S Bah. Write down the word “part” as you read it, backwards.

Looks like I get to be attacked even if I don’t say anything.

Looks like I get to be attacked even if I don’t say anything.

Sure sucks to be you, doesn’t it.

Carol said:

Looks like I get to be attacked even if I don’t say anything.

You’ve said plenty.

I just came across this IDCH FAQ through Evolving Thoughts. I found it rather accurate, and humorous.

I’m not a scientist, philosopher, or historian, that’s just the view from a Carpenter’s son.

I just came across this IDCH FAQ through Evolving Thoughts. I found it rather accurate, and humorous.

Possibly my favorite line:

How old is the earth?

Somewhere between six thousand and 5 billion years.

Except, of course, it’s not really parody, strictly speaking…

I agree with Carol.

LOL that page is so great.

I’m confused about Intelligent Design’s stance on the theory of evolution, can you summarize it?

* Of course. The evidence gathered by Intelligent Design proponents clearly shows that: 1. Evolution does not happen. 2. Evolution happens in some cases. 3. Some evolution is directed evolution. 4. Natural selection does not work. 5. Natural selection works in many cases, but not all. 6. Microevolution does not happen. 7. Microevolution is evidence of directed evolution. 8. Macroevolution does not happen. 9. Macroevolution is evidence of directed evolution. 10. Life was created 6000 years ago. 11. Life was formed over millions or billions of years through design and the processes of directed evolution. 12. Life was formed over millions or billions of years through design, and the processes of directed and undirected evolution. Basically, we think something is wrong with the theory of evolution, we’re just not sure what.

I agree with Carol.

Um, about what, precisely? That no one can understand the Old Testament unless they read it in the original Hebrew?

No, “Looks like I get to be attacked even if I don’t say anything.”

It does appear to be the case. Although I might ammend the statement by adding the word “new” to the end.

Now I know where Carol got her script.

How to be a Bible Apologist.

Now I know where Carol got her script.

How to be a Bible Apologist.

Also dangerously close to non-parody…

Heddle must have that one bookmarked, too. :-)

By the way Carol, I do not attack you for things you have said in the past but it just occurred to me, What are you trying to say? Do you understand evolution theory and agree with it but just think that the bible is also in agreement or do you think that that the Intelligent design sciences offer a more imposing set of data? Just curious.

BWE,

So after attacking me many times in the past, you finally get around to asking me what I am “trying” to say?

K.E.,

I have never seen that site before. Having looked at it just now after you mentioned it, I can tell you that its authors are as ignorant of what the original Bible says or means as you are.

So after attacking me many times in the past, you finally get around to asking me what I am “trying” to say?

And you don’t answer.

Do you have some sort of lethal allergy to answering questions, Carol? Or are you just too brilliantly superior to bother with us poor unwashed peons?

I have never seen that site before. Having looked at it just now after you mentioned it, I can tell you that its authors are as ignorant of what the original Bible says or means as you are.

I guess they should have asked YOU, huh.

And you wonder why everyone makes fun of you, Carol … ?

Lenny wrote:

“Sure sucks to be you, doesn’t it.”

I am sure I come with some negatives, Lenny, although I cannot identify what those are, but I am also sure that I would much rather be me than you, anytime!

Then Lenny wrote:

“Do you have some sort of lethal allergy to answering questions, Carol? Or are you just too brilliantly superior to bother with us poor unwashed peons?”

That communist sounding clap-trap will not do. I plead not guilty. I have answered more than my share of questions here, including yours. Many of yours however are rhetorical dead-ends that you do not really want to have answered.

Lenny continued:

“I guess they should have asked YOU, huh.”

No doubt, that would have been to their benefit. The very first line, “God hates homosexuality” is already false. All the Bible is against is unprotected anal sex. And considering what has been going on, I think it is safe to say that that prohibition is fully justified.

Lenny is not finished yet:

“And you wonder why everyone makes fun of you, Carol … ?”

Is that what they are doing? I thought, Reverand, they were asking me sincere questions that I was supposed to answer. In any event, it is she who laughs last who laughs best. We shall see.

Carol the righteous and totally predictable, demonstrates her bibliopolic difficulties

Carol, or is that Carlos? You may wonder why you draw so much heat, could it be you are regarded here by all, a bibliolater ?

Why is it Carol, you vehemently bibliolate in a Bibliolatrous manner

How do you rationalize your bibliology at the same time as being a bibliolater ?

Now if you were in fact a bibliopole, it might be excusable, however you claim to know something about physics/nature.

So a history of social consciousness shaped by magical realism, artistic constructivism and imaginatively recreated life, in the Middle East is physics/nature is it Carol?

From “How to read the Bible literally:” For example, the Bible clearly says that God hates homosexuality. That part is literal. The bible also says that God hates mixing different fibers in clothing. That part is not literal

Carol said: The very first line, “God hates homosexuality” is already false. All the Bible is against is unprotected anal sex. And considering what has been going on, I think it is safe to say that that prohibition is fully justified.

Huh? That would be the future past perfect version of the bible is it. ?

I don’t believe anyone can understand their native tongue (and therefore the reality it describes) properly without a deep understanding of another language OR a pursuit that does not use language at all. For (a very limited) example sport, an artistic creative activity, yes and even sex and beer.

…er Carol that was very unbiblical of you to shift the biblical moral relativism and bibliophilic homophobia of anal sex, is that because you are bilobular? How do you explain the Perfumed Garden? Do you read that literally or just enjoy bibliomania ?

Carol said: In any event, it is she who laughs last who laughs best. We shall see.

Indeed Dispensationalist Dementia.

PZ:

This thread has now deteriorated to the point of Carol babbling stuff like this:

In any event, it is she who laughs last who laughs best. We shall see.

Maybe time to close the thread?

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on January 31, 2006 9:03 AM.

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