Orson Scott Card, Intelligent Design advocate

| 73 Comments

Orson Scott Card has written a long essay defending Intelligent Design.

Oy, but it is depressing.

It's a graceless hash, a cluttered and confusing mish-mash of poorly organized complaints about those darned wicked "Darwinists". He lists 7 arguments. Then he repeats his list, expanding on them. Then he goes on and on, hectoring scientists about how they should behave. For a professional writer, it's just plain bad writing—I'm struggling with how to address his arguments, but he's written such a gluey mass of tangled ranty irrationality that it's hard to get a handle on it. Ugly, ugly, ugly…and why do these guys all seem to think the way to defend the ideas of ID is to whine about the perfidy of all those scientists? Not once does he bring up any evidence for ID.

Card can't discuss the evidence, because he doesn't know or understand the evidence. That's apparent when he begins by praising Behe's Darwin's Black Box, and regurgitates the argument from irreducible complexity. Irreducible complexity is not a problem for evolution, and Behe is a tired old fraud who hasn't had a new idea in 15 years. That Card would be impressed with DBB says only that he doesn't know much biology and that the depth of his thinking is remarkably shallow.

Oh, well. I'll try the brute force approach and discuss each of Card's arguments in turn. This will get long.

Continue reading "Orson Scott Card, Intelligent Design advocate" (on Pharyngula)

73 Comments

and why do these guys all seem to think the way to defend the ideas of ID is to whine about the perfidy of all those scientists? Not once does he bring up any evidence for ID.

why do all these guys seem to think that way to promote republican politicians is to whine about the perfidy of all those democrats? Not once does fox news bring up any direct evidence supporting the actual successes that are often attributed to republicans.

monkey see, monkey do?

30 years of successful (if despicable), debate tactics like this from the right have firmly convinced a great many monkeys of their efficacy.

no suprise that IDers promote their ideas in a similar fashion.

whatever works, eh?

I think some of the vitriol there was probably unnecessary. I’d tend to interpret OSC’s errors as ignorance of the situation rather than actual idiocy. My guess is that he wandered onto a forum, caught someone like Lenny in full flow, and failed to observe that the person being tonguelashed had probably been repeating the same dumb comments since humans diverged from chimpanzees. His understanding of the scientific method is pretty decent; shame about the small army of straw men.

I’m not surprised at this development as Card is a Mormon and some of the stories he writes have a Mormon “flavour” (almost like chicken).

PZ Myers Wrote:

Card can’t discuss the evidence, because he doesn’t know or understand the evidence.

PZ Myers Wrote:

I’d tend to interpret OSC’s errors as ignorance of the situation rather than actual idiocy.

Whatever one calls it, if OSC simply misunderstands the subject, he should be willing to correct himself later on. But guess what? That almost never happens. Why is it so hard for us to admit even the possibility that these people do understand evolution, but deliberately misrepresent it anyway?

Be sure to check out the forum topic that goes with Orson Scott Card’s article. Not, apparently, that Card would deign to participate. But never fear, there’s a character by the handle of “Javelin” who is willing to tell you, for free, that whatever problem you might think you have with OSC’s essay is entirely due to you not reading the essay, misunderstanding the essay, or misrepresenting the essay. Have fun.

…whatever problem you might think you have with OSC’s essay is entirely due to you not reading the essay, misunderstanding the essay, or misrepresenting the essay

hey! i think i have discovered a working theme…

…whatever problem you might think you have with ID is entirely due to you not reading about ID, misunderstanding ID, or misrepresenting ID.

sound familiar?

not to step on Wes’s point, or anything ;)

Sir_Toejam Wrote:

hey! i think i have discovered a working theme.…..whatever problem you might think you have with ID is entirely due to you not reading about ID, misunderstanding ID, or misrepresenting ID.

That’s because ID has 2 unrelated parts, essentially “evidence for design” and “evidence against evolution.” Whenever a critic addresses the former, ID “becomes” the latter, and vice versa. And if the critic takes the bait and refutes a “Genesis” claim that the IDer never made (but certainly lead the target audience to infer), the IDer bails out with the same accusation of misunderstanding/misrepresenting. And guess who scores with the target audience?

Sure, some of the truly clueless IDers have learned this strategy by rote, but most of them seem to know exactly what that are doing.

Incredible garbage. But a silver lining - the invention of the hilarious term “Designist”.

For a more succinct, yet more accurate view of ID -

http://www.comics.com/comics/unfit/[…]0060120.html

Every time i argue with a creationist, a little piece of me dies and goes to hell.

I get postcards from time to time which suggest they are having a great time there.

TEACH THE CONTROVERSY! TEACH THE CONTROVERSY! ALL ANCIENT HISTORY IS BUNK! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/2913621058 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/2913621066

JUST TEACH THE FREAKING CONTROVERSY.

you need some new drugs, there TTC.

And you need to get a sense of humor.

my sense of humor is just fine. my initial response stands, regardless of how you meant yours to be taken.

Given that you’re suffering from delusions (“my sense of humor is just fine”), it seems that you gave that advice based on your own experience with drugs.

TTC, you’ve got it wrong. The real controversy in history is found in Velikovski. Why isn’t Velikovski being taught in ancient history as an excercise in critical reasoning?

I thought it was funny, TTC.

Tom, did Vel have a degree? Fomenko is a “doctor of physical and mathematical sciences” (which is much greater than PhD; PhD is equivalent to Soviet/Russian “candidate of physical and mathematical sciences”), and an academician to boot. He is even more scientific than Dembski! ;-)

Sir_Toejam, the poster’s handle is TTC, not THC.

Perhaps that’s where the problem arises.

But never fear, there’s a character by the handle of “Javelin” who is willing to tell you, for free, that whatever problem you might think you have with OSC’s essay is entirely due to you not reading the essay, misunderstanding the essay, or misrepresenting the essay. Have fun.

I personally am a little reluctant to take the piss out of Javelin since he’s already picked me up on one way in which I did actually misread the article (am posting as Lifewish over there).

I’d incidentally note that swarming the forum is probably not conducive to refuting OSC’s piece.

I cannot imagine a more effective means of refuting that article than 1) mentioning scientists such as Gould, Dawkins, and Scott, 2) providing a link to talk.origins, and 3) providing a link to the Jones ruling.

Those three things blow the article completely out of the water. Not that they’ll actually change very many minds, of course - it’d take a sledgehammer to do that.

Oh… now I get it. The ignorant jerk mixed up “Teach The Controversy” with “tetrahydrocannabinol”. Bwahaha.

TTC, Velikovsky has studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, Vienna, Berlin and Moscow (from which he took a medical degree). He was involved in founding the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and discovered a now routine diagnositic proceedure for epilepsy. What is more, he colaborated with Einstein in a “research project” (ie, the editing of the Scripta Universitatis).

Further, he has made a number of successfull scientific predictions from his theories. As such, he is streets ahead of ID in academic respectability, even though his theories are (of course) bunk. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immanuel_Velikovsky

Well, certainly everybody mixed up with “Teach the Controversy” is either an ignorant jerk or a knowing charlatan.

Not everybody mixed up with tetrahydrocannabinol is an ignorant jerk, though some of them may function at less than their optimum, and operating heavy machinery, or diagnosing an intense relationship, are activies that are contra-indicated.

And possibly having mixed up the two terms is just, well, mixing the two…

Anyway, are we having fun yet?

The OCS article is a mixed bag. It starts out sounding like he’s defending ID, but read further.

OSC first says:

“The Darwinist answer was immediate. Unfortunately, it was also illogical, personal, and unscientific. The main points are:”

“1. …” “2. …” “3. If you actually understood science as we do, you’d realize that these guys are wrong and we’re right; but you don’t, so you have to trust us (expertism).”

Then in talking about point #1, he goes on to say exactly the same thing:

“Creation Science is embarrassing and laughable – its authors either don’t understand science or are deliberately deceiving readers who don’t understand it. Frankly, Creation Science is, in my opinion, a pack of pious lies.”

So, it’s okay if *he* says Creation Scientists don’t understand science like he does (“expertism”), but it’s not okay for real experts to say the same thing. How can he have it both ways?

But that aside, read the rest of his article. Get past his first 6 points. I don’t think he’s saying that the Designist’s are correct. His point #7 makes that pretty clear. And he doesn’t make the mistake of abusing the word “theory”. He seems to cover that pretty well. I think what he is pointing out is that if one falls to the level of the typical Designist and starts out by name calling and over generalizing, even a well intentioned defender of evolution can sound dogmatic.

I know it’s a fine line to walk, but if one gets too rigid and over zealous in defending evolution, the lay public can have a hard time telling the difference between faith-that-science-will-eventually-have-all-the-answers and “True Faith”.

(As an example, AFAICT Kenneth Miller seems to have a good blend of flexibility and affability, certainly enough to avoid the label “zealous”. IMHO, while the usual PT crowd is obviously intelligent and entertaining, some of you do come over the top at times. Your attack mode isn’t always becoming. Yes, I know responding to the same old silly drivel can get tiring, but I hope you don’t respond in public like that. The uninitiated could react very negatively.)

OSC ends with:

“If both sides would behave like scientists, there wouldn’t even be a controversy, because everyone would agree on this statement:”

“Evolution happens and obviously happened in the natural world, and natural selection plays a role in it. But we do not have adequate theories yet to explain completely how evolution works and worked at the biochemical level.”

Sounds good to me. I’m not as optimistic as he is, though. While I’m sure every scientist could agree to that, it sure doesn’t seem like any in the ID/Creationist crowd would.

The ignorant jerk

??

since you think your comment so witty as to be personally offended by someone who doesn’t…

feel free to begin showing some wit.

I’m still waiting.

Dudes, you all need some THC.

OSC’s writings are full of mormonism, I quit reading them many years ago, now I have seen them again, arg.

I guess I should no longer get suprised when I read this kind of thing. I love the theories about the evil “Darwinist” conspiracy. If there is a conspiracy, I’m not in on it, and to tell you the truth, if I had evidence that there was a better theory to describe how life got to its present form, I’d sell you all out in an instant!!

Yes, ho-hum, as a rule fascists tend to suspect science because for their politics to endure doctrine must defeat reality and Card, who’s always been transparently a fascist, is no exception to the rule. I mean no disrespect to fascists, of course, some of them are kind to animals.

If there actually WAS an evil darwinist conspiracy, I actually wish I WERE in on it.

real consipiracies usually have serious money backing them.

I’d love to be able to get more grant money.

Jon (#75030) wrote: “…I think I’m a rare breed in that I believe in both. I’m very much in favor that species evolve through a selection process to ensure survivability. I think that there is strong evidence that supports evolution.

I also believe that ‘life’ wasn’t an accident. I find comfort in the belief that there is a creator that made this world that I live on.

.… (text removed) I guess the hard part is that science doesn’t allow for theories of a spiritual nature because they aren’t tangible enough to be proved. My argument is that just a couple hundred years ago, “science” believed in a flat planet and that the sun revolved around the earth; which was based on the evidence at hand. I know science will discover more and more as time marches on; but I also believe that “science” will eventually prove the existence of God as a part of their discovery of the origin of life.” —————————- I liked this post - for one thing, Jon separates “strong evidence that supports evolution” from “comfort in the belief that there is a creator that made this world that I live on”. In other words, he understands that one is a belief system, and the other is based on evidence. He also shows why many people do cling to the belief - that it’s comforting - and I certainly can appreciate that and agree with it. There’s nothing wrong with it - as long as they don’t force their beliefs on others.

I do have one nit to pick. Jon says, “science doesn’t allow for theories of a spiritual nature because they aren’t tangible enough to be proved.” He misses how science works - I would have said, “science doesn’t allow for theories of a spiritual nature because they aren’t tangible enough to be DISproved.” NONE of science can be proven - all we can do is test it enough to be provisionally certain that we have the correct answer. But we can only be provisionally certain. Even evolution is susceptible to the “rabbit fossil in the Cambrian”, however unlikely. As many have shown here in these pages, ID is “parsimonious” (from another thread) with anything, and as such cannot be disproven - or useful. As such, ID is not science, and never can be.

Finally, my hat’s off to the post by Glen Davidson (#74905)that Jon was responding to, for the brilliant and fairly brief analysis of OSC and ID, showing why our arguments often fail and suggestions on how to improve.

Harold #75040 Wrote:

Like a number of other reasonable people I have met, you are confused by what “intelligent design” actually means. This is no surprise, since the name “intelligent design” is deliberately deceptive. –snip– “Intelligent Design” is NOT the same as “theistic evolution”. Intelligent design argues against the theory of evolution. “ID” argues either that some aspects of life are too “complex” to have evolved - eg the infamous bacterial flagellum - or that, since we recognize “design” when we see a Mayan ruin or a beehive, we are obliged to say that organisms were created by “design” rather than evolution.

Great point! I’ve always viewed ID in the strictest sense of “intelligently designed” versus “happened by accident” rather than what you’ve mentioned. Obviously, my narrower viewpoint hindered me from seeing a bigger picture.

GvlGeologist #75041 Wrote:

I liked this post - for one thing, Jon separates “strong evidence that supports evolution” from “comfort in the belief that there is a creator that made this world that I live on”. In other words, he understands that one is a belief system, and the other is based on evidence.

Thanks!

professional writers can still be dummies - even a legend like Vonnegut can get it totally wrong, when it comes to evolution. NPR ran an interview with him this morning, where he talked about Intelligent Design v evolution. he was firmly on the side of ID, because (paraphrasing - can’t listen to the stream at work) “we all know it to be true - we’re just too complex to have happened randomly, and those blinkered scientists know it too, but won’t admit it because they’re so devoted to their ‘tribe’.”

ugh. it was depressing.

Comment #75030

Posted by Jon on January 23, 2006 09:29 AM (e)

I think I’m a rare breed in that I believe in both. I’m very much in favor that species evolve through a selection process to ensure survivability. I think that there is strong evidence that supports evolution.

I also believe that ‘life’ wasn’t an accident. I find comfort in the belief that there is a creator that made this world that I live on.

When I put these two beliefs side-by-side, I fail to see where there is conflict. Isn’t it possible that life was actually designed to evolve? Not necessarily pre-ordained to evolve into a specific thing; but designed to be able to adapt and overcome in such a way that continued survival is possible?

I don’t know how “rare” your beliefs are in the general population; but they certainly are uncommon in the sub-population that gets into the pro/con arguments. My father was, at one time, a believer of evolution and creation as you described it and remained neutral in this world most of his life. However, his views have changed to the Intelligent Design camp and he would be the first to tell you that your once-common position is not “Intelligent Design.” In fact, knowing my father, I have little doubt that he has failed to cross swords with “evolutionists” as he’s retired, has a quasi-science PhD, likes to surf the net and is argumentative.

As for the reason I don’t think you’re going to fit into the ID crowd, it’s because the vast majority of the proponents of Intelligent Design essentially require an act of special creation for each and every species and that the only permissible evolution is micro-evolution within a species. Even then, it seems to me that some people in ID don’t even believe in micro-evolution.

I stand by my opinion that it is poorly written and organized.

Yes, but I think you’re using the standard of good science writing, not considering whether or not it is effective persuasive writing (for those who can’t see past the lies he repeats).

It’s woefully ignorant and has so many false claims that it is simply a wreck if it is judged according to scientific standards. What I fear is that people might suppose that it is “poorly written” and so not a real threat.

Try grappling with it and composing a rebuttal; it’s just all over the map, full of poorly expressed and ultimately ludicrous ideas.

That’s why I responded only to a small portion (that, and you’d covered quite well many of the other points). The ideas are ludicrous to you and me, yet I think not to all. Poorly expressed? How does one express false claims well? Even so, probably as well expressed as any IDiot, and I do believe that his piece is rather more persuasive than Dembski’s writings, though perhaps not Behe’s.

Of course, if his intent was to write something so slippery and sloppy that it would be difficult to wrestle it down, then he composed a masterpiece.

His thinking on this matter is apparently slippery and sloppy, and I fear that detoxifying him would take a considerable amount of time and patience.

But he writes in a way that I think appeals to post-modern sentiments, and I think I could write something that I believe makes perfect sense that a number of others would take to be slippery and sloppy. Difference is that I know the hard science behind evolution and would not presume to write the sort of necessarily incomplete, concept-laden piece in science that I would in philosophy. OCS thinks he’s being philosophical, pointing out the mistakes of scientists, and unfortunately, so will many of his readers.

I think I can add to one more aspect of his befuddlement. He’s been convinced, probably by IDists, that biologists take Darwin to be a prophet, and they will not question their beliefs. If one could knock down this strawman, one probably would go a considerable way toward defeating his anti-science tirade. OSC praises Darwin in ways that makes me blush, then stupidly moves on to claim that it is we who actually are enamored of past genius. A snippet:

Physicists know this – they don’t get their dander up and demand that non-Einsteinian physics never be taught in the public schools, for instance. They recognize that at the bleeding edge of science we simply don’t know stuff yet, and no past genius has authority today, if and when we come up with data that may not support his theories.

Does OSC have even an inkling of how many crank physics theories are dismissed by physicists? Thankfully most such cranks have no aims on the schools, though this is mostly because their crank beliefs are not religious (with a few exceptions), and so command little or no following.

Physicists would be extremely unhappy if BS was taught about physics in school. They don’t oppose Newtonian physics being taught, mainly because later physics builds upon Newton’s theories, and in some cases does not disagree with Newtonian claims at all. OSC apparently has also never heard of quantum physics, since no physics course in college would dream of teaching only Einstein’s theories. Again, OSC fails utterly as a writer on science, while unfortunately writing well enough in relation to the lies that have been fed to him.

Can OSC even begin to justify his idea that “past genius” Darwin has authority today? If he did, wouldn’t we believe that acquired characteristics could be passed on to future generations (and I don’t mean epigenetic influences)? Would we accept genetics at all, even? Would we accept notions of neutral evolution, and would we even debate punctuated equilibrium?

This is one of the places where OSC contradicts himself, of course. He brings up punctuated equilibrium, then claims that we’re believing a “past authority” or some kind of prophet. Well, gee, OSC, is punk eek Darwinism? It has certainly has had an airing, and evidently is believed to describe many situations.

Nevertheless, and while I do recognize better where you’re coming from in saying that his writing is bad and organization poor, from where I’m sitting I see how it can be effective. I certainly do hope that this fact will not be forgotten by anyone.

Glen D http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

Yes, but I think you’re using the standard of good science writing, not considering whether or not it is effective persuasive writing (for those who can’t see past the lies he repeats).

I think internal consistency is a requirement for good writing of any kind. Card fails that requirement, as I have already pointed out.

I think internal consistency is a requirement for good writing of any kind. Card fails that requirement, as I have already pointed out.

Much of my favorite writing is not internally consistent. Nietzsche works through his ideas, showing the incompleteness of the consistent, via an inconsistent set of approaches (naturally there is some consistency, but not the exact consistency many espouse). This would not do for science, while it seems like an asset for dealing with our psychological and cognitive inconsistencies–but only when done very well, done with a very good knowledge of linguistic issues and the mind (Nietzsche excels, Derrida fails, mainly because Derrida has no independent reference to the world, writing instead from previously written interpretations of the world).

This is part of the problem of communication between the humanistically educated and the scientifically educated, at least when the two forms of education do not coincide. Good writing may be enhanced through inconsistency and the attempt through it to create fullness instead of an emaciated consistency (one reason scientists often don’t get the purpose of myth–or sometimes, religion).

Unfortunately, OSC is not able to write an actual good piece in the genres he pretends to be writing in (apparently science and philosophy of science), because he is too lacking in facts as well as too lacking in knowledge of philosophy and of science. I still have no problem giving his piece good marks for persuasiveness or as a good propaganda piece. Not recognizing what is counted as “good” apart from internal consistency and agreement with scientifically demonstrable fact is one of the problems that could leave science the loser. May this not be science’s fate.

Glen D. http://tinyurl.com/b8ykm

The Vanity Press, as a rule, will not touch religious books for a good reason: They run the risk of selling well enough to bankrupt the Press. Experience has shown that it really doesn’t matter how absurd the premises, how incoherent the organization, how uneducated the spelling and grammar, or how high the price in relation to the content. Religious books aren’t bought for rational reasons. Recall that Buckingham was able to raise $850 for a religious book the purchasers didn’t even get to see or own!

Compared to most, Card is a skilled author even when he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He knows whom he’s talking TO, and as Glen observes, that’s what matters.

Stephen Elliott: “Suggests to me, he is more of a sucker than a lier.”

I agree. OSC’s article looks to me like someone that knows enough science to know ID is not science, but has done most of his background research using ID or Creationist sources. The straw man arguments he presents as Darwinist responses to ID are AiG style bull.

Still, pretty sloppy work.

I think I’m a rare breed in that I believe in both.

Actually, you are not rare at all — you represent a position known as “theistic evolution”, which the vast majority of Christians worldwide accept, and many scientists do too.

The IDers, of course, think you’re going to Hell. (shrug)

PZ Wrote:

I stand by my opinion that it is poorly written and organized. Try grappling with it and composing a rebuttal.

The article is clearly well written and well organized. The English is good. It reads smoothly. The argument is broken down into seven points, each one addressed in turn. In addition, it is a fairly compelling piece from a rhetorical standpoint.

PZ’s argument for his claim that the article is poorly written and poorly organized is that he has trouble grappling with it and can’t come up with a good rebuttal (see the quoted line above). This is more likely a shortcoming on PZ’s part, however. The fact that he can’t grapple with and rebut the piece is merely a sign that it has him out-argued. It is certainly true that a clear and cogent argument presents difficulties for one’s opponents.

PZ is like a wrestler who says “I can’t grapple with this guy and I find him hard to pin down. So he must clearly be a poor wrestler.” I’m sorry, PZ – it means you are a poor wrestler.

It is certainly true that a clear and cogent argument presents difficulties for one’s opponents.

Alas for IDers, their “clear and cogent arguments” didn’t appear to impress the judge in Dover very much.

Indeed, ID/creationists have lost every single Federal court case they have ever been involved with. Every single one. Without exception.

They lost Epperson. They lost Daniel. They lost Mclean. They lost Peloza. They lost Segraves. They lost Kitzmiller. They lost Selman. They lost Freiler. They lost Edwards.

They lost every Federal court case they have ever been involved with.

What does that say for their, uh, “clear and cogent arguments” … ?

It is certainly true that a clear and cogent argument presents difficulties for one’s opponents.

undoubtably.

unfortunately for Card, his article is merely clear; it lacks the cogency required for it to be difficult to defeat. a squadron of strawmen isn’t much of a problem - in fact, they defeat themselves.

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This page contains a single entry by PZ Myers published on January 21, 2006 1:59 PM.

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