The Disco ‘Tute’s new man

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The Disco ‘Tute, famed for its big tent strategy, is stretching the tent to include still more folks. While its religious agenda has never been completely hidden – the Wedge made that clear 8 years ago – the Disco dancers are signing up new partners for their future pushes to corrupt science education. The latest recruit as a contributor to the Media Complaints Division is Martin Cothran of Kentucky.

Cothran is advertised thus:

Martin is a writer and educator who lives in Kentucky. He is the author of several logic and classical rhetoric textbooks, and is the editor of The Classical Teacher magazine. He is a frequent guest on radio and television on issues of public policy, and has spent over 15 years dealing with educational policy questions at the state level.

Just what the Disco ‘Tute needs: an expert on rhetoric!

Look a little closer at Cothran, though, and one finds a fairly garden variety ideologue, albeit with a better vocabulary than many such. Cothran is “a senior policy analyst” with the Family Foundation of Kentucky or so their site says. Like virtually every organization nowadays that has “family” in its name, the Family Foundation is a classical religio-conservative outfit, with the usual positions on a range of issues. Cothran has a blog, vere loqui (he’s a classicist), in which he posts on the usual range of religio-conservative issues: homosexuality (he’s against gay marriage and partner benefits), abortion (against it), replacing B.C. and A.D. with B.C.E. and C.E. (against it ), Gonzalez’s tenure (he’s for it), Dembski’s association with Baylor (he was for it), and of course evolution (he’s skeptical of it).

More below the fold.

Cothran recently published an Op-Ed piece in the Louisville Courier a piece on his blog1 (available at the Diso ‘Tute) in which he argued that Judgment Day, the PBS story of the Kitzmiller trial, was seriously biased (does he know how the trial came out? does he know where the weight of the evidence is?). Further, he claims that the decision embodies a fatal contradiction:

The opponents of Intelligent Design have recently been trying to slither out of a logical dilemma they have created for themselves. Their problem is that they make two mutually exclusive claims: First that ID is not science, and, second, that ID makes false claims.

The primary reason opponents say that ID is not science is because it doesn’t make falsifiable claims. But if it doesn’t make falsifiable claims, then it can’t be said to have made claims that have been found false. Yet this is exactly what they charge.

What Cothran is apparently unable to comprehend is that while ID proponents occasionally make testable empirical claims, ID theory itself does not. It is untestable since the sole content of ID “theory” (as I’ve said a number of times) is this:

Sometime or other, some intelligent agent or other (maybe one god or another, or maybe space aliens or time travelers) designed one or another biological structure (or maybe process), and then somehow or other manufactured the designed biological whatsit, doing so while leaving no independent evidence of either the design process or the manufacturing process, and no independent evidence of the presence (or even the existence) of the designing and manufacturing agent(s).

ID “theory” is no more specific than that. And obviously that’s untestable due to its total freedom from content. It predicts exactly nothing because none of its key concepts have any operational content.

However, individual IDists, proponents of the above empty shell of a theory, have made various claims that are testable. Those claims are exclusively of the form “Evolution (usually phrased as “unguided evolution” or “blind chance”) can’t account for [fill in the blank] and therefore intelligence must have done it.” At bottom, Behe’s irreducible complexity is one such argument, as is his alleged “edge” of evolution. Dembski’s argument from specified complexity and his various probabilistic claims are similar – they depend on irreducible complexity and its ‘ID of the gaps’ logical structure. But those claims do not flow from ID “theory”, and refuting them (as has been done multiple times) does not address ID “theory” because ID theory does not imply them – they have never been tied logically to ID “theory” because there is no ID theory from which they can be derived. The alleged predictions are ad hoc criticisms of evolutionary theory, not anything generated from ID “theory.”

That IDists propose testable claims in no way implies that ID “theory” does so. Cothran is an author of books on logic. One would suppose that he is aware of the fallacy of a false dichotomy, yet he plainly poses one here. Given that he’s alleged to be a professional in logic, one can only suppose that his construction of a false dichotomy is purposeful.

As a consequence, he asserts a fake contradiction. ID itself poses no testable hypotheses – in Dembski’s words, “ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.” In other words, ID offers no alternative testable explanation beyond the bare claim that “God intelligence didit.” But individual IDists make assorted claims that are not implied by the empty set of ID “theory.” Some of those claims are testable, and they uniformly fail the tests.

Martin (logic-free rhetoric) Cothran thus seems like an appropriate addition to the Disco ‘Tute’s Media Complaints Division stable, joining such intellectual luminaries as Michael (egnorance) Egnor, Michael (media man) Medved, and Granville (second law) Sewell. On previous form one expects that he will be as skilled at serving up softballs as his colleagues.

Note 1: I’ve been corrected – the argument did not appear in the Courier Journal, but on Cothran’s blog and is reproduced at the Disco ‘Tute’s Media Complaints Division.

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Well, it appears that my article about the inherent contradiction in an important section of the Dover vs. Kitzmiller decision is making evident some potentially dangerous developments among Darwinist opponents of Intelligent Design. Both Richard Hoppe... Read More

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Cothran has a blog, vere loqui (he’s a classicist)

22 years ago, Robert O’Brien’s dad stepped out ‘for a pack of cigarettes.’

He’s finally turned up.

Cothran also assumes:

In all of this discussion, there is a particular view of how to demarcate science from non-science. It is philosopher Karl Popper’s demarcation criterion: that in order for something to be science it has to be falsifiable, or testable.

Scientific hypotheses do have to be falsifiable, but mere falsifiability does not make science. For example, the statement “assuming that 1,2,3,5,8,13 and 21 are next week’s winning Lotto numbers, I hypothesize that 1,2,3,5,8,13 and 21 will be next week’s winning Lotto numbers” is certainly falsifiable and easily tested. It’s not very scientific, though.

It kind of makes sense. When promoting a view of speciation that recognizes no developments in biology since Paley, why not use a self-described logician who recognizes no developments in logic since Aquinas?

I’m a classicist and an evolutionary geneticist!

One cannot blame Cothran for not being to familiar with Intelligent Design’s claims and arguments or he would not have confused the infalsifiability of ID with the falsification of some of ID’s minor ideas. While one can falsify the notion of irreducible complexity being an insurmountable problem for evolution, this hardly falsifies ID which makes no statements about Irreducible Complexity, no predictions, nothing… It merely states that we shall call that which we do not understand ‘design’.

The Judge was right in his observations, but perhaps for the sake of rhetorics Cothran may have assumed a strawman argument rather than to deal with the much harder to reject observations and rulings of Judge Jones.

Martin (logic-free rhetoric) Cothran thus seems like an appropriate addition to the Disco ‘Tute’s Media Complaints Division stable, joining such intellectual luminaries as Michael (egnorance) Egnor, Michael (media man) Medved, and Granville (second law) Sewell.

Perhaps we should make that

Michael (Bigfoot) Medved.

PvM:

One cannot blame Cothran for not being to familiar with Intelligent Design’s claims and arguments or he would not have confused the infalsifiability of ID with the falsification of some of ID’s minor ideas. While one can falsify the notion of irreducible complexity being an insurmountable problem for evolution, this hardly falsifies ID which makes no statements about Irreducible Complexity, no predictions, nothing…

Yes, AFAICT all their falsifiable claims are axiomatic: “evolution can’t produce IC”, “evolution can’t produce CSI”, “there’s no such thing as junk DNA”, etc. I’m not aware of any such claim that actually arises from a hypothesis.

And perhaps more to the point, they stick with their claims even after they’ve been falsified. Don’t know why they’d be interested in falsification as an indicator of science.

PvM:

It merely states that we shall call that which we do not understand ‘design’.

And they want to redesignate some of the stuff that we *do* understand into that category, so they can call it design too.

The primary reason opponents say that ID is not science is because it doesn’t make falsifiable claims. But if it doesn’t make falsifiable claims, then it can’t be said to have made claims that have been found false. Yet this is exactly what they charge.

I guess he’s unable so separate ID’s arguments against evolution from their theories about the alternatives. Perhaps he should find an expert in rhetoric who could explain it to him.

Oh.

With “stretching the tent” I thought this would be about Michael “Bigfoot” Medved. It’s no surprise that they’d hire another expert on rhetoric.

Richard B. Hoppe Wrote:

What Cothran is apparently unable to comprehend is that while ID proponents occasionally make testable empirical claims, ID theory itself does not.

I’m sure he does comprehend it, but knows that his target audience will fixate on his sound bite, and not read further to get the real story. If I’m wrong, he’ll admit that he got it wrong. And that would probably be a first for the DI gang.

The irony is that anti-evolutionists, from the most true-believing YECs to the slipperiest IDer have claimed that “Darwinism” is unfalsifiable and falsified. Any bets Cothran will admit that?

BTW, does anyone have any information on where Cothran stands on common descent and the age of life? Surely he knows that those questions can be answered without any reference to “Darwinism” or ID.

Now to nag my fellow “Darwinists” so they don’t keep giving the DI more quotes to mine:

It’s important to distinguish ID from classic creationism, because the various positions of the latter do make false claims, and even true claims (e.g. OEC on the age of the Earth) that contradict the false claims of other classic creationist positions (e.g. YEC, geocentrism). With ID there’s no “official position” other than “some designer did something at some time.”

Careless statements that lump all the strategies under the “creationism” label just beg to have people like Cothran spin them into neat, but misleading sound bites.

Reed A. Cartwright:

I’m a classicist and an evolutionary geneticist!

Well, and you’re no Martin Cothran. I’m very confident that you would recognize that Boole, Frege, Russell, Gödel, Tarski, and such, may have advanced the study of logic a teensy bit from the time when Aquinas plagiarized – I mean, safely de-paganized – Aristotle. Cothran thinks that logic is natural language syllogisms; mathematical logic is a contradiction in terms, and, worse, inimical to a decent Christian mindset.

What I’m saying is that this guy’s winginess goes well beyond his views of evolutionary science.

What credible person would join the Discovery Institute at this time? I wondered what their transportation department thought of the dishonest bunch of blowhards down the hall, but that department seems to be defunct or changed its name. These are the guys that got caught with their hand in the cookie jar. These are the guys that ran a dishonest bait and switch scam on their own supporters.

Beats me why guys like Berlinski stick around, since he has claimed that he never bought into the ID scam junk. Are these guys all liars? Is the money that good? Why would someone that acknowledges that they never bought into the ID scam remain associated with the Discovery Institute? It has to be embarassing to be associated with such a bogus group as you have to watch their antics before and after Dover. Why would anyone that didn’t agree with the dishonest bait and switch scam going down remain a fellow?

Can any fellows answer that question?

How can we find Cothran’s logical opinion of Bigfoot?

Paul Burnett Wrote:

How can we find Cothran’s logical opinion of Bigfoot?

That’s a question that needs to be asked of everyone associated with the DI. But their answer will go something like: “Bigfoot Detection Theory is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not BDTs task to match your pathetic level of detail…

Frank J -

Careless statements that lump all the strategies under the “creationism” label just beg to have people like Cothran spin them into neat, but misleading sound bites.

It is true that ID and sincere YEC, for example, are in construct, quite different things. The latter is indeed a set of highly testable assertions.

Yet we should not let this blind us to the obvious connection between ID and all other variants of right wing creationism.

ID is and was merely a strategy to “court proof” creationism for US public schools (or arguably, to appear to be trying to do so, in order to get money). I’m not the only one who’s made this observation. Someone as otherwise far from me on non-scientific matters as John Derbyshire has made essentially the same observation (I don’t have quote handy but I’m sure it will appear).

ID is simply the distilled essence of creationism. It’s what you are left with when you boil off all specific, testable positive claims made by any variant of creationism.

The whole point of it is and has always been to provide creationists with an opportunity to sneak religious dogma and anti-science preaching into tax-payer-funded schools without getting sued. It hasn’t worked, but that is what it was about.

Nobody ever sat underneath an apple tree, got hit on the head with a falling apple, and spontaneously came up with ID.

Again, although some forms of creationism are “testable” and ID is not, that is merely because ID is essentially creationism, deliberately shorn of all its testability and overt relgiousity. And the reason for the shearing was to remove elements that led to past defeats in court.

Cothran is “a senior policy analyst” with the Family Foundation of Kentucky

“Family Foundation of Kentucky”… now there’s a joke that pretty much writes itself.

Frank J:

Now to nag my fellow “Darwinists” so they don’t keep giving the DI more quotes to mine:

It’s important to distinguish ID from classic creationism, because the various positions of the latter do make false claims, and even true claims (e.g. OEC on the age of the Earth) that contradict the false claims of other classic creationist positions (e.g. YEC, geocentrism). With ID there’s no “official position” other than “some designer did something at some time.”

Careless statements that lump all the strategies under the “creationism” label just beg to have people like Cothran spin them into neat, but misleading sound bites.

Indeed, ID can mean many different things (including as little as nothing) in different people’s mouths. Moreover one can mean different things in calling a theory/movement/person scientific. Defenders of science are easiest to quote-mine when they issue pronouncements that overlook these facts. I’ve written a very short discussion of the matter, archived here, in case anyone’s interested:

http://www.freethought-forum.com/fo[…].php?t=14873

harold Wrote:

Yet we should not let this blind us to the obvious connection between ID and all other variants of right wing creationism.

And nowhere do I ever say that we should not mention the connection, including “cdesign proponentsists.” But it is rare that someone advertises to the public how, even before Edwards v. Aguillard forced a change in the language, that the trend toward “don’t ask, don’t tell” was in place because anti-evolution activists could not avoid the fact that (1) the evidence did not support any classic creationist position, and (2) even without considering evidence, the positions contradicted each other. While some YEC and OEC groups to this day try to peddle their position directly, flaws and contradictions be damned, the shrewder groups know that that’s an unnecessary risk.

I just read a review of a Behe book, where a supporter dared to say that Behe will win no friends among YECs. Yet most rank-and-file YECs are so deluded that all they need are a few choice sound bites against “Darwinism” to think that their fairy tale is validated. While YEC leaders have criticized Behe, and the ID approach in general, rank-and-file YECs these days are at least as likely cite Behe as an ally than Ken Ham. And I suspect that the reviewer is fully aware of it.

Cothran has a brief response on his blog. He complains that I did not address his argument about Judge Jones’ Kitzmiller ruling:

But if ID is not falsifiable, as he says in the first part of the argument, then (if you assume Popper’s criterion) it is not science—and it cannot therefore be falsified. So how does Jones get around the fact that he says both that ID is not science because it can’t be falsified, and that an argument “central to ID” has been falsified?

But that is the argument I addressed. ID theory makes no such claim about irreducible complexity (the “argument central to ID”), since it is empty of any such specifics. Irreducible complexity’s centrality to ID lies in the fact that it is a purely negative claim about evolution. It is not derived from ID as theory since that doesn’t exist.

Cothran the rhetorician is merely equivocating, using “ID” in multiple senses, slipping between senses of that abbreviation. There are three senses in which that abbreviation is used: ID(1) as a (purported scientific) theory that allegedly provides an explanation of certain biological structures and processes; ID(2) as a socio-political movement aimed at repealing the Enlightenment, and establishing “theistic science,” and ID(3) as a small collection of specific negative claims by ID proponents about what evolution cannot do. The argument from irreducible complexity is of the third sort, a purely negative argument about evolution that bears no necessary relation to the other two senses.

Nowhere in the empty set of ID “theory” – ID(1) – does one find any hint about what, how, when, where, or why irreducibly complex structures arise. Indeed, IDists (exemplified by Dembski) deny the necessity of the “theory” to address those questions: “ID is not a mechanistic theory, and it’s not ID’s task to match your pathetic level of detail in telling mechanistic stories.” In plain words, “It’s not up to us ID ‘theorists’ to provide an explanation beyond the bare assertion that evolution can’t, therefore ID.”

So my point stands: ID(1) is untestable (and hence unfalsifiable) since it’s empty, while the claims made in ID(3) have been tested and refuted. Cothran apparently thinks that “ID is ID is ID,” but it ain’t.

RBH

Just what the Disco ‘Tute needs: an expert on rhetoric!

It makes sense– another big mouth to go with their Bigfoot guy.

RBH: Cothran the rhetorician is merely equivocating, using “ID” in multiple senses, slipping between senses of that abbreviation.

Just remember, the abbreviation “ID” also stands for “intellectual dishonesty.”

(By the way, on another forum this morning I saw a reference to the Dishonesty Institute as the “Flintstonian Institute” - cute.)

It’s revealing that Cothran’s only graduate degree is an MA in Christian Apologetics from the Simon Greenleaf School (an evangelical outfit that’s now part of Trinity International University, an evangelical diploma mill in Illinois). He does claim a BA in philosophy and economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, but no credentials in either law or the life sciences. So he’s perfectly suited for the Disco ‘Tute.

It’s revealing that Cothran’s only graduate degree is an MA in Christian Apologetics from the Simon Greenleaf School (an evangelical outfit that’s now part of Trinity International University, an evangelical diploma mill in Illinois). He does claim a BA in philosophy and economics from the University of California at Santa Barbara, but no credentials in either law or the life sciences. So he’s perfectly suited for the Disco ‘Tute.

What this suggests to me is that they have essentially surrendered as far as trying to win in court, and are now just playing up to the big donors to keep the money rolling in.

It’s quite a contrast with the pre-Dover days.

They’ve essentially abandoned (or had to abandon) the charade of trying to claim that mainstream scientists with actual credentials “increasingly” “support” ID.

Instead of restricting fellowships to crackpots and charlatans with actual PhDs (or law degrees) and relatively hidden agendas, they’ve started to openly recruit loyalists with overt political/religious motivations and not even the pretension of actual subject matter expertise.

This guy apparently thinks that his gotcha game is actually clever or original. Note that by his criteria, astrology is also science, as is almost any crackpot thing - prominent advocates of astrology also sometimes make demonstrably false claims.

The ‘tute clearly has cast off the cloak of sciencyness and has thrown all of their marbles into the culture war bin. Science is out, gaming the Amazon review system is in. The addition of Medved and this bozo seem to be clear indicators that Dover has put a big hole in the ID=Science canoe, and so they are going back to their strengths - PR and rhetoric.

At least they seem to be able to identify crackpots pretty well. Frankly, if you’re a right-wing crackpot and not getting a check from the DI, you should probably talk to your agent.

sciencyness has given way to truthiness?

Colbert called it!

man’s an utter genius.

“Disco ‘Tute”. You gotta love it.

The primary reason opponents say that ID is not science is because it doesn’t make falsifiable claims.

I disagree with this. While it is true that the failure of “ID theory” to make any testable predictions would disqualify it as science, the primary reason ID ain’t science is that “ID theory” has no content.

How many times have the ID-supporters that pop up on this blog been asked to describe “ID theory”? Hundreds. How many times has the question actually been answered? None. Instead we get such gems as “some biological phenomena are best explained as the result of an intelligent agent”, which manages to couple arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity and the non-sequitur “evolutionary theory does not currently have an explanation for X, therefore design”. Three logical fallacies for the price of one!

Paul Burnett Wrote:

Just remember, the abbreviation “ID” also stands for “intellectual dishonesty.”

“ID” also stands for “Incompetent Design”, which is far closer to being in accord with the evidence than “Intelligent Design”.

I wonder if this shift in ID strategy will require a different stategy from the Brights? Truth may not be enough to protect science (and democracy) from these religious fascists (Dominionists and Christian Reconstructionists). We’ve already witnessed firsthand how easy it is to LIE a country into WAR by the political branch of these lunatics (under Bushco). I think the example of that “victory” of action over reason (choice winger quote: “we make our own reality”) is driving them to push more sophists at us (that, and the fact there is NO SCIENCE to offer). Just because these ID shills are dumb as dirt in terms of science doesn’t mean they HAVE to lose in the long term. We’ve been repressed for EONS by powerful minorities against the wishes of the majority. We can’t even stop a war that 70% of us don’t want.

Enjoy.

Nigel D:

The primary reason opponents say that ID is not science is because it doesn’t make falsifiable claims.

I disagree with this. While it is true that the failure of “ID theory” to make any testable predictions would disqualify it as science, the primary reason ID ain’t science is that “ID theory” has no content.

How many times have the ID-supporters that pop up on this blog been asked to describe “ID theory”? Hundreds. How many times has the question actually been answered? None. Instead we get such gems as “some biological phenomena are best explained as the result of an intelligent agent”, which manages to couple arguments from ignorance and personal incredulity and the non-sequitur “evolutionary theory does not currently have an explanation for X, therefore design”. Three logical fallacies for the price of one!

So, in other words, the ID proponents absolutely refuse to scientifically describe anything with ID because there is absolutely nothing inside of ID to be described scientifically in the first place.

Larry is a blithering idiot.

And you say that if the argument of irreducible complexity were sound, that “would only falsify ToE”? ONLY? Wouldn’t falsification of ToE be worthy of a Nobel prize, at least?

Yes, it would only falsify ToE, warrant a Nobel prize, make Behe rich, etc., but it “would do nothing to further any ID ‘theory’”, as I said, and as is understandable to anyone who isn’t a blithering idiot.

Larry, er, I mean ABC of course Wrote:

You are the one who is engaging in “silly word play.” The difference here is that Martin Cothran’s interpretation of Jones’ statements is literal whereas your interpretation is a big song and dance. Cothran essentially says “this is what Jones said” whereas you Darwinists say something like, “this is what Jones really wanted to say but didn’t say because he lacks the ability to express himself.”

What, have you never encountered a word that can mean different things depending on the context? Perhaps, if you can use a dictionary, you should look up the word “bow” (a genuflection or the pointy end of a ship).

Or, better yet, look up the word “set” in the Oxford English Dictionary. It has 128 different meanings.

No, Larry, you are the one indulging in silly word games. Rather than trying to understand the meaning contained within the words, you are sticking only to the most rigid literal interpretation. Maybe you should talk to Bill Dembski about how to use words for one meaning and one meaning only.

And you say that if the argument of irreducible complexity were sound, that “would only falsify ToE”? ONLY? Wouldn’t falsification of ToE be worthy of a Nobel prize, at least? What Jones said is that IC could not have helped the defendants even if it falsifies ToE. That’s rich.

Again, you can twist around as much as you like, but all you are showing is your willful ignorance.

As an argument supporting the conclusion of ID, IC is useless. As has been pointed out several times above (maybe you should brush up your reading comprehension?), even if IC did falsify MET (which it does not, by the way), it does not logically follow that the correct conclusion is ID.

All you have done, Larry, is demonstrate to the world that Popper’s Ghost is correct: you actually are a blithering idiot.

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This page contains a single entry by Richard B. Hoppe published on December 21, 2007 11:04 PM.

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