“You Win or You Die” - Unintentionally nourishing the ID rhetoricotrophs

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When you play the game of thrones, you win or you die. There is no middle ground.

~ Cersei Lannister, HBO’s “Game of Thrones”, Season 1, Episode 7

Bit of a dramatic quote, isn’t it? But for some reason it entered my mind when I read what David Klinghoffer wrote about me and my views on the dismissive rhetoric of the scientific community towards the intelligent design movement (which I maintain is understandable, given the history of ID and creationism), in his Evolution News & Views post “A Darwinist Worries about Darwinian Rhetoric”.

You see, I didn’t write the post for a pro-ID audience - it came about because I felt I had some helpful advice to give scientists and science communicators for when they are asked to comment on ID by the media (or in other public outlets). That’s why I didn’t justify or explain, for example, my opinion that the movement is largely motivated by religious sentiment: I was talking to a group of people who already have that point of view.

Obviously I wasn’t thinking very clearly though, because I was writing about why ID proponents love to twist, distort and spin sentiment about themselves into energy for their day-to-day operations, yet forgot to consider how the post being written would appear to those very people. How legitimately foolish of me.

Everything is a rhetorical game to the Discovery Institute! And like the medieval-fantasy political game of thrones referenced in the above quote, when you play the game of rhetoric, you win or you die a (rhetorical) death. Much like gambling, the best way to win is not to play at all, especially when facing down masters like David Klinghoffer. I mean, look at what he wrote - he twisted a post about not giving the ID movement rhetorical nourishment into rhetorical nourishment.

But while I’m undeniably now locked into a PR pact with David - wherein everything I write is now open to dramatisation and being milked for points - I’d still like to focus on the issues that are at least vaguely objectively defensible.

183 Comments

Jack wrote: “Everything is a rhetorical game to the Discovery Institute!”

Because of that, one should always use the correct term “intelligent design creationism” rather than “ID” or just “intelligeent design.”

Why is it that all ID proponents demand that you read all of their crap before you are entitled to an opinion, even though none of their crap ever has anything new? Why is it that they don’t have any problem with being completely ignorant of all of the scientific literature themselves, especially in the fast growing, ever changing world of modern biology? The double standard is indeed ridiculous. FIrst cast out the beam that is thine own eye.

Jack Scanlan:

..what David is saying above is that the fact that science bloggers and scientists don’t even mention the main ID arguments makes it look like they don’t know how to respond to them.

He has a bit of point here.

I disagree. He doesn’t have a point, this is just a variation of the Gish Gallop technique. What PZ calls the courtier’s reply.

They present one argument. We refute it. They claim that wasn’t a main argument and present another argument. We refute it. They claim that wasn’t a main argument and present another. Ad nauseum.

Since Klinghoffer is paying attention to you, Jack, I suggest you ask him to list the top three ID arguments. The ones we should pay attention to. If/when he does, link to the wealth of material already addressing those arguments. And I will bet dollars to donuts that his response to those links will be to gallop away. “Oh, but you still haven’t addressed arguments D, E, and F.”

You seem to think they actually put a pea under one of the shells and the trick is to figure out which one. But the whole thing is an exercise in sleight of hand, Jack. Every time you pick a shell, they move the pea.

Oops, bad link. The html tag seems to have an issue with the fact that there’s an apostrophe in the link name. Here it is in plain text. You’ll have to ignore the misformatting and just cut and paste:

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Courtier’s_Reply

The point of my earlier post was to let scientists know that name-calling, snide comments and over-the-top snark doesn’t help convince people who are on the fence about ID and evolutionary biology.

Although I strongly favor a civil tone of discourse, this borders on tone trolling. Civility occurs when one personally adopts a non-obsequious, appropriately skeptical and critical, but civil tone in one’s own comments. Tone trolling occurs when one focuses excessively on the subjective quality of the “tone” of others’ comments.

If you see a pro-science commenter make a good point, but in a tone that you subjectively perceive as too hostile, you can always draw attention to the same point in more measured language. This is likely to be more useful than trying to control how others express themselves.

Incidentally, it’s my very, very strong impression that name-calling, snide comments, and over-the-top snark come mainly from the creationist side. With the exception of the apparently isolated and seldom-quoted Todd Wood, I can’t think of a single ID/creationist who doesn’t employ these techniques every time they say anything.

But what David is saying above is that the fact that science bloggers and scientists don’t even mention the main ID arguments makes it look like they don’t know how to respond to them.

I presume that “this was not intended to be a factual statement”.

I’m very familiar with the main ideas of ID, and so are all the science bloggers I am aware of.

If you disagree, simply state what main ID arguments you feel are going unmentioned.

Like everything in origin issues what is the truth. ? How is the truth come by? When someone says ones intellectual opinions on origins are the product of religious sentiment then one is saying they are not the product of intelligent weighing of the evidence. Conclusions are from mere assumptions.

YEC is from the great presumption of the bible as entirely the word of God. Yet the study of nature we would see as based on natures evidence. Well most of it. The opposition we would more easily see as beatable by looking at natural evidence..

Id people see themselves only with the barest presumption of a creator and don’t , largely, believe in Genesis. They see their conclusions from regular investigation of nature. they see their criticisms of opponents as likewise from this investigation.

So its seen by the creationist tribes a most wrong, most inaccurate, most unreasonable criticism that creationism is from religious stuff. Nothing to do with religion. All our stuff is striving to figure things out on natures evidence. Just a wee bit of assumptions. Creationism sees itself as on the winning side of intellectual history in human progress. Creationism is all about investigation and weighing of evidence. It just is not so its religious sentiment. It seems like a dismissal of our “scientific” conclusions before examining the conclusions.

Robert Byers said: Creationism sees itself as on the winning side of intellectual history in human progress. Creationism is all about investigation and weighing of evidence. It just is not so its religious sentiment. It seems like a dismissal of our “scientific” conclusions before examining the conclusions.

Riiiiiiiggggghhhhttttttt.

Here is the statement of faith from Answers in Genesis.

By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

Care to expound on how this is not religious? Seems to me like these guys are dismissing all evidence that could contradict their conclusions before they even examine it. Not only that, but they have to sign a statement to prove their faith.

Now, add on to that the flagrant link between creationism and Christianity, even among the ID folks, and your statement is just a pile of disingenuous gibberish intended to hide the fact that creationism is NOT based on evidence.

ID is a pseudoscientific hypothesis that does not make testable claims or predictions, which are necessary components of scientific ideas. The arguments put forward by its proponents have been taken seriously and analysed by scientists and philosophers of science for nearly two decades, but all have found to be lacking in merit. It is widely known that the ID movement is a recent offshoot of creationism and its internal language is sometimes explicitly theistic – while this does not necessarily invalidate its claims, it does help explain its patterns of behaviour and the way its proponents think. The mainstream scientific community no longer pays much attention to the movement and will continue not to do so until ID proponents formulate more rigorous and persuasive ideas.

I tried to think of a single statement that could reflect the ‘genuine’ nature of Intelligent Design Creationism’s status and came up with this.

“If IDC wants to be taken seriously then it can state upfront how much money it spends on propaganda campaigning and how much on legitimate science and it can back that claim up by allowing journalists completely unfettered and unmonitored access to all financial records for proper investigation. If the ratio of PR money to science money is anything less than 10 to 1, I’ll eat the turds in my cat’s litter box.”

That seems to have just the right balance between recognizing what matters and flippant snark.

Robert Byers said:

They [ID people] see their conclusions from regular investigation of nature.

… coupled with an argument from personal incredulity - “something magic must have happened, because I’m not personally convinced by your natural explanation and I don’t believe you’ll ever convince me in the future, either.”

mplavcan said: Here is the statement of faith from Answers in Genesis. “By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.”

Similarly, here is an excerpt from the Creation Research Society’s statement of belief: “The Bible is…historically and scientifically true;…All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis; (Noah’s) Flood was an historic event worldwide.…”

The only “evidence” creationists can accept is the Bible’s creation mythos - reality has nothing to do with their worldview.

Robert Lyer said:

Like everything in origin issues what is the truth. ? How is the truth come by?

In science, all conclusions result from empirical analysis of data gathered from the material universe we live in. Nothing more or less.

When someone says ones intellectual opinions on origins are the product of religious sentiment then one is saying they are not the product of intelligent weighing of the evidence. Conclusions are from mere assumptions.

Which is exactly why most of us do not take Creationism seriously.

YEC is from the great presumption of the bible as entirely the word of God.

Knowing how badly flawed the Bible is, YECs are in essence calling God an idiot.

Yet the study of nature we would see as based on natures evidence. Well most of it. The opposition we would more easily see as beatable by looking at natural evidence..

Id people see themselves only with the barest presumption of a creator and don’t , largely, believe in Genesis. They see their conclusions from regular investigation of nature. they see their criticisms of opponents as likewise from this investigation.

So its seen by the creationist tribes a most wrong, most inaccurate, most unreasonable criticism that creationism is from religious stuff. Nothing to do with religion. All our stuff is striving to figure things out on natures evidence. Just a wee bit of assumptions. Creationism sees itself as on the winning side of intellectual history in human progress. Creationism is all about investigation and weighing of evidence. It just is not so its religious sentiment. It seems like a dismissal of our “scientific” conclusions before examining the conclusions.

EVERYTHING in those last several sentences are outright lies.

This, particularly, is an idiotic falsehood:

Byers mentally imploded:… a most wrong, most inaccurate, most unreasonable criticism that creationism is from religious stuff. Nothing to do with religion. All our stuff is striving to figure things out on natures evidence. (All sic)

Byers doesn’t even believe that himself. He knows that creationism is purely, wholly and solely a religious doctrine based only and entirely on religious belief. That’s why he refers to “ID folks” in the third person, to separate “the creationist tribes” and “our stuff” from theirs. He doesn’t like how coy they are about who the designer is.

Once you get past the formless obscurity of his prose, Byers is engagingly transparent. He’s self-contradictory and self-refuting, of course, but that’s because he’s utterly hapless. I’m pretty sure he’s incapable of lying, at least in the sense of telling a deliberately constructed and self-consistent untruth, because he’s incapable of uttering anything that coherent. Most of what he says is actually inadvertent, and hilarious. Truly, he is the William Topaz Mcgonagall of creationism.

[Creationism has] nothing to do with religion

Except when it does. Which, in the case of Intelligent Design Creationism, the Discovery Institute, Uncommon Descent, Institute for Creation Research and, of course, Answers in Genesis (first book of The Bible, for anyone who isn’t paying attention) … is all the time.

Creationism sees itself as on the winning side of intellectual history in human progress.

Nobody with the slightest shred of integrity or intellectual honesty could possibly say that with a straight face. What has creationism “won” exactly? How has it done so? The only “victory” I can see is tying up peoples’ time responding to creationist attempts to shorehorn mythology into schoolrooms and other places it doesn’t belong. Annoying the heck out of people by attempting to defy the law isn’t winning. It’s childish attention-seeking and a pointless waste of everybody’s time.

When creationists appear in court, they lose (except for Scopes, which was as hollow and short-lived a victory as one can imagine). When creationism runs up against science, it loses. When creationists wander into nests of laymen with apparent “gotcha” arguments/questions invariably cribbed from creationist websites, they get shredded (even if they’re too clueless to notice). When creationists write vacuous books seeking to undermine evolution, they either get completely ignored or mostly ignored except for scathing reviews from real scientists - and they always get dramatically outsold by real science books. Where’s the victory? Is “too stupid or ignorant to notice you’ve lost because you never had a chance in the first place” a kind of winning?

Creationism is all about investigation and weighing of evidence.

If creationists knew how to do either of those things properly and honestly, they wouldn’t be creationists.

Here’s a crazy idea. If you don’t have time to read up properly on ID or are otherwise disinclined to do so, perhaps refrain from deciding whether its arguments are “rigorous and persuasive.”

I see a bit of a double standard here. Ignoring current scientific literature about the aspects of TOE they criticize (namely: everithing) is the standard approach of the most vocal exponents of ID.

Just one single example: Dembski and the blood clotting cascade…

Robert Byers said:

“Nothing to do with religion. All our stuff is striving to figure things out on natures evidence.”

Hey Robert (may I call you Bob?),

What if the ‘designer’ of ID is an outer space alien with hyper-superior technology, like Q on Star Trek? So advanced that we have no hope of understanding him, so no need to even try and investigate.

Could God be just a super-advanced, non-corporeal intelligence? An outer space alien?

Would that change the way you think about the Bible? Should you still worship Him (It)?

Those dern ID people have raised some embarrassing questions and issues, don’t you think?

prongs said:

Robert Byers said:

“Nothing to do with religion. All our stuff is striving to figure things out on natures evidence.”

Hey Robert (may I call you Bob?),

What if the ‘designer’ of ID is an outer space alien with hyper-superior technology, like Q on Star Trek? So advanced that we have no hope of understanding him, so no need to even try and investigate.

Could God be just a super-advanced, non-corporeal intelligence? An outer space alien?

Would that change the way you think about the Bible? Should you still worship Him (It)?

Those dern ID people have raised some embarrassing questions and issues, don’t you think?

prongs, you do need to realize you’re talking with a grown man who thinks that teaching a literal reading of the Bible in science class is science, while teaching science in science class is in violation of the 1st Amendment.

‘Cause, you know, to Robert Byers, Creationism is science, but Evolution(ary Biology) is just a wacky religion.

As was amply demonstrated at the Dover trial, Intelligent Design is not a field of scientific inquiry. It was a legal strategy to get around the prohibition on teaching creationism in public school science classes which failed spectacularly. The transitional form identified in the creationist/ID textbook was “cdesign proponentsists”, the mash created in the book where they were replacing the term “creation scientists” with the term “design proponents”. There is no ID theory; it is at best an intuitive notion that because living things appear designed they are. As such, it is so sterile its not even wrong; it has no explanatory power and makes no falsifiable predictions which could serve as a basis for scientific research. What content it does contain is derived entirely from evolutionary theory as the IDists critique real scientists’ work in a futile attempt to show that certain biological structures could not have evolved. There isn’t realy anything more to say about ID than that.

I think ID was originally a Saturday Night Live skit. But it was rejected as to ‘scientific’ for their regular audience and never produced for television.

The Onion then picked it up, developed the ‘theory’, put it on their website, and quickly withdrew it when their lawyers raised the likelihood of lawsuits.

But before they withdrew it, Philip Johnson, John Sarfati (CMI), Dembski, and others, picked it up and ran with it like it was real.

They figured that if they took the word ‘God’ out of creationism, and substituted the word ‘designer’, then real scientists would have to spend billions of dollars chasing down this hypothesis, that they knew could not be proven or disproven.

They were laughing up their sleeves, having sent the entire legitimate scientific community on a wild goose chase. All in the name of ‘God’. So it was no sin.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Paul Burnett noted:

Similarly, here is an excerpt from the Creation Research Society’s statement of belief: “The Bible is…historically and scientifically true;…All basic types of living things, including man, were made by direct creative acts of God during the Creation Week described in Genesis;”

The only “evidence” creationists can accept is the Bible’s creation mythos - reality has nothing to do with their worldview.

The statement of belief by the Creation Research Society directly contradicts the Bible, Genesis 1:

[11] And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.

[20] And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

[24] And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.

According to the Bible, God commanded the earth/waters to bring forth life, and it was so. Genesis 1 specifies indirect creation. The Creation Research Society denies the literal interpretation of Genesis 1:11, 20, and 24. The earth planetary system producing new life forms sounds like biological evolution to me. Kenneth Miller agrees on page 89 of “Only a Theory” (2008):

Remarkably, the book of Genesis tells us that we humans were formed out of the dust of the earth, and evolution says pretty much the same thing - the only difference is in the details.

CRS creationists cannot even accept literal evidence from the Bible’s creation story.

prongs said:

I think ID was originally a Saturday Night Live skit. But it was rejected as to ‘scientific’ for their regular audience and never produced for television.

The Onion then picked it up, developed the ‘theory’, put it on their website, and quickly withdrew it when their lawyers raised the likelihood of lawsuits.

But before they withdrew it, Philip Johnson, John Sarfati (CMI), Dembski, and others, picked it up and ran with it like it was real.

They figured that if they took the word ‘God’ out of creationism, and substituted the word ‘designer’, then real scientists would have to spend billions of dollars chasing down this hypothesis, that they knew could not be proven or disproven.

They were laughing up their sleeves, having sent the entire legitimate scientific community on a wild goose chase. All in the name of ‘God’. So it was no sin.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Au contraire, we can thank the GODFATHER of ID, Philip Johnson for peddling his mendacious intellectual pornography known as Intelligent Design cretinism. We can thank George Gilder and Harold Ahmanson for establishing the Dishonesty Institute’s Center for the (Renewal of) Science and Culture and its grotesque cabal of mendacious intellectual pornographers, featuring the likes of unconvicted felon William Dembski (a felon since he stole a Harvard University cell animation video and perjured himself by falsely accusing University of Texas ecologist Eric Pianka as a potential bioterrorist to the Federal Department of Homeland Security), self-admitted astrologer and faux biochemist Mikey Behe (for having admitted under oath during the Kitzmiller trial that, under his more expansive definition of science, astrology could be viewed as a science), obsessed “Darwin Equals Hitler” polemicist David Klinghoffer (a living zombie who thinks he’s a graduate of Brown University) and the resident Moonie fanatic (and faux biochemist) Jonny “I Love Reverend Moon” Wells.

That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s a crazy idea. If you don’t have time to read up properly on ID or are otherwise disinclined to do so, perhaps refrain from deciding whether its arguments are “rigorous and persuasive.”

This reminds me of “sophisticated” theologians castigating people like Jerry Coyne and Richard Dawkins for not being properly educated in the works of a long list of Christians (usually including Thomas Aquinas) before they dismiss Christianity. As Dawkins has said in response, more than once: “I don’t need to read up on leprechauns to know there are no leprechauns”.

The fact is that ID, at its core, is an exhumed William Paley banging on about how watches need watchmakers. There’s no positive argument for design, the identity or motives of the designer (not officially anyway), no method for determining the difference between design and emergence, no research, experiments, no published observations, nothing resembling what real scientists would do in order to provide supporting evidence for a hypothesis. Just staring, slack-jawed, at a flagellum, an eye, a blood-clotting cascade and saying “that couldn’t have arisen naturally” or “take out a component or remove a step and it’ll stop working!”

Yet simultaneously, with very few exceptions (e.g. Behe the biochemist, who’s such an embarrassment he prompted his university to issue a disclaimer distancing itself from him), the ID movers and shakers steadfastly refuse to properly understand what evolutionary theory says, does not say and how evolution works before they presume to overturn it with “Hey, that’s complex, I bet someone (*cough* GOD *cough*) designed that. No, I’m not going to try to understand it better. I’m happy with my chosen explanation.”

It simply isn’t reasonable to say “read up on ID before you dismiss it”. There’s sweet F.A. to read, let alone study closely - most of the ID movement’s work is fatuous, ignorant hit-pieces on evolution that miss the mark by embarrassing orders of magnitude, or spiteful whining about how real scientists “ignore” ID or “censor” this “other side” of biological theory.

It’s bollocks. Plain and simple. ID doesn’t have any arguments; it has ignorance and malice borne out of sectarian privilege and cloaked in scientific-sounding verbiage. ID has hot air and lots of it. It has no science, no arguments and nothing worth responding to - except its endless attempts to shoehorn religion into places where it does not belong.

ID is an ideological, political and emotional response to a scientific fact. It is based not on facts, evidence, research, experiment or observation but on ignorance and sectarian privilege.

ID deserves no more a considered response than do astrologists, homeopaths or those who claim to speak to the dead.

John said:

Au contraire, … That’s my opinion, and I’m sticking to it.

Since all opinions beliefs are equal in the eyes of the Law, then surely all ‘theories’ of origins are equal in the eyes of the Law, and therefore deserve equal time in the classroom. No?

That’s my BELIEF, and I’m sticking to it.

Isn’t that right, Bobby?

Carl Drews said:

CRS creationists cannot even accept literal evidence from the Bible’s creation story.

This is a point that I believe cannot be made too often, even though it has nothing to do with science. “Biblical inerrantists” and “literalists” only accept the Bible as inerrant and only read it literally when it suits them. Of course, they flatly deny this, in the face of plain fact.

I have demonstrated here that you can rub the nose of one of these people in the plain fact that they are reading a Bible text that contradicts obvious reality - say, Matthew 16:28 - metaphorically, not literally, and they’ll simply deny it. Sometimes they’ll say that the passage is meant to be metaphorical. When you ask how they know this, when there is no indication of it in the text, they ignore the question, or simply deny again, or reach for some even further-flown metaphor, which they will in turn deny is a metaphor.

Clearly, when confronted with “Biblical inerrantists” we are not dealing with people who have a considered understanding of a text. We are dealing with a mutual identification system, presumably tribal in nature - an identification that is so psychologically and emotionally essential to them that it trumps received reality.

If it were not tribal in nature - that is, culturally accepted to some degree - there would be good reason to describe it as actively delusional, and hence symptomatic of mental derangement. But cultural acceptance of active delusions seems to me to be worse than individual mental derangement. Worse in its effects, I mean. Individuals subject to delusions are occasionally capable of atrocities up to and including mass murder, as we can lamentably attest. But whole cultures subject to mass delusion are capable of far worse.

Dave Luckett said -

Clearly, when confronted with “Biblical inerrantists” we are not dealing with people who have a considered understanding of a text. We are dealing with a mutual identification system, presumably tribal in nature - an identification that is so psychologically and emotionally essential to them that it trumps received reality.

If it were not tribal in nature - that is, culturally accepted to some degree - there would be good reason to describe it as actively delusional, and hence symptomatic of mental derangement.

This is an exceedingly valuable point.

Although proclaimed creationist beliefs are clearly associated with authoritarian tendencies and juvenile emotional immaturity, they nevertheless represent culturally sanctioned claims, which identify a political and social group. Most active creationists do not have a major mental illness, and most people who do have a major mental illness are not members of the religious right/political right social group.

It is critical to understand that some small percentage of mentally ill people may co-opt creationist language, to some degree of accuracy, as part of their delusion or obsession system, but that this does not mean that the audience for mainstream creationist propaganda from acknowledged “authority” sources is clinically mentally ill. In fact, mentally ill people who invent their own “creationist-sounding” obsessions tend to be rejected by the creationist community as a whole, which is perfectly able to distinguish between their chosen authorities and random interlopers.

Another extremely obvious point is that taking a functional person, who happens to express right wing/fundamentalist beliefs but who is integrated into society and family, and giving them anti-psychotics, lithium, or some other grossly inappropriate psychiatric medication, would never make them into a socially integrated person who suddenly supports evidence-based science. Yet taking a group of untreated people with actual, treatable major mental illnesses and giving them appropriate drugs would greatly reduce expression of delusional or obsessive ideas.

Insistence on viewing creationism, let alone “religion”, as a form of drug-treatable major mental illness (which is obviously what use of medical terms drawn from psychiatry implies), while tempting, is at best a waste of time, and at worst borders on insulting those who actually struggle with treatable mental illness.

I find that Richard Dawkins has a lot of insightful things to say. However, he likes to use metaphor, which can ironically be interpreted excessively literally by his American audience. Dawkins wrote a book called “The God Delusion”, but for better or worse, he used the word “delusion” in a colloquial way.

But cultural acceptance of active delusions seems to me to be worse than individual mental derangement. Worse in its effects, I mean. Individuals subject to delusions are occasionally capable of atrocities up to and including mass murder, as we can lamentably attest. But whole cultures subject to mass delusion are capable of far worse

This is also exceptionally obviously true, and one very good reason not to model right wing fundamentalism as an individual, treatable mental illness*. Doing so may understate the problem.

A widespread social movement based on reality denial and harsh authoritarian ideas is potentially far more serious than a large group of individuals, each with an individual mental illness.

*Except in the few cases where an actual delusional system does to some degree mimic the propaganda of the social movement, of course.

Paul Burnett said:

Jack wrote: “Everything is a rhetorical game to the Discovery Institute!”

Because of that, one should always use the correct term “intelligent design creationism” rather than “ID” or just “intelligeent design.”

But that too helps them, as correct as it may be. That’s because their game is to exploit the fact that critics of ID/creationism and the public define “creationism” very differently. The public sees it as “honest belief in a literal Genesis” even when they don’t find it convincing. Why let them think that the ID scam artists are honest? Creationism, as critics define it, is any strategy to promote unreasonable doubt - and increasingly, paranoia - of evolution, and propose a design-based non-explanation in its place. ID is certainly “creationism” in that sense, and is in a way the “central” creationism, in that it’s a one-size-fits-all scam that accommodates all the mutually-contradictory long-discredited Biblical accounts.

When we say that ID peddlers indirectly promote Biblical creationism we’re doing only half the job. The rest is to get people - and I mean the fence sitters, not the “beyond hope” crowd - to wonder why ID peddlers don’t have enough confidence in any of those Biblical accounts to support it on its own merits. They don’t need to mention the designer’s identity, just the “what happened when.” People need to at least wonder, if not be convinced that the only reason that they avoid the “what happened when” questions is that they know that the only supportable conclusions are indistinguishable from those of evolution. In fact some of the peddlers of ID creationism have admitted that!

Paul Burnett Wrote:

“The only “evidence” creationists can accept is the Bible’s creation mythos - reality has nothing to do with their worldview.

Either that’s true and ID is not creationism, or ID is creationism and that’s not true. It can’t be both. It may be true that most people who rave about ID, and uncritically parrot its misrepresentations of evolution, believe that their particular interpretation of Genesis is literally true (in blissful ignorance of the literal interpretations that contradict it). In fact many (most?) of them are Omphalos types who don’t care if the evidence contradicts it. Dembski was clearly pandering to them when he encouraged believing the global flood story (old-earth version at least) despite a lack of evidence. Behe has gone even further, and plainly stated that none of Genesis accounts can be taken literally - as if his admission of common descent alone leaves any doubt. Neither Dembski nor any of his other DI buddies, including the “YEC” (I suspect Omphalos) Paul Nelson, has challenged him on it.

Th DI gang may be masters of rhetoric, but they’re not stupid. As to what origins account can be supported by evidence, they know that Behe’s answer, as wrong as it may be, is a lot closer to reality than the ones that YECs and common-descent-denying OECs peddle. But of course they can’t admit that too loudly, otherwise many fans would leave the big tent.

Frank J. -

Paul Burnett Wrote: “The only “evidence” creationists can accept is the Bible’s creation mythos - reality has nothing to do with their worldview.

Either that’s true and ID is not creationism, or ID is creationism and that’s not true. It can’t be both.

A very good point.

It’s the second one. ID is creationism. Creationism is a certain type of selective and arbitrary denial of sound science, using rhetoric that claims religious/Biblical justification.

There is no such thing as a coherent “literal” interpretation of the Bible.

The Bible wasn’t even written with the intention of literal interpretation. The idea of writing things down in a way intended to be taken very literally would not be developed for centuries.

However, Paul also has a point.

Creationists use a type of very biased Biblical interpretation as the ethical justification for their agenda. The reason they do this is that the agenda runs afoul of enlightenment ideas of human rights and the general trends in social development. Their arguments aren’t convincing on their own - in fact, they tend to be viewed as repellent and hateful if separated from religious context.

Their selective biased interpretation attempts, among other things, to minimize the obvious nuance and frequent tone of empathy for the less fortunate which occurs throughout the Bible.

To do so, they often focus selectively on the earliest parts of the Bible, which are the harshest.

What they are really intimidated by is scientific ideas which stray too far from simplistic traditional myths.

It isn’t only science. In fact, they equally despise theological and philosophical ideas which stray too far from simplistic traditional myths, and most of all, they despise rival traditional myths. However, all of these can simply be dealt with via contradiction.

Science poses unique annoying problems. For one thing, it doesn’t address “right” or “wrong”, yet there is a definite tendency for scientific progress to seem to go hand in hand with improving human rights and improving social conditions. And science cuts across many cultural and religious boundaries. So denying it becomes a special, obsessive task.

It’s important to understand that ID/creationism is not coherent Biblical literalism, but it is, from a legal standpoint, completely religious in nature (or else nothing in religious in nature). If creationists did not make use of a certain type of Biblical interpretation, which is not coherently “literalist” but does make claims testably at odds with science, there would be no ID/creationism.

ID/creationism is merely the “creation science” of the seventies, with explicit religious references sometimes removed. The claim that ID is “not religious” is absurd as ID exists only to “court proof” creationism for taxpayer funded public schools. (It failed that test, but will linger on, just as earlier “creation science” lingers on.)

I would amend Paul’s statement to read - “Creationists don’t care about evidence at all. They have a certain agenda, and they make certain claims about science and the Bible, because those claims were invented to further the agenda, and have now been adopted as ritual expressions of group identity.”

harold said: I would amend Paul’s statement to read - “Creationists don’t care about evidence at all. They have a certain agenda, and they make certain claims about science and the Bible, because those claims were invented to further the agenda, and have now been adopted as ritual expressions of group identity.”

I’ll generally accept that, although I would insert something in there somewhere about they always lie. How about “…and they make factually inaccurate and deliberately misleading claims about both science and the Bible…” And I would work in something about scientific illiteracy and willful ignorance.…later.

harold said:

Dave Luckett said -

Clearly, when confronted with “Biblical inerrantists” we are not dealing with people who have a considered understanding of a text. We are dealing with a mutual identification system, presumably tribal in nature - an identification that is so psychologically and emotionally essential to them that it trumps received reality.

If it were not tribal in nature - that is, culturally accepted to some degree - there would be good reason to describe it as actively delusional, and hence symptomatic of mental derangement.

This is an exceedingly valuable point.

Although proclaimed creationist beliefs are clearly associated with authoritarian tendencies and juvenile emotional immaturity, they nevertheless represent culturally sanctioned claims, which identify a political and social group. Most active creationists do not have a major mental illness, and most people who do have a major mental illness are not members of the religious right/political right social group.

It is critical to understand that some small percentage of mentally ill people may co-opt creationist language, to some degree of accuracy, as part of their delusion or obsession system, but that this does not mean that the audience for mainstream creationist propaganda from acknowledged “authority” sources is clinically mentally ill. In fact, mentally ill people who invent their own “creationist-sounding” obsessions tend to be rejected by the creationist community as a whole, which is perfectly able to distinguish between their chosen authorities and random interlopers.

Another extremely obvious point is that taking a functional person, who happens to express right wing/fundamentalist beliefs but who is integrated into society and family, and giving them anti-psychotics, lithium, or some other grossly inappropriate psychiatric medication, would never make them into a socially integrated person who suddenly supports evidence-based science. Yet taking a group of untreated people with actual, treatable major mental illnesses and giving them appropriate drugs would greatly reduce expression of delusional or obsessive ideas.

Insistence on viewing creationism, let alone “religion”, as a form of drug-treatable major mental illness (which is obviously what use of medical terms drawn from psychiatry implies), while tempting, is at best a waste of time, and at worst borders on insulting those who actually struggle with treatable mental illness.

I find that Richard Dawkins has a lot of insightful things to say. However, he likes to use metaphor, which can ironically be interpreted excessively literally by his American audience. Dawkins wrote a book called “The God Delusion”, but for better or worse, he used the word “delusion” in a colloquial way.

But cultural acceptance of active delusions seems to me to be worse than individual mental derangement. Worse in its effects, I mean. Individuals subject to delusions are occasionally capable of atrocities up to and including mass murder, as we can lamentably attest. But whole cultures subject to mass delusion are capable of far worse

This is also exceptionally obviously true, and one very good reason not to model right wing fundamentalism as an individual, treatable mental illness*. Doing so may understate the problem.

A widespread social movement based on reality denial and harsh authoritarian ideas is potentially far more serious than a large group of individuals, each with an individual mental illness.

*Except in the few cases where an actual delusional system does to some degree mimic the propaganda of the social movement, of course.

There’s a lot here I don’t understand.

I don’t understand your objection to the use of the word “delusion” to characterize religious beliefs. I gather that there is a technical definition which somehow excludes culturally accepted counter-factual perceptions of supernatural agents from the scope of its terms. Is that so? In any case, could you give your definition of the term “delusion”, and explain how (if) it excludes culturally accepted religious beliefs?

Isn’t it the case that we atheists (i.e., me) do NOT culturally sanction the beliefs of, say, Christians? I don’t understand how the withdrawal of generalized tolerance (“cultural acceptance”) of a delusional idea gives it a different, more disease-like character. It seems that if that were true, enlightened atheists could campaign for MORE social acceptance of religious beliefs, not only on the grounds of freedom of thought, but also of mercy.

Of course, nobody (i.e., not me) advocates compulsive drug therapy for religious delusion, or even wishes to denigrate or insult the ill. Those appear to be strawmen.

Phhht -

Overall, you seem like a person with whom I share many values, so I will try to explain this.

There’s a lot here I don’t understand.

I don’t understand your objection to the use of the word “delusion” to characterize religious beliefs. I gather that there is a technical definition which somehow excludes culturally accepted counter-factual perceptions of supernatural agents from the scope of its terms. Is that so? In any case, could you give your definition of the term “delusion”, and explain how (if) it excludes culturally accepted religious beliefs?

The term “delusion” in and of itself has both colloquial and medical meanings, although they are related. In medicine, a “delusion” is a common symptom of a number of mental illnesses which can be diagnosed with high reliability, and in many cases, successfully treated, such that, among other things, the delusions go away or are reduced (implying that the diagnoses are not just reliable, but also have some validity). I prefer to use the term in this way. I will provide an exact definition below.

It’s not the mere colloquial use of the term “delusion” that I object to, but rather, an overall model of creationism or religion in general that treats these as if they were a form of mental illness. However, excessive use of the term “delusion” can lead to that impression.

I prefer the medical definition. The DSM-IV TR is available on Google Books, and this link should lead directly to a page that includes the medical definition of delusion. I’d copy and paste it, which would be perfectly legit with appropriate citation, but it’s easier to just give the link.

http://books.google.com/books?id=Fk[…]CG4Q6AEwCQ#v=onepage&q=dsm%20definition%20of%20delusion&f=false

One way of looking at it is that most people use the fact that other people believe something as a heuristic for deciding that something is true; usually this heuristic works (things that other people also believe are more likely to be true in general), but it can lead to the widespread acceptance of factually wrong ideas. However, accepting a wrong idea because it culturally sanctioned is not, in and of itself, diagnostic of mental illness.

Isn’t it the case that we atheists (i.e., me) do NOT culturally sanction the beliefs of, say, Christians?

Yes, but of course, it is the cultural beliefs of the patient’s culture that matter. That’s a major reason why the definition is clarified in the way that it is. Otherwise, culturally biased physicians might misdiagnose people as “mentally ill” or “delusional”, merely for holding culturally sanctioned beliefs that the physician does not share.

One can very strongly oppose certain cultural beliefs. To give an extreme example, Aztec culture may have held the belief that some children should be painfully sacrificed, in order to assure that rain would fall in a desired way. Obviously, I disagree with that cultural belief as strongly as is possible, both on ethical grounds and because it is factually absurd. However, it would be very incorrect to conclude that the vast majority of Aztecs, at that time, were mentally ill for holding that cultural belief. Absolutely no deprecation of Aztec culture, past or present, is intended by this example; it’s just an example of a moderately well-recorded cultural belief, that probably once existed, which is unacceptable to modern cultures.

There is a reason why this distinction is very useful. Because then and now, people of Aztec ancestry, against the background of either contemporary or older cultural beliefs, could and can develop clinical mental illness, exactly as do people in all known cultures. There is no logical reason to mislabel all members of a large cultural group and mentally ill, even if you don’t like some of the culturally sanctioned beliefs.

I don’t understand how the withdrawal of generalized tolerance (“cultural acceptance”) of a delusional idea gives it a different, more disease-like character.

I find this quite easy to understand.

Most people are not clinically mentally ill, and all people, including you and me, hold all sorts of cultural beliefs and biases.

A symptom of many types of mental illness is the cognitive problem of suddenly being convinced of things that are neither justified rationally, NOR culturally sanctioned beliefs.

For example, if I met a modern person who believed sincerely that children had to be sacrificed to make it rain, in the absence of cultural support for that belief, and in the absence of drug effect, brain physical illness, or the like, I would indeed think that such a belief was essentially diagnostic of mental illness.

It seems that if that were true, enlightened atheists could campaign for MORE social acceptance of religious beliefs, not only on the grounds of freedom of thought, but also of mercy.

This is a bit difficult for me to respond to.

My personal position is that I am not religious, and that I wish more people would see that you can have the ethical and psychological benefits usually attributed to religion without practicing formal religion.

I also feel that skeptical analysis of ideas and strong support for science are socially beneficial, and I encourage those, in situations where this is appropriate.

On the other hand, I do very strongly support freedom of religion, even of religions I don’t agree with. And I observe holiday rituals which were originally religious.

(As an aside, at least one of the creationist posters you sometimes engage with actually does happen to appear to have mental health problems - I’m not saying that creationism protects against mental illness, nor that the delusions of one person may not resemble the culturally sanctioned creationist or religious beliefs of another person.)

bigdakine said:

unkle.hank said:

apokryltaros said:

unkle.hank said:

I really do wonder why they bother sometimes. Surely it can’t be that important that they’re not actually apes. Is it not sufficient to simply believe and worship as the Christians they wish to be, in a country which allows them precisely those freedoms, without attempting to force those beliefs on other people? How is a simple fact of nature so threatening?

They come up with all sorts of stupid excuses, that the Bible says we’re not apes, and we’re forbidden to argue with the Bible under pain of eternal damnation, or that Jesus can’t love us if we’re really damned, dirty apes, or that modern society will collapse into a stinking mess of evil and unChristian-ness and puppy kicking if word got out that we’re all evil apes.

Of course Jesus can love them if they’re apes. Jesus was an ape, for criminy’s sake. Jesus was also a Palestinian by birth - though there are probably some creos who’d deny that, too.

Palestine didn’t exist back then.

It was called Judea. He was a Jew by birth. Of course we can’t allow the far left to rewrite history for us as well.

I was possibly stretching the point there, I must admit.

However, I don’t know exactly how you read “far left” into that comment. Then again, being from Australia I sometimes I forget how low the “far left” bar can be set elsewhere, or how easily hackles can rise regarding certain areas of international interest.

But that’s the last I’ll say on that. Such conversations always sidetrack threads beyond repair and I’d like to stay on topic.

unkle.hank said:

apokryltaros said:

unkle.hank said:

I really do wonder why they bother sometimes. Surely it can’t be that important that they’re not actually apes. Is it not sufficient to simply believe and worship as the Christians they wish to be, in a country which allows them precisely those freedoms, without attempting to force those beliefs on other people? How is a simple fact of nature so threatening?

They come up with all sorts of stupid excuses, that the Bible says we’re not apes, and we’re forbidden to argue with the Bible under pain of eternal damnation, or that Jesus can’t love us if we’re really damned, dirty apes, or that modern society will collapse into a stinking mess of evil and unChristian-ness and puppy kicking if word got out that we’re all evil apes.

Of course Jesus can love them if they’re apes. Jesus was an ape, for criminy’s sake. Jesus was also a Palestinian by birth - though there are probably some creos who’d deny that, too.

Of course: whether or not Jesus was an ape is irrelevant. If they bothered to read the Bible, Jesus said His Unconditional Love was, technically conditional under three things, that a) we love Him back, and that b) we were to use His Love to do good in this world, and that c) under absolutely no circumstance could we do any sort of evil in His name.

unkle.hank said:

bigdakine said:

unkle.hank said:

apokryltaros said:

unkle.hank said:

I really do wonder why they bother sometimes. Surely it can’t be that important that they’re not actually apes. Is it not sufficient to simply believe and worship as the Christians they wish to be, in a country which allows them precisely those freedoms, without attempting to force those beliefs on other people? How is a simple fact of nature so threatening?

They come up with all sorts of stupid excuses, that the Bible says we’re not apes, and we’re forbidden to argue with the Bible under pain of eternal damnation, or that Jesus can’t love us if we’re really damned, dirty apes, or that modern society will collapse into a stinking mess of evil and unChristian-ness and puppy kicking if word got out that we’re all evil apes.

Of course Jesus can love them if they’re apes. Jesus was an ape, for criminy’s sake. Jesus was also a Palestinian by birth - though there are probably some creos who’d deny that, too.

Palestine didn’t exist back then.

It was called Judea. He was a Jew by birth. Of course we can’t allow the far left to rewrite history for us as well.

I was possibly stretching the point there, I must admit.

However, I don’t know exactly how you read “far left” into that comment. Then again, being from Australia I sometimes I forget how low the “far left” bar can be set elsewhere, or how easily hackles can rise regarding certain areas of international interest.

But that’s the last I’ll say on that. Such conversations always sidetrack threads beyond repair and I’d like to stay on topic.

Stretching? Is that the term you use when it is pointed out and demonstrated that you are completely wrong? I agree it was tangential to the overall point you were making.

I read *far left* cuz it is a staple of some far left scholars that Judea and ancient Israel are fictions. And yes, when one wanders into *certain areas of international interest* it is best that they are not cavalier with the facts. The term *Palestine* was applied to Judea by the Romans sometime after the failed Bar Kochba revolt of 132-136AD.

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Scanlan published on December 1, 2011 6:00 AM.

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